... The Cardinal is scheduled to meet all the major Western trains in Chicago (connections), allow for reasonable equipment and crew turns ... , have more-or-less reasonable times on the NEC (also major traffic generators), and also to minimize the disruption on the Buckingham Branch railroad ...
... There were a lot of different options looked at when the Cardinal was under PRIIA review 5 or 6 years ago, but there weren't many options that would really work without significant investment in infrastructure on the Buckingham Branch.
Next, factor in that long-distance trains are essentially banned from NYP during rush hour ... so the Cardinal has to get out before 7 am. ... Indianapolis may not get the best of scheduled times, it provides for a reasonable arrival into Chicago, allowing for day trips from Indy and Lafayette (big college town). Give Indianapolis better times and you get into Chicago too late to offer a day's events. ... less time to service and turn the train, and depending ... could also run into crew rest issues.
Thanks for the run-down on these issues.
It is one of God's little jokes that Cincinnati is in the wrong place for the Cardinal's schedule. Provoked by our friend Philly Amtrak Fan, I've wasted some good time puzzling over the Cardinal route. Best I could come up was for God to move Cincinnati to the present location of Indianapolis.
Otherwise, the slow Cardinal (currently 42 mph on average) needs to go faster. Easy to do, actually, if you are willing to spend the money.
A few years back, Indiana paid consultants for a study that claimed the tracks between Indy and the Illinois state line could be upgraded to cut the run time by 25 minutes. (More could be cut state line into CHI, but that's for C.R.E.A.T.E., not Indiana's problem.)
That 25-minute savings offers delicious choices to tweak the schedule of the Cardinal/Hoosier State, arriving CHI a little earlier in the day, or leaving Indy a little later. The CHI arrival is now 10 a.m. I'll leave that alone because iirc, Union Station has a very busy commuter rush hour like NY Penn. So let's leave Indy at 6:25 a.m. instead of 6 o'clock sharp (and attract more sleepyhead riders like me). Then EB, arrive back in Indy at 11:15 p.m. instead of 11:40 as now (because nobody wants to be downtown anywhere, not even in corn-fed Indianapolis, so close to midnight).
That projected 25-minute savings was estimated to cost roughly $250+ million for the needed upgrades. Small potatoes compared with the Stimulus projects. The study suggested that running one or two more frequencies of the Hoosier State daily could help to justify that investment. Alas, by the time this study was released, Congress had killed almost all new infrastructure funding.
And btw, the Indiana study did not have any figure for how upgraded tracks, faster trains, better times, and added complementary frequencies would add riders, improve revenue, and cut losses on the Cardinal. But I take it on faith.
Since God won't move Cincinnati, we'll need to speed up the trains serving the city. Leaving Cincy WB at 1:41 a.m., arriving Indy at 5:15 a.m. and CHI at 10 o'clock are all horrible times. Going EB, leaving CHI at 5:45 p.m. is fine, but arriving Indy at 11:39 p.m. is barely tolerable, and Cincy at 3:17 a.m. is simply intolerable.
Again, there's plans, part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, going back 20 years or so. The MWRRI studies are being updated, iiuc. But working from a 2004 version (latest I found still on the Net), we can see the potential. Cincy-Indy-CHI takes 8 hours now. Investing a Billion or more could cut the trip time to 4 hours, they say. That, plus more money for more equipment, would allow 8 corridor trains on the route, plus the Cardinal. Obviously, when the route carries 8 corridor trains departing between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. or so, nobody will sweat the Cardinal's schedule of post-midnight stops in Cincy.
Still, the Cardinal's timetable could be tweaked to make better use of the 4 hours saved from faster running Cincy-CHI. For one example, the CHI arrival could be 6 a.m., before the morning rush hour, instead of the 10 a.m. currently.
Or the 4 hours could be pushed to the NYC end of the route. Last I read, a daily Cardinal would require 4 train sets, instead of the 3 now in service. That's because there's not enuff time to clean and turn the train between its 10 p.m. arrival in Penn Station and its 6:45 morning departure. But with 4 hours saved CHI-Cincy and vice versa, all other things being equal, the Penn Station arrival could be 6 p.m., departing at 10:45 the next morning. Plenty of time to turn the train without a fourth consist. In fact, two or three hours earlier into NYC might be enuff time for the turn, without shredding the rest of the current schedule
So where was I? Getting too close to bedtime. LOL. The cure for what ails this LD route is faster running and more complementary corridor frequencies. So I've ended up in a very familiar place: As usual, the cure for what ails Amtrak's Cardinal is more Amtrak.
Edited by WoodyinNYC, 03 September 2017 - 10:28 PM.