Amtrak reported Monday that the Downeaster is seeing an increase in ridership and ticket revenue. Much of that ridership takes place from three New Hampshire stations and because things are going so well, more roundtrips may be offered in the future.
The Downeaster travels from Brunswick, Maine, to Boston, Mass. and has stops in New Hampshire at Dover, Durham and Exeter.
"Approximately 40 percent of all Downeaster passengers travel to or from N.H. stations," Patricia Quinn of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority said.
The Downeaster has seen a 3.5 percent increase overall in ridership and a 6 percent growth in ticket revenue this year. Its website reported 48,485 riders in the month of September, up slightly from 48,391 riders for the same month in 2012.
For Amtrak's fiscal year 2013, the Downeaster has seen 226,352 riders in New Hampshire alone. Broken down, 101,543 rode from Exeter, 61,708 from Dover and 60,978 from Durham.
Chairman Wayne Davis of TrainRiders/Northeast, a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to bringing and promoting modern and efficient passenger rail service to Northern New England, said, "We're very pleased with the service. It's really one of Maine and New Hampshire's greatest assets at this point."
Davis said the Downeaster is a very popular train and because it gets the highest consumer ratings in the nation it is often considered America's favorite train.
"It's not just best on time or happiest crew, but with good food and pleasant experience since day one," he said.
Davis said his organization was originally laughed at when they proposed having a train service in New England. He said everyone thought it was 19th century technology and people wouldn't utilize it.
"Old-fashioned kind of fits now," he said.
Davis explained that volunteers man the New Hampshire stations and during the summer months reported the ridership was astounding.
"By the time the train arrived in Boston, seats were full and people were on the floors," said Davis. "It was that kind of summer."
Those with commuter tickets purchase them at a reduced cost and are always guaranteed passage, but not always a seat. Davis said the commuters had an upbeat attitude about having to sit on the floor when the trains were full.
"I apologized to a woman who was sitting on the floor," said Davis. "She just said it was OK because she pays less and that more seats would open up in a few stops anyway."
Davis said Dover built its station just for the Downeaster and although UNH bought theirs from the railroad years ago for $1, they have since invested a lot of money into restoration and are very proud of it.
The organization promotes the railway for what is does for the communities it serves and in an environmental effort to get more cars off the road.
The Downeaster originally took 2 hours and 45 minutes to get to Boston and now takes 2 hours and 25 minutes.
"We hope to get to 2 hours and 15 minutes next year and then 2 hours flat. We could do it if we ran nonstop, but we want to continue to serve the communities in between."
The Downeaster currently offers five roundtrips daily from each of its stations, but Davis said talks are under way to increase that number to seven.
"Just the fact that its under discussion is very exciting for us and getting us closer to our goals," he said.
The Downeaster had its first run on Dec. 15, 2001, and will celebrate its 12th year this December.
Copyright 2013 - Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H.