FREEPORT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is reporting an increase in ridership on the Downeaster since adding trips to Freeport and Brunswick.
Ridership is up more than 3% over last year. It's up 124% since 2004. The number of tourists visiting Maine from Boston this year has increased by 30%.That 30% increase in tourism means when trains are pulling into Freeport and Brunswick, they are frequently carrying passengers from Boston who are using the service to come to Maine and enjoy shops, restaurants and recreational activities.
In Freeport, for example, passengers step off the train and can walk to hundreds of businesses. NNEPRA attributes much of the ridership increase this year to the addition of trips to Freeport and Brunswick. Executive Director Patricia Quinn says students, tourists, and commuters are all taking advantage of the service. Freeport has been working to market train service in Boston to encourage people to visit Maine.
"When people come to Maine 70% of them will come back again," Freeport USA Executive Director Janet Dutson said. "So it's really important that we're always seeking a new audience and this is just another way to get a new audience here. Especially people who are urban who live in Boston who may not even have a car. They can jump on board a train and then they can be in a historic Maine village within two hours."
The next step in Downeaster expansion would be one more round trip from Boston to Brunswick. In order to do that, NNEPRA needs to build a layover facility to house trains in Brunswick because trains are only allowed a certain number of trips per day. That facility, however, has come under harsh opposition from Brunswick residents who live in the neighborhood. NNEPRA is still in the process of reviewing public comments on the proposal.