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Holiday travel: Train ridership up this holiday season

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Local roads and airports are busy places these days. And so is Union Station.

Sunday night a long line formed of people catching a train headed up the East Coast to New York.

"It's Christmas and everyone's going places and seeing family," said Leanne Haney, who was traveling with a large group of adults and kids from Australia.

Amtrak says ridership has been setting records. This year, Thanksgiving had more passengers than any previous year. And during the fiscal year that ended September 30, Amtrak says it broke its yearly passenger record for the 9th time in 10 years.

Although the number of people using trains locally is still below the number who fly -- and way below the number who drive -- for Christmas, it has been going up.

We found several passengers Sunday who usually drove or flew, but decided on trains this year instead.

"I usually fly," said passenger Tanzil Amiss. "{But} the plane was quite expensive this year."

Amiss says it is usually cheaper for him to fly, but this year it wasn't.

For Rodney Thompson and his wife Janet Lopez, the choice for getting to New York to visit her relatives fell between the train and driving.

"I haven't taken the train in about 20 years," Thompson said.

But this year, he and Lopez decided to try it.

"All the tolls, gas prices, the New York drivers, it's easier for us to catch a train so we don't have to deal with all that stuff," he said.

Amtrak says its passengers say convenience is a major factor for why they choose to go by train. They don’t have to deal with potentially icy roads, or with the heavier security at airports.

But the train is not for everyone. It can be expensive, and it can also be a very long trip depending on where you are going.

“It takes too long,” said Northwest Washington resident Milton Detty, who was taking the train to BWI so he could fly to visit his family in his native Ohio. “I think it’s like a 13 hour trip to Cincinnati.”

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