Gilbert B Norman wrote:Appears to be a "Cub" reporter at a small market newspaper (am I being too much a "paper snob" and belittling the Express-Times to much, Mr. JP?) rummaging trash cans for a story.
The inaccuracies start with the stock photo; when did an ACS-64 become an Acela?
Your assessment seems spot on Mr. Norman. I'm kinda wondering what brought Mr. McHugh up to the Lehigh Valley - does he have a family member going to college up their, interested in seeing the transformation of the South Side into a Casino, or lured by the mayors......I also found it amusing that the reporter has to break this down to an "Amtrak 101?" I think many in the Lehigh Valley know Amtrak operates on freight railroads.......
More like rummaging I. The recycled newspapers......MANY, MANY, MANY years of talking about bringing rail service back to the Valley......yet no action by any rail transit agency or State.
Worst thing that ever happened was SEPTA pulling out what commuter service remained in the 1980s (from Philly to Bethlehem via Lansdale and Hellertown). SEPTA wanted out of the non-electric operations and this was their last service to cut the cord on - or at least one of the last. This actually may have been when David Gunn was trying to salvage SEPTA. And the second worst kinda happened a few years ago when the old Reading Line - that SEPTA used to get to the Lehigh Valley - was made into a rail trail - between Hellertown and Bethlehem.
Does the Lehigh Valley merit rail service. Well if college students are flocking to Amtrak as a means of travel - mimicking largely the Midwest - then ABSOLUTELY. You have a TON of colleges and Universities between Easton and Allentown.
NJT would only want to bring rails to the State Line, at Philipsburg. That might catch a fraction of the commuting market, but it is not going to attract the college students in PA without cars - that are residing across the River.......
So Amtrak could be the best solution - IF THEY GET SERIOUS!!!! It's not gotten serious since passenger rail made its last bow in the Lehigh Valley. Better yet - want rail service - you can now try and get the casino to help or get the colleges/universities to support efforts (eg add pressure).
But this would be nothing but a corridor service between Allentown and Newark/Hoboken. I can't see service going "all the way" to NYC. Even if there were dual modes. Amtrak would be lucky if they could lease diesels from NJT.
So if you talk about a corridor - what's the ridership base?
- Fraction of commuters - to and from perhaps with opportunities in Bethlehem that are merging. But most would be going east in am and west in pm - likely on a limited selection train.
- Leisure riders to/from the Lehigh Valley - especially to the Casino. Most are likely to still drive to their place of work in NJ or NYC. I think the bus market is still strong in the area, but telecommuting is growing in popularity as no one wants to deal with the parking lot of interstate 78 during rush hour.
- College students. College students in the Lehigh Valley do not flock to the buses and with what has been reported in the Midwest with college students and trains - I could see this replicated. Most students to Lehigh University, Moravian, and Lafayette College are from the tri-State area or Mid-Atlantic States. But for this service to be used by college students it would have to be a Downeaster type of corridor. It's a means to get to NYC job interviews or access to the NEC in general.
Change at Newark for Philadelphia/Boston (the "change of trains") could be a hard sell. No real meat in the article on that. Amtrak to Hoboken - nice, but that's like Amtrak serving Suburban Station once again.....It's a hard sell for the NJT Raritan Valley line passengers.....Would have been nice if reporter eluded to this and the fact that the NORTHEAST REGIONAL train that is pictured travels the length of the NEC from A to B with connections to the Amtrak network.....article was written everyone is going to Metro New York. Some options of that are given, but that is surely not the "end of the line. Some "context" of who the riders would be would have been nice - or who the mayors think the riders would be - from Philly or New York, but let's guess after that?
I don't see NS letting Amtrak have trackage rights over what is mostly a single tracked railroad from Allentown to Harrisburg - and a VERY busy one at that. I think double tracking on key parts has been done or in progress with entire length eyed. Again, can't imagine NS granting Amtrak access on that part of route to Harrisburg. Even from Lehigh Valley direct to Philly - that's a tough one. That's another SEPTA wish list in 21st Century - but they sealed their own fate in the 80s with complete lack of vision.
And then there's the funding!!!! No mention as to whether the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would chip in the money, or NJ...... Course if they ran the trains (minimum of four a day round trip to make it a corridor operation) on NJT's Raritan Valley Line that would be best. Is that NJ's contribution - plus some connector track to get from the Lehigh Valley Line to the Raritan River Line (née CNJ)? I only say that because then NJT could then possibly piggy back and run commuter service to Philipsburg. But anything across the Delaware River - PA is going to have to fund - and how, how much, what's involved.
All we know from this article is people's appetite being wetted from the announcement a "test train" could be coming their way. But is this going to be another - " we ran it, now shelf it."
- potential equipment (Amfleets)
- potential market/riders
- potential frequencies (morning rush hour, mid-day, evening rush hour, late evening)
- initial starting and ending points
- funding (big open ended question on that one)
Oh - and it could be coming as early as Spring 2016......the test train. What's the test train really going to do and what are the next steps (reporter could have given some info on that).
So right now, just some nice talk in the newspaper......Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton are pretty large towns and have done a resurgence since the steel mill went elsewhere (but not a total 360). The article could have even gotten more legs if more defined details were given - perhaps as the test train date draws nearer and not in December 2015. Lot of details likely not even known!!!!
So yes, I agree with Mr. Norman.
Even I have GRAND speculation and what COULD BE. I still have a vested interest in the Lehigh Valley. But I've heard this talk for YEARS - well decades now! SEPTA has been gone for decades!
PS - no mention of the rail trail that was completed only a few years ago. This somewhat sealed the fate on SEPTA returning direct to Bethlehem as that was the SEPTA ROW. The McMansions are built right up along portions of the ROW too. Tons of NIMBY'S there......