If this post feels familiar it's because Amtrak has been having a very good year, and the California routes have especially been enjoying a surge in riders. The Pacific Surfliner is now the second most popular train line in the nation, beating out the Acela for the #2 spot.
I wonder if all the High Speed Rail press has been working as an advertising campaign for passenger rail in the state?
Just two weeks ago, Amtrak belatedly released their June report, showing the San Joaquin breaking 100,000 for the first time. That was an increase from April, in which the California trains also experienced new records.
Well, records are meant to be broken, and the July number show some more impressive gains.
The San Joaquin, serving Bakersfield to Oakland and Bakersfield to Sacramento, with 6 trains a day (each way) had 103,933 riders, up from 100,947 in June. This is an all time high for the line.
Of course this means more riders than in July 2010, which at the time was a new high, with 98,377. July 2009 saw 88,505.
What's especially exciting about these numbers is that the planned High Speed Rail line will begin construction in the central valley next year. The line will follow the current Amtrak route from Bakersfield to north of Fresno, before diverging. Many editorials criticized the initial construction segment, calling it "nowhere". Apparently, "nowhere" is a popular place to ride the train, more so than so called "somewheres" along the East Coast (see final chart).
The summer is traditionally the best time of the year for the San Joaquin. Here are the past 13 months.
Year over year improvement, the last three July's have each seen new highs
The real star of the Amtrak California system. The main focus of this route is to serve San Diego and Los Angeles, but some trains do continue north to Santa Barbara and onto San Luis Obispo.
This July, the train saw an amazing 279,908 riders blowing past the previous all time high of 263,417 set in July of 2010. Last month, the line had 239,984 passengers, so that's an amazing 40,000 new riders from one month to the next. It must be noted that the June->July transition has always shown a large change. July of 2009 saw 256,410 riders.
Like the San Joaquin, each July has exceeded the previous July.
The last 13 months.
This line offers service between Sacramento and San Jose, via Oakland. It is a busy commuter route, and popular with people doing business in Sacramento.
Unlike the other line, the peak is traditionally not in July. As such, it's the only line not breaking a record. 141,767 rode this July, down from 145,495 last month. However, that is the slightest increase over July 2010, which saw 141,479. Both are well above 2009, with 134,746.
The peak is a bit earlier in the year.
Still up year over year, but barely.
And here's how they all look together over the past year.
Finally, here is how the lines compare with the national network.