Connecticut is a state where train ridership is on a long-term uptrend, and ridership is poised to grow faster as the state advances the Hartford Line, from New Haven to Springfield, Mass., with more and better stations, and faster and more frequent trains. Ridership on the state’s busiest railroad, MTA Metro-North Railroad, is breaking records year by year. Metro-North’s New Haven Line originates in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and runs as far as New Haven-State Street, with three branches: Stamford to New Canaan, South Norwalk to Danbury, and Bridgeport to Waterbury. Metro-North serves 38 stations in Connecticut. I’ll have the ridership chart for Metro-North when we get to New York. But for a comparable snapshot of the state’s growing train ridership, let’s look to Shore Line East, which began service in 1990 and serves 14 stations on a line running 90 miles between Stamford and New London, with most trains running between Old Saybrook and New Haven.
From its low point in July 1999 to September 2014, average monthly ridership on Shore Line East more than doubled.
Now let’s turn to Amtrak, which serves 12 stations in Connecticut. Amtrak ridership too is on a long-term upswing, growing 46% from 2003 to 2014. This graph shows monthly ridership on the branch of Amtrak’s Northeast Regional that goes from New Haven up to Springfield, Mass., via Hartford. This is the line that serves the north-south spine of the state and is being improved as noted above.
From Sept. 2005 to Nov. 2014, average monthly ridership grew 16%, to 30,860. This next line chart shows the annual Amtrak ridership at all 12 of the stations the railroad serves in Connecticut, those that are on the New Haven-Springfield line and those that are on not.
New Haven is the busiest station in the state, with almost twice as many passengers as the next busiest, Stamford. As of 2014, New Haven is the 10th busiest out of the roughly 500 Amtrak stations in the country, having risen from #17 in 2003. By comparison, Stamford is the United States’ 29th busiest Amtrak station as of 2014. Bridgeport, where ridership of 80,571 in 2014 is a 59% increase over 2003, still seems low in the list of stations ranked by ridership. But it’s actually within the top quarter when measured against the entire U.S., at No. 104. This next chart shows the same information in stacked column form.
The following pie chart shows the importance of New Haven to the state’s overall ridership. It accounted for 41.6% of ridership in 2014, while Stamford accounted for 23.4%, Hartford 10.4%, New London 9%, and the remaining eight stations together accounted for 15.5%.
Things are continuing to look upward for rail ridership in Connecticut, as the Hartford Line is expected to yield at least two new stations, in Newington and Enfield, and perhaps North Haven or Hamden. On the busy New Haven Line, where two new stations were recently opened, at Fairfield Metro and West Haven, the state is moving forward to build two more new stations, in Orange and East Bridgeport (Barnum Station). Metro-North will soon retire the last of its 1970’s-era M2 electric coaches, meaning the line will be served virtually entirely by the popular brand new M8 electric cars. And the railroad, which has never had more frequent service than it does today, is incorporating lessons learned from a tough year in 2013, including numerous safety improvements and a massive track work project to improve speeds and reliability. (Full disclosure: The author is employed as a spokesman for the MTA and Metro-North.) So all in all, the future of railroading is looking bright in the Nutmeg State.