Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:34 pm

Either way I think the statement is absurd. The Downeaster's CSI scores bear it out on a qualitative basis that NNEPRA is doing an excellent job getting the best possible service from the operator (Amtrak).

The problem with questions of tax revenues is that it is indeed very clear that these funds would be used for other purposes that might otherwise funded using general revenues. Politically it is indeed very helpful that the funds come from rental car taxes. More and perhaps most importantly these funds leverage four federal dollars to every state dollar and the service provided is clearly an excellent value to the State.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby east point » Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:48 pm

The October performance report shows Downeaster load factor at just 35% . Instead of trying to add more trains maybe Downeaster needs more riders on trains or at least a better train car inventory on trains operating ?
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:39 pm

Don't confuse load factor for empty trains. Each run typically fills up the further south it goes and likewise empties as it goes north.

If you want a metric to watch aside from ridership it's farebox recovery. They seem to be having a good year so far since July with average year to date higher than usual (around 65%). But of course as Cowford rightfully reminds us we will have to see how that holds up during the "lean" months in the winter.

Based on reports from along the line I think there is reason to be hopeful that farebox recovery will in fact remain above the norm (generally about 50%) for the full year.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Rockingham Racer » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:52 am

east point wrote:The October performance report shows Downeaster load factor at just 35% . Instead of trying to add more trains maybe Downeaster needs more riders on trains or at least a better train car inventory on trains operating ?


It's been proven elsewhere that the best builder of ridership is convenience [frequent service], not fast trains.
The route needs another frequency earlier in the day out of Boston. Discussed here frequently in the past.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby djlong » Thu Dec 28, 2017 8:42 am

I can't remember where it was that I read it, but I recall reading that you have to have a service level of 10 round-trips per day on a line to even BEGIN to talk about electrification making sense. Once you get to 10 round trips, THEN you can talk about load factors, demand, etc.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby deathtopumpkins » Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:03 am

Rockingham Racer wrote:It's been proven elsewhere that the best builder of ridership is convenience [frequent service], not fast trains.
The route needs another frequency earlier in the day out of Boston. Discussed here frequently in the past.


Check out the Service Development Plan, specifically page 34...
http://www.nnepra.com/sites/default/fil ... ummary.pdf

They first want to add a late morning southbound, early afternoon northbound round trip, then an evening southbound, early morning northbound round trip.

The reason there isn't already an early morning Downeaster out of Boston is that all the trains spend the night in Maine. The above proposal would require securing a place for a train to layover in Boston overnight. I doubt the T will let them use a track at North Station, but I guess it is within the realm of possibility, since a 6 am departure would be before most peak trains start arriving.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby east point » Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:28 pm

deathtopumpkins wrote:[

The reason there isn't already an early morning Downeaster out of Boston is that all the trains spend the night in Maine. The above proposal would require securing a place for a train to layover in Boston overnight. I doubt the T will let them use a track at North Station, but I guess it is within the realm of possibility, since a 6 am departure would be before most peak trains start arriving.


Laying over at BON seems practical if that equipment gets to be at layover facility the next night. Also does BON have station HEP connections ? Does Amtrak have personnel at BON to do the daily ?
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Cowford » Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:18 pm

It's interesting (disturbing?) to note NNEPRA's ridership projections for the Brunswick extension on page 19 of that service plan. They state that an additional two RTs per day would add 14.6K pax in 2020 and 26.1K pax by 2030. In other words, average ridership on each additional train will be 10 passengers in 2020, increasing to 18 passengers by 2030. And this ridership projection JUSTIFIES additional investment??? I wish I was making this up.

NNEPRA could also use a good proofreader. Statements such as, "Between FY2006 and FY2014, the Downeaster’s average annual ridership growth rate was 79%..." (page 17) are obviously wrong.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby TomNelligan » Thu Dec 28, 2017 3:29 pm

east point wrote:Also does BON have station HEP connections ? Does Amtrak have personnel at BON to do the daily ?


On the first question, no. On the second question, I don't believe Amtrak has any staff at North Station since the Downeasters run as turnarounds and ticketing is handled by Keolis, although I suppose people could drive over from Amtrak's Southampton Street facility.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Trinnau » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:27 pm

TomNelligan wrote:
east point wrote:Also does BON have station HEP connections ? Does Amtrak have personnel at BON to do the daily ?


On the first question, no. On the second question, I don't believe Amtrak has any staff at North Station since the Downeasters run as turnarounds and ticketing is handled by Keolis, although I suppose people could drive over from Amtrak's Southampton Street facility.


North Station does indeed have ground power, it is at the Charles River end of the platforms. But you are correct regarding lack of Amtrak staff at North Station (or on the North Side of Boston at all). All the Downeaster staff is based out of Portland (crews, mechanical, food service, etc) - nothing is done at North Station other than a turn. So the whole logistics package would need to be handled either prior to final departure from BRU/POR for the next day, it has to be setup at BON or they run it out of Southampton and come across the Grand Junction non-revenue.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:49 pm

Cowford wrote:It's interesting (disturbing?) to note NNEPRA's ridership projections for the Brunswick extension on page 19 of that service plan. They state that an additional two RTs per day would add 14.6K pax in 2020 and 26.1K pax by 2030. In other words, average ridership on each additional train will be 10 passengers in 2020, increasing to 18 passengers by 2030.


I think there are a couple things worth remembering. First the ridership loads are unevenly distributed. This means that the "average" actually turns into something like 50 or 60 passengers arriving on 685 at BRK for example.

I would also note that by any measure that it appears they are very close to their intended "net" goal for 2020. This metric would of course ignore the fact that some huge number of passengers switched from using the PTC to using Brunswick and to a lesser extent Freeport.

If we simply consider the raw figures they are way ahead of projections. That's a good sign overall and it confirms that even with a delay for the reverse move and the stop in Portland that many people still consider it to be very convenient.

I would re-emphasize that the point regarding net ridership still stands and that it appears they are getting very close to that goal.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby CN9634 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:01 pm

Cowford wrote:It's interesting (disturbing?) to note NNEPRA's ridership projections for the Brunswick extension on page 19 of that service plan. They state that an additional two RTs per day would add 14.6K pax in 2020 and 26.1K pax by 2030. In other words, average ridership on each additional train will be 10 passengers in 2020, increasing to 18 passengers by 2030. And this ridership projection JUSTIFIES additional investment??? I wish I was making this up.

NNEPRA could also use a good proofreader. Statements such as, "Between FY2006 and FY2014, the Downeaster’s average annual ridership growth rate was 79%..." (page 17) are obviously wrong.


Not to mention the lack of reference to sources, established models, methods, strategy, assumptions or industry best practices. The only model I basically see is how they say they examined 1000 feet on either side of the track... so a 2000 foot by 143 mile swath is the target study area?? Ridiculous. How about a hub and spoke feeder/multi-modal model like traditional passenger services across the country? How about competitive advantages over other modes (example of the bus is direct service to Boston/Logan)?

I'd be curious the to see the CV of some of these NNEPRA members. Also the list of people they visited each month.... the rotary club? Really? Freeport Elders? I bet they had a lot to offer passenger service in Maine.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:44 pm

References are on page 38. They specifically cite Amtrak's established formulas for ridership elasticity on pages 18 and 19. Their methodology appears within the industry norms for transportation planning and public policy generally which is to establish purpose and need along with market analysis.

The study area is described in the manner that it is based on normal descriptors for consideration of physical space. It doesn't mean they would consider the full population of a ridershed it's a boundary for consideration of capital improvements.

The use of Amtrak's own formulas which have been established through complex ridership modeling done by engineering firms is in of itself a best practice along with the structure of the report generally.

I think questioning professional qualifications is something that is beyond the scope of this forum especially given the fact that those you speak of may not necessarily be permitted to respond.
Last edited by gokeefe on Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Cowford » Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:49 pm

gokeefe wrote:I would also note that by any measure that it appears they are very close to their intended "net" goal for 2020. This metric would of course ignore the fact that some huge number of passengers switched from using the PTC to using Brunswick and to a lesser extent Freeport.

If we simply consider the raw figures they are way ahead of projections. That's a good sign overall and it confirms that even with a delay for the reverse move and the stop in Portland that many people still consider it to be very convenient.

I would re-emphasize that the point regarding net ridership still stands and that it appears they are getting very close to that goal.


Gokeefe, could you please share any measures you may be using to come to these conclusions? The publicly available information paints a very different picture. Here are the numbers:

NNEPRA's initial (not 2020) target: net gain 36,000 new riders annually

FY 2012 (pre-extension) POR ridership 215,000

FY 2013 POR/FRE/BRU combined ridership: 235,000
Net gain year 1 vs pre-extension: 20,000

Now, five years in with additional service...
FY 2017 POR/FRE/BRU combined ridership: 211,000
Net gain year 5 vs pre-extension: -4,000

Some correction needed on the earliest numbers due to the change in ridership counts for monthly pass holders, but it would not be material. The fact is that ridership Portland - east is not only way off target, but below pre-extension levels even on a "gross" basis.

I think there are a couple things worth remembering. First the ridership loads are unevenly distributed. This means that the "average" actually turns into something like 50 or 60 passengers arriving on 685 at BRK for example.


Considering that BRK averaged ~40 daily passengers each way in 2017, I'm guessing 685 rarely carrries that many patrons east of Portland.
Last edited by Cowford on Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby CN9634 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:53 pm

gokeefe wrote:References are on page 38. They specifically cite Amtrak's established formulas for ridership elasticity on pages 18 and 19. Their methodology appears within the industry norms for transportation planning and public policy generally which is to establish purpose and need along with market analysis.

The study area is described in the manner that it is based on normal descriptors for consideration of physical space. It doesn't mean they would consider the full population of a ridershed it's a boundary for consideration of capital improvements.

The use of Amtrak's own formulas which have been established through complex ridership modeling done by engineering firms is in of itself a best practice along with the structure of the report generally.

I think questioning professional qualifications is something that is beyond the scope of this forum especially given the fact that those you speak of may not necessarily be permitted to respond.


Just a concerned taxpayer questioning the capability of our publicly funded organizations working for our best interests :wink: But you do bring up a good point, time to get back to reality. Let's check in again in a few months.
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