With the news that the San Joaquin line is looking to get a new 8th daily train
next year, I felt it was time to take a new look at Amtrak California ridership. This post looks at the most recent Amtrak report, which covers February 2017. Here are some older posts:
Since we last checked in, the San Joaquin received a new 7th daily train. Unfortunately, the addition of a new train has not resulted in higher ridership. In fact, it has gone down a tad.
The entire Amtrak system was down around 3%, compared to last February, which makes sense when you consider that February 2016 had one more day (leap year). Maybe doing these in February wasn’t the best idea, woops.
However, the San Joaquin line had the biggest drop in the entire system, 5.7% less than last year, and 10.8% less than projected. Stable ridership would be disappointing with the new frequency, but a decline is worrying. What’s going on? Unfortunately, it seems like reliability has taken a huge slide. The San Joaquin Rail Commission blames the wet winter, which created delays. Regardless of who’s to blame, the riders aren’t having it.
The San Joaquin was on time only 61.4% of the time in February (lowest since May 2014), and 71.2% in January.
The San Joaquin was showing stable growth over a period of years, and was catching up to the Capitol Corridor. However, the Capitol Corridor started recovering, while the San Joaquin has entered a slump. The Pacific Surfliner, on the other hand, keeps on growing. This past July it was just shy of hitting 300,000 riders in a single month.
Aside from delays, it is possible the new 7th daily train wasn’t scheduled at a time that customers would have liked. The Commission should look into shifting the times based on passenger feedback.
Onto the charts!
We begin with a chart showing all three California lines over the past 15 months. That allows us to see seasonal changes over the course of the year, and get a brief reference of year-on-year progress. Ridership is always highest during the summer.
Now we look as far back as I have data – from October 2008 until February 2017. The Pacific Surfliner especially has huge shifts from winter to summer – maybe international tourists?
And here are individual lines, showing the previous 5 years. The highest ridership month, July, is highlighted.
Finally, how these lines compare with other Amtrak lines (no changes in ranking from last year):
I will try and do another one of these showing ridership as of July (so a post in September or October) to see how the San Joaquin did after a full year of 7 daily trains. July is also fun since it tends to be the highest, so we can see if the Pacific Surfliner breaks 300,000.