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VRE riders breaking records
VRE's ridership grew in July, August, September

 A VRE conductor steps out onto the platform of the Leeland Road station.
FILE/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 10/11/2008

By KELLY HANNON

People took nearly a million trips on Virginia Railway Express trains from July to September, a record-setting number of passengers for a three-month period.

Per month, about 37,900 more people rode the train than during the same period last year. Ridership is up almost 13 percent compared with the July-to-September quarter of 2007.

And seven of VRE's top 10 highest ridership days were recorded last month.

If the pace continues, VRE will surpass 4 million trips in a year. Previously, VRE's highest yearly ridership was 3.7 million trips in 2005.

VRE began running trains from suburban Virginia to Washington in 1992.

Gas priced at $4 a gallon this summer drove commuters to try VRE. And the 61 new rail cars and consistent on-time performance in the 90 percent range has kept people on the trains, said Mark Roeber, VRE spokesman.

The train service has posted 16 consecutive months of passenger growth, but gas prices ratcheted up the pace, Roeber said.

"People farther out from the core business district, those people had to look at alternatives," Roeber said.

Investments in the rail network in recent years have improved on-time performance. The construction of another bridge over Quantico Creek, sections of a third track and track repairs have made it easier for passenger trains to mix with freight trains.

The Fredericksburg Line continues to carry more passengers a day than the Manassas Line, about 9,000 riders a day versus 7,000.

But VRE ridership has a ceiling. In its current makeup, VRE can carry about 19,000 passengers a day, Roeber said. Today, about 16,300 a day ride VRE.

To carry more people, the train system will need to add trains to the schedule, lengthen trains and train platforms, and purchase more powerful locomotives to handle additional cars. The system has ordered five new locomotives.


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