Delaware, the home of the Vice President of the United States, “Amtrak” Joe Biden, is served at its northern end by nine Amtrak routes and by SEPTA Regional Rail‘s Wilmington/Newark Line to Philadelphia. Amtrak ridership has held steady over the past dozen years, growing 0.7% from 2003 to 2014. Let’s take a quick tour through the state’s four train stations.
Starting at the northeast corner of the state, the first station is Claymont, which according to current timetables is served by 38 trains on weekdays and 14 on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Most trains from Claymont are local trains, which reach Philadelphia in just under an hour. Many continue through the city center to destinations in Philadelphia’s northern suburbs on SEPTA’s Manayunk/Norristown Line or sometimes its Chestnut Hill East Line.
The next station is Wilmington, the state’s largest city. This is the state’s busy rail transportation hub. In addition to the SEPTA trains to Philadelphia, Wilmington is a stop on Amtrak’s busiest route, the Northeast Regional, and its premier Acela route. Both travel between Boston and Washington, with the Northeast Regional also offering service to Springfield, Mass., and a number of destinations in Virginia. Wilmington is also a stop on six longer distance trains that originate in New York City: The Crescent to New Orleans, the Silver Meteor and Silver Star to Miami, the Cardinal to Chicago, the Palmetto, to Savannah, Ga., and the Carolinian, to Charlotte, N.C. And the Vermonter, originating in Washington, also stops at Wilmington. With all this service, Wilmington is the 11th busiest station out of the 500 or so in the Amtrak system.
The next station is Churchmans Crossing, served by 19 SEPTA trains per day on weekdays and none on weekends. Finally we have Newark, which is also served by the same SEPTA weekday trains and on Saturdays and Sundays receives two trains per day on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional (one in each direction). As of 2014, Newark was Amtrak’s 316th busiest station, down 28 positions from its peak rank of #288 two years earlier.
As you might expect, with scores of Amtrak trains stopping at Wilmington every day but only two trains per day on weekends at Newark, the vast majority of Delaware’s Amtrak ridership is at Wilmington. Ridership at Newark surged nearly three-fold from 2003 to 2014, but nevertheless, as of 2014, 98% of the state’s arrivals and departures were taking place at Wilmington. This pie chart illustrates the disparity.
Looked at another way, this line chart shows the disparity along with the yearly changes at both stations. Busy Wilmington has held steady while sleepy Newark has grown rapidly, barely nudging its line upward because of the scale of the chart.
And now we see the same information on a stacked column chart that also illustrates the state’s trends.
Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train, stopping at Wilmington and Newark as it travels between Boston and Washington, is the railroad’s busiest route. It has been getting busier: Average monthly ridership on the route grew 15% from September 2005 to November 2014, and it experienced its busiest month ever last October when it carried more than 753,000 passengers. Note that these figures and those in the chart below do not include the route’s extensions into Virginia, which we’ll look at when we get to Virginia, nor its branch to Springfield and Hartford, which we looked at in last week’s post on Connecticut. The Northeast Regional shares its tracks with Amtrak’s Acela, which we’ll look at when we get to Rhode Island.