State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Kansas

Train ridership in Kansas is up 86.2% from 2003 to 2014, making it the fifth fastest growing state in the nation over that time period and a case study in how ridership at rural stations is helping to fuel Amtrak’s overall ridership growth. Let’s take a look at the trends driving the state’s growing ridership. But first, here’s a quick recap of the stations in the state.

Kansas has six train stations, all served by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, a long-distance train with sleeper service that makes the 2,265-mile journey between Chicago and Los Angeles each day. In Kansas, going from east to west, the train stops at Lawrence, Topeka, Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City, and Garden City. As of 2014, the busiest station is Newton, which had 12,871 arrivals and departures in 2014, or 26% of the state’s ridership. Hutchinson and Dodge City were virtually tied for the position of least busy station, with each having about 5,300 arrivals and departures in 2014, or 10.7% of the state’s total. This pie chart shows the breakdown graphically.

Of all six stations, the fastest growing is Lawrence, which had 2,253 arrivals and departures in 2003 and 8,017 in 2014, a growth rate of 256%. Next was Dodge City, which grew from 2,576 arrivals and departures in 2003 to 5,300 in 2014, a growth rate of 106%. The growth rates for the remainder of the stations are as follows: Topeka, +99%; Hutchinson, +95%; Garden City, +64%, and Newton, +41%. This line graph shows the increases visually.

All the individual growth at each station leads to an extremely robust statewide growth rate of 86.2%, as noted above. This stacked column graph shows how each station has contributed to the state’s phenomenal overall growth rate.

Overall, I think Kansas is a great example of the latest trend driving Amtrak ridership nationwide, which is ridership at rural stations outpacing the growth rate of large urban stations over the past dozen years.

Now lets turn to the Southwest Chief itself. Average monthly ridership on the route has risen 23% from December 2003 to January 2015. As we’ve seen in this post, a huge amount of this route’s growth is coming not from its big-city endpoints, but from rural stations in states like Kansas.

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