This has been in my inbox for a while, but in 2009 Amtrak Cascades experienced a slight decline from the high gas prices and lower unemployment of 2008 while maintaining healthy gains over the recent past.  According to the report, the drop in performance is mainly due to the Portland-Eugene corridor.  In total, Cascades trains carried passengers about 118m passenger miles.

On a somewhat related note, if you participate in RailPlus — using regional passes to travel on Amtrak between Everett and Tacoma Seattle — you must obtain a “validation ticket” from the TVM with your ORCA card.  Amtrak staff presumably don’t have ORCA readers.

39 Replies to “Amtrak Cascades 2009 Ridership Numbers”

  1. So Sound Transit will be installing TVM’s at the Tacoma AmShack and inside King Street Station, right??

    1. You can’t use RailPlus on South Sounder. That must be a typo. It is for travel between Seattle and Everett only.

      1. OK, but think of the distance from the nearest TVM to the usual boarding platform of the northbound trains at Seattle-King Street, given that the doors on these Cascades trains do not open up, I believe, to the Sounder platforms.

      1. Our AmShack is going to move over to Freighthouse square in 2012-ish time frame, so it should be all new and sparkly in a couple of years. And yes it’s not exactly pretty to look at.

      2. I don’t think the Amshacks are all that bad. They were a pretty good solution to the problem of the mammoth decaying passenger stations that Amtrak was getting “rent free”, but was supposed to heat, light and secure.

        With that said, I’ll be glad to see Amtrak move to Freighthouse square.

      3. Look up Benson, Arizona’s station. It can’t get much worse except for the stations that have no structure whatsoever.

  2. For first time ever today a conductor came through my Sounder car and not only asked to see my ORCA card but ran it through a reader to see if I had paid.

    Scofflaws beware!!

  3. you are correct, amtrak conductors do not have orca readers. sounder conductors do though. i knew service had been great all last year and the numbers showed it.

  4. The “poor” performance of the Oregon section relative to previous years was likely almost all due to the northbound trains being entirely canceled for trackwork for most of June and late August-mid September. Oregon ridership would likely have been near last year’s level if not for this, as evidenced by the 4th quarter figures

  5. Would it possible to do an ‘Express’ run straight from Seattle to Portland, and what kind of time savings would you be looking at?

    1. Sure it would be possible, and has been tried NYP-WAS and LAX-SAN and discontinued. The point often gets lost that a significant % of a trains passengers are destined to/from midpoints and the endpoints of a train. That’s not to say a train should stop at every crossroads, but neither should it serve only the endpoints.

    2. The closest thing to a long-distance non-stop right now is Acela 2164 which is a Monday thru Friday 3:03 pm departure from New York City’s Pennsylvania Railroad Station which runs without a stop until Providence, RI at 5:54pm. Runs through but does not stop in Connecticut! This run is scheduled like this so as not to interfere with Metro-North services on the same line, and I suppose to avoid conflicts with the Shore Line East service.

      I did it once, and it was very cool to cruise through New Haven’s Union Station considering how often I had sat there in my youth on darkened trains as the Amtrak crews took IMHO the longest time (in comparison to their comrades at the European Railways) to switch from F40 to GG-1 or v.v.

      1. I should say that this 2164 is the closest thing to a non-stop express on a corridor route. Obviously, there are the Amtrak long distance trains that travel further between stations, etc.

      2. I got to take that train when i was on the East Coast; i spent a spell there in college and those memories of dark cars being replaced by ZOOM!!! were awesome.

  6. This is peripherally related, but hopefully you won’t bust me for off-topic! Today I went down to Kent Station and took the reverse-commute Sounder back. I saw a sign that said “to Tacoma/Lakewood” with a “future” sticker over the Lakewood, but then I also saw a sign that said “to Seattle/Everett” with a future sticker over the Everett! Does anyone know if Sound Transit is considering through-running trains all the way from Tacoma to Everett? That would be awesome, but you’d have to drop some cars at King Street, unless you had a Sounder North-length train that just went down from Everett to Tacoma/Lakewood in the morning and back in the evening, providing reverse commuter service.

  7. I’m curious how Amtrak Cascades is doing competitively versus flying. I think this is a good metric of the service’s utility, since fliers have already decided to take collective transit, whereas those who drive may like having a car at the other end.

    Since I don’t know how to find the data from the US DoT (which would publish actual air passenger counts PDX-SEA), I’ll estimate: 40 flights/day * 2 (both directions) * 70 pax/Q400 * 70% load factor * 365 days/year = about 1.5 million passengers

    Now, the chart in the original article covers Eugene-Vancouver so 761,610 passengers per year is an overestimate, but it looks like Amtrak Cascades might have double digit share of the transit (public or private) market from Seattle to Portland. Not bad!

    1. go to the wsdot web pages for rail and air. I think you’ll be surprized at how many more riders use the train than airlines.

    2. I’m guessing that a large portion of air travelers between Portland and Seattle are making connecting flights. Portland to Paris via Seattle, for example. Same story with Spokane/Seattle flights. How rail could replace those connects in the near future I don’t know.

      1. I don’t think it’s worth worrying about those trips – hopefully they aren’t too large of a portion. But these people are flying long distances anyway, and a little trip from Portland to Seattle is comparatively small.

        Actually, it’s probably more common to fly into Oakland and use BART to get to San Francisco than to use a connecting flight to SFO. But then that’s just one short ride – not a light rail line to a longer heavy rail line. I’m sure some will do this, but some of the benefit of rail go away when you’re intending to travel to the airport anyway.

  8. I’ve been closely following the California High Speed Rail project through the CA high speed rail blog (arguably one of the best transit blogs around right now) and various news reports, and it is some really exciting stuff.

    Despite some setbacks, it looks like it’s really going to happen, and at speeds that are truly ‘high speed’. Pretty exciting to think about the Bay Area and LA being 2 and a half hours apart by rail.

    Now, as a life-long WA state resident who will almost certainly never move to California, Ive been thinking about whether or not this line would ever stretch all the way from San Diego to Vancouver.

    Clearly, the least populated and most contentious stretch would be between Reading and Eugene. It will probably be a long time (maybe when we’re 70?) before anything like that ever happens, but I really do believe the West Coast is ideal for inter-city high speed rail travel.

    1. CA High Speed Rail Blog reads like an army going to battle. It is basically pro high-speed rail rhetoric on steroids. And I mean that in the best possible way. They successfully dismantle NIMBY claims and demonstrate why high speed rail is so necessary for that region.

      Somehow I could never imagine a transit blog in WA being that fiery or combative.

    2. Let’s build our Paris-Lyon line first, then we can worry about getting to Bordeaux, Nice, London, Brussels and Strasbourg

      1. And let’s NOT build it on Warren Buffet’s railroad, let’s build our own. Seems a bit ironic to me that BNSF will be the prime beneficiary of the US$500+ coming our way…

      2. Ironic or well played on Buffet’s part? He knows what he’s doing, and our government is for sale.

      3. Actually the Pt. Defiance bypass isn’t owned by BNSF. I think it is currently joint ST/Amtrak ownership or Tacoma Rail.

        Besides railroads are rather expensive things to build especially when you need all-new ROW in built up areas. Paying for upgrades to freight lines may benefit the freight railroad owners but it is cheaper than trying to build all-new. Typically these investments either have the public (Amtrak or transit agency) retaining a partial ownership interest in the track or getting agreements with the railroad owner to allow for additional passenger operations.

      4. The Lakeview Subdivision is owned by Sound Transit and will be dispatched by BNSF when it is opened

    3. Really long-term, I see such a line as highly likely. Most petroleum geologists think peak oil is less than a decade away, but only the extreme crazys think the world has more than 30 to 50 years before the peak. Once we hit peak oil, electric rail will become very attractive. Of course unless we develop a really good yet inexpensive electric car battery, converting our freeways to rail will start looking attractive too.

    4. Let California have the first line. Then when it’s successful, people will be more willing to pay taxes to extend it.

      California thinks it “needs” another freeway between Southern and Northern, and is willing to build a rail line instead. The cost is more or less the same either way, so it’s not like they’re losing money with it. It’s like when MAX obviated the Mount Hood Freeway in Portland. Once you build the train and people ride it, they’re glad it’s there and want to extend it. Not everyone will be willing to ride the train, but enough people will to make it used.

      In the Northwest, the pressures for freeway expansions are all within metropolitan areas. Nobody is saying we need another freeway from Seattle to Portland, so there’s not this potential pot of money to divert to rail. Instead, HSR looks like a new expense. The Portland-Sacramento segment is even more so. Plus there’s the hills that drive up the cost of all rail in the northwest. If we were flat like LA or Chicago (ignoring that mountain in the middle of LA), we could have HSR much sooner.

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