eolesen wrote: ↑Wed Jan 12, 2022 11:25 am
I think what you'd wind up seeing by adding frequencies is more cannibalization of the existing frequencies than you'd see in stimulating new demand. There's a saturation point you can't ignore, especially if there's limited purpose for people to be traveling between two cities, and I just don't see seven day a week 365 days per year demand there.
CHI-MKE are close enough to be a commuter market. RDU-CLT isn't. You might be able to argue RDU-GSO is, but GSO-CLT is well beyond the edge of what most people tolerate.
You don't have to serve only daily commuters to justify frequent service. There are very few daily commuters between Raleigh and Washington, and yet there are 15 nonstop flights every day from RDU airport to Washington-area airports. A significant portion - probably the majority, in my experience as a semi-frequent traveler on this route - is O/D traffic, not connecting traffic.
The thing is, though, you don't have to really understand exactly what's going on or who's riding and for what reason; this is helpful data, but just measuring how sensitive ridership is to service increases is enough to show that ridership, at least on the Piedmont, is highly elastic, and there is likely room for a great deal more frequency than is run on the corridor today.
When they bumped the Piedmont corridor frequency from 2->3 per day, the new frequency cannibalized exactly ZERO of the ridership from the existing scheduled trains. Ridership *per train* went from 68k to 70k - 3% higher after the frequency increase compared with before. It actually made the existing scheduled services *MORE* popular! Counterintuitive? Perhaps, but then again, maybe not. A train that runs three times a day is a LOT more convenient than one that one that only runs twice; the number of people willing to consider it goes up significantly as a result of that added convenience.
Similarly, when they went from 3->4 round trips per day, ridership per train did decrease, but barely: from 74k to 71k: Ridership of each previously scheduled train was 96% of what it was before adding the new scheduled train. So the new train basically only cannibalized 4% of the ridership of existing services. You'd be quite hard-pressed to find anybody who would look at cannibalization rates in the range of four percent
or negative three percent
and say "Mhm, demand's all tapped out, more service would be wasteful." Especially when it's all happening with a backdrop of rapid population growth, densification, increasing traffic congestion, and steady investment in improved tracks and stations that can help to backfill any cannibalization that does occur, with future natural growth of ridership.
You're right, though, there is a saturation point somewhere
, but the numbers clearly demonstrate that four round trips per day is barely scratching the surface. What is that saturation point? A train every 2 hours, or roughly 8-10 per day? Every hour, or roughly 16-20 per day? Can't say. All I can say with absolute conviction and certainty, backed up by data, 4 trains per day ain't it.
Without similar analysis on the Hiawatha Service, I can't say for sure, but given the population of Milwaukee and Chicago, and especially given Chicago traffic, I find it likely that 7 trains per day doesn't even come close to satisfying the demand that exists there, either.