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

F-Line to Dudley

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MTA finalizes long-rumored dual-mode locomotive order with Siemens to replace Metro-North GE Genesis P32AC-DM's and LIRR EMD DM30AC fleets. Small base order confined just to the 2 MTA roads' 1:1 fleet replacement needs, but slush options expandable to 144 total units drainable by NYSDOT, ConnDOT, and VTrans for Amtrak and CTrail service. NYSDOT (+ bit-player VTrans pay-in) a shoo-in to drain enough options for replacing the Empire Corridor fleet (Empire Service, Maple Leaf, Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express). This is noteworthy because it'll provide the base model for greater Amtrak adoption of dual-modes. The MTA procurement will be for 750V DC third rail units (but unlike the incumbent Genesis & EMD units they'll be able to run on all MNRR/LIRR third rail, not just the first/last 10 minutes inside the Penn/GCT tunnels and will have regenerative braking batteries to power through third rail breaks at grade crossings without "gapping"). But Siemens' platform is modular enough that the E-mode compartment can be swapped out with AC transformers for pantograph duty. And it reinforces the fleet hegemony Siemens is building with Amtrak as the Chargers, Sprinters, and "Charge-Sprint" duals will all be one largely parts- and frame-compatible family under long-term vendor Service & Support coverage (S&S being how Siemens so quickly bought its way into North American market dominance).

Very noteworthy where this is likely to increase national adoption of dual-modes. 2 already mostly clinched. . .
  • NYSDOT will need to pad out its Empire order to eliminate the current Albany engine swaps from duals to straight-diesels that happens on all all Empire schedules excluding Albany short-turns and the Ethan Allen. The swaps currently happen to keep the Penn Station-geared equipment cycling faster to/from Penn by cutting all the outlying mileage past Albany. However, NYSDOT will no longer be able to fish from the national Amtrak eqipment pool for those swaps because of the PRIAA legislation's requirement that the states with major state-sponsored service corridors self-own their next-gen equipment. They'll either have to buy these duals...then buy a bunch of stock Chargers for the diesel swap, or consolidate all routes (excluding nationally-funded Lake Shore Ltd. which will jettison the dual-mode @ ALB because the Boston half's diesel leader can handle the rest of the route to Chicago) to singular duals. They're choosing the latter, as it's cheaper that way under self-ownership. That's where the largest share of 'slush' options are stocked: replacing the engine swaps so the duals run straight thru to Niagra Falls, Toronto, Montreal, and Burlington every time. As upside the currently painful engine-swap layover @ Albany will disappear on every schedule except the LSL for 20+ minutes of schedule savings each way.
  • Amtrak and VADOT have already announced intent to buy duals for the Virginia Regionals on a separate procurement for AC pantograph-equipped duals. Buried in the fine print of all of this year's hullabaloo about massive south-of-D.C. service increases from the funded/designed Long Bridge twinning project to Alexandria and purchase of ROW + dispatching control of the D.C.-Richmond route. The plan is to eliminate the D.C. Union Station engine swap to slash schedule time and free up critical yard space, then transition commensurate with capacity expansion and further speed increases (i.e. more even-keeled 110 MPH) to Richmond into a service baseline of more run-thru Regionals than not. New York's order critically locks down the vehicle specs to final, so all the Amtrak/VADOT procurement has to do is design the AC/pantograph version of the swappable E-mode compartment. Their unit price is otherwise substantially locked down by New York proceeding, which gives them the go-ahead to start planning the budget for this. You will see these "Charge-Sprints" regularly at South Station for the VA Regionals and their fast-proliferating future schedules.
. . .and several easy possibilities for more via subsequent orders:
  • PennDOT for Pennsylvanian services increases and eliminating the Harrisburg engine-swap. Critical for more service parity on Keystone-west's emerging 110 MPH corridor to Pittsburgh per their slow-growth plan. With today's meager thru schedules Harrisburg doesn't have to handle many engine swaps...but that changes fast the more Keystones get extended into full-on Pennsylvanians. They probably need to buy a few of AC/panto versions.
  • Vermonter & Springfield Regional duals. Probably slushed by mothership-Amtrak & VTrans from the AMTK/VADOT order. Eliminates the New Haven engine swap for time savings/yard space and streamlines for if/when the Springfield Line ever gets electrified and the power switch moves to Springfield (without accompanying need to stock SPG with swap bodies).
  • ConnDOT, for Amtrak and CTrail. Very intriguing stuff, as while capacity and MNRR bureaucracy are currently impediments they have dreams of expanding Hartford Line service along the NEC to span Hartford-Bridgeport on a separately-chunked service pattern and to do homegrown Grand Central run-thrus. Also: *cough* INLAND ROUTE *cough* [hits Baker/Pollack with wadded-up NNEIRI study, primal-screams @ East-West fiasco].
  • ConnDOT/MassDOT, Valley Flyer/Springfield Shuttles New Haven-New York extension. Part of ConnDOT's layer-cake strategy to differentiate the incumbent Shuttle service from the Hartford Line so both have co-existing growth vectors. Adding Bridgeport, Stamford, and Penn to a super-express flavor retaining the Shuttle/Flyer's current quasi-commuter subsidy definitely checks off a lot of those boxes wholly distinct from CTrail and carves out a lasting future for the AMTK-level service for a super-commuter oriented business audience after the Hartford Line service rollout goes to completion. Of course one would expect similar differentiation to be in effect on any NY/NH-BOS Inlands if MassDOT ever pulls its head out of its ass.
  • MassDOT, Amtrak Cape Codder revival. Eliminates New Haven engine swap from previous 1986-96 incarnation (Providence doesn't have an AMTK yard, so must be at New Haven all the same), and allows full 125 MPH electric running on the NEC to Attleboro Jct. instead of *some* diesel speed penalty east-of-NHV. Probably slushed from the AMTK/VADOT pool since it's a bit player, but overall improves route's chances of restoration by equalizing NEC-running performance to that of a bog-standard Regional for better overall farebox recovery.
  • Multiple other possibilities from "Reasonable" to "Crazy" -level pitches. The ^above^ are just the ones with on-record funding, studies, or officially stated wish-list items registered on federally-filed State Rail Plans. All of those can make immediate hay off NY's finalizing of a common Siemens dual design/make and the unit-price coattails from the buff size of that order. But the field also widens considerably on yet-to-be-benchmarked service possibilities, which is overall very exciting. While I do not think any of this moves the needle on endemically crappy commuter rail price points for dual-modes on systems that aren't hogtied to one of the unventilated NYC tunnels (that means no MBTA coattails whatsoever absent a committed NSRL build)...the upside for intercity dual-modes is much broader and pre-affirmed by Amtrak's Virginia Regionals service goals.

Lots and lots of uncorked potential from this development. Long time coming.
 
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Arlington

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Would Amtrak California also be doing similar dual-modes to mix with electrified sections of the Bay and LA commuter services?
 

HenryAlan

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Would Amtrak California also be doing similar dual-modes to mix with electrified sections of the Bay and LA commuter services?
Seems unlikely. At the moment, there are no electrification plans for Metrolink (LA) or Coaster in San Diego. Cal Train electrification is underway on the San Francisco peninsula, but that system involves track not used by Amtrak at all.
 

The EGE

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Caltrain electrification and the Capitol Corridor overlap for about three miles between Santa Clara and San Jose - not enough for dual-modes to be be worthwhile. Electrification of both Metrolink and Capitol Corridor are proposed, but elephant-in-the-room CAHSR makes any megaprojects unlikely until the state either fishes or cuts bait on HSR.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Would Amtrak California also be doing similar dual-modes to mix with electrified sections of the Bay and LA commuter services?
San Joaquins, maybe...since that will re-route onto a segment of CAHSR Phase I for a significant chunk of its route length. While the stock Chargers that Caltrans already has are rated for 125 MPH, it's such a slow climb on diesel that they may well net some real schedule savings running in E-mode on the CAHSR-shared segment in spite of the fact that there's no unventilated tunnel forcing the issue. But the SJ is the only one. Caltrain on the west side of the Bay, as noted, is barely touched by any present-day Amtrak which lion's-share hugs the East side and Oakland instead. Metrolink's CAHSR overlap also isn't large, only hitting 1 of their 7 (and counting) routes + a small 3-station central overlap between L.A. Union and Burbank shared by 2 other lines. Any efforts on Metrolink's part to substantially electrify are going to be a wholly homegrown phenomenon, not driven by any intercity synergies. And even if the Orange County lines shared with the Surfliner electrify...it's not enough Surfliner route miles or enough performance enhancement to bother with a dual-modes assignment on that route regardless of future coincidental commuter rail wire-ups.
 
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shmessy

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Norval Elliot

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I guess it's better than the subterranean remains of Penn Station. Sadly, the new Moynihan Train Hall has all the grace and elegance of an indoor shopping mall. Did Alexander Cassatt just roll over again?
 

vanshnookenraggen

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Are you saying this as someone who has seen it first hand or are you just judging it based on pictures?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Semass

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https://www.masstransitmag.com/rail...tc-is-operational-on-all-required-route-miles

Once thought an impossible feat given the enormity of the undertaking and negligently stingy fed Congressional funding behind it, as of today all qualifying U.S. railroads now are running active FRA-certified Positive Train Control...beating a final implementation deadline of tomorrow at midnight.
Wow. Even sad sack New Mexico Rail Runner? I would have bet on them to miss it.
 

bdurden

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Wow. Even sad sack New Mexico Rail Runner? I would have bet on them to miss it.
What do you mean by that?
I found the rail runner very convenient getting to Santa Fe from Albuquerque.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Wow. Even sad sack New Mexico Rail Runner? I would have bet on them to miss it.
Rail Runner made it on Tuesday, along with Metro North and LIRR (west-of-Hudson lumped under peril with late-running NJT, who clinched only a couple weeks ago...and LIRR had some non- cab signal territory to settle up complicating things). Tiny little TEXRail in Dallas/Ft. Worth was the very last holdout certified yesterday for the 100% completion announcement.

Of course, it's not over-over. The FRA just announced new progress reporting guidelines for benchmarking all these PTC systems now active, since those rules were undefined until now. The T has a 12/31/2022 waiver to install cab signals on the northside's Fitchburg, Western/Wildcat, and Rockburyport routes because the cabless-variant ACSES PTC system was ruled very late in the game to be inadequate (feds' fault). And if CSX and/or Norfolk Southern divvy up Pan Am after that merger mess is settled by the STB next year all of PAR's non-MBTA network (including Downeaster) go under the mandate with presumed 2-year installation deadline because of the change to Class I RR ownership and a much tougher overall set of federal oversight (it's already somewhat miraculous Pan Am Southern got an exemption waiver in spite of NS's 50% ownership presence). But all the huffing and puffing to meet the Congressional mandate is now over...with none of the expected missed-deadline casualties everyone was pants-shitting afraid of for the last 10 years. Which is gobsmackingly remarkable given that Congress was pretty much AWOL with funding assistance for this whole decade-long saga.

Proves at least when we've got a loaded gun to our heads we can still muscle up a transformative megaproject here in the U.S. and make hay with it in spite of all manner of red tape (which there was TONS of here). Now...if only it didn't take a loaded gun in the first place to get things done. . .
 

Arlington

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Are you saying this as someone who has seen it first hand or are you just judging it based on pictures?
I know Van's question wasn't directed at me, but Personally, I only peeked in sideways from the corner door (8th Ave at 31st)
My sense from the pictures (and from what works at other stations, such as in London) is that they could have articulated the space better with more multi-level circulation--catwalks and escalators to 'show more function'

I'd say that once it gets crowded, and you see where people naturally gather (lining up to board) there'll be a chance to give the place a little more focus and shape.

Then again, Grand Central is essentially an acre of barren stone with a golden yurt in the middle and it works great.
 

shmessy

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I know Van's question wasn't directed at me, but Personally, I only peeked in sideways from the corner door (8th Ave at 31st)
My sense from the pictures (and from what works at other stations, such as in London) is that they could have articulated the space better with more multi-level circulation--catwalks and escalators to 'show more function'

I'd say that once it gets crowded, and you see where people naturally gather (lining up to board) there'll be a chance to give the place a little more focus and shape.

Then again, Grand Central is essentially an acre of barren stone with a golden yurt in the middle and it works great.

Thank you for the thoughtful and informative reply (as opposed to the other poster who was just making unexplained statements). People are here to learn about these subjects. They want to know the WHY of an opinion, not just "It's good" or "It stinks".
 

Semass

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What do you mean by that?
I found the rail runner very convenient getting to Santa Fe from Albuquerque.
It is a very nice service. However, it was one of the furthest behind throughout the process. The general disfunction of the state made funds very scarce. The state has a small population compared to others with rail service. Albuquerque and Santa Fe are small metros. A capital expense like this is a much bigger lift.
 

Hubman

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Assuming a return to something resembling pre-COVID ridership, or at least an equally proportional return for the relevant light rail systems (big assumption), I predict that the MBTA light rail will be the second-highest ridership light rail system in the nation in 2022. Keep in mind that the Crenshaw/LAX Line is also scheduled to open next year, so I think that prevents Boston from catching LA.
I believe MBTA Light Rail was the busiest system in the country until a few years ago
 

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