• 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
 
Re-titled from: AMTK NYC-Lehigh Valley-Reading-HBG service...

... been viable? Could it have taken pressure off the NEC and the PHL-LAN-HBG route?

I sometimes wondered that while attending what is now Kutztown University (between Reading and Allentown) in the early '80s, what with Reading being a rail center and the spiritual home of the RDG.

motor

  by Irish Chieftain
 
Any such service would have been viable, no matter when operated. Of course, now more than ever things would be viable, what with I-78 being quite the crawl into the Lehigh Valley and in and out of Harrisburg during weekdays.

Question is, which route through New Jersey? and which route from Easton to Allentown? The Lehigh Line is not a quiet artery, and the CNJ is in pieces from Bloomsbury NJ to just west of the center of Allentown.

Another question would be, whence the slots in and out of Penn Station? Not to mention the matter of motive power—certainly P32AC-DMs could be used, but the third rail through the North River Tunnels is somewhat lacking insofar as supporting dual-mode service through to the High Line…

And of course, would Amtrak operate a train called "Queen Of The Valley"?

  by Tadman
 
How much would it impair the train's traffic to start it in Hoboken and not have to mess with dual-modes?

  by psct29
 
I would think if its an Amtrak train, they would start it at Newark Penn so they don't have to deal with the Waterfront Connection to Hoboken...

I think you'd see NJT running some sort of Lehigh Valley service long before Amtrak would (and if that happens by 2020 its a miracle in itself)

If you want more background into the challenges in getting Lehigh Valley Service then check out either of these threads on the NJT Forum


http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=32055
http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=36214
  by jp1822
 
If Amtrak operated the service - it would be a bigger hit than I think if NJT ran the line. Its potential is certainly there considering the boom in the Lehigh Valley area, th parking lot that can form on Route 78, colleges, etc. Plus, to serve Allentown and western points such as Reading etc., Amtrak would seem more suitable for interstate transportation. Due to the distances involved, I think people would want more comfortable seating - even from Allentown-Phillipsburg to Newark. My travels often take me out to the Lehigh Valley area. I would buy real estate out there in a heart beat if I could get descent mass transit (that avoids I-78). Only way that will happen is if rail service is extended to at least Phillipsburg.

  by Tadman
 
I don't disagree with starting at Newark Penn, but that means it would have to be an NJT operation rather than Amtrak, and focus more on short-dist riders than LD riders. I would not take this train were it to be Amtrak operated from Newark. From Manhattan, that means a three-seat ride, and those aren't as popular.

By the way, as an ignorant midwesterner, could someone point out what areas make up the Lehigh Valley (geographically). Or does the old LV main pretty much cover it?

  by jsmyers
 
Not completely familiar with the geography myself, but if you follow the rail lines in Google maps east from Harrisburg, you can eventually find yourself in Newark. The eastern end is the Raritan Valley NJT line.

Start here with the line from Harrisburg to Lebanon:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q ... 92139&om=1

You will see Reading, Allentown and Bethlehem, and then Easton before hitting NY.

This also might help:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lehigh_Valley

When I think about it, I don't see a commuter operation. Google gives me a 2:43 drive time between Harrisburg and Newark.

I would look it not as a Harrisburg to NY/Newark, but as NY/Newark to Pittsburgh, with Harrisburg in the middle. (Total drive time 5:54) That whole area probably has more in common with itself than either piece does with the Keystone corridor. West of Harrisburg and into the Leigh valley the line is diesel, very curvy, and I'd assume no high level platforms. The Keystone is the opposite. (Though that connection to Philly in Harrisburg would be really important to the service, well-timed connections would be a boon to both services.)

Considering the curves, I would think that a good way to go would be to use a Washington State model for the cascades service. That approach being incremental increases in speed, partially enabled by vehicle technology (TALGO in WA).

Portland to Vancouver or Eugene to Seattle is a pretty comparable distance to Pittsburgh to Newark and also a pretty curvy route. the big difference in the NW being that the south end of the corridor does not have a large traffic generator as an anchor.

  by jsmyers
 
At the risk of starting a discussion with myself....

If you are looking at it like I am (Newark-Pittsburgh), then why not look a 2:15 drive further NW to Cleveland (another major market that is not very well served by Amtrak) and if you get there, why not another 2:45 to cover Toledo and Detroit (with no current rail service east)?

IMHO this shows why the 100-500 mile corridor model is flawed. Who's 400 mile trip deserves to be served when you have a bunch of them overlapping? It costs money and riders to stop a train and turn it around, which is what happens a lot if every corridor ends at a major market.

If there where a Detroit-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Harrisburg-Leigh Valley-Newark daytime route, not every train would start at the ends, but there is no reason to have them all stop and turn around in Harrisburg or Pittsburgh. (Maybe there would be one trainset for every major city that would leave in the morning and every evening, a trainset would end is journey there.)

Of course there is the big challenge of not being able to keep a schedule on somebody else's overburdened and unscheduled railroad over long distances.
  by henry6
 
It is an interesting thought...I do urge all to check the NJT forum for discussions on the politics and sociology of the line for greater detail. Simply, eastern PA feeds a lot of auto traffic onto I78 and I80 to get to work in both North Jersey and NYC. The farthest west NJT goes is Hackettstown (I80 corridor) and High Bridge (I78 corridor), both about 20 miles short of the Delaware River and well north of the NE Corridor (Trenton). NJ cannot build anymore highways so has to turn to NJT for rail services. The I78 corridor is not on the drawing boards, but the I80 corridor is being addressed with the refurbishing of the former DL&W/EL Jersey Cut Off and service to Scranton, PA hopefully before 2012. But to this forum point, service beyond the Delaware became part of the project because of the needs of PA and has led to a serious attempt to get service further west than Scranton. Likewise, any discussion of the I78 corridor rail service does not stop at Phillipsburg, NJ but continues across the river to Easton then on to Bethleham and Allentown. This thread's suggestion to go on the Harrisburg falls right in to what public demands and needs seem to be.

One of my theories is, that while I do support Amtrak (it is probably only because it is the only game in town at present), I think that regional rail transportation needs have to be addressed: something between commuter and long distance-inter city services as we have them defined today. This idea fits that mold.

Of course, too, it must be noted that NS controls the mostly single track line from Bound Brook, NJ to Allentown and Harrisburg and it is used beyond capacity. Even extening NJT from High Bridge to Bloomsbury to connect with existing track would not do much for capacity...unless of course NJT and NS could realize the NJT (former CNJ) line could become another freight track too...but that may be too obvious.

  by Irish Chieftain
 
Tadman wrote:I don't disagree with starting at Newark Penn, but that means it would have to be an NJT operation rather than Amtrak
How would it "have to be"? You start at Newark Penn, your starting point is on an Amtrak-owned railroad (although the station building is NJT's, the road is Amtrak's).

Using Newark Penn as the eastern terminus would not happen, nor would NJT operation of such a service occur. Were this to come to be, it would indeed be an Amtrak service, and it would indeed have New York Penn as its terminus.
  by jp1822
 
It would not be impossible for Amtrak to terminate such a train in Newark. Terminating in Newark would be easiest due to change of power required to get in and out of NYC, let alone capacity issues. And equipment could still get rotated into Sunnyside Yard via a deadhead move for a few miles! But I would propose Amtrak operating an express schedule on NJT's Raritan Valley Line - stopping more in the western part of the state to attract monthly riders (offering a more comfortable ride over long distance but on an express schedule that the Raritan Valley line falls short or doesn't serve). This is similiar to how Amtrak operates the Empire Corridor between Albany and NYC as well as on the NEC. NJT's Raritan Valley Line only goes to High Bridge (about 15 miles or so short of the PA border and Phillipsburg).

However, NJT really needs to get back into the Phillipsburg area to relieve Interstate 78 traffic. But NJT would also need to learn how to operate express trains on the Raritan Valley line! Current travel time is just too slow! But that is a separate topic!

And since the train would cross into PA and serve Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown, Reading and Harrisburg (and possibly out to Pittsburgh to compliment the Pennsylvanian), you'd have to have Amtrak operate the service, as opposed to NJT. Only way to get such a train started is to negotiate with the freight RR's and get state money from NJ and PA. I think NJ would kick in the money before PA. Some capital improvements in NJ and PA would need to be implemented for the line (connecting the Jersey Central main line on the west end into the Lehigh Valley RR line and negotiations between Bethlehem and Allentown for starters).

Interesting that towns are booming on this route - particularly the Lehigh Valley - which most would concede the heart is Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton. I have business in the Lehigh Valley area, and people often ask me about my Amtrak trips and where's the closest Amtrak station to them. After I tell them Philly or Newark would be the closest I get a deer in head lights look.

Amtrak had thought briefly of operating a service from Scranton to Newark/New York City early on, but that's all been dropped. Best we can hope for now for that corridor is NJT service.

  by LI Loco
 
This corridor has a lot of potential traffic generators - Lehigh Valley colleges and universities, Reading outlet shopping, Hershey tourist attractions - that make it intriguing. The distance (approx. 200 miles) is right for an Amtrak-type operation.

Direct service to NYP should be a prerequisite. NYP's capacity issues should be less of a problem in future at NJ Transit and LIRR develop alternative terminals.

Although the Lehigh Line is the most logical route to reach the Lehigh Valley (Phillipsburg), a better alternative might be the former Lackawanna via Hackettstown and the Midtown Direct connection since there would be minimal interference with freight. Regardless of which route is chosen, capacity would need to be increased on Norfolk Southern. Another issue will be which route to take through Reading and where to locate the station.

The problems are not insurmountable. It's a matter of political will from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Uncle Sam.
  by Irish Chieftain
 
jp1822 wrote:It would not be impossible for Amtrak to terminate such a train in Newark
Not impossible, no, but Amtrak would not do it.
Terminating in Newark would be easiest due to change of power required to get in and out of NYC, let alone capacity issues
If you terminate in Newark, then you wouldn't be looking for a "change of power" to go to/from NY Penn, would you? Plus, if the dual-modes are used (which would take a minor extension of the North River Tunnel's third-rail westward), there would be no changes of power.
And equipment could still get rotated into Sunnyside Yard via a deadhead move for a few miles!
If you're going to Sunnyside anyway, it makes zero sense to terminate at Newark Penn. Only if you were going to use NJT's yards and facilities in Kearny would you terminate in Newark.
But I would propose Amtrak operating an express schedule on NJT's Raritan Valley Line - stopping more in the western part of the state to attract monthly riders (offering a more comfortable ride over long distance but on an express schedule that the Raritan Valley line falls short or doesn't serve). This is similiar to how Amtrak operates the Empire Corridor between Albany and NYC as well as on the NEC. NJT's Raritan Valley Line only goes to High Bridge (about 15 miles or so short of the PA border and Phillipsburg)…

Some capital improvements in NJ and PA would need to be implemented for the line (connecting the Jersey Central main line on the west end into the Lehigh Valley RR line and negotiations between Bethlehem and Allentown for starters).
The former CNJ has been severed by I-78 in Alpha, NJ since 1984; and west of High Bridge, the track is in bad shape. There is an existing connector from the CNJ to the Lehigh Line in Bloomsbury, NJ; but if you take the Lehigh Line from Hunter Interlocking all the way into PA, there would be no tracks to rebuild, and you won't cause congestion on the former CNJ.
However, NJT really needs to get back into the Phillipsburg area to relieve Interstate 78 traffic. But NJT would also need to learn how to operate express trains on the Raritan Valley line! Current travel time is just too slow! But that is a separate topic
Yes it is. If you want express trains on the Raritan Valley Line, then the right-of-way needs four tracks again, instead of two.
Interesting that towns are booming on this route - particularly the Lehigh Valley - which most would concede the heart is Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton. I have business in the Lehigh Valley area, and people often ask me about my Amtrak trips and where's the closest Amtrak station to them. After I tell them Philly or Newark would be the closest I get a deer in head lights look…

And since the train would cross into PA and serve Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown, Reading and Harrisburg (and possibly out to Pittsburgh to compliment the Pennsylvanian), you'd have to have Amtrak operate the service, as opposed to NJT. Only way to get such a train started is to negotiate with the freight RR's and get state money from NJ and PA. I think NJ would kick in the money before PA
You would be hoping against hope. Note that PA has put in quite a bit of money for the Lackawanna Cutoff whereas NJ has not put in dime one as yet, other than to buy the Cutoff a number of years back. The state of NJ is also in the hole for approximately $30 billion or more.

You completely discounting federal money? This is a potential winner here, and could even be more successful than the rejuvenated service on the former PRR Main Line. This corridor is, historically, the first "road to the west" between the New York area and places like Chicago and St. Louis…and it has quite the number of busy and burgeoning metro areas along it, as you mentioned.

  by mannynews
 
Asking AMTRAK to start a commuter based service might not be the wisest option.

Right now, commuter fares between NYP and PHL are over $1,000 monthly....if similar costs were instituted along this new corridor, it would not be competitive with the bus operations that already exist.

I think a better idea would be to insitute at least one round trip along the line. Especially if it operated thru to Pittsburgh via Harrisburg....maybe a "Pennsylvanian2"
  by 2nd trick op
 
There is likely enough unused or underutilized trackage to extend service as far as Allentown, but from there westward, the only option currently available is NS' Reading Line. Traffic here has at least doubled since Conrail abandoned its electrified freight service and diverted most of what formerly moved via Parkesburg and Columbia (often referred to as the Low Grade line and the Trenton Cutoff).

The one positive note here is that the lines in question have not been abandoned completely; the Trenton Cutoff was still seeing a daily freight serving the auto assembly plants in Linden/Metuchen, N J as of a few years ago, and the capacity to re-divert the Reading Line moves (now up to about 30 a day, peaking in late evening/early overnight) could be redeveloped. Biggest problem would likely be that the Cutoff fed back into the NEC at Morrisville, and a connection to CSX former Royal Blue line would have to be built, not outside the realm of possibility if the demand for better freight-rail infrastructure continues to grow.

As for service west of Harrisburg, I believe it would take a much stronger demand in order to materialize. The Juniata Valley has a number of sharp curves, and while the former Frankstown and Muleshoe Curve lines could provide alternative approaches to Altoona, the cost would be substantial. Also direct service to State College, the most logical anchor, wouldn't be possible due to the notorious "Seven Mountains" area with which generations of Penn State almuni are familiar.
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