WASHINGTON, D.C. — February marked 16 consecutive months of Amtrak ridership growth and was the best February on record with 2,099,010 passengers.

“The ridership increase shows the continued popularity of rail travel and the need for continued investment in passenger rail service,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman. “We anticipate demand for rail travel will increase with the rise of gasoline prices, and Amtrak is prepared to be there for passengers who want to leave the car behind.”

This strong performance is part of a long-term trend that has seen America’s railroad set annual ridership records in seven of the last eight fiscal years, including more than 28.7 million passengers in FY 2010.

Specifically, there was a 7.6 percent increase in riders in February 2011 versus February 2010, or more than 147,000 passengers. The 16 straight months of ridership growth spans from November 2009 to February 2011 and averages a 6 percent growth rate compared with this period.

Factors that are contributing to the success of Amtrak include a moderately improved economic environment allowing some recovery of business travel along the Northeast Corridor, sustained high gasoline prices, the increased appeal and popularity of rail travel, effective marketing campaigns, and the introduction of WiFi on the high-speed Acela Express trains.

The highlights below compare the first five months of current FY 2011 (October 2010-February 2011) to the same period during FY 2010 and show increased Amtrak ridership across the country from coast to coast.

East highlights
The high-speed Acela Express service continued its popularity with a ridership increase of 9.7 percent in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor. Amtrak’s state-supported Adirondack Service (New York City-Montreal) saw a 9.3 percent hike and the Piedmont service (Charlotte-Raleigh) experienced a significant gain of 101.8 percent following the introduction of an additional round-trip frequency last summer. In addition, Virginia routes had sizable gains with Washington-Lynchburg at 28 percent and Washington-Newport News at 16.8 percent.

Central highlights
The Chicago hub experienced steep ridership gains as led by the Blue Water (Chicago-Port Huron) at 26.4 percent. In addition, the Chicago-Pontiac Wolverine Service was up 18.1 percent, the Chicago-Carbondale corridor was up 16 percent, and the Chicago-St. Louis corridor was up 8 percent. Also, the Missouri River Runner (Kansas City-St. Louis) experienced a 14.6 percent gain and the Heartland Flyer (Oklahoma City-Ft. Worth) was up 8.8 percent.

West highlights
In California, routes that experienced gains include the Capitol Corridor service (San Jose-Auburn) with 8.4 percent growth and the Pacific Surfliner service (San Luis Obispo-San Diego) with 6.1 percent growth.

National highlights
Among the long-distance Amtrak trains, the Cardinal (New York-Chicago) had the largest increase of 17.1 percent. Other long-distance trains with strong gains were the Palmetto (New York-Savannah) at 16.6 percent, the Sunset Limited (New Orleans-Los Angeles) at 12.6 percent, the City of New Orleans (Chicago-New Orleans) at 10.9 percent, and the Lake Shore Limited (New York-Chicago) at 10.6 percent.