State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Mississippi

Amtrak ridership in Mississippi has grown 41% from 2003 to 2014, making it the 22nd fastest growing state in the country over that time frame. This healthy uptick took place despite Amtrak losing four stations and one of what had been three routes across the state when the Sunset Limited ceased serving areas east of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Today, Mississippi is home to 10 Amtrak stations served by two routes, the City of New Orleans and the Crescent. Let’s take a look at ridership trends across the state.

Below is a stacked column graph that shows the state’s annual ridership, broken down by station. The busiest station in the state is Jackson, the state capital. This station accounts for 43% of the state’s ridership as of 2014. Next come Greenwood, Hattiesburg and Meridian, which each account for between 10% and 15% of the state’s riders. In the third tier, we have the state’s remaining six stations, which each serve between 2% and 6% of the state’s riders.

In the chart above, note the pink sections of the first three bars. These are the Sunset Limited stations that lost service after 2005.

Now let’s look at the same information as a line chart.

This view highlights the dominance of Jackson. Ridership at Jackson has grown 69% over the timeframe, from 27,927 in 2003 to 47,295 in 2014, after reaching a high of 52,307 in 2010. Ridership growth has been stronger at Picayune, where it grew 80% over the timeframe, rising from 1,395 in 2003 to 2,517 in 2014. Rounding out the rest of the state’s stations, we have: Hattiesburg (+61%), Greenwood (+60%), Hazlehurst (+47%), Brookhaven (+46%), McComb (+42%), Yazoo City (+31%), Laurel (unchanged), and Meridian (-8%).

Now let’s look at a pie chart showing the same information, with the stations grouped by route.

In these charts, Jackson, served by the City of New Orleans, is broken out separately, and the five other stations on the City of New Orleans are grouped together in the light blue slice. These are Brookhaven, Greenwood, Hazelhurst, McComb, and Yazoo City. The four stations on the Crescent, namely Hattiesburg, Laurel, Meridian and Picayune, are grouped together as well. And finally, the stations that had been served by the Sunset Limited are grouped together in pink slice: Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, Gulfport and Pascagoula.

Posted in Amtrak, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Mississippi, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, Sunset Limited, passenger rail, railroads, trains, transportation | Leave a comment

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Minnesota

Thanks to the launch of a new regional passenger railroad serving Minneapolis and its suburbs, Minnesota railroad ridership is up markedly over the past 12 years. However, the state’s Amtrak ridership is down 10.6%, one of only five states to lose ridership over that time period. Amtrak has one route through Minnesota, the Empire Builder, and the decline in ridership is attributable almost entirely to declines at the St. Paul’s Midway station, which contrary to national trends lost 20% of its ridership from 2003 to 2014, sinking to 94,077 passenger arrivals and departures in 2014, down from 116,967 in 2003, and a high of 147,791 as recently as 2008. Perhaps there is hope that St. Paul area will see an uptick because train service was shifted back to the more grand downtown hub in St. Paul, Union Depot.

Despite the declinining ridership at St. Paul, it’s still by far Amtrak’s busiest station in the state. Let’s take a look at the numbers. This first chart shows the ridership at all of the state’s station.

Now let’s eliminate St. Paul from the chart and look at the quieter stations to see some of the more localized trends along the Empire Builder in Minnesota.

As you can see, ridership at all of the stations has declined in the last few years, mirroring declines on the Empire Builder overall as its route has become congested with a huge volume of oil trains from North Dakota’s oil shale operations. Nevertheless, ridership at five of these stations is up since 2003. Detroit Lakes is up 51%, Winona is up 30% and Staples is up 20%. St. Cloud is down 2%, and Red Wing is down 11%. This next chart shows the same information as the first chart, but in stacked column form.

Finally, here’s a look at the same information in a pie chart showing the relative volumes of passengers at Minnesota’s stations.

I started this post by noting that despite Minnesota’s Amtrak ridership decline, the state’s overall passenger railroad ridership is undoubtedly up over the timeframe. That’s because while Amtrak is America’s railroad, it isn’t America’s only railroad, and neither is it the State of Minnesota’s only railroad carrying passengers. The other is the Northstar Line, which opened for business on November 16, 2009, with service between Minneapolis and six suburban stations. Here we see that it’s ridership has held remarkably steady since its inauguration.

Posted in Amtrak, Empire Builder, Minnesota, Northstar Commuter Rail, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, passenger rail, railroads, regional rail, trains, transportation | Leave a comment

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Michigan

Amtrak ridership in Michigan is up 70% from 2003 to 2014, making the state the 12th fastest growing state in the country in terms of rail ridership. Let’s take a look at some of those underlying trends, but first, here’s a recap of the state’s routes and stations.

Amtrak has 22 stations in Michigan served by three routes. The state’s busiest route is the Wolverine, which offers three round trips per day between Pontiac and Chicago via Detroit. In Battle Creek, the Wolverine meets up with the Blue Water, which offers daily service between Port Huron, on the beautiful blue water coast of Lake Huron, and Chicago, via East Lansing and Flint. And in the western part of the Lower Peninsula, the Pere Marquette travels along the coast of Lake Michigan with daily service between Grand Rapids and Chicago. This graph shows the volumes of ridership on each of these services.

Average monthly ridership on the Wolverine has grown 42% over the time period shown, meanwhile, the Blue Water has surged 120%, and the Pere Marquette has also grown a healthy 35% even though one of its five stations, New Buffalo, shifting to service on the Wolverine & Blue Water.

Now lets take a closer look at the state’s 22 stations. In this pie chart, we have them grouped by route. There are five stations served by the Blue Water alone, four stations served by the Pere Marquette alone (down from five prior to 2010), nine stations served by the Wolverine alone, and five stations served by both the Wolverine and the Blue Water (up from four prior to 2010). Here we see the aggregated ridership at these groupings of stations, year-by-year.

This line chart highlights the busiest stations in the state, color-coded by route served.

Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, and Dearborn, while all increasing ridership, have held stead as the three busiest stations in the state, while Detroit, historically the fourth-busiest station in the state, recently dipped below East Lansing. When my wife and I visited Detroit a few years ago, we took the Lake Shore Limited to Toledo and caught a one-hour Amtrak bus ride to Detroit. The bus uses the same station as the Wolverine, but doesn’t add to the ridership statistics.

Finally, let’s conclude the post with an interesting case study touched on earlier. On October 26, 2009, Amtrak began service to a new station in New Buffalo, Mich., with service on the Wolverine and Blue Water routes. At the same time, it closed a station seven blocks that had had service on the Pere Marquette. Was it a good move? Let’s look at the ridership figures.

This clearly was a great move. Ridership on the new station jumped 152% in the first year, and has since surged 118%. (It also had been growing at the prior station as well, rising 150% over the seven years from 2003 to 2009.)

Posted in Amtrak, Blue Water, Michigan, Pere Marquette, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, Wolverine, passenger rail, railroads, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Massachusetts

With one of the busiest regional rail operations in the country, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is one of the nation’s premier states for passenger railroading. MBTA Commuter Rail, serving the Boston area, has been expanding in recent years, with the restoration of service to the Greenbush Line in 2007, the restoration of seasonal service to Cape Cod 2013, and addition of three stations (and counting) on the Fairmount Line in 2012-2013. Amtrak ridership in the state is up as well climbing 67% since 2003 to what I assume is an all-time high in 2014.

First, let’s look to the Big Kahuna in the state, MBTA Commuter Rail. Average monthly ridership has grown 40% since 1994, the period for which data is available, surging to a high in 2003 that was matched in 2009, before slackening off. Here is the chart.

To put MBTA Commuter Rail’s massive size in perspective, as of December 2014, it carried 3,007,300 passengers per month, which is slightly ahead of Amtrak’s nationwide average monthly ridership, which as of that month was 2,588,300. And regarding Amtrak, its ridership has been climbing in Massachusetts over the past dozen years, reaching what I assume is an all-time high in 2014 of 3,156,142. This chart shows the breakdown by station.

Massachusetts is served by five Amtrak routes:

  • The Northeast Regional and Acela share the same tracks, but not the same speeds, between Boston and Washington, D.C., via New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. In the Commonwealth, these trains serve Boston’s South Station and Back Bay Station. The Northeast Regional also serves Route 128 and, via a separate spur, Springfield.)
  • The Lake Shore Limited is an overnight long-distance train offering service to Chicago via Upstate New York, Ohio and Indiana. The train runs east/west across the length of Massachusetts, serving South Station, Back Bay Station, Framingham, Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield.
  • The Vermonter cuts across the western section of the state en route to the Green Mountain State, extending the Northeast Corridor’s spur beyond Springfield. It previously served Amherst, but as of December 2014 the route through Massachusetts was shifted to speed trains and serve more stations, adding Northampton, Greenfield, and soon, Holyoke.
  • The Downeaster serves the northeast corner of the state en route to Maine, with trains originating at Boston’s North Station, then stopping at the MBTA stations at Woburn and Haverhill.

This next pie chart shows the relative weights of ridership at all of the state’s stations.

And to round out the picture, this line chart shows the relative business of each of Amtrak’s stations across the state. South Station, the terminal station for the Northeast Corridor, is by far the busiest station in Massachusetts. Next come a trio that are basically equal to one another: Back Bay Station, Route 128 and North Station. Next is Springfield. Finally, the rest of the state’s stations follow.

It’s interesting to note, however, that even though trends at the state’s quieter stations are hard to discern at the scale called for by South Station, some of them are actually growing at quite busy rates. Woburn has grown 251% over the time period, rising to 22,754 in 2014 from 6,489 in 2003. There’s a similar trend at Haverhill, which surged 236%, rising to 38,481 in 2014, up from 11,437 in 2003. At the other end of the state in the Berkshire Mountains, Pittsfield has grown 143%, rising to 7,541 passengers in 2014, up from 3,108 in 2003. Meanwhile, ridership at Framingham and Worcester declined over the time, perhaps a reflection of Amtrak ending the previous “Inland Route” Northeast Regional service between Springfield and Boston, which took place basically in 1999 and was finalized in 2004.

If we zero-in on that section of the chart, we see these trends for the state’s quieter stations.

Posted in Acela, Amtrak, Downeaster, Lake Shore Limited, MBTA Commuter Rail, Massachusetts, Northeast Corridor, Northeast Regional, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, Vermonter, passenger rail, railroads, regional rail, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Maryland

Train ridership in Maryland has been increasing by leaps and bounds over the measurable past. First, let’s recap ridership patterns on the state’s regional rail system, MARC, which we last looked at as part of the post on Washington, D.C.

As this chart shows, MARC’s average monthly ridership has nearly doubled from September 1994 to December 2014. It is up 94% over that time frame.

There are 39 train stations in the state, and most of those are served by MARC’s three-line system. Six of the stations are also served by Amtrak. Four of those are on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, with Northeast Regional trains and seven long-distance routes: Aberdeen, Baltimore, BWI Airport and New Carrollton. There are also two stations that have trains on the Capitol Limited, with daily service between Washington and Chicago: Cumberland and Rockville. As the following graph shows, Amtrak ridership to and from these stations has grown 17% from 2003 to 2014.

Ridership is dominated by Baltimore and BWI Airport, which have grown by 21% and 28% respectively. It doesn’t show up because of the scale of the graph, but Maryland’s fastest growing stations are definitely the two served by the Capitol Limited: Rockville, which has surged by 172%, and Cumberland, which grew by 72%. Meanwhile, ridership to New Carrollton has declined by 26%, and Aberdeen has held steady with a 4% growth rate.

Finally, this pie chart shows the evolving dominance of the state’s busiest stations.

Posted in Amtrak, MARC, Maryland, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, passenger rail, railroads, regional rail, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Maine

Amtrak ridership in Maine is up 85% from 2003 to 2013, the sixth fastest growth rate in the nation over that time frame. In this post, we’ll examine the trends underlying that impressive growth rate. But first, let’s look at the train stations and routes in the state.

Maine is served by Amtrak’s Downeaster, a 145-mile route that began service in December 2001 connecting Maine to Boston via intermediate stations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The route began with year-round service to three stations in Maine: Portland, Saco-Biddeford and Wells, and seasonal service to Old Orchard Beach. In November 2012, the year-round service was extended to Brunswick and Freeport. The Downeaster has been a huge success, proving to be one of Amtrak’s fastest growing routes in the country in recent years, if not the fastest. This graph shows the Downeaster’s average monthly ridership:

The route grew rapidly from 2005 to 2008, before peaking in December 2012. Even with a slight slackening of ridership since then, average monthly ridership over the time frame shown has risen 90%. Now let’s break down the passengers using the route by station. Portland, as the biggest city in the state, is not surprisingly the busiest station.

This pie chart shows how Portland relates to the rest of the state. While once the far-and-away most dominant station, it now accounts for roughly half of the state’s passengers as two new stations have entered the mix and ridership at the less busy stations has increased. While Portland ridership has grown 30% from 2003 to 2014, it’s surged 182% at Old Orchard Beach, 163% at Saco-Biddeford, and 112% at Wells. This mirrors trends we’ve seen in other states where ridership growth at smaller stations is outpacing those at busier hubs.

Actually, there’s more to the story here. It may not be merely that the smaller stations are outpacing Portland in terms of growth, but that they may actually be drawing riders from it. There’s an argument to be made that the opening of the stations at Brunswick and Freeport has actually caused some of the ridership declines in Portland, as people who would have had to drive all the way to Portland can now pick up the train more conveniently at either Brunswick or Freeport. This line graph shows that Portland ridership decreases coincide with the opening of the two new stations.

Posted in Amtrak, Downeaster, Maine, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, passenger rail, railroads, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Louisiana

From 2003 to 2014, train ridership in Louisiana grew 30.5%, despite taking a huge hit during/after Hurricane Katrina. Let’s take a look at some of the underlying trends driving that growth. But first, a let’s look at the routes and stations serving the state.

Louisiana is served by three long-distance Amtrak routes that all terminate at New Orleans. They are the Sunset Limited, which travels the 1,995 miles to Los Angeles, the Crescent, running 1,337 miles to New York, and the City of New Orleans, running 934 miles to Chicago. Each of these routes also serves other stations in Louisiana. The City of New Orleans stops at Hammond. The Crescent stops at Slidell; and the Sunset Limited stops at four stations: Lafayette, Lake Charles, New Iberia, and Schriever.

With New Orleans being a major tourism and leisure destination, and a transfer point for travel between the three long distance trains, New Orleans is the by far the busiest station in Louisiana. How dominant is it? Let’s take a quick look with this chart.

But, even though its ridership has increased by 23% from 2003 to 2014, New Orleans’ share of the state’s total ridership has been declining because the state’s rural stations has been increasing at an even greater rate. From 2003 to 2014, ridership at Slidell grew 67%; Hammond grew by 73%; and the four stations in Louisiana served by the Sunset Limited grew by 175%. As a result, New Orleans’ share of the state’s ridership fell to 85% in 2014 from the 90% it had been in 2003. Let’s look more closely at the fast-growing rural stations.

Schriever grew the fastest, increasing 471% over the 12 years to 1,923 passengers in 2014, up from 337 in 2003. Lafayette was next, growing 207% over the same time frame, to 6,549 passengers in 2014, up from 2,136 in 2003. Next is New Iberia, which grew by 193%, rising to 1,769 passenger in 2014 from 603 in 2003. You get the point. All the rural stations in Louisiana have seen a growth explosion. This next chart puts them in perspective to the Big Easy. These stacked column charts show the entire state’s ridership in total.

Finally, let’s look at ridership on the City of New Orleans. Average monthly ridership on the route has grown 34% from December 2003 to its high in the most recent month, February 2015.

Posted in Amtrak, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Louisiana, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, Sunset Limited, passenger rail, railroads, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Kentucky

From 2003 to 2014, Amtrak ridership in Kentucky actually declined. It is one of only five states for which that is true. But, the reason is entirely attributable to the elimination of the Kentucky Cardinal, which had run daily between Chicago and Louisville but was eliminated in 2003 and replaced in part by the Hoosier State, which does not serve the Commonwealth of Kentucky. If you set aside the ridership in 2003 at Louisville and look just at the state’s other stations, ridership has increased 29% across the state. This graph shows the dynamic.

Let’s find out a little more about those stations. Kentucky’s busiest station is Fulton, in the western end of the state, which has daily service to Chicago and New Orleans on Amtrak’s City of New Orleans. The other three stations are in the northeastern part of the state, and are served by the Cardinal, which runs three days a week by trains toward Chicago and New York City; in order of ridership, they are Ashland, Maysville, and South Portsmouth/South Shore. This pie chart shows how much each station account for in terms of the Commonwealth’s overall total.

Two stations, Fulton and Maysville, have seen ridership grow by about 50% over the last dozen years. These are the two stations that account for the state’s growth. The other two stations, Ashland and South Portsmouth/South Shore, have grown by only single digits. This line chart shows the growth dynamic that is in place.

Finally, let’s wrap up with a look at the Cardinal, which takes its name in part from the official bird of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The most recent month of data, February 2015, had the lowest monthly ridership in 12 years, probably a result of the brutally cold and snowy winter of 2015 dampening interest in all forms of travel. Nevertheless, average monthly ridership on the Cardinal has grown by a very impressive 35% since December 2003. This chart shows the details.

Speaking of the Cardinal, on a personal note, the best way to get to the Kentucky Derby from New York City is to take the Cardinal to Cincinnati and then rent a car or catch the bus to Louisville. I’ve done it. It is good.

Posted in Amtrak, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Kentucky, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, passenger rail, railroads, trains, transportation | Comments Off