A Look at Amtrak California Ridership – June 2019

Has it really been over two years since I last looked at ridership on the Amtrak California routes? That’s a surprise! Here are the other posts I made taking a look at ridership and trends:

There’s a good reason for this delay. Amtrak has made the ridership numbers a lot less transparent. Instead of reporting the riders per route in an easy table, they are now reporting “year to date.” So to know the ridership in March, you need to know the ridership for the previous month, and subtract the difference. Easy enough…if those reports were on their website. Nope, they only keep the last three online. I’ve done my best to find all the reports using google and the Internet Archive, but unfortunately, I cannot find March to August 2017. On top of that, the numbers are now rounded. They also changed how they report revenue.

Since I last looked at ridership, schedules on the San Joaquin have been moved around a lot in order to increase ridership. Another schedule change arrived in May.

The Big Picture

Let’s start with the big picture: over ten years of data, from October 2008 until June 2019, with some gaps in 2017.

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It’s hard to call out specific trends. One obvious one is that the San Joaquin was increasing from 2008 until 2013, where it peaked. Ridership has fallen since then. In contrast, the Capitol Corridor is on the way up. I think the difference is that a stronger economy in the central valley means more people driving (as they can afford cars). On the other hand, highways are congested in the Bay Area, so a stronger economy means more people opting to avoid traffic by using the train.

Here we see just the last 15 months. This helps us visualize both seasonal patterns (high ridership in July), and also year-on-year changes. All three lines are very stables year on year.

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San Joaquin

Here we see the San Joaquin line on its own, for the past 6 years. July, the peak ridership month, is highlighted. The downward trend is obvious. I have access to 2017 data through reports published by the SJJPA.

Capitol Corridor

Here we see the Capitol Corridor line on its own, for the past 6 years. Peak ridership month varies, but July is highlighted for comparison. Up, up, up!

Pacific Surfliner

And finally, the last 6 years of Pacific Surfliner. Fairly stable.

Overall, Amtrak California is looking healthy – aside from the San Joaquin line.

Part of it may be the economy, as mentioned above, but one has to wonder how much the schedule tinkering has affected things? From what I’ve seen, the new schedule has made things even worse. More on that soon.

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