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Downeaster train ridership bounces back to near-2019 levels

Amtrak Downeaster
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
A conductor makes sure all is clear as the Amtrak Downeaster passenger train pulls out of the station, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, in Freeport, Maine.

So far this month, Downeaster passenger trains are carrying 94% as many riders as in June 2019, before the pandemic.

The executive director of Maine's passenger rail authority, Patricia Quinn, says June will likely be the best month for ridership since the start of the pandemic.

"We're very, very excited about that," she says. "Revenue is actually outpacing the ridership a little bit, because we have fewer pass riders, which travel at a discounted fare."

Quinn says many of those "pass" riders are business travelers and commuters. She says fewer of those riders have come back to the train, but leisure travelers have increased.

June 1 also marked a change, as CSX took control of the tracks in Maine and New Hampshire from Pan Am Railways on that date. Quinn says there were some minor delays in the first few days of the month, but, overall, "it's going very well."

"Anytime there's a big transition, there's a learning curve. We've really found them to be very responsive. They've been very proactive. They've been trying to identify issues with the railroad and we're really very optimistic that this is going to be a good relationship going forward," she says.

Quinn says the minor delays were caused by some "miscommunications" involving CSX train dispatchers. But she says she's encouraged that CSX has already sent inspection trains out onto the track to assess its condition and begin to plan for any needed maintenance or upgrades.