Rail Overview

Rail Overview

The most dramatic change in the passenger rail industry in recent years has been the increase in ridership, which followed sharp increases in fuel prices.

While passenger rail travel is highly seasonal, it is possible to measure ridership changes by comparing the same month from the current year to that of the previous years. Amtrak ridership increased significantly in early 2008, as shown by the increases from the same months in 2007 (Table 3-4-5: Amtrak Ridership (Monthly)). Ridership in the first 6 months of 2008 increased 10.9 percent over the same period in 2007. Ridership in May 2008 was Amtrak’s highest monthly ridership over the past 17 years.

This occurred in the context of a longer term increase in ridership. From 1996 to 2004, the number of passengers increased 28 percent. This was followed by a slight decrease of 3 percent between 2004 and 2006. Ridership has since resumed its upward trend and, as discussed above, the final tally for 2008 will likely set a new annual ridership record (Table 3-4-6: Amtrak Rider ship (Annual)).

New York, NY, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, PA, Chicago, IL, and Los Angeles, CA, are among the top 5 busiest Amtrak stations (Table 3-4-1: Top 25 Busiest Amtrak Stations). While three of these stations are in the Northeast Corridor, stations in the Midwest and Pacific Coast round out the top five.

In recent years, the on-time performance of Amtrak’s system has slightly decreased (Table 3-4-3: Amtrak Trains Arriving On-Time). Amtrak’s total hours of delay have continued to increase, mostly where Amtrak operates on a host railroad’s tracks, as is the norm on Amtrak’s long-distance routes and many regional corridors. (Table 3-4-4: Amtrak Hours of Delay by Cause).

The average age of Amtrak’s locomotives and passengers cars continues to rise from lows in 2000 and 2001, respectively (Table 3-4-2: Average Age of Amtrak Locomotive and Train Car Fleets).

Rail movement of freight leveled off after increasing for several quarters (Table 3-4-9: Rail Freight Revenue Ton-Miles). Average line haul speeds for freight shipments increased slightly during 2007 compared to the same quarters the previous year (Table 3-4-8: Rail Freight Average Speeds, Revenue Ton-Miles, and Terminal Dwell Times).