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Amtrak ridership jumps between Boston and Maine

The Amtrak Downeaster train service, which runs from Maine to Boston five times a day, has seen a rise in ridership over the last several years, officials said.

The Downeaster runs seven days a week — from Boston to Portland, Maine, three times a day, and from Boston to Brunswick, Maine, twice a day.

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“Ridership is definitely rising” on the line, which is used mostly for leisure trips, said Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Patricia Quinn.

Running since 2001, Downeaster service was extended to Freeport and Brunswick in 2012, offering new ways for tourists to get to the attraction-filled Maine towns.

Since the two stops were added, ridership has increased between 40 and 70 percent, “which is really significant,” Quinn said. “Again, it’s an evolution. It’s a growing process.”

Quinn noted that in July, ridership ticked downwards because many trains had to be canceled for unavoidable track work.

In fiscal year 2014, which ended for the authority on June 30, the service gathered $8.6 million in revenue, about 54 percent of its operating cost of $16 million.

“We’re not like the CapeFlyer, that just runs at peak times, a few times a year,” Quinn said, alluding to the CapeFlyer’s unusual feat of actually making a profit off its services. “This is an Amtrak service that runs five times a day, 365 days a year.”

Last year, the authority partnered with another company to build a travel package program.

Now, passengers can purchase Downeaster tickets, hotel rooms, bus and boat tickets, and attraction tickets at one time, Quinn said.

In fiscal year 2014, close to 1,000 of the packages were sold.

Kiera Blessing can be reached at
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