Intercity passenger rail productivity in the Northeast Corridor : implications for the future of high-speed Rail
Author(s)Archila Téllez, Andrés Felipe
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Joseph M. Sussman.
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The ongoing discussion about the future implementation of high-speed rail (HSR) in the Northeast Corridor (NEC) is full of questions on the feasibility of HSR and the ability of Amtrak to implement it. Indeed, the introduction of the Acela Express in the past decade was not free from operating problems, but even with trains running below their full potential, the Amtrak NEC had substantial market growth. Thus, it is not clear if a true HSR service is feasible in the NEC, and if the current prospects are potentially effective. To evaluate the performance of the NEC and its main services in FY 2002-2012, and make inferences about HSR in the NEC for the next 30 years, we use productivity analysis. We employ a non-parametric single factor productivity (SFP) Törnqvist trans-log index approach with several metrics. We set ridership, revenue, revenue passenger-miles (RPM), and available seat-miles (ASM) as outputs, and operating costs as input. In this way, we provided guidelines and a robust structure of analysis that can be useful for subsequent passenger rail productivity studies. We find that the NEC experienced highly volatile, but considerable productivity growth in FY 2002-2012 (in the range of ~1-3% per year). Amtrak increased its ability to fill up and economically exploit the available capacity, but did not perform equally well on the supply side. Service changes, technical problems with train sets, targeted capital investments, and economic recession and recovery were the main drivers of productivity change. The Acela Express and Northeast Regional were very sensitive to external events, had large economies of scale, and implemented slow adjustment of capacity via rolling stock and infrastructure improvements, which varied depending on the service. The characteristics of the NEC reveal a potential for a successful introduction of HSR, but although Amtrak's Vision for HSR in the NEC is realistic (in terms of productivity), it is risky and perhaps the time scale is not ambitious enough. We recommend revising the current projections, incorporate additional planning approaches, accelerate key stages of the Vision and include the FAA in the planning process.
Thesis (S.M. in Transportation)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2013.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Civil and Environmental Engineering.