Other People's Rail: Amtrak, commuter rail, rapid transit news & views outside New England

Tom Nevers

New member
Joined
Jul 17, 2020
Messages
64
Reaction score
95
Kentucky being added politically may not have the benefit people hope for. Recall that the Health Insurance Marketplace call center was located in KY to smooth passage/acceptance of the ACA and it hasn’t stopped McConnell or other R’s from the state from supporting repeal efforts.

Also, the service itself is questionable. Louisville’s Union Station, while beautiful inside and out, is in a desolate part of town. Most Louisvillians, who are concentrated to the east and south of downtown, have an easier time reaching the airport than the train station (so long as they’re driving, I don’t believe you can walk or bike to SDF tho few would try). The last time the KY Cardinal ran between CHI-LOU, it was absurdly slow, hence it was discontinued in 2003 after 4 years of operation. Slow service is a tough sell when a plane to Chicago will get you there in less than two hours, including the time you have to spend at the airport, for less than $80.

I’d be more optimistic about the value of the train if it continued down to Nashville from Louisville.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,807
Reaction score
3,242
Kentucky being added politically may not have the benefit people hope for. Recall that the Health Insurance Marketplace call center was located in KY to smooth passage/acceptance of the ACA and it hasn’t stopped McConnell or other R’s from the state from supporting repeal efforts.

Also, the service itself is questionable. Louisville’s Union Station, while beautiful inside and out, is in a desolate part of town. Most Louisvillians, who are concentrated to the east and south of downtown, have an easier time reaching the airport than the train station (so long as they’re driving, I don’t believe you can walk or bike to SDF tho few would try). The last time the KY Cardinal ran between CHI-LOU, it was absurdly slow, hence it was discontinued in 2003 after 4 years of operation. Slow service is a tough sell when a plane to Chicago will get you there in less than two hours, including the time you have to spend at the airport, for less than $80.

I’d be more optimistic about the value of the train if it continued down to Nashville from Louisville.
Politics was directly responsible for how awful the old Kentucky Cardinal schedules were, for the expressed purpose of making killing the route a self-fulfilling prophecy. The schedule was intentionally doubled-up with the long distance Cardinal for inexplicable reasons (the routings and audiences were divergently different), making arrivals/departures completely inappropriate for the short-haul audience. And the Indianapolis-Louisville segment, owned by a shortline RR, was restricted to 30 MPH over rough-riding jointed rail because the anti-transit states of Indiana and Kentucky conspired to deprive it of all the necessary upgrade funding to get it up to the reference spec it was supposed to be run at. Indiana continued the subterfuge to get the truncated Hoosier State expunged in the end.

Under the PRIIA legislation it is quite literally impossible for the route to be as bad as it was in its last incarnation because there are now well-defined standards the states have to uphold as participants in the route network. The Biden Admin's sell job here is that the fed funding will pay for the track upgrades the states are reluctant to...and then all the states have to do is just run the dang thing in good faith and it'll mostly work. PRIIA reporting requirements will more or less ensure that they don't ratfuck the schedule, and require them to choose times of day that track with actual demand. The location of the Louisville stop isn't this worlds-destroying deterrent. It was mostly the godawful schedule that did it in...with the arrival/departure times directly responsible for making the station location seem more inconvenient with its cosmically anti-peak timings. That's prevented from being as much of a drag this time around. The stop location isn't required to be maximally convenient to all Louisvillans for this to work. The schedule is.


The politics, though?...blech. McConnell is still a primary deterrent to getting anything done here, just as he was throughout the Kentucky Cardinal's tortured existence. He somehow manages to get reelected despite eschewing pork for any of his constituents and maintaining absolutely dreadful negative polling with his own voters (Rand Paul much the same). It doesn't matter...he is what he is, and he's electorally intractible there. Indiana is overrun by nihilist elected officials almost to a worse degree than when the Hoosier State met its untimely demise. Absolute brainrot at the state level and relative implosion from the state-level Gov+Legislature regime of 15 years ago who *kinda sorta* were coming around. They are also fair game to try to spite-block any Chicago Hub route expansion that runs through them to other more willing states, because "Fuck y'all!". The one saving grace for very pro-rail/pro-expansionary states like Michigan is that Amtrak self-owning the 110 MPH mainline through Indiana (the only lock/stock self-ownership case outside of the NEC/Keystone/Empire-to-Albany) provides a total end-run around Indiana local politics. And that is almost the sole reason that so much of the rest of the Midwest statie corridor network is absolutely cooking right now.

I see this as one corridor Biden *has* to propose for inclusion because its demographics are so intrinsically good, and because it's a good-faith reaching across the aisle for building political capital. But also one that it's wholly expected the radicalized Congressional delegations from KY/IN are just going to spit back in his face, so are probably going to be the very first cuts from the plan when the whip count gets hustled. Leading horse-to-water, to-drink/not-to-drink, etc., etc.
 

ra84970

Active Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2020
Messages
312
Reaction score
252
That the Front Range route seems to stop at Pueblo (yay testing site!) but not go to either La Junta or Trinidad to connect with the Chief seems so ... shortsighted?
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,807
Reaction score
3,242
That the Front Range route seems to stop at Pueblo (yay testing site!) but not go to either La Junta or Trinidad to connect with the Chief seems so ... shortsighted?
Blame the Colorado Legislature. It's an Authority-managed corridor like the Downeaster's steward NNEPRA, under the guises of Front Range Passenger Rail Commission. The authority's territorial bounds are designated by MPO district, and not more simply as a Colorado DOT subdivision. So right now only the MPO's as far north as Fort Collins and as far south as Pueblo are members. The eventual corridor is planned to stretch Cheyenne to Trinidad, but north extension past Fort Collins is punted out to later phases and so is anywhere south of Pueblo because the authority narrow-casted its study on the central region.

Feds have to contour to what the state has as an implementation plan because of the PRIIA law. PRIIA giveth and PRIIA taketh away, at least as far as the statie-level bureaucracy not being up-to-snuff.
 

DBM

Active Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2012
Messages
973
Reaction score
247
Hey, I love to entertain visions of Amtrak trains barreling across rippling amber waves 'o' grain in the Montana Rockies or the Front Range, like some Budweiser ad, as much as the next guy, but--the West is apocalyptically f**ked because of the perma-drought, right now, if business as usual continues.

Metro Denver, Metro Albuquerque, Metro LV, Metro Phoenix, Metro Tucson, Metro Cheyenne, Metro Boise, Metro SLC, etc., etc.--tens of millions of folks face a very dire future, very soon, unless the mentality (which isn't necessarily that different from that of the better-watered lands east of the 100th meridian) that plunged them into their current crisis is radically revamped. And this has been predicted for 100+ years.

Thus, assuming it is sensible to deploy a triage mentality, where all Western infrastructure imperatives are subordinated to varying degrees to the water infrastructure imperative--how does that relate to rail planning? For every X dollars spent on water planning, how many Y for intercity high-speed rail?
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,807
Reaction score
3,242
Thus, assuming it is sensible to deploy a triage mentality, where all Western infrastructure imperatives are subordinated to varying degrees to the water infrastructure imperative--how does that relate to rail planning? For every X dollars spent on water planning, how many Y for intercity high-speed rail?
Uhhh...because as a higher-level species we are just *slightly* better at multitasking that Y doesn't need to stop stone cold because we haven't compleeeeetely 100% perma-solved very complicated Problem X. Much less slammed the brakes on efforts A-W & Z too. Like...how would civilization operate at all if we single-tasked things so extreme-simplistically like that? It doesn't compute.

Pretty much any planning that tilts to more efficient density and less senseless sprawl is going to aggregately cut down on water waste as indirect byproduct. Increasing transit shares may be only 1 of 100 such means of aggregately tightening up our resource usage...but it ain't like the other 99 have to just sit on their thumbs until All The Transits are enacted before doing their share. Like...yes, multitask lots of change at once and maybe this water crisis gets pushed in a better direction before it kills us. It's the multitasking itself across multiple fronts that serves up the fix. How is that not self-evident? Look how broad the B.B.B. bill's own definition of "infrastructure" is to see how many separate streams need to pull together interdependently for the sake of sustainability.

Hint: we ain't making hay against the water crisis if we single-task literally everything. "Nope...sorry, power grid. We can't fortify you from collapse with any funding because we haven't figured out Lake Mead yet. X comes before Y, doncha know!" Like...I'm pretty sure that unsolved crisis would figure us out a way to waste megatons more water on its own self-complications. Can't run 'yer server farm without brownouts?...why not bring back the old water wheel! Every other problem corner in the interconnected civilization falls in line similarly, transit included. And is similarly fucked in the end if we are completely, helplessly, utterly unable to multitask a spread of solutions.

So if it's sprawl that's cannibalizing scarce resources and playing an outsized role in deepening the water crisis...anything that pushes to de-sprawl some bit of it is going to help to some degree on the the sliding scale of good. Not a controversial statement. This being a transit thread, of course we're not giving much pub to the 500 not-transit other types of infrastructure that need efficiency-minded investment for sustainability. We're addressing the transit-specific subject. Doesn't mean all those other needs don't exist or can't be acted on in complete parallel.
 

millerm277

Active Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2013
Messages
303
Reaction score
112
That the Front Range route seems to stop at Pueblo (yay testing site!) but not go to either La Junta or Trinidad to connect with the Chief seems so ... shortsighted?
F-Line probably has the legal reasoning lined up, but I'll also argue that it's probably not worth it to make a priority. Maybe as a long-term thing, but seems of little value in the 15 year timeframe this map is supposed to be about investments for.

There's not a thing worth noting past Pueblo in terms of demand and the proposal doesn't list any "Enhanced Services" for the Southwest Chief in the listed timeframe. Presumably, that means it continues running slowly, once a day or less in each direction.

I think the demand for connecting services to the SW Chief in it's current incarnation are going to be low and hard to justify the practical purpose of running 100-200mi on your Front Range corridor trips each day just to connect to it or why that needs to be a priority to start up in the next 15 years.
 

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
5,013
Reaction score
1,271
Front Range service is a “corridor” market, and Denver will be its local /regional/ national connection hub

There’s aready in identified crowd of rail fans who think that the solution is going to be cutting cars on and off the transcons and routing them onto the corridor, because that’s how the Pullman company would have done it. Happily such people are a minority and most people get How Amtrak’s vision for Corridor service will work (you’ll move yourself between trains and transit if you need to make a connection at Denver ). The goal is useful corridor transit, not facilitating all possible line-on-map routings
 

ra84970

Active Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2020
Messages
312
Reaction score
252
Metro Denver, Metro Albuquerque, Metro LV, Metro Phoenix, Metro Tucson, Metro Cheyenne, Metro Boise, Metro SLC, etc., etc.--tens of millions of folks face a very dire future, very soon, unless the mentality (which isn't necessarily that different from that of the better-watered lands east of the 100th meridian) that plunged them into their current crisis is radically revamped. And this has been predicted for 100+ years
1. Ha! metropolitan Cheyenne doesn't exist. I've been there. Cheyenne is such a small ... uh ... city?

2. The Front Range and Wasatch Front with their senior water rights will make out okay in most potential futures. The real questions are the locations with junior water rights. Arizona, Nevada, and parts of Southern California. Their futures are much less certain and California will divert water from the San Joaquins to Southern California when push comes to shove. No matter how much lobbying goes on, unless all those states turn over to riparian water law and upend all of the fundamentals to Southwestern living, I struggle to see any of this as a bad investment.
 

ra84970

Active Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2020
Messages
312
Reaction score
252
F-Line probably has the legal reasoning lined up, but I'll also argue that it's probably not worth it to make a priority. Maybe as a long-term thing, but seems of little value in the 15 year timeframe this map is supposed to be about investments for.

There's not a thing worth noting past Pueblo in terms of demand and the proposal doesn't list any "Enhanced Services" for the Southwest Chief in the listed timeframe. Presumably, that means it continues running slowly, once a day or less in each direction.

I think the demand for connecting services to the SW Chief in it's current incarnation are going to be low and hard to justify the practical purpose of running 100-200mi on your Front Range corridor trips each day just to connect to it or why that needs to be a priority to start up in the next 15 years.
In a 15-year time horizon, I do understand that. I suppose either Colorado's intercity bus or an Amtrak thruway bus could make the connection between the Front Range corridor trains and potentially time with the Chiefs at either Bent's Old Fort or the gender-affirming surgery capital of the world. I'd assume that it would probably it'd be La Junta as it already has a state-supported intercity bus service.
 

DBM

Active Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2012
Messages
973
Reaction score
247
1. Ha! metropolitan Cheyenne doesn't exist. I've been there. Cheyenne is such a small ... uh ... city?

2. The Front Range and Wasatch Front with their senior water rights will make out okay in most potential futures. The real questions are the locations with junior water rights. Arizona, Nevada, and parts of Southern California. Their futures are much less certain and California will divert water from the San Joaquins to Southern California when push comes to shove. No matter how much lobbying goes on, unless all those states turn over to riparian water law and upend all of the fundamentals to Southwestern living, I struggle to see any of this as a bad investment.
Just to be clear, I am not remotely against any enhancement to high-speed intercity rail service in the West. F-Line captured the optimal reasoning: "So if it's sprawl that's cannibalizing scarce resources and playing an outsized role in deepening the water crisis...anything that pushes to de-sprawl some bit of it is going to help to some degree on the the sliding scale of good." Great! I hope that line of argumentation carries the day!

What I AM speculating is that attention spans in the West are going to become so frantically consumed by all things water-related to the extent that otherwise perfectly compelling proposals like more high-speed intercity rail service are going to marginalized. But I hope I'm wrong! (it would help if people avoid brooding excessively on this chart, for starters...)
 

jass

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2006
Messages
4,953
Reaction score
480
Elizabeth, NJ is the third one...approx. 1 mile of 80 MPH speed zone with a restricted 55/65 MPH S-curve while all else Newark Airport to Metropark is 125+ (125 per my 15-year-old track map...think it's 165 now). Nasty one because NJT Trenton Line and North Jersey Coast Line commuter trains get caught up in it, too, with the Trenton expresses in particular losing a bit of consequential time-keeping on the S-curve. That one is solveable with eminent domaining in a built-up downtown, but the only substantial structure affected is one large parking garage. The local politics are, however, delicate. That's an ongoing but very slow negotiation.
Theyre spending very big bucks (71 million) redoing the station with the current geometry.

 

millerm277

Active Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2013
Messages
303
Reaction score
112
Theyre spending very big bucks (71 million) redoing the station with the current geometry.

I don't think that (mostly) interferes with fixing this curve, though.

The S curve looks to begin after the southern end of the platforms and the platforms are straight, at least to my eye. There are access paths that continue further south along the line (to W Jersey St) that would probably get ripped up + rebuilt if you fix this curve, but that dollar amount shouldn't be too extreme, just some asphalt and sets of stairs (and likely where the new "ADA ramps" are going - I doubt they're building the new elevators for that spot).
 

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
5,013
Reaction score
1,271
Virginia has written another big check to expand Amtrak service by 1 stop from Roanoke to Christiansbug (as close to VaTech (Blacksburg)as rail can get and serving 180,000 residents and 40k students in the New River Valley

Norfolk Southern unloaded 28 miles of a coal oriented line (The Virginian) at a handsome $38m. And it seems like VA will pay half of a $220m double tracking effort (on the former southern mainline, Which I was surprised to learn still had any single track at all)


(Note: the spree is funded using expected toll revenue from HOT lanes on its interstates 66, 95, 495, 395...something every state should be considering as a nice multimodal compromise)
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,807
Reaction score
3,242
I don't think that (mostly) interferes with fixing this curve, though.

The S curve looks to begin after the southern end of the platforms and the platforms are straight, at least to my eye. There are access paths that continue further south along the line (to W Jersey St) that would probably get ripped up + rebuilt if you fix this curve, but that dollar amount shouldn't be too extreme, just some asphalt and sets of stairs (and likely where the new "ADA ramps" are going - I doubt they're building the new elevators for that spot).
It's arrow straight from the north into the platform, so station itself was never in the targeted straightening zone (as that would introduce new curves where they want to specifically avoid that). It's 2500 ft. all south of the station and crossing the river where they're hoping to get some deals struck. 1 muni garage south of the station, 1 apartment complex abutting the river, and 2 irregular-shaped surface lots south of the river is what stands in the way. They'll barter for what they can barter for amongst that.

The apartments aren't anything special. Newer construction...but yucky parking ratios with ground-floor garage nuking the street interface. Resembles something Alewife upchucked last week, but with uglier siding. They can do better massing up equal number of units elsewhere in the neighborhood, as there's still lots of empty parcels within 4 block radius of the station. The locals are just not overly cooperative...hence a tenseness to the negotiations as if they were brokering a nuclear disarmament with North Korea.
 

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
5,013
Reaction score
1,271
Biden Admin has cleared Amtrak’s new tunnels NJ-NY, by approving both the half-funding by the feds, and the final EIS.

they hope it will be in operation by 2030. The costs are further split 25% NJ and 25% NY
 
Last edited:

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
5,013
Reaction score
1,271
The Washington post is reporting that Amtrak’s new Acela train will not debut until early 2022.

The main reasons appears to be:
1) the constant geometry catenary on the Northeast corridor, which is
Unlike the constant tension catenary that TGV heritage trains are used to using. They have apparently had to modify the pantagraph to ensure continuous contact.
2) Adjustments to how the train handles curves like the north east Corredor’s curves
3) General Covid-related staff delays in training
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,807
Reaction score
3,242
The Washington post is reporting that Amtrak’s new Acela train will not debut until early 2022.

The main reasons appears to be:
1) the constant geometry catenary on the Northeast corridor, which is
Unlike the constant tension catenary that TGV heritage trains are used to using. They have apparently had to modify the pantagraph to ensure continuous contact.
2) Adjustments to how the train handles curves like the north east Corredor’s curves
3) General Covid-related staff delays in training
That's not much of a slip, as November was the prior target and it hadn't budged much at all over a full year of pandemic-related disruption. They were hoping to showcase them for the Thanksgiving/Xmas rushes, but it was still going to be Q1/Q2 '22 before the Aveilas had proliferated enough to hold down more than half of the HSR schedules. Since panto adjustments aren't a big shop time-waster (they're one of the most oft-replaced parts on any electric train), it could be that the "delay" is only deferring having those token couple of showcase sets for Thanksgiving crush, aiming instead to hit the ground running in 1H '22 with higher quantity of debut trainsets, and simply rearranging deployment schedules accordingly rather than having an actual slowdown.

Supply chaining shouldn't be an issue, because Alstom's factories are about to start production of TGV's very similar but much larger order of Aveilas...which are tape-delayed to follow the Amtrak order by about 18-22 months on most major build milestones.
 

Top