• Amtrak NYC Lehigh Valley service...

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

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  by motor
 
Great replies, everyone (thumbs up). Thanks.

Just wondering. And I didn't think about the trouble that finding slots at NYP would involve. (blush)

motor

  by Noel Weaver
 
I do not think a service of this nature would be justified west of Allentown
but between north Jersey and Allentown the best route would probably be
the former DL&W route via Dover with the trains operated by NJ Transit
and operating out of Hoboken to avoid a power change or train change
enroute. Might be worth while to operate the Allentown train via the
Boonton Line and have a midtown direct connection along the way.
A number of track capacity issues would still have to be dealt with
between the state line and Allentown but you would not be dealing with the
single track LV line out of New Jersey. The former DL&W line is currently
in use for passenger service as far as Hackettstown and it is only another
24 miles to Phillipsburg and this portion of the line is in regular use for
freight trains.
I do not think the potential business west of Allentown would justify the
huge expense that would be required to increase the capacity to a point
where NS would accept passenger trains over this vital freight line.
If service is necessary at Reading, it would be better operated out of
Philadelphia by SEPTA but again, capacity issues would require more
expense on this one too.
Noel Weaver

  by Irish Chieftain
 
If NJT and NS/CSX can peacefully coexist on the segment of the Lehigh Line between Hunter and Aldene (two tracks, very busy for both freight and passenger), there should be no problems running Amtrak on the former RDG west of Allentown (also two tracks, with some three-track segments through Bethlehem and Easton). It's not like the passenger service proposed thereupon bound for Reading/Harrisburg would be hourly service, after all…

The former DL&W between Hackettstown and Phillipsburg Union Station has a 30-mph speed restriction on it IIRC and would have to be rehabilitated, including replacing a number of grade crossing barriers. Local trains from Hoboken to Hackettstown, making all stops, currently make the journey in two hours one-way, which is quite a test of endurance, although they do get passengers. It would be a quite slow service, unless express service is instituted to a greater degree than currently practiced.

  by LI Loco
 
Couldn't some of the time between Hackettstown and New York also be reduced by running trains over the Morris & Essex line rather than the Boonton line, which I believe is more circuitous?
  by henry6
 
The justification of this service...NY to Harrisburg...would be hard to sell at this point, but to Allentown would be ok. With that said, it would fall to NJT, not Amtrak, to provide it under today's orginization. In fact there is great discussion on both NJT and NJ state forums on this subject.

I want to reiterate one of my previous statements, which I made above, but have said quite frequently: There has to be a coming to terms for regional passenger rail services, something beyond commuter but not considered "long distance" as defined in Amtrak terms. To that end I see that the Bush Administration, through FRA Administrator Joe Boardman, has stated its opposition to the Congressional act reauthorizing Amtrak because it does not reform Amtrak. The administration wants to bring more state monies into regional train operations. Originally I had been opposed to this thought, but the more I realize the need for a regionalization of thinking for rail passenger servcies, the more I lean toward the Administration's arguement. My initial thoughts are to retain Amtrak as the operator of rail passenger sercvice with the added authority of creating regional districts under its umbrella to work with states, regional agencies (including commuter), and private initiatives when and where practical. But it is important to keep Amtrak as the national agency to oversee and guide rail passenger services.

  by LI Loco
 
Reading and Berks County are a mere 39 miles beyond Allentown. Reading has a population of 80,000, making it Pennsylvania's 5th largest city, and Berks has a population of 385,000. It is the state's largest county outside the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metropolitan areas. Given its size and the attraction of the Reading outlets, it might make a more attractive terminal than Allentown.

As for going beyond to Harrisburg, the driving distance is 63 miles and the population is much smaller. It may not be justified.

  by Irish Chieftain
 
LI Loco wrote:Couldn't some of the time between Hackettstown and New York also be reduced by running trains over the Morris & Essex line rather than the Boonton line, which I believe is more circuitous?
Believe it or not, the Boonton Line is less circuitous, but it has less track capacity west of Montclair State University station. The Morristown Line takes a long detour southwards around South Mountain before coming northward again after Summit station.
henry6 wrote:The justification of this service...NY to Harrisburg...would be hard to sell at this point. With that said, it would fall to NJT, not Amtrak, to provide it under today's organization
No it would not. Simply because there is an operating authority in Monroe, Wayne and Lackawanna Counties in PA seeking for NJ Transit to operate trains to Scranton does not mean that NJ Transit has to be the operator of all rail service west of the Delaware into PA now.

How would service via the original route between NYC and Harrisburg not be "justified" compared to the current Keystone service? Must all trains operate via Philadelphia between Harrisburg and New York?
The administration wants to bring more state monies into regional train operations.
What the administration wants is for regional train service to be strangled past recovery. They know how broke the states are. Next to fall will be the highways—note the failure to keep I-78 (parallel to this herein-proposed service) safely cleared and de-iced, with people stuck for fourteen hours in the bitter cold once an accident occurred.
  by henry6
 
I follow your reasoning, Irish, but disagree on your conclusions. NJT has no real authority west of the Delaware and therefore cannot appear interested in the service. In fact, the authority in the Poconos actually owns the Slateford bridge to the Jersey shore to get NJT into PA. A similar agency, therefore, would have to step forward along the I78 Corridor. And by law, even yet today, Amtrak has to be approached about the service between New York City and Reading and Harrisburg because of the distance until and unless any other authority comes forward.

As for how the Administration is approaching the pending legislation, I perhaps have to agree with you. But, taking the proverbial bull by the horns and structuring Amtrak in such a way that regional services doucl be developed under its auspicies with positive results. Planners--Federal, state, and municipal-- all over are coming to rail (freight and passenger) to get them out of the traffic jams and environemntal fogs. Successes like the Downeaster, services provided by the states of California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Pennsylvania and North Carolina help boost this concept. And in a discussion I had with an NJTA planner, the concept of inter metropolitan area services for regional planning and use is an area that is being seriously looked at. So if you look at what I said, not getting rid of Amtrak as a whole, but setting it up to run and oversee the operation of trains exclusive of commuter services, could be the option to follow. Amtrak would operate "long distance trains" (diner, sleepers, inter state, inter region, inter time zones, find a definition) plus be the agency that oversees the formation and operation of regional inter city services which are not commuter trains (say, New Haven to Philadelphia or New Haven to Boston or Atlanta to Jacksonville or Denver to Kansas City, or whatever paring makes "regional" sense). But it has to be a plan and program put through channels (legislation, definitions, politics) and not be expected to happen because endorsement or monies are witheld in political posturing.

  by Irish Chieftain
 
taking the proverbial bull by the horns and structuring Amtrak in such a way that regional services could be developed under its auspicies with positive results. Planners--Federal, state, and municipal-- all over are coming to rail (freight and passenger) to get them out of the traffic jams and environmental fogs. Successes like the Downeaster, services provided by the states of California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Pennsylvania and North Carolina help boost this concept
Remember, this is forced on them; and most of those states do not have large commuter agencies to take care of (Metrolink is not comparable to NJT's commuter rail network). And more to the point, Amtrak is the operator of all that you cite.

The rest of what you mention in your second paragraph makes it sound like they're trying to get Amtrak out of the NEC. We've been over it a zillion times as to why this would not work.
  by henry6
 
Oh, no. I am not saying Amtrak should get off the Corridor. But I am agreeing that a reorginization with an eye toward what Amtrak can do to encourage participation by anyone who wants or needs be in should be considered. Perhaps the Corridor has to be defined Boston to Washington for Amtrak trains but NJT and MNRR or SEPTA might be able to bring a Philadelphia to Stamford or New Haven or Albany train if there is a regional need.

Amtrak partners with Caltrans and the other state's agencies to provide these services, and that is my point. This type of partnership has to be encouraged and expanded. And a state does not need a commuter agency...a DOT or any other designee would be acceptable, even a private concern. The ICC is dead, so why can't a bus company own and operate a train on a route that is bogged down in traffic or needs more buses than can be appropriated by the bus company? Why can't Amtrak work with that company to establish the service. Maybe govenrment agencies would be involved, may be not.

The constant arguement of giving Amtrak money is wearing thin, especially because there has been no further resove than to add more money. A better and more realistic program is needed. When Amtrak was formed it was to take the burden of operating passenger trains off the accounting department ledgers. That was done 30 years ago. Today's needs and costs fall in different areas that have to be addressed differentely. So lets stop talking just about funding Amtrak, but add how to operate...realistically operate...Amtrak to run passenger trains effectively. I am just saying it is time to rethink, reorganize, retool, and revitalize Amtrak.

  by CHIP72
 
LI Loco wrote:Reading and Berks County are a mere 39 miles beyond Allentown. Reading has a population of 80,000, making it Pennsylvania's 5th largest city, and Berks has a population of 385,000. It is the state's largest county outside the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metropolitan areas. Given its size and the attraction of the Reading outlets, it might make a more attractive terminal than Allentown.

As for going beyond to Harrisburg, the driving distance is 63 miles and the population is much smaller. It may not be justified.
Just as a point of clarification, Harrisburg was the 5th largest metro area in Pennsylvania measured by urbanized area population in the 2000 Census, with about 362,000 people. (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton, and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, in that order, were the top four.) Reading was the 7th largest metro area in PA by urbanized area population, with about 240,000 people. (Lancaster ranks 6th, at about 323,000, and FWIW York ranked 8th at just under 200,000.)

From an ideal (i.e. pure passenger benefit and no rail freight issues or rail right-of-way issues) perspective, I think a New York-Lehigh Valley-Reading-Harrisburg route makes a good deal of sense. There's already been a lot of good discussion about the New York and Lehigh Valley (aka ABE) connection both in this thread and on the NJT board, so I don't need to add more. As for the western half of this corridor, the Lehigh Valley is a growing job center. Harrisburg is the state capital and a transportation center, and I know it is the primary job center in central PA. Reading is also a decent-sized center job center. Though the need for passenger rail services between the ABE area and Harrisburg (or possibly Lancaster or York - more thoughts on that below) isn't as high as those between the ABE area and NYC/north Jersey, rail alternatives are fairly viable now and will become a lot more viable a couple decades from now. An arguably better question is where the western "regional" segment would terminate. It doesn't necessarily have to terminate in Harrisburg (though that makes the most sense). It could terminate in either Lancaster (where it would connect with the existing Keystone Corridor and provide a Harrisburg to Lehigh Valley connection via Lancaster) or in York. Stopping in York would provide benefits for York-Lancaster travelers in addition to York-New York and York-Philadelphia travelers.

Related to the end of the last paragraph, as for the idea of extending the corridor beyond Harrisburg, I think that also makes sense, but IMO it wouldn't be west towards Pittsburgh, it would be south towards Baltimore/Washington. Baltimore is a mere 75 miles from Harrisburg (and 50 miles from York) and Washington is about 115 miles from Harrisburg via Baltimore. By contrast, Harrisburg is about 205 miles from Pittsburgh, and there is significantly less population between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh than there is between Harrisburg and Baltimore/Washington. Now a NYC/Baltimore route via the Lehigh Valley and either Harrisburg and/or Lancaster wouldn't serve passengers traveling the entire length (except for overflow when conventional NE Corridor trains are at capacity), but it WOULD serve a significant number of passengers going between Harrisburg/Lancaster/York and NYC and also Harrisburg/Lancaster/York and Baltimore/Washington. Basically you'd be connecting two viable shorter distance corridors together.

Finally and unfortunately, as a practical manner it may be difficult for Norfolk Southern to allow passenger rail operations west of Allentown, or more specifically west of Reading, if a route followed the Reading/Lebanon/Harrisburg corridor. (Lebanon is a small city with about 60,000 people in its urbanized area about halfway and directly between Reading and Harrisburg.) This section of NS corridor is their primary east-west mainline, and it is experiencing significant increases in traffic (specifically intermodal traffic). Perhaps more importantly, it has some significant right-of-way concerns along part of the corridor, including in-city running and multiple street crossings in the city of Lebanon. NS and PennDOT would need to be pretty creative if intermediate distance passenger rail service were to take place between Harrisburg, Lebanon, and Reading. (As a final note, I'll mention there is a significant amount of intercity bus service already provided by Capitol Trailways between Harrisburg and Reading, so there probably would be some demand there if rail service ever did occur. I'll also note the Harrisburg-based Capital Area Transit has identified the York-Harrisburg-Lebanon corridor as their preferred corridor for CorridorTWO commuter rail service.)

  by CHIP72
 
I forgot to mention one important thing in my lengthy post above - who says New York/Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton/Harrisburg service can only be served by either Amtrak OR NJ Transit? Perhaps it could be served (or portions of it could be served) by Amtrak AND NJ Transit (or Amtrak and commuter rail). The New York/Lehigh Valley segment has a large commuter market, and IMO it makes sense for this segment to have fairly frequent, commuter rail service. (Heck, IMO it makes sense for LANTA, the transit operator in the Lehigh Valley, to become a third operator and have even more frequent commuter rail service than NJT between Allentown and Phillipsburg if and when LANTA gets into the commuter rail business.) However, this segment could also be served by the longer and less frequent New York/Harrisburg service. Though many NYC/north Jersey/Lehigh Valley riders wouldn't use the Amtrak (or successor agency) service, there are probably a good number of riders who would use that service instead of commuter rail service if given the choice. This is exactly what happens with a city pair like New York/Trenton (and even indirectly with New York/Philadelphia), and people use both services.

The New York/Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton/(Harrisburg) corridor doesn't have to be an either/or argument between commuter rail and intercity corridor rail.
Last edited by CHIP72 on Sun Mar 25, 2007 6:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by henry6
 
Your last post, CHIP, brings up several important points:

First, that is that if there is to be a passenger train operated anywhere, it has to be by Amtrak or a commuter agency or anyone else who has the proper insurance to indemnify the freight railroad.

Second, that while Amtrak has the authority to operate a passenger train virtually anywhere, others can now get that authority. A commuter agency is the next likely authority because of insurance liabilities. Next, and I am assuming here, would be another railroad entity which also has to prove insurance liability. It would be a burden on most any pther entity.

But also, you point out what I have posted about the need for regional studies, inter agency cooperation, regional planning, etc. Even if it is the charge of Amtrak, it is what is emerging as a need to be addressed by planners and transportation experts all across the country.

  by delvyrails
 
For what it's worth now, Amtrak studied this NYP-HBG route, along with six other short haul routes, 15 years ago (Amtrak press release dated 7/6/92).

Results: predicted annual subsidy need was about $1.1 to 0.86 million, average train load (passenger miles per train mile) was predicted at 87 to 102, and the short-term avoidable loss per passenger mile was expected to be between 5 and 2.2 cents per passenger mile.

Obviously, inflation and other matters may have caused a different situation now; but it is interesting that of the seven routes considered (one was Boston-Portland), this route had the highest expected passenger loads and the lowest loss per passenger mile.

  by delvyrails
 
For what it's worth now, Amtrak studied this NYP-HBG route, along with six other short haul routes, 15 years ago (Amtrak press release dated 7/6/92).

Results: predicted annual subsidy need was about $1.1 to 0.86 million, average train load (passenger miles per train mile) was predicted at 87 to 102, and the short-term avoidable loss per passenger mile was expected to be between 5 and 2.2 cents per passenger mile.

Obviously, inflation and other matters may have caused a different situation now; but it is interesting that of the seven routes considered (one was Boston-Portland), this route had the highest expected passenger loads and the lowest loss per passenger mile.
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