Everybodys opinion on the best Commuter Operation?

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Viewliner

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I'd like to know which commuter agency everyone thinks has the best overall operations?

I think NJ Transit had done a wonderful job in its 20(+) years of rail operations, Light Rail, and Bus Operations. Maybe not the best, but a very good operation overall. It took a disorganized, decrepid commuter system and modernized and improved it and is continuing to do so. Its bus system is superior to the ones in the NJ area. Thats especially true when compared to Community Coach (Which runs from my home town to New York), which hardly runs on-time, has a very rude dispatcher in NY who scolds anyone who asks the same question twice, and deliberately delays the busses in hopes of filling them to (or above) capacity. I wish NJ Transit ran busses to New York instead from my town. Its building on its light rail system which got new equipment and accesiblity improvements. It does have connections throughout the system for all three.

On the rail system itself, its began filling in the gaps, with the Secaucus transfer (under construction) to connect with all but 1 line, to offer more transfers to/from New York and reduce travel time. It has service to Newark International Airport. And in 2006 will take over the Clocker Operations and will offer direct service (on NJT) to philly, where one could connect to the Atlantic City Rail line and travel to Atlantic City.
 

gswager

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I've rode on Metrolink (LA) and Caltrains (SF) so far. My best favorite would be Metrolink because it runs quiet and clean.
 

tp49

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I've ridden an lot of commuter operations LIRR, Metro North, NJT, SEPTA, MARC, CalTrain, and even BART as they are more commuter railroad to me than a mass transit system.

Ultimately I always compare everything I ride to the LIRR where I began riding trains as a child. Maybe this it unfair of me but it is how I think. That being said I think the MTA in NY (encompassing both the LIRR and Metro North), and NJT both run very good operations based upon ease of use, reasonableness of fares, frequency of service, adequacy of station facilities and that they make fare evasion slightly more difficult than many other proof of payment type systems by having conductors going around and collecting tickets and allowing people to pay fares. A major plus is the ability to take a train at a later hour unlike in the Bay Area where you have to leave by 11 PM if you want to make it home before the system closes.

That said other operations are good but I always measure any commuter operation against those back east.
 

Viewliner

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Thanks for your 2 cents, you're exactly the kind of person who's best suited to answer the question as you've witnessed the best (and worst) of both worlds.

About NJT though, I wish NJT would operate MidTOWN Direct (via the Morris and Essex Lines) an additional hour or two during the week (last departure from NYP is 11:49 vs Sun/Mon 1:34 am).
 

Viewliner

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Amfleet said:
I think the MBTA runs a very smooth, clean, and on-time operation, but that may change when Amtrak stops contracting the conductors and engineers.
Lets hope not. B)

Welcome Back, How was your vacation?
 

Amfleet

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Welcome Back, How was your vacation?
1. Airplane ride was fine. Sometimes you can't always result to rail.

2. I was up in Orlando one day to eat at Emeril Lagasse's restaurant at Universal Studios and then went over to Disney to see Cirque du Soleil which was amazing.

3. Otherwise my trip in S. Florida was "so so" (my family is getting annoying, but that's life at 16) and with a "New Year's" party with some freinds tommorrow I hope to draw this show to a close. School starts Monday.
 

Viewliner

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Amfleet said:
Welcome Back, How was your vacation?
1. Airplane ride was fine. Sometimes you can't always result to rail.

2. I was up in Orlando one day to eat at Emeril Lagasse's restaurant at Universal Studios and then went over to Disney to see Cirque du Soleil which was amazing.

3. Otherwise my trip in S. Florida was "so so" (my family is getting annoying, but that's life at 16) and with a "New Year's" party with some freinds tommorrow I hope to draw this show to a close. School starts Monday.
Lucky You, I had school the past two days, and with the snow here, I got neither a Snow Day, a Delayed Opening, or an Early Dismissal.

The worst part is the next "vacation" isn't till March, as I don't get a February or April one this year. :(

1. Especially from Boston to Florida and I know what you mean, I might not get to ride to Disney next December, but I'll get over it. :(
 

Amfleet

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You know (you guys are going to kill me for syaing this), but an airplane ride can be a nice change of pace from the rails. However when your train trip has to be cancelled for uncontrolable reasons and you have to fly home on some discount ariline that can be hell (aka my trip last July).

I do however see the headlight of an Acela Express of in the distance for February so I'll just have to wait an see.

That sucks, straight school until March. I have Martin Luthar King day off and that whole week after is half days because of mid-years, then only 3 weeks till Feb break. Time sure goes quickly!!!
 

Viewliner

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I have that day off too, but thats it. The only good thing is the Florida weather will be even nicer. Whats worse is it may be that way from now on. :( :( :(
 

Amfleet

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Viewliner said:
I have that day off too, but thats it. The only good thing is the Florida weather will be even nicer. Whats worse is it may be that way from now on. :( :( :(
You mean it might always only be a March break? The plus is you get out earlier in the Spring. Frankly, I hate all these vacations every 5 weeks because it just breaks up your learning momentum. I've stoped caring since I'll be out and away in less then 2 years (thank god)!
 

Viewliner

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Amfleet said:
Viewliner said:
I have that day off too, but thats it.  The only good thing is the Florida weather will be even nicer.  Whats worse is it may be that way from now on. :(   :(   :(
You mean it might always only be a March break? The plus is you get out earlier in the Spring. Frankly, I hate all these vacations every 5 weeks because it just breaks up your learning momentum. I've stoped caring since I'll be out and away in less then 2 years (thank god)!
I want that break up, its not that we really get out much earlier, maybe a little, but we also start later. I have under 4 years, and that time will probably (and the hopefully the School part) fly by.
 

Superliner Diner

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Original question:

I'd like to know which commuter agency everyone thinks has the best overall operations?
Let me answer objectively from my experiences. There are 19 commuter rail operations in the USA. I've ridden just about everything in the eastern half of the country. The ones in red I have not yet ridden.

1. NJ TRANSIT: My "home" commuter operation. By far one of the most extensive, but not the best, in my opinion. They have a long way to go, as we've discussed elsewhere, in expanding their system and providing a seat for everyone who needs one.

2. SEPTA: My vote for at least among the worst. Many of the lines have stations too close together, and they should be transit lines, not commuter lines. Equipment has mostly been overhauled, but they cars are still rather old. SEPTA has some prejudice against running diesel trains.

3. MTA/Metro North Railroad: Good operations, on both side of the Hudson, although frequency on the west side of the river (Port Jervis & Pascack Valley) leaves something to be desired. Could be better as well on the Waterbury & Danbury branches.

4. MTA/Long Island Railroad: Good operation, well maintained and well operated through its Jamaica hub. Easternmost sections on Greenport and Montauk branches could use more service.

5. Shore Line East: A small one-line operation operated by Amtrak crews solely on Amtrak trackage. Good connections with Metro North, but could use midday & weekend service.

6. On Track: Syracuse's tiny operation uses a Budd car in NYS&W livery, running between Syracuse University, downtown Syracuse, and a large regional shopping mall. Missing link when completed will connect with Amtrak and local and intercity buses at a transportation center. Currently runs Wednesday through Sundays, needs something on Monday and Tuesday, and more hours of the day.

7. Champlain Flyer: Small operation based in Burlington, VT. Fares are only $1 and based on honor system. Connects with summer-only ferry to Port Kent, NY (Amtrak Adirondack train stops there). May be extended east to Vermonter stop in Essex Junction.

8. MBTA: I've ridden all of the MBTA routes. Good operation. Need more services on Sunday, such as to Providence, and better headways (4 hours between trains in some cases does not cut it). Fares are quite reasonable compared to other similar carriers.

9. MARC: Biggest gripe about Maryland's property is no weekend service. Need more reverse peak service on Perryville (Amtrak NEC line north of Baltimore). Need more service on the Brunswick-Martinsburg line, including reverse-peak and middays.

10. VRE: Two well patronized lines. They are starting to get better service middays, but still not enough -- and no weekend service, badly needed for visitors to our nation's capitol.

11. Tri-Rail: A class operation, runs alongside I-95 in Florida's Gold Coast. Good frequencies, but does not serve downtown areas. However in Miami there is a transfer station to the city's MDTA Metro elevated subway. Fares integrated with MDTA.

12. Trinity Railway Express: Have ridden only Dallas-South Irving. South Irving-Centreport-Fort Worth section has opened since I was there, and from what I have read it offers class service between two major cities. Runs 6 days a week, and connects well with Dallas DART light rail lines at Union Station.

13. METRA: This Chicago-area property provides extensive service around the area. Good service 7 days a week, although the extended UP service to Kenosha, WI needs better headways. Gallery cars are the mainstay on all lines, including the METRA Electric lines.

14. South Shore Line: Known as our country's last interurban, it's a bonafide electric commuter operation, sharing METRA Electric trackage within Chicago, and then everything including street running through Michigan City and directly serving South Bend's airport.

And the other 5 commuter rail agencies along the west coast have so far not been explored by me. They are:

15. Sounder: Operated by BNSF and contracted by Sound Transit, one line runs Tacoma to Seattle, with planned extensions south to Lakewood and north to Everett. 3 daily round trips, all oriented to rush hours.

 

16. Coaster: Runs San Diego to Oceanside. Service 6 days a week.

 

17. Metrolink: Los Angeles area commuter rail, hub is L.A. Union Station. Good coverage of the region. Most lines 5 days a week, some limited weekend service. Connects with Coaster in Oceanside.

 

18. Altamont Commuter Express (ACE): This line runs through the mountain pass by the same name, providing service between Stockton, CA and the San Joaquin Valley on one hand, and the southern part of the S.F. Bay Area on the other. 3 daily round trips, all oriented to rush hours. Connects with CalTrain in San Jose.

 

19. CalTrain: Very frequent service along the San Mateo peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose. Construction underway to provide high-speed service on this route. Normally a 7-day operation, but weekend service is currently suspended.

These are 19 very different operations, with varying types of equipment, service hours, operating markets, etc -- and it would be like apples and oranges to try and compare them.
 

Bill Haithcoat

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I do not have a lot of experience with true commuter rail; mustly subways.

Had the question been about subways, though,I would answer "Boston", as I think their equipment has a quaintness and charm of it's own.

My one regret is never riding the old heavyweight Long Island pullman/parlor cars which used to run on a few schedules between Montauk and the City. They had private drawing rooms,also......would love to have ridden that...but, alas...I let it get by me.
 

Amfleet

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Amfleet said:
I think the MBTA runs a very smooth, clean, and on-time operation, but that may change when Amtrak stops contracting the conductors and engineers.
Quoting my self here. I think the MBTA has the best commuter operation, but Washington DC has the best subway hands down.
 

AlanB

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Bill Haithcoat said:
My one regret is never riding the old heavyweight Long Island pullman/parlor cars which used to run on a few schedules between Montauk and the City.  They had private drawing rooms,also......would love to have ridden that...but, alas...I let it get by me.
Bill,

I never actually got to ride in a Parlor car that was in revenue service to Montauk. However I did manage to catch a ride in one when the NYC chapter of the ERA sponsored an excursion in honor of the retirement of those old cars and engines.

It was quite a treat, :) even though they weren't serving drinks like they did in revenue service. Without a doubt, they were the plushest seats I've ever seen on commuter service.

The full day excursion was quite nice, with several run-by photo opportunities. We also ran on branches that hadn't seen diesel service in years, and in fact a few of the branches had never before even seen this particular type of equipment.
 

Bill Haithcoat

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Amfleet, you mentioned that we would kill you for saying "a plane could be a nice change of pace".....well, I, for one, will not kill you. I, too, sometimes fit the plane or bus into my itinerary. I actually enjoy ALL forms of transport---just happen to be completely addicted to the trains....sometimes riding ohter means shows you what the rails are doing better(like food) or not so good(like punctuality). Oh yes, I have taken one cruise and enjoyed that. So I will ride anything that is moving, but of course, it is only the trains which live in my heart.
 

Viewliner

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Amfleet said:
Amfleet said:
I think the MBTA runs a very smooth, clean, and on-time operation, but that may change when Amtrak stops contracting the conductors and engineers.
Quoting my self here. I think the MBTA has the best commuter operation, but Washington DC has the best subway hands down.
I agree about the Washington Subways, but can't voice my opinion on MBTA as I haven't ridden it yet.
 

Viewliner

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Bill Haithcoat said:
Amfleet, you mentioned that we would kill you for saying "a plane could be a nice change of pace".....well, I, for one, will not kill you. I, too, sometimes fit the plane or bus into my itinerary. I actually enjoy ALL forms of transport---just happen to be completely addicted to the trains....sometimes riding ohter means shows you what the rails are doing better(like food) or not so good(like punctuality). Oh yes, I have taken one cruise and enjoyed that. So I will ride anything that is moving, but of course, it is only the trains which live in my heart.
Sometimes we have no choice with the rail system. I'll agree to Bill's statement, as I sort of like planes, especially the take off. But the best thing about using other forms of transportation is that it reminds me how good the train is and makes it that much more special to ride.
 

Amfleet

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It was quite a treat,  even though they weren't serving drinks like they did in revenue service. Without a doubt, they were the plushest seats I've ever seen on commuter service.
How would you compare the car to an Amfleet I Coach, refurbished and unrefurbished.
Amfleet, you mentioned that we would kill you for saying "a plane could be a nice change of pace".....well, I, for one, will not kill you. I, too, sometimes fit the plane or bus into my itinerary. I actually enjoy ALL forms of transport---just happen to be completely addicted to the trains....sometimes riding ohter means shows you what the rails are doing better(like food) or not so good(like punctuality). Oh yes, I have taken one cruise and enjoyed that. So I will ride anything that is moving, but of course, it is only the trains which live in my heart.
I enjoy planes very much now, I used to be scared out of my mind of them when I was around 9 years old. At the age 12 I even wanted to be a pilot, but I've changed my mind. Like Viewliner take off is my favorite part and I don't mind a little turbulance when crusing. Buses are okay. I took one from the Cape to New York in mid-December and it was nice I just can't stand the small seats and I think a 5 hour ride would be my max. Now comming from Cape Cod there is nothing like a good boat ride. Whether its on a cruise along the Cape Cod Canal, a ferry to the Vineyard, a whale watch, or a speed boat ride in Nantucket sound. Then, like Viewliner said the train can be a bit more special to ride after all of that.
 

Allen Dee

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Superliner Diner said:
17.  Metrolink:  Los Angeles area commuter rail, hub is L.A. Union Station.   Good coverage of the region. Most lines 5 days a week, some limited weekend service.   Connects with Coaster in Oceanside.
60 years ago Southern California had the largest interurban rail system in the country. 20 years later the once-mighty Pacific Electric Railway was completely abandonded save for a few freight lines. For decades, the only reliable way to get around was by automobile.

Today, Metrolink boasts one of the largest commuter rail systems in the country. Much of the system is single track, but work is underway to double track most of the system.

Superliner Diner said:
19.  CalTrain:  Very frequent service along the San Mateo peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose.  Construction underway to provide high-speed service on this route.   Normally a 7-day operation, but weekend service is currently suspended.
Cal Train has my vote as the most improved commuter rail system in the country. Considering that the SP tried desparately to abandon this route during the 60s and 70s, look at what the line will look like when the construction projects are finished. Most of the route will be 3 or 4 tracks with high-speed "Baby Bullets" operating on the center tracks.
 

AlanB

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Amfleet said:
AlanB said:
It was quite a treat,  even though they weren't serving drinks like they did in revenue service. Without a doubt, they were the plushest seats I've ever seen on commuter service.
How would you compare the car to an Amfleet I Coach, refurbished and unrefurbished.
Amfleet,

There is no comparison; it'd be like comparing Apples to Oranges. In no way shape or form did these seats even resemble normal passenger seats on a train. They don't even compare to a first class seat on either the Metroliner or Acela Express.

Think individual cushioned upholstered chairs. Granted they were not plush recliners, or anything like that, but they were nice pleasant change from a normal commuter/Amtrak train seat.

The closest thing I can think to describe would be tell you to think of the type of single seat chairs you might see in a Club Acela lounge. In fact I'll email you a picture of a similar style of chair that I took in the Boston Club Acela Lounge. Perhaps you'd be good enough to put it up on your site when you have time, and then place a link here so that others can have a better idea of what I saw. :)
 
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