Trains can't leave before their departure time right?

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railiner

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Ls in time tables are also there because Railroads don't want Commuters to think their train is always getting them home late.
for example the South Shore Line timetable has a clear note that at all stops after U. Chicago on Easthound trains trains may depart up to 4 minutes early. https://www.mysouthshoreline.com/images/Eastbound-weekday-september.png
That seems like a strange way to accomplish that...do regular commuter's "buy" that?
On just about any other form of transportation, a "D" (or 'd') means...Stops to Discharge Passengers Only...meaning passengers may not board there.
In the case of the South Shore TT, that would mean that for some trains, in the (unlikely) event there were no passengers on board going past 57th Street, they wouldn't even have to run the train past there, except of course it would be needed for the return trip.
 

lstone19

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The L creates a range of time that the train can depart while still being officially on-time in the view of the detraining and through passengers who in most cases are the vast majority of the passengers involved. So if L means can depart up to three minutes early and the scheduled station time is 8:00am, then the train can legally depart between 7:57am and 8:00am. Or another way of looking at it is the scheduled departure time is 7:57am (if you're there later than that, the train may be gone) yet the scheduled arrival time is not until 8:00am. It creates a cushion for on-time operation without delaying the train if it's doing well.

Having worked for an airline in performance reporting, one of the issues with schedule times as well as day of operation ETDs and the like is that for some purposes it is a "no earlier than" time and for others it is a "no later than" time and a time really can't serve both purposes well. By having an L time, you've moved the "no earlier than" time a few minutes earlier while still keeping the "no later than" time (by which on-time performance will be judged) where you want it.
 
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railiner

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The L creates a range of time that the train can depart while still being officially on-time in the view of the detraining and through passengers who in most cases are the vast majority of the passengers involved. So if L means can depart up to three minutes early and the scheduled station time is 8:00am, then the train can legally depart between 7:57am and 8:00am. Or another way of looking at it is the scheduled departure time is 7:57am (if you're there later than that, the train may be gone) yet the scheduled arrival time is not until 8:00am. It creates a cushion for on-time operation without delaying the train if it's doing well.

Having worked for an airline in performance reporting, one of the issues with schedule times as well as day of operation ETDs and the like is that for some purposes it is a "no earlier than" time and for others it is a "no later than" time and a time really can't serve both purposes well. By having an L time, you've moved the "no earlier than" time a few minutes earlier while still keeping the "no later than" time (by which on-time performance will be judged) where you want it.
That seems like a very 'wishy-washy' deceitful way of publishing a schedule. Sort of like saying the train will depart seven fifty seven-ish

I suppose it goes in line with Amtrak's accounting practices...
 

RebelRider

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But why the "L" designation? If it is to warn boarding passengers that the train may leave a little early, why not just move the departure time up to the earliest it can leave, so there is no guesswork? And if they want some padding, they can give the final arrival time at the terminus an extra few minutes, like is done on most of the rest of the system?
It comes down to on-time performance tracking, very few passengers boarding but still wanting to sell tickets between those city-pairs. It will be even more relevant as the new OTP standards go into effect measuring performance at every station, not just end points.

There was an even stranger designation that applied to 79 at Selma-Smithfield between June 30, 2019 and November 10, 2019.

H - Train stops to receive and discharge passengers; may depart up to 5 minutes early.

The scheduled departure time was 4:43pm, but the train could leave as soon as 4:38pm. Eventually, the time was changed to depart at 4:38pm and the H designation removed. 🤷‍♂️
 

railiner

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It comes down to on-time performance tracking, very few passengers boarding but still wanting to sell tickets between those city-pairs. It will be even more relevant as the new OTP standards go into effect measuring performance at every station, not just end points.

There was an even stranger designation that applied to 79 at Selma-Smithfield between June 30, 2019 and November 10, 2019.

H - Train stops to receive and discharge passengers; may depart up to 5 minutes early.

The scheduled departure time was 4:43pm, but the train could leave as soon as 4:38pm. Eventually, the time was changed to depart at 4:38pm and the H designation removed. 🤷‍♂️
In bus timetables, an 'h' designation indicated to driver's that they were to hold up to a pre-designated period (usually from 5 to 15 minutes) for a connection, or longer if their dispatcher ordered so. At least that made sense, but in the Amtrak time-table, who knows what some 'rocket scientist' who wrote it had in mind....🤔
 

lstone19

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That seems like a very 'wishy-washy' deceitful way of publishing a schedule. Sort of like saying the train will depart seven fifty seven-ish

I suppose it goes in line with Amtrak's accounting practices...
I don't think it's deceitful at all. It reflects that for some purposes, you need to have a "no earlier than" time and for other purposes, you need to have a "no later than" time.

Using my airline experience, suppose you're waiting to board a 2:00pm flight. Due to an up-line delay, the airline currently estimates that it will depart at 3:30pm. But you're still trying to make up some time. So what would be nice is so that waiting passengers can do something else (eat, shop, etc.) is to be able to say that while 3:30pm is the current ETD (the "no later than" time), it will depart no earlier than 3:00pm so that passengers can leave the gate area and so long as they are back by 3:00pm, have no risk of the flight leaving without them due to making up a lot of time.

Now even with a train, there's a lot of variability in the schedule that didn't have to be there 50 years ago. Commuting on Metra for a number of years, I realized how much accessible boarding can increase station dwell time but you never know where. You want to allow for it in your schedule but build it in early in the schedule and then many times you'll be waiting for departure time. Build it in late in the schedule and you'll be departing many earlier stations late if you had an extended dwell early in the trip. And you can't build it into every stop or you'll spend 90% of your stops waiting an extra minute for departure time.

Throw in the variability that must exist today and you have a conflict - the boarding passengers wants a "no earlier than" time so they can time their arrival to the station; the detraining passenger was a "no later than" time so they can plan what they do after arrival. And both want as quick a trip as possible so you can't build a lot of excess time into the schedule with the idea of just waiting.
 

jis

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In bus timetables, an 'h' designation indicated to driver's that they were to hold up to a pre-designated period (usually from 5 to 15 minutes) for a connection, or longer if their dispatcher ordered so. At least that made sense, but in the Amtrak time-table, who knows what some 'rocket scientist' who wrote it had in mind....🤔
Heh heh. You really don't want a"rocket scientist" to do train schedules. They routinely scrub launches and postpone them by days or even weeks sometimes 😬
 

AmtrakBlue

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Heh heh. You really don't want a"rocket scientist" to do train schedules. They routinely scrub launches and postpone them by days or even weeks sometimes 😬
And some of them explode on arrival. :eek:
 

railiner

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I don't think it's deceitful at all. It reflects that for some purposes, you need to have a "no earlier than" time and for other purposes, you need to have a "no later than" time.

Using my airline experience, suppose you're waiting to board a 2:00pm flight. Due to an up-line delay, the airline currently estimates that it will depart at 3:30pm. But you're still trying to make up some time. So what would be nice is so that waiting passengers can do something else (eat, shop, etc.) is to be able to say that while 3:30pm is the current ETD (the "no later than" time), it will depart no earlier than 3:00pm so that passengers can leave the gate area and so long as they are back by 3:00pm, have no risk of the flight leaving without them due to making up a lot of time.

Now even with a train, there's a lot of variability in the schedule that didn't have to be there 50 years ago. Commuting on Metra for a number of years, I realized how much accessible boarding can increase station dwell time but you never know where. You want to allow for it in your schedule but build it in early in the schedule and then many times you'll be waiting for departure time. Build it in late in the schedule and you'll be departing many earlier stations late if you had an extended dwell early in the trip. And you can't build it into every stop or you'll spend 90% of your stops waiting an extra minute for departure time.

Throw in the variability that must exist today and you have a conflict - the boarding passengers wants a "no earlier than" time so they can time their arrival to the station; the detraining passenger was a "no later than" time so they can plan what they do after arrival. And both want as quick a trip as possible so you can't build a lot of excess time into the schedule with the idea of just waiting.
For airlines experiencing 'off schedule operation's', the posting of a 'no earlier than' or an 'ETD range is understandable. Otherwise they would make waiting passengers angry by 'nickel and diming' them with later and later ETD's, when earlier optimistic estimates fell down.
The same can be true for Amtrak. When performing the Agent position at Denver Union Terminal, part of the job was to post "the mark', or the expected arrival and departure times for late running trains. We did this by getting information from the incoming RR train dispatcher's office, adjusted by our experience with the best possible historic running time from the last station report. We had to post the time so that no one would get there (or return) too late if the train made up time, or have to 'hold' to that time if the train made up more time than anticipated. If people were late just meeting arriving passenger's, that was not such a big deal, except in the case of an occasional unaccompanied minor.T

Since the SFZ and later CZ usually had a 40 minute scheduled stop at Denver, we knew we could sometimes cut that down to 25 minutes. So one trick we utilized was to post the earliest possible departure time, to 'play it safe', and make the arrival time, the same, even though we knew it would have to dwell longer. That said, we still had to sometimes make adjustment(s) to the 'mark', usually to a chorus of groans from an audience of passengers. Sometimes just minutes away due to a crossing accident...

As far as a regular train on a commuter route goes, I can't see putting all these little variances and footnotes into a timetable. Keep it simple...make the departure time the earliest possible time, and pad the last segment, to insure an 'on time' arrival.
 

HammerJack

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The L designation services a distinct, well-designed purpose. It’s used in locations were passengers will primarily be disembarking. The designed market for the train’s stop isn’t to pick up more passengers. The L allows the “best of both worlds”, so to speak. Passengers CAN board the train if they wish, but the train can also make up time by leaving once station business is complete. You won’t find L designations where the train routinely picks up a lot of passengers.
 
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railiner

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The L designation services a distinct, well-designed purpose. It’s used in locations were passengers will primarily be disembarking. The designed market for the train’s stop isn’t to pick up more passengers. The L allows the “best of both worlds”, so to speak. Passengers CAN board the train if they wish, but the train can also make up time by leaving once station business is complete. You won’t find L designations where the train routinely picks up a lot of passengers.
Either the train can pick up passengers, in which case there should be a set time with no 'variations', or a 'D' to discharge passengers only. "Best of both worlds"? I disagree. It is just a confusing and unecessary complication requiring passengers to consult footnotes to decipher.
 

HammerJack

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Either the train can pick up passengers, in which case there should be a set time with no 'variations', or a 'D' to discharge passengers only. "Best of both worlds"? I disagree. It is just a confusing and unecessary complication requiring passengers to consult footnotes to decipher.
That’s a fair argument. I think some context is needed to understand the full picture. Example: Most NYC-bound Keystones have an L listed for their stop in Newark. Amtrak knows that the Newark-NYC is not their target market, nor is it popular for Keystones. NJT and PATH are much more viable options. The L designation allows an early running Keystone from Trenton to promptly get its passengers to NYC after discharging at Newark. The train likely doesn’t have much (if any) of the Newark to NYC market, so why linger around the station longer and prevent an earlier arrival in NYC?

That being said, you’re correct that a D designation does accomplish what I described, and it’s less fine print to read. The L does, however, give passengers some flexibility. A Newark to NYC passenger can take the Keystone if they want (good for Amtrak), but they need to pay attention to the train status.
 
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railiner

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That’s a fair argument. I think some context is needed to understand the full picture. Example: Most NYC-bound Keystones have an L listed for their stop in Newark. Amtrak knows that the Newark-NYC is not their target market, nor is it popular for Keystones. NJT and PATH are much more viable options. The L designation allows an early running Keystone from Trenton to promptly get its passengers to NYC after discharging at Newark. The train likely doesn’t have much (if any) of the Newark to NYC market, so why linger around the station longer and prevent an earlier arrival in NYC?

That being said, you’re correct that a D designation does accomplish what I described, and it’s less fine print to read. The L does, however, give passengers some flexibility. A Newark to NYC passenger can take the Keystone if they want (good for Amtrak), but they need to pay attention to the train status.
Then they should simply tighten up the time at Newark, to its earliest possible departure time, and leave the original arrival time at New York alone, to give on-time performance padding.
 

lstone19

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Then they should simply tighten up the time at Newark, to its earliest possible departure time, and leave the original arrival time at New York alone, to give on-time performance padding.
That assumes arrival performance at Newark is unimportant and only the arrival at the train's final destination is important. I suspect any passengers detraining at Newark would disagree. A few years back, I was on an Amtrak train to Newark which was on-time all the way to Metropark and ended up about five minutes late at Newark. I had an aggressive "plan A" for what I was doing at Newark based on an on-time arrival at Newark. That five minutes forced me to "plan B". Was the train subsequently on-time into NYP, its terminus? I don't know and don't care as it wasn't relevant for me.
 

railiner

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That assumes arrival performance at Newark is unimportant and only the arrival at the train's final destination is important. I suspect any passengers detraining at Newark would disagree. A few years back, I was on an Amtrak train to Newark which was on-time all the way to Metropark and ended up about five minutes late at Newark. I had an aggressive "plan A" for what I was doing at Newark based on an on-time arrival at Newark. That five minutes forced me to "plan B". Was the train subsequently on-time into NYP, its terminus? I don't know and don't care as it wasn't relevant for me.
Being five minutes late on an Amtrak arrival, caused you to have to change your plans? Seriously?:rolleyes:
 

jis

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That assumes arrival performance at Newark is unimportant and only the arrival at the train's final destination is important. I suspect any passengers detraining at Newark would disagree. A few years back, I was on an Amtrak train to Newark which was on-time all the way to Metropark and ended up about five minutes late at Newark. I had an aggressive "plan A" for what I was doing at Newark based on an on-time arrival at Newark. That five minutes forced me to "plan B". Was the train subsequently on-time into NYP, its terminus? I don't know and don't care as it wasn't relevant for me.
This might become more of an issue with FRA insisting with the host railroads that trains must be on schedule at all en route stops, not just the end points, in their OTP metrics. It should be fun to see how this unfolds as Amtrak the infrastructure company argues with Amtrak the train operating company :D
 

Ryan

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Being five minutes late on an Amtrak arrival, caused you to have to change your plans? Seriously?:rolleyes:
He acknowledged that his plan was aggressive and depending on being precisely on time, and had a backup plan. The eye roll is completely unnecessary.

Checking online, 379 trains called on EWR in the last month with data in the ASMAD database. 76 of them had delays greater than 5 minutes. I like those odds.
 

SubwayNut

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Once I was going from New York to Bangor, Maine in one day on a Saturday schedule and had a plan that if my Acela train was at least 10 minutes early into Back Bay I would get off get on the Orange Line, take the MBTA to North Station and have more train time taking the Downeaster to Portland and connecting to Concord Trailways there and have more train time than bus time. I knew from experience that Acelas are often 10-15 minutes into Boston, helped by Providence being an "L" Station.

Otherwise I knew I had a good 2 hours in Boston to connect to the same Concord Trailways bus with just unfortunate more time on a bus than on a train.

Unfortunately I ended up on the bus from Boston option because we stopped for 10 minutes due to some signal issue in southern Massachusetts between Route 128 and Providence.
 

railiner

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Once I was going from New York to Bangor, Maine in one day on a Saturday schedule and had a plan that if my Acela train was at least 10 minutes early into Back Bay I would get off get on the Orange Line, take the MBTA to North Station and have more train time taking the Downeaster to Portland and connecting to Concord Trailways there and have more train time than bus time. I knew from experience that Acelas are often 10-15 minutes into Boston, helped by Providence being an "L" Station.

Otherwise I knew I had a good 2 hours in Boston to connect to the same Concord Trailways bus with just unfortunate more time on a bus than on a train.

Unfortunately I ended up on the bus from Boston option because we stopped for 10 minutes due to some signal issue in southern Massachusetts between Route 128 and Providence.
The same hopeful result could have happened if they just tightened up the departure time at Providence or any other "L" designated station, without the complexity.
 

lstone19

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The same hopeful result could have happened if they just tightened up the departure time at Providence or any other "L" designated station, without the complexity.
Railiner, I have no idea what sort of professional experience you might have in the area of transportation scheduling but from someone who does (airline), please leave it to the professionals. We actually do (well, not me anymore, I'm retired) know what we're doing but many things in schedules are compromises between differing goals. It is quite obvious with your fixation on L stops that arrival performance at intermediate points is unimportant to you; I will say again that the passenger detraining at those intermediate points likely thinks arrival performance there is quite important.
 

railiner

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Railiner, I have no idea what sort of professional experience you might have in the area of transportation scheduling but from someone who does (airline), please leave it to the professionals. We actually do (well, not me anymore, I'm retired) know what we're doing but many things in schedules are compromises between differing goals. It is quite obvious with your fixation on L stops that arrival performance at intermediate points is unimportant to you; I will say again that the passenger detraining at those intermediate points likely thinks arrival performance there is quite important.
[/QUOTE
Correct. You don’t know what my professional experience is, and I’ll let it go at that. For this discussion, I will comment based on the perspective of a passenger.

Yes, I do care about on time performance at all stations, including intermediate ones. I also try to look at timetables from the perspective of a passenger not very familiar with them, trying to interpret them. The “L” designation is very rarely used, for good reason. It does not make it clear what time a train leaves.
If your point is that the train can “only” leave 4 minutes early, that the 4 minutes is insignificant...then that works both ways... If there is no “L” use, and the train is only 4 minutes late, that is insignificant, too. Adding another footnote that can be missed by a passenger is an unnecessary complication.
 

lstone19

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If your point is that the train can “only” leave 4 minutes early, that the 4 minutes is insignificant...then that works both ways... If there is no “L” use, and the train is only 4 minutes late, that is insignificant, too.
When part of your compensation is a performance bonus based on what percentage of flights departs on-time (as in zero minutes late), four minutes is not insignificant. Studies have shown if transportation is not moving at the scheduled departure time or stopped by the scheduled arrival time, passengers quickly become dissatisfied. The drop in customer satisfaction from zero minutes late to one minute late is much greater than the drop from one minute late to two minutes late. My airline at one time had a "Push or Talk" campaign for the pilots - if the plane wasn't pushing back from the gate at departure time, one of the pilots should be talking on the P.A. explaining why the delay.

As an aside comment, one the perception issues for airlines is customers who don't understand that the scheduled departure time is gate departure, not runway takeoff. It's amazing how many people complain that when a plane takes off 15 minutes after scheduled departure, "by the time we took off, we were already 15 minutes late". No you weren't if the taxi time we had planned in the schedule was 20 minutes.
 
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railiner

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When part of your compensation is a performance bonus based on what percentage of flights departs on-time (as in zero minutes late), four minutes is not insignificant. Studies have shown if transportation is not moving at the scheduled departure time or stopped by the scheduled arrival time, passengers quickly become dissatisfied. The drop in customer satisfaction from zero minutes late to one minute late is much greater than the drop from one minute late to two minutes late. My airline at one time had a "Push or Talk" campaign for the pilots - if the plane wasn't pushing back from the gate at departure time, one of the pilots should be talking on the P.A. explaining why the delay.

As an aside comment, one the perception issues for airlines is customers who don't understand that the scheduled departure time is gate departure, not runway takeoff. It's amazing how many people complain that when a plane takes off 15 minutes after scheduled departure, "by the time we took off, we were already 15 minutes late". No you weren't if the taxi time we had planned in the schedule was 20 minutes.
I would agree, in so far as being late is unsatisfactory to passengers for all modes, but trying to compare airline metrics to railroads, is an “apples to oranges” comparison.
 

west point

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Airlines can leave the gate early if=======
1. Post office is not using that flight or has delivered all mail to aircraft
2. Plane is full with all reservations persons on board and standby loaded
3. All bags and freight loaded with bag room reporting no bags left.
4. ATC has let aircraft go with no gate holds.
Does it happen ? usually only about 5 minutes early however I once pushed back 17 minutes early
Am not entirely sure how but flight plans files are listed at scheduled gate time but flight plan activation only starts with clearance to take off.
 

lstone19

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Airlines can leave the gate early if=======
1. Post office is not using that flight or has delivered all mail to aircraft
2. Plane is full with all reservations persons on board and standby loaded
3. All bags and freight loaded with bag room reporting no bags left.
4. ATC has let aircraft go with no gate holds.
Does it happen ? usually only about 5 minutes early however I once pushed back 17 minutes early
Am not entirely sure how but flight plans files are listed at scheduled gate time but flight plan activation only starts with clearance to take off.
Sorry, but wrong.

1) Post Office is just another cargo shipper. They do not have the authority to hold a flight (if they did, we would have had a delay code for them). If they don't have their shipment ready by the cargo cutoff time, it may not go.

2) Plane being full is not a factor. Passengers have both a check-in time cutoff and an at the gate ready to board cutoff. Miss them and your reservation can be cancelled. These days, those times are typically 45 minutes and 15 minutes respectively. So at 15 minutes before scheduled departure, if the plane is loaded and there is no one in the gate room, close the door and send the plane on its way. But note that between closing the door and first movement, there are still several things that have to happen. And scheduled departure time is when the plane is supposed to be moving, not just preparing to move.

3) Basically true. But Ramp ("below the wing") does their thing separately from what Customer Service ("above the wing") is doing and the passenger loading door may be closed even while Ramp is still doing their thing with bags and cargo.

4) Better to leave ATC out of it. Normally, they are not involved until the flight crew calls for push-back or taxi clearance which won't happen until the plane is ready to depart (so from the perspective of a late arriving passenger, the door is closed so the flight has already departed, even if the plane is still there).

Unlike how railroads traditionally operated, the published schedule provides no movement authority (even the public railroad timetable provided no movement authority, only the employee timetable did). If a flight is ready to depart early, there is no one who is going to say "uh, you're early, you can't leave yet"). So once all passengers, bags, and cargo that were ready by the appropriate cut-off times are on-board, there's no reason not to send the plane on its way regardless of what the schedule says.
 
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