CVD-19: Passenger Traffic Vanishes

AMTRAK Slashes NEC Schedules, Suspends Acela, Vermont Routes. Commuter Lines Also Hit Hard, But Keeping Seats Warm for Bounce-Back. Transit Same.

26 March, Region-wide – Hopes of a passenger rail revival have risen in the last few years, with coalescing political support, growing commuter traffic, new regional services, equipment and track upgrades, and Amtrak bouncing off the floor. Much of that progress is moot right now, as society goes into quarantine. Whereas it seems likely that freight traffic transit will bounce back relatively quickly, and commuter/transit traffic will mostly return, it’s an open question what will happen to many of Amtrak’s services.


System-wide, ridership is down 90%, and future bookings down 85%. Northeast Corridor Amtrak trains were reduced on 16.March to an everyday Saturday Schedule, and further on he following day to 40% of the normal schedule. On Monday, 24.March, all Acela trains were discontinued due to a 99% ridership decline. All NEC traffic is now carried on the slower, less costly Regional service trains, which is down 94%. The popular Washington — Philadelphia — NYC — Boston NEC route accounts for half of total normal Amtrak ridership {Amtrak spokesman Marc Maglari, 22.Mar.2020}. Other regional services are also curtailed:

Downeaster (Boston — Portland) trains are reduced to two trips daily in each direction [from six each way normally].

Amtrak/CTrail Hartford Line (New Haven — Springfield) trains and and connecting Amtrak Valley Flyer (New Haven — Greenfield) are running an everyday Saturday schedule.

Vermonter (Washington DC — St. Albans VT) and Ethan Allen (NYC — Rutland VT) services are both being suspended as of 26.Mar.

Adirondack (NYC — Montreal) service is running on the reduced schedule, and only as far as Albany, due to restrictions on crossing into Canada.

Amtrak long-distance route ridership is down 64% nationwide. Amtrak plans to idle 40% of long-distance cars and run shorter trains. Amtrak had already reduced the Lake Shore Limited consist by one coach this winter (usually it is only two) which will have already constrained ridership.

Before the virus, Amtrak ridership had been up 6.5% systemwide. It was set to inaugurate a more revenue-friendly airline-style nonrefundable ticket policy beginning 01.March. During the crisis the carrier is reverting to no-fee reservations changes. {Trains Magazine, 23.Mar.2020}.

Amtrak has asked for $1 billion in relief to accompany relief funding for airlines. At press time, this full request is incorporated in the as-yet unsigned $2 Trillion Federal stimulus bill.


VIA is cutting Canada passenger train service by 50% in Canada. Business class and all food service has been suspended. It’s two key long-distance trains, the Canadian (Toronto – Winnepeg – Vancouver) and the Ocean (Montreal – Halifax) have both been suspended.

New York Commuter MTA

Still running on regular schedules, ridership on Metro-North is down 90 percent, and on Long Island Railroad down 67 percent {CITATION}.

Service will be reduced beginning Friday 27.March. Metro-North will reduce capacity by 50%, while running hourly service on each line with additional trains at rush hour. Wassaic service will be discontinued after 04.April. Service west of the Hudson will be running on a weekend schedule. Long Island Railroad will reduce capacity to 68% to around 500 trains per day, down from 740. Staten Island Railroad has reduced services down to hourly in off-peak times, matching the Staten Island ferry.

NYC subway ridership is down 60 percent. Subway service has been reduced and Express trains eliminated {MTA, 25.Mar.2020}.

MBTA has been running at “Saturday Schedule” beginning last week with minor modifications. First run commuter trains on all lines have been modified to arrive in Boston before 7am for hospital workers.

MBTA commuter train ridership is down 85%. Commuter train parking lots have only 7% of normal volume. MBTA commuter lines operator Keolis is not laying off staff, but has re-bid all jobs reflecting the change of schedule. Train & Locomotive crews have a guaranteed minimum earning if hours worked is low.

Transit and bus line adjustments also reflect the priorities in the crisis. Additional service has been added to the E-line service of the Green Line, serving the Longwood Medical Center. Additional Blue Line and some bus service has also been added. MBTA transit ridership is off by 83%. Bus ridership is off by 70%.

CTrail / Shore Line East

Shore Line East (New Haven – Old Saybrook – New London) and Hartford Line (New Haven – Hartford – Springfield) are running a weekend schedule, with a couple of runs added to serve essential commuters.