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UNH students boost Downeaster revenues


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Downeaster on track with UNH students

With more taking train, revenue up

By Associated Press | December 20, 2004

DURHAM, N.H. -- University of New Hampshire students are becoming key customers for Amtrak's Downeaster service.

UNH, in Durham, lies along the passenger train's route between Boston and Portland, Maine.

''As students have gotten more accustomed to the train, they are using it," said Patricia Douglas, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority marketing director in Portland.

The number of passengers on the Durham-Boston route rose from 9,144 to 21,241 riders in the latest fiscal year. Ridership between Durham and Portland also grew, from 1,620 to 2,795, she said.

Douglas said revenue is up 98 percent for the Boston leg and 62 percent for the Portland leg. She added that high demand prompted the authority to start daily service from Durham in January last year, a change from weekend-only stops.

Round-trip tickets for riders heading in either direction cost about $25 from Durham. Discounted passes also are available for regular riders. Students called the trains quick and inexpensive.

''It's really convenient for me," said UNH sophomore Danielle Paquette of Haverhill, Mass.

UNH special projects manager Steve Pesci called the train service a good student recruiting tool. He also said it reduces traffic congestion. ''We want the students, but we don't necessarily want their cars," he added.

Pesci said the university has secured an $800,000 federal grant to help fund a full-service train station in Durham.

It would feature heating, air conditioning, and other amenities, but he said matching funds would be required.

Douglas said the authority hopes to receive $1.2 million from the state to help add a fifth commuter train from Boston. Governor-elect John Lynch, the Executive Council, and state transportation commissioner Carol Murray are slated to discuss the request next month.

The rail service has served more than 790,000 passengers since Dec. 15, 2001, Douglas said. She predicted the extra train and other improvements could increase the Downeaster's ridership by 18 percent in 2005.

Critics argue that the service still operates at a loss of $15 to $20 per fare.

From The Boston Globe

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