RailPAC has the latest ridership numbers for Amtrak California services, and they're record numbers:
Capitol Corridor (July 2008):
161,731 passengers +32.6% vs. 2007
(another all-time record, and still the third busiest route in the country,
by a wide margin)
Passengers for 10 months YTD: 1,390,474 (10 months YTD: +15.5%)
(total riders for the latest 12 months: 1,637,130, +15.5% above prior 12 months)
$2,236,661 revenue +34.3% vs. 2007 (10 months YTD: +21.3%)
The farebox recovery revenue-to-cost ratio for July is 64.9% (an all time high), and the year-to-date revenue-to-cost ratio is 55%.
No transportation system in this country pays for itself, roads included. That being said, 65% farebox recovery is pretty damned good. The numbers from the other two Amtrak California corridors:
Pacific Surfliners (July 2008):
301,374 passengers +12.3% vs. 2007, still the second busiest route in the nation, by a wide margin
Passengers for 10 months YTD: 2,369,792 (10 months YTD: +7.3%)
As noted above, this is more monthly passengers than the Acela Express on the Northeast Corridor, for the 3rd consecutive month
$6,002,911 revenue +18.1% vs. 2007 (10 months YTD: +9.1%)
San Joaquins (July 2008):
100,564 passengers +32.1% vs. 2007, now fifth busiest in the nation (overtaking New York State’s Empire Corridor Service)
Passengers for 10 months YTD: 777,514 (10 months YTD: +17.2%)
$3,444,847 revenue +47.5% vs. 2007 (10 months YTD: +18.3%)
I'm sure there are still some deniers out there who will argue that HSR will have trouble attracting riders, but if the comparatively lesser Amtrak California services are witnessing huge ridership growth, surely HSR will thrive in CA just as it has everywhere else in the world it's been adopted.
These numbers are impressive, but they're about to hit a ceiling. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration has been slow to release Prop 1B bond money for new cars, and on the Capitol Corridor and Pacific Surfliner trains, it's not uncommon to encounter standing-room only crowds. And of course the routes have inherent physical limitations in that the state doesn't own the tracks, meaning expanded services and faster travel times aren't yet possible.
Of course, these intercity services don't provide the speed that most intrastate travelers want. If we're going to give Californians a viable alternative to increasingly expensive and yet less available flights, it's time we got started with high speed rail.