By David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director
Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority
Service Performance Overview
FY2013 Projected Results
Year-over-year ridership on the Capitol Corridor trains was even with last September. 132,937 passengers rode the Capitol Corridor trains in September 2013, closing out FY 2013 with a total of 1.70 million riders and representing a ridership decrease of 2.6% (or a loss of approximately 45,000 riders).
Revenues for September 2013 were down 3.6% compared to September 2012, with total FY 2013 revenues down 1.1% below FY 2012. Ridership losses appear to be lessening as ridership for the last quarter of FY 2013 (July – September 2013) was even with the same quarter in FY 2012 as compared to the first three quarters of FY 2013 (October 2012 – June 2012) was 3.4% below the first three quarters of FY 2012.
Despite these ridership and revenue declines, on-time performance (OTP) for the Capitol Corridor was a remarkable 97% for September 2013. The superior OTP for September 2013 resulted in the Capitol Corridor finishing FY 2013 as the most reliable service [95%] in the Amtrak system for the fourth year in a row. This is a magnificent accomplishment and brings to light the strong commitment by our operating partners to the reliable and safe operation of the Capitol Corridor trains — Caltrain, Union Pacific Railroad, Amtrak and Bar Pilots [tug boat operators who request the lifting of the Benicia-Martinez Rail Drawbridge].
The year-end system operating ratio improved to 51% primarily due to lower fuel prices and reduced fuel consumption. With the installation of the power cabinets at the Sacramento Valley Station, the engines of the five trainsets lay overnight are turned off and power is supplied through the electrical power cabinets at the ends of the platforms, which has reduced FY 2013 fuel consumption at Sacramento by 64% through August 2013 and lowered system fuel costs by approximately 41%.
The analyses of the final ridership reports for FY 2013 draw sharp conclusions on the ridership losses:
- The top five city pairs experienced a decline of 26,000 and each
of these city pairs were affiliated with Sacramento Station, which
was 6% below last year’s results
- #6 -#10 city pairs had ridership decreases of 31,000 and three of
these five city pairs were affiliated with Davis Station, which
was 5% below last year’s results
- Combined together, the Davis and Sacramento stations experienced
ridership decreases of 40,000, representing 88% of the loss in
ridership in FY 2013. Davis had 10,000 less boardings and
Sacramento had 30,000 less boardings when compared total ridership
loss of 45,000 boardings.
- A train-by-train analysis indicates that ridership on:
o Weekday peak travel trains (morning and late
afternoon/evening) are about equal to or slighting below
[-2% to -3%] compared to FY 2012 with the exception of the
Placer County trains which are down 10%.
o Weekday midday trains are significantly below [-10%] last
o Weekend trains are either even with or slightly below [0% to
The next step is to conduct a detailed review of the station boardings and alightings for each weekday and weekend train to get a better understanding of which markets are underperforming and develop marketing and promotional programs to turn around these ridership losses.
October 2013 Results
Ridership for October 2013 was 125,807 passengers, which was unfortunately 3.4% below the ridership results for last October. Starting in FY 2014 Amtrak adjusted ridership reports to account for the actual tickets lifted via the scanning of tickets by the conductors. This reflects a better, truer utilization of the trains. Previously, multiride tickets were not directly logged into the system but the passenger counts for multiride tickets were estimated based on assumed usage (i.e., 42 trips were attributed to monthly tickets). While the new reporting system has recently been implemented in October 2013, CCJPA staff has been tracking actual passenger counts from daily e-ticketing reports since September 2012 and have seen that previous monthly ridership reports overestimated ridership by 15%-20%. This adjustment for overestimated ridership counts can be seen in the ridership report for October 2013. For October 2013, the daily e-ticketing reports showed that lower passenger counts for weekday and weekend trains in the beginning of the month during the discussions and developments surrounding the BART strike. During the four-day BART strike, ridership on the trains spiked upwards by 10%-15%. After the BART strike, train counts picked up during the second half of the month and resembled counts from the same period in October 2012.
Note that even with this 15%-20% downward adjustment, the Capitol Corridor remains as the 3rd busiest route in the Amtrak system.
Initial ticket revenues were reported to be 9.9% below October 2012; however, based on projections from Amtrak that the ridership adjustment would not affect revenues, staff requested an immediate review of why revenues dropped so significantly. Amtrak promptly conducted its review and concluded that there was a delay in reporting accrued revenues from 10-ride tickets in October 2013. As such, the ticket revenues were adjusted upwards resulting in a reported decrease in revenues of 4.5% which
is better than the initial report of a 9.9% decrease. The adjusted revenues improved the system operating (or farebox) ratio to be 54%, compared to 51% from last October. Amtrak has indicated that the actual reported revenues for the remainder of FY2014 starting in November 2013 will better align with previous FY2013 monthly results as well as with the FY2014 monthly budget projections.
The Capitol Corridor did start the year well with on-time performance of 96% for October 2013.
NOTE: Mr. Kutrosky did not provide data for the other California corridors in this report.