July Performance Reports

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henryj

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I only look at the long distance trains, but here is what I see with two months to go in this fiscal year. Amtrak reports fully allocated loses of around 550 million. I get operating loses of around 81.5 million or cost recovery of about 85%. Biggest winner is of course Auto Train with operating profits of 17.8 million. Other trains showing an operating profit are the Palmetto, 1.4 million and surprisingly the CONO at almost 2 million. Biggest loser is still the CZ at 22.8 million followed by the LSL at 15.9 million and the SWC at 15.8 million. The rest in order are the Sunset, the Capitol, Crescent, Starlight, Star, Cardinal, EB, Eagle and Meteor. Will be interesting to see what next year brings or if there is a next year.
 

SubwayNut

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What would the best explanation be for the LSL? I'm curious, it normally runs with 6 coaches that always seem full, but just 3 Sleepers.
 

Paulus

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It'd be helpful if you'd post the actual numbers instead of just your BS ones.

August ridership preview:

Surfliner +5.9% (highest ridership since June 2011, 278,000 riders)

Capitol Corridor -2.2%

San Joaquin +11.9%

Starlight +4.4%

Amtrak +3.0%

Surfliner +10.5% (highest overall revenue in LOSSAN records dating back to 2008)

Capitol Corridor -1.1%

San Joaquin +3.0%

Starlight +8.0%

Amtrak wasn't mentioned but graph is the same as July's, so either typo or the same. I'd put money on typo on the graph.
 

Anderson

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I'm working up a detailed analysis, but I'll preview everyone with a shocker: On a strict operating basis, Amtrak turned a profit in July.

Edit: Henry, can you please source those numbers?
 
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billthebarn

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Jun 11, 2013
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Anderson,

That is great news. I'm looking forward to reading your report. I am not optimistic about the future of any entity which relies on a federal subsidy. I'm not an economist or accountant (I suspect you may be) but I read the news. Projections for Social Security and Medicade, by the government itself, are pretty bleak.

There will be (are?) too many entities chasing too few federal dollars. If push comes to shove, the politicians will always favor Social Security over anything else...including Amtrak. There are more senior voters!

With that in mind, I believe it behooves Amtrak to strive to make sure each long distance train operates in the black. I would like to see the rail experience elevated to the point where new riders tell their friends and families what a great time they had on Amtrak. I would like the LD trains to operate in the black...those are the ones I ride. LOL!

If, in the future, Amtrak has to cut, I'd imagine the least profitable routes would the first to go. If the annual subsidy wasn't needed, who could be against Amtrak? At that point, Amtrak would be an employer of thousands of tax-paying Americans. I understand that every country in the world subsidises rail etc. I'm beyond that in my thinking. The USA is in unchartered waters as far as the national debt goes. Predictions for the future seem to range from mildly pessimistic to catastophic. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not a "numbers man". I believe we should "hope for the best but prepare for the worst".

I hope your report can reassure me. Thanks in advance.
 

afigg

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I'm working up a detailed analysis, but I'll preview everyone with a shocker: On a strict operating basis, Amtrak turned a profit in July.
I would describe it as Amtrak did not increase the adjusted operating loss for July ($318 million) over June ($320.9 million). The Net Loss for year to date (YTD) increased from June at $965.2 million to $1,039.5 million in July.
As of July YTD, revenue is $85.8 million over last year while expenses (which includes depreciation) increased by $109.7 million. BTW, the revenue category that is well ahead of budget at $49.5 million (YTD) is the broad "Other Revenue". Which may be from any number of things.

One area which is helping the books in the short term is that capital spending for YTD is $805.0 million, $229.7 million less than authorized. The report forecasts that capital spending will end the year at $163 million less than authorized, so capital work is being deferred. The report attributes it

to "Many 3rd party projects have been delayed due to funding source changes with some projects being reprogrammed. The timing of progress payments for electric locomotives will carryover to next year."

So some of the capital spending reductions are simply a reflection of delays in funded track projects and the timing of progress payments to Siemens for the ACS-64s. But overhauls have been cut back in the Mechanical report and track maintenance work has likely been delayed which can be attributed to the effects of the sequestration and shrinking annual funding from Congress. Not a good thing in the long term.

The FY2014 reports will be changed by the additional state payments which are booked as revenue. Another $100 to $150 (?) million in state payments will have an effect on the ajusted loss which will make Amtrak's cost recovery - from the viewpoint of the federal paymasters - look pretty good.
 

Anderson

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July 2013 MPR Analysis

NEC
Acela: Ridership was up 4.2%, or about 11,000 for the month. Revenue was up extremely sharply (+12.5%), likely owing to a nice confluence of increased ridership, a fare hike, and capacity pressure triggering higher buckets. There was also an apparent relative increase in FC ridership, but the impact there seems to have been negligible at best. In particular, this is one of the few months that the Acela has beaten its budgeted projections. YTD, the Acela is still having issues...between Sandy and a number of laggging months, there's a lot of ground that will need to be made up on the ridership and revenue fronts to make the budget. PPR for the month was $159.11 (vs. $147.43 last year) and $159.65 YTD (vs. $150.22 last year).
NE Regional: Ridership and revenue were up noticeably (+2.0% and +7.3%, respectively), albeit not nearly as strongly as the Acela. However, at least some of this limitation likely owes to capacity issues and the fact that high-bucket fares are already in the stratosphere for a lot of markets. Also weighing here, as noted in the report, is a partial unwind of the spike in PHL-BOS ridership (although ridership in this market is still up from where it was before the spike). PPR was $71.06 for the month (vs. $67.56 last year) and $70.30 YTD (vs. $66.76 last year).

Short Corridors
Results in this category are generally solid across the board, with increases in the 2%-6% range on a lot of trains. As usual, there are a raft of exceptions both ways. On the low side:
-The Ethan Allen (cause unknown)
-The Maple Leaf (somewhat stagnant over the last year or two; I think track work may be to credit/blame for this)
-The Illini/Saluki and IL Zephyr/Carl Sandburg (the latter has a trackwork problem; not sure about the former)
-The Heartland Flyer (recent service disruptions from a tornado, IIRC)
-WAS-NPN (strictly an accounting result; will discuss elsewhere)
-The Pere Marquette

On the high side, we have:
-The Lincoln Service. Ridership was up 73% and revenue up 110%...mainly due to service disruptions ending. Note that it didn't meet budget for the month...but historically, post-disruption recoveries tend to fall a bit short and year-over-year rebounds take a year or two. It should be noted that this rebound is responsible for close to 1/3 of the increase for the month.
-The Empire Service (NYP-ALB): The Empire seems to have "broken out" over the last few years. The YTD numbers are weaker than the last month or two, but that's down to Sandy more than anything.
-Though within the middle range of ridership, the Hiawathas seem to be recovering from the "bus hit". It's listed as being a train still dealing with an impact...at +5% above both last year /and/ budget, I'd say it's dealing with it pretty well for a change. I only note this because of the incongruity here.
-The Surfliner also gets a note for its revenue/PPR increase. I'll also note, per above, that the Surfliner had an amazing August and that PPR was up about 5% in both cases, so it looks like another fare increase hit it.
-The San Joaquins are burning up the ridership tables; barring a downward surprise in September, it seems likely to be up by about 7.5-8.0% for the year, and around 85,000 overall (through July, it's up 64k, and August adds another 12k or so to that). It's worth noting that this doesn't translate into revenue...PPR is down, as revenue is "only" up 7% for the month (and 2% for the year), yielding a decline of about 5%. There's no telling if this is revenue management or a behavioral shift.
-The Blue Water had a solid month in spite of trailing YTD.
-The Pennsylvanian had a bumper month. The ridership seems to be partly down to "We have a train?!?" ridership from the discontinuation fights on the one hand, and a fare hike on the other.
--Though ridership is within that "middle range", the Keystones showed strong revenue growth as well. The fact that PPR was up about 7% in both cases points to a fare increase and/or modest yield/load pressure.

Finally, the Virginia trains:
-The Lynchburger had a /very/ good month (I'd have to check my records, but I'm pretty sure that 18,252 is either a record or close to it; it's also 294.4 passengers per train). The revenue increase roughly matched the spike in ridership.
--Of note is just over 10% of those passengers both board and disembark in VA. Put another way, about 260 passengers (close to four cars full) were on the train crossing the Long Bridge on an average day.
-The WAS-NPN/NFK services continue to do well combined. For July, the combined services had 69,688 riders (+17.9% over last July), and revenue was up 14.0% vs. last July. YTD, combined ridership is 588,039 (+14.5%) and revenue is +15.3%.
--Assuming a year-end increase of 15%, that would put combined ridership at somewhere around 717,000...behind the Cascades and Hiawathas (albeit giving them a run for their money) but ahead of the Lincoln Service, Wolverines, and Downeaster. Combined revenue is on par with the San Joaquins and just behind the Empire Service.
--On the ridership front, it seems that the Hampton Roads lines will be stuck "in position" for another few years given the distance between them and the next two routes above them. On the revenue front, it seems highly likely that they will overtake the San Joaquins either this year or next (expect a photo finish for FY13...the Hampton Roads trains are less than $300k behind YTD, and they didn't have Norfolk from 10/1-12/12) and the Empire Service sometime around the expansion of service to Norfolk.

A P.S. to this section: Under "Special Trains", note the three riders and $95,000 from last year. This is why I generally ignore that line: $95k is negligible in the scheme of things, and that (rather amusing) PPR is just odd. That said, I can't help but wonder who decided to fork over $32k/head for an excursion last year.

Long Distance
The overview here is that we're going for a nail-biter as to how ridership ends up. For reference, the LD trains have collectively been on an astounding winning streak: They haven't posted a ridership drop since FY04/05/06, and that drop was by and large attributable to the Three Rivers getting axed and the Sunset getting cut back. Even so, the winning streak has been six years running (including, most impressively, 08/09). YTD, ridership is down 3,523...but I can find that drop about five times over on the Silvers. What happened in August is anyone's guess, but I'm hopeful the LD trains will pull this one out. Zooming in a bit:
-13 of the 15 showed ridership increases. The exceptions were the Starlight and the Chief on the low side.
--The Starlight had a smashing July last year, so I think you can argue that it got 2-3 years' gains all at once. The Starlight's ridership was up 11.4% last year...when something like that happens and it's not related to a service change (added cars, altered schedule, resolved disruptions, etc.), the growth is often hard-pressed to sustain itself. That said, based on the CA report above, it seems like the Starlight just "took the month off".
-The revenue situation was more mixed (9 of 15 showed increases), and PPR was only up on the Cardinal, Zephyr, Eagle, Starlight, and Auto Train. A lot of these increases were down to increases on the sleeper side of things (for example, the Zephyr saw a revenue increase of $414,543: $241,850 from sleepers and $172,693 from coach; put another way, 22.5% of the passengers accounted for 58.3% of added revenue).
-YTD, the LD situation is scattershot. Following up on the last point, LD train revenue is up $5.07m. Sleeper revenue is up $5.11m, meaning that coach revenue would seem to be off ever-so-slightly.


Overall
Amtrak seems to be doing quite a good job at closing its losses overall. Seasonable profitability has seemed likely for some time (IIRC the Maple Leaf broke 100% CR last summer). Pulling up the financial summaries of routes, one odd wrinkle shows up: Expenses on "Freight and other customers" dropped between June 2013 and July 2013, which makes no sense. It also seems possible that Amtrak is allocating more costs to the summer at the moment; another observation is that the NEC's business to run low in July vs. May and June.

Another matter of concern is the massive, seemingly unmerited drop in NTS cost revocery. I'm not sure what the issue is here, and looking at the two YTD operating results reports doesn't shed any more light on the discrepancy between this and the decrease in required operating support.
 

Anderson

Conductor
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Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,567
I would describe it as Amtrak did not increase the adjusted operating loss for July ($318 million) over June ($320.9 million). The Net Loss for year to date (YTD) increased from June at $965.2 million to $1,039.5 million in July.
As of July YTD, revenue is $85.8 million over last year while expenses (which includes depreciation) increased by $109.7 million. BTW, the revenue category that is well ahead of budget at $49.5 million (YTD) is the broad "Other Revenue". Which may be from any number of things.

One area which is helping the books in the short term is that capital spending for YTD is $805.0 million, $229.7 million less than authorized. The report forecasts that capital spending will end the year at $163 million less than authorized, so capital work is being deferred. The report attributes it

to "Many 3rd party projects have been delayed due to funding source changes with some projects being reprogrammed. The timing of progress payments for electric locomotives will carryover to next year."

So some of the capital spending reductions are simply a reflection of delays in funded track projects and the timing of progress payments to Siemens for the ACS-64s. But overhauls have been cut back in the Mechanical report and track maintenance work has likely been delayed which can be attributed to the effects of the sequestration and shrinking annual funding from Congress. Not a good thing in the long term.

The FY2014 reports will be changed by the additional state payments which are booked as revenue. Another $100 to $150 (?) million in state payments will have an effect on the ajusted loss which will make Amtrak's cost recovery - from the viewpoint of the federal paymasters - look pretty good.
My understanding is that Amtrak had budgeted $80-90m for the additional state revenue per the financial plans. Still, that's going to take a bite out of Amtrak's losses...the operating side's losses should drop appreciably next year.

As to the overall losses, remember: A lot of that is depreciation (which is useless for our purposes...Amtrak could take at$0 or $1 trillion in depreciation expenses in a given month or year and it wouldn't affect their bottom line for our purposes) and some of that is also capital spending (which is a messy thing to deal with in this context since most of that is specifically funded).
 

billthebarn

Train Attendant
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Jun 11, 2013
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Very nice report, Anderson. I would imagine that this was a very complex exercise (at least it would have been for me. LOL)

To better understand the situation, do you have any idea how much prices would have to rise to bring a certain train (let's say the Zephyr) to a break-even level? On a strictly theoretical basis, how much would prices have to rise? At this point, I don't know if it's 20%, 30%, 50% or higher.

I used the Zepher as an example because that was identified as the route which lost the most money by another poster.

Thank you once again.
 

Ryan

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Apr 14, 2008
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You should be award that the others posters are completely made up and likely bear no semblance to reality. You'll note several posters have asked for sourcing with no answer.
 

billthebarn

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Jun 11, 2013
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Ryan,

The post I was referring to was HenriJ's (the opening post in this thread). At the time I was typing my post, I couldn't look at his post. Maybe there's a way to do this but I don't know it.

But HenriJ says the number one money loser is the Zephyr. I have no reason to doubt him, do you? I don't know where he got his info but some train (the auto-train?) has to be the most profitable and another the least profitable.

I still would appreciate an answer. Do you happen to know? It doesn't have to be exact. I just want to have a general idea of what Amtrak is up against.

Thank you, Ryan.
 

Ryan

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Yes, that's who I'm talking about and yes, I have reason to doubt him. Cost information by route isn't available to make the kind of judgements that he makes. In the absence of that data, his numbers are completely made up (they can perhaps charitably called "semi-educated guesses") and not worth the paper they're printed on.
 

billthebarn

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Jun 11, 2013
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Ryan I haven't been around here long enough to determine who or who not is reliable. I've been impressed with Jis's knowledge.

I am particularly concerned with the LD routes because those are the trains which I ride the most. Do you have any idea how close to break-even these routes are? It would be nice to have a breakdown by Zephyr, Empire Builder, Chief, TE and so on. It is nice to see that the NEC is making money and, if it is true, that the auto-train is doing so well.
 

Eric S

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Dec 19, 2009
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Have you reviewed Amtrak's Monthly Performance Reports (available on Amtrak's website)? Or are you looking for additional information beyond what is provided there?
 

billthebarn

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Eric S,

Thanks, I didn't know that info is on the website. It does list total passengers and total revenues by each train. I was curious as to how close we were on the LD routes to breaking even.

Somebody has got to know how much each train is making or losing...maybe just not here. I was as said before, just curious.
 

henryj

Conductor
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Dec 19, 2008
Messages
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I have explained where I get this information before. Most of it comes from Amtrak's own PRIIA Performance Improvement Plans and other studies where they 'accidently' divulge some of their proprietary information. I just extrapolate this to the other trains. It's not perfect, but it does give some insite as to where the major costs are, which tend to be labor costs, maintenance and fuel. All the other costs are insignificant beside these and some, like track rent are not very controllable. Most of the big losers are that way because they have too many on board staff and take too long to make their runs. Hours count which is why the CZ always comes in a big loser Also, Amtrak prices coach fare at or below Greyhound bus fares many times, I guess to boost ridership numbers, but it doesn't bring in enough revenue. The sleepers are the winners and they need more of these 'first class' fares.

For instance, on the LSL Amtrak gives total ticket revenue as 26.7 million. Sleeper revenue is 7.7 million with only 29k boardings out of a total of 323k total. Highest sleeper revenue in the east on the single level trains is the Meteor and it almost breaks even, losing only 790k in operating loses. It's total boardings are less than the LSL.
 

Ryan

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Somebody has got to know how much each train is making or losing...maybe just not here. I was as said before, just curious.
To know how much each train makes or loses, you have to know how much each train costs (you've already found the revenue side of the equation). That can vary widely, depending on how the systemwide costs are allocated. In a nutshell, Amtrak can't do it in a way that everyone agrees with. Here's a decent IG report discussing Amtrak's attempts at improvement:http://www.oig.dot.gov/sites/dot/files/Amtrak's%20New%20Cost%20Accounting%20System%20Report%5E3-27-13.pdf

Based on that, there's no way that profit/loss numbers from a random foamer should form the basis for anything.
 

afigg

Conductor
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Jun 8, 2009
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Eric S,

Thanks, I didn't know that info is on the website. It does list total passengers and total revenues by each train. I was curious as to how close we were on the LD routes to breaking even.

Somebody has got to know how much each train is making or losing...maybe just not here. I was as said before, just curious.
In the monthly reports, look at the Route Performance Report table in Section C. There are 3 tables, one for current fiscal Year to Date (YTD), the previous fiscal year to date and the differences between the 2FYs. These are the official tables with the fully allocated overhead costs, as noted in the table. OPEB = Other Post Employment Benefits.

The report for July YTD is on page 49 in the July 2013 report pdf file. The California Zephyr for YTD has $44.6 million in total revenue, $100.7 million in Total Costs excluding OPEB & Capital Charge, and an allocated OPEB of $2.7 million. The net fully allocated core operating loss before OPEBs is $56.1 million. The Capital Charge is n/a because Amtrak is still hammering out what that should be with the states for the state corridors. The CZ is beating out the SWC by a small margin for highest total operating loss.

So, keeping it simple by ignoring the effects of a big price increase on ridership, Amtrak would to more than double the prices on the CZ to get the train to breaking even - for the fully allocated costs which is different from the direct costs.
 

afigg

Conductor
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Jun 8, 2009
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5,896
Editing Anderson's post a little for my response

NEC

Acela:

...

NE Regional: Ridership and revenue were up noticeably (+2.0% and +7.3%, respectively), albeit not nearly as strongly as the Acela. However, at least some of this limitation likely owes to capacity issues and the fact that high-bucket fares are already in the stratosphere for a lot of markets. Also weighing here, as noted in the report, is a partial unwind of the spike in PHL-BOS ridership (although ridership in this market is still up from where it was before the spike). PPR was $71.06 for the month (vs. $67.56 last year) and $70.30 YTD (vs. $66.76 last year).

...

Short Corridors

-The Lincoln Service. Ridership was up 73% and revenue up 110%...mainly due to service disruptions ending. Note that it didn't meet budget for the month...but historically, post-disruption recoveries tend to fall a bit short and year-over-year rebounds take a year or two. It should be noted that this rebound is responsible for close to 1/3 of the increase for the month.

A P.S. to this section: Under "Special Trains", note the three riders and $95,000 from last year. This is why I generally ignore that line: $95k is negligible in the scheme of things, and that (rather amusing) PPR is just odd. That said, I can't help but wonder who decided to fork over $32k/head for an excursion last year.

Long Distance

The overview here is that we're going for a nail-biter as to how ridership ends up. ...
According to the October and November 2012 monthly reports, the shutdown from Sandy resulted in a estimated loss of 313,000 passenger trips. If the Acela and NE Regionals final ridership and revenue numbers for the FY come close to or exceed the FY13 budget projection, that is doing quite well. So long as the NEC states don't get hit with another huge storm in October or November this fall (the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states could use a year off thank you), the October and November 2013 reports will show a notable bump in year over year ridership. Which will make for a good press release which glosses over the ridership count effects of Sandy.
There are going to be large month to month swings for both the Lincoln and Michigan Wolverine services until the service interruptions and disruptions from the track work projects wind down. Going to be several more years before those 2 services stabilize and we can see what the effects are of improvements in trip time, reliability, and then after that, new shiny bi-level equipment.

The Special Train entry for the other corridor category in the July report with 0 passengers, 3 budgeted and zero revenue is a weird one. The Special Train ridership was 1,469 passengers in the June report. My guess is that there is an error or glitch in the July report.

The final FY13 ridership totals for the LD trains, currently down -0.1% YTD, is going to be a close call for an increase over FY12. The disruption for the CZ, the continuing severe lateness of the EB, and the schedule change for the Silver Star to get around track work are not going to help. Maybe Amtrak should have a special last minute sale for the less busy LD trains this week to goose the FY13 LD ridership numbers.
 

Anderson

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Direct costs are a different animal from allocated costs. There was a powerpoint presentation to Congress that I read which showed the different LD trains' performance on this front. It was a graph, so I have to ballpark the numbers, but you can eyeball where a lot of the numbers fall. The order of direct cost recovery, from best-performing to worst-performing in dollar terms, was:

-Palmetto (+$5m)
-Silver Meteor (+$1m)
-Auto Train (+/-0)
-Lake Shore Limited (-$1.5m)
-City of New Orleans (-$5m)
-Capitol Limited (-$5.5m)
-Silver Star (-$5.5m)
-Cardinal (-$6m)
-Crescent (-$8m)
-Empire Builder (-$11m)
-Texas Eagle (-$15m)
-Coast Starlight (-$18m)
-Sunset Limited (-$24m)
-Southwest Chief (-$28m)
-California Zephyr (-$32m)
In short, the Silver Service (Palmetto, Meteor, Star) shows a small profit, the Auto Train breaks even, and losses on the LSL are negligible in the scheme of things. Again, accepting the less-than-perfect nature of those numbers, if we take total revenue from the September 2012 MPR (thus including OBS revenue, which on the overnight trains comes to about 10% on top of "normal" revenue) rather than "just" ticket revenue (I'm assuming that the diners are considered a direct cost), we get:

Palmetto: TR $18.4m, DC $13.4m, CR 137%
Silver Meteor: TR $42.6m, DC $41.6m, CR 102%
Auto Train: TR $74.1m, DC $74.1m, CR 100%
Lake Shore Limited: TR $35.0m, DC $36.5m, CR 95.9%
City of New Orleans: TR $22.0m, DC $27.0m, CR 81.5%
Capitol Limited: TR $22.6m, DC $28.1m, CR 80.4%
Silver Star: TR $38.7m, DC $44.2m, CR 87.6%
Cardinal: TR $8.4m, DC $14.4m, CR 58.3%
Crescent: TR $34.9m, DC $42.9m, CR 84.1%
Empire Builder: TR $72.2m, DC $83.2m, CR 86.8%
Texas Eagle: TR $28.5m, DC $43.5m, CR 65.5%
Coast Starlight: TR $45.3m, DC $63.5m, CR 71.3%
Sunset Limited: TR $13.0m, DC $37.0m, CR 35.1%
Southwest Chief: TR $48.2m, DC $72.2m, CR 66.8%
California Zephyr: TR $53.2m, DC $84.2m, CR 63.2%
Do note that these numbers aren't too different from what was displayed in the PIPs over the last few years...the main differences are:
(1) The above uses a steady FY12 base, while the PIPs used years from somewhere in the FY08-FY11 range.
(2) The 2011 PIP, which covered the Silver Service, declined to "break out" the three trains. Just as a note, if we combine the three, we get:
Silver Service: TR $99.7m, DC $99.2m, CR 100.5%
(3) I don't have exact numbers, so I'm having to ballpark.
(4) It does seem that, in the PIPs, Amtrak may have used a different number than either the farebox-only figure or the total revenue figure.
-For a quick example, in the 2012 PIP, they give $57.9m in revenue for the Builder. The Sept. 2012 MPR gives $57.7m in total revenue and $53.8m in farebox revenue. Go figure. However, in the same case it gives DCR of 80.8% while not giving any indication of what direct costs are (though that comes out to $71.7m when you divide their revenue figure by that percentage).
--Of course, do note that IIRC FY11 had a lot of Builder disruptions.


Link to presentation, page 10 is the relevant one: http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/401/881/Amtrak-CEO-Boardman-House-T&I-testimony-Mar-05-2013.pdf

Link to September 2012 MPR, page 52 of 85 is the relevant one:
http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/23/871/Amtrak-Monthly-Performance-Report-September-2012-final-audited-revised.pdf
 

henryj

Conductor
Joined
Dec 19, 2008
Messages
1,589
Direct costs are a different animal from allocated costs. There was a powerpoint presentation to Congress that I read which showed the different LD trains' performance on this front. It was a graph, so I have to ballpark the numbers, but you can eyeball where a lot of the numbers fall. The order of direct cost recovery, from best-performing to worst-performing in dollar terms, was:

-Palmetto (+$5m)-Silver Meteor (+$1m)

-Auto Train (+/-0)

-Lake Shore Limited (-$1.5m)

-City of New Orleans (-$5m)

-Capitol Limited (-$5.5m)

-Silver Star (-$5.5m)

-Cardinal (-$6m)

-Crescent (-$8m)

-Empire Builder (-$11m)

-Texas Eagle (-$15m)

-Coast Starlight (-$18m)

-Sunset Limited (-$24m)

-Southwest Chief (-$28m)

-California Zephyr (-$32m)
In short, the Silver Service (Palmetto, Meteor, Star) shows a small profit, the Auto Train breaks even, and losses on the LSL are negligible in the scheme of things. Again, accepting the less-than-perfect nature of those numbers, if we take total revenue from the September 2012 MPR (thus including OBS revenue, which on the overnight trains comes to about 10% on top of "normal" revenue) rather than "just" ticket revenue (I'm assuming that the diners are considered a direct cost), we get:

Palmetto: TR $18.4m, DC $13.4m, CR 137%Silver Meteor: TR $42.6m, DC $41.6m, CR 102%

Auto Train: TR $74.1m, DC $74.1m, CR 100%

Lake Shore Limited: TR $35.0m, DC $36.5m, CR 95.9%

City of New Orleans: TR $22.0m, DC $27.0m, CR 81.5%

Capitol Limited: TR $22.6m, DC $28.1m, CR 80.4%

Silver Star: TR $38.7m, DC $44.2m, CR 87.6%

Cardinal: TR $8.4m, DC $14.4m, CR 58.3%

Crescent: TR $34.9m, DC $42.9m, CR 84.1%

Empire Builder: TR $72.2m, DC $83.2m, CR 86.8%

Texas Eagle: TR $28.5m, DC $43.5m, CR 65.5%

Coast Starlight: TR $45.3m, DC $63.5m, CR 71.3%

Sunset Limited: TR $13.0m, DC $37.0m, CR 35.1%

Southwest Chief: TR $48.2m, DC $72.2m, CR 66.8%

California Zephyr: TR $53.2m, DC $84.2m, CR 63.2%
Do note that these numbers aren't too different from what was displayed in the PIPs over the last few years...the main differences are:

(1) The above uses a steady FY12 base, while the PIPs used years from somewhere in the FY08-FY11 range.

(2) The 2011 PIP, which covered the Silver Service, declined to "break out" the three trains. Just as a note, if we combine the three, we get:

Silver Service: TR $99.7m, DC $99.2m, CR 100.5%

(3) I don't have exact numbers, so I'm having to ballpark.

(4) It does seem that, in the PIPs, Amtrak may have used a different number than either the farebox-only figure or the total revenue figure.

-For a quick example, in the 2012 PIP, they give $57.9m in revenue for the Builder. The Sept. 2012 MPR gives $57.7m in total revenue and $53.8m in farebox revenue. Go figure. However, in the same case it gives DCR of 80.8% while not giving any indication of what direct costs are (though that comes out to $71.7m when you divide their revenue figure by that percentage).

--Of course, do note that IIRC FY11 had a lot of Builder disruptions.

Link to presentation, page 10 is the relevant one: http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/401/881/Amtrak-CEO-Boardman-House-T&I-testimony-Mar-05-2013.pdf

Link to September 2012 MPR, page 52 of 85 is the relevant one:

http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/23/871/Amtrak-Monthly-Performance-Report-September-2012-final-audited-revised.pdf
I pretty much get the same results, maybe in a little different order, but most of the trains are so close to each other it makes little difference. I get the same big losers and the same winners. Except the LSL. I have no idea why they get such good results on that one and I get such bad results. There must me something we just don't know about the train's costs. In the LSL's PRII report they state it gets around a 75% cost recovery, that means is still loses a ton of money. I get a 65% cost recovery. I think they just made a mistake on the graph.
 
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philabos

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 13, 2011
Messages
70
Anderson, great posts.

Somehow not surprising the Atlantic Coast services do better than average because they are sharing route costs to a certain degree.

I know Amtrak does not count the Carolinian as a long distance train but it is part of the AC service.

Does the LSL look a little better because of the cost sharing with the Empire Service?
 

afigg

Conductor
Joined
Jun 8, 2009
Messages
5,896
Anderson, great posts.

Somehow not surprising the Atlantic Coast services do better than average because they are sharing route costs to a certain degree.

I know Amtrak does not count the Carolinian as a long distance train but it is part of the AC service.

Does the LSL look a little better because of the cost sharing with the Empire Service?
The Silvers do well because they are a single night trip, have good average speed, have a number of larger cities and busy stops on their routes. They also both have a fair amount of intrastate Florida trips. The top 4 city pairs for the Star all include Tampa: Tampa-Miami (5% of all trips), Tampa-West Palm Beach (4%), etc. The top city pair for the Meteor is NYC-Orlando, but #2 is Miami-Orlando. The turnover in seats boosts revenue for the Silvers.
Sharing cost is also part of it. The Silvers, Palmetto, and Carolinian split costs for various stations. The track work for the SunRail commuter line in the Orlando region has been hurting the Silvers with frequent delays and service disruptions. SunRail Phase 1 is supposed to start service next year, Phase 2 in 2016. The SunRail project is upgrading 61 miles of track and will share 3 refurbed/rebuilt stations with the Silvers. Once SunRail is up and running, it should help the Silvers with a larger potential ridership base at the 3 stations, better tracks, and possibly some cost sharing.

My take-away from the Direct Operating Loss chart when it was presented earlier this year, is that with some improvements, the LSL, Capitol Limited, Silver Star could all possibly cover their direct costs. The single levels LD trains will get a revenue boost from the new Viewliners and a reduction in maintenance costs. The CL should get a boost from pass-through sleepers to the Pennsylvanian. Both the LSL and CL will benefit from HSIPR projects in IL and IN; the LSL from the eastern Empire corridor projects.

If the Cardinal were to go daily, that would change the direct cost structure with more efficient use of equipment, more passengers per train. The Cardinal will also benefit from the state funded track improvements in VA, and a growing passenger base at CVS. Upgrade to 2 sleeper cars and baggage-dorm per train, all those improvements might result in the Cardinal covering its direct cost. The Crescent gets a boost, but needs the new station in Atlanta to make better use of equipment and capacity.
 

Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,567
The Cardinal has a number of more complicated issues. A lot of those stem from the fact that the route is the result of two trains getting shoved together (early on in Amtrak, there were several trains that terminated at Cincinatti; the Cardinal-as-we-know-it was the result of two of them getting merged), as well as time losses over the years forcing its largest (IND and CIN) intermediate markets into overnight hours. It also isn't really designed for "through traffic": CHI-WAS and CHI-NYP are both covered by much quicker trains (the Cap and LSL), and Philly will likely get a direct connection to CHI soon as well with the through cars. I know that a lot of train travelers aren't time-sensitive, but when you look at burning an extra 8-12 hours, folks notice.

Whereas Amtrak looked at connected corridors for the LSL and Crescent and rejected the idea, I suspect the Cardinal might actually be a serious candidate for doing something like this if not for the sheer NYP-CIN time. See the historical situation noted above...the geography just stinks.

Moving along, I don't think two sleepers would let it cover costs. Three seems to be a magic number (witness the LSL and Meteor covering costs with three sleepers), likely from the costs associated with the diner (though pulling crew out of the revenue sleeper and putting them in the bag-dorm may help on this front). However, a situation where the train is posting direct cost recovery in line with the other eastern trains (i.e. 80%+) would do wonders for it.

A few other thoughts of note, this time regarding the Silvers:
(1) FEC is going to collapse the ORL-MIA market when that comes on line, and collapse it /hard/. The Meteor might retain some residual business, but the FEC is going to be two hours faster than the Meteor NB and not subject to through delays SB. If the FEC goes through to Tampa, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Star drop 100,000 passengers/year.
(2) On the other hand, assuming that Amtrak can get a section of one (or both) Silvers onto the FEC, that should make up at least some of the difference. This combination leads to...
(3) It's probably going to make sense for Amtrak to revive the old East Coast/West Coast split in the Silvers (which was the case until the early 90s) and turn one section of each at Tampa and the other section at Miami. This probably won't happen, but a combination of #1 and #2 are going to gut business ORL/TPA-MIA.
 

billthebarn

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 11, 2013
Messages
94
Anderson, Afigg and henryj,

Thanks for the very detailed information. I'm amazed at how much time and trouble you fellows spend at your "hobby" lol!

From my vantage point, long distance train riders are non-flyers (like me), disabled or obese who may have trouble traveling on airplanes (my rather large brother-in-law had to buy two seats on the plane on a recent trip to Tampa), people from "railroad families" who have a love affair with anything train, and people who are just curious as to train travel.

Recently the high cost of gasoline and the TSA hassles at the airports have added ridership to Amtrak. Business travelers are almost non-existant...unless they fall into one of the groups previously mentioned. I believe the railfans are an aging bunch...just from personal observation. There was a company from Michigan (I believe) who toured Pennsylvania back in the nineties. They set up open houses in hotels in Allentown, Reading, and Lancaster on successive nights trying to drum up business for their railroad tours. My wife and I attended the Reading meeting (actually held at the Holiday Inn in Morgantown, PA). I'd estimate they had about 120 people show up. My wife and I were probably the youngest one there. We were in our fifties lol!

Since we have a small percentage of the populace to draw from, it is important for each new rider to thouroughly enjoy his (her) Amtrak trip. Not only for repeat business but for the new rider to tell friends and family how great Amtrak is. That is why I am an advocate for cheerful, polite waitstaff. Clean restrooms. Clean stations and clean ROW.

Thanks again.
 
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