Sunday, June 12, 2011

California intrastate air travel and high speed rail

Using information from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, I've compiled a rudimentary list of air travel within the state of California that may be affected by high speed rail.. The methodology was quite simplistic: Each airport in a city connected by high speed rail was selected and any California destinations within the top 10 destination airports recorded with the 2010 passenger data. It was assumed that Long Beach passengers would be served by Los Angeles Union Station, Oakland passengers by the San Francisco Transbay Transit Center, and Santa Ana passengers by the Irvine station.

California intrastate air travel (March 2010-February 2011):

Bakersfield (BFL): 19,000 to SFO, 14,000 to LAX

Burbank (BUR): 402,000 to Oakland, 230,000 to Sacramento, 220,000 to San Jose, 69,000 to SFO

Fresno (FAT): 111,000 to LAX, 44,000 to SFO

Los Angeles (LAX): 1,499,000 to SFO

Long Beach (LGB): 164,000 to Oakland, 160,000 to SFO, 70,000 to Sacramento

Oakland (OAK): 400,000 to Burbank, 375,000 to LAX, 363,000 to San Diego, 253,000 to Ontario, 249,000 to Santa Ana

Ontario (ONT): 260,000 to Oakland, 240,000 to Sacramento, 146,000 to San Jose

Sacramento (SMF): 360,00 to San Diego, 303,000 to LAX, 245,000 to Ontario, 229,000 to Burbank, 228,000 to SNA

San Francisco (SFO): 1,503,000 to LAX, 716,000 to San Diego

San Diego (SAN): 732,000 to SFO, 405,000 to LAX (almost certainly just connecting travel), 383,000 to Oakland, 357,000 to Sacramento

San Jose (SJC): 453,000 to LAX, 318,000 to San Diego, 247,000 to SNA, 223,000 to Burbank.

Santa Ana (SNA): 356,000 to SFO, 252,000 to San Jose, 249,000 to Oakland, 231,000 to Sacramento

Stockton (SCK): 11,000 to Long Beach

If we mirror any pairs with missing data on the assumption that nearly all passengers will return to their original airport, and we ignore SAN-LAX traffic as either being erroneous or solely composed of long distance connections, we find the following information, in the context of CAHSRA travel time estimates:

0-120 minutes:
Bakersfield-San Francisco: 38,000 (111 minutes)
Bakersfield-Los Angeles: 28,000 (54 minutes)
Fresno-San Francisco:88,000 (80 minutes)
Fresno-Los Angeles: 222,000 (84 minutes)
Stockton-Los Angeles: 22,000 (119 minutes)

120-180 minutes:
Los Angeles-San Francisco: 3,701,000 (160 minutes)
Los Angeles-San Jose: 906,000 (129 minutes)
Los Angeles-Sacramento: 746,000 (137 minutes)
Burbank-San Francisco: 802,000 (154 minutes)
Burbank-San Jose: 443,000 (125 minutes)
Burbank-Sacramento: 459,000 (133 minutes)
Irvine-San Jose: 499,000 (156 minutes)
Irvine-Sacramento: 459,000 (164 minutes)
Ontario-San Jose: 292,000 (153 minutes)
Ontario-Sacramento: 485,000 (161 minutes)

180-240 minutes:
San Diego-San Francisco: 2,194,000 (236 minutes)
San Diego-San Jose: 636,000 (207 minutes)
San Diego-Sacramento: 717,000 (215 minutes)
Ontario-San Francisco: 513,000 (182 minutes)
Irvine-San Francisco: 1,210,000 (186 minutes)

This presents us with a notional market representing approximately 14,460,000 annual trips which may be captured by high speed rail. Not all of these are valid trips for that market, as some represent connecting flights to longer distance flights, but that number is not easily quantifiable.

If we assume market captures of 100%, 70% and 50% for the listed trip segments, in line with international and domestic experience, we come up with a total of 8,866,100 passengers who would transfer their mode of travel to the CAHSR system from air travel, not counting for population growth by the time the full system is built. This may be a potentially low number, since approximately 344,000 passengers are "lost" assuming 50% market share for Ontario and Irvine to San Francisco, despite being only a few minutes over the three hour threshold, however, this may also be an appropriate compensation for over counting long distance connections. The 905,000 apparent connecting passengers between Los Angeles and San Diego may be captured through the use of code sharing (as Amtrak and Continental do with certain trains connecting at Newark Airport) if an easy connection can be made via the Metro Rail Green Line from Union Station to Los Angeles International Airport.

At current airplane ticket prices (purchased in advance today for July 8th, one way, including fees; air passengers in the first category were ignored) and with the current HSR ticket pricing structure of 83% of air travel fares, these air travel diverted passengers represent $645 million in annual revenue. Even with the additional $100 million that Amtrak California currently generates in ticket revenue, it is clear that substantial revenue will need to be derived from automobile diversions and induced trips. Given the expectations of even higher levels of freeway congestion and higher gasoline prices, however, this seems to be a reasonable expectation, at least so far as the Los Angeles-San Diego corridor is concerned. Such ridership estimates are, however, beyond the purpose of this post.


  1. If airlines are already moving that many millions of passengers annually, what do we gain by investing ~$100 billion to move people by slower trains? A better comparison would be to the number of passenger vehicles traveling those routes daily, and how many of those trips could be expected to be converted.

  2. I love how in France the SCNF/TGV codeshares with Air France to make easy connections at Paris/Charles-de-Gaule Airport. They have a high speed rail train station in the terminal building with trains going in every direction. I thought it was convenient travelling from Brussels on the high speed rail to CDG Airport, then catch my flight to Montréal. So while airline passengers could become train passengers, it can also compliment the airlines by bringing people to the airports. It's also a good point to make that it will also replace drivers.

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