• Swampoodle connection

  • Discussion relating to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Philadelphia Metro Area). Official web site can be found here: www.septa.com. Also including discussion related to the PATCO Speedline rapid transit operated by Delaware River Port Authority. Official web site can be found here: http://www.ridepatco.org/.
Discussion relating to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Philadelphia Metro Area). Official web site can be found here: www.septa.com. Also including discussion related to the PATCO Speedline rapid transit operated by Delaware River Port Authority. Official web site can be found here: http://www.ridepatco.org/.

Moderator: AlexC

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  by #5 - Dyre Ave
 
Suburban Station wrote: transitizing: if by that you mean light rail service with connections to the subway, which is what I'd think you meant, I'd assum that ideally the route would tunnel under the nec and provide a below grade connection...or perhaps more realistically, run on the surface for the "last mile" to get to broad street. in either case, current ridership numbers would not be a good indicator of demand. It seems likely some ridership from other bus routes (23, HXH, etc) would transfer to this equally cheap, much faster ride to the subway.
What about making the Hill East line a branch of the Broad St Subway? That would eliminate the transfer at Broad and Erie (for bus riders) and relieve that station because nearly every stop on the CHE line has a bus connection. It would still be a two-seat ride for many people, but it would be a shorter bus ride. And then the Hill West line can be routed onto the Reading side via the Swampoodle Connection. This would eliminate not one, but two busy at-grade junctions: One would be where the CHW line joins the Amtrak Line at North Philly. The other would be where the CHE line joins the SEPTA Main Line at Wayne Junction. CHE trains already have their own separate tracks at Wayne Junction, so an easement and short tunnel connection could be built to join the Hill East Line to the BSS at Erie.
Last edited by #5 - Dyre Ave on Sat Jun 11, 2011 9:28 am, edited 2 times in total.
  by scotty269
 
#5 - Dyre Ave wrote:
Suburban Station wrote: transitizing: if by that you mean light rail service with connections to the subway, which is what I'd think you meant, I'd assum that ideally the route would tunnel under the nec and provide a below grade connection...or perhaps more realistically, run on the surface for the "last mile" to get to broad street. in either case, current ridership numbers would not be a good indicator of demand. It seems likely some ridership from other bus routes (23, HXH, etc) would transfer to this equally cheap, much faster ride to the subway.
What about making the Hill East line a branch of the Broad St Subway? That would eliminate the transfer at Broad and Erie and relieve that station because nearly every stop on the CHE line has a bus connection. It would still be a two-seat ride for many people, but it would be a shorter bus ride. And then the Hill West line can be routed onto the Reading side via the Swampoodle Connection. This would eliminate not one, but two busy at-grade junctions: One would be where the CHW line comes joins the Amtrak Line at North Philly. The other would be where the CHE line joins the SEPTA Main Line at Wayne Junction. CHE trains already have their own separate tracks at Wayne Junction, so an easement and short tunnel connection could be built to join the Hill East Line to the BSS at Erie.
I'm not sure what the soil is like in the Wayne Junction area, but you have the elevated SEPTA tracks and then the below-ground CSX line. You'd have to put any sort of transfer-facility between the RRD and the Subway a lot further underground than usual.
  by rbreslow
 
scotty269 wrote:
#5 - Dyre Ave wrote:
Suburban Station wrote: transitizing: if by that you mean light rail service with connections to the subway, which is what I'd think you meant, I'd assum that ideally the route would tunnel under the nec and provide a below grade connection...or perhaps more realistically, run on the surface for the "last mile" to get to broad street. in either case, current ridership numbers would not be a good indicator of demand. It seems likely some ridership from other bus routes (23, HXH, etc) would transfer to this equally cheap, much faster ride to the subway.
What about making the Hill East line a branch of the Broad St Subway? That would eliminate the transfer at Broad and Erie and relieve that station because nearly every stop on the CHE line has a bus connection. It would still be a two-seat ride for many people, but it would be a shorter bus ride. And then the Hill West line can be routed onto the Reading side via the Swampoodle Connection. This would eliminate not one, but two busy at-grade junctions: One would be where the CHW line comes joins the Amtrak Line at North Philly. The other would be where the CHE line joins the SEPTA Main Line at Wayne Junction. CHE trains already have their own separate tracks at Wayne Junction, so an easement and short tunnel connection could be built to join the Hill East Line to the BSS at Erie.
I'm not sure what the soil is like in the Wayne Junction area, but you have the elevated SEPTA tracks and then the below-ground CSX line. You'd have to put any sort of transfer-facility between the RRD and the Subway a lot further underground than usual.
Why does septa have (keep) two Chestnut Hill lines still. Shouldn't they just choose one and stick with it? If I were to choose these are the pros and cons of the lines.

CHW has a bunch of high level platforms and nice stations on it's line. CHE does not have any high level platforms, the stations are getting some what renovated though.

CHE station has a train yard that is going to be in working condition soon. CHW station does not.

CHW (without amtrak problems or delays) can be more on-time and much faster then CHE.

CHE uses track only owned by septa.

CHW has somewhat better secenry till' it hits the factory stretch.

But why do they keep two?
  by delvyrails
 
That goes deep into PSIC-SEPTA history and politics. Chestnut Hill East and West are perceived as an inseparable pair. Their riderships have usually been about equal. It would be unthinkable to eliminate one. Politics beats economics in the short term.

And yet, a one-time Railroad Division Assistant General Manager hinted to me (and later may have wished he hadn't been so candid) that the only way to afford to expand the railroad system would be to discontinue "one of the Hill lines".

That means discontinuance, for a transit conversion would only have shifted the cost (and likely, a lot more cost) to a transit AGM's budget.
  by #5 - Dyre Ave
 
scotty269 wrote: I'm not sure what the soil is like in the Wayne Junction area, but you have the elevated SEPTA tracks and then the below-ground CSX line. You'd have to put any sort of transfer-facility between the RRD and the Subway a lot further underground than usual.
Hmmmm, that could certainly be tricky. I didn't realize the CSX line was below grade. In that case, I'd suggest putting the Hill East Line underground before the Wayne Junction station near Germantown Avenue, then running the line under Germantown until it intersects with Broad. Have an underground Wayne Junction Station to connect with the RRD. It would be more expensive with the extra tunneling and underground station, but it would be a straight shot for the connection with the Broad Street Subway.
  by #5 - Dyre Ave
 
delvyrails wrote:That goes deep into PSIC-SEPTA history and politics. Chestnut Hill East and West are perceived as an inseparable pair. Their riderships have usually been about equal. It would be unthinkable to eliminate one. Politics beats economics in the short term.

And yet, a one-time Railroad Division Assistant General Manager hinted to me (and later may have wished he hadn't been so candid) that the only way to afford to expand the railroad system would be to discontinue "one of the Hill lines".

That means discontinuance, for a transit conversion would only have shifted the cost (and likely, a lot more cost) to a transit AGM's budget.
Yes, it would be (and should be) unthinkable to outright discontinue service on either of the CH lines. I hope it never comes to that. And while converting either one of of them from RRD to transit operation shifts a lot of cost onto a transit AGM's budget, wouldn't that be the case with any expansion of the rail transit system (i.e. subway to NE Philly)? At least the construction costs would be lower if Hill East was incorporated into the subway because the ROW is already there. But with an extension of the subway to the Northeast, you would have to start from scratch, whether choosing to construct the line under Roosevelt Boulevard or Bustleton Avenue, or to negotiate with CSX for shared use of their ROW that goes through the Northeast.
  by Suburban Station
 
#5 - Dyre Ave wrote:
scotty269 wrote: I'm not sure what the soil is like in the Wayne Junction area, but you have the elevated SEPTA tracks and then the below-ground CSX line. You'd have to put any sort of transfer-facility between the RRD and the Subway a lot further underground than usual.
Hmmmm, that could certainly be tricky. I didn't realize the CSX line was below grade. In that case, I'd suggest putting the Hill East Line underground before the Wayne Junction station near Germantown Avenue, then running the line under Germantown until it intersects with Broad. Have an underground Wayne Junction Station to connect with the RRD. It would be more expensive with the extra tunneling and underground station, but it would be a straight shot for the connection with the Broad Street Subway.
Its not a lot of tunneling though...thats true of.either line though chw would.require even less tunneling. Not sure i buy the transit.budget argument since.you could offload bus traffic which isnt terribky efficient at moving the large.numbers of people from germantown.
  by #5 - Dyre Ave
 
It would be even less tunneling, but you'd need to build a new junction between the Allegheny and North Philadelphia stations to tie the CHW line into the Broad Street Line at North Philly. You'd have to stop BSL service while constructing the junction. A CHE tie-in at Erie station can use the storage tracks and flying junction north of the station that were built to facilitate BSL expansion. Because the junction at Erie is already there, construction would have minimal effect on existing BSL service. But I wouldn't be opposed to transitizing CHW.

I don't buy the transit budget argument either. You will have more people making the switch from bus to subway at a CHE (or CHW) station instead of riding buses all the way to the nearest BSL stop. Bus routes could then be shortened, reducing the number of buses needed per route, saving on fuel, manpower and maintenance. That's got to count for something, right?
  by Bill R.
 
#5 - Dyre Ave wrote:It would be even less tunneling, but you'd need to build a new junction between the Allegheny and North Philadelphia stations to tie the CHW line into the Broad Street Line at North Philly
Specifically, you would need to expand the tunnel cross-section width to accomodate two additional tracks north of N. Philadelphia station. The idea would be to create a grade seperated junction allowing CHW movements without interference to the local tracks. The result would be very similar to Fairmount, minus the station platforms.

The descending ramps have to turn west and pass beneath the exisitng tunnel, continue in new tunnels beneath Indiana Avenue, and then turn northwest near 17th to rise to a portal between the Norristown Line and the former Reading main. Google Earth measures the distance at approximately 1/2 mile from the north end of N. Philadelphia station to the portal.

The CHW grade and alignment needs to modified south of Allegheny Avenue to allow connection with the tunnel portal.

Plus:

1) station costs -

a) high level platforms at stations where they do not exist
b) high level platform modifications at stations where they do exist.
c) barriers / fare collection equipment compatible with existing BSS systems
d) lighting, security. ADA access (i.e. elevators) and other station requirements

2) modifying the existing BSS signal / dispatch systems to accomodate a new branch

3) the cost of new dual-voltage vehicles or placement of 3rd rail + substations

4) track modifications as necessary to accomodate different service patterns.

Did I forget any capital cost items?

Would one of the more knowledgeable among us like to generate a cost for such a project?
  by Suburban Station
 
stations:
chestnut hill: hlp
highland: ?
st martin's: ?
allens lane: hlp
upsal: ?
tulpehocken: ?
chelten:hlp
queen lane: ?
  by #5 - Dyre Ave
 
Bill R. wrote:
#5 - Dyre Ave wrote:It would be even less tunneling, but you'd need to build a new junction between the Allegheny and North Philadelphia stations to tie the CHW line into the Broad Street Line at North Philly
Specifically, you would need to expand the tunnel cross-section width to accomodate two additional tracks north of N. Philadelphia station. The idea would be to create a grade seperated junction allowing CHW movements without interference to the local tracks. The result would be very similar to Fairmount, minus the station platforms.

The descending ramps have to turn west and pass beneath the exisitng tunnel, continue in new tunnels beneath Indiana Avenue, and then turn northwest near 17th to rise to a portal between the Norristown Line and the former Reading main. Google Earth measures the distance at approximately 1/2 mile from the north end of N. Philadelphia station to the portal.

The CHW grade and alignment needs to modified south of Allegheny Avenue to allow connection with the tunnel portal.

Plus:

1) station costs -

a) high level platforms at stations where they do not exist
b) high level platform modifications at stations where they do exist.
c) barriers / fare collection equipment compatible with existing BSS systems
d) lighting, security. ADA access (i.e. elevators) and other station requirements

2) modifying the existing BSS signal / dispatch systems to accomodate a new branch

3) the cost of new dual-voltage vehicles or placement of 3rd rail + substations

4) track modifications as necessary to accomodate different service patterns.

Did I forget any capital cost items?

Would one of the more knowledgeable among us like to generate a cost for such a project?
Certainly the cost of such a project will cost an amount of money that none of us would be able to pay directly out of pocket, but it would not be prohibitively expensive, especially because most of the r.o.w. already exists and it's already grade separated (in the case of both CHE and CHW). Think about how much more expensive it would be to have to build a new r.o.w. from scratch (like a subway to the Northeast would require). A CHE subway conversion would not be an impossible project to undertake. And relatively speaking, it wouldn't be all that difficult to do. A CHW conversion would be more difficult because a junction would have to be built near North Philadelphia station, whereas, in the case of CHE, there is already a junction near Erie station.
  by penncenter
 
Lots of good points here, and many good ideas.

Lets talk about the connector first. Not sure what the point of it is. Is it to serve the CH population better? With two lines, they already have better service than any community in the system. Is it to save a few minutes waiting for the NEC to clear before the CHW can make its move? Its not a lot of time. Certainly the CHW using the Reading approach to the tunnel will get you to Market East faster, but to 30th and maybe even Suburban at the same time with a slight delay with use of the NEC. Not sure how this benefits the CHW rider who is going to 30th or Suburban. It gets you to Market East quicker, but really, is it worth the cost? A rider who really finds it important to get to Market East before the 30th St side can always opt for the CHE---if it is that important to them. So the real reason is to route the CHW trains through the Reading approach? What real benefit does that bring?

At some point in this thread, there were comments about having the Norristown line us the connector to allow Pottstown diesels to go to the lower level of 30th St. So now we have an idea that using the NEC is an advantage, not a hindrance.

Then there was an opinion that "in case" something happens along one side of the mainline, the trains can be routed across the other side for CH trains. In the few times there is a real problem on one side of the mainline, I think the CH people can learn to adapt the next day and take the "other" local until the problem is fixed. An inconvenience, but its not like your town has NO service...you only have to go maybe 1/2-1 mile away.

As for a subway connection, I think that is about as far-fetched as we can hope for. There would be tremendous expense. Converting cat for 3rd rail power (or whatever the BSS uses) would be a huge expense. ANY hint of a tunnel would cost a multiple of the estimate by the time it was completed. Has anyone ever seen tunnel cost estimates? They boggle the mind on a per mile basis. I saw something like $1 Bil/mile in Center City. It wouldn't be that much where posters have been talking, but it wouldn't be much of a discount either. Connections to subways and tunnelling is a pipe dream. It just is.

Oh, do you think the residents of Chestnut Hill would really want a train----coming out of the BSS tunnels---coming into and terminating in their community? Good luck with that community opposition. Right or wrong, subways bring a different rider, and there is no way that is going to happen in Chestnut Hill. All to save maybe 5 minutes on a 20-25 minute commute? No.

Although these are all good ideas, they are enhancements and improvements to a system that already exists and is paid for, and already provides say, 80% of an "optimal" service to the community it serves. Although that may be nice, to spend tons of money to improve the service by a few % is not money well spent. Septa is better spending that money on upgrading the existing infrastructure to make the entire system more reliable and user-friendly. Septa should be trying to lure the marginal rider, and trying to increase revenue of the existing system. There are a lot of available seats that could be filled, at little to no marginal expense. Any increased ridership revenue basically goes right to the bottom line. How much of an increase in ridership will the Swampoodle Connector generate? How much increased ridership revenue does converting CHE to a BSS spur/line generate? Not enough to warrant the cost, I can assure you. Those improvements, if you can even call them that, will never generate enough to cover the costs of construction. Ever.

Septa needs to focus on the existing, paid for infrastructure that it already has. Substations need to be replaced/upgraded. Stations need to be made safer and more user-friendly. New substations are gonna cost you anyway. So get it done. Making the existing stations better attracts the marginal rider---and marginal dollar. So much left to maximize from the existing assets. Focus on those.

Stay away from big---and expensive---projects that don't really increase your revenue base. Like the talk of a rail line out past 422 to Pottstown or Reading. No way. There are not enough people who would use it to pay for it.

This Swampoodle Connector thing sounds neat, but really? To save a few minutes on the CHW line because of NEC traffic? Its such a short ride anyway, live with it. And on a personal note, I've ridden that line from time to time over the years, and I liked the fact that we were traversing the NEC. Thats a historic stretch and a historic run. I would not want to take that line and have it switched over to the Reading approach. Something just isn't right about that. But thats just me...
  by ExCon90
 
I thought two of the reasons for the Swampoodle Connection were (1) to avoid having to replace that first bridge after North Philadelphia -- I forget the number, but I think it's the one over the SEPTA trunk, and I understand that if it isn't replaced soon it will have to be taken out of service, and (2) relieve SEPTA of its share of the cost (I would assume the lion's share) of LEHIGH interlocking. If CHW were out of there Amtrak wouldn't need it either. So it seems to come down to a comparison of the cost of installing the connection versus the savings from (1) and (2) above.
  by Matthew Mitchell
 
The original reason for the Swampoodle Connection (in Vuchic's tunnel operating plan) was to balance PRR- and Reading-side traffic. At that time, there was full service to Cynwyd and only hourly service to Lansdale (half-hourly to Bryn Mawr was in the plan), so there would have been 8 hourly trains on the PRR and 6 on the Reading. Moving CHW trains off Amtrak was a side benefit: besides saving money it also takes away a lot of scheduling constraints.
  by Suburban Station
 
I don't know penn center, lots of assumptions in your post, not all of which are necessarily correct. there is, of course, a much larger benefit than 5 minutes. operating costs would be much lower, service levels much higher (if you think service levels are adequate, many would disagree...every 90 minutes on weekends), and the chance to lower operating costs for bus routes. chill residents may oppose, but it can't be assumed the project would be sunk. it would increase capacity in the commuter tunnel, reduce the miles operated over Amtrak (expense) and shorten the trip by some 7 miles (expense). It may also make sense to simply turn it into a norristown high speed line type of service, terminating it at north philly station. as it is, septa is stuck with two decent, but less than ideal, services that cost a lot of money. septa spends a lot of infrastructure money on the chw and gets relatively little benefit out of it. you talk about not extending to reading but really, how much more important are these two lines or the fox chase line than running trains to phoenixville and pottstown? and let's not forget that there are several stations along the line with the largest being chelten. it's not like you can't take a bus there already.
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