Happening Now

FRA Reports How Passenger Rail Measures Up

May 20, 2022

By Jim Mathews / President & CEO

During the first quarter of Fiscal 2022, not a single Amtrak long-distance train met the new regulatory standard for Customer On-Time Performance, while freight-train interference grew 12 percent over the previous quarter and remained the biggest single contributor to late trains, the Federal Railroad Administration said this week in its new quarterly metrics and standards report.

Although this is the third FRA report on Amtrak’s performance since the new rules took effect on December 2020, it’s the first report with a complete set of figures and therefore the first complete look at performance as the rulemakers intended. On-time performance now includes data for 20 routes that had been excluded previously because their schedules were in dispute, and the annual “public benefits” metrics are included for the first time.

The report covers on-time performance, train delay minutes, Amtrak’s financial performance, customer satisfaction scores by route, data on stations, and figures measuring public benefits such as the levels of service to underserved communities, the number of missed connections, the degree to which routes connect other communities, and how many people in large metropolitan statistical areas across the country have access to trains.

Importantly, the report’s spreadsheet appendices include much greater levels of detail around delays by route, the causes of those delays, and Amtrak financial performance than had been previously available. For example, you might enjoy spending this weekend exploring the spreadsheet summarizing actual versus scheduled run times for individual routes, by date, for FY 22’s first quarter. If you’re the type who would do so, you can download it here. Or are you more interested in understanding how late passengers were at particular stations? You can download that here.

The overall picture shows delays worsening, although ridership is recovering from pandemic lows, and customers reported 80 percent or better customer satisfaction with 31 out of 41 routes. Only one route – the Auto Train – dipped below 70 percent. Amtrak on-board personnel generally got high marks from riders; the lowest-performing category across the board was on-board food service.

An interesting statistic is the connectivity by service line. Amtrak reported 904 passengers connecting to a long-distance service from the Acela – the smallest number of connecting itineraries overall. The largest number of connecting itineraries turned up between state corridor trains, with 520,895 connections between corridor service lines. The long-distance trains’ largest number of connecting itineraries – 237,681 – occurred between long-distance and state corridor routes. Long-distance to long-distance came in at 125,222. Overall, Amtrak reported 1,509,535 connecting itineraries for all of Fiscal 2021.

I’d encourage all our advocates not just to read FRA’s report, but to download and follow the underlying data. You can bet we here at the Association will be doing that, with an eye toward using our new tools to take action on long-standing problems like late trains as well as to spot new ones.