Amtrak’s Empire Builder travels from Chicago to Seattle or Spokane every day, making several stops in North Dakota. Before the oil boom in the western part of the state, not many people got on and off the train around these parts. That’s changed.
The passenger train’s ridership is booming:
- In the first seven months of Amtrak’s fiscal year (Oct. 2010 – April 2011), nearly 34,000 people jumped on or off trains in Williston. That’s nearly as many riders as Spokane, a city with about ten times as many people as North Dakota’s biggest boom town.
- If ticket sales continue at the current pace, Williston ridership will hit 57,000 by the end of Amtrak’s fiscal year — a 93 percent jump from just a year ago.
- Ridership in Stanley is also on track to nearly double. For the first seven months of the fiscal year, it’s at 6,500 people, more than all of 2011.
- Instead of riding coach, an increasing number of oil patch customers are opting for more expensive sleeper cars. For the first seven months of this fiscal year (Oct. 2010 – April 2011), more than 5,000 people have plopped down big bucks for sleeper cars in Williston and Stanley.
— Todd Melby