The Amtrak service that runs through Centralia has become quite the popular way to get to and fro in Western Washington.

    According to figures released by the Washington state Department of Transportation, second-quarter ridership on the Amtrak Cascades line experienced a 12 percent increase over the same time period in 2009, with 214,641 passengers riding the rails on the network that stretches from Vancouver, B.C. to Eugene, Ore.

    The Centralia depot has also seen its fair share of riders come through, with 4,889 having boarded or departed Amtrak trains in the Hub City.

    “The way things are going in the economy, more people are choosing to take shorter trips for vacations or business, and trains serve that great purpose for travel,” said WSDOT spokesperson Vickie Sheehan.

    Amtrak’s ridership increase on the Cascades line is its highest second-quarter total since 1994. Riders had also flocked to the trains in droves in January, February and March to the tune of 34,000 new riders since 2009.

    The Cascades service offered a new line between Portland and Vancouver, B.C., meaning passengers no longer were forced to switch trains in Seattle when traveling farther north. That additional service saw new riders when the 2010 Winter Olympics came to Vancouver, as many found the train an easy way to dodge past long lines at road border crossings.

    “We’ve definitely maintained what we’ve been able to gain in riders from the Olympics,” Sheehan said. “It’s been great.”

    Amtrak Cascades operates four daily round trips between Portland and Seattle, one between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., and one between Portland and Vancouver, B.C. Daily service is provided between Eugene and Seattle through Union Station in Portland.

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