Friday, April 11, 2008

Soaring Ridership on Amtrak California

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

RailPAC has the numbers:

Capitol Corridor (March 2008):

138,211 passengers +16.8% vs. 2007, another record for the month, and the second highest ridership month for the service.
$1,907,638 revenue +33.1% vs. 2007 (there continues to be more than the ‘projected’ riders, making longer trips, buying more full fare tickets, etc.)

Pacific Surfliners (March 2008):

248,808 passengers +9.4% vs. 2007 (6 months YTD: +7.0%
$4,166,311 revenue +16.4% vs. 2007 (6 months YTD: +9.5%)

San Joaquins (March 2008):
78,368 passengers +26.7% vs. 2007
$2,270,691 revenue +20.5% vs. 2007


Californians not only will ride trains, they ARE riding trains. These numbers have been steadily rising for a couple years now. And this is on trains that have a top speed of about 70 mph, on tracks shared with UP freight trains.

What this shows is that train demand in this state is significant. Give those riders a fast train that runs on its own tracks with a stellar on-time rating (the Shinkansen and the AVE trains are rarely ever late) and the trains will be full.

How long will HSR opponents try and deny the facts?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ridership on these slow trains is rising because gasoline cost is a major consideration for low income earners, students and retirees. Yet if you add up total Amtrak ridership in California over a whole year and you end up with just a few percent of the capacity of the proposed HSR system (~120 million passengers per annum).

However, HSR fares will be higher, so it will need to attract a more affluent clientele. The leap of faith here is therefore "build it and they will come". Well, iff HSR is integrated with fast local feeder services, that may well happen. San Francisco has invested in BART and Muni Subway and is now pursuing the new Transbay terminal project. However, Los Angeles is lagging far behind, mostly because its growth has not been hemmed in by water on three sides.

Always keep in mind that affluent passengers tend to choose their mode of long-distance transportation based on expected door-to-door transit time. Very few live, work or play at an airport or a train station. Cost, comfort and safety are important but ultimately secondary considerations.

A relatively cheap way to reacquaint the target demographic with the advantages of rail travel would be a new sleeper service from San Francisco to San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, Auburn, Soda Springs (Donner Pass), Truckee and Reno on the weekends. This would have to be coupled with reliable shuttle services to those winter and summer resorts that also offer accommodation.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Amtrak California ridership is physically limited thanks to a lack of available train cars, the fact that trains must share tracks with freight, and other limitations (single-tracks, at-grade crossings). The point here is that Amtrak California's ridership continues to rise despite these constraints.

I don't expect HSR will cost $55 either, but even $100 would be cheaper than flying and driving by 2018. HSR would continue to be used by college students, retirees, and low-income earners as well as more affluent riders, because it will be cheaper than or competitive with other travel options.

I don't know what you are talking about when you say "LA is lagging far behind" - the main LA HSR stop will be Union Station, which is the hub of LA's mass transit network. The Gold Line, Red Line, and Purple Line all have a stop there. It is the center of Metrolink's six-line network. HSR will be just as well integrated with feeder services in LA as in SF.

I'm all for that new sleeper service you describe - the California Zephyr runs that route but a train scheduled for Friday evenings would be useful - but of course that requires more money from the state, from Amtrak, or both.

Jack Duluoz said...

These numbers are impressive indeed. But compare them to Caltrain's nearly 40K DAILY riders and you see what difference can be made by giving passenger trains a dedicated right-of-way. The other Amtrak lines, i believe, must schedule their runs around the UP's freights.

It is important to remember, anonymous, that the ridership projections are based off of a 2020 state population of ~50 million (rather then the 30ish we have now).

There is an article in last week's Economist about LA and city planning that I think says something to the sprawl debate I've seen here. What causes sprawl? Free parking. Its an interesting article.

Jack Duluoz said...

P.S. For the price of a MUNI ticket in SF you get 36 min of street parking downtown, for a monthly fastpass, 18 hours.

snap.

無名 - wu ming said...

um, try riding the capitol corridor some time, i think you'll notice that this is not just students and retirees. a heck of a lot of white collar laptop toting folks commute to the bay area from the sacramento region/I-80 corridor, because it's far saner than driving that stretch of congested, mad max traffic.

flying from SF or sac to LA isn't all that cheap now, and if you'll take a look you'll see that the budget airlines are in the process of going belly up because their business models cannot take rising gas prices and stay solvent. by the time the HSR is built, it may well be that the choice is taking a very expensive plane flight runnign far less runs a day than is currently the case, driving on several exorbitantly expensive tanks of gas, taking an overloaded slow train (ever rode hard seat on a chinese train?), or else taking the golden state bullet train.

i know which one i'd prefer.

building dedicated right of way on the coast starlight tracks would not be a bad idea, just to speed things up for freight and long haul trips, but HSR needs to be part of a comprehensive 21st century transportation network. as does efficient metropolitan transit systems at point of arrival and departure (which, it should be pointed out, is proceeding apace in LA and sac (less so), and already built in the bay area).

but the one does not obviate the need for the other.

無名 - wu ming said...

robert - i think you're thinking about the coast starlight. the zephyr runs east-west from emeryville to chicago via denver (and is a very nice and extremely scenic line in its own right).

Robert Cruickshank said...

No, it's the Zephyr - the route that anonymous described, especially from Oakland to Truckee and Reno, is the Zephyr's route.

There is a plan to increase service on the Coast Starlight's route from LA to the Bay Area - the "Coast Daylight" would run at least one train a day from LA to SF and vice versa along the coast route, including Salinas, SLO, and Santa Barbara. All it needs is a couple million in funding, especially for new cars.

wu ming is absolutely right about the Capitol Corridor's riders. It's a cross-section of California.

Brian Goldner said...

Sacramento is looking to expand on its regional transportation network, facilitating HSR
take their survey!
http://visuals.sdgworld.net/sacro/survey.aspx

Jack Duluoz said...

Hey Robert, give us a heads up on any AB 3034 news you might hear today, as I believe it is being hear in committee.

BTW: The new text of proposition explicitly forbids the construction of a station between Gilroy and Merced...so much for the sprawl argument. It also specifically includes a provision recommending a segment through Altamont.

Now we just need to get the information out to stop the anti-HSR disinformation/fear mongering campaign.

dobie said...

IT'S A MUST DO HSR will have so many benefits. Beyond the obvious removal of cars from the road, and airliners (how many Bay Area to LA area flights per hour, I wonder, and most of them are full)HSR will eliminate or at least delay the need to add a third lane to the congested I-5 in the Central Valley. That should pretty much cover the initial construction costs.
Furthermore, the idea of HSR freight has yet to be analysed. Will UPS overnight packages to LA when they could put them on HSR? Politicians are already scamming transportation projects. Look at Don Peratas ongoing FBI investigation. Do you think that the Caldecott Tunnel 4th Bore is an equitable transportation project? Is BART?
Put in HSR and get us out of the transportation stone age, then go after the politicians, but good luck. Capitalism pretty much demands that they stand on the corner leaning on the lamp post in fishnets. Shocking I know, but that's the way the "system" works.

Anonymous said...

IT'S A MUST DO HSR will have so many benefits. Beyond the obvious removal of cars from the road, and airliners (how many Bay Area to LA area flights per hour, I wonder, and most of them are full)HSR will eliminate or at least delay the need to add a third lane to the congested I-5 in the Central Valley. That should pretty much cover the initial construction costs.
Furthermore, the idea of HSR freight has yet to be analysed. Will UPS overnight packages to LA when they could put them on HSR? Politicians are already scamming transportation projects. Look at Don Peratas ongoing FBI investigation. Do you think that the Caldecott Tunnel 4th Bore is an equitable transportation project? Is BART?
Put in HSR and get us out of the transportation stone age, then go after the politicians, but good luck. Capitalism pretty much demands that they stand on the corner leaning on the lamp post in fishnets. Shocking I know, but that's the way the "system" works.