Amtrak ridership in Arkansas doubled over the decade from 2003 to 2013, before falling off a bit in 2014. But even with the one-year drop, Arkansas’ growth rate of 77% from 2003 to 2014 makes it one of the fastest growing states in the country for rail ridership. This post will look at where that growth is coming from.
But first, let’s take a quick look at the rail stations in the state. Running right through the middle of the state from its northeast corner to its southwest corner runs Amtrak’s Texas Eagle, an overnight route with sleepers and coach service that originates in Chicago and runs daily 1,305 miles to San Antonio, Tex., via St. Louis and Dallas-Ft. Worth. Three days a week, the train is extended another 1,423 miles to Los Angeles as a combined train with the Sunset Limited. As shown in the map, there are six train stations in Arkansas, all served by the Texas Eagle.
As shown in the pie chart below, the most popular station in the state is the state’s capital, Little Rock. As of 2014, Little Rock accounted for just over half of the state’s ridership, a pattern that has held fairly steady throughout the past eleven years.
As shown in the line graph below, ridership trends impacting Little Rock are the same as for the state’s next two busiest stations, Texarkana and Walnut Ridge. In all cases, ridership grew quickly over the late aughts and early 2010s. Using 2003 as a base year, ridership to Little Rock doubled by 2011, nearly doubled at Texarkana by 2013, and more than doubled at Walnut Ridge by 2010. Ridership at the state’s two least busy stations has growth substantially as well. It doubled at Arkadelphia from 2003 to 2013, and it’s risen 50% at Malvern from 2003 to 2014.
As shown in the column chart below, the growth at all of the stations has helped the state grow as a whole from 2003 to 2012. In 2013, ridership would have dipped slightly, but Amtrak opened a new station in Hope, which kept the state’s total ridership even from 2012 into 2013. Passenger volumes at hope grew quickly from 2013 into 2014, rising 46% in its first year of service. Nevertheless, this growth was not enough to outweigh ridership reductions at the state’s other stations in 2014.
The growth in ridership in Arkansas over the past decade has helped fuel ridership growth on the Texas Eagle over the time period. The chart below shows monthly ridership on the Texas Eagle. Average monthly ridership on the route grew by 47% from January 2004 until it peaked in December 2012; as of October 2014 it had fallen 9% from the peak, mirroring trends in Arkansas.
Coming next week, we’ll look at California, a busy state for rail ridership with four regional passenger railroads, three state-supported Amtrak routes and the terminals of four long-distance routes.