CA Corridors Stats for July and August   September 10th, 2009

Reported by Eugene K. Skoropowski
Managing Director, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

I apologize for the ‘combined July and August reports’. Future reports should return to their usual month-by-month issuance.
Ridership numbers in California and across the nation continue to be lower
than a year ago (2008).However, upon further comparison to 2007, the 2009 numbers are revealing that there is still a +10-15% growth above two years ago (2007) in Northern California.

This makes sense, since gas prices were $4 to $5 per gallon in mid 2008, and have receded to the $3 to $3.50 range. Many of those folks who flocked to the trains in mid-2008 left the trains when gas prices fell, but interestingly, we seemed to have retained both our ‘base ridership’, plus kept some of the high-price-of-gas ‘refugees’. Hence, the 10-15% growth rate above two years ago. So, in spite of the stagnant California economy, a high unemployment rate, and Furlough Fridays in Sacramento, we are also starting to see an uptick in weekend and discretionary travel. For example, the Capitol Corridor still handled 134,746 passengers in July 2009, down (-9.5%) from the record June 2008 number (145,482), but up by +10.5% compared to the July 2007
ridership of 121,991 . August numbers are similar. While we are disappointed in the total riders this year compared to last year, there is no evidence of any erosion in the base ridership growth that has been occurring over the past 10 years.

The ‘bright light’ here remains the superior on-time performance of both the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin services. On-time performance in July 2008 for the Capitol Corridor was 90.9%, and August was an enviable 94.2% on-time. The San Joaquins operated 90.0% on-time in July, and 92.7% on-time in August. The Pacific Surfliners slipped a bit to 81.4% on-time in July and 80.4% in August.

Overall, I am now more optimistic regarding continued growth. This means all the more reason to press for an early ordering of more passenger coaches and locomotives. In four years, about the time it will take from
‘order’ to ‘delivery’ of coaches, we will likely be pressing-noses-to-windows again.

Capitol Corridor (July and August 2009):

July 2009: 134,746 passengers: -16.7% vs. July 2008
August 2009: 132,225 passengers: -16.5% vs. August 2008

Again, the 2008 comparison is distorted by the ‘gas-price refugees’ in June-July-August. Compared to July 2007, ridership in July 2009 is still up +10.4%, and August 2009 is up +1.3% compared to August 2007 . The Capitol Corridor route is still the third busiest route in the country, by a wide margin.

Passengers for the last 12 months (through August): 1,617,730
YTD ridership is -2.3% below last year, after 11 months. This is likely to be this first time in 11 years that the Capitol Corridor will be reporting an end-of-year ridership lower than the prior year. While it will be only a small margin of decline (circa -5%), it puts a disappointing ‘lull’ our rather incredible 10-year growth record in ridership.

Ticket Revenue
July 2009 ticket revenue: $1,862,058 -11.8% vs. July 2008
August 2009 ticket revenue: $1,905,533 -11.1% vs. August 2008

The farebox recovery revenue-to-cost ratio for July 2009 bounced back to 44.1%, and for August 2009, was 45.1% (FY to date: 45.9%). Our Kids-Ride-Free-on-Weekends/Holidays promotion, and Senior Citizens mid-week 50% discount program is in full swing, and TV commercials are appearing in the Bay Area during prime viewing times. These promotions will continue through the summer, and are designed to fill seats we are already moving. After 11 months, YTD revenue is still running slightly ahead of last year (+0.2%). We expect to be between 46% and 50% farebox recovery by end-of-year in September, which is only slightly below our 50% plan.

On-time performance was 90.9%for July 2009 ‘delivered to the customer’, and for August 2009 it was 94.2% Union Pacific performance continues to be steady at 97% to 99% on time. The proportion of delays attributable to Amtrak mechanical performance has continued to be a concern, and CCJPA and Amtrak Mechanical Supervision are continuing to address the problem. We are fortunate in that the severity of the mechanical problems has been limited, allowing most trains to operate ‘on-time’ by their destination. A greater factor in on-time service delivery is the lack on ANY ‘slow orders’ on the entire 170 mile route. Union Pacific is conducting the maintenance level to ensure a continuation of this reliability record. Our funding of the dedicated Union Pacific night-maintenance-of-way gang and the $2 million capitalized maintenance contribution over the past two years is paying off with superior on-time reliability. (FFY to date on-time: 92.2%) This is our best-ever 11 month year-to-date on-time performance.

These stats keep the Capitol Corridor’s on-time performance (92.2%) the best in the country, topped only by the once-a-day Pennsylvanian (Philadelphia-Pittsburgh, at 96.1%) and still well above Amtrak’s premier Acela Express service on the Northeast Corridor (87.0%).

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Pacific Surfliners (July and August 2009):

July 2009
256,410 passengers -14.9% vs. July 2008 (compared to July 2007, July 2009 Pacific Surfliner ridership is still down -4.5%)

August 2009
263,401 passengers -16.0% vs. August 2008 (compared to August 2007, August
2009 ridership is still down -8.7%

YTD ridership is down -11.1%, after 11months, but the Pacific Surfliner service is still the second busiest Amtrak operated route in the country, by a wide margin.

Ticket Revenue
July 2009: $ 5,025,728 -16.3% vs. July 2008
August 2009: $5,016,052 -18.8% vs. August 2008

(FFY year-to-date: -9.4% after 11 months)

On-time performance for July 2009: 81.4% and August 2009: 80.4% (FFY to date: 83.1%)

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San Joaquins (July and August 2009):

July 2009:
88,505 passengers -12.0% vs. July 2008 (compared to July 2007, July 2009 San Joaquin ridership is up +16.3%)

August 2009:
84,423 passengers -12.3% vs. August 2008 (compared to August 2007, August
2009 San Joaquin ridership is up +11.9%)

YTD ridership is down only -1.7%, after 11 months, and the San Joaquins seem also to have held on to the base riders developed prior to 2008.

Ticket Revenue
July 2009: $2,763,515 -19.8% vs. July 2008
August 2009: $2,551,777 -17.5% vs. August 2008

(FFY year-to-date: -6.2% after 11 months)

On-time performance for July 2009: 90.0% and August 2009: 92.7% (FFY to date: 90.0%) The San Joaquin on-time performance is at record high level, right behind the Capitol Corridor.

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Summary
Total California 3 Intercity Corridors Ridership for August 2009: 480,049
Total Northeast Corridor ‘Spine’ ridership for August 2009: 824,492
For August 2009, the 3 California Corridors are 58.2% of Northeast Corridor ‘Spine’
Boston-Washington ridership
Total Northeast Corridor ridership for August 2009 with branches to Springfield, MA; Albany, NY and Harrisburg, PA: 1,041,383
For August 2009, the 3 California Corridors are 46.1% of the total Northeast Corridor ridership. Overall NEC Spine ridership declined by -6.2%, and the
Keystone Service (Philadelphia-Harrisburg) declined by -5.6% in August.

After 11 months of the fiscal year:

YTD 3 California Corridors ridership is 4,718,467
YTD NEC Spine ridership is 9,128,121
YTD NEC Spine + branches ridership is 11,394,452

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 10th, 2009 at 11:18 AM and is filed under Commentary.