Amtrak Tracking for My Commute Between New York City and Philadelphia

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"The Amtrak Candidate" Joe Biden is an Amtrak Fan

Newsweek story in their politics blog (called Stumper) about the Joe Biden and Amtrak connection. Biden apparently takes Amtrak quite often between Delaware and Washington DC. I feel this is good for Amtrak, I welcome any support for Amtrak from politicians. If Biden gets elected the chances of Amtrak upgrading its fleet becomes more likely I'd imagine. More comfortable cars will make for a better commuting experience.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

July 2008 Amtrak Ridership Sets All-Time Monthly Record

A WebWire press release notes Amtrak ridership in July Fiscal Year 2008 increased to 2,750,278, nearly a 14 percent increase, marking the most passengers carried in any single month in Amtrak's 37 year history.  Some highlights:

  • "Our record-setting ridership and ticket revenue in the month of July alone indicate we will end the year with approximately three million new passenger trips in FY09" said Alex Kummant, President and CEO of Amtrak
  • The popularity of the Acela Express service continued in the month of July with a 5.5 percent increase over July 2007. Ticket revenue in the Northeast Corridor reached more than $79 million, a 16.2 percent increase. Ridership on the recently relaunched Northeast Regional trains continued to rise with an 8.8 percent increase in the month of July and revenue topping $41 million

Saturday, August 09, 2008

How Many People Commute from Philadelphia to New York via Amtrak Regularly?

This is tough number to find. Amtrak does not seem to make this information available though they know precisely how many Philly-NYC monthly or 10 trip passes are sold. So I can only offer the following evidence:

An article in the NY Sun from April 20, 2007 "New Amtrak Service Could Boost ‘the Sixth Borough'" by Annie Karni states:
"About 1.5 million passengers a year use Amtrak to commute between New York and Philadelphia on a regular basis" (what does 'regularly' mean though, 3+ times a week?)

Tom Acitelli of the New York Observer in a February 13, 2008 "Imagine Cheaper New York-Philly Amtrak Service" states:
"Amtrak measures its ridership by fiscal years that run from October to October. In fiscal year 2004 (October 2003-October 2004), 375,100 riders total made daily round-trips between the two cities. That was more than in the three previous fiscal years. But, then, in fiscal year 2005, daily ridership peaked at over 377,000. It's dropped ever since, with fiscal year 2007, claiming an estimated annual total of 220,800 Philadelphia-to-New York daily commuters. (Note: These are not daily averages, but annual totals.)"

I posted on this blog prior that about 2,000 Northeast Corridor riders use monthly passes, most of them commuting between Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, according to Amtrak.
I got this from a Larry King article on The Philadelphia Inquirer "Amtrak Revives Plan for Fare Increases" Wednesday, 28 September 2005.

My guess is the number of regular commuters using Amtrak is rapidly going down. It has to be, at $1,152.00 now for a monthly pass (vs. ~$600 in 2005) who can afford this? Only people making pretty good money can swing this cost, this is not a price point that an average business person can absorb.

Friday, August 08, 2008

All Aboard: Too Many for Amtrak

The Wall Street Journal has an article today stating that the number of people riding Amtrak is up 13.9% in July 2008 from a year earlier. More proof that high gas prices caused more commuters to rely on intercity rail.

Highlights from the article:
  • Northeast Corridor passenger counts are up by nearly 8% over last year. Overall, Amtrak is on pace to serve a record 28 million passengers in its current fiscal year, up from the previous high of 25.8 million last year.
  • Many Amtrak trains are getting overcrowded and a backlog of infrastructure problems stands in the way of expanded service.
  • The House and Senate have passed by veto-proof margins legislation that could increase Amtrak funding by 33% or more in the new fiscal year beginning October.
  • The railway often doesn't have enough cars in stock to expand train capacity or increase service frequencies. "We're literally beginning to bump up against some of the capacity limits on Acela," Mr. Kummant said. "We have basically no equipment left to start new services." In the Northeast Corridor alone, he said, it will take upwards of a decade and $3 billion to replace Amtrak's rolling stock, including its 20 Acela train sets.
  • Amtrak estimates it needs to do nearly $5 billion of work along the Northeast Corridor to bring things to a state of good repair.
  • More people take the train than fly between New York and Washington, Amtrak claims
  • A trip from Wall Street to the nation's capital currently takes two hours and 45 minutes on the Acela. Mr. Kummant told Congress last year that with $625 million in additional investment, the trip could be shaved to 2½ hours. But he said the 227-mile route needs billions of dollars more to replace aging critical components such as bridges and tunnels.
  • A provision in the House's Amtrak bill would have the Transportation Department study the possibility of high-speed service between Washington and New York, with trains running as fast as 200 miles an hour and a trip time of two hours or less. Mr. Kummant scoffs at the idea of European-style high-speed service in the congested Northeast, which could require a dedicated corridor established through years of eminent-domain proceedings. He said it would be better to focus on improving the connectivity and performance of the current system, and establish 100-miles-per-hour regional corridors.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Philly to NYC Amtrak Monthly Unlimited Pass for $459? This is via the Amtrak USA Rail Pass. Commuting to NYC from Philadelphia now affordable again? Not really...

Amtrak recently opened up the USA Rail Pass option to US citizens. You can see pricing for these Amtrak rail passes here. The 30 day East Rail Pass at $459.00 Peak is less than half the cost of a monthly unlimited between Philly-NYC! This is less than the 10 trip ticket. This is even less than what I was paying for a monthly pass 4 years ago.

Some info from the USA Rail Pass page on the Amtrak website:

"The USA Rail Pass is not intended for use as a commuting pass."

Question: Do I Need Tickets and Reservations?

Answer: Yes. Your USA Rail Pass is not a ticket. When traveling on a USA Rail Pass, you must have a ticket and a reservation for each train you board. You must make reservations and pick up your ticket(s) before boarding any train.

Reservations for train travel should be made as far in advance as possible; seats available for USA Rail Pass passengers are limited on each train. We do not recommend waiting until the day of departure to make your reservations since there is a greater chance that seats allocated for the USA Rail Pass may not be available on your desired train. If your plans are not flexible, non-USA Rail Pass seats may be available at an additional cost.

Question: How Do I Get My Tickets?

Answer: Make Reservations: Travelers from outside of the United States can make reservations prior to arriving in the United States by calling (001) 215-856-7953 during regular business hours (Monday-Friday from 8:30-17:00 EST).If you are already in the United States, call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245) and speak to a reservations agent.

Pick-up Pass and Ticket(s): You can pick up your pass and tickets at any staffed Amtrak ticket office in many Amtrak stations by showing your USA Rail Pass or Pass Confirmation Number.

So Amtrak does not explicitly ban commuters from using this pass but clearly they do not want commuters to use this. You also have to make reservations in advance and they seem to limit the number of seats available for USA Rail Pass use. Furthermore it looks like you have to pick up your tickets from an actual Amtrak agent and not via their kiosks. With the 10 trip or monthly you can get on any train you want with no reservations. Getting a ticket from a human Amtrak agent is a killer, those lines at the Amtrak windows at 30th Street Station and Penn Station are massive.

So this really does not look to be a viable option for the Philly-NYC commuter.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Amtrak pays this well? A couple, one an Amtrak employee, donates $61,600 to presidential campaign

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

"Many pick Amtrak over plane, automobile"

An article in the Southwest Iowa News about The Zephyr, Amtrak's only route that chugs through Omaha.

Some points from the article broadly applicable to Amtrak and NEC commuters:
  • Nationwide, Amtrak has seen about a 10 percent increase for the same time period, or 1.8 million more riders.
  • The millions choosing Amtrak still represent only about 0.1 percent of all travel in the United States, according to federal statistics.
  • As ridership has increased, both houses of Congress have passed similar bills for $14.9 billion in additional Amtrak funding.
  • Rider surveys have shown that the majority of people choosing Amtrak do so to avoid paying high gasoline prices.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

No more direct Acela trains between New York and Philadelphia

It looks like Amtak dropped the direct Acela trains between NYC and Philadelphia. In the Amtrack Northeast Corridor 1 train schedule Effective May 12, 2008, there are no direct Acela options listed. The train numbers were 2105 in the morning and 2120 in the afternoon, these trains are not on this schedule. Amtrak started this direct Acela service last year as I posted prior on this blog in the summer of 2007. It did go the wrong way from Philly-NYC commuters but I thought this service was a good idea. I saw no word of this from Amtrak so it looks like they quietly dropped it. The service didn't even last a year it seems. I wonder what the load on these trains were, I'm assuming there was an economic reason for dropping the service. I like the idea of Amtrak of adjusting their schedules to meet demand and maximize profitability but dropping this service is unfortunate I feel. I was hoping to see a direct train option for the Philly-NYC commuter in the future, this would have shaved maybe 10 minutes off the trip one way. Not huge but an improvement and faster is always better when you're commuting.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Railfan Window Blog: "Amtrak guerrilla marketing campaign?"

Public Transit Ridership Continues To Grow In First Quarter 2008. Almost 88 Million More Trips Taken Than 2007 First Quarter, so says the American Public Transportation Association (APTA)

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced today that Americans took more than 2.6 billion trips on public transportation in the first three months of 2008.  This is almost 88 million more trips than last year for the same time period. They don't break out Amtrak specifically on this page but public transit ridership is up across the board.

To see the complete APTA ridership report go to

Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer miles in May 2008 than in May 2007, a 3.7 percent drop. Good for Amtrak? Perhaps not...

Newsweek story about the rising demand for mass transit and declining revenues for the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by gas taxes. The article mentions funds for  highway work may be pulled from the money allocated to Amtrak. The author, Daniel Gross, notes this is odd as the automobile is supported by a government subsidy that dwarfs anything provided to mass transit. He estimates the subsidy at nearly $100 billion per year. Pulling funds from public transit would seem like odd policy to me.