Greater Greater Washington

Amtrak stations mapped by ridership

It's common knowledge that the Northeast Corridor is Amtrak's best line, but the northeast is not the only place in the US where a lot of people ride intercity trains. This map by Michael Hicks shows that California, the area around Chicago, and the Pacific Northwest also stand out.

In the map, each circle represents one Amtrak station. The larger the circle, the more riders there are at that station.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for the Arlington County Department of Transportation. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives a car-free lifestyle in Northwest Washington. His posts are his own opinions and do not represent the views of his employer in any way. He runs the blog BeyondDC and also contributes to the Washington Post Local Opinions blog. 

Comments

Add a comment »

Cool map. There are some great threads on this at railroad.net, but Texas and Florida are obvious candidates for greatly increased frequencies/services.

Plus the NYC - FL corridor and the ATL-WAS corridor.

Although, as we've seen with the Lynchburg and other Virginia trains, even small towns can have significant ridership.

by H Street LL on Feb 4, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

It would be nice to get the Jacksonville to New Orleans route running again -- it hasn't been in service since Katrina.

by Colleen on Feb 4, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

Is this only for trains, or for Amtrak buses too?

by SJE on Feb 4, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

A. Good argument against the whole "Americans don't ride trains" because many choose too even when the route is innopportune.

B. Also a good rebuff for those trying to stop HSR in Ca. and the Mid-West. This helps show demand for better service. Moreover you can point out patterns. Obviously we don't need HSR from coast to coast but the planners working on the corridors know what they're doing by suggesting the corridors where they are being proposed/built.

by drumz on Feb 4, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

A few of those small dots in the western half of PA could be eliminated soon as funds for the Pennsylvanian appear to be short: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/189595971.html

I'm not one to say Amtrak garners much ridership through this section such that it might necessarily be the most economic public investment at this time (doesn't help that the mountains are brutal for travel speed as compared to free-flowing highway alternatives), but annoyed that we could afford the just-as-wasteful Bud Shuster Highway yet seem like beggars when it comes to rail.

by Bossi on Feb 4, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

Not really apropos, but I met a young Swedish couple in Vienna that had ridden the train from Chicago to Seattle. It took two days. They seemed to love it. I couldn't believe it at the time, but now I realize it was probably a beautiful journey. It just makes me sad that the country has lost its love of trains.

Anyway, one issue that occurs to me with trains is the schedule. I don't think once a days are enough. My dad tried to take a train between Cleveland and Philadelphia once and the only departure was at like 3 am. I think they should run any route at least twice a day so you will always have an AM or PM departure say 3am and 3pm etc. Obviously reality precludes such things, but it would make travel by train much more inviting to say older adults, women, and families with small kids.

by Alan B. on Feb 4, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

I know this is quite the conditional statement, H Street LL, but Lynchburg is the second largest Virginia independent city not in northern Virginia, Richmond or Tidewater. I believe it is the same for the MSA. I'm not sure it's as small a town as some may believe. Of course Liberty is rapidly growing too. A friend's daughter regularly uses Amtrak from Lynchburg to this area on the weekends.

by selxic on Feb 4, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

Ah, another population density picture of the US.

by Jasper on Feb 4, 2013 3:02 pm • linkreport

@selxic - fair point, but I was more referring to the small towns in the routes. For example, this article talks about how the success of the stop in Culpepper and elsewhere show the small towns may have a large (combined) captive market.

http://www.dailyyonder.com/passenger-trains-arent-just-cities/2012/09/20/4449

by H Street LL on Feb 4, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

Very useful map. Shows clearly why Amtrak should concentrate its resources in the Northeast Corridor.

by Sage on Feb 4, 2013 3:37 pm • linkreport

Yep, looking at the map, I'd suggest:

1. Keeping AMTRAK as the NE corridor
2. turning over the CA stations to CA to run
3. turning over the WA/OR stations to WA/OR
4. Shutting down the rest

You'd probably lose Chicago, and that's it.

by charlie on Feb 4, 2013 3:52 pm • linkreport

Oh man, when I was 17 I rode that string of stations through the northern midwest from Chicago to Spokane, WA. 36 of the most boring hours of my life. Couldn't afford to fly, so Amtrak was my best option. That was 1997, but the train stayed relatively full the entire way.

by MM on Feb 4, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

The heartwarming stories of young Swedish couples riding Chicago to Seattle would be different if they had to pay the actual cost. Similarly, the small towns who fight to keep their station only lead to great inefficiencies. If run more like a business, we would see Amtrak withdrawn train service from much of the country, and close a lot of minor stations in favor of express routes.

by SJE on Feb 4, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

You mean he 2009 HSR grants were directly related to where ridership is?

Shocking news.

@Charlie.
Youd make a great republican with that "Ive got mine,s crew you: attitude

by JJ on Feb 4, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

@ SJE:The heartwarming stories of young Swedish couples riding Chicago to Seattle would be different if they had to pay the actual cost.

So would be the stories of drivers were they tolled to pay for the actual cost of maintaining I-90, I-94 and I-84/I-80 between Seattle and Chicago.

by Jasper on Feb 4, 2013 4:29 pm • linkreport

The heartwarming stories of young Swedish couples riding Chicago to Seattle would be different if they had to pay the actual cost. Similarly, the small towns who fight to keep their station only lead to great inefficiencies. If run more like a business, we would see Amtrak withdrawn train service from much of the country, and close a lot of minor stations in favor of express routes.

Not always true, at least in the case of Va. Where the service from Lynchburg, Danville, and Charlottesville has exploded. People actually want and need alternative ways to travel to DC and points north. In Lynchburg, to get to NYC you either have to drive the whole way, pay a buttload to fly out of the Lynchburg airport (via Charlotte), or maybe drive all the way to Richmond to fly from there.

Besides, the CA HSR only connects 5 or so cities anyway. Same with the other HSR plans in the works.

by drumz on Feb 4, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

One surprise - that the Northern transcontinental line (between Minneapolis and Seattle) seems to have more business than the lines further south.

by Frank IBC on Feb 4, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

Not quite a population density map. Compare North Carolina with Texas.

by Jim on Feb 4, 2013 5:33 pm • linkreport

25 Busiest Amtrak stations:
Not surprisingly all are in the Northeast or on the West Coast except Milwaukee and Chicago.

1 Penn Station New York City (NY)
2 Union Station Washington (DC)
3 30th Street Station Philadelphia (PA)
4 Union Station Chicago (IL)
5 Union Station Los Angeles (CA)
6 South Station Boston (MA)
7 Sacramento Valley Station Sacramento (CA)
8 Penn Station Baltimore (MD)
9 Albany–Rensselaer Station Rensselaer (NY)
10 Union Station San Diego (CA)
11 Union Station New Haven (CT)
12 Wilmington Station Wilmington (DE)
14 King Street Station Seattle (WA)
15 Union Station Portland (OR)
13 Penn Station Newark (NJ)
17 BWI Airport Station Linthicum (MD)
16 Irvine Station Irvine (CA)
18 Providence Station Providence (RI)
19 Milwaukee Intermodal Station Milwaukee (WI)
21 Harrisburg Transportation Center Harrisburg (PA)
20 Emeryville Station Emeryville (CA)
22 Lancaster Station Lancaster (PA)
23 Back Bay Boston (MA)
24 Bakersfield Bakersfield (CA)
25 North Station Boston (MA)

by K Street on Feb 4, 2013 5:50 pm • linkreport

This map doesn't speak as clearly as it pretends because the dots in, say, North Dakota, may in fact be proportional to the population of that state compared with New York. It would be interesting to understand what share of passenger count (or miles) Amtrak constitutes relative to the alternatives in such places, but that would involve access to a LOT more data.

I agree this isn't just about density, but density is a big piece of what it shows. A way to tease the two apart would be to place it over one of those maps that reflects each state according to its population (sometimes used in thoughtful coverage of national elections). I bet the crowding in the Northeast would spread out a bit, and we'd see that the sparser dots in plains and mountain states do in fact reflect a substantial service to certain communities there...

by Kim Toufectis on Feb 4, 2013 5:58 pm • linkreport

Ah, another population density picture of the US.

There's a lot of overlap, certainly, but there ARE differences, and they could probably tell us something. For example: both Ohio and Texas look a bit light here considering their population. And if anything the NE actually looks like it might be somewhat more heavily traveled than you'd predict from population alone.

So, no, we're seeing not just population distribution, but evidence that pop. alone does not determine rail travel patterns - contributes substantially, sure, but there are evidently other important factors involved. (I'd guess a lot of it is route availability/scheduling frequency/speed, historical usage patterns/attitudes, attractiveness relative to local alternatives, etc.)

by jack lecou on Feb 4, 2013 5:59 pm • linkreport

Jasper etc: I'm not advocating scrapping Amtrak. If anything, I could see advantages to a proper HSR. But not the current system.

For the North East corridor, and some other areas of high population, a train can move a lot of people at speeds competitive with airlines, and acts as a parallel system to highways and airlines.

But for the other routes, you have tickets that are insanely subsidized and serve very little actual NEED: the trains travel in areas where there is little competing traffic, often at speeds slower than highways (I once did NYC to Montreal at a very painful speed of about 40mph) and have little demand for ridership except at the heavily subsidized price.

by SJE on Feb 4, 2013 6:40 pm • linkreport

I made the map. I anticipated that a lot of folks would interpret it as saying that Amtrak should only be the NEC and should abandon other areas, but my real intention was to show that most of the Amtrak network only has once-daily service, and some areas only see trains three times a week per direction.

Personally, I don't think it looks like a density map of the U.S. -- compare to this image for instance: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ewedistrict/8413286915/

To me, it's amazing how much the national Amtrak network *does not* reflect where people live and where they want to go. The map helps show how there are inherent limits on how many people you can transport on a line that runs that infrequently -- once-daily lines seem to have similar ridership per station no matter whether they're in the New England (Adirondack, Vermonter), in California (Coast Starlight), in Alabama (Crescent), or in North Dakota (Empire Builder).

Add in trouble with on-time reliability and speed of travel, and it's no wonder that overall patronage of Amtrak is so low compared to rail travel in other countries. We'd do a lot better if the minimum frequencies were raised significantly.

by mulad on Feb 4, 2013 8:07 pm • linkreport

North Carolina, too, has some bright spots. Its additional within-the-state (Raleigh to Charlotte) trains have bigger windows and more legroom than Amtrak's.

by Turnip on Feb 4, 2013 8:18 pm • linkreport

Kind of off track here, but looking on the Amtrak website right now, why is the only $49 ticket coming from New York Penn into DC Union Station in coach class on the Northeast Regional on Memorial Day at 3:00 in the morning. After that, the next cheapest for the whole day is $158. Are you kidding me, $158 for a coach class ticket between NYC and DC. You're telling me right now, there's that much demand for the whole day on Memorial Day to take the train from NYC to DC. And Amtrak gets taxpayer dollars from the federal gov't, correct? So how much would that be if it weren't subsidized. You can fly for half that price. Heck, you can fly from here to Albany roundtrip for less than that. If you can get one leg of your Amtrak trip on the DC-NY route on time, you're lucky. Why can't they have a set price for that route, there's enough riders and they run it enough. Once it's above $49, there's other ways that are cheaper and the same amount of time, or faster.

by Nickyp on Feb 4, 2013 9:06 pm • linkreport

@mulad; that's exactly the problem. You're losing money on each of those rides. Double it, triple it, you're still losing money. You're not making it on the volume.

and as as a government controlled corporation, you don't have access to easy money to get you past that period.

Yes, the periphany loses, but as I said you'd probably be able to retain CA, the NW and the NE corridor. I'm guessing a lot of the Amtrak traffic in Chicago is coming from those long distance trains as well, so you'd face a death spiral, but there is still stong local interest in retaining commuter rail there.

It is a $209 ticket on the emprir builder from Chicago to Seattle, but that 50 hours in a seat. A room starts at 433 to 1200 additional. So a base fare with a room for two is $1200. I'm assuming food isn't included either.

by charlie on Feb 4, 2013 9:19 pm • linkreport

@Charlie: "It is a $209 ticket on the [empire] builder from Chicago to Seattle, but that 50 hours in a seat. A room starts at 433 to 1200 additional. So a base fare with a room for two is $1200. I'm assuming food isn't included either."

The base fair for a room for two, including the coach fair and the room, is $425.5 per person. You only pay for the room once. It works like a hotel room: if you are traveling alone, you get the whole room to yourself; if you are traveling with another, you split the cost of room. It's not like a hostel, where you buy by the bed; you buy by the room, and two people can sleep it in. Your travel partner pays for his coach ticket, and then sits with you in the sleeper car.

So the base fare with a room for two is most definitely NOT $1200.

Food is included in the fare. You can either eat you three square meals a day in the dining car (for free), or have your meals delivered to your car.

by Steven Harrell on Feb 4, 2013 10:33 pm • linkreport

To clarify from my first post... the price differential Charlie mentioned is between a two person room ($433) and a four person room ($1200). There are no single-bed rooms. Therefore, the cost of the fare for an individual traveling alone is $209(coach ticket)+$433=$843; the per/person cost of two people riding together is $209+$216.5=$425.5; the per/person cost of four people riding together is $209+$300=$509. In all three scenarios, only one traveler pays for the room when he buys his ticket. His travel companions buy coach, and then ride with the guy who has the room ticket.

Or, at least, that's always been my experience on Amtrak's sleeping cars. So, forgive me if I'm wrong (and was cheating last time I did that!)

by Steven Harrell on Feb 4, 2013 10:50 pm • linkreport

Meals are included with sleeper services

by tom reiser on Feb 5, 2013 10:21 am • linkreport

@Nickyp, Yes, people travel on Memorial Day weekend. Look at the fares for the following Wednesday, though, and the fares will be back down to $49.

@charlie, Yes, if the Federal govt stopped appropriating money to Amtrak (along with NEH and PBS -- the Romney hitlist) California, the Cascades and the Northeast, fairly widely interpreted -- North Carolina to Toronto, Montreal and Maine -- would certainly survive. The Midwest is tricky. The cost of the Chicago complex -- Union Station, the yards and the shops -- is currently split between the eight long distance trains, the eight Illinois trains, the seven Wisconsin trains and the five Michigan trains (and a couple of small players). If the LDs went away, the three big states would have to pick up the LDs' share of the cost and might be unwilling.

by Jim on Feb 5, 2013 11:13 am • linkreport

Every form of transportation is subsidized by the government. Walkers don't pay fees for sidewalk or trail maintenance. Airlines get huge corporate welfare. Drivers and bikers rely on publicly maintained roads and bike lanes. This is because we (and every other country on earth) have decided that it's a good investment. Capice?

by Leora on Feb 5, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

Big reason you have small dots in places like Ohio are due to the fact that the trains in the northern and southern part of the state run 3 times a week with pickup times at 3 am and arriving in DC 16 hours later. Trust me, as a former Ohioian, where Amtrak has seen a double digit increase in ridership, I'm going to drive to DC rather than catch a train at 3 am which will deliver me back to DC 16 hours later.

Folks in the Midwest would use rail more often, just have to have reasonable options.

by matthew on Feb 5, 2013 1:02 pm • linkreport

@Nickyp Just like booking an airline ticket or whatever, you have to look at the day, time, and how far out you book.

I take the Capitol Limited back to Pittsburgh all the time. If I booked it right now for a random weekend in June, it would be $49. For comparison, a tank of gas for my car and the toll on the PA Turnpike is $57. My brother, who didn't plan it well, tried to buy a ticket from PGH to WAS on December 27th for travel on December 30th. It was $198. I'd bought my 30th PGH-WAS ticket in October...for $49. I often take monday off for weekend trips back to Pittsburgh, because the Monday fares drop to $49 and the Sunday fares are often in the $75 range.

by Another Nick on Feb 5, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

As someone who likes to travel by train and regularly visits NC, I would love to see at least a spur line run into the Mountains through Asheville and into Tennessee.

I would take the train more regularly, if there were better schedules (especially departure times, even from DC) and a better guarantee of service.

by Thad on Feb 5, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

One factor that affects ridership is when service is available. The trains through Cleveland, for example, board eastbound at late hours and delays make it even later. yet, there was enough potential demand to consider high speed rail through Columbus to Cincinnati.

by Rich on Feb 5, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

@charlie. Steven Harrell is correct. You pay for 1 room, (or roomette, which can hold two people), plus however many coach tickets. For instance, I took the train from D.C. to somewhere in the South for Christmas. The rail fare for my companion was $230. My fare was $430. So between us, it cost $330 each. It included dinner and breakfast. I don't think that was a bad deal at all. And it was a lot less stressful than flying. We could even wrap our presents.

I'm sure there would be a lot more ridership between Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta, for instance, if the train ran more frequently. It only runs once a day in either direction. If you've ever driven that highway, you'd know why there probably is a pent-up demand that Amtrak or some other train could meet.

by lou on Feb 5, 2013 5:33 pm • linkreport

In addition to the 3am barrier in Cleveland, the train discontinues at Toledo. To get to Detroit (and all points from there) you have to deboard the train and get on a bus at an awful hour of the day. The barriers to train travel are enormous with service and schedules like this, yet some people still do it. Obviously there would be more riders with better service and a better schedule.

by Tina on Feb 5, 2013 5:50 pm • linkreport

@charlie: 'You're losing money on each of those rides. Double it, triple it, you're still losing money. You're not making it on the volume.'

But you do make it up on volume - the economics of rail are such that moving 200 or 300 passengers is only marginally more expensive than moving 20 or 30. That Amtrak "loses" $32 per passenger on average with ridership of 30 million a year doesn't mean that it would continue to lose $32 a year with ridership of 60 million.

This can be seen just looking at Amtrak lines: the Cascades have exactly the average loss of $32 with ridership of 760,000 a year - the Northeast Regionals only lose $5 a passenger with ten times the ridership.

by egk on Feb 5, 2013 11:35 pm • linkreport

Nickyp: "Are you kidding me, $158 for a coach class ticket between NYC and DC."

If you don't want to pay that much for a comfortable seat on the train, there's a smaller space available on Delta that day for $235. You'd better grab it. That Delta price could go up again by Memorial Day.

In fact, the Delta price would be much higher already, if it weren't for strong competition from Amtrak.

Hmmn, wonder if the economists remember to calculate the considerable savings to flyers of the lower airfares due to competition from rail when they try to figure the value we get from Amtrak? You seem to have forgot it.

by Woody on Feb 6, 2013 1:19 am • linkreport

The point about the urgent need for more trains almost everywhere is perhaps best shown by that fat dot at Carbondale, Illinois. Talk about the middle of nowhere in FlyoverLand.

And Carbondale had 140,000 boardings last year. That's because it had three trains every day connecting it with Chicago. One train in the morning and one in the afternoon are both subsidized by the State of Illinois (a few million bucks a year, not a lot of $). Those trains in addition to one of those infamous after-midnight stops on a long distance train, in this case Amtrak's City of New Orleans.

So Carbondale with three trains, two running in waking hours, gets more riders than the much, much larger city of Memphis, just a few hours down the line, which enjoys service in waking hours, but only once a day. And it gets far more passengers than those losers at Indianapolis. Many more riders than Atlanta, or Dallas, or Denver or a dozen or more cities where the trains rarely pass thru, and where the states have not invested money in building up rail service.

Amtrak's biggest problem is the nationwide shortage of it. We need thousands more coaches, sleepers, diners, crew dorms, baggage cars, and locomotives; more frequencies on existing routes; restoration of some of the many abandoned routes. We need to try to meet the enormous pent-up demand for this service.

Oh, wait, probably the biggest problem is Congress, which has failed to invest in Amtrak. Congress never lets it really grow, merely keeping it going as a pathetic shell of what it could be, despite the overwhelming support that passenger rail enjoys from the voting public.

by Woody on Feb 6, 2013 1:58 am • linkreport

Thanks for the article and the great Map. I especially appreciated the comment of the map maker.
I am an advocate for the 2nd generation superconducting Maglev transport system for passengers and freight invented by Drs. James Powell and Gordon Danby the pioneering inventors of Maglev. Their repelling force superconducting Maglev transport system is the basis for the 361 mph system in Japan that was admired by President Obama, unaware that the system was invented by two American Franklin Award winners. The beauty of the 2nd generation system is its capability to carry highway freight trucks as well as passengers. This means that if we built an elevated guideway mainly along the rights-of-way of the Interstate Highway system, the efficiency of the system and using the high revenues from intercity trucking, a National Maglev Network could be built with private investment and operated without subsidy.
Uniquely the 2nd generation system can operate in a levitated mode on conventional railroad tracks that have been adapted at very low cost for Maglev. This system could access our traditional stations and offer much faster service at much lower price than proposed High Speed Rail based on the European model.
We have asked our government several times to build a test and certification facility similar to the Test Facilities built by the governments of Germany and Japan, but thus far, our government has declined to certify this system as a public carrier for passengers and freight trucks. Clearly, this system is inevitable because it only sips electrons and operates at about 5 Cents per passenger mile and carries fully loaded highway freight trucks (also will carry autos for vacationing families) at 10 cents a ton mile. It has been before the Congress in the 90s. It passed the Senate but was strongly opposed by transport interests. Bottom line: this system is affordable, very comfortable (no shake rattle and roll), and we calculate this system will save every American about $1,000 per year for their lifetimes. The Test Facility and Certification program will cost Americans about 100 million a year for 5 or 6 years or about 40 cents per person. The efficiency of this system will give America a competitive edge over other countries. I am sorry that I don't know how to include a map, which is based on the Interstate System, but for interested readers, Powell and Danby have recently published the story of Maglev, Title: The Fight for Maglev, Making America the World Leader in 21st Century Transport. It is available as an ebook and paperback on Amazon. The 29,000 mile long system can be built in 20 years from start of Tests. Upon completion overnight shipping will be available from any point in the lower 48 to any other point. I suggest this is the most important infrastructure project of this century.

by James Jordan on Feb 6, 2013 9:52 am • linkreport

What does the tiny dot in Kentucky represent; since there is no rail service in Louisville ?

by kk on Feb 6, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

There are four train stations in Kentucky, all along its borders:

1 Ashland, KY (AKY)
2 Fulton, KY (FTN)
3 Maysville, KY (MAY)
4 South Shore, KY - South Portmouth (SPM)

by Thad on Feb 6, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

Amtrak's City of New Orleans long distance train stops nightly (at 1 a.m. and 3:15 a.m.) in Fulton, KY. That's in the far western edge of your state.

Compare service there to Carbondale, where two state-supported trains arrive from Chicago just before 2 p.m. and 9:30 at night. Then the trains subsidized by Illinois leave at 7:30 a.m. and at 4:30 in the afternoon.

Amtrak's three-times-a-week long distance train, the Cardinal, makes stops at Ashland (10:08 p.m. and 6:27 a.m.), as well as South Portsmouth-South Shore (11 p.m. and 5:42 a.m.), and Maysville (11:46p.m. and 4:49 a.m.) on its route between NYC and Charleston, WVa, to Cincinnati and Chicago. And back.

I guess those hours for Ashland are O.K., but stopping three times a week? Of course Amtrak would love to make the Cardinal a daily train, estimating it would pick up an additional 125,000 or so new passengers a year.

The loss-per-rider on the Cardinal's route would be cut almost in half. Now Amtrak pays 'away pay' for its crew instead of using them the next day, and it provides hotel rooms for them to stay NYC. What waste!

The businesslike thing to do would be to GROW out of this hole. That could begin if Congress would allow an order for the additional locomotives and train cars needed for daily trains.

Then at some point add another run on this route, and all the others, so the stops made in darkness would also be made during waking hours.

by Woody on Feb 6, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

SJE said: "The heartwarming stories of young Swedish couples riding Chicago to Seattle would be different if they had to pay the actual cost. Similarly, the small towns who fight to keep their station only lead to great inefficiencies. If run more like a business, we would see Amtrak withdrawn train service from much of the country, and close a lot of minor stations in favor of express routes."

The same thing could be said of the airlines and highways!

by Capt. Hilts on Feb 6, 2013 10:33 pm • linkreport

Amtrak right now reminds me a bit of SmartBike. Too small, with too few stations to work. What we need is Capital Bikeshare.

Let me give an example from my neck of the woods.

Beaumont, TX is about 100 miles east of Houston. As long as I can remember it has only had flights to one or two cities, with one of them being Houston (and the other being Dallas or for a while Atlanta). The tickets are expensive and if you go from Beaumont to Houston it takes about the same amount of time as driving. The only advantage is you can park at the Beaumont airport for free.

The three counties in the area pay the airline to run this service and they have trouble with it from time to time.

Beaumont is also on a rail line to Houston, but trains only come through 3 times a week at weird and unreliable hours.

I remember some entrepreneurs tried to get the region to stop subsidizing the flights and to instead subside a bus. They promised to run the bus 8 times a day (as opposed to 6 flights) for the same price. And the bus would stop in downtown Beaumont with shuttles to Orange and Port Arthur on one end and to both Houston airports and downtown on the other. But the leaders balked, mostly for prestige reasons. "A major city has an airport." "Yes, but what about Beaumont", I remember thinking.

Anyhoo, I've always thought that if Beaumont and other cities along that Amtrak line paid for daily service between San Antonio and New Orleans they might be able to get to 3 or 4 trains a day, which would be better than a flight to the airport that takes as long as driving.

by David C on Feb 7, 2013 6:23 pm • linkreport

Ths map is really silly because "ridership" is meaningless data. Amtrak exists to provide intercity transportation, carrying people over distance. Ranking its services by how much transportation (passenger miles) they produce, shows that the NEC is the smallest of Amtrak's three divisions, and the Long Distance group is the largest (in 2013, with more than 155% of the NEC's RPMs). The NEC also has very low load factors (just 51% overall, and under 25% outside of Philadelphia-New York-New Haven). Load factors on long distance trains runs 55 to 65% (on these trains, a LF of 65% is functionally sold out).
And all the "ridership" (just transaction volume) in the NEC really doesn't matter because Amtrak's NEC market share is only about 1 1/2%. It could vanish without a trace, and SEPTA and the other agencies could cover the Philadelphia-New Haven markets.
And the NEC is also the most heavily subsidized, in gross and per passenger mile, with an annual federal subsidy of more than three quarters of a billion dollars.
Taking this all together, the NEC is the smallest, weakest, and by far most costly and subsidized group of trains Amtrak has.

by Sisyphus on Sep 8, 2014 10:33 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or