electricron wrote: ↑Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:06 am
On regional routes subsidized by states, the states only pay to make up for Amtrak loses.
the NEC regional trains extended to Lynchburg, Va. = $3 million profits, Virginia pays nothing. The distance between DC and Lynchburg is 173 rail miles.
the Heartland Flyer between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City, = $5 million loses, Oklahoma pays $3.5 million while Texas pays $1,5 million. The distance between FW and OKC is 206 rail miles.
Amtrak basically pays the same labor and fuel bills for both trains - at least per mile - there is just 33 miles difference in the routes. The Flyer had 67,000 passengers in FY2018, averaging 184 riders per day, 92 passengers per train.
The Lynchburg extension had 185,000 passengers in FY 2012, averaging 506 riders per day, 253 passengers per train.
Somewhere between 92 passengers per train and 253 passengers per train Amtrak fares matches expenses. We could estimate using averages and ratios, as follows
(92 + 253)/3 - 5 = 344/-2 = 172
Assuming the fares are based the same, on train-miles or passenger-miles, around 172 passengers per train is where Amtrak breaks even.
Sources https://www.star-telegram.com/news/traf ... 40668.html
http://www.opportunitylynchburg.com/lyn ... t-in-2011/
An interesting youtube posted today worth watching:
At the time of me posting this link, it has already had over 300,000 views. Wendover productions has over 2.3 million subscribers, more subscribers than the 2.2 million for MSNBC on youtube.
I think that calculation is way too primitive. For a range of reasons Virginia has lower costs per train mile and possibly higher revenue per passenger mile.
First, their trains are basically extended NEC trains, which would otherwise sit idle in Washington. So only incremental costs will have to be paid, as the trainsets are already there. From previous discussions I understand that these are the costs that Amtrak is billing to the Virginia lines, not what the state would be paying if it was a stand alone corridor.
Second, there is no need to keep a separate maintenance facility for the Virginia trains - Ivy City takes care of that. The Heartland Flyer has to keep one in Forth Worth.
Third, the Virginia trains share most of their stations with long distance trains and thus also shares the bill for running and maintaining these stations.
Fourth it is my understanding that Virginia acutally gets a share of the NEC revenue from the passengers they deliver onto the corridor continuing on past Washington as this is extra revenue to Amtrak. This means extra income without extra costs that non NEC-connected corridors can't make.
Finally I wonder if Virginia is able to keep up fares on par with the NEC, which has higher fares per passenger mile than many corridors. Many of the other states have opted to prioritize ridership over revenue and deliberately kept prices affordable (California comes to mind and the same goes for several Midwest services I guess).
Another discussion which seems to be totally forgotten in this thread is capital costs. While Virginia does not provide any subsidy, it has had a consistent investment programme, enabling a gradual expansion of the network (which I think is much more sized after what the state has been able to afford in investments so far than after any potential ridership)
And that is pretty much where this whole discussion loses it tracks. Who pays the operating subsidy is probably the smaller hurdle. Who pays the needed track and capacity upgrades for expanded corridor service is a much bigger question. In some present Long Distance routes the one slot can probably be changed into a corridor slot if desired, but one train does not really make a useable corridor service in most places.
And for parts of LD routes where there is no corridor service ready when the LD goes away - say hello to a multi million dollar bill from the host railroads to get just one passenger train running again. All experience shows that starting corridor service is much easier in routes that already has LD service. There is often already a ridership/advocacy base, the costs of investing in stations and possibly maintenance facilities are much lower and in some instances there already is a reasonable working relationship with the host railroad. There are exceptions but most of the corridor services that were not grandfathered into the original network have grown out over routes that already has LD service.
In most intances the whole premise that the LD's are an obstacle to a long term growth of the corridor network is wrong. If anything they could facilitate it, but much of that is up to Congress in order to change the framework for starting and running new corridors. And to Amtrak and train advocates to not being complacent with the status quo.