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Is a coast to coast train feasible?


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#21 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 04:29 PM

Three hours can sometimes not even be enough to make up the lost time en route. There has to be a balance between having one seat rides (convenience and no worry of making a connection) and ability to keep reliability (if, for example, the Capitol Limited and Empire Builder are linked, a long delay in Montana destroys timekeeping all the way to WAS.)

Chicago is not a bad place to have transfers. Even those going through Chicago have different enough destinations that linking trains would only benefit a small percentage of passengers at the cost of even more unreliable timekeeping.

 

According to the Chicago Gateway report, 15,988 passengers from the Capitol Limited connected to the Southwest Chief and 15,212 connected to the California Zephyr. The total number of passengers in Chicago was 153,397. So roughly 10% of CL passengers continue on either the SWC or CZ.


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

All I want for Amtrak is a direct train from Philly to Chicago in less than 24 hours 
 
 


#22 jebr

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 05:07 PM

That equals about 44 a day, some coach and some sleeper, that connect from the CL to the SWC. The count is about equal to the CZ. That's not a small amount, but also a small percentage of the number of people who take those trains overall. Amtrak really doesn't have enough spare cars to have an extra coach and sleeper around if there's a misconnect or a close connection. You also don't really want to hold the train too long either, as then you cause delays for everyone on the connecting train, including those upline. You also can't just run without those cars most days, as that space would almost certainly be sold at some point down the line on the connecting train, and those passengers need their paid for accommodation.

The delay factor from holding a train (or having an extended train) is an important one. It's a lot harder to hold a railroad accountable for delays if they get the train into their territory late. I don't know of any routes that would share a host railroad both east and west of Chicago. As such, if a train was late east of Chicago, and that delay caused it to be late leaving Chicago, that train would almost certainly become more late as it went on.

I believe in the either the text or one of the videos to the Chicago Gateway study Amtrak mentioned that they're holding trains to make connections less often, as it is better to get the trains out on time and suffer through some misconnected passengers than to delay the train for everyone. With that reality, it's better to force the connection and work through misconnects than to strive for connections and delay many more other people in the process.

#23 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 17 October 2015 - 08:25 AM

I've actually suggested splitting the California Zephyr at Denver for this reason -- anyone going through would probably appreciate the layover -- but it doesn't make sense unless Denver becomes enough of a "hub" for trains running in all directions that Amtrak can justify a maintenance base.

 

I might consider that idea if (and big if) you bring back Denver-Los Angeles via Vegas (Desert Wind). Have a Chicago-Denver train and then have one going to San Fran and the other to Los Angeles. Add back Denver-Seattle (Pioneer) and you might be able to make Denver your hub as you suggested similar to Chicago. Have three trains leave DEN around the afternoon, one to the Bay, one to LA, and one to Seattle. The eastbound trains would then arrive in Denver around midday to allow the connection in Denver. You can also split the trains at SLC but the arrival times to/from DEN are lousy. What kind of hub would you have if only one train went in and one train left?


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

All I want for Amtrak is a direct train from Philly to Chicago in less than 24 hours 
 
 


#24 Just-Thinking-51

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 10:36 PM

If Denver were to become a hub, we can also do:


Denver to Albuquerque
Denver to Billings via Chyenne
Denver to Dallas via Amarillo
Denver to St. Louis via Kansas City

Denver to Chicago via Omaha
Denver to Los Angeles
Denver to Oakland
Denver to Seattle via Boise, and Portland


Now we going to need a bigger station.

#25 Anderson

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Posted 25 October 2015 - 01:42 AM

A 60-hour service LAX-WAS isn't quite as insane as it sounds: The scheduled runtime of the SWC is 43:00 LAX-CHI, and the Cap is 17:25 CHI-WAS, for a total of 60:25.  The other way around you get 17:40 and 43:15, for 60:55.  If cutting stops allows you to drop two hours from the overall timetable but you re-insert that time as a modest hold at CHI (cutting 38 intermediate stops and averaging 3 minutes each gives you 1:54 to work with) you actually get an in-theory-workable timetable with, quite possibly, only three hosts (CSX WAS-PGH, NS PGH-CHI, and BNSF CHI-LAX) excluding some localized commuter situations.  I don't think an all-CSX routing WAS-CHI would be workable, or you could knock that down to two host railroads...which would probably help immensely with host issues.

 

So it is, in theory, doable (Amtrak has teased inter-operating the Chief and Cap on a few occasions, I believe).  Whether practical for issues of knock-on delays is another issue entirely.


Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)

Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)

Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#26 neroden

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Posted 26 October 2015 - 07:37 PM

I believe in the either the text or one of the videos to the Chicago Gateway study Amtrak mentioned that they're holding trains to make connections less often, as it is better to get the trains out on time and suffer through some misconnected passengers than to delay the train for everyone.

Maybe they'll restore the eastbound LSL to the earlier departure time which adds 51 passengers a day and adds $2 million to the bottom line, then? Like the PIP advised?

No?

Does Amtrak management actually have plans, or do they just thrash around incoherently with a new policy being announced before they've even implemented the previous policy? Don't answer that, I already know the answer is #2. Sigh.

Edited by neroden, 26 October 2015 - 07:38 PM.

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#27 Just-Thinking-51

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Posted 26 October 2015 - 08:37 PM

Your problem neroden, is you think someone at Amtrak cares enough to make improvements to the LD network.

Edited by Just-Thinking-51, 26 October 2015 - 08:44 PM.


#28 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 26 October 2015 - 08:58 PM

Your problem neroden, is you think someone at Amtrak cares enough to make improvements to the LD network.

 

They have a monopoly on LD train travel in the US. We have to put up with their lousy service because what alternative do we have?

 

If they were an airline, they would've been bought by now. They wouldn't be US Airways that was bought by American. They would be America West which was bought by US Airways.


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

All I want for Amtrak is a direct train from Philly to Chicago in less than 24 hours 
 
 


#29 Anderson

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Posted 27 October 2015 - 01:14 AM

 

I believe in the either the text or one of the videos to the Chicago Gateway study Amtrak mentioned that they're holding trains to make connections less often, as it is better to get the trains out on time and suffer through some misconnected passengers than to delay the train for everyone.

Maybe they'll restore the eastbound LSL to the earlier departure time which adds 51 passengers a day and adds $2 million to the bottom line, then? Like the PIP advised?

No?

Does Amtrak management actually have plans, or do they just thrash around incoherently with a new policy being announced before they've even implemented the previous policy? Don't answer that, I already know the answer is #2. Sigh.

 

From what I recall:
(1) There have been a slew of issues with the POS systems (mostly related to the shuffle in CC standards) which upended the cashless diner/diner-club idea.

(2) Adding VA stops on the Silvers seems to be slowly happening.

(3) The LSL situation (and indeed the Cap-Pennsylvanian) are likely tied up in a morass of delayed equipment delivery and negotiations with the host RRs (remember: Moving the Cap and LSL means negotiating with CSX and NS on two separate routes).  The fact that the LSL was the only train connecting from the Builder for a while probably didn't do that plan any favors; I rather strongly suspect that Amtrak is letting that one ride until the Builder situation settles out, if only because one train connecting to/from a screwed-up Builder is better than no trains connecting,


Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)

Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)

Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#30 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 27 October 2015 - 04:58 AM

 

 

I believe in the either the text or one of the videos to the Chicago Gateway study Amtrak mentioned that they're holding trains to make connections less often, as it is better to get the trains out on time and suffer through some misconnected passengers than to delay the train for everyone.

Maybe they'll restore the eastbound LSL to the earlier departure time which adds 51 passengers a day and adds $2 million to the bottom line, then? Like the PIP advised?

No?

Does Amtrak management actually have plans, or do they just thrash around incoherently with a new policy being announced before they've even implemented the previous policy? Don't answer that, I already know the answer is #2. Sigh.

 

From what I recall:
(1) There have been a slew of issues with the POS systems (mostly related to the shuffle in CC standards) which upended the cashless diner/diner-club idea.

(2) Adding VA stops on the Silvers seems to be slowly happening.

(3) The LSL situation (and indeed the Cap-Pennsylvanian) are likely tied up in a morass of delayed equipment delivery and negotiations with the host RRs (remember: Moving the Cap and LSL means negotiating with CSX and NS on two separate routes).  The fact that the LSL was the only train connecting from the Builder for a while probably didn't do that plan any favors; I rather strongly suspect that Amtrak is letting that one ride until the Builder situation settles out, if only because one train connecting to/from a screwed-up Builder is better than no trains connecting,

 

 

The LSL PRIIA proposed the LSL leaving 6pm, CL 7:30pm. I remember the EB on the day I left CHI going east wasn't supposed to get into CHI until around 10pm. They wouldn't even be able to catch the LSL that day if true.

 

I would guess it would be unrealistic to not have a late train (around 9:30pm) going east. I believe at least one poster suggested it would be better for the CL to be the "cleanup" train because it's faster to the east coast. I would probably support a move for the CL to be a 9:30pm train. Amtrak isn't guaranteeing the connection with the Silver Star anyway and it should arrive in WAS in time for the Meteor (although the Crescent connection would be at risk unless they change the schedule enough to allow the connection at NYP). They would also have to move back the Pennsylvanian as it is only a 2.5 hr connection eastbound.

 

I remember the TR left around that time once when I took it but that was the days they had three daily trains CHI to NEC. 


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

All I want for Amtrak is a direct train from Philly to Chicago in less than 24 hours 
 
 


#31 Anderson

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Posted 27 October 2015 - 11:23 AM

Honestly, a Three Rivers...or indeed a rejiggered Cardinal (if you were willing to run it to Boston and could spare the equipment...said train would basically be overnight CHI-CIN and daytime CIN-WAS)...could fill the role.  I'm never a fan of shoving the Cap back further for a host of reasons (I'm amenable to a small nudge, perhaps, to get PGH a slightly better time but that's abut it) but I also understand the situation with the LSL...though in the case of the LSL, I think you'd run the risk of denting the intrastate traffic in New York (I don't have numbers, but I do strongly suspect that 280 doesn't have much traffic from Buffalo/Rochester (IIRC the train in that general slot terminated in Syracuse or somewhere like that back in the early days) given the hours.  I'm not going to disagree that the LSL would probably add some O/D traffic on the western end of its eastbound run (though how much of this would be rearranging deckchairs with the Cap is an open question) but the train gets a pretty good chunk of its ridership from "local" traffic in upstate NY/upstate-to-NYP traffic.

 

You're right that the Builder was missing the LSL on some days, but it was almost always missing the other trains while it a least occasionally made the LSL...so the legal connection was never broken.  There really is a need for a "cleanup train"; honestly, it's a shame we don't have more equipment an so on, since if you at least had a super-late train out of CHI, even if it ran as a cafe-only operation and so on, if the equipment flexibility was there you could switch some cars over and get a lot of people to where they were intending to go in the face of a FUBAR on the Western routes.


Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)

Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)

Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#32 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 27 October 2015 - 09:15 PM

Honestly, a Three Rivers...or indeed a rejiggered Cardinal (if you were willing to run it to Boston and could spare the equipment...said train would basically be overnight CHI-CIN and daytime CIN-WAS)...could fill the role.  I'm never a fan of shoving the Cap back further for a host of reasons (I'm amenable to a small nudge, perhaps, to get PGH a slightly better time but that's abut it) but I also understand the situation with the LSL...though in the case of the LSL, I think you'd run the risk of denting the intrastate traffic in New York (I don't have numbers, but I do strongly suspect that 280 doesn't have much traffic from Buffalo/Rochester (IIRC the train in that general slot terminated in Syracuse or somewhere like that back in the early days) given the hours.  I'm not going to disagree that the LSL would probably add some O/D traffic on the western end of its eastbound run (though how much of this would be rearranging deckchairs with the Cap is an open question) but the train gets a pretty good chunk of its ridership from "local" traffic in upstate NY/upstate-to-NYP traffic.

 

You're right that the Builder was missing the LSL on some days, but it was almost always missing the other trains while it a least occasionally made the LSL...so the legal connection was never broken.  There really is a need for a "cleanup train"; honestly, it's a shame we don't have more equipment an so on, since if you at least had a super-late train out of CHI, even if it ran as a cafe-only operation and so on, if the equipment flexibility was there you could switch some cars over and get a lot of people to where they were intending to go in the face of a FUBAR on the Western routes.

 

The Cardinal can't be pushed back to 9:30pm unless you want it to get into NYP after midnight.


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

All I want for Amtrak is a direct train from Philly to Chicago in less than 24 hours 
 
 


#33 desertflyer

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 01:45 PM

 

I'm sure saxman, other pilots, and others with more flight experience will weigh in with some corrections and clarifications, but that's how I've always experienced landings. I read a lot and watch a lot of videos because I love flying so much. :) I actually LOVE takeoffs and landings and think the part in the air is kind of boring, so I really don't mind connections. More fun stuff and less boring stuff. ;)

 

 

I'm a pilot and can say you've got the main points covered and are mostly right. Flying commercially is very safe no matter how many takeoffs and landings you do in a day.



#34 railiner

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 03:27 PM

Besides the above mentioned NYP-LAX thru sleeper from the Crescent to the tri-weekly Sunset, Amtrak also operated a daily thru sleeper from the National Limited to the Chief.

 

 

Now as to the argument that running a thru train coast to coast would 'guarantee' not missing a connection at a hub like Chicago, well.......hold on a minute....I can see some scenario's where if the train from the East is severely delayed, they could run a 'make-up' train from Chicago west on time, and then terminate the late train when it did reach Chicago and reaccommodate the 'misconnect's'......often times during severe weather conditions or track disruptions, Amtrak will 'short-turn' thru trains in an effort to get everything back on schedule....so being on a thru train is still not an absolute 'guarantee' except of course in the sense that Amtrak would be responsible for accommodation those passenger's involved.


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#35 jis

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 03:37 PM


Now as to the argument that running a thru train coast to coast would 'guarantee' not missing a connection at a hub like Chicago, well.......hold on a minute....I can see some scenario's where if the train from the East is severely delayed, they could run a 'make-up' train from Chicago west on time, and then terminate the late train when it did reach Chicago and reaccommodate the 'misconnect's'......often times during severe weather conditions or track disruptions, Amtrak will 'short-turn' thru trains in an effort to get everything back on schedule....so being on a thru train is still not an absolute 'guarantee' except of course in the sense that Amtrak would be responsible for accommodation those passenger's involved.

Amtrak is already responsible for handling misconnects on guaranteed connection itineraries, so there is absolutely nothing gained in that respect. All that is gained is a major logistical headache of trying to keep a 2700 mile three day itinerary sufficiently on time its entire length and not screw many things up at many places down the line, for relatively very little gain.

Edited by jis, 31 October 2015 - 05:29 AM.


#36 railiner

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Posted 31 October 2015 - 11:06 PM

 

Now as to the argument that running a thru train coast to coast would 'guarantee' not missing a connection at a hub like Chicago, well.......hold on a minute....I can see some scenario's where if the train from the East is severely delayed, they could run a 'make-up' train from Chicago west on time, and then terminate the late train when it did reach Chicago and reaccommodate the 'misconnect's'......often times during severe weather conditions or track disruptions, Amtrak will 'short-turn' thru trains in an effort to get everything back on schedule....so being on a thru train is still not an absolute 'guarantee' except of course in the sense that Amtrak would be responsible for accommodation those passenger's involved.

Amtrak is already responsible for handling misconnects on guaranteed connection itineraries, so there is absolutely nothing gained in that respect. All that is gained is a major logistical headache of trying to keep a 2700 mile three day itinerary sufficiently on time its entire length and not screw many things up at many places down the line, for relatively very little gain.

 

Agreed....you would probably need to do like VIA does with the long layover's on its Canadian....


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#37 neroden

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Posted 05 November 2015 - 10:08 AM

I would guess it would be unrealistic to not have a late train (around 9:30pm) going east.

I'm going to make a hard call here. I think this is the tail wagging the dog, and Amtrak should *not* have a "cleanup train" for late western trains. This is wasting a valuable Chicago-East Coast slot on assisting the money-sucking western Transcontinentals. If there were an independent business case for a train departing Chicago for the east at 9:30, that would be a reason to do it; "collecting passengers from delayed Western trains" is NOT a good reason.

We've already documented that a supermajority of "Chicago-East Coast" passengers do *not* connect from *any* western trains. (A fair number connect to the corridors, but we're not worried about those trains being super-late.)

LSL ridership was predicted to go up by 10% or more by changing the schedule. Is it really worth losing 9% of your riders on a *relatively successful* service, in order to avoid overnight stays and hotel bills for customers on your *less successful*, *lower-ticket-price-per-mile* services? I say it isn't. They don't hold the Silver Service for late trains coming into NYP or WAS. They should dispatch the LSL at an appropriate starting time and not hold it for Western trains.

I will also point out that people taking most of the Western trains long distances are not in a hurry and can afford to spend the time overnight in Chicago in case of a late train. People riding a short distance on those trains, like from Denver or Minneapolis are an exception, but they are already dealing with their train arriving at their starting point late, and have time to find alternate transportation if they're in a hurry to make the Chicago connection.

I'll tell you what railways USED to do in situations like this.
(a) The railway owned a hotel located in the station.
(b) When getting news of delays that day, the railway would block out rooms in the hotel for delayed trains.
I don't know if Amtrak could set up a partnership with a hotel company and do this, but it would be better than messing up another train's schedule.

Edited by neroden, 05 November 2015 - 10:16 AM.

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#38 neroden

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Posted 05 November 2015 - 10:26 AM

I also understand the situation with the LSL...though in the case of the LSL, I think you'd run the risk of denting the intrastate traffic in New York (I don't have numbers, but I do strongly suspect that 280 doesn't have much traffic from Buffalo/Rochester (IIRC the train in that general slot terminated in Syracuse or somewhere like that back in the early days) given the hours.


The LSL would move back 3 1/2 hours into the 238 slot. This would be too close to the 284, so the 284 would be cut back to a ALB-NYP train, with an NFL-NYP train in the former LSL slot...

The "new" 284 would leave Niagara Falls at 8:17 AM and Buffalo Exchange St. at 8:52 AM; probably quite attractive.
The "new" LSL would not serve Niagara Falls or Buffalo Exchange St. but would leave Depew around 5:30 AM. It would still get quite a lot of upstate NY - NYP passengers.

However, it would definitely be better to move upstate NY-NYP passengers from the LSL to the other Empire Service trains, as this creates more seats for passengers going from NYP/Boston/Upstate NY to Cleveland/Toledo/Michigan/Chicago. The LSL is typically a lot more crowded than the Empire Service trains typically are.

Um, I realize I'm sort of creating a separate topic here, but I'm not sure what to call it. ("Chicago East Coast Service Proposals"?)

Edited by neroden, 05 November 2015 - 10:28 AM.

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#39 jis

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Posted 05 November 2015 - 10:38 AM

Neroden, I agree completely with your proposal. If there is significant clientele to  be had from NFL and Buffalo Exchange St at 5 am NYSDOT can just arrange to run a connecting Thruway bus.



#40 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 05 November 2015 - 04:43 PM

 


Um, I realize I'm sort of creating a separate topic here, but I'm not sure what to call it. ("Chicago East Coast Service Proposals"?)

 

 

Start with PHL-CHI and I'm on board.


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

All I want for Amtrak is a direct train from Philly to Chicago in less than 24 hours 
 
 





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