LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The high cost of gas is pushing many travelers between Michigan and Chicago to passenger trains.
The Detroit News reports that the numbers of riders on several Amtrak train routes had risen between October and July.
Amtrak officials tell the newspaper that the number of people riding Pontiac-Detroit-Ann Arbor-Jackson-Chicago lines was up 5.9 percent over that period. The Port Huron-East Lansing-Chicago line has seen a 6.5 percent jump in riders, while the Grand Rapids-St. Joseph-Chicago line was up 7.2 percent.
Now, if Murdoc is running a few minutes late for work in the morning, he sees the Grand Rapids-St. Joe-Chicago train. As he runs late at least once a week (slacker) he often waI’ve been watching to see it the passenger load is up.
It might be up 7.2 percent like the article says, but it’s probably something like up to 32 passengers per day from 30. Seriously. The train usually has three cars (and often a second engine) and each car usually appears to be nearly totally empty. Now, Murdoc could be wrong and the actual numbers may be closer to up to 64 passengers per day from 60, but I’d be surprised.
Another thing to consider is that it’s likely more people get on the train for Chicago at St. Joseph than get off at St. Joseph from Grand Rapids, so maybe the number of passengers riding into the Windy City is 100 or more. Again, I’m completely guessing based off of what I see where the tracks cross my road to work, so maybe I’m way off base.
Are Amtrak ridership numbers publicly available?
The GR to Chicago ride is $47 and takes 3:55. By road, this is a 177 mile trip and Google Maps says it should take 2:55. At $4 a gallon, that works out to about $23 in gas, but there’s no way you make that trip in three hours on the highway, at least not at that time of day.
Regardless, I’d be shocked if the amount of energy it takes to move an engine and three cars (plus quite often a second engine) to Chicago is in any way good for anyone.
UPDATE: Missed this bit:
The increases would have been greater if tickets, especially for weekend trips, were not selling out.
Again, I’m sure that all three cars look to be 90% empty during the week. Something isn’t making sense.