2021 Tacoma Rail Highlights
Efficient and Reliable Service
Since 1914, we have worked to meet our primary goal of providing efficient, cost-effective rail service, and 2021 was no exception. We continue to fulfill our primary purpose of providing efficient, cost-effective rail service to the Port of Tacoma and Tacoma’s industrial areas (Tidelands Division), Lakeview (Capital Division), and the Frederickson (Mountain Division) in 2021.
Our line-haul count increased by more than 1,000 units in 2021 after decreasing by over 16,000 in 2020. An increase in intermodal platform railcars predominately led to a rise in line-haul revenue of nearly $400,000. Additionally, the Northwest Seaport Alliance continued to experience volatility in international intermodal trade leading to large monthly volume swings throughout 2021.
Unit trains and other commercial traffic were down versus 2020. As a result, unit train railcars decreased by 5% in 2021. In total, our two import automobile customer volumes decreased by 2%; Auto Warehousing Company decreased by 5%, while Wallenius Wilhelmsen Solutions increased by 18%. Most other commodities also experienced a decrease in traffic volumes. One exception was MacMillan Piper Company which increased its railcar volumes by 29%.
State of Washington environmental rules mandating the execution of oil spill contingency plans continue to be a focus. In November, we completed our first Department of Ecology supervised worst-case scenario spill drill.
From 771 carloads in 2020, total traffic for the Capital Division decreased by 4% to 738 carloads. The division provides service to South Tacoma and Lakewood customers through a freight franchise on the rail line owned by Sound Transit. Expenses increased for the Capital Division as Positive Train Control became functional.
We also operate the Mountain Division for the City of Tacoma. The carloads handled increased 37% from 2020 volumes to 1,811 in 2021. The largest customer in terms of railcar volumes, Hardie Building Products, increased by 80% over the prior year. Cost controls and deferred capital investment have contributed to expenses remaining flat from the previous year for a break-even operation in 2021.
We continue to work diligently to provide efficient, cost-effective rail services daily.