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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Amtrak Turns 50!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

BTS recognizes Amtrak’s first 50 years of operation as America’s nationwide passenger railroad.

On May 1, 1971, the transportation service we know as Amtrak was launched when its first train rolled out of New York City bound for Philadelphia. The National Railroad Passenger Corporation --Amtrak’s original corporate name-- consolidated 20 different private passenger railroads into a single national network. Today, Amtrak serves more than 500 destinations across 46 states, the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces (Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia). Amtrak trains ride on more than 21,400 miles of rail. 

Source: BTS National Transportation Atlas Database (NTAD)

Amtrak connects hundreds of millions of Americans, many of whom rely on it for intercity travel.

As the map above demonstrates, some routes and destinations are no longer served by Amtrak while some routes have been added. Fifty years after the railroad’s first run:

  • Nearly 78 million Americans live within 10 miles of an operating Amtrak station;
  • 190 million Americans live within 25 miles; and 
  • 260 million live within 50 miles.

For many Americans seeking intercity travel, Amtrak is a lifeline. Residents of nearly 60 of America’s 486 urbanized areas have an Amtrak station but no primary airport within 50 miles—that includes two state capitals (Salem, OR, and Topeka, KS). Seven urban areas with Amtrak access don’t have a primary airport within 100 miles.

Amtrak stations offer passengers connections to other modes of transportation.

Source: BTS Intermodal Passenger Connectivity Database (IPCD)

Most of Amtrak's 508 stations offer rail passengers connections to other modes of transportation (in addition to roadways). This allows passengers to reach destinations

  • 253 Amtrak stations offer connectivity to one other mode of transportation; and
  • 29 stations connect passengers with two other modes of transportation.

Using data from the BTS Intermodal Passenger Connectivity Database (IPCD), the infographic above shows a breakdown of Amtrak station connectivity by specific mode. Bus transit is the most common mode of transportation accessible to Amtrak passengers, with connections available at 238 stations. Combined with commuter rail, rail transit, and bike-share, these connections offer rail passengers options for their last-mile travel. And, the various intercity connections at Amtrak stations --airports, ferry, and intercity bus lines-- extend the range of origins and destinations available to rail travelers.

Amtrak gives U.S. businesses crucial access to customers, partners, suppliers, and other stakeholders.

In addition to connecting people with each other, Amtrak also connects businesses to customers and other stakeholders so crucial for their success. 

  • More than 2 million business establishments are within 10 miles of an Amtrak station;
  • Nearly 5 million business establishments are within 25 miles, and 
  • More than 6 million are within 50 miles. 

Amtrak provides a gateway to America’s National Parks.

In addition to connecting people with each other, Amtrak also connects us with some of America’s greatest natural treasures. 

  • 10 National Parks (including Glacier, Joshua Tree, and Indiana Dunes) are within 10 miles of an Amtrak station;
  • 18 National Parks are within 25 miles (including Everglades, Hot Springs, and Crater Lake); and, 
  • 12 are within 50 miles (including Gateway Arch, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite).