Wednesday, October 10, 2012
For the ninth time in ten years, Amtrak has broken a ridership record. The national rail network carried 31.2 million passengers in the twelve months before September 30, 2012. This news comes smack in the heat of an election season where nationally subsidized services like passenger rail and public television have become campaign issues.
The news: ridership grew by 3.5 percent in 2012, giving Amtrak its highest number of passenger trips since the company began operations in 1971. As the chart above shows, Amtrak ridership has grown steadily--a total of 49 percent since 2000.
Ticket revenue increased 6 percent, accounting for $2 billion of a roughly $4 billion budget. That revenue comes in about $100 million above projections in the 2012 budget (PDF). The government chipped in a $466 million operating subsidy, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The federal government also allocated an additional $952 million for capital expenses.
Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman said in a statement, "ridership will continue to grow because of key investments made by Amtrak and our federal and state partners to improve on-time performance, reliability, capacity and train speeds."
In the speed department: Last month, Amtrak began testing Acela trains to run at a new top speed of 160 miles per hour along several stretches of the Northeast Corridor. And 82 percent of trains were on time in 2012, up a bit from last year, which is about on par with airline industry performance compiled by FlightStat. (PDF) Amtrak has been growing in part by stealing business travelers from airlines on shorter flights.
The newly released numbers show the Northeast Corridor is still the anchor route for Amtrak with more than a third of all riders (11.4 million) traveling between Boston and Washington, D.C. Amtrak won't release new state-by-state and line-by-line numbers until next week, but the 361 miles of track along the Northeast Corridor are likely to continue to bring in more than half of all ticket revenue for Amtrak, as it did last year according to the 2011 annual report. According to projections (see PDF, last page of Appendix), only the NEC and Kansas City - St. Louis lines earn a profit on a per passenger basis. When final numbers are in, we'll find out if this new ridership and ticket revenue peak brings any other lines into break even territory.
Amtrak was established to provide passenger service that private train companies would not, or could not offer profitably.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
By Kate Hinds
The New York City subway recorded 1.6 billion rides in 2011 -- the system's highest number since 1950.
According to the New York MTA, which posted 2011 ridership figures to its website, midtown Manhattan continues to be home to the most popular stations in the system. Times Square-42nd Street came in at number one, Grand Central was second, and stations along 34th Street occupied three separate spots on the top ten list.
Other trends of note: ridership to the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens has almost doubled since a racino opened last year, the G train is increasingly popular, and the Yankees are more popular with straphangers than the Mets.
Although the subways are booming, bus ridership continues to drop -- not surprising, given the MTA's elimination of dozens of bus lines as a cost-cutting measure in June 2010.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Amtrak carried 30 million passengers in the past 12 months, the most the railroad has carried since its creation in 1971. But despite its success in attracting riders this year, the railroad has come under political attack.
Amtrak has broken ridership records for eight of the last nine years (see chart above). Joseph Boardman, the CEO of the railroad, said in a statement that “Amtrak is fulfilling its national mission and is part of the solution to meet America’s growing transportation and energy needs.”
A decade ago, Amtrak carried 21 million passengers a year.
The railroad attributes the growth to increases in business travel, high gasoline prices, and expansion of Wi-Fi on more services. Total ticket revenue for Amtrak was just under $1.9 billion -- up 8 percent over the previous year, despite significant weather-related service disruptions.
The Northeast Corridor, which carries almost 11 million each year, had a five percent growth in riders and a seven percent revenue bump in revenue, even as discount buses expanded heavily along the same route.
The short routes in the Washington, D.C. area did particularly well in 2011. Washington-Lynchburg ridership jumped almost 30 percent, and Washington-Newport News climbed 16 percent. Long distance trains, used more for leisure travel, had their highest ridership in 16 years. Very few routes lost riders. You can see ridership information for all lines here (pdf).
Meanwhile, in the past twelve months governors in Florida and Wisconsin have killed high-speed rail projects in their states, and House Republicans have called for privatizing it and are proposing spending cuts. At a hearing in May, John Mica, the head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that Amtrak has "one of the most dismal records on earth for any rail service" and called for privatizing the Northeast Corridor.
And in June, a Republican Congressman from New Jersey called for diverting federal money -- already allocated to Amtrak for electrical upgrades on the Northeast Corridor -- to flood victims in the Midwest. After months of political wrangling, Amtrak eventually got that money.
Monday, May 30, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
Despite increases to subway fare three times in as many years, ridership continues to rise in what history shows could be an indicator of an improving economy, according to MTA data.
Friday, May 27, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Even though the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority raised subway fares three times in the past three years, subway ridership is on the rise. That may be a sign of an improving economy.
New Yorkers experienced a 17 percent fare hike last December, one of the biggest ever. But except for a slight dip during the January blizzards, subway ridership has risen every month since, according to data given to Transportation Nation by the New York MTA.
The authority says subway ridership tracks employment -- when the job rate goes up, so does the number of straphangers.
In 2008, after a nearly seven percent fare increase, subway ridership went up nine months in a row. The opposite happened in 2009, when the recession moved transit use in one direction: downward.
Unlike the subway, New York's buses have seen dwindling numbers of riders in recent years. And after the largest bus route cuts in a generation last June, even fewer city residents have been taking the bus.
The ability of straphangers to absorb yet another fare hike will be tested next year, when the New York MTA is set to raise fares again by 13 percent.