Travel on intercity passenger rail is growing in popularity across the U.S. Amtrak, the nation’s intercity passenger rail operator, reported a steady growth in ridership over the last decade; for the 12-month period ending in September 2011, Amtrak carried more than 30 million passengers, a first in the company’s 40-year history. This growth has resulted in widespread interest in developing new intercity passenger rail services or improving existing services with new station facilities and other investments. An issue of interest to the rail planning and policy community revolves around station access patterns, and there are many questions that remain unanswered on this subject. For this paper, these questions include: What is the mode share for passenger trips to and from the rail station? How far do passengers travel to access rail services? Has the market area for intercity passenger rail expanded with increasing ridership, or has the market area remained unchanged during this recent period of growth?
Using data obtained from on-board surveys of existing Amtrak passengers in Michigan and Wisconsin, USA, this paper examines the evolving nature of rail passenger station access patterns over the last decade. Specifically, patterns in the overall station access trip mode split, the passengers’ self-reported travel time to and from the rail station, and the spatial distribution of passenger home residential zip codes relative to the rail station are analyzed. Analysis shows that 50 percent of rail passengers reside between 8 and 20 miles from a rail station, depending on the route, and that the market area for selected routes has expanded in recent years. Rail planners can use the findings from this paper to develop new station facility designs or to correct issues that may be present at existing stations. The findings of this paper can also be used to guide the deployment of marketing and promotion of rail services to residents within the “catchment area” of a station.