WASHINGTON – Forty years ago, on May 1, 1971, Amtrak operated its first intercity passenger train.
The 40th anniversary celebration is occurring during a period of long-term growth that has seen Amtrak set annual ridership records in seven of the last eight fiscal years, including more than 28.7 million passengers in FY 2010 – and Amtrak is on track to set a new record this year, railroad officials say.
“Not many companies survive for 40 years—and those that do survive because they have talented people, a great product, and a strong history,” writes Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman in Amtrak: An American Story, a new book celebrating the railroad’s first 40 years.
The federal government created the National Railroad Passenger Corporation during a time when the private railroads were getting out the of the passenger rail business. In the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, national leaders decided that maintaining a “modern, efficient, intercity rail passenger service is a necessary part of a balanced transportation system.” Amtrak’s national mission was reaffirmed by Congress and the President in the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act of 2008.