Brightline Ridership Number-Crunching and Analysis

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Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,567
Code:
     2018     2019    2020
Jan  17,783   73,568 
Feb  24,098   78,707
Mar  32,899   91,903
Apr  34,615   71,308
May  56,781   85,740
Jun  48,619   80,094
Jul  52,162   83,741
Aug  54,574   74,312
Sep  52,850   61,688
Oct  60,013   83,426
Nov  80,660  100,627
Dec  98,076  127,690
Code:
    2018    2019    2020
Jan          $1.7m
Feb          $1.9m
Mar          $2.3m
Apr          $1.8m
May          $1.7m
Jun  $0.8m   $1.6m
Jul  $1.0m   $1.7m
Aug  $0.9m   $1.5m 
Sep  $1.0m   $1.1m
Oct  $1.0m   $1.7m
Nov  $1.5m   $2.2m
Dec  $2.2m   $2.9m
            $22.1m
 

Anderson

Conductor
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Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,567
Some thoughts:
-The only period we have comparable numbers has been showing about a 25-30% increase in ridership and a similar increase in overall revenue. August was higher and September lower, but IIRC full hourly service didn't begin until August 2018 and September 2019 was fouled by Dorian. For want of anything else to work with, I would presume that this continues for at least Q1-Q3 of 2020.
-A 30% increase over January 2019 would yield ridership of about 95k. A reduction from December to January in line with 2018/2019 would yield about 94k. I'm comfortable with that as a January projection.
-Likewise, I would be comfortable with a projection of 1.3m for ridership for 2020. There are, of course, significant error bars: The increase in ridership could trail off, and there's an open question as to how much demand can be accommodate in the peak hours/how time-flexible peak-hour travelers are.
--On the plus side, adding Boca Raton and Aventura in Q4 of 2020 would probably boost ridership significantly (they would, for example, increase the number of station pairs in play from 3 to 10). I don't necessarily buy the additional 2m pax/yr at this stage, but after a year or so I could see them adding a million quite easily. I'd presume that for every month that both are operational, you can add another 25-30k riders. I think that adding more becomes tricky.
--On the minus side, Tri-Rail access to Miami Central could act as a drag on ridership (as folks heading for Miami simply switch to Tri-Rail for the lower cost and higher number of station options). This comes with an asterisk, since that Tri-Rail service will also likely act as a significant booster for revenue for the operation (both via increased footfall and via access fees).

I do think that Brightline is going to slam into capacity drag on ridership somewhere south of or approaching 200k riders/month right now. As of this moment, they have 248 seats per train. In theory, that's 8,432 seats per day aside from Sundays* (248 seats*17 round trips*2 runs per round trip), and there both is and will be turnover in the seats at intermediate stations. However, relative demand is such that I don't see any way that you're filling the last train of the evening to capacity (for example), and midday demand is going to vary a bit as well. That puts about a quarter million seats available, multiplied by any expected seat turnover and whatever you think load factors can realistically be. If/when they add cars (or trains), that'll change, but until then that feels like the ceiling.

*Saturday hovers around 16 round-trips, usually with one spilling into nominal Sunday morning; Sunday sits around 12.
 

NES28

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2019
Messages
24
Some thoughts:
-The only period we have comparable numbers has been showing about a 25-30% increase in ridership and a similar increase in overall revenue. August was higher and September lower, but IIRC full hourly service didn't begin until August 2018 and September 2019 was fouled by Dorian. For want of anything else to work with, I would presume that this continues for at least Q1-Q3 of 2020.
-A 30% increase over January 2019 would yield ridership of about 95k. A reduction from December to January in line with 2018/2019 would yield about 94k. I'm comfortable with that as a January projection.
-Likewise, I would be comfortable with a projection of 1.3m for ridership for 2020. There are, of course, significant error bars: The increase in ridership could trail off, and there's an open question as to how much demand can be accommodate in the peak hours/how time-flexible peak-hour travelers are.
--On the plus side, adding Boca Raton and Aventura in Q4 of 2020 would probably boost ridership significantly (they would, for example, increase the number of station pairs in play from 3 to 10). I don't necessarily buy the additional 2m pax/yr at this stage, but after a year or so I could see them adding a million quite easily. I'd presume that for every month that both are operational, you can add another 25-30k riders. I think that adding more becomes tricky.
--On the minus side, Tri-Rail access to Miami Central could act as a drag on ridership (as folks heading for Miami simply switch to Tri-Rail for the lower cost and higher number of station options). This comes with an asterisk, since that Tri-Rail service will also likely act as a significant booster for revenue for the operation (both via increased footfall and via access fees).

I do think that Brightline is going to slam into capacity drag on ridership somewhere south of or approaching 200k riders/month right now. As of this moment, they have 248 seats per train. In theory, that's 8,432 seats per day aside from Sundays* (248 seats*17 round trips*2 runs per round trip), and there both is and will be turnover in the seats at intermediate stations. However, relative demand is such that I don't see any way that you're filling the last train of the evening to capacity (for example), and midday demand is going to vary a bit as well. That puts about a quarter million seats available, multiplied by any expected seat turnover and whatever you think load factors can realistically be. If/when they add cars (or trains), that'll change, but until then that feels like the ceiling.

*Saturday hovers around 16 round-trips, usually with one spilling into nominal Sunday morning; Sunday sits around 12.
Anderson -
I appreciate your analysis but it seems to ignore the key point that the current service is just practice for the real service to Orlando. When that starts I assume that they will want to serve the short distance riders with separate trains either that they operate or TriRail does. Those trains will need to be able to accommodate high level platforms. If this is to be TriRail service they need to start getting organized to do so and order some cars.
 

jis

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Brightline has not said TriRail can operate on the Miami WPB segment of FEC. Until Brightline permits TriRail to operate there TriRail won’t be operating there.

Brightline has not ordered enough equipment to offer separate short distance service. So for at least the time being there will be no separate short distance service as far as one can tell. Of course things can snd most likely will change as things evolve.
 

cirdan

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Brightline has not said TriRail can operate on the Miami WPB segment of FEC. Until Brightline permits TriRail to operate there TriRail won’t be operating there.

Brightline has not ordered enough equipment to offer separate short distance service. So for at least the time being there will be no separate short distance service as far as one can tell. Of course things can snd most likely will change as things evolve.
I agree.

A lot of people on this forum and elsewhere have been talking about there being an express service and a stopping service, and maybe this has been repeated so often by so many people that it appears to be a fact. But AFAIK, there has not been any official statement to this effect from Brightline/Virgin.

Much as the concept of the overlay of express and stopping trains may appeal to railfans, Brightline / Virgin is not a model railroad in someone's attic but is a costly investment being made with the money of people who (presumably) are not primarily interested in playing trains. As such, maybe an all-stops service is all that we are getting for the forseeable future. Of course there is a wonderful feeling to whooshing through a station without stopping, but schedule-wise and with modern high-performance trains, that is just minutes you are saving at the cost of making the rest of the schedule very complicated.

That said, if the service does grow in popularity among Miami commuters, there may be some scope for conflict with these commuters squeezing out inter city travellers at the Miami end, thus leaving empty seats that are largely unsellable on the rest of the trip. By granting Tri-Rail track access, some relief can be obtained which may actually be revenue positive for Virgin. But I think they will take that decison when they get there.
 
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Anderson

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I am mostly ignoring Orlando service for right now, partly because of two sets of questions. The first involve frequencies (whether said service will still be hourly, every other hour, etc.). The second involve equipment (namely, how committed are they to having a single, uniform fleet).

The first is totally up in the air, though they seem to be leaning towards doing about 8x/day for now instead of hourly service.

The second hasn't seen an official change, but I suspect we'd see it a long way off in the form of an equipment order.

Brightline has not said TriRail can operate on the Miami WPB segment of FEC. Until Brightline permits TriRail to operate there TriRail won’t be operating there.

Brightline has not ordered enough equipment to offer separate short distance service. So for at least the time being there will be no separate short distance service as far as one can tell. Of course things can snd most likely will change as things evolve.
Brightline hasn't said they can operate MIA-WPB. They have agreed to allow them access into MIA off of the current line (the Downtown Link): https://www.tri-rail.com/pages/view/downtown-miami-link
 

Tom in PA

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Dec 16, 2018
Messages
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From what I could see on the south side of the Beach Line (SR528) yesterday, a lot of work is going on. Miles of trees and brush have been cleared. Grading, leveling and whatever else they do prepping for track is well underway. Part of this route crosses the wetland upper reaches of the St.Johns River and there's only one location where it appears that prep is underway for bridge pilings.
Construction work is moving from East to West and stops well short of the Orlando metro.
 

jis

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There is actually construction going on all the way to the entry point into airport property along 528. In some places you have to know where to look. Construction is also going on in all parts of the RoW within the airport.
 

Anderson

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Well, it's probably because there's a bit more engineering work involved on the bridges (since it's a bit more than just grading, prepping the bed, and putting the tracks/ties into place).
 
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Brief but interesting interview with Wes Edens, co-founder of Fortress Investment Group. Relevant part to Brightline starts at the 2-minute mark.

https://www.cnbc.com/video/2020/01/31/wes-edens-on-recent-earnings-and-investing-environment.html

Interesting points
  • January 29th, 30th, and probably 31st all set daily ridership records
  • January 2020 up 55% year over year (might have misheard that, but it would put it around 114k)
  • Anticipates 2020 ridership to double 2019
Seems like they are getting a nice boost from Super Bowl LIV
 

Anderson

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I had forgotten the Super Bowl was in Miami this year.

I can believe the January numbers (with the Super Bowl in town). February 1 and 2 will probably be very good days as well (they're laying on a few extra trains for Sunday; not quite sure what they did for Saturday aside from adding a few evening trains).

I'll say that if January ridership is "only" up 55% vs January 2019 (with the Super Bowl in town) I'll be hard-pressed to see ridership double in 2020 unless the new stations start coming online for at least Q4. I can buy a 35-50% increase for the year absent that (though 50% would sure be pushing it presuming no other major changes and that they don't start slashing fares or something like that).
 

west point

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Other than super bowl ridership -- look at that separately. Has any of its regular trips ended up being sold out yet ?
 

Anderson

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Other than super bowl ridership -- look at that separately. Has any of its regular trips ended up being sold out yet ?
I don't have good data points on this front, but based on what I saw about a year ago (when I was snap-checking trains all day to figure out load distributions...before they changed the website and made that a PITA because of the new interface...) it seems probable that they've had some stray peak-hour trains selling out and quite a few coming close on at least one segment. My guess, however, is that if they're selling out it is reasonably close to departure time.
 

west point

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If any trips are selling out has there been any indication that longer trains might be operated ? Realize that would call for breaking up the same colors for each train. Forgot if Brightline received any spare cars. Also when is the next delivery of cars due and how few spare train sets are in inventory any time of the day ?
 
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Their bond filling says they currently have 5 trainsets with 4 passenger coaches, where three are in rotation on any given day. I think you mean redistributing what they currently have which seems possible with the spares they have but they don't talk about. They do talk about going to 8 passenger trainsets with 5 passenger coaches before they open the segment to Orlando. It's an option on their previous purchase valid through August 2021.

On page 41:
https://emma.msrb.org/ER1214891-ER951028-ER1352014.pdf

I also think selling out trains isn't the worse thing for them financially given that they could start raising ticket prices. They're averaging around $20 per ticket where the bond filling estimates $50 for the southern segment.

edit: After looking more closely, $50 for the southern segment might have been their expectation for a business class ticket, the average for all tickets is closer to $33, with their 34% reduction in passenger fare projection being a $25 average.
 
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Anderson

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I believe they have to have all five in rotation right now. In the morning, SB departures from WPB are:
0510
0610
0640
0710
0740

The first NB departure from Miami is at 0650 and arrives into WPB at 0803, so it physically cannot cover the 0740 departure.

Later in the day, the departures are mostly departing SB at X+0:40 and arriving at X+1:53. NB the departures are at X+0:50 and arrivals at X+2:03. So, if a trainset leaves at 0940 SB, it will arrive in MIA at 1053. It will depart NB at 1150 and arrive at 1303. It can then depart again at 1340.

So I think you've got four sets in "regular" circulation and a fifth gets shaken loose for the extra run in the morning.
 

lordsigma

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It’s a good time to be excited by Brightline/VT. But I will remain cautiously optimistic for years to come. We all know that this is a great corridor from a rail transit point of view. What we still don’t know and won’t for a while is if this can work in 2020. It isn’t known yet it a completely private entity can run this service successfully enough to make a profit with little if any state involvement. And not just a profit above the rails, but a profit large enough to give a return on the capital investment. The fact they are still moving toward Orlando after they have operated Miami - WPB is a good sign they at least think it’s possible and are getting enough ridership to continue on. But it still remains to be seen if this will work out - and if it ever didn’t would the state step in to keep it afloat or let it falter.
 

Pere Flyer

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It’s a good time to be excited by Brightline/VT. But I will remain cautiously optimistic for years to come. We all know that this is a great corridor from a rail transit point of view. What we still don’t know and won’t for a while is if this can work in 2020. It isn’t known yet it a completely private entity can run this service successfully enough to make a profit with little if any state involvement. And not just a profit above the rails, but a profit large enough to give a return on the capital investment. The fact they are still moving toward Orlando after they have operated Miami - WPB is a good sign they at least think it’s possible and are getting enough ridership to continue on. But it still remains to be seen if this will work out - and if it ever didn’t would the state step in to keep it afloat or let it falter.
Orlando seems pretty inevitable at this point, sometime next year iirc. I think the railroad’s long term fortunes will be determined by the performance of MIA-WPB-ORL, and VTUSA’s given reason to assume that if the ORL numbers are this side of positive, Tampa will be eventual.

I agree that private transportation co’s have a history of failure—that is, growing too large and going bankrupt—and reliance on gov’t assistance/interference. One could argue Brightline has relied on such benefits for successful operation—a local heavy rail transit station at an international airport, zoning on their properties, dispatching, bonds, grade crossings…
 

Anderson

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I think there's a material difference between "relying on government" for zoning changes (which is basically the government granting relief from government-imposed restrictions) and doing so for direct financing. That aside, most government involvement other than the bond status has been...er...less than constructive, at least at the local level.
 

Brian_tampa

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Monthly ridership and construction reports are out for January 2020.

115109 passengers carried in January up 56% over January 2019
Average fare down 10% but ticket revenue up 41% and overall revenue up 47% (compared to January 2019)
 

Attachments

Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,567
Code:
     2018     2019     2020
Jan  17,783   73,568  115,109
Feb  24,098   78,707   
Mar  32,899   91,903
Apr  34,615   71,308
May  56,781   85,740
Jun  48,619   80,094
Jul  52,162   83,741
Aug  54,574   74,312
Sep  52,850   61,688
Oct  60,013   83,426
Nov  80,660  100,627
Dec  98,076  127,690
Code:
    2018    2019    2020
Jan          $1.7m   $2.4m
Feb          $1.9m
Mar          $2.3m
Apr          $1.8m
May          $1.7m
Jun  $0.8m   $1.6m
Jul  $1.0m   $1.7m
Aug  $0.9m   $1.5m 
Sep  $1.0m   $1.1m
Oct  $1.0m   $1.7m
Nov  $1.5m   $2.2m
Dec  $2.2m   $2.9m
            $22.1m
 
Joined
Jan 16, 2020
Messages
14
Monthly ridership and construction reports are out for January 2020.

115109 passengers carried in January up 56% over January 2019
Average fare down 10% but ticket revenue up 41% and overall revenue up 47% (compared to January 2019)
Two interesting points int the ridership summary:
  • They started engineering work for the Disney station in February and plan to open the station shortly after the extension is completed. That's the first timeline I've heard about the Disney station (though maybe I missed something) and even though it's somewhat vague, it seems sooner then I anticipated.
  • They apparently raised prices at the end of January and revenue is up 19% as of February 19th month to date when compared to January.
 
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