Tracking ridership recovery (2022-2023)

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Septa9739

Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 12, 2022
Messages
233
Location
Waiting for Amtrak to clear
I’m hoping to use this thread to track and discuss the ongoing ridership recovery. The October 2022 Monthly Report shows some really good signs for ridership. The following eighteen routes have ridership above their October 2019 levels:
  1. Ethan Allen 7,800 from 4,300
  2. Vermonter 9,600 from 9,500
  3. Maple Leaf/Empire West 36,300 from 31,900
  4. Springfield Shuttle 36,200 from 34,100
  5. Heartland Flyer 6,200 from 6,100
  6. Blue Water 15,000 from 13,400
  7. Roanoke 28,900 from 21,700
  8. Cannonball (WAS-NFK) 37,100 from 33,600
  9. Mo. River Runner 14,900 from 14,100*
  10. Pere Marquette 7,700 from 7,000
  11. Carolinian 27,400 from 22,000
  12. Piedmont 28,100 from 22,200
  13. Texas Eagle(tte) 25,800 from 25,200
  14. Sunset Limited 6,800 from 6,800**
  15. Coast Starlight 33,900 from 32,000
  16. Lakeshore Limited 34,600 from 28,100
  17. Crescent 23,300 from 20,300
  18. Auto Train 22,400 from 17,400
The following seven routes are within 5% of their 2019 levels
  1. NER 781,000 from 808,800
  2. Empire South 106,000 from 110,700
  3. Illinois Zephyr 11,400 from 14,900
  4. Washington to Richmond 10,400 from 10,900
  5. Silver Star 26,000 from 26,900
  6. City of New Orleans 18,600 from 19,200
  7. Palmetto 26,500 from 27,400
*Can anyone explain this? I thought one round trip was still canceled. Is the Ann Rutledge just that much more useful to people?

** The Sunset gets no love. I figured because ridership was up on the Eagle, but down on the Lincoln Service, we can attribute much of the Eagle’s strength to its west segment of SAS. I gave it the benefit of the tie.

Despite all this good news ridership continues to be at 83% of 2019 levels mainly due to horrendous recovery of the Acela (71%), Keystone (63%), Capitol Corridor ( worst in system 48%), and the “unsteadiness“ of the Surfliner. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a common thread here? It’s also impressive just how well long distance is doing despite the ongoing equipment issues.
 
I’m thrilled to see that increase for the Ethan Allen — that’s a beautiful, quiet, scenic route on a comfortable and cozy train with friendly, helpful conductors. At least that was my experience taking it from Poughkeepsie to Fort Edward several years ago. Nice views of the river, wonderful Albany station, and then some peaceful woods.

Business class is nice with the 2x1 seating, but even coach is comfortable.

Now with the Adirondack missing, it’s the only way to get to rural NYS by train. I was concerned they might cancel it—but now it’s running to trendy Burlington, hopefully it should be safe.
 
I’m thrilled to see that increase for the Ethan Allen —
Now with the Adirondack missing, it’s the only way to get to rural NYS by train. I was concerned they might cancel it—but now it’s running to trendy Burlington, hopefully it should be safe.
If that 7,800 isn’t a fluke, This year will probably smash the all time record of 63,000 set last year. I don’t think I ever saw the ridership projections for the extension, but I think it’s safe to say they are being greatly exceeded.
 
State workers haven’t gone back and possibly won’t go back as much to their offices in Harrisburg, also a lot of commuters between Lancaster and Philly haven’t returned. Hence why Keystone Service has dipped. I worked 649 the other day and we left Philly with just under 150 passengers. 649 used to be standing room only. A true sign of the times.
 
Septa9739: Welcome. Glad to see new blood be approving of Amtrak. I would welcome you if you want to go into detail as I no longer have the time. You will find Amtrak stats can be misleading and you will have to dig into figures. IMO a better metric of ridership is revenue passenger miles ( RPMs ) but that can also be misleading. The question then becomes are more persons traveling the same or more distances as before or taking shorter trips. Here are some examples of questions.

The Eathan Allen has a large increase. Is it taking some passengers from cancelled Adirondack and NYP - Albany passengers? The only way IMO is compare number of passengers north of Schenectady, NY (SDY) to Rutland (RUD) and then add in the stations to Burlington (BTN). Another way would just take the 2 months and calculate the average RPM per passenger but that can be misleading for boardings at Schenectady, NY (SDY) south.

Long before you joined the Crescent had the Charlottesville (CVS)- WAS leg often selling out preventing longer distance vacancies When the first Lynchburgh (LYH) train started the Crescent kept about the same number of passengers but RPMs had a significant increase.

The trains in Va now can really confuse stats. All the over lapping trains on the 2 main lines ( CSX, NS ) has all of us wondering. Does extending a WAS - Richmond (RVR) to Norfolk (NFK) take all its pass numbers away from WAS <> Richmond and add all to WAS <> NFK? The state of VA does break it down more than Amtrak Good luck!!
 
I think that’s really the trend nationwide. Trains that relied heavily upon commutation haven’t made great recoveries. I didn’t note it above, but most of the Midwest Corridors aren’t doing so hot either. That’s shocking about 649. I remember occasionally seeing the boarding lines for that at 30th Street back in the day and they were huge. It’s a shame. I think it’s only a matter of time before the Commonwealth starts looking at changes if they don’t get the offices back to full time. I mean honestly how much traffic to HAR isn’t state related?
 
Amtrak needs to add back capacity to its three major Western Long Haul trains - Southwest Chief, CA Zephyr, and Empire Builder. These trains were operating at very high capacity and sold out limits for a while now. If they had the capacity they'd be surpassing their 2019 numbers - guaranteed.
 
Since the Crescent has one less coach than it used to, and only two sleeping cars instead of more at peak times, it’s surprising that it is performing so well.
 
The question with the Crescent is how much of its volume comes from the now bookable NYP to WAS segment. I somehow doubt it’s doing super well, especially south of Atlanta. The new northbound schedule is just horrendous. We’ll have to wait for RPA to put out ridership stats to get a better idea. That’s another train that just seems to be constantly getting beat on for years now.
 
Amtrak needs to add back capacity to its three major Western Long Haul trains - Southwest Chief, CA Zephyr, and Empire Builder. These trains were operating at very high capacity and sold out limits for a while now. If they had the capacity they'd be surpassing their 2019 numbers - guaranteed.
This may largely be ignored by Amtrak. They hardly ever talk about the sold out western trains and just talk about the use of commuter lines that are losng importance and will continue to lose ridership. Remote home work situations are not going to disappear. The business model has changed. IMO as more companies continue to close their large city facilities the "commuter" ridership base will continue to fall. I believe that a good segment of Amtrak customer service people are also now working from home
 
I‘m not ready to count commutation out. The Piedmont is doing great, as are the Empire Corridor, Springfield Shuttles, and VA Regionals. I’m starting to think a big driver might actually be blue governments not having all their people back. That would seem to help explain the Keystone, Cap. Corridor, Lincoln Service, and to a lesser extent Acela (DC Lobbyists et al.) The Empire Corridor seems to be a counterexample, but the New York market is more significant than the Albany. The Western long distance problem is definitely understated by management, but I’m not sure they can do much beyond what they are besides start running the cut cars again ASAP.
 
I‘m not ready to count commutation out. The Piedmont is doing great, as are the Empire Corridor, Springfield Shuttles, and VA Regionals. I’m starting to think a big driver might actually be blue governments not having all their people back. That would seem to help explain the Keystone, Cap. Corridor, Lincoln Service, and to a lesser extent Acela (DC Lobbyists et al.) The Empire Corridor seems to be a counterexample, but the New York market is more significant than the Albany. The Western long distance problem is definitely understated by management, but I’m not sure they can do much beyond what they are besides start running the cut cars again ASAP.
Well the Lincoln Service was missing a round trip for much of 2022 so that could explain it too. It’s ridership did jump 83% from 2021.
 
The question with the Crescent is how much of its volume comes from the now bookable NYP to WAS segment. I somehow doubt it’s doing super well, especially south of Atlanta. The new northbound schedule is just horrendous. We’ll have to wait for RPA to put out ridership stats to get a better idea. That’s another train that just seems to be constantly getting beat on for years now.

Atlanta is being killed by the new northbound schedule .. Here is comparsions. From NARP

year 2017 76k
year 2018 71k
year 2019 68k

year 2021 35k

Could not find calendar 2020 2022 probably mid - late Jan?
 
@west point Where did you find that 2021 number? All I can find are the old 2019 reports. I’d love to be more precise, but all that I’ve found so far are the MPR’s which I’ve been reading for years (The pre-Anderson ones were amazing.) and the RPA stats. I’d really appreciate any wisdom you could share or resources you could point to.

I’m a little curious about your WAS-NFK example. Shouldn’t ridership be counted by Arrow on a per train basis? I.E. Info from the manifest is just directly attributed to each line item. I agree with you that you have to take a holistic approach to ridership, so I think in the future I’ll do ridership and average trip length.
 
Atlanta is being killed by the new northbound schedule .. Here is comparsions. From NARP

year 2017 76k
year 2018 71k
year 2019 68k

year 2021 35k

Could not find calendar 2020 2022 probably mid - late Jan?
I don't like the new Crescent schedule either, but these figures are not optimal for determining how much the change has hurt patronage. The new schedule was adopted only half-way through 2021, and the Crescent was on a less-than-daily schedule for much of that year.
 
I‘m not ready to count commutation out. The Piedmont is doing great, as are the Empire Corridor, Springfield Shuttles, and VA Regionals. I’m starting to think a big driver might actually be blue governments not having all their people back. That would seem to help explain the Keystone, Cap. Corridor, Lincoln Service, and to a lesser extent Acela (DC Lobbyists et al.) The Empire Corridor seems to be a counterexample, but the New York market is more significant than the Albany.
I tend to agree. If anyone actually "commuting" on the NEC, they're going to be taking the Northeast Regionals on a multi-ride pass, and the Northeast Regional ridership is recovering nicely. I think the reason the Acelas aren't recovering as much is that the frequency of trains is still much lower and they can't compensate for that by running longer trains with more capacity. I don't think this has anything to do which which political party is in power in which state.
 
I tend to agree. If anyone actually "commuting" on the NEC, they're going to be taking the Northeast Regionals on a multi-ride pass, and the Northeast Regional ridership is recovering nicely. I think the reason the Acelas aren't recovering as much is that the frequency of trains is still much lower and they can't compensate for that by running longer trains with more capacity. I don't think this has anything to do which which political party is in power in which state.
The Acelas bloated ticket cost was manageable when companies were covering travel expenses for employees. The Acelas current business model is gonna need tweaking, lucky the new trains have more capacity which helps any modification to service.
 
The Acelas bloated ticket cost was manageable when companies were covering travel expenses for employees. The Acelas current business model is gonna need tweaking, lucky the new trains have more capacity which helps any modification to service.
Actually, over the past year, Acela fares have commonly been cheaper than Northeast Regional Business class fares, and sometimes even cheaper than coach. I scored an $87 Baston-Baltimore Acela ticket last summer.
 
Actually, over the past year, Acela fares have commonly been cheaper than Northeast Regional Business class fares, and sometimes even cheaper than coach. I scored an $87 Baston-Baltimore Acela ticket last summer.
Last time I rode in Acela FC, I snagged a $69 NYP-BWI Fare, had the only decent Meal ( and of course Adult Beverages)Ive had on a Train since Traditional Dining was replaced by Whatever Name Marketing dreamed up !😊
 
Atlanta is being killed by the new northbound schedule .. Here is comparsions. From NARP

year 2017 76k
year 2018 71k
year 2019 68k

year 2021 35k

Could not find calendar 2020 2022 probably mid - late Jan?

I live in Charlotte, and preferred it when the northbound train arrived at 230am, instead of the now 530am time.
 
I think I found my first big problem in this data. Something is wrong with the Ethan Allen data. If ridership is 7,800 and passenger miles are 700,000, the average trip would be 90 miles. I’m not going to say that’s impossible, but NYP to ALB is 141 and the 2019 average trip was 188... In theory that number should climb following an extension. Could it just be a typographical error? 700,000 passenger miles seems off, especially when the Pere Marquette, a route I think is comparable, if significantly shorter, has logged 1,200,000. 1,700,000 passenger miles would result in a plausible 217 miles per trip. Does anyone have a different theory, a few hundred people made a short sightseeing trip over the new trackage, a ridership pair that I wouldn’t expect to be busy, maybe? Has anyone ever noticed such an error before?
 
https://justthenews.com/nation/stat...-ridership-still-not-back-pre-pandemic-levels
The Center Square) - Amtrak saw a big increase in ridership in fiscal year 2022 but is still at 72% of its peak pre-pandemic levels, according to data the transit company released.

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation – Amtrak's official name – is still not close to full recovery in ticket sales and food and beverage revenue.
 
https://justthenews.com/nation/stat...-ridership-still-not-back-pre-pandemic-levels
The Center Square) - Amtrak saw a big increase in ridership in fiscal year 2022 but is still at 72% of its peak pre-pandemic levels, according to data the transit company released.

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation – Amtrak's official name – is still not close to full recovery in ticket sales and food and beverage revenue.
I think the issue is that FY22 is a bit like FY20: There's a portion where ridership was lower (early in the year with less-than-daily stuff and the winter still had some constraints in place) and things recovered. Here's a chart from VA. Do note that it was in July 2022 that a pair of trains were added (Roanoke #2 and Norfolk #3), but the ridership numbers for 2022 were already starting to outpace 2019 in June (May was slightly behind 2019). FY2020 was significantly outpacing FY2019 through February...but as you can see, FY2022 crushed FY2019 in September (looks like about a difference of 25k). FY23/FY19 is a better comparison (two years of mostly-fully-normal operation).

One other note: The Norfolk, Richmond, and Newport News lines aren't 100% comparable to one another due to schedule shuffling. I would therefore advise simply adding the three together - some of the swaps result in one line gaining while another loses because the train was reallocated (e.g. 94 used to come out of NPN but now it comes out of NFK [NPN got a departure around 0520 instead], and the second NFK train, when added, resulted in the Richmond line "losing" a train and dropping a lot of ridership).

1672709984190.png

Edit to add: Per the October 2022 MPR, VA's four routes are at about 104,600 combined (give or take a hundred or two). That looks like it's up about 5-10% on October 2019 (that month was below 100k, but I'm not sure by how much). I believe that this implies a slight drop in the NPN train...but not very much.
 
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