Empire Corridor/Lake Shore Limited Proposals

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Amtrak57

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I rode Empire Service 281 from NYC to Syracuse last month and this has gotten me interested in proposing what the corridor could look like in the future. I'll list down the proposal, split into multiple phases below. Tell me what you think:

Phase 1 of the project would include multiple infrastructure improvements from the Empire Corridor west of Albany are needed. Amsterdam, Syracuse, Buffalo Depew, Buffalo Exchange Street, and Niagara Falls should all have double platforms so that trains wouldn't have to wait for other trains to clear the platform before they can go on. For example: If 64 is late by 25 minutes one day at Syracuse, 281 has to wait for 64 to pass therefore, delaying 281 as well.

Phase 2 of the project would consist of adding trains to the empire service schedule to fill in gaps of service in the regular schedule, with service between NYC and Albany being every 60-90 minutes during most of the day on weekdays (With 30-minute peak service) and every 90-120 minutes on the weekends (with some 60-minute pockets of service). Service on the Empire Corridor would also increase west of Albany with Six trains operating on that corridor on weekdays and five trains operating on that corridor on weekends (instead of four). This would allow same-day travel going westbound in the morning and eastbound in the afternoon/evening which currently cannot be done at the moment. Three empire corridor trains would also be extended east of NYC into Long Island. Two trains would continue onto Montauk while one train would terminate at Greenport, Long Island. The Greenport train would also have a Metroliner Cabcar in its consist due to there not being a way to effectively turn the train in Greenport (Unless a Wye or loop track is built). The Montauk Wye would also be extended to fit a whole consist there to turn around.

Phase 3 of the project would be to introduce major improvements to the Lake Shore Limited and the line connecting Boston and Albany. The Boston Portion of the Lake Shore Limited would be eliminated and be replaced by four new daily trains between Boston and Albany, making all former Lake Shore Limited stops. These trains would be named “Massachusetts Service” due to the trains mainly running in the state of Massachusetts. This would reduce the dwell times at Albany for the Lake Shore Limited while increasing the frequency of service along the line from Boston to Albany. One Massachusetts Service train would make a connection to the Lake Shore Limited so it doesn’t make an inconvenience to through passengers going west of Albany. The Massachusetts Corridor (Boston-Albany) would be double-tracked all the way and would have 2+ platforms (or one island platform) at each station.

Overall, the service pattern would look like this (Includes all trains that run on the corridor):

Weekdays:
2 Trains between Montauk and Hicksville.
1 Train between Greenport and Hicksville.
3 Trains between Hicksville and NYC.
19 Trains between NYC and Albany.
6 Trains between Albany and Buffalo-Depew.
5 Trains Between Buffalo-Depew and Niagara Falls
4 Trains between Boston and Albany.

Weekends:
2 Trains between Montauk and Hicksville.
1 Train between Greenport and Hicksville.
3 Trains between Hicksville and NYC.
14 Trains between NYC and Albany.
5 Trains between Albany and Buffalo-Depew.
4 Trains Between Buffalo-Depew and Niagara Falls
4 Trains between Boston and Albany.

Here’s a copy of a mock schedule of these trains (Note: all schedules here are shown using current speeds and timing that are in place right now, not including speed improvements that are stated in phase 4 of the project): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1sZOfZNYFYAiCxoSn5ETMSG-BbX3mn9tnP_m3xUi4RiQ/edit?usp=sharing

The final phase, phase 4, of the project would be to increase speeds on the corridor altogether. West of Albany, trains would be capable of reaching speeds of 110+ MPH. South of Albany, top speeds could be increased to 125 MPH and on the Massachusetts Corridor, speeds could be increased to make trip times faster.
 
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Palmetto

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Good ideas, but they all require the permission of another railroad. CSX, in particular, seems to have developed a reputation of being difficult to deal with [not that Amtrak hasn't!]. For the Massachusetts proposal. I am trying to remember what those stops were: Chatham [NY], Pittsfield, Warren, Westfield, Springfield, Palmer, Worcester, Framingham, Trinity Place come to mind.
 

Pere Flyer

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Rolling through Indiana on 49/449 from Boston as I’m reading this. As convenient as the 449 through routing is, the one hour of dwell at ALB was definitely the lull of the trip so far (likely to be superseded by South of the Lake congestion entering Chicago orbit) and the Boston-Albany corridor should see more than two trains per day. The transfer from Mass Service to LSL should be cross-platform—ALB has several island platforms already suitable for that operation.
The State of Massachusetts has some agreement with CSX to have passenger trains run on time—IIRC the state maintains the tracks and CSX is incentivized to dispatch passenger trains with priority. So I’d imagine the improvements in MA would be more achievable under the status quo than those in NY State.
I’d add to your plans a second LSL frequency each way, offset by 8-12 hours from current 48/49 schedule, and routing all LSL trains via TOL-DET-KAL on the higher speed and more densely populated Michigan Line.
 

PVD

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We have talked about ALB-BOS in the past. When someone has a way to do a permanent cross platform connection or second train without MA funding it, fine. Otherwise it stays the way it is, or service may as well be Mass run without Amtrak.
 

Pere Flyer

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We have talked about ALB-BOS in the past. When someone has a way to do a permanent cross platform connection or second train without MA funding it, fine. Otherwise it stays the way it is, or service may as well be Mass run without Amtrak.
Yeah, my first choice would be spinning off Keolis/MBTA Commuter Rail into a New England Railway and expanding into MA, CT, NH, VT, ME, RI, and Albany, as has been mentioned on this forum before.
 

Philly Amtrak Fan

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I would never want Boston to lose a one seat ride to Chicago. Boston might gain more service to Albany but having to change trains in Albany would be a pain in the butt.
 

Pere Flyer

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I would never want Boston to lose a one seat ride to Chicago. Boston might gain more service to Albany but having to change trains in Albany would be a pain in the butt.
Increasing LSL frequency would grant flexibility to eliminate the ALB split. Even with two trains each way, one can start/end at NYP and one at BOS. Additional service to ALB from points south and points east can time with the other LSL, for those of us who don’t mind sitting in more than one seat over the course of a train journey [emoji6]
 

Amtrak57

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Good ideas, but they all require the permission of another railroad. CSX, in particular, seems to have developed a reputation of being difficult to deal with [not that Amtrak hasn't!]. For the Massachusetts proposal. I am trying to remember what those stops were: Chatham [NY], Pittsfield, Warren, Westfield, Springfield, Palmer, Worcester, Framingham, Trinity Place come to mind.
I believe that infill-stations can be added.

Rolling through Indiana on 49/449 from Boston as I’m reading this. As convenient as the 449 through routing is, the one hour of dwell at ALB was definitely the lull of the trip so far (likely to be superseded by South of the Lake congestion entering Chicago orbit) and the Boston-Albany corridor should see more than two trains per day. The transfer from Mass Service to LSL should be cross-platform—ALB has several island platforms already suitable for that operation.
The State of Massachusetts has some agreement with CSX to have passenger trains run on time—IIRC the state maintains the tracks and CSX is incentivized to dispatch passenger trains with priority. So I’d imagine the improvements in MA would be more achievable under the status quo than those in NY State.
I’d add to your plans a second LSL frequency each way, offset by 8-12 hours from the current 48/49 schedule, and routing all LSL trains via TOL-DET-KAL on the higher speed and more densely populated Michigan Line.
That is also another good Idea, make two trains on the Lake Shore Limited Route with one to Boston and the other to New York. The only thing is that Chicago Union Station runs on a banking scheduling system for it's long-distance and other once-a-day trains from Chicago so in order to make connections with westbound long-distance-trains, It would have to arrive in the morning as well.

I would never want Boston to lose a one-seat ride to Chicago. Boston might gain more service to Albany but having to change trains in Albany would be a pain in the butt.
It would most likely be a cross-platform transfer from the Mass service to the LSL. The dwell time in Albany due to the train split is over an hour so this plan would reduce that by 30-50 minutes depending on the direction.
 

keelhauled

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My LSL pipe dream has always been a second frequency via Michigan, timed to run roughly the schedule of 353 westbound and 352 eastbound, and in doing so making an effective schedule from NYC to both Ohio and Michigan, while leaving the LSL to serve upstate New York and Chicago connections. You could ignore long distance train transfers for the new frequency in Chicago because between 351, 49, and 29 all stations would still have a sufficiently early CHI arrival.

It would end up, roughly, as CHI 1:00 PM, DER 6:45, TOL 8:15, CLE 10:45, BUF 1:45, ALB 7:45, NYP 10:45 AM eastbound. Westbound would be NYP 7:35 PM, ALB 10:35, BUF 3:35, CLE 7:05, TOL 9:15, DER 10:45, CHI 2:50 PM. Will likely never happen, but still. In theory you could probably do it without CSX demanding that you build your own railroad across New York. Maybe not in practice. A new right of way west of Porter is probably a prerequisite, though.
 

cocojacoby

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My LSL pipe dream has always been a second frequency via Michigan . . .
My LSL pipe dream is similar. Two separate trains. One to stay on the existing route Chicago to Boston via Cleveland and a second frequency running Chicago to Detroit and then through Canada to rejoin the existing route at Buffalo. Passengers may transfer between the trains in Albany if the reliability was greatly improved.

I think New York to Detroit/Michigan would be a popular city-pair.
 
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neroden

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My dream is two a day, both via Michigan.

One leaving Chicago in the early evening, arriving NY midday (with branch to Boston);
one leaving Chicago at midday, arriving NY early morning (Boston branch optional)
one leaving New York at midday, arriving Chicago early morning (with branch to Boston)
and one leaving NY in the very late evening, arriving Chicago midday (Boston branch optional)
It gives daytime service to every station, FYI. Also overnight from upstate NY to NYC.
It vastly improves accomodation for late train connections since it's less than 24 hours wait.
It fixes connections from Upstate NY and Michigan to trains to the South, which are currently very bad.
It could be implemented essentially instantly, given enough political pressure on NS and CSX.

Passengers to points between Toledo and South Bend could change trains at Toledo; the Capitol Limited schedule could be tweaked to allow it.

My *pipedream* is restoration of service via the Canada Southern but that would be very difficult now.
 

neroden

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Oh -- Amsterdam station needs to be relocated downtown as well as given platforms on both sides. There is room to four-track the line and have "passenger sidings" with platforms at the downtown park.

But the entire line needs to be purchased from CSX, who is an irresponsible mismanager of the right-of-way.
 

west point

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Neroden: Find that your proposal times make a lot of sense. Once the equipment becomes available Siemen coaches ()?) and finally the additional CAF sleepers this proposal will become possible But the 2 Silvers & Crescent route to ATL also needs more equipment. Then as well consolidate the rail lines between Detroit and Toledo to allow for one high speed no freight rail route. Then of coursethe south of the lake no freight route needs building.
 

Thirdrail7

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Your Empire/Long Island service is riddled with operational pitfalls. I'm not sure Metro-North has the capacity to squeeze more trains into rush hour slots and I doubt you'd want to send an Amtrak to Long Island to stew in Greenport for almost 14 hours. I'm assuming you'd have LIRR crews operate the train over their territory but I'm finding a difficult crew balance, which would increases costs. You may even need lodging.

The same goes for the multiple BOS-ALB trains. While the equipment has a nice balance, the crew runs scream "expenses".
 

Amtrak57

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Your Empire/Long Island service is riddled with operational pitfalls. I'm not sure Metro-North has the capacity to squeeze more trains into rush hour slots and I doubt you'd want to send an Amtrak to Long Island to stew in Greenport for almost 14 hours. I'm assuming you'd have LIRR crews operate the train over their territory but I'm finding a difficult crew balance, which would increases costs. You may even need lodging.

The same goes for the multiple BOS-ALB trains. While the equipment has a nice balance, the crew runs scream "expenses".
The LIRR would operate the Empire Service trains East of NYP so no Amtrak Crews would have to be based in Long Island.
Remember that crew changes happen a few times along the route to Niagara Falls as well so that no lodging coasts would be necessary.
 

Palmetto

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It might be worthwhile for New York to look at including another route to Buffalo via its Southern Tier, but I am hard pressed to think of a routing that leaves New York City to get to a place like Binghamton or Elmira. From Albany, it's a different story but it would not be easy. The Hudson River crossing is the obstacle. There was a proposal to connect the West Shore Line to the Hudson Line via the Gov. Cuomo [Tappan Zee] bridge, but that is going nowhere fast. That would allow a run up to Port Jervis and on west to Buffalo on the old Erie RR [I think].
 

cocojacoby

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It might be worthwhile for New York to look at including another route to Buffalo via its Southern Tier, but I am hard pressed to think of a routing that leaves New York City to get to a place like Binghamton or Elmira. From Albany, it's a different story but it would not be easy. The Hudson River crossing is the obstacle. There was a proposal to connect the West Shore Line to the Hudson Line via the Gov. Cuomo [Tappan Zee] bridge, but that is going nowhere fast. That would allow a run up to Port Jervis and on west to Buffalo on the old Erie RR [I think].
I fantasized of the converting of the old bridge for rail use but it's a little late now.
 

railiner

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I fantasized of the converting of the old bridge for rail use but it's a little late now.
While dreaming...consider restoring the now pedestrian-only Poughkeepsie Bridge to rail service. For a brief period, the Boston-Washington "Federal" operated over it...:)
 

jis

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Or one could rebuild the Lackawanna Cutoff so that trains can run to Binghamton from New York via Dover, Scranton as NY state has planned for a while. But getting NJ to stop dragging its feet on the Lackawanna Cutoff may be hard given its general incompetence at anything these days.

Even without that one could get to Binghamton from Albany with a relatively minor track connection construction from the Water Level Route to the erstwhile D&H, without dreaming about constructing bridges across the Hudson. Afterall those Amtrak moves to collect Viewliners from Elmira make it there from Albany all the time, don't they? AFAIK the track connection is currently facing the wrong way.

And about Port Jervis, a much cheaper way than rebuilding bridges across the Hudson is to build the proposed loop connecting the NEC High Line to the Main/Bergen Line of NJT at Secaucus Junction, and you have a route to Port Jervis from NYP. Heck, the new viaduct that was built in connection with the construction of the Secaucus Jct. Station even left a gap for such a track to descend from the High Line to connect to the NJT Main Line to Suffern/Port Jervis!
 

railiner

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Whether going thru Port Jervis, or restoring the Cutoff via Scranton, the biggest problem is New York to Binghamton would take about 5 hours by rail...you can drive it in
3 and 1/2 hours....
 

jis

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Whether going thru Port Jervis, or restoring the Cutoff via Scranton, the biggest problem is New York to Binghamton would take about 5 hours by rail...you can drive it in
3 and 1/2 hours....
That will remain a problem in most places where passenger service is restored using the old RoWs where rails were essentially laid on the cheap along the most popular cow path of the time. ;) A very legitimate problem, that is not cheap to address today.
 

Palmetto

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While dreaming...consider restoring the now pedestrian-only Poughkeepsie Bridge to rail service. For a brief period, the Boston-Washington "Federal" operated over it...:)
I studied in Poughkeepsie when the New Haven ran over that bridge to Maybrook. Speed limit on the bridge: 5 MPH. I never knew the Federal ran that route. I'm having a difficult time imagining how the train got from Boston to Danbury and on westward to Poughkeepsie from there. When I rode it, it was an overnight Washington-NYC-New Haven-Boston train [late 60's] In my three years there, I never remember seeing a passenger train on the bridge.
 

Palmetto

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Whether going thru Port Jervis, or restoring the Cutoff via Scranton, the biggest problem is New York to Binghamton would take about 5 hours by rail...you can drive it in
3 and 1/2 hours....
That's all right. Not everyone can or wants to drive. Especially NY 17. I-80 to I-81 is no picnic either, especially when it's snowing.:confused:
 
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