State of U.S. Passenger Rail – West Virginia

West Virginia’s Amtrak ridership has grown almost 10% from 2003 to 2014, making it the 40th fastest growing state in the country over that time frame. There are 10 Amtrak stations in the state, including two that are also served by MARC‘s Brunswick Line, and another station, Duffields, that has only MARC service but no Amtrak service. Amtrak’s routes in West Virginia are the Cardinal, which runs three times a week in each direction across the southern/central part of the state en route between Chicago and New York, and the Capitol Limited, which briefly touches the northeast panhandle of the state at Harper’s Ferry and Martinsburg as it runs daily between Washington, D.C., and Chicago. We looked at Cardinal ridership in the post on Kentucky, and we looked at MARC ridership in the post on Maryland. So now let’s take a look at the ridership trends affecting West Virginia’s stations, and then round it out with a look at the Capitol Limited.

Passenger volumes are fairly evenly distributed throughout the state. Huntington has the highest, but it isn’t as if it is way off in its own category. This pie chart shows the breakdown.

Huntington accounted for 21% of the state’s ridership, followed by Martinsburg (18%), Charleston (17%), Hinton (15%), and so forth. There are three stations with relatively low ridership: Montgomery, Alderson, and Thurmond each account for about 1% of the state’s total. Alderson and Thurmond are flag stops. This stacked column chart shows how all the stations add up per year.

Now lets turn to the station-by-station growth rates. This line chart makes it more clear.

Most obviously, Hinton took a big hit in 2006, dropping from 11,102 in 2005 down to 3,105, before rising within two years back up to it’s usual levels. I believe that the station was closed for much of 2006 for renovations. The Cardinal stations were generally somewhat flat. Huntington, for example, fell 13% over the timeframe, but still retains its spot as the busiest station in the state. The two biggest growth stations are the two Capitol Limited stations. Harper’s Ferry grew 112%, to 6,313 in 2014, from 2,983 in 2003. Martinsburg grew 97%, to 9,824 in 2014, from 4,976 in 2003.

Speaking of the Capital Limited, let’s turn now to its overall ridership. This next graph depicts monthly riders on the route, and the smoothed line is the 12-month rolling average.

Average monthly ridership on the route is up 36% over the time frame shown, in part reflective of, and also reinforcing, the ridership growth in West Virginia.

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