• Amtrak NEC Virginia Regional 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 dgvrengineer
Excellent schedules for both routes, Arlington. I totally agree with the times and reasoning behind them.
  by electricron
Arlington wrote:
mtuandrew wrote:Arlington: that sounds like the nucleus of a NYP-ATL day train akin to the Palmetto.
I'll save that for another thread :wink:

I think a case can be made that Virginia would be the main beneficiary of perfectly-timed trains that started in NC "a little too early" and got back "a little too late" At the same time, Virginia has proven that State supported trains can work at these fringes-of-the-day timings, and essentially starts its own services on the hours that I'm recommending NC adopt. So the win-win is:
Virginia should pay the bulk because it is
(1) making perfect trains for Virginia
(2) has the bulk of the stations,

NC would justify its role by
(1) making useful trains for CLT & RGH
(2) making *very* useful trains for Salisbury, High Point, & Greensboro-Winston-Salem

And part of the premise here is that RGH and CLT have the ability to overnight trains, crew them, and launch them in a way that Danville VA and Emporia VA never will or should.

Roughly something like these in bold.

RALEIGH (new Va+NC train on Star route)
Northbound from RGH
6:00A Va+NC (WAS 12:00 NYP 4:10p) (too early to start on NCRR, and time to get to Boston)
8:45A Silver Star (WAS 2:40p NYP 6:50p)
10:13A Carolinian (WAS 4:30p NYP 8:40p)

Southbound to RGH
7:25A Carolinian from NYP (WAS 10:45 RGH 5:10p)
11:02A Silver Star from NYP (WAS 3:05p RGH 9:00p)
2:00P Va+NC NYP (WAS 6:05p RGH 12mid) (and could have come from Boston, not worth going onward on NCRR)

CHARLOTTE (new Va+NC train on Crescent route)
Northbound from CLT
1:46am Crescent (WAS 10am, NYP1:45p) (painful for NC & Virginians on Crescent Route)
5:46am Va+NC (WAS 2pm, NYP 5:45pm...and time to get to BOS)
6:45am Carolinian (WAS 4:30p NYP 8:40p) (not useful to Virginians on Crescent route)
12:46pm Va+NC#2 (WAS 8pm NYP 11:45p) (COULD EVENTUALLY BE THE 6AM from ATL)

Southbound to CLT
7:25a Carolinian from NYP (WAS 10:45a CLT 8:42p) (not useful to Virginians on Crescent route)
11:15am Va+NC#2 from NYP (WAS 3p CLT 11:20pm) (3hrs ahead of the Crescent)
2:15p Crescent from NYP (WAS 6:00p CLT 2:20am) (painful for NC & Virginians on Crescent Route)
All seems okay until one realizes you forgot the trains Virginia subsidizes on your list.

Let's take your proposed second Crescent train and the Virginia subsided trains on the same route.
Crescent departs Charlotte at 0146, departs Lynchburg at 0556, arrives DC at 0953, arrives in NYC at 1346
Your new train departs Charlotte at 0546, departs Lynchburg at 0956, arrives DC at 1353, would arrive in NYC at 1746, would arrive in Boston at 0012
Virginia subsidized train 176 departs Lynchburg at 0736 , arrives DC at 1120, arrives in NYC at 1520, arrives in Boston at 2012
Your new train departs DC at 1000, arrives in Lynchburg at, arrives in Charlotte at 1820 (would have to depart Boston at 0125 - or depart from NYC at
Virginia Subsidized train 171 departs DC at 1650, arrives Lynchburg at 2039 (departed Boston at 0815)
Crescent departs NYC at 1415, departs DC at 1830, arrives Lynchburg at 2000, arrives Charlotte at 0220

You also failed to take into account why Virginia subsidies are as low as they are - that their trains are extensions of existing NEC regional trains. Train 171 is the first regional train leaving Boston. Train 176 is the second to last regional train arriving in Boston, while the last initiated service in Newport News. Your new trains will require creating all new trains from rolling stock Amtrak does not have.

Trains are linear, you have to account for their complete run, all the way to Boston where the trains are turned around if need be. You can't cherry pick stations in between or at one end of the line while ignoring what happens at the other end of the line.
  by east point
Arlington: The Crescent's terrible on time when originating in NOL is a factor. # 20/15 had 3+ hour delay in NOL after leaving station. It is now scheduled to leave CLT at 0715. NS is really killing it. Cannot even make connection to Carolinian today .
  by Philly Amtrak Fan
If we're looking to have Boston-Carolina service as extensions of existing NER service rather than new trains, my best suggestion would be the Night Owl going to/from CLT. The train would have to skip Newport News (Petersburg would stay). With the 67 arriving in Richmond Staples Mill at 9:34am M-F, I would expect an arrival into Raleigh a little after 1pm and Charlotte after 5:30pm. Northbound, you would leave Charlotte around 11:45am and Raleigh around 3pm to arrive in Richmond around 7pm. Of course, these trains would be useless for Carolina passengers traveling to/from New York as the trains pass through NYP during the graveyard shift both ways. To make up for the lost Newport News trains, extend the Richmond only trains to Newport News.

Between BOS and CLT looks like approximately 19-20 hours if you include the padding, a "day" train between the two cities doesn't look practical. Neither does a "day" train between NYP-ATL. The Pennsylvanian failed miserably as a day train. The Palmetto doesn't even work, the only reason it works is because of all of the NEC traffic between NYP-WAS. How much ridership does it get south of DC? The Palmetto is a Florida train without Florida, what's the point? It would be like terminating the Lake Shore Limited in Albany.
  by Arlington
Electricron, (1) take my timings as demonstration of the concept: convenient VA NERs starting/ending at NC hubs and fringe-of-day times. (2) there are lots of reasons it cannot be immediately and literally implemented (eg slots on the Long Bridge; and the corollary to a lack of extendable trains, namely equipment availability and perhaps lack of yard space). (3) Yes, it was absolutely essential that Virginia represented NER extensions, but, in particular, extensions on the 5am ~ 8am and 8pm ~ Midnight of these train's days when equipment was available because they'd normally be idle. Amtrak can't start them all in motion at 6am from WAS, but starting each in motion at 6am from sidings scattered across the hinterlands creates (a) a locally-useful train and (b) a train spaced about an hour or two from the one north or south of it. (c) considering demand on the Crescent route, I'd say a CLT train would slot in quite nicely.

I would be delighted if you would suggest better timings or particular trains that might be extended in the future.

Virginia has recently added a train to the Tidewater and retimed the other trains in the area.
If a train were to start in Raleigh or Charlotte at 5a~6a I would expect to need to similarly re-time the mix of regionals on the same routings as the Crescent and Star.

My long term view is that any big Virginia city with a siding (currently LYH, ROA, NPN, NFK, RVx,..and "honorary Virginians"...RGH*, CLT) should have a "6am" North and a "midnight" return. And, yeah, fiddle them all +/- 1hr or 2hrs so that they can be extensions of NER trains. (And eventually get sidings for Petersburg and Charlottesville**, but, as noted, not Danville or Emporia).

Building "the yard" out scattered across the hinterlands also allows the necessary fleet growth without running out of space at WAS. For another thread, but New England needs a similar system scattered across CT, VT, & MA (and ME & NH, with a NSRL and Long Island with the right deal). All with the aim of having more WAS-NYP trains, but not having to park them all at Ivy City or Sunnyside, and yet being able to "run all equipment all day" 5am - 1am.

*where Greensboro or High Point might one day start its own Crescent-route train (or start one at 4am from CLT), or Raleigh could start one *west* at 4am on NCRR before its turning north onto the Crescent's route, or Greensboro High Point starting a train *east* on the NCRR that turns north at Selma. If you can get a yard at GRO or HPT start 'em at 5am. If you can't, a revenue deadhead started at CLT or RGH at 4am timed to be a GRO/HPT 6am start would do the trick)

**where "Charlottesville" might actually be Staunton, Clifton Forge, or White Sulphur Springs.
  by gokeefe
Worth noting that aside from Long Bridge improvements that this proposal is not subject to the bottlenecks on the former RF&P.
  by kitchin
The return of the James Whitcomb Riley

After the news about the second train from Norfolk to Washington, I checked back on what east-west routings Amtrak allows across Virginia via the Richmond - Charlottesville Thruway bus. It was originally intended for getting people onto the north-south routes, and the last time I checked, computer Julie's human team and the website did not allow, say CVS to Richmond to NKF, even if the bus was do-able with a layover. So I checked again. The Thruway bus map even suggest it might work: https://www.amtrak.com/virginia/bus-connections" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Here are my results, a few days ago, when used the Amtrak website to check some dates in April (bus is #, rail is =).

Weekends (in April 2019):
Yes: NPN = RVR # CVS, and return.
Yes: NFK # NPN = RVR # CVS, and return.

Weekday (April 24, 2019):
Yes: NPN # NFK = RVR # CVS
I found no returns on the weekdays in April that I checked.

As you can see from the April 24 example, something is a little wanky, whether a human or machine set up these rules. You are not allowed to lop off the initial bus segment.

As for the George Washington (the old route between Lynchburg and Richmond south of the James River)...

No routing from LYH or ROA worked to NPN or NFK, or back, except via Alexandria or Washington. But you can go LYH to RVR via the CVS bus, and back. Julie will not let you do the same between Roanoke and Richmond.
  by Arlington
I don't see East-West coming back as rail:
1) I-64 is good enough for most purposes, particularly west of Richmond.
2) Tidewater-Richmond will always want to be "North-South" (to NEC)
3) The Tidewater, being split, isn't big enough to be a true anchor in either end Compared to Charlotte (2.5M) and Washington (4M to 6M). Norfolk's 1.7M is actually pretty wimpy and LYH+ROA+NRV is smaller still.
  by east point
Arlington: Yes serve the larger populations areas first!
  by kitchin
east point wrote:Arlington: Yes serve the larger populations areas first!
That does make sense, but if I'm not mistaken, the second NFK - PTB - RVR - WAS train was added because the first is making money. Both are scheduled for commuting hours to WAS, as is the new earlier schedule for NPN - RVR - WAS. Few people want to make that drive, since it has the worst traffic in the state on both ends. There's military and related business between NFK/NPN and WAS, as well as tourism and entertainment. It's a classic example of the middle distance trip that can displace air traffic.
  by Arlington
^ I would say this works because of DC's size as a magnet for attracting trips, and yes, NFK+NPN make a fine opposite-pole magnet (but 1/2 or 1/3 the size).

But two weak magnets (Tidewater and Blue Ridge) can't merit a trip between them yet, especially with WAS still "pulling harder" as the destination of additional service.
  by kitchin
Arlington wrote:But two weak magnets (Tidewater and Blue Ridge) can't merit a trip between them yet, especially with WAS still "pulling harder" as the destination of additional service.
I wonder if a revived James Whitcomb Riley (CVS-RVR via Gordonsville) might break even because university people favor rail. Yet there's limited bandwidth to wrangle with the freights for access, so maybe it's not the most important battle.

The new VaTech campus adjacent to Amazon HQ2 in Arlington should pressure RNK and the bus connection from Blacksburg/Christiansburg. Christiansburg already has a fine site set aside on the Blacksburg side of town for a station if they can ever get the route extended.

Might as well mention the direct Lynchburg to Richmond mainline is how CSX ships coal down to the Newport News docks. The uphill empty coal cars take the other CSX line, Richmond to Charlottesville. It officially became Buckingham Branch, not CSX, twenty years ago, but that was arguably a ruse to soak up the state incentives for short-lines. The Cardinal shares the line from Orange to Clifton Forge three days a week, supposedly the only case of Amtrak on a Class III railroad. So it's another reason RVR-CVS may never happen, although the CSX-Buckingham deal is up for renewal soon.
  by Arlington
I would love to see the Buckingham Branch get an additional Cardinal-route train serving Charlottesville. It is an interesting question whether it needs to go even as far as Staunton (which I'd try to make more of a I-81/Bus/Rail hub and serve Lexington(W&L/VMI) & Harrisonburg (JMU)) but I'd be doing so as an alternative to US-29 and end up tying it to WAS just like the Cardinal.

VA DRPT is a great, mode-agnostic transit agency. It has not escaped their notice that Virginia already owns a network of ROWs--the interestates--that are the equivalent of having a quad-tracked Class 4 railroad.

I-81 is a beautiful ROW where VA DRPT can add scheduled service at will (with Megabus' help). And indeed, has launched bus service that is going to be the solution south of NRV to Bristol and north of ROA (as the VirginiaBreeze.org). ROA/NRV only ""win" as rail because Norfolk Southern is better than US-29 for just enough trips.

I-64 between Richmond and Staunton is similarly beautiful. It is what's never made sense about The Trans Dominion Express concept
1) Any transit route coming up from Bristol to Richmond would be *insane* to cut off Charlottesville so that it could go via Appomattox and Farmville. Charlottesville is too big a demand center to skip.
2) If you agree we can't skip Charlottesville, then a bus on I-81 or US-29 makes at least equal sense to a train on NS.
3) Except that NS demands multi-million dollar upgrades to the Virginian, and Amtrak requires $5m sidings.
4) and from Charlottesville to Richmond, I-64 is far superior to the Buckingham Branch.

So the TDX people have drawn an interesting set of lines between an interesting set of demand notes, but have utterly failed to show that trains would win (and it is fairly easy to show how a 55-seat coach with 1 FTE to run it outperforms (frequency & cost) vs train, particularly for trips that start/end in DC.
  by mtuandrew
I tend to agree, Arlington. It isn’t like NC where the demand is largely east-west, so a bus bridge RVR-CVS would neatly tie the state together. Daily service to Staunton would also help, especially with service to Lexington and Harrisonburg, and an added station in Waynesboro. (Maybe it would cannibalize ridership at Staunton or more likely Charlottesville, but tbh I don’t care - better to have the option if you’re already passing through.)
  by kitchin
Any idea why the Amtrak booking system is borked and inconsistent on east-west routings via the CVS-RVR Thruway bus? The map has a visual suggestion, for me anyway, that CVS to Hampton Roads is possible since it's canted at an angle that makes the routes horizontal straight lines (I-64 & US-460 both). OK, that's just psychology, and an enthusiastic illustrator, but I wonder if Amtrak even knows this is an issue. About a year ago I called 800-USA-RAIL and the ticket agent wouldn't book the Thruway if it wasn't in the system. Back then the layover would have been longer, but now with the shorter layover the system gives illogical results. Above I showed it requiring NPN-NFK to book NFK-PTB-RVR-CVS. Is it setting aside a certain number of train seats for NPN originators? Instead I suspect it's unintentional.

The image is from: https://www.amtrak.com/virginia/bus-connections" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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