Priorities for expanding the national network

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neroden

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100x yes! I frankly believe the Shore Line won't be able to be used reliably in 10-20 years due to climate change and sea level rise.
Unfortunately, the Shore Line continues west of New Haven to NYC.

For this reason I want to see the Upper Harlem Line restored; both the New Haven and Hudson lines are very flood-prone with sea level rise. The Harlem Line is not (it's at high elevations the whole way and the tendency to river flooding can be fixed with minor work), so it'll be the reliable route out of NYC to the north. Nobody's been thinking about this though. :-(
 

AmtrakMaineiac

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Came to this discussion late - a couple of thoughts.

Resurrecting the Royal Blue would involve adding passenger trains to a very busy freight route that is mostly single tracked. That would be a tough sell to CSX.

Rather than Boston - Portland - Montreal, a more practical alternative might be to resurrect the old Montrealer by extending the Vermonter, and adding more service Boston - Springfield to provide a connection. Perhaps even through coaches and sleeper.

Living in Maine I would like to see the Downeaster extended to Bangor, but one problem is extending from Brunswick via Augusta misses Lewiston/Auburn the second biggest metro area in the state, while extending over the old MEC "back road" (currently Pan Am's main freight route) misses Augusta the state capital and requires reducing service to Brunswick to divert trains to Bangor. Both routes would serve Waterville.
 

Palmland

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Ooooh, that means that Amtrak can start planning a revival of the Royal Blue Route between Washington and New York? :) My mom used to ride it when she was a kid (circa 1940), and she said that even though it was slower than the PRR (and required a bus/ferry transfer from Jersey City), the service was much better than the Pennsy. The revived Royal Blue could stop in Mt. Royal Station in Baltimore, with a nice connection to light rail, and I think now because of the Aldene Connection, they could run straight into NYP instead of having to terminate in Jersey City. They could also revive the Wall Street and Crusader between Philly and New York.
Resurrecting the Royal Blue would involve adding passenger trains to a very busy freight route that is mostly single tracked. That would be a tough sell to CSX.
As one who grew up in Wilmington, I can agree with the preference for the B&O. My parents always took the B&O because of its good customer service and connecting bus that took you close to your Manhattan hotel. Even for Philly it was preferred as 24th and Chestnut put you closer to downtown. PRR crews were considered unfriendly and they didn't like the older coaches (P-70's). Even though B&O equipment was of the same vintage, it seemed better maintained. Speed isn't everything.

As to resurrecting passenger service on the B&O north of Baltimore, it would be a tough sell for CSX. But the roadbed for the old double track (although some is passing sididngs) is still there so perhaps an arrangement could be worked similar to Alexandria to Richmond where the right of way is shared with separate tracks. The B&O took out that second main line very soon after the Royal Blue and all passenger service was discontinued in 1958. It was replaced with the single track but new CTC signalling. If this was ever rebuilt for passenger trains, it would be a natural choice to continue AutoTrain to maybe somewhere around Bound Brook wihere many interstates converge.
 

John Webb

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I am among those advocating for a second train one most long distance routes. There is a crying need for this on the Zephyr route,

These second trains could operate on the approximate "opposite" side of the clock from present schedules. i.e., train leaving Emeryville at say, 11PM into Reno at 5AM; arriving SLC 5PM: Arriving Denver 8:30 AM; arriving Chicago 5 AM. One could fool around with this schedule and make adjustments to allow better timed morning arrivals, but you get the idea.

The addition of second trains would be more politically/institutionaly/financially possible than implementing entirely new routes.
 

Cal

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I am among those advocating for a second train one most long distance routes. There is a crying need for this on the Zephyr route,

These second trains could operate on the approximate "opposite" side of the clock from present schedules. i.e., train leaving Emeryville at say, 11PM into Reno at 5AM; arriving SLC 5PM: Arriving Denver 8:30 AM; arriving Chicago 5 AM. One could fool around with this schedule and make adjustments to allow better timed morning arrivals, but you get the idea.

The addition of second trains would be more politically/institutionaly/financially possible than implementing entirely new routes.
I've always heard that the LSL is the one that needs a second frequency the most, not so much the zephyr. Why do you say the zephyr?
 

sttom

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I am among those advocating for a second train one most long distance routes. There is a crying need for this on the Zephyr route,

These second trains could operate on the approximate "opposite" side of the clock from present schedules. i.e., train leaving Emeryville at say, 11PM into Reno at 5AM; arriving SLC 5PM: Arriving Denver 8:30 AM; arriving Chicago 5 AM. One could fool around with this schedule and make adjustments to allow better timed morning arrivals, but you get the idea.

The addition of second trains would be more politically/institutionaly/financially possible than implementing entirely new routes.
I've thought about bringing most of the long distance trains up to 2-3 times per day. I know people keep thinking that you can make the end to end run times convenient, the issues is you really can't. Either you space them out evenly and accept a weird departure and arrival time on some or have a weirdly long run time on some of them. If we did get that, having them spread out so the middle of the line has service during business hours.

With the routes that have under a 24 hour run time, like the Lake Shore Limited, I'm not sure if they need multiple runs or should just have better corridor services on some of the more populated parts. Like having something close to hourly service between Chicago and Cleveland. And additional service between Clevaland and Buffalo. Granted Amtrak needs a lot of Palmetto like trains around the country.
 
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Willbridge

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I've thought about bringing most of the long distance trains up to 2-3 times per day. I know people keep thinking that you can make the end to end run times convenient, the issues is you really can't. Either you space them out evenly and accept a weird departure and arrival time on some or have a weirdly long run time on some of them. If we did get that, having them spread out so the middle of the line has service during business hours.

With the routes that have under a 24 hour run time, like the Lake Shore Limited, I'm not sure if they need multiple runs or should just have better corridor services on some of the more populated parts. Like having something close to hourly service between Chicago and Cleveland. And additional service between Clevaland and Buffalo. Granted Amtrak needs a lot of Palmetto like trains around the country.
"...Amtrak needs a lot of Palmetto like trains around the country."

Yes. 12-hour mirroring of long-distance trains does not work well compared to the "sub long-distance" approach. Here's a package to consider, based on the current California Zephyr:
  • Train 6 to depart Emeryville 3½ hours later than at present. Yes, this misses many Chicago connections but picks up many California connections and brings SLC, LNK and OMA into civilized times. It also decreases the possibility of late departures from Emeryville caused by westbound delays.
  • Train 5 as is.
  • Denver Zephyr departs Denver to Chicago at 3:10 p.m., arrives Chicago at 10:50 a.m. Diner serves a lot of Railroad French Toast.
  • Denver Zephyr departs Chicago to Denver at 6:30 p.m., arrives Denver at 11:45 a.m.
  • Sierra Zephyr departs Emeryville to Reno at 9:10 a.m., arrives Reno at 4:06 p.m.
  • Sierra Zephyr departs Reno at 11:36 a.m., arrives Emeryville at 7:10 p.m.
These are just approximate times. And old-timers will recognize that the CZ+DZ combination is how the Q-Rio Grande-WP worked things out.
 

neroden

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"...Amtrak needs a lot of Palmetto like trains around the country."

Yes. 12-hour mirroring of long-distance trains does not work well compared to the "sub long-distance" approach.
Generally speaking. But the LSL has a *really neat* 8-hours-off-from-current-schedule possibility.

Basically, the current route departs Chicago late evening, arrives NYC midday. Departs NYC midday, arrives Chicago morning.

The second frequency should depart Chicago midday, arrive NYC early morning. Depart NYC late evening, arrive Chicago midday. With some care, it allows overnight service from NYC to Syracuse-Rochester-Buffalo (saving on an NYC hotel room) and daytime service through Ohio. It's perfect, elegant timing and it should just happen.

There have always been objections from the commuter railroads to Amtrak arriving or departing NYC during peak commute hours (which is why the current LSL arrives and departs midday)... so for the second frequency, arrive well before the morning commute, and depart after the Broadway shows end, *well* after the evening commute. Since NYC is the "city that never sleeps" and NYC Subway runs 24 hours, these wee-hours arrival and departure times are not really a problem and would work well, where they would not in other cities. This happens to give good timing everywhere from Syracuse west.

I don't see timetables for second frequencies working out as conveniently on other routes; this one just happens to.
 

Willbridge

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Generally speaking. But the LSL has a *really neat* 8-hours-off-from-current-schedule possibility.

Basically, the current route departs Chicago late evening, arrives NYC midday. Departs NYC midday, arrives Chicago morning.

The second frequency should depart Chicago midday, arrive NYC early morning. Depart NYC late evening, arrive Chicago midday. With some care, it allows overnight service from NYC to Syracuse-Rochester-Buffalo (saving on an NYC hotel room) and daytime service through Ohio. It's perfect, elegant timing and it should just happen.

There have always been objections from the commuter railroads to Amtrak arriving or departing NYC during peak commute hours (which is why the current LSL arrives and departs midday)... so for the second frequency, arrive well before the morning commute, and depart after the Broadway shows end, *well* after the evening commute. Since NYC is the "city that never sleeps" and NYC Subway runs 24 hours, these wee-hours arrival and departure times are not really a problem and would work well, where they would not in other cities. This happens to give good timing everywhere from Syracuse west.

I don't see timetables for second frequencies working out as conveniently on other routes; this one just happens to.
The Coast Starlight works on a 12-hour offset for major cities and some of the scenery except at Portland. At Portland it would create a tough job for the security people contending with the homeless.
 

west point

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A NYP - Richmond - Raleigh - CLT - ATL departing each end about 0600 - 0700 would give a good day train that compliments the Crescent. Route does not need to go by CVS as only Danville, VA. would be missed by multiple regional trains soon to operate to Roanoke. Connecting the many capitols to ATL during day has many advantages. Once "S" line is complete enroute times will be reduced by at least an hour even with discounting other improvements on the route that are proposed.
 

MARC Rider

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A NYP - Richmond - Raleigh - CLT - ATL departing each end about 0600 - 0700 would give a good day train that compliments the Crescent. Route does not need to go by CVS as only Danville, VA. would be missed by multiple regional trains soon to operate to Roanoke. Connecting the many capitols to ATL during day has many advantages. Once "S" line is complete enroute times will be reduced by at least an hour even with discounting other improvements on the route that are proposed.
They could call it the "Capital Limited," as it connects the capital cities of 4 states (New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia) with the national capital city of Washington, DC.
 

MARC Rider

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That will result in no confusion at all between the Capital Limited. 😅
Of course, there wouldn't be any confusion. That train that runs between Washington and Chicago is called the "Capitol Limited," yet it doesn't run through or near any state capitals or capitols. :) Even the Cardinal runs through Charleston WV and Indianapolis.
 
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AmtrakMaineiac

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I like the second LSL frequency idea. Although I think a higher priority would be day trains connecting city pairs such as Chicago - Cleveland and Cleveland - Pittsburgh. Unfortunately in that region nothing will happen until the Ohio State government gets off of its anti passenger train stance.

Seems Chicago - Kansas City would be another logical city pair to connect with a day train that would arrive at a more civilized hour than the SWC does now.
 

Cal

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Seems Chicago - Kansas City would be another logical city pair to connect with a day train that would arrive at a more civilized hour than the SWC does now.
And if Apple and Google are accurate, the SWC actually takes less time from CHI to Kansas City than driving, at 7h 10 minutes. Now, Apple is telling me the fastest is 7hr 26min and Google is saying 7hr 45min. But that's probably one of the only times outside the Northeast that the train is very close, if not faster than cars.

Edit: ^ Probably helps that the Chief has a much more direct route to Kansas City than the freeways.
 

Qapla

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Came across this video ... interesting that they had a national "show" of the trains but never used them anywhere other than the NEC

 

Siegmund

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There are a whole lot of routes where 8-hours-apart works better than 12-hours-apart. Oftentimes it comes from thinking of which cities you want to serve in daylight. If I added a second LSL frequency, it would be quite deliberately "daytime Chicago-Cleveland on one train, daytime Buffalo-New York on the other". If I ran twice-daily long distance service nationwide, the whole Chicago connection business would be "one set of trains arrives in the morning, one set leaves noonish, one set arrives in the afternoon, one set leaves in the evening."

I am not sure how much of an obstacle the Chicago commuter service is to that... right now, Amtrak has very few trains that arrive during the morning rush.

Palmetto-like trains on a lot of routes occupy a third time slot, requiring early- to mid-morning departures from their origin cities. This is OK if you are departing New York southbound down the NEC, but fails to make any connections in more marginal markets. I think of "Chicago 9am, Kansas City/Omaha/St. Paul/Cincinnati 4pm" as being state-subsidized additions, with the national network featuring only (say) running a Chicago-KC-LA train and a Chicago-KC-Texas train such that one leaves Chicago early afternoon and gets to KC after dinner, the other runs overnight.

LA-Oakland is one rare place where 12 hours apart actually works. Probably because the trip time is so close to "all day" vs "all night" and there is no major city halfway in between.
 

neroden

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There are a whole lot of routes where 8-hours-apart works better than 12-hours-apart. Oftentimes it comes from thinking of which cities you want to serve in daylight. If I added a second LSL frequency, it would be quite deliberately "daytime Chicago-Cleveland on one train, daytime Buffalo-New York on the other". If I ran twice-daily long distance service nationwide, the whole Chicago connection business would be "one set of trains arrives in the morning, one set leaves noonish, one set arrives in the afternoon, one set leaves in the evening."
Agreed!

I am not sure how much of an obstacle the Chicago commuter service is to that... right now, Amtrak has very few trains that arrive during the morning rush.
Some, but Chicago has a lot more track capacity. NY is slightly bursting with its commuter peak (though post-pandemic work-from-home may change that?) and so is more worried about it than Chicago. You will see worries about scheduling during commuter rush in Chicago and Boston as well as NY though.
 

jiml

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Came across this video ... interesting that they had a national "show" of the trains but never used them anywhere other than the NEC

It's interesting that versions of both those trains are still running in their respective countries. As a matter of fact, the Swedish X-2000 is virtually unchanged.
 

dlagrua

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The priority for expanding the national network should be the acquisition of more passenger cars. Without that nothing can be done. Right now we see nothing on order or any plans to order more LD rolling stock. With equipment continually going out of service or being destroyed by accident the existing services will soon be crippled. There is disagreement whether or not this is part of managements plan to discontinue LD service but how do you continue existing service without equipment?
 
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