Riders return to the railsJuly 27, 1998
Web posted at: 11:19 p.m. EDT (0319 GMT)
From Correspondent Don Knapp
OAKLAND, California (CNN) -- The daily nightmare of California traffic is sending more commuters off the road and onto the rails.
From San Jose to San Francisco, more people rode trains to work last year than at any time since 1954. Caltrain operates 66 trains daily.
"People are tired of being on the freeway. They want a better use of their time," said Caltrain's Rita Haskin.
But it's not just commuters. Nationwide, Amtrak carried a million more passengers this year than the previous year.
"It was cheaper this way than flying all six of us," said passenger Debbie Williams. "And we didn't want to drive, because we wanted to play cards and have fun with the kids."
Trains are slower than airplanes, but there are differences that might make up for that.
"You don't have the hassle of getting to the airport," said Susan Brown, who had her feet propped up on an Amtrak train.
The train ride is smooth, and there's much more room than an airplane. Using a cell phone is not a problem.
Ann Toliver said she was getting to see more of California than she would have from the air. "I didn't even know we had these mountains here," she said, gesturing outside the window.
In California, several new train stations are under construction. The new Oakland station is a model.
"The city officials here recognized that they wanted to build a new hub station, and it was to be near shopping centers (and) housing," said Dominick Albano of Amtrak. "And it would also be a beautiful jewel for the city."
Amtrak still depends on congressional subsidies to pays its bills, and questions remain about its future. But traffic and more leg room may attract enough riders to keep the trains rolling.
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