State of U.S. Passenger Rail – North Dakota

The rise of Bakken oil shale has been a blessing and a curse for Amtrak ridership in North Dakota. It caused ridership to increase in a big way in 2012 when people were flooding into Williston looking for jobs in the oil shale industry. But then people who got those jobs were successful in getting oil, and when the oil came, it was shipped out via rail, clogging the existing tracks and delaying the Empire Builder, North Dakota’s sole train route, which serves seven stations across the state. The delays, in turn, had a dampening effect on ridership. The charts that follow show this trend playing out over time. This line graph probably does the best job at showing the trend.

With oil jobs flooding into western North Dakota, ridership at Williston surged from 29,920 in 2011, already at a recent high, to 54,324 in 2012, an increase of 82% in just one year’s time. It’s less apparent given the scale, but the same surge took place at neighboring Stanley, which leapfrogged two stations and lost its position as the quietest station in the state. Over the dozen years covered in the graph, Williston is up 172%, Stanley is up 163%, Fargo is up 68%, Minot, traditionally the busiest station in the state, is up 29%, Grand Forks is up 9%, Rugby is down 18% and Devils Lake is down 25%. This next stacked column graph shows the aggregate effect of all the changes for the state as a whole.

As of 2014, North Dakota ridership is up 59%, making it the 19th fastest growing state in the United States over that time period. Now let’s see how the stations compare to one another in the following pie chart.

As of 2014, Williston was the busiest station in the state, having assumed that title in 2012 from Minot. It served one third of the state’s passengers. Minot served 27%. Fargo, 18%; Grand Forks, 11%; Stanley, 5%; and Rugby and Devils Lake each served 3%.

Posted in Amtrak, Empire Builder, North Dakota, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, passenger rail, railroads, trains, transportation | Leave a comment

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – North Carolina

North Carolina Amtrak ridership is the second-fastest growing in the country, with ridership up 125% from 2003 to 2014. We’ll look at the causes of that growth in a bit. But first, let’s do a quick overview of the characteristics of North Carolina’s train service.

The state has 16 train stations that are served by six Amtrak routes: the Silver Meteor and Silver Star, which operate through North Carolina as they travel between Florida and New York, the Crescent, which operates through North Carolina between New York and New Orleans, the Palmetto, which operates through North Carolina between New York and Georgia, and two trains that account for the majority of the state’s ridership, and ridership growth: the Carolinian, a 704-mile route that runs once a day in each direction between Charlotte and New York, and the Piedmont, a 173-mile route between Charlotte and Raleigh that now offers two departures daily in each direction.

Unlike the No. 1 fastest-growing state, New Hampshire, which owes its position to no good deeds of its own, North Carolina is at the top of the pack because of smart investments made by the state’s leadership. Working with Amtrak, the state created the Piedmont in 1995, then doubled its frequency, which took effect on June 5, 2010. This graph shows the ridership result of the increase in service.

You might think that doubling the number of trains on a route would lead to a doubling of ridership. In fact, ridership quadrupled, surging 302% from an average monthly ridership of 3,443 in December 2003 to 13,851 in May 2015. The route carried a record high 17,319 passengers in November 2012. The Carolinian, serves the Piedmont’s stations plus three others in North Carolina, and its ridership has grown as well. Here’s the graph:

Ridership on the Carolinian is up 39%, rising from 18,285 in September 2005 to 25,490 in May 2015. Now let’s look to the station-by-station analysis. This line graph shows annual ridership in North Carolina by station, highlighting the eight stations that were busiest as of 2015.

If we look to those eight busiest stations, we see phenomenal growth rates. Charlotte has virtually doubled over the time period, from 98,767 passenger arrivals and departures in 2003 to 194,115 in 2014. Raleigh is up 69%, to 161,342 in 2015 from 95,466 in 2003. Greensboro is up 155%, rising to 134,191 in 2014 from 52,690 in 2003. Cary surged an astounding 509%, rising to 87,548 from 14,378. Durham is up 182%; Wilson is +117%; Fayetteville is +91%; and Rocky Mount is +56%.

Looking at the eight quieter stations that are in grey in the graph above, High Point was the stand-out, growing at a phenomenal 838% percent, from 4,112 in 2003 to 38,573 in 2014. Kannapolis was +188%; Burlington, +152%; Selma-Smithfield, +108%. Even the slowest-growing of the state’s quieter stations, Salisbury, doubled ridership, from 14,752 in 2003 to 29,338 in 2014. And even the stations that are not on the Piedmont and Carolinian grew significantly as well, as the entire state benefited from a rail renaissance. Southern Pines was +154% and Hamlet was +107%. Only one station saw a reduction in ridership, Gastonia, on the Crescent, which was -20% over the time period, falling to 1,463 in 2014 from 1,835 in 2003.

This graph shows the same information in stacked column form.

And finally, this graph shows the same information in pie chart form, with only the busiest four stations broken out separately.

Posted in Amtrak, Crescent, North Carolina, Palmetto, Piedmont, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, passenger rail, railroads, trains, transportation | Leave a comment

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – New York

New York had the highest Amtrak ridership of any state in the union in 2014, a title it regained after losing it to California in 2006. And New York is served by the three busiest regional railroads in the country: MTA Long Island Rail Road, MTA Metro-North Railroad, and NJ Transit. With due apologies to Illinois, my home state of New York is the passenger railroad powerhouse of America. First, let’s look at ridership on the LIRR and Metro-North.

The LIRR has long been the busiest passenger railroad in the country, a title it easily retains as reported in statistics from the American Public Transportation Association. Metro-North has been growing steadily over the decades since it was founded in 1983. Passenger railroads around New York City date to 1834, and the tracks, stations and still a few trains that are now part of Metro-North had lost ridership under previous services in the mid 20th century. Metro-North has been bringing those riders back year by year. Metro-North’s average monthly ridership has grown 33% from Sept. 1995 to March 2015, while the LIRR’s has held steady, logging a positive growth rate of 1.5%.

Upstate, ridership growth is even more pronounced. First, let’s turn to the Adirondack, a daily train between NYC and Montreal.

Ridership on the Adirondack (north of Albany) is up 54% from Sept. 2005 to May 2015. This next chart shows the number of riders traveling between New York City and Albany aboard the Adirondack, but also Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, and Maple Leaf trains.

In this segment, ridership has grown 23% over the timeframe shown. This reinforces trends we’ve seen elsewhere, that the most rural stations are the fastest growing. Now we turn to the western part of the state, with ridership on Empire Service and Maple Leaf trains between Albany and Niagara Falls, and with Maple Leaf continuing to Toronto.

Ridership has grown 49% on this segment over the timeframe shown.

Now let’s turn to the individual Amtrak stations data. The amazing thing about New York being the busiest state in the Amtrak system is that most trips that begin in New York end in another state, and vice versa. So each trip only gives “half credit” to New York. Meanwhile, in the Empire State’s closest competitor, California, most train trips that begin in the state end there as well, giving each trip two notches instead of just one. And in this next graph, we see just how dominant New York City’s Pennsylvania Station is when it comes to the New York’s totals.

With more than 10 million passengers in 2014, Penn Station is by far the busiest in Amtrak’s system, accounting for 16% of Amtrak systemwide ridership. It accounted for 83% of New York State’s ridership in 2014, while Albany-Rensselaer accounted for another 6%, and the state’s remaining 24 stations accounted for the remaining 11%.

This pie chart shows the statewide ridership breakdown by region.

Let’s look at the growth of the ridership at individual stations. First, this chart shows the entire state. At this scale, there are only two stations that even show up: Penn Station, and Albany-Rensselaer. The state’s other 24 stations all cluster in the gray mass below.

Penn Station ridership is up 18% over the timeframe shown, while Albany-Rensselaer’s is up 23%. Now let’s look more closely at the state’s other 24 stations.

For the growth rates in this graph, we have: Hudson, 36%; Rhinecliff, 13%; Syracuse, 42%; Rochester, 58%; Buffalo (Depew), 47% (while the 132% growth rate at Downtown Buffalo’s Exchange Street Station, shown in gray, made it the fastest growing station in the state); Poughkeepsie, 83%; and New Rochelle, 31%.

Posted in Adirondack, Amtrak, Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, LIRR, Maple Leaf, Metro-North, NJ Transit, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, commuter rail, passenger rail, railroads, regional rail, trains, transportation | Leave a comment

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – New Mexico

New Mexico is a state that clearly understands the value of passenger rail. The state’s biggest success story is the initiation of New Mexico Rail Runner Express, a 97-mile, 15-station regional railroad serving Albuquerque, Santa Fe and nearby towns. Average monthly passenger volume on Rail Runner Express is up 113% since June 2007, the first month for which such data is available. And Amtrak ridership in New Mexico is up 38.5% since 2003, ranking it right in the middle of all the states for ridership growth over that time period, at #25.

First, let’s take a look at Rail Runner Express Ridership.

The surge in ridership beginning in December 2008 corresponds to the opening of Phase II, the extension from Albuquerque north to Santa Fe. Rail Runner Express has been steadily opening up new stations since the railroad opened for business on July 14, 2006, with just three stations: Albuquerque, Los Ranchos/Journal Center, and Sandoval County/U.S. 550. Here’s a timeline:

Still forthcoming, one hopes, is Zia Road. Albuquerque is Rail Runner Express’ main hub, and it is an interchange station for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which travels across the state once each day in each direction, connecting Los Angeles with Chicago via Kansas City. The Southwest Chief accounts for nearly all of the Amtrak ridership in New Mexico. But there are also two stations, Lordsburg and Deming, that are on the Sunset Limited & Texas Eagle. This pie chart shows the overall distribution of Amtrak passengers in New Mexico.

As of 2014, Albuquerque accounted for 60% of the state’s ridership, Gallup had 13%, Raton had 12%, Lamy had 9%, Las Vegas had 4%, and Deming and Lordsburg each had 1%.

This line graph shows the growing number of passengers using these stations.

Gallup is the state’s fastest-growing station, with a growth rate of 150%, to 16,140 passengers in 2014, up from 6,454 in 2003. Las Vegas grew by 85%, to 5,047 in 2014, from 2,726 in 2003, Lordsburg grew by 71%, to 729 in 2014 from 426 in 2003, Deming by 55% to 1,338 in 2014 from 862 in 2003, and Albuquerque by 52%, to 77,021 in 2014, from 50,534 in 2003. Meanwhile, Lamy decreased by 3%, to 11,655 passengers in 2014, down from 12,050 in 2003, and Raton slipped by 18%, to 15,875 in 2014, from 19,255 in 2003. This stacked column chart shows the effect of all of the above on the full state’s ridership.

Posted in Amtrak, New Mexico, New Mexico Rail Runner Express, Southwest Chief, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, passenger rail, railroads, regional rail, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – New Jersey

Despite actions by New Jersey’s governor, a Republican who terminated a major New Jersey rail expansion project that would have doubled track capacity into New York City then transferred the funds to roadway widening, and who has instituted massive increases to train fares to keep New Jersey’s already-lowest-in-the-nation gas tax artificially low, railroad ridership in New Jersey continues a long-term trend of growing by leaps and bounds.

That’s a result of more and more New Jerseyans riding NJ Transit. It is already one of the busiest regional railroads in the nation and it just keeps getting busier by the year, despite the threat of a major tunnel rehabilitation project causing a service disruption like no other. The agency runs 11 routes, 10 of them in northern New Jersey connecting directly or with a transfer to New York City, and one from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. Ridership on NJ Transit has surged 90% since September 1995, nearly doubling, thanks to system expansion projects such as the Secaucus Junction, Midtown Direct Service, Meadowlands Station, Newark Airport Station, and Pennsauken Transit Center. This graph shows the trend.

Note that in the above graph, the downward spike in November 2012, which caused a 12-month disruption to the average, was caused by service disruptions related to Hurricane Sandy.

As seen in the map at the top, New Jersey has 152 railroad stations, but only six of them have Amtrak service. Those six stations, all on NJ Transit’s Northeast Corridor Line between New York City and Trenton, recorded a shift in ridership from Amtrak to NJ Transit in 2005 when Amtrak discontinued the Clocker service but NJ Transit replace those exact trains by adding Northeast Corridor Line trains at the same times. The result is a decrease in Amtrak ridership in the Garden State by 56.7% from 2003 to 2014, even though the majority of passengers were not actually lost to railroading as a whole, just shifted to a different railroad. The line graph shows the loss to Amtrak ridership by station.

Note that Metropark and Newark Airport Station were not impacted by the loss of Clocker trains. Metropark recorded an increase of 7% over this timeframe, while Newark Airport rose by 69%.New Jersey retains service on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional and Acela, and also a number of long-distance and medium distance trains that use the Northeast Corridor en route to or from New York City: the Cardinal, Carolinian, Crescent, Keystones, the Palmetto, Pennsylvanian, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, and Vermonter.

This stacked column graph shows the same information as the last graph, summing each year to give an aggregated statewide total.

This pie chart shows the same information, with an emphasis on the relative volumes of passengers of each station.

Posted in Acela, Amtrak, Cardinal, Carolinian, Crescent, Keystone Service, NJ Transit, New Jersey, Palmetto, Pennsylvanian, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, Vermonter, passenger rail, railroads, regional rail, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – New Hampshire

Amtrak ridership in New Hampshire has grown 134% from 2003 to 2014, making it the fastest growing state in the nation for rail ridership over the last dozen years. The irony is that New Hampshire has that honor while being the ultimate railroading freeloader. The State of New Hampshire does not contribute financially to costs of operating the two Amtrak routes that serve its residents and visitors, the Downeaster, which is paid for by the State of Maine and is the source of New Hampshire’s ridership growth, and the Vermonter, which as the name might imply is paid for by the State of Vermont. So of all 50 states, the state where ridership is booming the most depends entirely on the benevolence of its neighbors for its train service.

New Hampshire has four Amtrak stations. Three are served by the Downeaster and opened when the route began service, on December 15, 2001, or within a year or two of that date. Ranked by 2014 ridership, the stations are Exeter, Durham-UNH and Dover. The fourth Amtrak station in New Hampshire is Claremont, on the Vermonter, which has been in service since the 1920s. This pie chart shows the ridership at the four stations, highlighting the relative busyness of each.

As you can see the three stations on the Downeaster account for nearly all the state’s ridership. In fact, 99% of it as of 2014. This is mainly due to the frequency of service. The Downeaster stations each receive 10 trains per day (five in each direction) while Claremont receives only two per day, one in each direction. What it means is that the launch of Downeaster service dramatically, dramatically increased ridership to and from New Hampshire, again, thanks to Maine. Now let’s look at that ridership growth over time. This line graph shows each station’s growth.

The 2003 to 2014 growth rates are as follows: Durham-UNH, 329%; Dover, 111%; Exeter, 88%, and Claremont, 36%. They all contribute to the state’s total, as shown in the following stacked column chart.

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

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Nevada

Here we have the curious case of Nevada, where statistics show that train ridership has effectively held steady from 2003 to 2014, registering a nominal 3.4% decline. What is curious is that the statistics are unlike any other state, as we will see.

Nevada has three passenger stations, all on the California Zephyr, Amtrak‘s long-distance overnight train between Chicago and Emeryville, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Going from east to west, Nevada’s stations are Elko, which in 2014 accounted for 11% of the state’s passengers, Winnemucca, which accounted for 6%, and Reno, which accounted for 83%. A fourth station, Sparks, previously served passengers in the Reno area. This pie chart shows the breakdown of passengers among these stations, year-by-year.

What is curious about Nevada is centered around the station of Sparks. In 2006, the Amtrak state-by-state ridership statistics carried this footnote: “In previous years, Reno usage was underreported and Sparks usage was overreported.” It doesn’t say more about why that was the case or by how much, but from 2005 to 2006, Reno ridership jumped by 19,012, or 34%, while Sparks fell by 18,883, or 88%. In the years since, Reno ridership has hovered between 62,509 (2007) and 78,827 (2013). Meanwhile, Sparks closed a few years later, on May 10, 2009. This line chart shows the results.

It is interesting to note that ridership at Elko and Winnemucca follows patterns we’ve seen at the quieter rural stations all around the country. Elko has grown 227% to 9,436 in 2014 from 2,890 in 2003, and Winnemucca grew by 194% over that timeframe, to 5,060 in 2014 from 1,722 in 2003.

This stacked column chart shows the same information in a different view.

So all told, what can one say about the mystery of Sparks? Perhaps the railroad found out that many passengers were purchasing tickets to/from Sparks but actually boarding at Reno, which is just a few miles to the west and part of the same metropolitan area.

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

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Nebraska

Amtrak ridership in Nebraska has increased 32% from 2003 to 2014, which puts it at the 28th fastest-growing state in the country – right in the middle of the pack. Its fastest growing stations are the quietest ones, a trend we’ve seen in many other states. Let’s take a closer look at the individual station trends after a word about the state’s train service.

Nebraska is served by Amtrak’s California Zephyr, a long-distance train with sleeper service that offers daily service between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. The state has five stations, listed as follows based on their 2014 percentage of the state’s total ridership: Omaha (50%), Lincoln (27%), Hastings (11%), McCook (7%) and Holdrege (5%). This pie chart shows the breakdown visually. Make sure to click on 2014 to see the latest breakdown (the one recapped above).

Now let’s see how the number of passengers using each of the stations has risen and fallen over the years. This line chart shows it all.

Here’s how the ridership growth at each station from 2003 to 2014: Hastings, +89%; Lincoln, +64%; Holdrege, +54%; McCook, +40%; Omaha, +10%. This next graph shows how the state as a whole has grown over this time frame.

My only experience with Amtrak stations in Nebraska is at Omaha, where my wife and I alighted in 2013 to get to the start of RAGBRAI. No complaints on this end! It seemed like a very good station.

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