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1971-1979 Amtrak ridership


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#21 afigg

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 03:28 PM

Also, if you don't restrict trains to just Amtrak trains, but look at the bigger picture with commuter rail and urban rail, there is considerably more mileage being operated today than in the 1970s and considerably more ridership, and the trend is clearly continuing with several more projects either being built or likely to be built soon. That means more people are likely to either use rail service (of some sort) more or less regularly or even if they don't use it themselves, they may work with people who do or have family members or friends who do so the whole concept of passenger rail is becoming more and more normal and embedded in people's awareness. That means that whereas people once thought of the car as the first and basically only way of getting anywhere, with there having to be a very compelling reason to even consider any alternative, people are becoming more open minded.

A major factor in supporting expansion of intercity passenger rail from what the situation was in 1971 is the growth of city rail transit systems, be it heavy rail metro, commuter & regional rail, light rail, street cars. In the 1950s and 60s, many cities shut down their street car and remaining interurban trolley systems. In 1971 at A-day, the only cities that had surviving extensive rail transit systems that come to mind are NYC, Philly, Boston, Chicago with smaller systems in Cleveland, DC with several commuter rail lines, Buffalo?, Pittsburgh?

Since then, Washington DC has undergone a significant transformation with the DC Metro system along with MARC and VRE commuter rail. Baltimore has a single metro line and a light rail line. Atlanta has MARTA. Miami has a single metro line and Tri-Rail. LA now has subway and light rail lines and has plans for an extensive transit system. San Francisco and the Bay area have BART, Muni Metro, streetcars, etc. A number of cities now have light rail systems which they did not have in the 1970s.

All the cities with local rail transit systems provide an improved foundation for intercity passenger rail service to connect the cities. Part of it is yes, increased familiarity with the concept of taking a train for transportation as opposed to the 1950s and 60s when the automobile & suburban sprawl were in ascendance. But another part is more cities that people can travel to by train where they don't need a car to get around the core part of the city region or have to to spend hours figuring out the local bus system.

The growth of local rail transit systems will in the short and long term help drive the development, or depending on your point of view, restoration of corridor trains and in turn provide a better foundation for the LD trains.

Electronic gadgets and the internet - laptops, tablets, smart phones - are also a major factor as people can't text, check emails, or get work done while driving (well, we hope so). Not easy to use the gadgets on an airplane either with having to shut down below 10K feet or having to hold the smartphone 5" away from your face when the person in front of you puts the seat back. On the train, text away or watch movies on your laptop before the train even leaves the station.

#22 George Harris

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 03:32 PM

The 1970's were also the years of the Penn Central collapse and general hard times through much of the railroad industry that led up to the Staggers Act which removed a lot of the regulation on the industry. The Penn Central financial collapse and the Rock Island collapse, dismemberment and abandonment of much of the system led to a general wake up call among all parties, regulators, company managements, the brotherhoods, that is was no longer the 1920's and the railroads were not invincible permanent features of the landscape.

It would have been relatively cheap to fix the bad track on the Penn Central that was used by the Floridian, National Limited, and Broadway Limited. Relay rail, about a 30 to 50% tie renewal, a general cleanup and it would have been back to 70 to 79 mph speed limits throughout.

Ehbowen had it right. It was almost entirely political. It was a let's look like we are doing something moment by one of the most incompetent people to ever hold the office of president.

In those early days, Amtrak was not constrained by equipment. That came later, primarily with Warrington's "glide path to self sufficiency" which was more of a nose dive into collapse, where he tried to make the finances look better by selling or mortgaging almost everything he could.

xyzzy is right. The Floridian was a keeper. Here again, some track work was necessary, and not just in Indiana. Montgomery to Waycross also needed work. It was boderline. Everyone keeps talking about going through Atlanta, but that requires more than upgrades in track. It would require a lot of second main, plus a good bit of straightening out to get a reliable good run time. The whole Chicago - Evansville - Nashville - Chattanooga - Atlanta - Jacksonville main line is a very busy piece of railroad.

this gets around to another thing: money has got to be spent on track. Note that somehow by political manipulation there has been a near complete rail relay plus a lot of other work on the Vermonter route north of Springfield, Mass. There are other places where there would be a bigger bang per mile for your buck. Kansas City ot Albuquerque would be one. In years past much of that was 100 mph territory. It is only track that keeps that from happening again. The Memphis to Jackson, Miss. "Grenada District" formerly used by the Panama Liited would have been another. That may be partly abandoned by now, but in years past run times Memphis to Jackson under 4 hours were the norm.

#23 johnny.menhennet

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 03:43 PM

even when the NCL operated.

The NCL was doing a lot worse than the EB despite the proximity to Yellowstone. There was probably more competetition because of the airports and the Interstate nearby.


That's weird. I didn't know that Norwegian Cruise Lines was such a big competitor to the CHI-SEA routes. You learn something new every day.

On a serious note, something that could explain the ridership gap between the EB and NCH is the fact that throughout most of its existence, the NCH was tri-weekly. The EB operated either on the other 4 days per week or daily during most of the 70s.

Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner (100000000000), Southwest Chief (5), California Zephyr (1), Coast Starlight (6), Capitol Corridor (1), Empire Builder (2), Acela Express (1), LSL (1), NE Regional (2)
Non-Amtrak: NCTD Coaster (at least 20), Metrolink (4), SD Trolley (at least 20), LACMTA Red Line (at least 50), Seattle Streetcar (1), Chicago 'L' (probably 13), NYC Subway (probably 15), WMATA Mass Transit (probably 20), LIRR (1), Las Vegas Monorail (at least 12), MBTA Mass Transit (16), NJ Transit commuter rail (3), I'm sure there are more that I can't think of right now

upcoming Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner (10000000000 more)
upcoming non-Amtrak: Coaster, Red Line/Expo Line in LA, NJ Transit (5-10)

Pretty good for a 16 year old :)


#24 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 03:45 PM


even when the NCL operated.

The NCL was doing a lot worse than the EB despite the proximity to Yellowstone. There was probably more competetition because of the airports and the Interstate nearby.


That's weird. I didn't know that Norwegian Cruise Lines was such a big competitor to the CHI-SEA routes. You learn something new every day.

On a serious note, something that could explain the ridership gap between the EB and NCH is the fact that throughout most of its existence, the NCH was tri-weekly. The EB operated either on the other 4 days per week or daily during most of the 70s.


Ooops! I was thinking about the North Coast Limited. :unsure:
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#25 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 03:49 PM


7. The Floridian was not doing too well. No surprise it got cancelled. It was late all the time and the trakcs were always damaged.

DId you ride it? I did, a lot. It's a myth that the Floridian always ran over bad track. Truth is, the Floridian was a solid performer after three things were fixed. #1, it was put on decent track (the Monon) through Indiana. #2, the unwise deal with Auto-Train was canned. #3, the train was assigned appropriate locomotives (an F40/E8 combo). The track south of Louisville was never really the problem. Timekeeping in the final 18 months was pretty good.

Unfortunately, the cumulative effect of these pre-1978 mistakes -- plus the fact that Floridian often drew the bottom of the barrel in passenger car assignments compared to more favored LD trains.-- was to destroy a train that might still be running today.


I must admit that I have not. The locomotives are really interesting, were there problems with the previous locomotives? The consist would be really interesting to know, I have not found it anywhere and knowing it would tell me if the cars were somehow worse than on other trains.

edit: error, spell check won't work

Edited by Swadian Hardcore, 23 June 2012 - 03:38 PM.

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#26 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 04:51 PM

Ehbowen had it right. It was almost entirely political. It was a let's look like we are doing something moment by one of the most incompetent people to ever hold the office of president.

This from someone who rants about other people getting too political in other threads. By all means, let the hypocrisy continue...

Edited by Texas Sunset, 22 June 2012 - 05:03 PM.

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#27 fulham

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 05:08 PM

In the late 1970's Conrail had fixed up the trackage between Pittsburg and St. Louis. By that time the National Limited was using F40's, Amfleet and an early HEP sleeper. There was no diner, only an AmCafe. The same was true of the Inter-American. The Lone Star never received any new or rebuilt HEP equipment. It was steam heated until the end. I rode both trains during the late 1970's/early 1980's. The Lone Star was a good train until the end. It primarily used ex-Santa Fe equipment including Hi-Level coaches and had ex-Santa Fe employees. The Santa Fe trackage was also good. It was too bad that train was discontinued.

#28 johnny.menhennet

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 05:10 PM

Ehbowen had it right. It was almost entirely political. It was a let's look like we are doing something moment by one of the most incompetent people to ever hold the office of president.

This from someone who rants about other people getting too political in other threads. By all means, let the hypocrisy continue...


Seriously mister stick-up-his-ass, read one of my previous posts. This is not a big deal. At all. Things could be much worse, and over-regulation doesn't improve dialogue for anyone.

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Non-Amtrak: NCTD Coaster (at least 20), Metrolink (4), SD Trolley (at least 20), LACMTA Red Line (at least 50), Seattle Streetcar (1), Chicago 'L' (probably 13), NYC Subway (probably 15), WMATA Mass Transit (probably 20), LIRR (1), Las Vegas Monorail (at least 12), MBTA Mass Transit (16), NJ Transit commuter rail (3), I'm sure there are more that I can't think of right now

upcoming Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner (10000000000 more)
upcoming non-Amtrak: Coaster, Red Line/Expo Line in LA, NJ Transit (5-10)

Pretty good for a 16 year old :)


#29 ehbowen

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 07:09 PM

The Lone Star actually looks like it was very well patronized. It wouldn't surprise me if the 1979 LD routes that were selected were not actually only on ridership, probably much more political. I can now easily believe the 7th most popular LD claim, maybe even higher in some years. An this is assuming many more LD trains than we have now, so 7 probably meant more back then.



2. The I-A was doing really badly until the ridership jump in 1977. Persumably it only ran thrice-weekly previously, then became daily. No matter what, the I-A has far less riderhship than to day and also far less ridership thn the LS. I would think that they would have cancelled the I-A in 1979 instead of the LS.


It's been many years, but if I'm remembering correctly one of the reasons (if not THE reason) given for retaining the Inter-American over the Lone Star was that at that time it served Laredo and offered connections into Mexico. Of course, the service from San Antonio to Laredo wouldn't last all that long...
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#30 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 11:32 PM

I do not see any reason why they should have cancelled the Lone Star. Besides, the could have rerouted the LS to Loredo. Without Loredo, there is no other reason for the I-A's existence. It is good that this train is so heavily patronized today because otherwise the cut-back to SAS would have caused the I-A's cancellation. I also do not see why they cancelled the Champion.
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#31 Anderson

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 12:13 AM

I do not see any reason why they should have cancelled the Lone Star. Besides, the could have rerouted the LS to Loredo. Without Loredo, there is no other reason for the I-A's existence. It is good that this train is so heavily patronized today because otherwise the cut-back to SAS would have caused the I-A's cancellation. I also do not see why they cancelled the Champion.


At least with the Champion, what was done (if I am not mistaken) is that the Champ's equipment was merged into the other Silvers. At one point, the combined Champion/Silver Meteor was a 26-car monster of a train. Additionally, I believe that the Silvers both stayed massive through most of the 1980s (i.e. in the mid-to-upper teens in terms of cars). It was basically a merger of trains to save on operating expenses, but I believe that most of the capacity remained for quite a while.
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#32 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 02:21 AM


Ehbowen had it right. It was almost entirely political. It was a let's look like we are doing something moment by one of the most incompetent people to ever hold the office of president.

This from someone who rants about other people getting too political in other threads. By all means, let the hypocrisy continue...

Seriously mister stick-up-his-ass, read one of my previous posts. This is not a big deal. At all. Things could be much worse, and over-regulation doesn't improve dialogue for anyone.

You don't seem to have any clue what I'm talking about. It's not about whether political controversy is bad or good or whether it should be allowed. It's about being objective in how any such controversy is handled. That's all. Now, as for the rest of your post, please keep your unsolicited interest in my anatomy to yourself. :lol:

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#33 Ryan

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 06:00 AM

Johnny, you may want to read this:
http://discuss.amtra...ics-guidelines/

Particularly this:

Any post that expresses favor or preference for or against a specific politician, political candidate, or political party, or what they stand for, may be deleted at any staff member's discretion. The goal here is to protect the good-natured civility we all enjoy here on the forum. Common sense will dictate whether a post is likely to provoke other members. If we are lucky, the member will exercise such common sense before posting, and no intervention will be required.


It's perfectly possible to say that the Carter cuts were politically motivated without referring to President Carter as "one of the most incompetent people to ever hold the office of president" or saying "Jimmy Carter was an abject failure as a president".

But some people feel the need to get the political digs in and then hide behind the "but I don't want to bring politics into the discussion" when called on it.

Of course, we're likely all in violation of this:

If you disagree with a moderation decision made by a forum staff member, take it up with that person (or an Administrator) in a private message, NOT in public.


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#34 xyzzy

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 09:25 AM

Yes, Atlanta has MARTA rail that it didn't in 1971. Unfortunately the Amtrak station is nearly a mile from the nearest MARTA rail station. 33 years and 1 Olympics after Amtrak took over the Crescent, there's still no adequate Amtrak station in the country's 9th-most populous metro. Ouch.

As for the Floridian, it's true that Montgomery-Waycross was 300 miles of dark railroad at 59 mph. On the other hand, track conditions back then were no worse than today's Class III track between Raleigh NC and Fairfax SC that the Silver Star uses.

#35 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 03:46 PM


I do not see any reason why they should have cancelled the Lone Star. Besides, they could have rerouted the LS to Loredo. Without Loredo, there is no other reason for the I-A's existence. It is good that this train is so heavily patronized today because otherwise the cut-back to SAS would have caused the I-A's cancellation. I also do not see why they cancelled the Champion.


At least with the Champion, what was done (if I am not mistaken) is that the Champ's equipment was merged into the other Silvers. At one point, the combined Champion/Silver Meteor was a 26-car monster of a train. Additionally, I believe that the Silvers both stayed massive through most of the 1980s (i.e. in the mid-to-upper teens in terms of cars). It was basically a merger of trains to save on operating expenses, but I believe that most of the capacity remained for quite a while.


Here comes one of the biggest questions in my mind, a huge reason why I started this thread. The SM/SS both used to be very long trains. They are not anymore. The SM/SS are both less than half the size they used to be. Even though Viewliners today carry more that the old Heritage sleepers, there is not much doubt that capacity has taken a hit. That is why I want to know exactly how much ridership the SM/SS used to have when they ran with over 20 cars each. I hope someone can dig up something about that.

Yes, Atlanta has MARTA rail that it didn't in 1971. Unfortunately the Amtrak station is nearly a mile from the nearest MARTA rail station. 33 years and 1 Olympics after Amtrak took over the Crescent, there's still no adequate Amtrak station in the country's 9th-most populous metro. Ouch.

As for the Floridian, it's true that Montgomery-Waycross was 300 miles of dark railroad at 59 mph. On the other hand, track conditions back then were no worse than today's Class III track between Raleigh NC and Fairfax SC that the Silver Star uses.


The American Southeast is definately a big hole in train operations. If the problems had been fixed in 1978, why did Amtrak cancel the train one year later, in 1979?
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#36 Anderson

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 04:04 PM

Swadian,
The answer to the first question you asked is that when Amtrak had to get rid of their Heritage equipment, they did not get sufficient Viewliners to fill the gaps (and I think they got bupkis in terms of non-sleepers to replace diners and coaches that were retired around the same time). That crushed available capacity (and resulted in the Heritage Diner situation we're looking at now).

As to the '79 cuts, part of it is that Amtrak's subsidy got crunched. There was also a "passengers per train" metric of some sort that was used to determine which trains got the axe, which meant that some trains that were selling out often (such as the National Limited) were cut because Amtrak lacked the equipment to expand them to meet the requirements. With that said, it is quite possible that the Floridian had suffered for long enough up until then that they were unable to get a ridership rebound in time to save the train.
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#37 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 04:10 PM

Swadian,
The answer to the first question you asked is that when Amtrak had to get rid of their Heritage equipment, they did not get sufficient Viewliners to fill the gaps (and I think they got bupkis in terms of non-sleepers to replace diners and coaches that were retired around the same time). That crushed available capacity (and resulted in the Heritage Diner situation we're looking at now).

As to the '79 cuts, part of it is that Amtrak's subsidy got crunched. There was also a "passengers per train" metric of some sort that was used to determine which trains got the axe, which meant that some trains that were selling out often (such as the National Limited) were cut because Amtrak lacked the equipment to expand them to meet the requirements. With that said, it is quite possible that the Floridian had suffered for long enough up until then that they were unable to get a ridership rebound in time to save the train.


Actually, I think you misunderstood my question. I was asking for simply the ridership figures of the NYP-MIA trains when they had very long consists. I know that it is hard to get the info but I hope that it is not impossible.

Fpr the 1979 cuts, I think that Amtrak could have just switched some cars from the NYP-MIA trains onto the NL to help meet the requirements. The LS should still have not been cancelled because the I-A was doing so much worse, AFAIK.
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#38 afigg

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 09:25 PM

As to the '79 cuts, part of it is that Amtrak's subsidy got crunched. There was also a "passengers per train" metric of some sort that was used to determine which trains got the axe, which meant that some trains that were selling out often (such as the National Limited) were cut because Amtrak lacked the equipment to expand them to meet the requirements. With that said, it is quite possible that the Floridian had suffered for long enough up until then that they were unable to get a ridership rebound in time to save the train.

When it comes to evaluating to cut a service, they may have looked at the numbers over the previous 2-3 complete fiscal year reports. If the National Limited had started to improve in 1978, the improvement may be too little to change the overall bottom line numbers.

The cuts as I understand it, the cuts were supposedly based on cost recovery numbers. Total ridership provides a very incomplete snapshot. Does not tell us the revenue mix - lot of short haul passengers paying less for tickets or long haul sleeper passengers providing more revenue. The biggest missing part of the picture is how much did it costs to run those trains at that time? Did the train have high crew costs because of inefficient routes or rules that resulted in more crew shifts than needed? Or high pending costs for the route because of decaying tracks and stations.

Still, looking at several of the 1977 and 1978 schedules, there are some interesting trains on there that I wonder how well they would do now (if the tracks were there, all in good condition): the Hilltopper for the interesting route, the Niagara Rainbow, the Shenandoah to Cincinnati. In many ways, in the eastern half of the US, Ohio suffered the biggest loss in passenger train service from the mid-1970s through the early 2000s.

#39 Eric S

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 09:56 PM



Inter-American/Eagle/Texas Eagle
1974 - 48,851
1975 - 40,476
1977 - 144,477
2011 - 299,508

Hopefully this it at least somewhat helpful.


First, Eric, that was incredibly helpful and fun to see, even though I'm not doing any of the calculations that Swadian and Anderson may or may not be doing.

On the TE, I am super impressed with the 2011 ridership. I had no idea that it was this high even though these stats were recently published. Since it is a train with only 1 consistent sleeper, I assume that the load factors must be pretty high. For the benefit of the doubt on the TE's side, I will assume that the 40,000 was with a tri-weekly train.


1973 - tri-weekly, Fort Worth - Laredo
1974 - tri-weekly, St. Louis - Laredo
1976 - daily, Chicago - Fort Worth; tri-weekly, Fort Worth - Laredo
1977 - daily, Chicago - Laredo
1977 - daily, Chicago - St. Louis; tri-weekly, St. Louis - Laredo
summer 1978 & 1979 - daily, Chicago - Laredo
1979 - daily, Chicago - Laredo & Chicago - Houston
1981 - daily, Chicago - St. Louis; tri-weekly, St. Louis - San Antonio
1988 - daily, Chicago - St. Louis; tri-weekly, St. Louis - Houston/San San Antonio
1990 - daily, Chicago - Houston/San Antonio
1993 - daily, Chicago - St. Louis; tri-weekly, St. Louis - Houston/San Antonio
1995 - daily, Chicago - St. Louis; tri-weekly, St. Louis - San Antonio
1998 - daily, Chicago - St. Louis; quad-weekly, St. Louis - San Antonio
2000 - daily, Chicago - San Antonio

#40 railiner

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 10:26 PM

To answer the OP, IIRC, Amtrak's total ridership for 1972, its first full year of operation, was around 16 million, rising to around 22 million in 1979. Not sure of the breakdown between various segments...
metroblue?

okay on the blue!




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