Reporter: Donna Harris l Videojournalist: Todd Densmore
Lynchburg, VA - Amtrak says 103,000 have been riding the new Northeast Regional line in and out of Lynchburg's Kemper Street Station. The Northeast Regional launched just in October and the ridership increase could mean more to come to the area from Amtrak.
There was excitement in October 2009 for the new line in Lynchburg and then Wednesday during a breakfast meeting with Amtrak, hosted by the Hill City's Chamber of Commerce, even more excitement.
"This new Lynchburg service has been an outstanding success," said Jeff Mann, Vice President for Policy Development, South with Amtrak.
Business leaders are thrilled that ridership out of Lynchburg is firing up the rails- an indication that Amtrak is not only acting on the needs of Central Virginia, but they want to know more.
"We absolutely hope so, and I think for them being here is a great sign, " said John Keith of J. Crew and President of the Chamber.
Since October 2009 to July, more than 103,000 passengers have hopped aboard the Northeast Regional, exceeding expectation by 163 percent.
Amtrak says revenue went up by $6.3 million.
Mann said "It tells us that where we can provide frequent, reliable rail service it works very well, the community responds."
Amtrak says 28 million were all-aboard nationwide in 2008, which is a record. 2009 saw 22 million passengers. Projections for 2010 are at 29 million.
It's good news overall, and the years of hard work at getting the Northeast Regional- for business and leisure- is showing an early pay off. It's also offering a needed convenience for local business.
"Three weeks ago, went to New York. Penn Station got out, got a cab and down to my office," said Keith.
Officials are looking at Kemper's parking challenge.
Riders are hoping for a new line to Bristol with a connection to Atlanta and some hope the new numbers will justify another Northeast Regional run added to the schedule.
"Being that it hasn't been quite a year yet, I think the jury's not back yet on that," said Mike Jerew, District Manager of Station Operations at the Kemper Street Station.
Amtrak has also started a new service to Richmond. In the meantime, Amtrak is working with the Chamber to get as much feedback on existing and future service.