33mph is "high-speed" for rail transit - PATCO

August 20, 2012

Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) which runs serious transport facilities in the form of four toll bridges also runs a sad joke of a train line called PATCO. Over the weekend DRPA put out a press statement apologizing for serious delays that occurred in two consecutive rush-hours.

Wednesday afternoon an electric motor on one train failed and disrupted evening rush hour service from Philadelphia to the near south Jersey suburbs. Next morning there was another equipment failure that caused rush-hour delays.

There follows an apology for the inconvenience, and an expression of appreciation for "your patience" and how hard they are working to renovate the system.

$200m will be spent in the next five years to "make the high-speed line more reliable."

33mph is "high-speed"

It turns out the PATCO line is about 14.3 miles long and the trip from Lindenwold to central Philadelphia by the schedule is 26 minutes. That's 33mph.

Given that this 150 year old technology means that when one car is delayed all others are stuck behind it real average speeds are certainly lower than the scheduled 33mph.

No wonder the masses don't ride the train and the cars and the bridges are the real mass transit.

Average annual daily ridership on the PATCO is 29k versus 455k on the toll bridges SJ-Philadelphia (285k x1.6 persons/vehicle assumed): 10.5m/yr vs 166m.

The PATCO has operating expenses of $44.9m/year, almost as much as the four bridges $49.4m.

Operating expense per person therefore is $4.27 per train trip versus 30c on the bridges.

Average fare on the train is $2.28 and average toll per person on the bridges is $1.61.

Each bridge trip generates an operating surplus of $1.31/person-trip vs a $1.99/person-trip operating loss on the train.

And they propose to spend $200m over the next five years to rebuild the 33mph "high-speed" trains! Not to make them faster, mind you, just to make them more reliable.

The only word to describe all this: insane.

Numbers from here: http://www.drpa.org/pdfs/ar2011.pdf

TOLLROADSnews 2012-08-19

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