by Jon Styf


Ridership on Tennessee’s one line of Amtrak service has dropped considerably since pre-pandemic numbers as the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations prepares a study on passenger service in the state.

The line of Tennessee service runs daily on a route between Chicago and New Orleans that stops in both Memphis and Newbern-Dyersburg.

In the pre-pandemic fiscal year 2019, a total of 64,401 passengers used the service. That number dropped off significantly to 34,885 in FY 2020 and then was 27,124 in FY 2021.

As of FY 2021, Tennessee had 10 residents who were Amtrak employees making a combined $1,431,118 in total wages, according to Amtrak.

Overall, Amtrak said in December 2021 that ridership was back to 70% of pre-COVID levels nationwide and expected to reach 80% in FY 2022.

This comes as Amtrak announced a 2035 plan to bring service back to Nashville on a route from Nashville to Atlanta that would then connect to other major cities in the Southeast including Savannah, Georgia, Charlotte and New Orleans.

Nashville last had Amtrak service in 1979, when the Floridian running from Chicago to Miami discontinued service due to poor ridership.

After that Amtrak announcement, Tennessee legislators started a push and then passed a law asking TACIR to do a study, completed by July 1, 2023, on passenger rail service within Tennessee connecting Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville.

Gov. Bill Lee signed Senate Bill 2343 into law on June 1.

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Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter at The Center Square. Styf has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.
Photo “Amtrak Train” by Ken Lund. CC BY-SA 2.0.