FRA Long Distance Service Study discussion

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It looks like a very comprehensive review has taken place and some of the oddities of the Amtrak Connect plans have been ironed out. They have made it pretty clear that what they are doing is making best use of what is out there and not building new lines (regular or high speed). Even given the gaps that have arisen over the years there is still the opportunity for a very nice national network. It will be interesting though to see how the various sectors can be put together to make coherent services. My little fantasy is a New York to Texas train :)
 
I recently submitted a comment discussing restoration of service over the CSX S-Line in Florida. I don't know if it will help, but it can't hurt.
Please tell me how to do it, perhaps just a link might be enough.
I live in Ocala and remember when we were fortunate to have the Meteor, Star, and Floridian. I know it might be difficult with CSX, but it’s worth trying.
 
Please tell me how to do it, perhaps just a link might be enough.
I live in Ocala and remember when we were fortunate to have the Meteor, Star, and Floridian. I know it might be difficult with CSX, but it’s worth trying.
Go to This Link and scroll down to the bottom. You will see "Contact Us" with text boxes to input your name, email, and the comment. I'd recommend writing your comment in Google Docs/Word and copy-pasting it into the comment box, but that's just me. Glad to see someone else that shares my view; this is a no-brainer IMO :)
 
At this stage they are not considering additional segments, but are looking for comments on who the selected segments can be best structured into routes. Other comments about additional segments will be reviewed but will probably not be acted upon. That did not stop me for suggesting an overlooked one. but remember, it has to address some unique travel demand flow that is not already addressed.

What has been suggested by the RPA Reps on the committee is to start at Map on slide 80 in the slide set found at:

https://fralongdistancerailstudy.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/Overview_Presentation_2.pdf
and share your thoughts based on that map so as to have a common foundation for all comments.

I just sent in several regarding route choices from among the dashed lines. It is necessary to give cogent argument for the choice suggested, not just saying "I think it would be great".

The sort of thing that they are looking for is characterized nicely by Jim Matthews in the following paragraph excerpted from the latest RPA Hot line (Aug 4, 2023):

When you do this, you’ll want to start at Slide 80 in the list of slides available for review. That slide is the final draft of the collection of segments that would make up the Enhanced Network. From there, you can consider particular routings that you believe would make the most sense. For example, would you recommend a route starting in Duluth through Minneapolis-St. Paul to Sioux Falls and Omaha and then on to Kansas City and points south? Or would you connect the segments as Duluth to MSP to Des Moines, Kansas City, Tulsa and beyond? Once you’ve connected a few dots, compose some narratives to explain your choice of routing. That would be the sort of input that will really help the study team move ahead with the Enhanced Network.

Hope this helps....
 
The sort of thing that they are looking for is characterized nicely by Jim Matthews in the following paragraph excerpted from the latest RPA Hot line (Aug 4, 2023):

I just sent in several regarding route choices from among the dashed lines.

The map doesn't show the segments very clearly, especially those with the dashed lines. Too bad the map doesn't have better detail.
 
The map doesn't show the segments very clearly, especially those with the dashed lines. Too bad the map doesn't have better detail.
Those are conceptual lines anyway, between the marked end points. But if you dig a little deeper you can tell where they come from since they represent currently existing rail routes and not routes yet to be built.
 
They had this one someplace, which was from a number of years ago. It has more detail, but only shows one route from Casper to Billings.
I know they only want to route on existing track.
1691535896511.png
 
They had this one someplace, which was from a number of years ago. It has more detail, but only shows one route from Casper to Billings.
I know they only want to route on existing track.
View attachment 33462
I like the route ending in Naples Florida. Not sure that is possible today. Rail now ends in North Naples and everything south has been developed.
 
I like the route ending in Naples Florida. Not sure that is possible today. Rail now ends in North Naples and everything south has been developed.
You are right. Realstically the farthest they can get to is probably Vanderbilt Beach. A more logical southern terminus would possibly be Bonita Springs. but I would be ecstatic even if they manage tor restore service to Fort Meyers.

However, I suspect no Long Distance train would be involved. It would be a regional service out of Orlando/Tampa.
 
A wild idea. CPAC and CSX is planning for the future to make ~160 mile Meridian - Montgomery a freight CTC 60 MPH line. If so why not run the new Meridian <> DFW train along that route then Mongomery to ATL as planned. Taking in present Crescent times that route will be quicker than the Crescent.
 
A thought provoking article fro Railway Age written by William Vantuno, the Editor in Chief...

https://www.railwayage.com/passenge...m_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=41209
Their expert from DOT goes back to the Railpax plan and other schemes that left the Pacific Northwest out entirely, except for running the Empire Builder via Stampede Pass. They ignored the fact that the region was growing, and they ignored the fact that ridership was struggling to remain on the rails, unlike in some other regions. Political intervention, not Harvard graduates, saved the region's popular services.
 
This may actually just mean early next year.
Indeed. I thought that it was merely recognizing the fact that the Fall goal has not been met and it is slipped to the Winter. But we should know soon enough. In one of the two possible interpretations Winter 2024 is 21 Dec 2023 to Mar 19, 2024 in which most of the days of Winter are in 2024.
 
Mike Christensen, Executive Director of the Utah RPA and involved in the study, says that instead of a revival of the Desert Wind or Pioneer what is likely to be proposed is a LA-Vegas-SLC-Boise-Portland-Seattle train.
 
Mike Christensen, Executive Director of the Utah RPA and involved in the study, says that instead of a revival of the Desert Wind or Pioneer what is likely to be proposed is a LA-Vegas-SLC-Boise-Portland-Seattle train.

That has been discussed before there was a serious high-speed rail project between the LA area and Las Vegas. (It's in the spreadsheet that I've kept adding to over the years as various proposals were made.) The concept was ignored by Amtrak in its 2009 and 1991 studies.

It has some problems with times at major stations unless running times can be reduced - fix one and then another is made poor. And the SLC station would be a disastrous layover unless the "trailer park" is replaced as proposed.

One alternative would be to run Train 6 four hours later, and add a new train called the Denver Zephyr DEN<>CHI that would run on the old schedule of that train. Then connections would work at SLC, but be inconvenient for customers west of DEN going east of CHI. And LAX<>DEN or LAX<>OMA passengers would end up with a night layover in SLC.

Also to be resolved would be whether the train should eschew the Cascades Corridor by splitting at Pendleton for Seattle via Yakima and Portland via The Dalles. I've been given the impression that another long-distance train taking a slot south of Auburn would not be welcome.

A historic footnote: in 1968 when I was buying a ticket on the SP from Los Angeles to Portland I learned that the fare was the same on the UP via Ogden.
 
If I'm doing my math right, a Seattle - PDX - Boise - Pocatello - Salt Lake - Vegas LA train route would be somewhere around 1,600 miles, giving it plenty of opportunity to get seriously delayed in addition to the scheduling and connection issues Willbridge describes above. This seems like a bad idea to me, separate trains on the Pioneer and Desert Wind routes and a 2nd train SLC/Ogden to Chicago through Wyoming to make better connections and schedules possible seems better. And if one of the routes Utah to Chicago is blocked by weather related incidents, then the other is still available.
 
I recently got the following email from the FRA, I suspect many of you did too. I don't think there's much new here, is there? Here 'tis:


Thank you for your interest in the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Long-Distance Service Study. We are providing this update to individuals that have previously expressed interest in the study.


STUDY OVERVIEW

Long-distance routes are passenger rail routes of more than 750 miles, operated by Amtrak. Amtrak currently operates 15 long-distance routes; 13 routes provide daily service, and two routes—the Cardinal and Sunset Limited—operate three days per week.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) directed FRA to conduct a study to evaluate the restoration of daily intercity passenger rail service along discontinued Amtrak long-distance routes and Amtrak long-distance routes that occur on a non-daily basis. The study may also evaluate potential new Amtrak long-distance routes. This study will take into consideration how new routes could link and serve large and small communities as part of a regional rail network, advance the economic and social well-being of rural areas, provide enhanced connectivity for the national long-distance passenger rail system, and reflect public engagement and local and regional support for restored passenger rail service.

We anticipate the Long-Distance Service Study will conclude in 2024.

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Existing Amtrak passenger rail network. Amtrak currently operates 15 long-distance routes.


ENGAGEMENT PROCESS

We are committed to frequent and transparent communications with stakeholders, members of the public, and interested parties. Since launching the study in 2022, we have consulted with Amtrak, state and local governments, regional planning organizations, host railroads, organizations representing onboard Amtrak employees, nonprofit organizations representing Amtrak passengers, relevant regional passenger rail authorities, federally recognized tribes, and community members.

To date, we have held 12 regional working group meetings across the United States, gathered critical feedback, and connected with more than 250 stakeholder organizations. Our engagement process has resulted in almost 5,000 comments, received at meetings, via email, and through the study website. The presentation materials and meeting summaries can be found on our website. We appreciate all of your submitted comments. We are considering this input as we work to develop potential routes.

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The Southwest Regional Working Group meeting in July 2023


ROUTE DEVELOPMENT

Since our July series of regional working group meetings, the study team has been actively analyzing the segments identified as part of the “Enhanced Network” to develop potential restored, enhanced, or new long-distance routes. This analysis considers how those potential routes could:

  • Link and serve large and small communities as part of a regional rail network
  • Advance the economic and social well-being of rural areas throughout the United States
  • Provide enhanced connectivity for the national long-distance passenger rail system
  • Reflect public engagement and local and regional support of restored passenger rail service
From this analysis, and the application of evaluation criteria, a list of potential restored, enhanced, or new long-distance routes is being developed. This list will be presented at the next series of regional working group meetings in February 2024, and also posted on our website after the meetings have concluded.


FUTURE REGIONAL WORKING GROUP MEETINGS

In February 2024, the study team will hold its third series of regional working group meetings to review potential routes. We anticipate sharing the study’s final recommendations with working group members and broader community next summer.


CORRIDOR IDENTIFICATION AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM ANNOUNCEMENTS

FRA recently announced 69 corridor selections across 44 states through the Corridor Identification and Development Program (Corridor ID). The Corridor ID Program is a comprehensive intercity passenger rail planning and development program that will help guide intercity passenger rail development throughout the country and create a pipeline of intercity passenger rail projects ready for implementation.

Corridor selections include daily service on two long-distance routes that currently operate three days per week – the Cardinal and Sunset Limited – as well as restored service along the discontinued North Coast Hiawatha. More information on selected corridors is available on the FRA website.


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The Long-Distance Service Study is evaluating restoration of daily intercity rail passenger service along discontinued Amtrak long-distance routes, Amtrak long-distance routes that occur on a non-daily basis, as well as potential new Amtrak long-distance routes. The first two route types – discontinued Amtrak long-distance routes, and Amtrak long-distance routes that occur on a non-daily basis – are eligible corridors under the Corridor ID program.


FEDERAL-STATE PARTNERSHIP FOR INTERCITY PASSENGER RAIL GRANT PROGRAM ANNOUNCEMENTS

Additionally, FRA recently announced selections for the Federal State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail (Fed-State National) Program. This program will fund capital projects that reduce the state of good repair backlog, improve performance, or expand or establish new intercity passenger rail service for projects not located on the Northeast Corridor.

Selected projects include rail infrastructure improvements on tracks in Malta, MT, where the Empire Builder provides long-distance service, as well as the advancement of two new high-speed rail corridors, and improvements to existing rail corridors for expanded service and performance. More information on selected corridors is available on the FRA website.

STAY ENGAGED

Your ongoing engagement is important in our efforts to evaluate restored, enhanced, and new long-distance routes. To review meeting materials from any of our regional working group meetings, please visit our website. You can also reach us via email at [email protected].

Sincerely,

FRA Long-Distance Service Study Team
 
FRA's routes released by RPA:

1 – Chicago to Miami, via Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa.
2 – Dallas/Fort Worth to Miami, via Marshall, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Pensacola, Tallahassee, and Jacksonville.
3 – Denver to Houston, via Trinidad, Amarillo, and Dallas/Fort Worth.
4 – Los Angeles to Denver, via Barstow, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Cheyenne.
5 – Phoenix to Minneapolis/St. Paul, via Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Newton, Kansas City, Omaha, and Sioux Falls.
6 – Dallas/Fort Worth to New York, via Oklahoma City, Tulsa, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Pittsburgh.
7 – Houston to New York, via New Orleans, Mobile, Montgomery, Atlanta, Chattanooga, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Lorton, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
8 – Seattle to Denver, via Portland, Boise, Pocatello, Salt Lake City, and Grand Junction.
9 – San Antonio to Minneapolis/St. Paul, via Dallas/Fort Worth, Tulsa, Kansas City, and Des Moines.
10 – San Francisco to Dallas/Fort Worth, via Merced, Bakersfield, Barstow, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, and Midland.
11 – Detroit to New Orleans, via Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Montgomery, and Mobile.
12 – Denver to Minneapolis/St. Paul, via Cheyenne, Pierre, and Sioux Falls.
13 – Seattle to Chicago, via Yakima, Kennewick, Spokane, Sandpoint, Helena, Billings, Bismarck, and Fargo.
14 – Dallas/Fort Worth to Atlanta, via Marshall, Jackson, Meridian, and Birmingham.
15 – El Paso to Billings, via Albuquerque, Trinidad, Denver, Cheyenne, and Casper.
 
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