Ethan Allen train ridership numbers see steady start

The Ethan Allen Express is preparing for another trip, and so far state leaders say it appears to be a success.
Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 9:27 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Ethan Allen Express is preparing for another trip, and so far state leaders say it appears to be a success.

The most recent data shows about 2,500 riders boarded in Burlington, Vergennes and Middlebury in July and about 3,000 in August.

VTrans said while it’s still very early on for this train route, these numbers are on track with what Amtrak expected.

On a rainy Friday morning, Mark and Valerie Hamlin of Burlington got on the Amtrak in the Queen City for the first time to visit friends in New York City.

“Just to see the leaves and relax a little on the way down,” said Mark Hamlin of Burlington.

The Hamlins chose Amtrak for convenience.

“When we get off in Penn Station we can take a subway right to our friend’s place,” said Valerie Hamlin, also of Burlington.

Some riders were returning home from a foliage tour, but many were headed on a weekend trip, like UVM student Anna Hallock. It was her second trip to visit family in Albany from Burlington on the Amtrak.

“It goes home so I can take the train right home and it’s perfect,” said Hallock.

Meanwhile, Todd Harvey and Sandra Green took the train to Saratoga Springs to meet up with family.

The mother and son said their choice to ride the train was for the excursion.

“We just wanted to have something fun to do during foliage and check it out. It’s a little longer trip of course but it’s gonna be fun,” said Harvey.

According to VTrans, an average of 60 passengers board from Burlington a day, 10 from Vergennes and 25 from Middlebury.

Those numbers were pretty close on Friday with about 70 people getting on in Burlington, 43 in Middlebury and 12 in Vergennes.

“It depends on the day and the day of the week and all that stuff, but those are those are we’re really happy with those numbers,” said Dan Delabruere with the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

Delabruere said it’s too early to say which days are the busiest, but a large number of folks hop on the train on Thursday and Friday and return on Sundays or Mondays. He says NYC appears to be the number one destination so far.

The Ethan Allen Express is a new addition to Northern Vermont, but the Vermonter has been running to NYC from St Albans for years. One stop on the Vermonter is in Essex Junction. Delabruere said they predicted a fall-off in Essex Junction, but so far it’s been smaller than they predicted.

“We’re down about 14 riders a day on average from Essex. So, you know, we’ve added 60 a day in Burlington and if you only take 14 off the train in Essex, I mean, we still are a net gain,” said Delabruere.

Delabruere said the steady ridership indicates that there has been a gap in train service in Chittenden County. He said if they exceed 30,000 additional riders a year, the Ethan Allen Amtrak will be seen as a successful venture.

“So far, indications are far exceeding the success limit, but we’re not calling victory yet. We really need a year,” said Delabruere.

VTrans says they’re still trying to get the word out. Right now, they’re doing an aggressive marketing campaign in NYC to let people know they can take the train all the way to the Queen City of the Green Mountain State.

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