An Amtrak HHP-8 leads a train out of Philadelphia last march. When Amtrak began, Clockers plied these rails. Two Florida solons are at odds over today’s ridership figures.
WASHINGTON – Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., said on Friday she found numerous errors in a chart depicting Amtrak ridership.
In a letter to Rep. John Mica, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., Chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials – which Brown chaired when the Democrats had a majority in the House – wrote that on May 26, 2011, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing on “Opening the Northeast Corridor to Private Competition for Development of High-Speed Rail.”
She wrote, “At that hearing, you circulated a chart derived from Amtrak annual and monthly reports which showed a decrease in ridership on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) from 10.6 million riders in 1977 to 10.5 million riders in 2010.”
She said there were numerous errors in the chart.
Brown charged, “The chart compares apples to oranges. You cannot compare riders in 2010 with riders in 1976 when many of the trains and routes that operated in 1976 no longer exist. Your staff used Amtrak annual and monthly reports to obtain the information; however, Amtrak’s assignment of routes to ridership categories has changed significantly over time. Therefore, staff should have reviewed the trains and routes within those categories to provide an accurate comparison.”
She explained exactly what she meant.
“In 1976, Amtrak ran Clocker trains, which was a commuter train from New York to Philadelphia. That service made up about one-half of the ridership on the NEC; however, the service was taken over by New Jersey Transit in 2005. To compare 1976 ridership (which included Clocker ridership) with 2010 ridership (which had no Clocker service) does not provide a valid comparison. If you remove the Clocker service from the calculation, which is an accurate comparison, then service on the NEC has actually increased from 6.4 million riders in 1976 to 10.4 million riders in 2010, a 38 percent increase.”
Brown pointed out what she viewed as other errors.
“Your chart also maintained that NBC ridership peaked in 2000, with a total of 12.9 million riders. In 2000, NEC ridership in Amtrak’s annual and monthly reports included the following trains: Metroliners, the Ethan Allen Express, the Vermonter, Northeast Direct, the Clockers-Philadelphia to Harrisburg, the Empire, the Adirondack-New York to Harrisburg, and special trains. However, in 2010, many of these trains are now assigned to state-supported routes and are no longer assigned to the NEC, which is why the 2010 ridership levels show a lower number of riders.”
She offered a corrected chart that shows that ridership on the NEC peaked in 2008, with 10.9 million riders. There was a slight decrease from 2008 to 2009 due to the economic crisis, “but ridership for 2011 is likely to exceed 2008 levels, and set a new Amtrak NEC ridership record.”
Brown is from Jacksonville, and Mica from Winter Park. Over the years, Mica has been a frequent Amtrak critic.