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10th Anniversary of Amtrak Downeaster Service to Durham

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Amtrak Durham

Ten years ago on Dec. 15, 2001, the inaugural run of the Downeaster passenger train made its first stop at the Durham-UNH station. The weekend-only service drew 268 Durham riders its first month. By 2003, the passenger train was stopping in town seven days a week and, as it neared its second anniversary, ridership had grown to more than 3,400.

Back then, the automated ticket machine was located in the lobby of the Whittemore Center. Passengers waited outdoors for the train to arrive. Today the historic train station has undergone a $940,000 renovation that includes an indoor waiting area, restrooms, and a ticket kiosk.

“The Downeaster has become part of the fabric of UNH,” says Steve Pesci, special projects director for campus planning. “Every year more and more students use it as their primary means of access to and from Durham.

Pesci notes more than 55,000 riders—about 6,000 a month during the academic year and 3,000 in the summer--travel in and out of the Durham-UNH station. The total ridership for the Durham stop since December 2001 is expected to exceed 430,000 by its anniversary date.

“In 10 short years the Downeaster has changed the dynamics of travel on the Boston-Portland corridor. More than 1.5 million New Hampshire-based trips have taken place, representing more than 70 million miles of travel.  Close to 4 million trips have been made on the full corridor.  I know that the students at UNH and residents of our station communities can’t imagine life without the Downeaster,” Pesci says.

Rail & Transit Center (UNH Photo)

The expansion of service north to Freeport and Brunswick in fall 2012 will further increase travel options and opportunities for connecting UNH to the rest of New England, Pesci says. Currently, the Downeaster stops include Exeter, Durham and Dover; Old Orchard Beach, Saco/Biddeford, Wells, and Portland, Maine; Boston, Haverhill and Woburn, Mass.

A pilot program that began Nov. 1 allows Downeaster passengers to use e-ticketing when making reservations. An e-ticket is emailed to the rider to print and present at the time of travel. The Quik-Trak machines at the station remain another option for printing or purchasing tickets.

Passengers who download Amtrak’s new app will be able to use their Smartphone to check schedules and routes, confirm a train’s status, and buy tickets. They can confirm their e-ticket purchase by simply opening their phone and displaying the barcode for the conductor to scan.

Amtrak intends to rollout e-ticketing to all its trains nationwide in 2012. Learn more.