State-supported farebox ratios

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State-supported farebox ratios

Postby mkellerm » Thu Jan 15, 2009 11:34 am

As part of its reporting to the California Transportation Commission, Caltrans asked Amtrak to provide data on the farebox ratios for other state-supported routes. This doesn't get reported very often, so I'm posting the list below.

Carolinian 85%
Illini 81%
Ethan Allen Express 75%
Pacific Surfliners 74%
Hiawathas 72%
Keystone Service 71%
Pere Marquette 70%
Adirondack 68%
The Downeaster 65%
Vermonter 65%
Cascades 62%
Chicago-St.Louis 58%
San Joaquins 56%
Blue Water 55%
Illinois Zephyr 51%
Capitol Corridor 51%
Heartland Flyer 41%
Kansas City-St.Louis 36%
Piedmont 34%

There is pretty significant variation in the farebox ratio across these routes, all of which tend to get lumped into the "corridor" category. North Carolina has the distinction of having both the most and least successful routes by this metric. I was a bit surprised to see how well the Ethan Allen Express does, given the reports of its imminent demise. And overall, these results are fairly similar to reports I've seen of the farebox ratios for the LDs.
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby delvyrails » Thu Jan 15, 2009 2:48 pm

The "farebox ratio" numbers are good as far as they go, but the consideration lacks annualized capital costs for each state route.

If captial costs for equipment and fixed plant attributable to the service were evaluated and factored in, the list might go in a different order of overall cost-effectiveness.
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby etna9726b » Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:38 pm

If the Ethan Allen farebox metric includes the NYC to Albany revenue, I can see where the commuters would give that train a boost in ratings.
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby Finch » Fri Jan 16, 2009 1:50 am

Is the fairbox ratio the portion of total operating costs that a route makes back from ticket sales?
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby ne plus ultra » Fri Jan 16, 2009 11:30 am

Finch wrote:Is the fairbox ratio the portion of total operating costs that a route makes back from ticket sales?

I too would be interested to see more detail about what this is supposed to represent. It's an interesting way to compare these trains to each other, but I don't know what it means to the larger picture. Are the Carolinian and the Illini close to actually earning money for their states and for Amtrak? Or are they just close to some other threshold. At a minimum, I'd think this means that the Illini (with an 80% farebox recovery ratio) brings in 4 times as much in ticket revenue as the amount of the Illinois state subsidy. But I wonder whether there is also some degree of support from Amtrak for this train and others. Is it really completely revenue neutral to Amtrak?
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby mkellerm » Fri Jan 16, 2009 12:24 pm

Farebox ratio in theory is simply train revenues as a percentage of train expenses. Since nothing is ever simple when it comes to Amtrak accounting, here is how Caltrans describes the data:

In the table above, the farebox returns of the three California routes are compared to other non-
California state-supported routes of similar length and frequency. The farebox return for the California
routes differs from the farebox that is normally reported by the Department because, in an attempt to
make a parallel comparison between other state-supported routes, Amtrak only included train expense
and revenues in the calculations. No connecting bus expense and revenues, or special expenses (for
example, expenses related to insuring state-owned equipment and facilities), were included.


This probably doesn't include allocation of system-wide costs, but it is a pretty good measure of the economics of the route. This doesn't include state subsidies; the degree to which the state make up the difference depends to a certain extent on how good a deal it cut with Amtrak.
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby David Benton » Fri Jan 16, 2009 3:06 pm

Are you sure it doesnt include the state subsidy ??. data ive seen from other years had Amtrak including the state subsidy as revenue , so some trains almost made a profit .
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby tarheelman » Fri Jan 16, 2009 8:28 pm

Considering the fact that this train is slower than car travel, it's amazing that the Carolinian's farebox ratio is as high as it is. Imagine what the farebox ratio would be if the Carolinian was faster than driving.......
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby matthewsaggie » Sun Jan 18, 2009 2:50 pm

I cant speak for weekdays, as I only work weekends, but nearly every Carolinian I have worked for the past year has been sold old out completey on at least one portion of the route. Generally it is at least 80% full leaving Raleigh going north, and 100% above Richmond. Yesterday we were sold out north of Raleigh, with at least 90% going to DC. PS- we also had 2 private cars with us yesterday.
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby taoyue » Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:15 pm

Targeted marketing can have significant effects on ridership. Instead of doing just vague brand advertising and hoping people think of you when they travel, you can really fight for each passenger. Any time there's a festival or event at a stop on the line, it should be possible to get another dozen people on the train occupying formerly-empty seats (and more likely than not, 11 of the 12 will be first-time riders who might then come back).

A corporate marketing guy sitting in Washington, DC can't do it. It takes a local sitting in Raleigh, NC to realize the possibilities (and, most importantly, care enough about it to put in the effort).

The other commonly-cited example of an Amtrak-run but locally-marketed train is the Texas Eagle. See, e.g., January 2008 issue of [em]Trains[/em] magazine.
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby Suburban Station » Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:55 pm

David Benton wrote:Are you sure it doesnt include the state subsidy ??. data ive seen from other years had Amtrak including the state subsidy as revenue , so some trains almost made a profit .

farebox ratio
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby Arlington » Tue Feb 06, 2018 8:34 pm

I'm reviving this ancient thread because I'd like to talk about what's changed and what hasn't since 2009's PRIIA changed how state supported trains work (and was just a gleam when this thread began)

First, let me note: Amtrak has come a long way in those 9 years, thanks to being able to treat the states like customers and generally charge them for what they use.

Today, what I noticed page 7 of the draft 2017 full year report was what an outsized share of all state supported losses California runs up. And why? What is California doing that permits it to run 20% losses?

Route $Revs $Cost $Loss $Tkts $StateSubsidyEst
PacSurf 104.8 126.9 (22.1) 76.9 28
Capitols 58.4 73.1 (14.8) 31.3 27
SanJoaq 79.2 97.0 (17.8) 35.6 44
========================
Total 242.2 297.0 54.7 143.8 99

That's an 18.4% loss on costs. Yes, some small systems are also permitted to lose fairly large margins (looking at you, Hoosier State, losing 17.3% vs costs (.8m on 4.6m in costs)

But...
California is 31% of SS Revenues (which are $764m)
California is 34% of SS Costs (which are $861m)
California is 59% of SS Losses (54.7 out of $97.7m)

As a system, Amtrak is allowed to lose about 11% of costs on the State Supported System, but somehow has crafted a nationwide deal which allows California, which is a huge chunk of costs and route miles, to run a big loss. How was a national deal written that let one of Amtrak's largest customers lose so much at Amtrak's expense?

=======================================================
The flipside of this is, what is it about PRIIA rules that forces some states to pay consistently large PRIIA fees that result in Amtrak making money? Somehow North Carolina, Vermont, and Illinois end up paying PRIIA rates that result in a operating profit for Amtrak

Chicago-StLouis stands out. Operating Expense is 34.4m. Ticket Revenues are 15.4m But then Illinois pays 23m such that Amtrak revenues are 38.6m and suddenly Amtrak is turning a $4.2m operating profit. How'd that happen? Illinois has a nice system...maybe too nice...but why is theirs profitable to Amtrak and California's not?
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Fri Feb 09, 2018 9:42 am

I think the political environment here in Illinois could bear upon any changes made to the remuneration this year.

The top Democratic Gubernatorial challenger to the Republican incumbent has "taken a big hit" owing to some "caught on tape" remarks. The "next in line" challenger likely cannot beat the incumbent come November.

But next year with the incumbent Governor in office for another four, the existing Illinois rates, as well as some of the trains themselves, could be on the block.

For the "Who's Who", lest this posting get whacked, kindly refer to another source.
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Sat Feb 10, 2018 6:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby Arlington » Fri Feb 09, 2018 10:03 am

Illinois can negotiate the scope of its system, but not the underlying rates. The rates are the same for all states, as required by PRIIA. PRIIA also freed the states to shop their business to other train operators, which Indiana did with the Hoosier State and NC does by supplying it's own rolling stock.
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Re: State-supported farebox ratios

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Fri Feb 09, 2018 8:55 pm

Arlington wrote:Illinois can negotiate the scope of its system, but not the underlying rates. The rates are the same for all states, as required by PRIIA. PRIIA also freed the states to shop their business to other train operators, which Indiana did with the Hoosier State and NC does by supplying it's own rolling stock.

Caltrans has its own fleet as well, along with NCDOT.
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