Thursday, November 13, 2014

Amtrak routes by 2014 cost recovery

In what is now an annual tradition of sorts, here are Amtrak's routes ranked according to their cost recovery and color coded for for discernment between the Northeast Corridor (blue), state supported corridors (green), and the long distance trains (orange). To eliminate the effects of state subsidies (which pushed the Vermonter and Carolinian into profitable territory this year), the state supported corridors use only ticket revenue while the Northeast Corridor and long distance trains use total revenues. This does mean that up to several million dollars in private varnish and food and beverage revenue is lost while their costs remain; keep in mind therefore that the state trains may actually be performing better by a few percentage points.


Revenue 2014
Expenses 2014
Cost recovery 2014
Profit/loss
Acela
$603,800,000
$295,800,000
204.12%
$308,000,000
Washington-Lynchburg
$12,604,973
$8,300,000
151.87%
$4,304,973
Northeast Regional
$625,600,000
$448,900,000
139.36%
$176,700,000
Washington-Newport News
$22,057,190
$18,700,000
117.95%
$3,357,190
Washington-Norfolk
$7,748,910
$7,900,000
98.09%
($151,090)
Auto Train
$80,900,000
$85,200,000
94.95%
($4,300,000)
Carolinian
$19,136,311
$20,700,000
92.45%
($1,563,689)
Maple Leaf
$24,712,104
$29,700,000
83.21%
($4,987,896)
Empire Service
$47,472,663
$57,600,000
82.42%
($10,127,337)
Washington-Richmond
$9,594,953
$12,200,000
78.65%
($2,605,047)
Keystone Service
$37,804,213
$52,300,000
72.28%
($14,495,787)
Hiawathas
$16,794,044
$24,500,000
68.55%
($7,705,956)
Pennsylvanian
$11,447,786
$16,800,000
68.14%
($5,352,214)
Palmetto
$18,300,000
$28,800,000
63.54%
($10,500,000)
Silver Meteor
$44,300,000
$74,400,000
59.54%
($30,100,000)
Adirondack
$7,538,465
$12,700,000
59.36%
($5,161,535)
Vermonter
$5,531,708
$10,000,000
55.32%
($4,468,292)
Downeaster
$8,638,103
$15,700,000
55.02%
($7,061,897)
Empire Builder
$60,500,000
$113,800,000
53.16%
($53,300,000)
Pacific Surfliner
$65,514,742
$124,300,000
52.71%
($58,785,258)
Lake Shore Limited
$34,500,000
$66,500,000
51.88%
($32,000,000)
Ethan Allen Express
$2,898,957
$5,600,000
51.77%
($2,701,043)
Silver Star
$41,200,000
$81,500,000
50.55%
($40,300,000)
Wolverines
$18,900,614
$38,200,000
49.48%
($19,299,386)
New Haven-Springfield
$12,238,623
$25,400,000
48.18%
($13,161,377)
California Zephyr
$55,800,000
$118,300,000
47.17%
($62,500,000)
Coast Starlight
$47,700,000
$101,300,000
47.09%
($53,600,000)
Capitol Limited
$23,000,000
$48,900,000
47.03%
($25,900,000)
Blue Water
$6,487,869
$13,800,000
47.01%
($7,312,131)
City of New Orleans
$22,300,000
$47,500,000
46.95%
($25,200,000)
Illini
$9,272,724
$19,800,000
46.83%
($10,527,276)
Texas Eagle
$27,400,000
$59,200,000
46.28%
($31,800,000)
Chicago-St. Louis
$16,792,321
$37,100,000
45.26%
($20,307,679)
Southwest Chief
$49,400,000
$111,000,000
44.50%
($61,600,000)
San Joaquins
$38,087,608
$86,300,000
44.13%
($48,212,392)
Crescent
$35,900,000
$82,100,000
43.73%
($46,200,000)
Pere Marquette
$3,101,530
$7,400,000
41.91%
($4,298,470)
Cascades
$28,440,469
$68,000,000
41.82%
($39,559,531)
Piedmont
$3,402,929
$8,200,000
41.50%
($4,797,071)
Capitol Corridor
$27,105,046
$70,000,000
38.72%
($42,894,954)
Cardinal
$8,700,000
$24,100,000
36.10%
($15,400,000)
Illinois Zephyr
$5,521,055
$16,300,000
33.87%
($10,778,945)
Kansas City-St. Louis
$5,341,229
$15,800,000
33.81%
($10,458,771)
Sunset Limited
$14,200,000
$51,200,000
27.73%
($37,000,000)
Heartland Flyer
$1,965,642
$9,200,000
21.37%
($7,234,358)
Hoosier State
$802,581
$6,000,000
13.38%
($5,197,419)

For an alternate view, here is each route ranked according to profit or loss.


Profit/loss
Acela
$308,000,000
Northeast Regional
$176,700,000
Washington-Lynchburg
$4,304,973
Washington-Newport News
$3,357,190
Washington-Norfolk
($151,090)
Carolinian
($1,563,689)
Washington-Richmond
($2,605,047)
Ethan Allen Express
($2,701,043)
Pere Marquette
($4,298,470)
Auto Train
($4,300,000)
Vermonter
($4,468,292)
Piedmont
($4,797,071)
Maple Leaf
($4,987,896)
Adirondack
($5,161,535)
Hoosier State
($5,197,419)
Pennsylvanian
($5,352,214)
Downeaster
($7,061,897)
Heartland Flyer
($7,234,358)
Blue Water
($7,312,131)
Hiawathas
($7,705,956)
Empire Service
($10,127,337)
Kansas City-St. Louis
($10,458,771)
Palmetto
($10,500,000)
Illini
($10,527,276)
Illinois Zephyr
($10,778,945)
New Haven-Springfield
($13,161,377)
Keystone Service
($14,495,787)
Cardinal
($15,400,000)
Wolverines
($19,299,386)
Chicago-St. Louis
($20,307,679)
City of New Orleans
($25,200,000)
Capitol Limited
($25,900,000)
Silver Meteor
($30,100,000)
Texas Eagle
($31,800,000)
Lake Shore Limited
($32,000,000)
Sunset Limited
($37,000,000)
Cascades
($39,559,531)
Silver Star
($40,300,000)
Capitol Corridor
($42,894,954)
Crescent
($46,200,000)
San Joaquins
($48,212,392)
Empire Builder
($53,300,000)
Coast Starlight
($53,600,000)
Pacific Surfliner
($58,785,258)
Southwest Chief
($61,600,000)
California Zephyr
($62,500,000)

Most routes performed a bit better this year than they did the year previously thanks to Amtrak's cost cutting measures; this was particularly evident on the long distance routes which collectively cut $111.5 million from their costs and OPEBs. The Auto Train is the standout performer, somehow cutting $25.9 million in costs which, in addition to $5.5 million in additional revenue, allowed to to come only $4.3 million away from breakeven.

I've trimmed some figures relating to year over year changes in the interest of presentation, but they remain available in the Excel file (converted from Numbers). As always, the figures come from Amtrak's September Monthly Performance Report.

10 comments:

  1. Without detailed transparent explanations and justifications of how Amtrak allocates its costs to each route, I find this information to be uniformly uninformative.

    Given Amtrak's well-known bias in favor of the Northeast Corridor, very strong incentives to load off as many costs as possible to state-subsidized corridors and current management's anti-long distance train stance, I simply don't buy these numbers until Amtrak provides well-documented details of their cost allocation system.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amtrak released information on subsidies for the long-distance trains on a "direct costs" basis back in March of 2013 (with the overhead stripped off). It's in the form of a bargraph, but I measured it zoomed in with a ruler. :-) I assumed this was 2012 annual numbers Then I compared it to the "official" overhead-laden 2012 numbers.

      http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/778/373/Amtrak-Covers-88-Percent-of-Operating-Costs-ATK-13-022.pdf

      http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/23/871/Amtrak-Monthly-Performance-Report-September-2012-final-audited-revised.pdf

      As of 2012, there's about $440 million in overhead allocated to the long-distance trains. I have no idea how much overhead is allocated to the NEC or state-sponsored trains. (My wild-ass guess is that it's another billion or so.) Obviously, the overhead allocation may have changed for 2013 and 2014.

      Stripping off the overhead, it still costs a lot to run the western long-distance trains ($128.8 million in 2012). The eastern ones are cheap ($22.3 million in 2012).

      I just reran my spreadsheet on this (fixing some typos). If you assume that overhead hasn't changed since 2012 (a bad assumption), you would get before-overhead results as follows:
      Auto Train: $30.2 million profit before overhead
      Silver Meteor: $9.2 million profit before overhead
      Palmetto: $4.8 million profit before overhead
      LSL: $1.1 million loss before overhead
      Silver Star: $1.2 million loss
      Cardinal: $4.5
      Empire Builder: $6.5
      Capitol Limited: $7.7
      CONO: $9.3
      Texas Eagle: $11.3
      Crescent: $12.5
      Coast Starlight: $15.3
      Sunset Limited: $19.1
      California Zephyr: $22.6
      Southwest Chief: $22.9

      They are actually probably all doing worse than this, because overhead has probably dropped. But you get the idea.

      Delete
    2. It's worth noting the following:
      - The Crescent suffers because demand south of Atlanta is much weaker than demand north of Atlanta -- but there's nowhere to detach cars in Atlanta, so it's carrying empty cars (with employees) south of Atlanta. If this could be fixed, it would dramatically improve its results.
      - On Empire Builder, reduced payments to BNSF seem to be fully compensating for lost revenue due to massive delays this year.
      - However, on the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited, the same is *not* true -- there were massive delays this year and it seems they have actually hurt the bottom line substantially for 2014. OTP recovery should improve financial performance.
      - The Cardinal is hurt substantially by three-a-week running, which inflates costs and reduces ridership and revenue; when I run estimates, it looks to me like going daily would be worth several million / year. (Ticket prices are a lot higher than last time this was looked at, in the PIP.)
      - All the Viewliner trains suffer from a shortage of Viewliner sleeping cars. I've tried to estimate the profit from the order of new Viewliner sleeping cars in several different ways; a low estimate makes them worth about $2.4 million per train (less on the Crescent and Cardinal) or $9 million/year.
      - I have no way of estimating the value of retiring the obsolete and one-of-a-kind Heritage cars, but it should be significant for the Viewliner trains.
      - The proposed Pennsyvlanian/Capitol Limited through cars should generate incremental profit as well, at this point. (The PIP thought it would cost a little money, but ticket prices are a lot higher now.)
      - I continue to suspect that the California Zephyr does much better east of Denver than west of Denver, though I can't prove it.

      Anyway, when you look at the totality of this, what I see is three groups of "long-distance" trains.
      The good:
      * Atlantic Coast Service is contributing profits to help cover overhead; it's a better business than many of the state-sponsored trains.
      * East Coast - Chicago service will be contributing profits to cover overhead, given minimal improvements (such as the commonsense proposals in the PIPs) or the passage of time. (It also generates connecting ticket revenue on corridor trains, which is hard to estimate, and considering that, it might already be contributing profits.) It is again a better business than many state-sponsored trains.
      The mediocre:
      * Mississippi River area services (Crescent, CONO, Texas Eagle -- and probably the easternmost segments of the EB, CZ, and SWC, though it's hard to tell) require noticeable subsidies, but subsidies which are roughly in line with the subsidies needed for state-sponsored corridor trains.
      * The Empire Builder is also in line with the state-sponsored trains in terms of subsidy needs; the Coast Starlight is somewhat more expensive.
      The expensive:
      * The CZ, SWC, and Sunset Limited are *expensive*. Even before overhead. The Sunset Limited is particularly expensive considering that it only runs three times a week.

      Delete
    3. "Atlantic Coast Service is contributing profits to help cover overhead; it's a better business than many of the state-sponsored trains."

      Yes, acknowledging that most of them are making their profit on their NEC segment. It's not enormously clear how much additional profit, if any, subsidizing overhead the south of Richmond parts of each of those trains yield. They could actually be more profitable being truncated, since a lot of them get notoriously behind schedule, hurting their northbound performance. The Silver Star would also benefit from the S-line reactivation for SEHSR.

      Delete
  2. My experience with the Carolinian is that the load factors are dramatically higher on the Northeast Corridor section, not that that's a surprise. Still, it's a good argument for why HSR money going towards SEHSR seems like a good idea. Imagine a Carolinian running on the S-line (old Seaboard line), cutting out an absurd 2 hours from the Raleigh to DC time. A functional Charlotte-Raleigh-Richmond-DC train then makes Atlanta-Charlotte quite plausible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just compare the Piedmont to the Carolinian to see where the money comes from.

      Similarly just as the Carolinian travels on the NEC DC to NY (staying diesel IIRC), so do all the Virginia trains, whether Lynchburg, Newport News, or Norfolk. So I'm not sure, but it's possible that the Amtrak Virginia numbers are also reflecting NEC as well. They're all basically NEC trains that go a little farther, and a decent amount of their revenue are from passengers only going back and forth on the NEC. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it really shows how there's the Northeast Corridor, and everything else.

      Expanding out a bit farther, with the Maple Leaf, Empire Service, and Keystone Service added in, other than the Auto Train there's a very obvious dividing line between services that go to New York and those that don't.

      Delete
  3. Wish you could publish later figures than these from 2014. We have Fiscal Year 2016 results in hand. Things keep getting a little better for Amtrak overall, afaict.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just been kinda slammed with work and school and distracted by Worlds of Warships when I do have free time.

      Delete
  4. These numbers are all bogus and it is a deep embarassment to Heritage that they don't know any better.
    These are values reported by Amtrak's secret APT cost allocation system. THESE ARE NOT STATEMENTS OF PROFIT AND LOSS. They do NOT reflect the financial results of anything; rather, they report what management's algorithms say that each train would have to earn, above what it did earn, in order to amortize Amtrak's fully-allocated losses. APT reports do NOT comply with GAAP, have never been audited, and are not comparable from one period to another.
    2. The real losses, not reported by Amtrak in its APT reports, can be found in the table at A-1.4 of the annual report in the September Monthly Report. It shows $1.6 billion in "capital" spending--this is about 95% made up of annual upkeep of the fixed assets in the Northeast Corridor. That is the cash spending being re-allocated to other trains by APT. The GAAP-compliant annual loss in the NEC, taking due account of NEC maintenance costs and charging them (only) against NEC trains, is just under a billion dollars.
    3. After applying federal subsidy (and another $473 million in deferred maintenance in the NEC in FY'16) to cover the cash losses in the NEC, no subsidy dollars are left to pay for anything else, demonstrating that other trains all broke even, at worst.
    4. The Heritage Foundation doesn't know what it's talking about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, firstly, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the Heritage Foundation. I can get confusing this with the Reason Foundation, but Heritage is a new one. As for the rest, you'll find other posts regarding those conspiracy theories.

      Delete