State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Montana

Montana’s rail ridership has fallen 3.1% from 2003 to 2014, one of only five states to have Amtrak ridership declines over that timeframe. The trend is no doubt a result of ridership declines on the state’s only route, the Empire Builder, which as we’ve seen before is a result of delays to the route being caused by a surge in freight traffic from shipments of crude oil from the Bakken oil area in North Dakota. Let’s look at the state’s Amtrak ridership more closely.

The state has 12 stations in total, although the Empire Builder stops at only eleven of them at any given time because Browning is a winter-only station and East Glacier is summer-only. The state’s busiest station is Whitefish, which reached a high of 72,207 passengers in 2008, and served 52,012 passengers in 2014. Whitefish accounted for 44% of the state’s ridership in 2014. The next three busiest stations form a second tier in terms of ridership: Havre, East Glacier, and Shelby together accounted for 30% of Montana’s ridership (10% each). Finally, the state’s eight remaining stations served 26% of the state’s ridership in 2014. This pie chart shows the relationship.

This next graph shows the same information as a line graph.

Looking at the above, it may not be apparent that the station with the best ridership growth from 2003 to 2014 is East Glacier, which grew 20% to 11,952 in 2014, and the one to decline the most was Glasgow, which fell 21% to 3,967 in 2014. Finally, this next graph shows the same info as a stacked column chart. This view better shows the state’s overall ridership trend over the past 12 years.

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