• Moving to one terminal per big city - wise?

  • 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 Greg Moore
 
You also have the issue of making sure your engines are compatible with GCT which is an issue when Amtrak has had to reroute there recently.
  by justalurker66
 
Tadman wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 10:43 pm The corridor trains on the other hand have a very viable chance to be reliable transportation for many people. They have chances of seeing double the frequencies they see today if they cut the "playing trains" garbage that goes on now and just move people as efficiently as possible.
I do not see how moving the terminals would improve the corridor trains. If we go with your stated rule that corridor trains must be three hours or less and look at the current service we see the following:
The run to Milwaukee is 90 minutes - well under the three hour limit.
Trains 3, 5, 381 and 383 on BNSF serve Galesburg around 2:40 away from Chicago. No major cities would be added within the three hour limit by leaving from a station other than CUS.
Trains 21, 301, 303, 305 and 307 serve Bloomington around 2:15 away from Chicago. No major cities would be added within the three hour limit by leaving from a station other than CUS.
The CN-IC trains (59, 391 and 393) serve Champaign around 2:10-2:30 from Chicago. No major cities would be added within the three hour limit by leaving from a station other than CUS.
The NS Chicago Line trains to Michigan will get you to Battle Creek (Detroit is 5 hours) or Holland (Grand Rapids is 4 hours). There is no free way to cut an hour off of the Grand Rapids service. Building a connecting track to the RI to terminate at LaSalle St doesn't avoid the problem of being blocked by NS trains coming out of the yards and heading east past where the RI would connect or trains clogging the track "south of the lake".

There are improvements that can be made ... arbitrarily creating new terminals away from CUS would not be an improvement.
  by mtuandrew
 
I agree with all of your points, justalurker.

As for South-of-the-Lake, we often hold NICTD up as an exemplar single-purpose commuter road. It does its job well; its fastest morning train is carded at 1h 55m westbound from South Bend Airport to Millennium Station Chicago, and 11th St Michigan City to Millennium Station is consistently about 1h 35-40m.

Amtrak’s schedule beats both of those times. Not by much, about five minutes less from South Bend and the same from Michigan City, but it isn’t like Amtrak takes more scheduled time than NICTD. It does mean that Amtrak’s current route is a problem, they shouldn’t be barely outrunning a commuter road, but also means that if it’s anything like Metro-North there wouldn’t be an opportunity for Amtrak to scoot past many South Shore trains and make better time. (I argue it also means that Union Station is not especially less efficient at moving passengers than Millennium Station.)
  by Arborwayfan
 
3-hour trips: sensible. Potentially car-competitive and serve many city pairs on which air travel is not a significant competitor.

Shaving 20 mins off a trip, especially 20 slow, confusing mins right at the beginning or end of the trip that might bother casual passengers: also a sensible thing to consider.

But if we're trying to use trains for convenient, fast transportation over 3-hour distances in areas with a lot of people, wouldn't we want to encourage trips from one side of any given metro area to the other? Isn't Kankakee-Milwaukee a potential good market? Champaign-Evanston? Michigan City-Naperville? Bloomington-Northbrook? Etc.? Notice not all those are Amtrak stations. Another reasonable thing to consider would be making trips across the metro area as transparent and easy as possible, including inter-agency trips.

Tad's contacts say there aren't many transfers in Chicago, but think about three things: 1. if "not many" is 5% of all passengers, can Amtrak get enough new passengers at Van Buren St or wherever to make up for losing most of those 5% AND justify the renovations and construction needed to move the terminal? 2. What about people who change to Metra or other local rail service and wouldn't ride the Amtrak train if the connection weren't easy? How many of them are there? Want to lose them? 3. What about people who would use the train in transferring in Chicago were just a little easier because of the more frequent trains and/or better schedules that Tad talks about? Trains that run to CUS have the potential to become run-through trains or coordinated connections that would make Kankakee-Milwaukee, Bloomington-Evanston, etc. simple to do and easy to advertise. Why stay stuck in a 1949 geography that really only envisions trips in and out of the very big city when some remodeling at CUS and some scheduling and operational changes could give us one-seat rides or guaranteed connections or service so frequent that you don't need a guaranteed connection to a specific train.

I'm not saying scrunch all the Metra trains into CUS, just that leaving the CN-IC trains at CUS leaves open the possibility of running them through to Milwaukee or creating coordinated connections along those lines AND keeps connections to Metra trains in more or less the same direction open, whereas any waterfront station is pretty definitely the end of the line. Improve transfers to Metra to capture more Hyde Park etc. passengers for the CN-IC trains and you also get slightly more convenient rides into Millenium etc. without having to give up the CUS connections. If you want to build something new, build a platform touching one of the electric district tracks and one of the freight-Amtrak tracks at some suitable Metra+South Shore Line station, stop the Amtraks there in addition to Homewood or instead of it, and start advertising through-ticketed trips from NW Indiana to stations south to Carbondale. South Bend to Champaign in around 4.5 reliable hours would be possible with existing schedules and delays. And various etceteras in Chicago and other cities.
  by Tadman
 
mtuandrew wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 10:17 am As for South-of-the-Lake, we often hold NICTD up as an exemplar single-purpose commuter road. It does its job well; its fastest morning train is carded at 1h 55m westbound from South Bend Airport to Millennium Station Chicago, and 11th St Michigan City to Millennium Station is consistently about 1h 35-40m.
Think about that statement, though. You have a local commuter train with street running making many stops that almost beats a limited express making no stops. If the last mile in South Bend is ever fixed and they 25mph zone is gone, you actually can beat the limited. And the limited is on one main, no handoffs, going into a reasonable terminal (PRR and NYC were parallel for quite some distance and PC consolidated into one main, it's all NS now).

A better comparison is the Homewood run. The City gets 50m out, 1:30 in. The Illini gets 40 out, 1:15 in. No stops.

Metra does it in 38 out, 41 in. Five stops on a Harvey zone train. A Kensington local does it in 42 with more stops than I can count.
Arborwayfan wrote:3-hour trips: sensible. Potentially car-competitive and serve many city pairs on which air travel is not a significant competitor.

Shaving 20 mins off a trip, especially 20 slow, confusing mins right at the beginning or end of the trip that might bother casual passengers: also a sensible thing to consider.

But if we're trying to use trains for convenient, fast transportation over 3-hour distances in areas with a lot of people, wouldn't we want to encourage trips from one side of any given metro area to the other? Isn't Kankakee-Milwaukee a potential good market?
The first part of your post is spot on. The second part is a tough sell as most of them are handoffs, and where does the train go? Most except the MKE run are south side terminators, so does it change end? Better just to transfer.
justalurker66 wrote:
I do not see how moving the terminals would improve the corridor trains. If we go with your stated rule that corridor trains must be three hours or less and look at the current service we see the following:
The run to Milwaukee is 90 minutes - well under the three hour limit.
Trains 3, 5, 381 and 383 on BNSF serve Galesburg around 2:40 away from Chicago. No major cities would be added within the three hour limit by leaving from a station other than CUS.
Trains 21, 301, 303, 305 and 307 serve Bloomington around 2:15 away from Chicago. No major cities would be added within the three hour limit by leaving from a station other than CUS.
The CN-IC trains (59, 391 and 393) serve Champaign around 2:10-2:30 from Chicago. No major cities would be added within the three hour limit by leaving from a station other than CUS.
The NS Chicago Line trains to Michigan will get you to Battle Creek (Detroit is 5 hours) or Holland (Grand Rapids is 4 hours). There is no free way to cut an hour off of the Grand Rapids service. Building a connecting track to the RI to terminate at LaSalle St doesn't avoid the problem of being blocked by NS trains coming out of the yards and heading east past where the RI would connect or trains clogging the track "south of the lake".

There are improvements that can be made ... arbitrarily creating new terminals away from CUS would not be an improvement.
As we've seen in the above examples on the homewood run, we can take 20-30 minutes of planned time out of timetables and 30-60 of unplanned time.

(a) it's the unplanned time that really kills you, as it's bait-and-switch. Customer rides once, gets a big unplanned delay, never rides again. I hear it all the time.
(b) if Champaign is 2:30-2:40, now it's 2 hours to downtown. That takes a downtown ride from borderline to very viable. Considering most people have 15-30 minutes aboard the L or Metra, plus 20 minutes layover, Champaign is actually 3:15-3:30 and now just under 3 hours.
  by justalurker66
 
mtuandrew wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 10:17 am Amtrak’s schedule beats both of those times. Not by much, about five minutes less from South Bend and the same from Michigan City, but it isn’t like Amtrak takes more scheduled time than NICTD.
The track in South Bend needs to be relocated. It currently takes 10 minutes to get from the airport station to where the tracks run parallel to the NS line. Once the new location is decided and relocation completed NICTD will be much more competitive on speed.

The express train from South Bend is a good example of what could be done with a train 100% on the NICTD and Metra lines. But that train is carefully scheduled between other trains. Passenger trains do not run around each other on the NICTD South Shore line. Adding the Michigan Line trains from Michigan City to Kensington would need to be slotted in between NICTD trains including the new West Lake Line trains.

And as you note, the speed from Michigan City to Kensington isn't a huge difference between NICTD and Amtrak. While NICTD is double tracking from Michigan City all the way to Chicago there are no capacity improvements planned west of Gary or west of Hammond where West Lake will merge. NICTD will be using their capacity for NICTD trains.
  by Arborwayfan
 
The second part is a tough sell as most of them are handoffs, and where does the train go? Most except the MKE run are south side terminators, so does it change end? Better just to transfer.
Just transferring sounds fine to me, if it's a walk from the south side of CUS to the north side, or even to Ogilvie, as long as the schedules are reasonably coordinated or the trains are so frequent that the schedules don't need to be coordinated. After all, there are many different lines radiating out from Chicago, so some reasonable trips from one side to another would require changing downtown even if all the trains ran through from somewhere to somewhere else.
But an on-your-own transfer from "Van Millenium**" to CUS would repel most casual through passengers, and even a three-seat version with a coordinated van would put off some potential through passengers.

I still think the most attractive solution to the slow detour for CN-IC trains is to set up easy, advertised connections to Metra at Homewood.
  by justalurker66
 
Arborwayfan wrote: Fri Aug 07, 2020 10:48 am I still think the most attractive solution to the slow detour for CN-IC trains is to set up easy, advertised connections to Metra at Homewood.
Here is what the connection would look like ... first the City of New Orleans/Carbondale schedule. Then the closest connecting MED trains at Homewood (three after each arrival, three before each departure, plus the closest missed connection train for reference). (All schedules pre-COVID. Only one seat rides from Homewood are shown.)

METRA is noted in the Amtrak schedule but they could add a "train" symbol similar to the bus connection symbols and publish a portion of the schedule below as the "connecting commuter train". Metra's fare is $4 to $6.75 depending on destination from Homewood. I'd probably list only the major stations in each zone to keep the schedule simple - but all one seat stations are listed here.
cono-1910.png
homewood-in.png
homewood-out.png
Next Step: List all the connecting Metra trains out of Chicago Union Station. I will leave that task to others.
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  by Arborwayfan
 
Great work, Mr. Lurker! I had been thinking of including all Metra stops Homewood to Millenium in the Amtrak route planner, but your idea for including some of them in the timetables is also good. (Analogous solutions in some other cities and in some other Chicago places would be good, too.) In my ideal world Amtrak would also offer through ticketing over Metra for the same price as taking Amtrak all the way downtown, as in Philly.
  by justalurker66
 
If it were my decision it would probably be the status quo. Let people handle their own Metra tickets. But I would accept better promotion of the connections.
  by mtuandrew
 
I like that idea a lot. Probably better to just list Millennium and two intermediate stations like Kensington (South Shore transfer) and, I don’t know, 59th/UC - for other intermediate stations, riders would most likely be local and understand they have a stop closer to home. Same principle would be good for Glenview, Aurora, and Joliet.

Outside of Chicago, let’s make this same thing happen at Worcester and Providence, New Haven and Stamford, Poughkeepsie, Cornwells, Trenton and Newark, Baltimore and Alexandria, and anywhere else I’ve missed that parallels a commuter service. I disagree with the premise of Tad’s thread here, but very much agree with his assertion (elsewhere) that American passenger railroads need a single point ticket vendor that can book you a ticket from Cucamonga to Canarsie using any type of public transportation (or recommending a private operator when appropriate.)
  by justalurker66
 
mtuandrew wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 3:36 pm Probably better to just list Millennium and two intermediate stations like Kensington (South Shore transfer) ...
The South Shore has not stopped at Kensington/115th since February 14th, 2012. But that is a good station to catch a branch train over to Blue Island - so I'd list it along with 57th St (to pick two intermediate stations). McCormick Place would be a good place to list but most Homewood trains don't stop there.

Including Metra travel on an Amtrak ticket sounds like a good way to raise ticket prices $10 each direction and get a $6.75 full fare journey in return (or lesser value). Perhaps the deal would work better elsewhere.
  by STrRedWolf
 
justalurker66 wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 4:09 pm
mtuandrew wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 3:36 pm Probably better to just list Millennium and two intermediate stations like Kensington (South Shore transfer) ...
The South Shore has not stopped at Kensington/115th since February 14th, 2012. But that is a good station to catch a branch train over to Blue Island - so I'd list it along with 57th St (to pick two intermediate stations). McCormick Place would be a good place to list but most Homewood trains don't stop there.

Including Metra travel on an Amtrak ticket sounds like a good way to raise ticket prices $10 each direction and get a $6.75 full fare journey in return (or lesser value). Perhaps the deal would work better elsewhere.
I've done this... kinda. I transferred from Baltimore to a southbound MARC (because I could use my Monthly Baltimore/Odenton). I can see it for some parts (if it's along the Penn Line) but BWI is Amtrak, New Carrolton is Amtrak... for the Brunswick line for the Capitol Limtied, Rockville is Amtrak but rush direction rush hour, and you might as well go all the way in anyway. Everything else you have to transfer to Washington.

The savings wasn't much, other than the pickup point was easier to get to.
  by RRspatch
 
Amtrak does offer through ticketing to the NJT Atlantic City line at Philadelphia. I believe the only reason this is offered is because Amtrak pulled off of the AC line and turned it over to NJT. It would be nice to offer through ticketing on more Amtrak - commuter connections but sadly I don't see this happening. The main reason is the "balkanization" of public transit in this country. Cooperation between various agencies just doesn't happen, heck crossing state lines (with a few exceptions) doesn't happen either. Buying a German rail pass and transfering from an ICE train to an S Bahn in Munchen is easy because DB calls all the shots even if the S Bahn partly paid for by the city of Munchen.
  by electricron
 
CUS may be poorly served by other public transit directly, but does it need other public transit.
Downtown Chicago is one of the most walkable cities in the world. There are no hills to climb or descend. It is flatter than a pancake. It is mostly situated within one square mile. Every downtown destination can be reached with less than a 20 minute walk. And every other public transit line runs through that one mile square. with a dozen stations to pick from for a transfer.

How many times do I read that train stations should be placed within walking distance of destinations? How many times do I read trains main advantage over jet planes is their downtown to downtown travel, not suburb to suburb travel. Yet here we have a perfect example of a downtown train station, and some criticize it for not having every possible public transit direct transfers.

I guess ole Honest Abe was correct, you can't please all the people some the time nor please some of the people all the time.
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