Amtrak Corridor Expansion Laundry List

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

JP1822

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 8, 2019
Messages
47
As far as expansion of corridor service in the southeast - particularly in Roanoke and the Norfolk Southern heartland per say - not sure if I can blame NS, as they are going to be battling capacity constraint. It’s no longer a two track main from DC to Atlanta.

The “corridor plans” of Amtrak can draw some parallel to the M&E initiative during the Downs and Warrington years. Amtrak drew up plans, announced the plans, and then approached the freight railroads by trying to cram it down their throats. “What do you mean it could be a problem” was the simplistic way of putting it. Freight railroads were almost an after thought...

The corridors noted above are not as radical admittedly. Amtrak appears to be talking with the freight RR’s now. However, some of these projects pre-date Anderson’s term so I don’t see Anderson being very radical in corridor development - or as much as he proclaimed he wanted to be. Capacity constraint is going to be the main issue. And that should also be explained. It’s new trains being put on the schedule to develop a corridor. But to the extent that Amtrak can help and offer a grant to rebuild track where the second/third/fourth mainline was rationalized years ago, that will be for the better and help NS come around, as an example.

Rebuilding - strategically - some track rationalized during the various Class 1 mergers will help to develop corridors. Immediately coming to mind is the track between Richmond and Raleigh that was abandoned/tore up. Amtrak rebuilt the line between Springfield and Brattleboro, VT and this helped the Vermonter tremendously. But with low freight traffic it can now allow the State of MA to invest in and build the “Knwledge Corridor.” NC has done its Piedmont expansions, but with also track expansion and improvements! BNSF has said its capacity is tight between Twin Cities and Chicago. Second passenger train frequency is a no-brainer, ensuring capacity to run it, or installing track to facilitate it, becomes the issue.

And whatever Amtrak does, it should NOT give up the “slots” it has with LD trains.

But many of these corridors mentioned have been on the drawing boards before. Seasonal service to Rockland in Maine is the only major new one for me.
 

jebr

Conductor
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
Joined
Jan 23, 2012
Messages
3,799
Northern Lights Express (MSP-Duluth):
-To operate from Target Field station (Ed. note: Don't ask me why not from SPUD, makes no sense to me if the CHI-MSP train is terminating at SPUD)
To address "why not from SPUD:"

With the current track layout in the MSP metro, serving both Minneapolis and St. Paul requires a backup move to get out from downtown Minneapolis back onto the mainline - a backup move that is about 2 miles long, if I remember correctly. Between that and negotiating additional trackage rights, it's easier to simply serve them as two separate corridors. Minneapolis is almost certainly the bigger draw between the two for corridor traffic, and there's no easy transfer point to frequent, high-amenity transit along the trackage to St. Paul, despite it passing within a mile or so from downtown Minneapolis. St. Paul still makes sense for the Chicago corridor as it's the closest station, and you'd still have the backup issue in reverse to keep the train going to Minneapolis.

The Green Line (and, when it's running, the 94 bus) can serve connecting passengers nearly as well and as quickly as a direct train would. I'd imagine that if Amtrak approached Metro Transit with some sort of deal to pay the fares for those making a ticketed connection (maybe the cost of a rush-hour ticket at $2.50) Metro Transit would be happy to serve as the connection. Since the system is proof-of-purchase without turnstiles, it'd just take some training to recognize those tickets as valid fare. If the Chicago train is extended to St. Cloud, a connection could be made somewhere in the suburbs along the shared trackage (either Fridley or a new station at Foley Blvd. in Coon Rapids.)
 

Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,554
It is hard to compete against a complete new rail infrastructure construction by someone who will also have total control of dispatching. VTUSA is likely to have that eventually to Palm Springs. After that it will be interesting to see what arrangements they make with MetroLink. But still it is dispatching by a passenger outfit and not some 20th century fossil of a freight railroad.
Palm Springs? Or Palmdale?

And I tend to agree...the Metrolink arrangement is the open question, since while VTUSA can hope for access, I suspect the question is whether any improvements to runtime can be managed between Palmdale and downtown.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
25,549
Palm Springs? Or Palmdale?

And I tend to agree...the Metrolink arrangement is the open question, since while VTUSA can hope for access, I suspect the question is whether any improvements to runtime can be managed between Palmdale and downtown.
Palmdale. Fixed in the original.

Agreed with the rest.
 

lordsigma

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
840
This all is, of course, assuming that all of VTUSA’s plans work out and they are able to get it profitable enough so it continues indefinitely. The service looks promising but this is passenger rail we are taking about so it’s by no means a done deal that the service with succeed.
 

Josh M

Train Attendant
Joined
May 30, 2015
Messages
42
Detroit-Toronto: Are we talking a train originating in DET or one running CHI-TOR? Because the latter would be one long corridor, even if you did minimize stops on the AML ago major cities (KAL, BTL (req. for crew change), JXN, ARB, DER, DET). MapQuest puts the highway drive at 520 miles via Detroit and Windsor vs 237 miles (comparable to many corridors) starting in Detroit.
When Ford bought the Michigan Central Station, I saw an article somewhere (Detroit Free Press, maybe?) that mentioned there was interest in developing a CHI-DET-TOR Amtrak service that would use Michigan Central as the Detroit stop, because the rail lines that run next to the station go directly to the CP tunnel to Windsor. It would be a bit of a long trip for sure, probably 9 hours minimum even under the most ideal conditions. But I can definitely see a market for it, so maybe someday.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
25,549
This all is, of course, assuming that all of VTUSA’s plans work out and they are able to get it profitable enough so it continues indefinitely. The service looks promising but this is passenger rail we are taking about so it’s by no means a done deal that the service with succeed.
That of course is true of anything that anyone is trying to introduce. This is completely true of all Amtrak and State Commuter services too. Some succeed and others fail. All are part of an eco system, and sometimes things work out and at other times they don't. Think of all the Commuter and Amtrak lines that have disappeared voer the years to see what I mean.
 

lordsigma

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
840
That of course is true of anything that anyone is trying to introduce. This is completely true of all Amtrak and State Commuter services too. Some succeed and others fail. All are part of an eco system, and sometimes things work out and at other times they don't. Think of all the Commuter and Amtrak lines that have disappeared voer the years to see what I mean.
I agree but it is especially true of a completely private sector service like VTUSA where they are looking to eventually make a profit. A state that is funding an Amtrak corridor or commuter service is going to accept a loss if the service is providing the level of public utility that they feel is sufficient. Amtrak has several corridors that are considered "successful" that lose money at least on paper and require subsidies. Virgin is likely going to bail at a point before a public sector agency would. Not to say that I am hoping that is what's going to happen or that I think it's going to happen, but it's just that given that it's private there is even more uncertainty. It's going to be an interesting trial because Florida is a decent market as well as LA to Vegas... If VTUSA can't succeed in those markets, the prospect of a completely private passenger rail service is likely dead for good. If it does, than there certainly could be other areas of opportunity.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
25,549
From Amtrak's accounting perspective most state funded corridors either make money or are close to break even since the state funding is considered to be non ticket revenue. Who is to say that a state will not decide to fund some amount for a private operator. They already do to bring airlines to specific airports.

On the flip side we also have an example where when a state cuts its funding Amtrak stops a state corridor service. That is to be expected since again from Amtrak's accounting perspective the route becomes non-viable with the loss of revenue. So I fail to see a major distinction between the two.

Yeah the risk profiles are slightly different, but both have risks, very significant sometimes. Political risk is pretty much as unpredictable as market risk.

I do agree that many over the top VTUSA enthusiasts and fanbois have very little understanding of what corridors the likes VTUSA will touch and what they won't and I am sure in five years there will be a lot of disappointed and ticked off enthusiasts, even if Florida and Vegas succeeds, never mind if one of them fails.
 
Last edited:

Qapla

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
760
Something that may help their efforts in Florida is the announcement of a new theme park being built by Universal. This will provide an additional potential for an income stream as people from South Florida head to that area to visit the various theme parks.
 

Just-Thinking-51

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
AU Supporter
Joined
Sep 17, 2009
Messages
1,910
Problem is all the theme parks are not very rail accessible. Someone needs to put some effort into this mode of transportation. Too much freelancing, unlike the Airport.
 

MisterUptempo

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 1, 2014
Messages
176
Hiawathas:
-Current state subsidy is sitting <$500k/yr, and Amtrak has added Horizons
-Milwaukee-Chicago: 3x/daily trains to be added, may tip line into the black (Note: I don't have a timetable indicated on this)
The closest thing I've seen to a timeline on Hiawatha expansion thus far-

https://www.jsonline.com/story/money/2019/07/17/amtrak-hiawatha-introduces-plan-increase-milwaukee-chicago-round-trips/1755826001/

Amtrak Hiawatha plans to increase the number of Milwaukee-Chicago round trips from seven to 10 in the next five years, officials announced Wednesday at a news conference at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

Plans call for the addition of one round trip in the next three years, followed by two more in the two years after that, according to Arun Rao, manager of passenger rail for the state Department of Transportation.
snip

Milwaukee-area residents won't be the only ones to benefit from the expansion. On July 1, Amtrak added a new bus service that goes from Green Bay to Milwaukee.

The Amtrak Thruway I-41 Bus Service has two round trips that allow riders to take full advantage of the Amtrak Hiawatha service to Chicago because the bus route times and the train times sync up.

There are three Wisconsin railroad infrastructure projects that need to be completed in order to accommodate the additional trains.

Amtrak will add a second platform at the Milwaukee Mitchell Airport Rail Station. It is estimated to be a $10 million project. A $5 million federal grant has been awarded for that project.

The Milwaukee Intermodal Station will need to install new traffic control equipment, work that is estimated to cost $5 million. A federal grant of $2.7 million has been awarded for that work.

Amtrak also wants new cars and coaches, which would cost $39 million. Amtrak officials have submitted a federal grant application for this as well.
 

dogbert617

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 19, 2016
Messages
790
"Random" is sort of the only way to describe the list of proposals I ran into at an event a month or two back in Richmond. Some of this is down to state coordination issues, but...well, I'll just transcribe from my notes from a presentation by Joe McHugh:

Ethan Allen to Burlington: FY21
Springfield Line: MA extension expected FY19/20
Downeaster: Rockland extension being looked at seasonally, date TBD

Hiawathas:
-Current state subsidy is sitting <$500k/yr, and Amtrak has added Horizons
-Milwaukee-Chicago: 3x/daily trains to be added, may tip line into the black (Note: I don't have a timetable indicated on this)
-MSP Train #2: $45m in WI Gov's budget, $45m from MN. Total cost in the ballpark of $100m.

Quad Cities: 2x/day, timetable TBD
Northern Lights Express (MSP-Duluth):
-To operate from Target Field station (Ed. note: Don't ask me why not from SPUD, makes no sense to me if the CHI-MSP train is terminating at SPUD)
-Good support, timeline TBD
Rockford Service: Expensive, possibly troubled (Ed. note: You don't say?), lower priority than Quad Cities
Chicago-Columbus project: Issues in Indiana (Ed. note: No ****, Sherlock)
Illini/Saluki extension to Memphis:
-Being spearheaded by Todd Stennis
-A tentative timetable was given for the trains; all I got is that the Saluki would arrive in Memphis at 1845 and the Illini at 0250. (Note: Translating these to the NB trains, that suggests a Saluki departure at around 0230 and an Illini departure at 1115 give or take half an hour. That's one good day train and one horrid timetable but it would make for an interesting corridor. Per my recollection, they're apparently having some luck selling Tennessee on this.)
Detroit-Toronto: Preliminary work on this, $1.8bn cost estimate. (Note: Per discussion elsewhere, this makes more sense to me now than it did then...apparently there are issues between Ontario and VIA, so it sounds like some truly odd politics are at play here.)

Heartland Flyer to Newton:
-Amtrak offered to run at timetable speed without preference
-BNSF has been blowing hot and cold
-There's talk of a possible traffic study
-Cost frankly unknown

Piedmonts: 4th train estimated FY2020, with three more later (Note: I think these were in addition to SEHSR but I'm not sure)
SEHSR: S-line would cut time by 90 minutes Richmond-Raleigh
Mobile:
-CRISSI Grant
-2x/day planned, hope to start service within 18 months
-Talk of using the Wisconsin Talgos here (Note: But we've all heard that before, haven't we?)

Front Range (Colorado):
-Work just getting started
-Estimated $1bn price tag

Surfliners:
-1x train to be added in 2019, 1x to be added 2020, 3x to be added later
-Estimate of 125k riders/yr to be added with each train
-Coachella service is on CA's list, but...
-UP "doesn't want hippies on their tracks"
-Odd note that I think I have here: Amtrak had internal debate about the state/not-state status of the Surfliners (I think) and there have been issues handling upkeep charges with the legislature. The note is slightly unclear, however.

===== ===== ===== ===== =====

So, I don't know what to make of a bunch of this. It does sound like there's a decent amount of stuff in the offering in the next 2-3 years. LD stuff wasn't "on deck" (it is no longer Joe's bag now).
Have to say with all the talk about other Illinois service expansion ideas (Quad Cities, Rockford, and btw I'm upset that the latter may not get expanded west to Galena and/or Dubuque if CN I fear blocks that from occurring, but hope I'm proven wrong), I had oddly NEVER till now heard any talk about the Illini and Saluki trains possibly being expanded to Memphis till now. Would it only be one of these 2 runs from Chicago-Carbondale expanded southward to Memphis? Chicago-Memphis may work for a 2nd train between these 2 places (on top of the existing CONO), if the Illini/Saluki train leaving Chicago in the morning around 7-8amish were to arrive in Memphis, around say 5-6pm(forget the CONO schedule going north, this is a post I did off the memory I could think of on top of my head). Also, I wonder how the funding would work, so that one of these 2 trains would run to Memphis. Would say Tennessee chip in some money, so this would occur? Also, would a few of the existing CONO/Illini/Saluki stops that are less used in Illinois/Kentucky/Tennessee get skipped, so that this extended train would have a decent running time to Memphis? Would be a nice goal if it could get accomplished, and create a daytime train similar to Palmetto(NYC-Savannah) for the CONO route. Part of me worries this is a nice idea in theory, but not so sure if enough political will is there for this goal to be accomplished. My worry being, if Tennessee was reluctant to help fund such a project.

Who knows, maybe I'd pleasantly be surprised and my fears this won't occur are proven wrong, and it does occur? We will see down the road.....
 
Last edited:

Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,554
Per the discussion, Tennessee seems open to the possibility of funding such a train. Now, whether that pans out when the rubber meets the road is another question...but my understanding is that TN hasn't been hostile towards passenger rail per se, it just lacks anywhere to run anything that wouldn't be an isolated corridor (except to/from Memphis, where the timing would likely be messy with the CONO).
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
25,549
TN could fund extension of the Roanoke service into Tennessee thus getting direct access to the nation’s capital and the northeast.
 

sttom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
369
There is also the potential of a Nashville/Memphis line if Tennessee wants it. It's not like we lack rail in this country, just passenger trains and the will of the federal government.
 

neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
7,746
Roanoke/Lynchburg got handled separately. Basically, NS is being a PITA. SEHSR is sort-of in limbo as some of the damned study process trundles along. And I think that in Florida, Amtrak is trying to stick its fingers in its ears and shout "LALALALA!" as loudly as they can since either Brightline will succeed or it will fail. If it fails, Amtrak doesn't have a problem while if it succeeds Amtrak is so far up the infamous creek within FL that paddles won't help. [1]

[1] To quote a friend, on dropping me off at ORL after we'd ridden on Brightline a few days earlier in reference to Amtrak station staff refusing to check a bag half an hour before train arrival (but the Conductor having no problem with doing so trainside): "Man, they don't have their **** together."
After Brightline reaches Tampa, the correct move for Amtrak in Florida is to support Brightline, connect at Orlando, and abandon all service south of there. Of course they'd have to abandon Hialeah (which they should do anyway, since it's a nightmare location in terms of climate change); could relocate the facilities to Sanford, I suppose.

The catch is that Brightline is nowhere near getting to Tampa; it's years ago. By the time they get there, we may have had a hurricane take out Miami or Tampa. Florida is just a bad place to build infrastructure at all now.
 

Barb Stout

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
278
"Chicago-Columbus project: Issues in Indiana (Ed. note: No ****, Sherlock)" Why does the capital of Ohio not have train service and instead of Chicago to Columbus, what about Cincinnati to Columbus or Toledo to Columbus or Cleveland to Columbus or Pittsburgh, PA to Columbus or Cincinnati to Cleveland or Pittsburgh through Columbus?
 

Eric S

Conductor
Joined
Dec 19, 2009
Messages
2,482
The 3C corridor (Cleveland - Columbus - Dayton - Cincinnati) did receive federal funding in early 2010 but when the then-governor-elect pledged to cancel the project, the funds were revoked in late 2010 and distributed to other states.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
25,549
"Chicago-Columbus project: Issues in Indiana (Ed. note: No ****, Sherlock)" Why does the capital of Ohio not have train service and instead of Chicago to Columbus, what about Cincinnati to Columbus or Toledo to Columbus or Cleveland to Columbus or Pittsburgh, PA to Columbus or Cincinnati to Cleveland or Pittsburgh through Columbus?
As soon as Ohio comes up with the money, indeed why not? Gotta ask the Ohio Legislature and Governor. Even when they got free money they returned it unused. Can't shove a service down the throat of someone who does not fervently want it simply because ....
 

Philly Amtrak Fan

Conductor
Joined
Jul 25, 2015
Messages
1,997
It's easy to blame Ohio but Amtrak has never taken well of Columbus. Amtrak has never had N-S service in its 48 year history and its only E-W service was the National Limited. Gov. Walker of Wisconsin turned down funds as well but he won't touch the Hiawatha service because Amtrak took care of Chicago-Milwaukee well before he took office. If Amtrak had done so with Columbus, we'd have service there now.
 

MikefromCrete

Conductor
Joined
Mar 24, 2009
Messages
2,602
Ohio had a chance for the 3-C's service, but Republican Gov. Kaisch returned the money. You can't blame the long-ago discontinuance of the National Limited for that.
 

Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,554
Ohio also stands out as a particular case, historically, in that a north-south corridor (Cincy-Cleveland-Detroit, I believe) was considered for inclusion in the initial system map but was ultimately dropped because of a lack of local political support in Congress. It was, I believe, the only such cut. This is not, mind you, to say that such a train would have worked given some of the track conditions then...but it stands out.

In Ohio's defense, since then the only proper "daylight" service the state has tended to have has been, I believe, with the extension of the Pennsylvanian in the late 1990s/early 2000s...which got cut when the Mail and Express project was axed even though my understanding is that it was actually building up a bit of a market for itself. The WB LSL also has had some decent times in Ohio, but it doesn't have a passably-timed train in the other direction.
 

Barb Stout

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
278
Ohio had a chance for the 3-C's service, but Republican Gov. Kaisch returned the money. You can't blame the long-ago discontinuance of the National Limited for that.
Why did Kaisich turn the money down? Did Ohio have to come up with a chunk to complete the deal or is he just philosophically opposed to public transportation like some Republicans or some other reason?
 
2
Group Builder
Top