Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Numbers, numbers, numbers….and SRO*


You know the old saying…..”so who’s counting?”

Sometimes numbers don’t matter, and sometimes they matter a whole lot, more than anything else.

§8009. Reasonable fares

Fares for the passenger rail service established pursuant to this chapter must be set at reasonable levels to encourage use of this service.

Take the case of the NNEPRA operated Amtrak Downeaster, for which ridership (that is, passenger count) is the only figure of merit.  This stems from the MSRA language just above, from Title 23, Chapter 621.  Losing money on operations on an annual basis seems not to be of concern, and running on time certainly isn’t, since the Downeaster has one of the worst Amtrak service records in the country.

So there’s really not much left except ridership (head count) to tally and tout.

We have some news to bring you on this account.  According to our on the scene sources, who count actual passengers arriving and departing at Brunswick’s Downeaster station, the total for 2013 was 34,689.  We have no way of knowing how many of these were ‘train hosts’ riding for nothing, or others travelling on free tickets, like selected grandees.


Turns out the total for 2014 was 31,378, for a 9.5% decline.  This can hardly be considered a growth situation, even considering the delays and cancellations throughout the year.


For this just ended year, based on 730 scheduled trains, the average heads per one-way trip amounts to 21.5, or less than 10% of train capacity, and less than half the capacity of one of the coaches.

Before anyone pipes up and says the low ridership on the north end is because of sold out segments on the south end, we say talk to the hand, because the face isn’t listening.  We pretty much blew this theory out of the water with a number of posts describing trial ticket purchases this past fall.  If you want to refresh yourself, you can do it here:

As we close, we can’t help but wonder whether there aren’t better, more affordable, more sustainable, more eco-friendly alternative methods for transporting 22 passengers between points A and B, when the distance is on the order of 30 miles.  If there isn’t, maybe some day somebody will invent one.

For now, we’ll leave things with our friend who enjoys counting moon-bats.


In between leading locals in hymns of praise for the economic glories of passenger rail.


End note: SRO = sitting room only

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