Happening Now

September OTP: Summer Slams Ease Somewhat

October 14, 2022

Amtrak’s customer on-time performance (OTP) in September deteriorated slightly in the Northeast Corridor while improving modestly on state-supported corridors and on the long-distance National Network trains.

Data shared with us by Amtrak’s Host Railroad Group shows that many trains regardless of business unit failed to reach the legally mandated 80% customer OTP standard in September. Northeast Regional trains serving Roanoke, for example, were only 67.5 percent on-time during the month, and the typical passenger on the train endured nearly an hour of delay – 57 minutes.

As a group, the state-supported trains fell about four percentage points short of meeting the 80% Customer OTP standard, with the average state-supported route passenger experiencing 40 minutes of delay – a little better than the 45 minutes-delay average for the previous 12 months. Among those services, however, the Capitol Corridor, Downeaster, Empire service, Hiawatha, and Carl Sandburg/Illinois Zephyr all met or exceeded the Customer OTP standard.

The clear winner was the Hiawatha, boasting a 93.8 percent Customer OTP record for the 12 months ending in September.

Last week’s terrible performance on the Wolverine prompted many queries this week to us at the Association about that route’s record. On-time performance for the Wolverine service between Pontiac, Mich., and Chicago in September nearly met the standard at 77.1 percent, a significant improvement over the 61.5 percent 12-month average. Even so, for the 12 months through September the typical delay for a late Wolverine passenger was about an hour.

Although Customer OTP remains dismal for many long-distance trains – the National Network as a whole was only on-time a bit more than half of the time in September – that aggregate result hides real improvements notched during the month.

The Auto Train wins the “most improved” award in September, with the typical delay minutes experienced by late passengers improving 58 percent over the 12-month average, at 53 minutes. Among other trains that did much better in September than their 12-month average were the Crescent, the Southwest Chief, the Silver Star, the City of New Orleans, and the Lake Shore Limited. In fact, of 14 long-distance National Network routes operated in September, eight of them were at least 20 percent better than their 12-month rolling average.

Even so, not a single route managed to meet the 80 percent Customer OTP threshold in September (although at 73.6 percent and 79.4 percent, the Lake Shore and the Palmetto, respectively came close). The worst Customer OTP record in September belongs to the Sunset Limited, at only 11 percent, or 69 percent short of the legal standard. The California Zephyr, which was 22 percent better in delay minutes in September than its 12-month baseline, nonetheless managed only 22 percent Customer OTP during the month.

There are now enough quarters of late-trains data to satisfy requirements in the Federal Railroad Administration’s newly implemented passenger rail metrics and standards rules needed to file a complaint. Rail Passengers understands that Amtrak could be filing formal complaints with the Surface Transportation Board soon.