Biden Infrastructure Details

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IndyLions

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I ride European trains very frequently. With the exception of basics (speed, frequency and cost), Amtrak sometimes provides better service.

I much prefer seats in America to Europe, and I prefer Acela service to many European carriers, especially DB, which provides a very fragmented and poor service when compared to its peers.

Trenitalia is notorious for delays, and SNCF has its pitfalls, especially when it’s not the TGV.

OBB and SBB, however, provide consistently excellent service.
I agree 100%. I much prefer American trains - in almost every way except for quantity and timeliness. 😉

A lot of European trains aren’t all that comfortable. And I am no giant, about 6 foot 200 pounds.
 

Willbridge

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...................................

Of course, what will pass, if anything, will be quite different from the proposal. Time to start wondering what will survive and what won't or in what proportions....
One reason that your statement is so important is that carrying out all of these projects in a huge package that should have been done over many years may create shortages of human and material resources. The first rail lines in Colorado's RTD program were built faster and more economically than the ones that followed on their heels.
 

Seaboard92

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Actually I could see high speed rail as a big ticket project that is doable in my lifetime with the right mindset. But I wouldn't completely market it as a transport project.

It's really an incredibly large economic stimulus and a jobs program. Think of all the jobs you will create at the steal mills, and the mines that provide them with raw materials to make the rails, and the jobs at the quarry for the ballast. And that's not even getting into the fun stuff yet like bridges, tunnels, and stations. Now you're adding even more industries into this picture. But don't forget to provide all of these industries with raw materials you have to pay people first to obtain the raw material, and then ship the raw material. And that's all fine and dandy but then you have to pay someone to move the raw material to the construction site.

Then you have all of the engineers, foreman, journeymen, and other crafts that are all involved in the construction and eventual maintenance of the system which are all good high paying jobs. Thats before stopping to think about managers, and other departments inside the company.

So really if you spend a trillion dollars or a few trillion dollars on a comprehensive High Speed Rail System you are creating a major economic stimulus for the entire nation. You are having hundreds of thousands employed either directly or indirectly. And each one of those dollars is filtering thru the economy multiple times. Its the basic principle that if you give me a hundred dollars. I'm then going to spend it on the class I'm getting tutored in which will eat half of it up. But then my tutor is taking that money and buying things for her life. Then the rest of that money is being spent on things like food, and other items I need which is keeping those businesses in business. Economic stimulus when done right is a cycled in the economy multiple times. The problem is in this country we tend to give a lot of money to the top earners who already have enough income what is a bit more and they sit on the money and don't invest it.

So if we were to directly invest in a HSR system we would directly and indirectly have a very large economic stimulus. And that's not even factoring in how ridership will work and how businesses will grow around the system. If you would have asked in the 1950s about the Interstate Highways I'm sure there were several people who said this was too big of a project that we couldn't afford it. But we did and it turned out to be a massive economic stimulus up until just recently. Now it's basically reached the end of the road to where it's creating new economic activity.

Here is a quote by Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson on the Interstate.

"We didn't build the interstate system to connect New York to Los Angeles because the West Coast was a priority. No, we webbed the highways so people can go to multiple places and invent ways of doing things not thought of by those building the roads"

High speed rail is essentially the same exact principle New York to Los Angeles is not the real priority and it shouldn't be. We would travel on it naturally were railfans but we are a vast minority in the population. But there is a large intermediate base that might take that New York to Los Angeles line for short distances like New York-Buffalo, Cleveland to Kansas City, Kansas City to Flagstaff. It's not just about the idea that the rail connects both coasts, its that it provides opportunities for everyone on the system to benefit equally.

In my mind the best high speed rail system is centered around specific hubs in the country with hub to hub trains along with a bunch of spokes coming out of them that are conventional trains and high speed trains. You can have a hub in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, Denver, St. Paul, Seattle, Los Angeles, and such other places. While the trains wouldn't have a super large affect on rural America there is no reason you couldn't throw stations on rural areas and run some form of a milk run using conventional equipment that's timetabled into the greater system to allow connections.

We need to think big in this country that is the only way we can accomplish things. When Kennedy said we would get to the moon by the end of the decade no one thought it was doable but yet we did it. This country is capable of doing great things you just have to get the ball rolling.

Also if you want indefinite funding for the high speed rail network brand the bill "The National Defensive Railway Act" and talk it up on how high speed trains will allow for rapid troop deployment anywhere in the nation, and how they can handle more troops and equipment than the existing air infrastructure. If you do it right you might just get a blank check. The truth is the interstate and the railways are part of the national defensive infrastructure of this country. It is how we can move troops, military equipment, and the raw materials to produce equipment and food to feed the troops. It is worthy of investing just because of that alone.
 

neroden

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The biggest obstacle is the US/Canadian border. On the Adirondack the customs stops can take up to 2 hours (but at least they're done on board unlike the Maple Leaf). A preclearance facility is under construction in Montreal, but that option won't work for Toronto unless VIA is willing to run sealed trains to and from the border with no intermediate stops.
Having driven that route, the idea of Amtrak running nonstop from the border to Toronto is pretty reasonable, actually. Yes, you lose the Windsor, Chatham-Kent, and London business for that train, which certainly isn't *desirable*, but it's *tolerable*. People going to Hamilton will probably be willing to turn around and catch a GO train back. People from Windsor and Chatham-Kent would have to drive across the border to Detroit to continue to Chicago. People from London might do either. If that's what it takes to get a reasonable-speed train with the current border hostility, it'll be OK. Better than running sealed from the Canadian border to Chicago!

I have also heard proposals to set up an efficient customs station in Detroit and make everyone change trains there, which would be tolerable.
 

IndyLions

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I have also heard proposals to set up an efficient customs station in Detroit and make everyone change trains there, which would be tolerable.
While there are 100 logistical solutions to the current issue of border crossings - I prefer another approach.

We just need to stop being ignorant as a country and end these heavy handed, paranoid policies at our borders.

There is absolutely no reason why travel between the US, Canada and Mexico should be anything more difficult than what happens when you cross a border in Europe.

If the terrorists were/are trying to negatively impact our way of life, we have effectively let them succeed through our own ridiculous policies. I remember the horror of 9/11, and understand the overreaction at the time. But that was 20 years ago - we need to take our mobility back.
 

railiner

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We need to think big in this country that is the only way we can accomplish things. When Kennedy said we would get to the moon by the end of the decade no one thought it was doable but yet we did it. This country is capable of doing great things you just have to get the ball rolling.
That was then....this is now.
Our country has an almost completely different spirit and mindset, than we did back then. We are too polarized and divided "to get the ball rolling". You would think that an 'attack' from an outside force would unite us to fight it together, but as the pandemic has clearly shown, even that has not happened...JMHO.
 

neroden

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While there are 100 logistical solutions to the current issue of border crossings - I prefer another approach.

We just need to stop being ignorant as a country and end these heavy handed, paranoid policies at our borders.

There is absolutely no reason why travel between the US, Canada and Mexico should be anything more difficult than what happens when you cross a border in Europe.

If the terrorists were/are trying to negatively impact our way of life, we have effectively let them succeed through our own ridiculous policies. I remember the horror of 9/11, and understand the overreaction at the time. But that was 20 years ago - we need to take our mobility back.
While I agree -- and in fact I thought that all the security theater nonsense was bad back in 2001, and I thought they were just using 9/11 as an excuse to implement fascist policies -- I must raise another question. The dark, nasty side of the US has been exposed. Will Mexico and Canada really want to open their borders to Americans? I see quite a lot of indication that they don't want to. And I can't blame them.
 

jiml

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While there are 100 logistical solutions to the current issue of border crossings - I prefer another approach.

We just need to stop being ignorant as a country and end these heavy handed, paranoid policies at our borders.

There is absolutely no reason why travel between the US, Canada and Mexico should be anything more difficult than what happens when you cross a border in Europe.

If the terrorists were/are trying to negatively impact our way of life, we have effectively let them succeed through our own ridiculous policies. I remember the horror of 9/11, and understand the overreaction at the time. But that was 20 years ago - we need to take our mobility back.
Although not involving Mexico, discussions were underway several years ago for a "perimeter" border around Canada and the US, with shared enforcement and relaxed internal crossing restrictions. The talks actually looked to be going somewhere and were during a period of relative calm in the world, and before protectionism in the US and anti-American sentiments in Canada were the factors they are today. The liberal media here crucified then PM Harper for "selling out" to the US and the whole thing just "went away". Two elections later in both countries and here we are.

Discussion papers are still searchable in archives - here's one from each side:
 

fdaley

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The things I think are amazing about the Biden infrastructure plan are these:

1. The combined total for transit ($85B) and Amtrak ($80B) is more than the combined total for roads and bridges ($115B) and airports ($25B). For rail especially, this is huge, given that Amtrak usually is at 1 or 2 percent of federal transportation funding.
2. The highway money is directed toward repairing what we have, rather than paying for new or wider roads, and the airport money is directed toward things like improving connections to transit, rather than building new airports.

Both of these are transformational as statements of transportation priorities -- and well worth fighting for.

On the rail portion, the trick will be settling on what metrics are used to evaluate projects so that we get the best use of the $80B. I am not sure I have full confidence in the current leadership in Amtrak to choose wisely, so I am hoping there is some direction from Congress and the administration on this.

The $80B certainly won't cover all of the routes on Amtrak's "half-baked map," but if the Biden administration goes forward by following the priorities articulated by this bill, a lot of good stuff could get accomplished.
 

IndyLions

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...Will Mexico and Canada really want to open their borders to Americans? I see quite a lot of indication that they don't want to. And I can't blame them.
If our leaders start treating them as the neighbors and the allies that they are and not third world countries - then their attitude will change quickly, as it should.

I think both Canadians and Mexicans realize that Americans aren’t just what their leaders project. The further we get away from some of our recent bombastic attitudes among our leaders, the better off we will be.
 

NS VIA Fan

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Having driven that route, the idea of Amtrak running nonstop from the border to Toronto is pretty reasonable, actually. Yes, you lose the Windsor, Chatham-Kent, and London business for that train, which certainly isn't *desirable*, but it's *tolerable*.
No.....not *tolerable* at all to run 'sealed' for 225 miles and 4 hrs between Toronto and Windsor and bypass potential passengers from London pop 510,000 and Hamilton 775,000 alone plus Chatham/Kent and even Waterloo Region depending on the route followed.

People going to Hamilton will probably be willing to turn around and catch a GO train back.
If I lived in Hamilton I certainly wouldn't be willing to pass by my home there......continue onto Toronto then be back in Hamilton again over 2 hrs later.

I have also heard proposals to set up an efficient customs station in Detroit and make everyone change trains there, which would be tolerable.
That's what makes the most sense: frequent VIA or GO Trains interchanging with frequent Amtrak trains at a common facility on the Border at Niagara Falls and Detroit where passengers would clear either US CBP or Canadian CBSA
 

Tlcooper93

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Actually I could see high speed rail as a big ticket project that is doable in my lifetime with the right mindset. But I wouldn't completely market it as a transport project.

It's really an incredibly large economic stimulus and a jobs program. Think of all the jobs you will create at the steal mills, and the mines that provide them with raw materials to make the rails, and the jobs at the quarry for the ballast. And that's not even getting into the fun stuff yet like bridges, tunnels, and stations. Now you're adding even more industries into this picture. But don't forget to provide all of these industries with raw materials you have to pay people first to obtain the raw material, and then ship the raw material. And that's all fine and dandy but then you have to pay someone to move the raw material to the construction site.

Then you have all of the engineers, foreman, journeymen, and other crafts that are all involved in the construction and eventual maintenance of the system which are all good high paying jobs. Thats before stopping to think about managers, and other departments inside the company.

So really if you spend a trillion dollars or a few trillion dollars on a comprehensive High Speed Rail System you are creating a major economic stimulus for the entire nation. You are having hundreds of thousands employed either directly or indirectly. And each one of those dollars is filtering thru the economy multiple times. Its the basic principle that if you give me a hundred dollars. I'm then going to spend it on the class I'm getting tutored in which will eat half of it up. But then my tutor is taking that money and buying things for her life. Then the rest of that money is being spent on things like food, and other items I need which is keeping those businesses in business. Economic stimulus when done right is a cycled in the economy multiple times. The problem is in this country we tend to give a lot of money to the top earners who already have enough income what is a bit more and they sit on the money and don't invest it.

So if we were to directly invest in a HSR system we would directly and indirectly have a very large economic stimulus. And that's not even factoring in how ridership will work and how businesses will grow around the system. If you would have asked in the 1950s about the Interstate Highways I'm sure there were several people who said this was too big of a project that we couldn't afford it. But we did and it turned out to be a massive economic stimulus up until just recently. Now it's basically reached the end of the road to where it's creating new economic activity.

Here is a quote by Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson on the Interstate.

"We didn't build the interstate system to connect New York to Los Angeles because the West Coast was a priority. No, we webbed the highways so people can go to multiple places and invent ways of doing things not thought of by those building the roads"

High speed rail is essentially the same exact principle New York to Los Angeles is not the real priority and it shouldn't be. We would travel on it naturally were railfans but we are a vast minority in the population. But there is a large intermediate base that might take that New York to Los Angeles line for short distances like New York-Buffalo, Cleveland to Kansas City, Kansas City to Flagstaff. It's not just about the idea that the rail connects both coasts, its that it provides opportunities for everyone on the system to benefit equally.

In my mind the best high speed rail system is centered around specific hubs in the country with hub to hub trains along with a bunch of spokes coming out of them that are conventional trains and high speed trains. You can have a hub in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, Denver, St. Paul, Seattle, Los Angeles, and such other places. While the trains wouldn't have a super large affect on rural America there is no reason you couldn't throw stations on rural areas and run some form of a milk run using conventional equipment that's timetabled into the greater system to allow connections.

We need to think big in this country that is the only way we can accomplish things. When Kennedy said we would get to the moon by the end of the decade no one thought it was doable but yet we did it. This country is capable of doing great things you just have to get the ball rolling.

Also if you want indefinite funding for the high speed rail network brand the bill "The National Defensive Railway Act" and talk it up on how high speed trains will allow for rapid troop deployment anywhere in the nation, and how they can handle more troops and equipment than the existing air infrastructure. If you do it right you might just get a blank check. The truth is the interstate and the railways are part of the national defensive infrastructure of this country. It is how we can move troops, military equipment, and the raw materials to produce equipment and food to feed the troops. It is worthy of investing just because of that alone.
Wowee thats a long post. Maybe run for office?
In practice, I don't think this is possible. 1950's America is a very different place from a construction point of view. Many regulations, unions, and NIMYM aspects didn't exist back then.

Another dark part of the construction of the interstates, is the racial part. Oftentimes, all black neighbourhoods were bulldozed to make way for highways and roads, where as white neighbourhoods remained (Detroit, Texas, New Jersey). The sad part about the decline of trains is that it directly effected minorities, and poverty stricken people, who relied on train travel to get around the country and make a livelihood. Wealthier and oftentimes white individuals who could afford cars then moved to the suburbs, and advocated for making trains "obsolete." This propaganda tool that became so ubiquitous that we still see it every time a train proposal is put forward. Transit was frowned upon as a "massive social welfare program," and even since Harvard released the study showing access to public transit is the number one tool to bring people out of poverty, it is still a hotly debated topic, especially among the wealthy.

This type of reckless building, without regard for who you're bulldozing, isn't possible today (for good reason). While I do agree that a true country-wide HSR system would take a wartime herculean effort on the part of the federal government, simply branding the project as a defence project really won't fly, and I fear that country-wide HSR isn't going to happen within at least 30 years, maybe more.
 
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MARC Rider

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Do you think every major project must end up as the CHRS, over promised and over budget (and that is really stretching the use "over budget") ? Does every HRS must do 200 mph or have catenary? No. But I guess in the world of 15 Billion dollar 2 mile tunnels, you right, 2 trillion will not buy one much anyway.
Even if CHRS had built something minimalist, like a replica of the NEC, it would still cost big bucks because they have to build new trackage to reduce curves and such. They'd still have to tunnel under mountains in a tectonically active area ("earthquake county"), and they'd have to build a new rail tunnel under San Francisco Bay. Big new Infrastructure projects cost big money, and cost overruns are inevitable. Despite all the screw-ups in implementation, I believe the long term benefits will be worth the cost of building the thing.

These arguments about "boondoggles" sound eerily reminiscent of the criticism of the First Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s or of building the Eire Canal in the 1820s. If those hadn't been built, California might be a separate country by now, and Philadelphia and Baltimore might still be the principal cities on the East Coast. I'm hoping that the political tide is turning, and the American electorate is now becoming willing to spend some big bucks to make the country a better place.
 

MARC Rider

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Defining HSR is in my mind pointless, especially for America.
The Frecciarossa, which some say is Europe's best HSR service, has similar service and speed times to the Acela on similar length corridors.

NYC - DC: 2 hours and 55 minutes to travel 203 miles

Milan - Venice: 2 hours to travel 152 miles (on their direct trains)

The Acela, whether we care to admit it or not, is a decent service that does achieve respectable speeds, even when compared to (some) European trains. Not sure why Amtrak is so obsessed with the NEC in the first place. It already works very well. They should focus on improving other corridors. If we go to Asia however, all bets are off...
If we fix the northern half of the NEC (if possible), maybe the times between BOS - NYP can improve. Also, if we can lower the price tag...
Considering that half of Amtrak's passengers are on the NEC, their attention to it is understandable. As for making improvements, I'm not sure that there's much more that Amtrak can do with the NEC-North. The reason NYP to BOS times aren't so good is the slow running between New Haven and New Rochelle, the tracks of which are owned by Metro-North and not Amtrak. Amtrak might not need to greatly expand service on the NEC, but they do have to spend a lot of money on fixing 100+ year old stuff that's really critical -- Hudson River Tubes, Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, Susquehanna River Bridge, Connecticut River Bridge.
 

jis

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The one big elephant in the room about perimeter border is that the US has to be willing to work with the Canadians on setting border policy. They cannot expect Canada to roll over each time some hack in the Congress comes up with some stupid idea about who should be excluded. That has been the major point of contention, and related to that is the policy on handling Refugees and legal immigrants.

The US is surprisingly capricious, making it difficult to keep track of its policies let alone tie oneself at the hip to its whims and fancies, which is what is required to have an effective perimeter border.
 

MARC Rider

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There is absolutely no reason why travel between the US, Canada and Mexico should be anything more difficult than what happens when you cross a border in Europe.
Well, most of Europe is in the Schengen Treaty, so crossing between countries is like going between states in the US or provinces in Canada. What's it like to enter the Schengen area from the outside?
 

MARC Rider

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The one big elephant in the room about perimeter border is that the US has to be willing to work with the Canadians on setting border policy. They cannot expect Canada to roll over each time some hack in the Congress comes up with some stupid idea about who should be excluded. That has been the major point of contention, and related to that is the policy on handling Refugees and legal immigrants.

The US is surprisingly capricious, making it difficult to keep track of its policies let alone tie oneself at the hip to its whims and fancies, which is what is required to have an effective perimeter border.
The Canadians also have their quirks, like they refuse to admit people who have relatively minor infractions on their record, like DUI and such. That's what may have caused my delay at the border in 2008 -- someone with a name similar to mine who had a police record.
 

jiml

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The Canadians also have their quirks, like they refuse to admit people who have relatively minor infractions on their record, like DUI and such. That's what may have caused my delay at the border in 2008 -- someone with a name similar to mine who had a police record.
There are some who would not consider DUI a minor infraction, but regardless it's also grounds for being denied entry to the US.
 

tricia

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While I agree -- and in fact I thought that all the security theater nonsense was bad back in 2001, and I thought they were just using 9/11 as an excuse to implement fascist policies -- I must raise another question. The dark, nasty side of the US has been exposed. Will Mexico and Canada really want to open their borders to Americans? I see quite a lot of indication that they don't want to. And I can't blame them.
I can't answer for Canada (where customs inspectors have been nasty for many years), but as recently as last fall I've walked across the border into Mexico without even showing ID.
 

jiml

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I can't answer for Canada (where customs inspectors have been nasty for many years)
If it's any consolation, they're not any nicer to Canadians. When returning from Florida last year at the onset of the pandemic, we got way more questions about the possibility we'd bought a gun than regarding the virus. "Adversarial" is part of the job description and they always assume you're smuggling something. ;)
 

jis

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I can't answer for Canada (where customs inspectors have been nasty for many years), but as recently as last fall I've walked across the border into Mexico without even showing ID.
In my experience going to Mexico has never been a problem. It is the coming back part that can be a different matter :D specially if your skin happens to be not of the acceptable right light shade. ;)
 

west point

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Thoughts.
1. HSR should just be planned for a few locations. The Auto leaning legislators are really putting an effort to stop Texas central. IMO that is because once it gets running the call for more HSR in Texas will be overwhelming.
2. The USA needs to just push for HrSR. It can use existing ROW with it being sealed against incursions. Highway funds need to be used to eliminate grade crossings. Granted that will not stop every incident. Look at Taiwan a truck slid down on the tracks causing many deaths. Of course 125 MPH service will get the ball rolling.
3. The passenger ROW will have to diverge away from existing track that is too curved. Steeper grades can be used to straighten tracks. Best is to build another track next to present tracks solely for passenger trains. Allow meets to occur on the freight tracks with caveat to eventually build passenger sidings. That is what Virginia is going to do with its portion of the RF&P.
4. Once trains can beat auto times then Rail will become important in the public eye. Just look at the history of the NEC NYP<> WASH. PC drove the public away. Now more and more do ride Amtrak.
5. BTW it is 249 rail miles WASH - NYP.
6. I do not support the Detroit - Toronto thru Amtrak service however if implemented customs needs to be at the border so all the persons west of Toronto can get a somewhat 1 seat ride west of Detroit all the way the CHI and connections there. Another too much only looking at final destinations by many of our posters.
7. The EU cannot keep many countries to close borders because of Coovid-19.
 

MARC Rider

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Thoughts.

4. Once trains can beat auto times then Rail will become important in the public eye. Just look at the history of the NEC NYP<> WASH. PC drove the public away. Now more and more do ride Amtrak.
As a rider of Penn Central NEC trains, they always seemed well-patronized, even if the Penn Central sometimes ran equipment that had seen better days. In that part of the country, even 50 years ago, traffic was so bad that the train service was important. Even when Penn Central wanted to do the big train cancellation push in 1970, it was for the trains running west of Harrisburg. They knew there was no way anybody would let them drop the trains on the NEC. Penn Central also ran the (government subsidized) commuter services. In general, the northeastern cities had a transportation ecosystem in which rail was a big part. Chicago had that, too. Other than that, passenger rail was not a really important part of the transportation mix.

I'm not sure that he trains beat driving times back then, though every time I ride the stretch in northeast Philadelphia that paralleled I-95, it was fun to be on the train zipping past the cars. It is true that after the Feds put some real money into the NEC in the 1980s, the trains started getting faster and it definitely became faster to take the train than drive. Plus traffic was getting worse, and parking was getting more expensive every year.
 
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