By Eugene K. Skoropowski, Managing Director, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority
March numbers were a disappointment in virtually every place in the country. I am not certain if the placement of Easter week in April this year is part of the cause, but we will have to wait for April numbers to make that determination.
While the Capitol Corridor has some excuse due to the first 15 days of the month being impacted by the Union Pacific track renewal project (and modified-reduced mid-day service and bus operation for 8 hours in mid-day), the other routes were not impacted by this project. All services were impacted, regardless of whether they are business-oriented corridor services (Pacific Surfliners, Capitol Corridor,
Northeast Corridor, Cascades, Hiawathas, Downeaster, etc.) or more discretionary services (San Joaquins, Adirondack, Pennsylvanian, Carolinian, etc.). The more discretionary market on the San Joaquins, on
the other hand, appears to be doing well in the down business market. The Pacific Surfliners are still showing the largest percentage losses, predating the decline of other services.
The major Capitol Corridor tie-renewal track-upgrade project started February 16 and was completed on schedule on March 15. Regular Capitol Corridor service resumed on March 16, and both ridership and on-time performance began to rebound. The coming months will determine if what we have seen in the last 3 months is a continuing overall slowdown, or if the coming months will pick up, as they usually do, starting April and May.
Capitol Corridor ridership was down -8.4% compared to March 2008, (126,646 for the month of March 2009), and revenue was also down -8.3%. The San Joaquins ridership followed a similar pattern, with ridership down -9.3% and revenue was down -8.9% compared to March 2008. The Pacific Surfliner continues to be the service really ‘taking it on the chin’, with a decline of -18.6% in riders and -16.6% in revenue compared to March 2008. Again, this decline in riders and revenue in March is a nationwide trend (overall Amtrak ridership was down -10.0% and revenue -11.1% in March 2009 compared to March 2008, and the placement of Easter in April this year does have some impact.
Capitol Corridor on-time performance for March improved to 89.1%, even with the trackwork. From March 16 through March 31, on-time performance averaged 94.1%, which was an immediate return to the high level of reliability that existed before the trackwork started. The San Joaquins March 2009 improved to 91.4% on-time, and the Pacific Surfliners improved significantly from February to 87.3% on-time in March.
Capitol Corridor (March 2009):
126,646 passengers -8.4% vs. March 2008. This is the second negative ridership number in 30 months on the Capitol Corridor, but the route is still the third busiest route in the country, by a wide margin. Passengers for the last 12 months: 1,711,857, and we still hope to make that 1.8 million mark by September 30.
$1,748,983 March 2009 ticket revenue -8.3% vs. March 2008. The farebox recovery revenue-to-cost ratio for January is 41.4%, reflecting the increased Amtrak cost base due to labor contracts and fuel adjustments (FY to date: 44.4%, still a bit lower than the 50% target). We are hoping that our upcoming Kids-Ride-Free-on-Weekends/Holidays will help improve our farebox recovery rate. This promotion will continue through the summer. YTD revenue is running +5.4% ahead of last year.
On-time performance for February ‘delivered to the customer’ was: 89.1% (and 94.1% from March 16-31). Union Pacific performance rebounded to 93%
ontime. The proportion of delays Amtrak mechanical performance has begun to creep up, and we are working with Amtrak to address these concerns. (FFY to date: 91.2% on time) Even with the trackwork delays, this is our best-ever 6 month year-to-date on-time performance. These first 6 month stats, even with the trackwork delays, keep the Capitol Corridor on-time performance (91.2%) the best in the country, topped only by the once-a-day Pennsylvanian (Philadelphia-Pittsburgh) and still well above the premier Acela Express service on the Northeast Corridor (85.6%).
Pacific Surfliners (March 2009):
202,408 passengers -18.6% vs. March 2008, but still the second busiest
route in the nation, by a wide margin.
$3,472,996 March 2009 revenue: -16.6% vs. March 2008
On-time performance for March 2009: 87.3% (FFY to date: 82.6%)
San Joaquins (March 2009):
71,043 passengers -9.3% vs. March 2008
$2,069,019 March 2009 revenue: -8.9% vs. March 2008
On-time performance for March: 91.4% (FFY to date: 88.4%)
Total California 3 Intercity Corridors Ridership for March 2009: 400,098
Total Northeast Corridor ‘Spine’ ridership for March 2009: 812,665
For March 2009, the 3 California Corridors are 49.2% of Northeast Corridor ‘Spine’
Total Northeast Corridor ridership for March 2009 with branches to Springfield, MA; Albany, NY and Harrisburg, PA: 1,016,830
For March 2009, the 3 California Corridors are 39.4% of the total Northeast Corridor
ridership. Overall NEC Spine ridership declined by -12.8%, but the Keystone service (Philadelphia-Harrisburg) grew by +4.6%.
YTD 3 California corridors ridership is 2,443,648
YTD NEC Spine ridership is 4,873,256
YTD NEC Spine + branches ridership is 6,086,236