Amtrak Success Stories

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby gokeefe » Mon May 02, 2016 12:30 pm

I noticed the changes to Long Distance ridership in particular. Completely counter-intuitive. I believe there may have been a recent change that improved connections with the California Zephyr to Amtrak California services (retimed train to train connections on the Capitol Corridor?). Good to see that change working as intended the California Zephyr needs all the help it can get, the good thing for Amtrak there is that they have plenty of slack capacity on that train and the new ridership probably had no additional costs whatsoever, just filling empty seats.

One possible reason for the improvement on the Long Distance services may have been better On Time Performance. It is always easy to forget how sensitive these trains really are to delays. Easy to write it all off as "leisure" travel or people who don't have concerns about schedules. Delays always have an economic impact to passengers of some kind even if Amtrak tries to mitigate that through meal and hotel vouchers.

The continued improvement in the Long Distance service bode well for the future. There are all kinds of track projects throughout the network that will continue to support ridership growth on these trains for years to come. It certainly feels as if beneficial "network effects" matter more now than they ever used to.
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby Arlington » Tue May 24, 2016 3:48 pm

Amtrak's April MPR is here. I say it is a tough year to try to compete against automobiles on short(er) trips.
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby Station Aficionado » Tue May 24, 2016 5:13 pm

Gas prices have been heading up again. If that continues, Amtrak may see some relief. If not, it will be a long FY.
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby gokeefe » Tue May 24, 2016 9:27 pm

That is the strangest performance report I have read in quite some time. Long Distance ridership up and Acela down by almost double digits. To an extent it makes you wonder about the effects of Amtrak's capacity crunch and how that is affecting response to cyclical pressure.

Amtrak may be running so close to peak ridership and revenues on the NEC that it might be unusually sensitive to a downward ridership trend.
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby afiggatt » Tue May 24, 2016 10:40 pm

One thing to consider when looking at the April ridership & revenue numbers is that in 2015 Easter was on April 5. In 2016, Easter was March 27. So the Easter travel increase shifted to March this year from April last year. To capture the Easter travel period, might be more accurate to combine the March & April numbers for comparisons to last year. Still, the dropoff in Acela trips and ticket revenue for both Acelas & Regionals is startling. The decline in ticket revenue per seat mile from 2015 for both March and April is a concern.

The positive news is the improvement in On-Time Performance for most routes. Among the LD trains, when was the last time Empire Builder got over 92% for both endpoint and all-station OTP?

I'm surprised the April report was posted this early. Maybe the managers wanted to complete it before Memorial Day weekend as people take off early.
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby Woody » Tue May 24, 2016 11:32 pm

Usually someone far more expert than me would have quickly posted a review of the Monthly Report. But hours went by so ... Here I am ...

Bits n pieces:

On Time Performance is remarkable, from a low of 74 in Nov, it was 83 in Dec, 83 in Jan, 81 in Feb, 82 in March, 82 again in April. For comparison, OTP was 62 in Feb 2015.

In total, the Amtrak system was down -3.1% in ridership, and a harder fall of -7.8% in revenue.

NEC
Total ridership was down -4%, and ticket revenue down -9% from 2015. Acelas ridership and revenue were down a lot, both -9%. But Regionals scraped by with a +1% increase in ridership and -8% down in ticket revenue.

Last discussion of the Monthly Report some folks wanted to see prices cut to stimulate ridership. Well, you see it there: A few more riders, a lot less revenue.

Corridors:
State-supported trains as a group were down -5.1% in ridership and down -7.0% in revenue.

The Capitol Corridor trains Sacramento-Oakland-San Jose were up +2.1%. I'm sure those trains win "most months with an uptick in ridership" for the past year, the past five years, and the past 10 years. Steady growth, and more to come.

Curious to see the Blue Water, Chicago-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek-East Lansing-Flint-Port Huron on the Canadian border, showing riders up +2.4% over last year. I have no idea what's driving these increases (this not the first I've noticed). Could refugees from Flint be riding the trains, sick of the water and fleeing for their lives?

We only had 3 out of the 20 corridor trains to show improvement, but the Lincoln Service passenger count was up +2.6%. That corridor, of course, is the crown jewel of the Stimulus projects. The run time CHI-STL is to be cut by about an hour by late 2017. Meanwhile the riders have been put thru it, with days and days of suspended service and many bustitutions during the construction season. To see ridership pop up so easily after what they went thru the past year gives hope that many more will return to ride once the work is finished.

Long Distance
Overall, ridership was actually up +0.7%. Total revenue was down -7.0%. Lots of good prices there. Did you catch one of the bargains?

Letting the Palmetto haul a Regional trainset NYC-D.C. has been a great success. Reported ridership is up +90.8%, and revenue up +56.8% over 2015. No report on the cost savings from combining two trains, but there had to be some. Win win win.

Last time somebody asked, why don't they do this again and pair another LD with a Regional? Because there's a shortage of Regionals Most now go thru to Norfolk, Newport News, Lynchburg, and Richmond. The 4 (maybe 5, the timetable gave me a headache) trains now dead-ending in Richmond could soon enuff be heading down to Norfolk or Roanoke. Anyway, if it is possible to do it again, I expect we'll see another combo a.s.a.p. The Palmetto is one of a kind for now.

The leader of the normal trains was the Zephyr, amazingly, up +9.3% in ridership and a more modest +1.9% in revenues. An earlier report said another sleeper had been added to the Zephyr. Ahh, if it were possible to do it again on another train, we'd see it. Nippon Sharyo, where are you?

The Lake Shore Ltd was up a nice +5.7% in ridership, but down -5.3% in revenue.

Ridership on the Coast Starlight was up +0.4%, but revenue was down a nasty -8.1%.

Bad news for our friend Philly, the wanna-be train-killer, LOL. The Cardinal's passenger count was up +4.7%, while its revenue increased +3.1%. OMG. Someone is riding this useless train!

Busses had revenue of +$4,073,000 up from +$3,959,000 in 2015.

That's all I've got folks.
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby Station Aficionado » Wed May 25, 2016 7:27 am

afiggatt wrote:The positive news is the improvement in On-Time Performance for most routes. Among the LD trains, when was the last time Empire Builder got over 92% for both endpoint and all-station OTP?

Freight traffic is down, especially on lines that carry a lot of coal, making it easier to keep the non-NEC trains on time. EDIT: the comment about coal refers to the country as a whole; I don't think there's much coal traffic on the High Line, so that's not much of a factor in re OTP for the Builder.
Last edited by Station Aficionado on Wed May 25, 2016 10:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby Station Aficionado » Wed May 25, 2016 7:36 am

Interestingly, the Cascades had a drop in ridership, but an increase in revenue. Those trains have been beset for several years with intense bus competition and repeated mud-outs. For the FY as a whole, ridership is almost flat. Perhaps the bleeding is coming to an end. Any of the PNW folks have any insight on this?
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby Station Aficionado » Wed May 25, 2016 11:27 am

Woody wrote:NEC
Total ridership was down -4%, and ticket revenue down -9% from 2015. Acelas ridership and revenue were down a lot, both -9%. But Regionals scraped by with a +1% increase in ridership and -8% down in ticket revenue.

Last discussion of the Monthly Report some folks wanted to see prices cut to stimulate ridership. Well, you see it there: A few more riders, a lot less revenue.

Coincidentally:
**************
Amtrak is offering summer getaway fares. Starting on May 24th through May 26th, you can book cheaper fares along the Northeast corridor from Boston to Richmond Virginia. Some tickets are as cheap at $8 each way.

Travel is valid from July 5th through July 28th.
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby Woody » Wed May 25, 2016 12:06 pm

Station Aficionado wrote:
afiggatt wrote:The positive news is the improvement in On-Time Performance for most routes. Among the LD trains, when was the last time Empire Builder got over 92% for both endpoint and all-station OTP?
Freight traffic is down, especially on lines that carry a lot of coal, making it easier to keep the non-NEC trains on time. EDIT: the comment about coal refers to the country as a whole; I don't think there's much coal traffic on the High Line, so that's not much of a factor in re OTP for the Builder.
I'm thinking the Bakken Field shipments are way down; the North Dakota boom is turning to bust.

The low price of coal causes lower prices for oil, and vice versa. I'm not expecting to ever see a big rebound in coal, or much of a rise in oil & gas prices. But I'm not a pro, so just my 2¢.
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby jstolberg » Thu May 26, 2016 10:40 pm

There's less coal, less oil and less grain moving on the rails this year. Lower freight revenues also mean lower capital spending, less track work, fewer slow orders. BNSF is finishing some track improvement projects started last year, but not starting many new ones. Their 2016 capital spending plan is down about 25% from last year.

The track work this year is increasing however on the passenger lines, especially west of Albany, north of New Haven and on the Wolverine line.

Better on-time performance helps compete with airlines. Passengers at Chicago's O'Hare are being warned to arrive 3 hours early for their flights. However, lower fuel costs make driving more attractive. Gasoline prices are likely to remain low for the rest of the year. AAA is expecting this Memorial Day weekend's auto trips to be the second highest on record. (The record was set in 2005).
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby jamesinclair » Mon May 30, 2016 6:59 pm

The TSA craziness will surely push people to Amtrak along the NEC
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby gokeefe » Mon May 30, 2016 8:34 pm

Very much agreed. It really damages the airlines in markets where they compete directly with Amtrak.
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby Arlington » Mon Jun 27, 2016 3:17 pm

May performance report is out. the NEC is booming from a ridership standpoint (or fully recovered from last year's Philly crash) and it must be partly that the TSA has made air travel so crazy.
https://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/594/926/Am ... y-2016.pdf
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Re: Amtrak Success Stories

Postby gokeefe » Wed Jun 29, 2016 12:34 pm

Interesting point. I had to dig up the May 2014 performance report to make a direct comparison for the Northeast Regional.

That figure was 708,691 it was compared to the "adjusted" (for multi-ride accounting change) figure of 733,962 of May 2013.

At 757,786 I strongly agree this is a major increase in travel and potentially a record for May on the NEC. I'm very surprised by this result.
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