by b&m 1566
Is the Downeaster's days numbered?
The future of the Downeaster is up in the air.Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts, Inc., The Callboy February 2008 edition, by Jesse Noyes, p19
The trains ridership and revenue are up but it operates at a loss. A federal grant worth $6 million will disappear after June 2009 and the service is now depending on receiving between $7 and $8 million annual aid from the state of Maine to continue the service beyond July 2009.
Some of the state’s lawmakers and Gov. John Baldacci have expressed support for the project but Maine’s budget is currently facing a shortfall and additional money could be hard to find.
Commuters – as opposed to visitors or tourist – make up 33% of the Downeaster’s ridership, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the NNEPRA but that figure is based upon the number of passengers who purchase regular passed rather than single one-way or round-trip tickets.
The total ridership on the Downeaster in December was 34,240. Of that number, 24,081 or approximately 70% took the train during the weekdays when commuters are more likely to travel.
Additionally, the service’s most popular trains are the weekday 680 train, which departs Portland at 5:55 AM and the 685 train, which departs Boston at 5:00 PM. During December the 680 train averaged 199 passengers and the 685 train averaged 234 passengers.
To date in the 2008 fiscal year, which ends June 30, ridership on the Downeaster is up by 25% compared with the same period in the previous year, according to Amtrak. Revenue has grown by 27.7% to $943,521.
Still, the revenue covers only about 55% of the Downeaster’s cost, Quinn said, and the net loss runs about $12.80 per rider ship. So the train depends on subsidies and needs the additional money from Maine to stay in business. Massachusetts and New Hampshire don’t contribute subsidies to the service.
Quinn said if Maine legislators fail to pass the grant for this year’s budget she will have a very small window of opportunity to try again next January before the money runs out.
Last edited by b&m 1566 on Mon Aug 18, 2008 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.