Amtrak’s On-Time Performance in Cleveland Has Been Pretty Superb Over the Previous Month

Seeing Amtrak in daylight in Northeast Ohio has been happening much in the past month because the trains have arrived mostly on time during the darkness hours. Shown is a very late eastbound Lake Shore Limited at the Cleveland Amtrak station on June 23, 2010.

The past month would have been a good time to travel on Amtrak from Northeast Ohio.

Due to social distancing orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, the public has been discouraged from traveling except when necessary.

That has led to lightly patronized Amtrak trains. Want a window seat in the middle of your coach? No problem; you can sit anywhere you’d like.

But perhaps a side benefit of traveling by train during a pandemic would have been a good chance your train would have arrived in Cleveland on time or better.

Despite its reputation for being the “Late Shore,” the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited has posted some outstanding on-time performances.

A check of arrival times for the four Amtrak trains serving Northeast Ohio between April 19 and March 23 found that No. 48 has arrived late in Cleveland just three times.

During the 28-day period sampled, No. 48 arrived early 25 times. It didn’t just arrive early it arrived well before its scheduled 5:38 a.m. arrival time.

In fact, No. 48 arrived in Cleveland 10 minutes or more ahead of schedule 22 times and 12 of those times it was 20 minutes or more early.

The earliest that the eastbound Lake Shore has arrived was 28 minutes, which it has done three times while checking in 27 minutes early six times.

Westbound counterpart No. 49 arrived early into Cleveland 20 times over the 28-day period and in all of those instances it was five minutes or more ahead of schedule.

No. 49 has been 10 minutes or more ahead of schedule seven times.

The performance of the Capitol Limited has been a tale of two trains.

The westbound Capitol has been early into Cleveland 16 times with seven of those being five or fewer minutes ahead of schedule and nine being more than five minutes early.

No. 29 has halted at the station more than 10 minutes early eight times.

Eastbound No. 30, though, has easily been Amtrak’s latest train into Cleveland over the past month, arriving early just nine times.

No. 30 has arrived late on 18 of the 28 days reviewed and on 12 of those occasions it was more than 10 minutes late.

It is noteworthy that over the course of 112 train arrivals, only twice has a train been reported as arriving in Cleveland at the exact time shown in the timetable. The Capitol Limited did it once in each direction.

Only seven times out of 112 arrivals have Amtrak trains arrived in Cleveland an hour or more behind schedule.

All but once the lateness was less than two hours. The exception was the westbound Capitol pulling in 4 hours and 42 minutes late on April 3.

That delay was largely due to a grade crossing collision near Columbiana, Ohio.

These figures may or may not be aberrations that are related in some manner to the fallout of the pandemic.

A valid comparison with on-time arrival and departure times reported for the same dates in past years would be needed to begin addressing that question.

Given that Amtrak has complained loudly and often in recent years about poor on-time performance of its trains that it has blamed on dispatching practices of it host railroads there is some reason to wonder if the pandemic has resulted in better Amtrak performances.

It could be that falling freight traffic combined with fewer freight trains being operated as part of the precision scheduled railroading model that Amtrak has to contend with less freight train interference.

It might also be that even fewer freight trains are operating during the pandemic because freight traffic has fallen even further as reported by the Association of American Railroads in its weekly freight traffic reports.

With fewer passengers, Amtrak has less opportunity for passenger-related delays. Trains can load and unload quicker and that might have enabled better timekeeping.

I noticed but did not record a few instances in which a train arrived in Cleveland a few minutes late but was able to leave on time.

All four Amtrak trains serving Cleveland have dwell time built into their schedules although it varies by train.

It is six minutes for No. 29, nine minutes for No. 30, and 12 minutes for both Nos. 48 and 49.

Some of the good timekeeping may also be simply good fortune, such as fewer freight train mechanical failures that can back up traffic as dispatchers try to route Amtrak and their freights around a stalled train.

It remains to be seen if Amtrak’s good fortune in Northeast Ohio on-time performance will last.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: