U.S.: Passenger rail agencies struggling to survive ridership, revenue losses

By Julie Sneider, Senior Associate Editor, Progressive Railroading; October 2020

This summer, Progressive Railroading asked North American passenger-rail agencies to describe in the magazine’s annual “Passenger Rail at a Glance” survey how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their organizations. We wondered, how are they adapting to providing transportation while also protecting employees and passengers? And what challenges do they expect to face during the remainder of 2020 and into 2021?

Survey respondents described the dramatic impact on ridership levels during stay-at-home orders early on in the pandemic, and a slow return to ridership after those orders were lifted. Agencies also are taking a massive hit to revenue due to the loss in fare income. At the same time, they’re facing increasing expenses related to the need to sanitize trains, provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees, install hand sanitizer dispensers at stations and on trains, and add rail cars to allow passengers to maintain 6 feet of social distance.

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