• Will They Ever Return?

  • General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by Gilbert B Norman
The Times has readers wondering:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/28/nyre ... =url-share

Fair Use:
The three railroads that feed workers to New York City — the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and N.J. Transit — have been among the hardest-hit in the nation, along with systems in Boston and the San Francisco area. After plummeting more than 90 percent in the early months of the pandemic, weekday ridership on all three New York region railroads is still less than half of what it was two years ago.

The two systems operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — the L.I.R.R. and Metro-North — are carrying about 325,000 fewer passengers on the typical weekday. Before the pandemic, sales of monthly passes that often cost more than $400 accounted for about 40 percent of N.J. Transit’s ticket revenue.
Let's leave this one with a "we report, you decide".
  by Tom V
The Port Authority announced that vehicle traffic at their six NJ-NY crossings have fully returned to pre-pandemic levels. PATH ridership is still only about 46% of what it was pre-pandemic. What that tells me is that the people who are going into work are choosing to drive, social distancing.

From 2015-February 2021 I commuted into Lower Manhattan from Central New Jersey. I had to go in during the entire pandemic as I'm an essential worker. In May and June of 2020 I was taking the 4:00pm PATH train at the World Trade Center on the Newark line to head home from work. There were days during those months I was shocked as the doors closed and the train departed the WTC that I was the only person in the car. They were blocking off the entire first car for the engineer and conductor.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Let's see Mr. Volpini

Six vehicular X-ings


That traffic on these X-ings are now at pre-COVID levels yet rail (PATH and the three roads) remain less than 50% is very telling - and sobering for rail interests.

This does not fair well for Gateway.

Sure, one of these days even the Omega variant will have gone, offices reopen, and some semblance of "formerly normal life" returns. But the social change of "drive in when you must go in" is in place. The only change I could foresee to "slow down" this dumping of mass transit could be implementation of congestion pricing in Midtown and Lower Manhattan. But I think any elected official is fearful of "that November Tuesday's" repercussions.
  by shadyjay
My brother, who lives in Manhattan, recently got a vehicle after not having one for the past 30 years of living on the isle. His reasoning behind it was so that he could, whenever he wants, visit his former-NYC friends who have moved upstate and to visit us in CT. He was taking Amtrak upstate and Metro North to visit us.

What is funny is that now he has to leave CT very early in the morning because he doesn't want to deal with traffic. And he complained, during his last visit, that it took him nearly 4 hours on the crawl up I-95 on a Friday afternoon in the summer in lower Fairfield county. "Has it always been this bad?" he asked me. Yes.. it has, at least for the past 20 years.

When I asked him if he misses the train over the traffic, him & his wife said they'd rather sit in traffic and have their own space and freedom.

We'll see how he feels when he has to drive up in a snowstorm, or find a place to park in a snowstorm on the streets of NYC.
  by Bracdude181
@shadyjay You brought up some good pointers there, but I feel this question should also be asked.

There’s a lot more people working from home nowadays. Could that be why there isn’t many people commuting to NYC now? Will the stay-at-home employee become the norm??
  by Dogbert666
Many employees will never return to the office 5 days per week again, even at the stodgiest of old school companies. And for those only going in once or twice a week, a monthly pass makes no sense.

The old normal will never come back. How to maintain decent service for those that still commute will be the challenge.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Off rails and away from the parking garages, think of all the other ancillary businesses largely staffed by lower paid workers (restaurants, shoe shine stands, newsstands, food carts) that too will never come back.

Even if not the deadliest (actual deaths or deaths per capita) pandemic to cover our planet, it no question is the most economically devastating one in over six thousand years of recorded history.

While I haven't been able to recite the Greek alphabet since being a Frat Pledge, Delta is still a long way from Omega.
  by Bracdude181
@Dogbert666 NJT is having major trouble with running trains reliably. Especially on the Newark Division.

Trains are having constant PTC issues and failures, engines have been breaking down more often, infrastructure in some areas is needing to be repaired more often. (Mainly on the Coast Line) Its gotten so bad that Amtrak has (supposedly) been telling them to get it together or they won’t be running on the NEC anymore.

I can’t speak for LIRR or Metro North since I know practically nothing about either of them, but from the NJT trains I’ve been seeing as of late they’ve all been less than half full even during rush hour. It’s a far cry from 2019 in terms of service quality and ridership.
  by eolesen
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Tue Aug 31, 2021 7:12 am Off rails and away from the parking garages, think of all the other ancillary businesses largely staffed by lower paid workers (restaurants, shoe shine stands, newsstands, food carts) that too will never come back.
I saw this firsthand last Tuesday at Chicago. Half the food/retail space on the upper level in North Western Terminal was shuttered between the platforms and the Riverside Plaza. The Hudson News shop still had magazine covers from Feb 2020 in the window, and even Amazon gave up on their Go Store. I didn't venture down to the food court, but wasn't at 100% occupancy two years ago, so I can't imagine it was doing much better now.

I didn't see a single food truck along a stretch of Wacker where there'd normally be five or six on a summer day...

Not to sound heartless, even the perpetual homeless were gone. For the ten years on and off that I commuted downtown, there were some perpetual homeless at specific corners. Not a one of them was to be seen last week.
  by kenorian
As a person who has spent somewhere around 5,233 hours on a LIRR train over a 25 year span (yes, on a slow afternoon I did calculate that including as accurately as possible taking into account vacation day, holidays, etc !) and took my first ride on the train in 18 months a couple of weeks ago - it was a surreal experience. I went in late morning, and my train out of Hicksville was around 30% full. Came back at rush hour and the train was surprisingly crowded. Though, that was the popular 5:41 making only a few stops before Ronkonkoma.

Wasn't happy about the percentage of unmasked folks in pretty close quarters. And, without stereotyping people based on appearance, those without masks didn't seem like they would be very concerned about social distancing or vaccinations.

So, yes, as was mentioned earlier in the thread, I am anticipating only going into the City for the occasional in person meeting.
  by alchemist
Seems we're a long way from normal. Was in Manhattan yesterday (Monday) and caught the 5:29 Great Neck train home - first time since I retired. That train used to be a zoo, especially with the US Open on. Rode one of the cars near the east end and it was more like maybe Sunday morning! Plenty of empty seats.

BTW the last few times I've ridden we had 12 cars. Has the RR decided its easier to deal with cars that don't platform than to make up 10-car trains for the Port Wash?

BTW #2 this from MTA Alerts: "Starting today, following completion of concrete tie installation between Bayside & Great Neck, the 5:29pm train from Penn Station to Great Neck will be restored to the schedule. Please note, other trains have revised stopping patterns. Before traveling, consult our TrainTime app or visit mta.info"
Was beginning to despair of ever seeing concrete ties on the PW.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Off rails, but strong background to fortify thoughts for those who hold "will they ever return"?

New York Times

Fair Use:
This anxiety is widespread across the American economy. As Kevin Thorpe, chief economist of the commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, noted, “The longer the virus lingers, the more transformative it is going to be.”

A critical question is whether the urban service economy — the restaurants, hotels, taxi services and entertainment venues that employ millions of workers — can recover from the multiple waves of Covid-19 that have kept their customers away.

After months of social distancing and remote work, this will depend to a large extent on how employers and workers readjust their attitude toward proximity and density — toward space
All within this article supports how the lower wage workers within the hospitality industries that rely on urban mass transportation, "are not coming back" anytime soon. How many of these workers can qualify for the jobs major corporations have stated they plan to seek workers for is an open question.

In short, to end on the rails, how many of these possibly long term displaced workers become Locomotive Engineers that apparently the Class I's intend to hire (or Amtrak; Passenger Engineers)?
  by west point
I think that persons are going to travel no matter what Delta does. Yesterday afternoon I-85 southbound had almost bumper to bumper traffic southbound . I-85 is not even main drag to Florida. Just panhandle Fl and Alabama . Eastern Mid MS only due to IDA.
  by daybeers
I think this has to do with how commuter rail is often set up in North America and how much of the continent relies on overly auto-centric development. If someone is coming from an area where it is difficult to take transit, and especially if their destination is in a similar location, why would they go out of the way to take a service that takes too long and isn't reliable? NJT has always sucked: nearly every part of their service model does. The 9-5 white collar downtown worker was always going to fall apart, but regional rail can fix that. Get rid of the massive parking facilities in valuable downtowns and invest in transit that works. Clockface, reliable schedules with fast, clean vehicles (ahem EMUs ahem), bus lanes, shelters, fare capping, congestion pricing and tolls, parking maximums instead of minimums. This helps everyone, not just the 9-5 worker or the 5-9 worker or the work-from-homer. Traffic is at pre-pandemic levels or higher because people aren't doing errands on their way home from work; they're doing them in the middle of the day when they feel like it. Why can't those be done on transit?

I think some are also forgetting that deaths from the virus are currently occurring at the highest ever rate in the United States, so should we really be opening up downtown offices?

The vast majority of North America hasn't woken up to the fact that we need to reverse course on many aspects of our wasteful living styles in order to keep the planet habitable for today's babies' grandkids.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Mr. Daybeers, your immediate is "most provocative".

No question whatever, post-COVID travel patterns are going to change.

But with the 100+ year pattern of "little town to big town in the morning and back to little at workday's end", how can the mass transit agencies reverse that? Busses "it's doable", but commuter rail, that's a "whole different ball game".
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