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.

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