• Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

  • 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 kitchin
 
lirrelectrician wrote: Fri May 14, 2021 10:26 pm After looking on Google earth again, following the VGN line, there is an open field right before the line goes into the tunnel under Rt 460. They probably could put the station there. Now here is a very crazy idea. Too bad they couldn't extend the service up to Bluefield and beyond to Ashland and Cincinnati. Kind of like a resurrected Mountaineer / Hilltopper. Can always dream.
Mike Scholz
I see what you're talking about, on the east side of the tunnel, and it's in a sparse commercial area close to the highway. A Google Maps search of "Merrimac, VA," the town mentioned in the press release, is on the west side of the tunnel, but residential and not very connected by road.

I guess the rail to Merrimack the state bought ends around the Huckleberry Trail overpass, and that's a rails-to-trails? For an odd reason, I've been to the southern end of that Huckleberry line, on the still-rails part, where it merges into the N&W mainline east of Cambria.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Might I also add the Commonwealth, in addition to locating their Christian/Blacks/burg station to the East of the tunnel, be best advised to plug it, lest it become a venue for VPI students to have their "rumbles in the tunnel" much as do or have Brown and RISD students in an abandoned New Haven tunnel in Providence.
  by Arlington
 
It really seems premature to decide the fate of the VGN tunnels: We don’t know that NS has entirely sworn off wanting to run coal trains (I think it got the empty/uphill ones)—I hope the coal is gone forever

We don’t know if the state has a secret plan for some how connecting back to go to Bristol (I hope Blacksburg is a rail terminus and a omnidirectional bus-highway hub)

We don’t know if Blacksburg is planning local trails.

And We already know that small autonomous 15mph electric shuttles* would do very well on a former rail right of way, And might be a very VPI solution to last-5-miles mobility

* Picture Morgantown West Virginia is shuttle system without the need for expensive guideway
  by gokeefe
 
Virginia DRPT are big picture thinkers ... I think the real question is what is their strategy for future extension. I will take a look ...

Sent from my Pixel 2 XL using Tapatalk

  by scratchyX1
 
Arlington wrote: Sat May 15, 2021 10:17 am It really seems premature to decide the fate of the VGN tunnels: We don’t know that NS has entirely sworn off wanting to run coal trains (I think it got the empty/uphill ones)—I hope the coal is gone forever

We don’t know if the state has a secret plan for some how connecting back to go to Bristol (I hope Blacksburg is a rail terminus and a omnidirectional bus-highway hub)

We don’t know if Blacksburg is planning local trails.

And We already know that small autonomous 15mph electric shuttles* would do very well on a former rail right of way, And might be a very VPI solution to last-5-miles mobility

* Picture Morgantown West Virginia is shuttle system without the need for expensive guideway
Yeah, I was wondering if they would have shuttles to the two towns from Merrimack station.
  by Arlington
 
gokeefe wrote: Sat May 15, 2021 12:08 pm Virginia DRPT are big picture thinkers ... I think the real question is what is their strategy for future extension. I will take a look ...
Let us know. My accumulated impression
(1) Advocates & Governors have talked and mapped Bristol, but it still feels like they're drawing lines that look good (they can't resist throwing a line to the tippy end of the state), but haven't given much thought to ROW or daily demand.
(2)VDRPT been very innovative, and that includes their use of buses. (https://virginiabreeze.org/routes/) to reach cities that are small (Danville) and use highways that are good (I-81)
(3) Bristol will be a great bus route, but jointed, single track rail can't compete with I-81
(4) Virginia's got an enormous lot on its "rail" plate: Long Bridge, Richmond-to-Raleigh,Buckhingam Branch/Cardinal Route, Blacksburg extension, additional investments in the Tidewater on frequency (and maybe speeds). I think they're going to have to be forgiven if they send buses to tertiary/quaternary markets.
  by west point
 
To repeat the rail time on N&W ROA - Bristol was 3:50 and Bristol - ROA = 3:35. I-381, I-81, I-581 to downtown Roanoke = 149 miles non stop at speed limit of 70 MPH = 2:05. 5-8 road miles are due to the feeder Interstates as well. There would need a completely different ROW to eliminate the slow sections of the NS ( N&W ) . Also notice rail miles are 151.1. Air miles are 133 Get the idea that the rails are kind of crooked ?

http://streamlinerschedules.com/concour ... 95212.html
  by Arlington
 
^ Thanks for putting numbers to my “interstate, fast; NW, slow”

3.5 to 4 hours by rail might have been competitive vs US 11 but it can’t beat a 2.5 hr bus (padded schedule or with a couple of stops) on I-81

And don’t forget that the state can run a bus on I-81 for no ROW costs (Other than a pay as you go gas tax on the bus fuel)

Sure beats paying NS another Quarter Billion for the pleasure of going 40 mph by rail for 4 hours. That's not really an exaggeration (either on the high price or the low performance sides) given that Virginia just paid $219M to get 1 stop/30 miles to Bburg + 1 frequency. That's about where the "we pay too much for rail and serve too few people badly" tipping point occurs...throwing down several hundred million to serve a very small number of people.

Whatever $$$ NS demanded To get to Bristol, that money will go much, much farther for many, many more passengers on almost any other line in the state with existing services (from scratch extensions have reached their end of diminishing returns)

I’d like to see that money invested in the BB/Cardinal

(If you are asking how can you best spend state money to improve rail to promote mountainous regions of the state)

(And I started a separate thread to discuss this so I’ll say no more about it here)
Last edited by Arlington on Mon May 17, 2021 9:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by west point
 
If it is an Amtrak or state owned bus even no fuel taxes. Contract carrier have no idea ? Yes US 11 was a PITA. I know Bristol - Abington was is still a good 40 minuets by US-11 on the 2 lane + 3rd accident lane. N&W 14 miles in 22 minutes sometimes less.
  by kitchin
 
Arlington wrote: Mon May 17, 2021 11:31 am My accumulated impression
(1) Advocates & Governors have talked and mapped Bristol, but it still feels like they're drawing lines that look good (they can't resist throwing a line to the tippy end of the state), but haven't given much thought to ROW or daily demand.
(2)VDRPT been very innovative, and that includes their use of buses. (https://virginiabreeze.org/routes/) to reach cities that are small (Danville) and use highways that are good (I-81)
(3) Bristol will be a great bus route, but jointed, single track rail can't compete with I-81
(4) Virginia's got an enormous lot on its "rail" plate: Long Bridge, Richmond-to-Raleigh,Buckhingam Branch/Cardinal Route, Blacksburg extension, additional investments in the Tidewater on frequency (and maybe speeds). I think they're going to have to be forgiven if they send buses to tertiary/quaternary markets.
1. That tippy end is still 100 miles by road east of the the tippy-top end, Cumberland Gap. Just to be pedantic. :wink:
2. I wrote to the governor/DRPT and they said an improved east-west bus link between CVS and RVR/RVM is under discussion. Greyhound runs it once a day. The Breeze only goes north-south. The Ambus is thrice weekly and very hit-and-and miss to book onward to Tidewater (and of course not at all without a rail segment).
3. That part of I-81, Wytheville-Bristol is the easiest drive in the state on I-81. Same goes for Tennessee till I-40 outside Knoxville.
4. Nothing is in the plans for Buckingham Branch outside Cardinal territory. Thanks for people pointing out VRE is regionally funded; I'd forgotten that.

The state and US Connect have chosen the low-hanging fruit in the five year plan, as well as the vaguely-ten year plan by the DRPT. I don't know why no one talks about the northern Shenandoah Valley. Long-term, it seems to me commuter rail around smaller cities like Lynchburg (larger metro than Charlottesville) would foster smart growth. The large cities are better choices short-term.
national rank, metro, pop, growth
6 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA 6,280,487 +11.17
37 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA 1,768,901 +3.21
44 Richmond, VA MSA 1,291,900 +8.88
163 Roanoke, VA MSA 313,222 +1.46
165 Kingsport-Bristol, TN-VA MSA 307,202 −0.76
188 Lynchburg, VA MSA 263,566 +4.33
209 Charlottesville, VA MSA 218,615 +8.46
257 Blacksburg-Christiansburg, VA MSA 167,531 +2.81
296 Winchester, VA-WV MSA 140,566 +9.41
304 Harrisonburg, VA MSA 134,964 +7.77
325 Staunton, VA MSA 123,120 +3.90

#6 extends south beyond Fredericksburg and west almost to Winchester.

Combining some rail markets:

DC/Richmond 7,572,387
Hampton Roads 1,768,901
Roanoke/Blacksburg 480,753
Bristol 307,202
Lynchburg 263,566
Harrisonburg/Staunton 258,084
Charlottesville 218,615
Winchester 140,566

Busiest Amtrak stations in 2019:
RVR, LOR, ALX, CVS, NPN, FBG, NFK, ROA, LYH, WBG, RVM
  by electricron
 
Population numbers of cities and towns along passenger train routes are useful for projecting ridership, but once the train has been operating the number sets that count is the actual ridership.
https://railpassengers.org/site/assets/ ... 484/46.pdf
Total ridership including all stations up to Boston MA was 210,928 in FY 2019 (pre-pandemic). This includes the ridership jump of the Roanoke extension.
I-81 in Virginia averages averages 48,000 vehicles per day, with almost 60,000 vpd near Roanoke and Winchester.
http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/res ... _sheet.pdf
Just to put that into perspective, just the highway in Virginia for 5 days matches what this train does over an entire year over its entire route.
Some math follows:
48,000 x 365 = 17,520,000
210,928 / 17,520,000 x 100 = 1.2%
Yes, 98.8% of the actual travelers would prefer to drive their own car or truck than ride this train.
1% market share is not being very competitive.

Which brings up this question that should be asked and answered every year - How much of the USDOT budget should be invested in trains? My answer is far less than 2%. The citizens have voted by doing.

There will be many who would say intercity trains would perform better with market share if the trains were faster. Why are we not then building faster trains? Why do we continue to run losers.
There will be many who will say intercity trains reduces highway congestion, but who will notice how much less congestion there is with 99 cars vs 100 cars on a particular stretch of highway? Really, you would notice one less car out of a hundred?
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
west point wrote: Mon May 17, 2021 8:53 pm If it is an Amtrak or state owned bus even no fuel taxes. Contract carrier have no idea ?
Mr. West Point, Government owned, yes; but Amtrak?
  by Arlington
 
Let's not get bogged down in gas taxes. Whether paid or unpaid, they are a minor and variable cost easily funded from tickets on a pay as you go basis--and that ends when service ends (if it fails). The Virginia Breeze (operated by Megabus on leased state buses) likely never thinks about gas taxes.

Versus rail access taking hundreds of millions, capital costs, entirely paid up front, regardless of passenger volumes. That's a lot of economic risk for the state to bear.

My real point is that rail in Virginia has required progressively-larger outlays to push deeper into new territory:

Capital Costs (in nominal dollars at the time)

$115m +00miles +1 Train to Lynchburg (calling it 00 miles because they were all Crescent miles)
$100m +55miles +0 trains to Roanoke
$219m +25miles +1 train to Blacksburg

So that's nearly a Half Billion (in current $) of capital costs that the state has laid out for 2 NERs to get as far as Blacksburg. Political support is bipartisan, but it is really easy to snipe when big round numbers like that need to be laid out and already we're seeing "how many dollars per new passenger" questions (since the station will likely not be walkable, we're basically just allowing "the College Kids" to spend less time on a shuttle bus.

The advantage VPI/Radford have is that they are popular (have political support for service) across the whole state.

Sorry for saying it so many ways: I think new Rail in SW VA ends at the Merricmac terminus.
  by kitchin
 
I-81 looks like half trucks to me. And their taxes do not pay anything close to the maintenance cost on the pavement. Parkways without trucks rarely need paving. The Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive is an extreme example, repaved every fifty years, but it was very well built and is closed in the winter rather than ever treated for snow or ice.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Arlington wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 8:49 am
My real point is that rail in Virginia has required progressively-larger outlays to push deeper into new territory:

The advantage VPI/Radford have is that they are popular (have political support for service) across the whole state.

Sorry for saying it so many ways: I think new Rail in SW VA ends at the Merricmac terminus.
Well that figures and you're smack on for noting it, Mr. Arlington.

The "low hanging fruit" and where the bodies are is where the 95 goes, or Arlington County to Richmond and from there Eastward to the Tidewater.

Train loving North Carolina has also picked their low hanging fruit - the "Knowledge and Research Triangle".

Now both states are confronted with "selling" to their taxpayers the "branches" or the Western parts of each state. VA apparently committed to "Chris Black" and NC on the fence about Asheville, as well as to their Coastal metropolitan areas.

That's the dilemma.
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