Amtrak’s 2010 fiscal year began in October 2009, and since then the rail company transported 13,619,770 passengers, which puts it on target to break an annual ridership record. This is up 4.3 percent from the first two quarters of fiscal year 2009 and up 100,000 passengers from the same time period in fiscal year 2008. The increase over 2008 figures is telling as fiscal year 2008 was Amtrak’s busiest year in history. That year, the company transported 28.7 million passengers.

Although the fiscal year is only half over and the company is already setting a record-breaking pace, one of its busiest seasons is still ahead —summer. As families begin to plan their summer vacations, many are turning to rail instead of driving or costlier air transportation.

Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman cites the improving economy and quickly rising gas prices as two factors that are contributing to the company’s increased ridership.

"Americans are beginning to travel again and are choosing Amtrak as and affordable and efficient way to move around the country," Boardman said.

In addition to setting a record-breaking pace for the first two quarters of Amtrak’s 2010 fiscal year, the company also set a ridership record for March 2010. During the month 2.47 million passengers were transported on Amtrak’s rail lines, representing a 13.5 percent increase over March 2009.

Amtrak ridership is up across the board. Passengers on both shorter, regional trips as well as long-distance trains are up over fiscal year 2009. Additionally, the company’s Auto Train service, which transports passengers and their vehicles between Lorton, Va., and Sanford, Fla., saw a big jump in March 2010. Nearly 25,000 passengers and their personal vehicles were transported between the two cities in March alone.

While mass transportation provides certain conveniences for its passengers, it is also a more environmentally friendly choice. Due to its increased energy efficiency, rail transportation produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than automobile or airplane-based transportation. Rail-based transportation is nearly 20 percent more energy-efficient than flying and nearly 28 percent more efficient than driving.

In addition to promoting the environmental benefits of mass transportation, Amtrak also focuses on corporate sustainability measures. The company has partnered with CarbonFund.org to allow customers to offset the carbon generated from their rail-based travel. Amtrak also has a comprehensive recycling program in place — from recycling on the trains or at the stations to recycling within Amtrak’s engineering and mechanical facilities — the company continues to improve its recycling rates and to reduce its impact on the environment.