State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Utah

You might be surprised to learn that railroad ridership is booming in Utah, but it is true. The state’s Amtrak ridership has grown 63% from 2003 to 2014, making it the 16th fastest growing state in the nation over the past dozen years. But that growth is dwarfed in comparison to the huge success of FrontRunner, a new regional railroad serving the Salt Lake City area. It started service in April 2008 and has surged 148% since then. Out of the more than a half-dozen regional passenger railroads that have begun service in the United States in the last 15 years, FrontRunner is probably the biggest success story.

First, let’s turn to Amtrak, and then circle back to FrontRunner. Utah has four Amtrak stations, Green River, Helper, Provo, and Salt Lake City. All offer daily service to the San Francisco Bay Area and Chicago via Denver and other intermediate stops on the California Zephyr. As of 2014, Salt Lake City accounted for 80% of Utah’s Amtrak passengers. Provo, to the south of Salt Lake City and adjacent to a stop on FrontRunner, accounted for 10%, and Green River and Helper rounded out the rest of the state with about 5% each. This pie chart depicts the breakdown visually.

This next chart shows how the passenger volumes at each station have changed over time, relative to one another. Ridership at Salt Lake City has grown 60% to 41,367 arrivals and departures in 2014, from 25,886 in 2003. It is less obvious because of the scale of the graph, but Green River and Provo, have actually grown faster. At Green River, ridership is up 111%, to 2,770 in 2014, and Provo is up 82%, to 5,299. Helper is also up, by 35%, to 2,034 passengers in 2014.

This next chart shows the same information in stacked column form, emphasizing how the ridership at all of the stations together add up to the total state growth of 63%.

Despite Amtrak’s very healthy growth rate in Utah, the biggest story in the state is the introduction of regional railroad service in the Salt Lake City area in 2008, and its phenomenal growth since then. FrontRunner launched on April 26, 2008, with service at Salt Lake City and six additional stations. That September 29, it added a stop at Pleasant View, for a total of eight stations. After an initial wave of the curious and sightseers calmed down, ridership settled at 108,000 per month, and steadily grew to 141,000 per month by late 2012. Then on December 10, 2012, FrontRunner doubled in size, adding eight more stations toward the south of the Salt Lake City area. Average monthly ridership surged to 314,000 within one year. It has continued to grow, and stands at 371,000 as of March 2015.

For comparison purposes, in November 2009, FrontRunner had been in service for about 18 months and its average monthly ridership stood at its lowest recorded level. At that time, it ranked as the 18th busiest passenger railroad in the United States out of the 22 then operating. As the months ticked by, FrontRunner overtook Coaster (San Diego, founded in 1995), New Mexico Rail Runner Express (Albuquerque, founded in 2006), Trinity Railway Express (Dallas-Ft. Worth, founded in 1996), Sounder (Seattle, founded in 2000), the South Shore Line (Chicago to South Bend, Ind., founded in 1903), and Tri-Rail (Miami, founded in 1989), so that today it ranks as the 12th busiest passenger railroad in the country, out of a field that has grown to 26. This chart shows FrontRunner’s ridership since it began service.

As a travel note, it is possible to transfer between the California Zephyr and FrontRunner at Salt Lake City and at Provo. At Provo, there are technically two separate stations with separate platforms serving separate tracks, but all you have to do is walk across the street. The stations are right next to each other.

Posted in Amtrak, California Zephyr, FrontRunner, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, Utah, commuter rail, passenger rail, railroads, regional rail, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Texas

You might not expect it, but passenger rail in Texas is experiencing a boom time right now. Amtrak ridership is up 69% from 2003 to 2014, making it the 14th fastest growing state in the country over that time frame, and two new regional railroads have begun service this decade: Capital MetroRail serving Austin and its northern suburbs, and A-train, connecting Denton County to the Dallas-Ft. Worth light rail system. They join Trinity Railway Express, which started in the 1990s. A fourth regional railroad, Tex Rail, is planned for the Ft. Worth area, with the opening date uncertain. Let’s take a look at Texas’ three existing regional railroads.

Trinity Railway Express began service in December 1996 with service from Dallas out to three stations. The railroad saw two big upticks in ridership in its early years for two reasons. In the fall of 2000, new stations opened four new stations, effectively doubling its size. And in December 2001 it was extended to Ft. Worth, which remains its terminal. Ridership on the 34-mile, 10-station route has held steady since then, with a current average of 189,000 passengers per month. Compared with where the railroad started, ridership is up 628% from the 25,960 passengers per month being carried in December 1997, after TRE’s first 12 months of service.

Trinity has recently been joined by two new regional railroads. Capital MetroRail began service in March 2010 on a 32-mile route with nine stations from downtown Austin north to Leander. Average monthly ridership has grown to 68,233, up from 18,183 in its first year of service, an increase of 275%! And not far from Trinity Railway Express, Denton County’s A-train began service in June 2011 on a 21-mile route with six stations. Similar to the Westside Express Service I covered in Oregon, A-train functions as a feeder service to the local light rail system. A-train passengers can connect to Dallas’ DART Light Rail system at Trinity Mills for continuing service to downtown Dallas. A-train has grown to carrying 46,850 passengers per month, up a very healthy 51% since its first full year of service in 2011-2012.

On an operational note, Texas is showing the rest of the country the way toward passenger rail expansion with the two latest startups. Capital MetroRail and A-train are made up of two-car diesel-powered self-propelled trains. This configuration allows for flexibility to provide frequent service to areas without enormous demand that would require longer trains. But the traditional longer trains being hauled by diesel locomotives — as used by Amtrak — are alive and well in Texas. Amtrak ridership, as noted, is booming. Here’s a station-by-station ridership breakdown.

Amtrak doesn’t directly connect with A-train, or Capital MetroRail. Amtrak’s Austin station is a 14-block walk from Capital MetroRail’s terminal in downtown Austin. But it does connect at Dallas and Ft. Worth with Trinity Railway Express. Ridership at Ft. Worth, already the highest in the state, has doubled over the last dozen years, rising to 129,438 in 2014, from 64,247 in 2003. But, as in other states, the fastest growing stations are some of the quieter ones. The fastest growing station in Texas is Mineola, which rose 194% to 6,776 in 2014, up from 2,308 in 2003. Next is Marshall, up 176% to 10,184 in 2014, then Alpine, up 165%, San Marcos, up 158%, and McGregor, up 144%. All stations in Texas but one have recorded healthy ridership increases over the past dozen years, even quiet Sanderson, which is sometimes the least busy station in the entire United States. Annual ridership there rose 23%, to 238 in 2014, up from 194 in 2003. The only station to record a decline was Gainesville, which fell 20% since 2003, to 7,178 in 2014.

Here we have the same information, in stacked column form.

These figures cover riders on Amtrak’s three routes in the state: The Texas Eagle, daily between Chicago and San Antonio, and extended three days a week to Los Angeles, the Sunset Limited, three days a week between Los Angeles and New Orleans via Houston, and the Heartland Flyer, daily between Ft. Worth and Oklahoma City. Here are the same figures expressed as a pie chart.

This shows that, broadly, Ft. Worth accounts for just under a third of the state’s ridership. San Antonio, Dallas, and Longview account for about another third, and Austin, Houston, and the state’s 13 quieter stations account for the final third.

Posted in A-train, Amtrak, Capital MetroRail, Heartland Flyer, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, Sunset Limited, Texas, Texas Eagle, Trinity Railway Express, commuter rail, passenger rail, railroads, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Tennessee

Passenger railroading in Tennessee took a big leap forward on September 18, 2006, when Music City Star began service between Nashville and its eastern suburbs. Since that time, ridership on the line has grown 83%, and a handful of other small regional lines have sprung up around the country, but Music City Star remains the smallest passenger railroad in the country in terms of riders. There’s nothing wrong with that. Railroads can serve different regions and markets with different needs, and not every railroad had to be an enormous high-volume operation like you find in New York and Chicago. Meanwhile, Amtrak ridership in Tennessee is up 60% from 2003 to 2014, making it the 18th fastest growing state in the country over that time period.

First, here’s a look at Music City Star. As of today, the line has six trains toward Nashville in the morning and six returning in the evening, with a seventh late-night departure on Friday nights. This graph shows its ridership since it started.

I’m sure that the residents of Music City Star’s region were quite pleased they had access to railroad service when gas prices took a turn upward in 2008. That July, ridership hit nearly 20,000 per month, a figure that seems to have served as a kind of ceiling on ridership until 2011, when it shot upward again, hitting an all-time high of 28,000 that August. It’s since slackened somewhat, settling to an average of about 21,500 per month, which is higher than in 2008 and 83% higher than it’s first year of operations.

Turning our attention to Amtrak, we find long-term passenger growth as well. Amtrak has two stations in Tennessee, along the western edge of the state: Memphis and, in the northwest corner of the state, rural Newbern-Dyersberg. Both stations are on Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, offering daily service between Chicago and New Orleans and intermediate points. Of the two stations, Memphis is far busier, handling about 95% of Tennessee’s Amtrak passengers, while Newbern-Dyersberg has the remaining 5%.

As the next line graph shows, ridership at Memphis has risen 61% over the past dozen years, to 69,946 in 2014, up from 43,477 in 2003. At Newbern-Dyersberg, it has risen 50%, to 3,927 in 2014, up from 2,625 in 2003.

Finally, this next graph shows the same information but aggregated per year so you can see how the whole state has grown together.

Posted in Amtrak, City of New Orleans, Music City Star, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, Tennessee, commuter rail, passenger rail, railroads, regional rail, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – South Carolina

South Carolina’s Amtrak ridership is up 32% over the past 12 years, making it the 26th fastest growing state in the country — right in the middle of the pack. The state has 11 train stations spread out fairly evenly throughout the state. In fact, it probably has one of the most even geographic distributions of any state in the country. The stations are served by four train routes: The Crescent, which runs southwest/northeast across the northwest part of the state, the Palmetto and Silver Meteor, which share a coastal route via Charleston, and the Silver Star across the middle of the state, through Columbia. Let’s look at some of the ridership trends affecting the state.

As we see in this chart, Charleston is the busiest station in the state, followed by Florence and Columbia. Together, they account for about two thirds of the state’s passengers.

This line graph shows us the growth rates of the various stations. The fastest growing station in the state is sleepy Dillon, which rose 146% from 3,494 passengers in 2003 to 8,601 in 2014. Charleston grew 25%, Florence, 59%, and Columbia, 39%.

Finally, this stacked column graph gives us the annual totals for the whole state.

Since South Carolina is one of the states where the Silver Star and Silver Meteor take two different routes, it’s worth taking a look at the ridership on those two routes. Here it is:

Ridership on both routes was on a long-term uptrend through 2012, and has since slackened a bit. The Silver Star, which is the faster of the two routes, tends to be slightly more popular than the Silver Meteor. Yet, if you want my opinion, either one is a fine train to take.

Posted in Amtrak, Crescent, Palmetto, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, South Carolina, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, passenger rail, railroads, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Rhode Island

Passenger rail ridership is booming in Rhode Island as it is in most of the rest of the country. Amtrak ridership in the state is up 63% from 2003 to 2014, making the state the 17th fastest growing in the nation over that timeframe. And regional rail service on MBTA Commuter Rail‘s Providence/Stoughton Line has been extended south deep into Rhode Island with two new stations that have opened recently: T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, which opened on December 6, 2010, and Wickford Junction, which opened on April 23, 2012.

Besides those two new stations, there are three long-standing stations in the state. Providence, was the terminal of the MBTA’s Providence/Stoughton Line prior to 2010, and which is also served by Amtrak’s Acela and Northeast Regional trains. In 2014, Providence accounted for 77% of the state’s Amtrak riders. To the south, Kingston and Westerly also have Northeast Regional service. Kingston accounted for 18% of the state’s Amtrak riders, and Westerly, 5%. This pie chart shows the relative ridership distribution. Click on the tabs to follow it backward in time.

Mirroring trends at most other states, Ridership at stations in Rhode Island has been increasing more quickly on a percentage basis at the quieter stations, and on a numerical basis more quickly at the busier stations. Westerly ridership is up 98% over the past dozen years, growing to 39,299 in 2014, from 19,822 in 2003. Kingston is up 74%, growing to 154,497 in 2014, up from 88,747 in 2003. And Providence is up 58%, growing to 665,670 in 2014, up from 420,015 in 2003. This line chart shows the growth of each station over that time frame, comparatively on the same scale.

Finally, let’s see that same information in the form of a stacked column graph, which aggregates the stations for an annual total for the whole state.

Finally, let’s turn to the Acela, Amtrak’s premier high-speed rail service, which serves Providence and attains its fastest speeds in the southern part of the state. Ridership on the Acela (also included in the Metroliner) is up 17% since 2003. Note the dip in 2005 which was attributable to equipment problems with the Acela trains.

Posted in Acela, Amtrak, MBTA Commuter Rail, Northeast Corridor, Northeast Regional, Rhode Island, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, commuter rail, passenger rail, railroads, regional rail, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Pennsylvania

Railroad ridership in Pennsylvania is booming. Ridership on SEPTA Regional Rail, the railroad serving Philadelphia and surrounding counties, is up 63% from where it was 20 years ago, and reached a 20-year high in March 2015, the most recent month of data available. Meanwhile, Amtrak ridership in Pennsylvania is up 31% from where it was 12 years ago, making Pennsylvania the 29th fastest growing state for Amtrak ridership over that time frame. Let’s look at the trends and the details on ridership after a quick review of the state’s overall train system layout.

Between SEPTA an Amtrak, Pennsylvania has 163 railroad stations, the third highest total in the nation after Illinois and New York. Seventeen of the stations have Amtrak service, 139 have SEPTA service, and seven are served by both Amtrak and SEPTA, including Ardmore, Cornwells Heights, Downingtown, Exton, North Philadelphia and Paoli. The hub of the state is Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, which is served by all 13 SEPTA routes, NJ Transit‘s Atlantic City Line, and 11 Amtrak routes: the Acela, Cardinal, Carolinian, Crescent, Keystone Service, Northeast Regional, Palmetto, Pennsylvanian, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, and Vermonter. The main routes serving the rest of the state are the Keystone Service, with multiple departures per day between Harrisburg and New York City, and the Pennsylvanian, with daily service across the state between Pittsburgh and New York City. The only other route to serve the state that doesn’t go through Philadelphia is the Lake Shore Limited, with daily service to Erie.

With SEPTA carrying most of the state’s riders and serving most of the state’s stations, let’s look at SEPTA first.

SEPTA ridership first surpassed 3.5 million riders per month in May 2008, and it reached a 20-year high of 3.66 million in March 2015. As noted, average monthly ridership is up 63% over the time frame shown in the chart, which goes back as far as the statistics from the American Public Transportation Association will take us.

Ridership is similarly up on Amtrak’s Keystone Service.

The Keystone Service’s average monthly ridership is up 86% from September 2005 to July 2015, which is as far back as we can go using Amtrak’s statistics. It is a similar story on the Pennsylvanian, where ridership is up 64% from December 2003 to July 2015.

Now let’s turn our attention to Amtrak’s station-by-station breakdown of passenger counts. Unsurprisingly, as the state’s biggest city and offering the most routes, Philadelphia is the busiest station in the state. In 2014, it accounted for two thirds of the state’s passengers. What’s interesting is that Philadelphia’s share of the state’s ridership has actually declined as the state’s quieter stations have grown at a faster rate than its big city. In 2003 Philly accounted for 77% of the state’s riders. This pie chart has the breakdown.

Next, let’s look at a stacked column showing how each station’s contribution to the state’s total ridership has changed over time.

And finally let’s turn the lens more closely to the individual stations, to the extent we can. This next line graph shows each station’s ridership.

Philadelphia’s ridership has grown 14% over the time frame shown. But its ridership is so high that all of the rest of state’s stations hard to discern. You can barely make out Lancaster and Harrisburg, but that’s pretty much it. So let’s rebuild the graph but exclude Philly. Here’s how it looks.

This shows us a little more detail. Ridership at Lancaster is up 94% over the time frame shown. Harrisburg is up 71%. Paoli is up 163%. Pittsburgh is up 38%. Elizabethtown is up 154%. Exton is up 232%. Middletown is up 228%. The quieter stations have outpaced Philly in a big way. The fastest growing station in the state is Tyrone, which grew 346% from 750 passengers in 2003 to 3,346 in 2014.

Posted in Amtrak, NJ Transit, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvanian, SEPTA Regional Rail, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, passenger rail, railroads, regional rail, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Oregon

Railroading in Oregon is healthy and growing stronger, with Amtrak ridership up 19% from 2003 to 2014, and a new Portland-area regional railroad, Westside Express Service, growing by 66% since it started service in 2009 with service to five new stations in the Portland area: Beaverton, Hall/Nimbus, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville.

First, let’s look at the volume of Amtrak passengers moving through the state. Amtrak serves seven stations in Oregon with three routes. Amtrak’s Cascades offers multiple departures per day between Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C., with service in between at Portland, Oregon City, Salem and Albany. The route is also used by the Coast Starlight, which offers daily service between Seattle and Los Angeles. In Oregon, the train bypasses Oregon City, but otherwise makes all of the Cascade stops, plus stops at two destinations in the southern part of the state: Chemult and Klamath Falls. And Portland is also a terminal station on the Empire Builder, with daily service to Chicago.

Portland is Amtrak’s busiest station in the state, carrying 70% of the state’s Amtrak passengers in 2014. This pie chart shows the breakdown.

Eugene accounted for 12% of the state’s ridership in 2014, and Salem, Albany, Klamath Falls, Oregon City and Chemult together accounted for 18%.

Ridership at each of these stations has actually held pretty steady over the years, as seen in this line graph:

Portland ridership is up 24% over the time period, rising to 585,828 in 2014 from 472,500 in 2003. That’s a bigger increase or decrease than any of the other stations in the state with one exception. Oregon City opened in April 2004 and was the origin or destination for 3,286 passengers in that year. By 2014, ridership had doubled, doubled again, and then some. Ridership that year was 14,046. But things were relatively steady at the rest of the state’s stations: Amtrak reported a 23% increase over this time frame at Albany and at Chemult, and a 15% increase at Salem. At Eugene, ridership was down 4%, and at Klamath Falls it was down 20%.

Here is how all those station-by-station totals add up when totaled together:

With a 19% growth rate from 2003 to 2014, Oregon is the United States’ 38th fastest growing state in the country for Amtrak ridership over the time period. Now let’s look to the Cascades, which is the state’s busiest train route with the most frequent departures.

Average monthly ridership on the Cascades is up 30% from December 2003 until June 2015. But ridership on Oregon’s new regional railroad, Westside Express Service, is up by much more. Here’s a look at Westside Express Service’s ridership growth from February 2009 when it began service until the latest figures available, March 2015:

Here, average monthly ridership has boomed 66%, rising to 40,767 as of March 2015, from 24,567 after its first 12 months had elapsed, in January 2010. It is good to see that Westside Express Service has been added to the ranks of the nation’s regional passenger railroads, and is helping to reduce automobile congestion and pollution in the area it serves.

Posted in Amtrak, Cascades, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Oregon, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, Westside Express Service, passenger rail, railroads, regional rail, trains, transportation | Comments Off

State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s rail ridershp has surged nearly 70% from 2003 to 2014, making it the 14th fastest growing state in the country over the dozen year time frame we’re looking at in these posts. That growth is entirely due to the success of the Heartland Flyer, Amtrak‘s daily train between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, where it connects to the Texas Eagle. The Flyer was inaugurated in 1999, making it Amtrak’s second-newest train after the Downeaster. This graph shows the ridership on the line.

Even though it has come down from a high in May 2012 of 7,448, average daily ridership on the Heartland Flyer is still up 45% over the last 12 years, rising from 4,086 as of December 2003 to 5,940 as June 2015.

Now let’s look at the train’s individual stations in Oklahoma. First, let’s look at the pie chart showing the whole state’s ridership broken down by station.

As of 2014, Oklahoma City accounts for 63% of Oklahoma’s riders, Norman is next at 17%, Ardmore has 11%, Pauls Valley has 7%, and Purcell has 2%. Next, let’s turn to a line graph showing how those station’s have grown over the years.

The remarkable thing about Oklahoma is that is the first state we’ve come across where no station is overtaking another one. While all of the ridership levels have increased over time, they had maintained the same rank order. Passenger volume at Oklahoma City has increased 76%, rising from 29,579 in 2003 to 52,099 in 2014, and one would think it’s the fastest growing station in the state. It isn’t. That distinction belongs to Norman, which grew 83% over the same time frame, rising from 7,619 in 2003 to 13,978 in 2014. Ardmore has risen 60%, Pauls Valley is up 36%, and Purcell is up 10%.

Now let’s look at how these stations add up into entire state’s total with a stacked column graph.

Recapping where we started things off in this post, Oklahoma train ridership is up 69.6% over the past dozen years, rising from 48,841 in 2003 to 82,855 in 2014. Another way of looking at that is that Oklahoma City by itself has more passengers in 2014 than the entire state did in 2003.

Posted in Amtrak, Heartland Flyer, Oklahoma, State of U.S. Passenger Rail Series, passenger rail, railroads, regional rail, trains, transportation | Comments Off