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Largest Metros Without Amtrak Service (How to Serve Them?)

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My recommendation is to ... Build the connection that was proposed way back in the Seaboard days at Fairworld from the NS R line to the CSX S line and abandon the R line from there on into Columbia. ... mostly grade separated south of Fairwold. ... an updated station... on the other side of Blossom would be better ... a platform for the current Star and the NS R line to Augusta and SC line to Charleston. But it still needs a connection in Fairwold.

O.K. But before we can even put this on 2020s wish list, what's the ballpark cost of such a connection at Fairwold? And a new station? The PRIIA study didn't even guess a figure, iirc. Are we talking something that a $25 million TIGER grant could make happen, or is it gonna be a lot more? Like another Stimulus-level windfall (it could happen) needed for more and better service at Columbia?

 

(When you say "abandon the R line into Columbia," you meant Amtrak only abandon it? Or also NS to get them out of the campus LOL? If it means sharing tracks with CS, that could mean double-tracking the segment, good for Amtrak, but not cheap for NS or CSX.)

Edited by WoodyinNYC

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I'll have to ask around for the guy who gave me the quote for the connection. I think a 25 million TIGER Grant could do the connection. But I'm not sure about a new station. The developers have been taking over that side of town for apartments. So the land cost has skyrocketed. That or rebuilding the current station by enlarging it. The fairwold connection would make the new station central. And by abandon the R line I we it as completely abandoning the R line from Fairwold to Divine Junction. It'll help USC by getting the trains out of campus. Except for two to three local customers on train P85.

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No need to rush yourself, alas. This is how things will unfold:

 

In NC, Stimulus round of upgrades completed by mid-2017 and 2 Piedmont frequencies added. Ridership on this Raleigh-Charlotte line will double.

 

In VA, work will begin on more projects to cut trip time D.C.-Richmond, now ~2 hrs 15 min to less than 2 hrs, closer to 1 hr 30 min. -- the new Potomac Long Bridge and various upgrades south to Richmond. The new bridge will allow more slots for passenger trains. Two more Regionals extended to Norfolk. Ridership from Norfolk will triple. A second train to Lynchburg will be added. The Cardinal goes daily, adding 4 trains a week D.C.-Charlottesville.

 

In NC and VA, work will begin on restoring the shortcut Raleigh-Petersburg. Probably later before work begins Richmond-Petersburg, due to expense. Six trains begin running Richmond-Raleigh, with one or more continuing to Charlotte.

 

Someone in SC notices and says, "They have all those nice trains in NC and VA, why can't we have nice things too?" Planners will be assigned to do stuff so that politicians can say, "We're working on it."

 

Planners come up with ideas, like, A train connecting Charlotte-Columbia-Charleston-Savannah. Which will require a connection at Fairwold north of Columbia. Costly demolition of newly constructed buildings in the proposed right of way will delay implementation.

 

By the time SC gets a regular train of its own, California could be replacing its old HSR line with Maglev. LOL.

 

But don't give up. As sea levels continue to rise, refugees from Miami-Ft Lauderdale could relocate to SC and change the state's voting complexion. Or something. You just never know what could happen.

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Demographically, I expect the South Florida refugees will stay well away from South Carolina. A bunch will head to North Florida; the rest will probably spread all over the country since I don't see any obvious strong cultural links to any other part of the country. Actually there will probably be an influx to NYC. Those who want to stay in warm weather may head for the Gulf Coast, or even Arizona or California...

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Also, NC is more likely to get overrun by refugees er retirees from the Northeast way before anything happens to South Florida. It is a popular retirement destination from the Northeast, and that of course bodes well for Carolinas Amtrak service in the coming years.

 

But what the heck does this have to do with Largest Metros without Amtrak service. All the large Metros in Florida and Carolinas appear to already have Amtrak service. And in Florida in combination with AAF and local commuter services many of the not so large metros will progressively get credible passenger rail service. Only outlayers will be in the area between Northwest and West Central Florida assuming the NOL: - JAX service materializes to cover the likes of the Florida state capital, which isn't really that large a city. Only places like Ocala and Gainesville will get left out at the end of the day.

 

In North Carolina if NCDOT has its way, several second tier cities willg et rail service eventually. I suppose not much will change in South Carolina or Georgia any time soon.

Edited by jis

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There are several metro locations in Georgia that have no service. In no particular order. The Chattanooga, TN. area of Georgia is very fast growing. Augusta has already been mentioned. Macon, GA well somewhat small.

Columbus, GA is smaller than others but the fastest growing due to the monster Ft. Benning military reservation being expanded both in more personnel and area.

There are over 2 bus loads of personnel per hour traveling between Ft. Benning and ATL.

An ATL airport station to Columbus will be very easy to build as tracks go under one of the airport's free people movers.

Edited by west point

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But what the heck does this have to do with Largest Metros without Amtrak service.

If you're going to assume the position as hallway monitor, try to be more consistent. ;)

 

In Post #21, you discuss "There are only two rail advocacy groups active in South Jersey - DVARP and NJ-ARP ..."

 

And what the heck does that have to do with Largest Metros without Amtrak service? LOL.

 

But Columbia got mentioned Post #12 by Alex M.

 

 

With regards to Augusta, perhaps a daytime Palmetto style service would use the Silver Star route to Columbia then over to Augusta on NS, if a physical connection could be built between those lines. Another idea would be extending the Carolinian, provided the schedule could be tightened up enough.

Then Seabord92 responded with remarks about Columbia and a needed physical connection. I responded to him with the PRIAA report, and back and forth.

 

Discussion of potential added service in or around Augusta, Columbia, Charleston, Savannah, Atlanta, Charlotte etc. seems appropriate for a broad reading of this thread. If your inner wanna-be hall monitor feels otherwise, well, such is life. Perhaps less coffee to start the day? :)

Edited by WoodyinNYC

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I honestly don't understand the goal of a thread like this.

 

"Largest Metros Without Amtrak Service (How to Serve Them?)"

 

So are we going to waste time and money bringing new transportation services to people who never wanted them and probably won't use them anyway?

 

How about we consider changing the topic to something more like this...

 

"Largest Metros That Want New/More/Better Amtrak Services (How to Serve Them?)"

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I honestly don't understand the goal of a thread like this.

 

"Largest Metros Without Amtrak Service (How to Serve Them?)"

 

So are we going to waste time and money bringing new transportation services to people who never wanted them and probably won't use them anyway?

 

How about we consider changing the topic to something more like this...

 

"Largest Metros That Want New/More/Better Amtrak Services (How to Serve Them?)"

 

How do you know markets that either have never had Amtrak or had it and lost it don't want or wouldn't use Amtrak? Do you have proof? Can you show any market who has never had Amtrak specifically say "we don't want it, we won't use it"? I can't guarantee Nashville if they had Amtrak would want/ride it but you can't guarantee they won't.

Edited by Philly Amtrak Fan

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So are we going to waste time and money bringing new transportation services to people who never wanted them and probably won't use them anyway?

 

How about we consider changing the topic to something more like this...

 

"Largest Metros That Want New/More/Better Amtrak Services (How to Serve Them?)"

Well, in places like Augusta, Macon, Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, and Florence you'd get Obama-like votes from the black population, like 90% in favor of more Amtrak. But the white people don't care so much about trains, and some of them rightly suspect that even more black people might ride the trains if there were more. So the Dixie-mind majority of the white majority -- it may be a minority of the total but Hastert Rule applies here -- is against more trains.

 

But if trains were started to connect Atlanta-Augusta-Savannah or Atlanta-Macon-Savannah or Atlanta-Macon-Waycross-Jacksonville, or Mobile-Montgomery-Birmingham-Huntsville they'd have plenty of riders.

 

That said, I'd put my money first on South of the Lake (east of CHI-Detroit and CHI-Cleveland and on Long Bridge-south of the Potomac-Richmond-Raleigh, where the white folks and their state governments are more supportive of Amtrak.

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But what the heck does this have to do with Largest Metros without Amtrak service.

If you're going to assume the position as hallway monitor, try to be more consistent. ;)

 

In Post #21, you discuss "There are only two rail advocacy groups active in South Jersey - DVARP and NJ-ARP ..."

 

And what the heck does that have to do with Largest Metros without Amtrak service? LOL.

 

It would be completely inappropriate to be consistent in an Amtrak forum, don't you think, given how inconsistent Amtrak is in everything that it does? :P Juuust kidding! ;) We meander and occasionally someone remembers that we meandered. that is the tradition around here, so I suggest you get used to it. ;)

 

 

How about we consider changing the topic to something more like this...

 

"Largest Metros That Want New/More/Better Amtrak Services (How to Serve Them?)"

How do you know markets that either have never had Amtrak or had it and lost it don't want or wouldn't use Amtrak? Do you have proof? Can you show any market who has never had Amtrak specifically say "we don't want it, we won't use it"? I guarantee Nashville if they had Amtrak would want/ride it but you can't guarantee they won't.

 

Our motto here is to figure out how to force feed Amtrak to everyone using someone else's money, whether they want it or not :P But it sure is fun to figure out how to do it should money become available and should someone actually want to ride the darned thing. Guaranteeing that some people will ride a train does not even take a survey, and it is impossible to guarantee that no one will ride. But that is a totally silly argument to start with.

 

The issue always is whether enough people in the communities served collectively be willing to pay the cost or at least a significant part of it through fares and other means, so as to make it worthwhile to put in some money from the general pot to help them get it. If the local community refuses to have any stake in the game then it then the venture becomes somewhat questionable. And there always will be NIMBYs who confuse the issue by being disproportionately loud in their opposition based often on spurious reasons.

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I honestly don't understand the goal of a thread like this.

 

"Largest Metros Without Amtrak Service (How to Serve Them?)"

 

So are we going to waste time and money bringing new transportation services to people who never wanted them and probably won't use them anyway?

 

How about we consider changing the topic to something more like this...

 

"Largest Metros That Want New/More/Better Amtrak Services (How to Serve Them?)"

How do you know markets that either have never had Amtrak or had it and lost it don't want or wouldn't use Amtrak? Do you have proof? Can you show any market who has never had Amtrak specifically say "we don't want it, we won't use it"? I guarantee Nashville if they had Amtrak would want/ride it but you can't guarantee they won't.

 

So what actual proof do you have to back up your guarantee?

 

My own city modified our charter to prevent any rail based passenger service from using public funds or public land unless majority approved by a citywide vote ahead of time. Non-rail passenger services are exempted from this uniquely punitive restriction. Numerous other cities and states have elected staunchly anti-rail politicians to represent their interests. Even if the people who voted for such officials secretly want more passenger rail it's not worth fighting their silly bipolar battles for them. Better to spend that time and money matching funds and effort from staunchly pro-rail areas instead.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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I agree with you DA. That is the reason that I view threads like this one to be "what if" fantasies to some extent. Fortunately, that is the nature of half of the stuff that we yammer on about in this forum. So I don't see any problem with some more of the starry eyed fantasies spewing forth.

 

OTOH, if things suddenly change then the ideas batted around as fantasies may become of some use provided the fantasies were not totally disconnected from physical (as opposed to political) realities. As long as people understand that I see no harm in playing these "what if" scenarios. It is when people go off into la-la land taking effusively of Hyperloop from NY to San Fran, when I at least, lose interest.

Edited by jis

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I am looking for brainstorming/suggestions on how to introduce/re-introduce Amtrak to the largest metro areas that do not have service.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_major_cities_in_U.S._lacking_Amtrak_service#cite_note-4

Nashville:

You could probably go in several directions:

a) to IND/CHI via Louisville (which would take care of Louisville as well),

b) to ATL,

c) to Va/WAS via Knoxville? (WoodyInNYC suggested it: http://discuss.amtraktrains.com/index.php?/topic/66173-fiscally-constrained-system-vision/?p=632976, http://clevelandbanner.com/stories/amtrak-linethrough-areagets-new-look,13181

d) to Memphis?

Maybe you can have a CHI-ATL train through Nashville. But I'm not aware of any practical routes.

 

Louisville:

You could go to IND/CHI or to CIN. Perhaps you can combine with Nashville. ...

 

Knoxville:

...

Chattanooga, TN:

...

Tri-Cities, TN:

...

Read it carefully. I suggested that it appears that Virginia is looking beyond Roanoke to a route that ultimately would link Norfolk-Richmond-Lynchburg-Roanoke-Bristol (Tri-Cities)-Knoxville-Chattanooga-Atlanta. (No mention of Nashville.) I got beat up: Bad tracks. Steep hills. Slow times in historic past. But that route remains my fearless forecast for 10 or 15 years from now. Mostly because, when Virginia makes a rail plan, they stick to the plan and get it done.

 

But Nashville-Knoxville is a non-starter. When I look at railroad maps online, you can't get there from here.

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... how to introduce/re-introduce Amtrak to the largest metro areas that do not have service.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_major_cities_in_U.S._lacking_Amtrak_service#cite_note-4

Nashville:

You could probably go in several directions:

a) to IND/CHI via Louisville (which would take care of Louisville as well),

b) to ATL,

c) ...

Maybe you can have a CHI-ATL train through Nashville. But I'm not aware of any practical routes.

 

Louisville:

You could go to IND/CHI or to CIN. Perhaps you can combine with Nashville. ...

 

Knoxville:

...

Chattanooga, TN:

...

Tri-Cities, TN:

...

 

The Tennessee paper also reported a potential route that would intersect with that Virginia train at Knoxville, providing a second frequency on the Knoxville-Chattanooga corridor. It would run beyond-Louisville-Frankfurt-Lexington-Knoxville-Chattanooga-Atlanta-beyond. (At one end "beyond" means Indianapolis-Chicago, at the other it probably means Florida.)

 

There's politics involved when Kentucky officials talk about a train from Louisville to Atlanta without mentioning Indianapolis and Chicago: They're Yankees, you know. In the same way, not everyone in Tennessee would think a train from Nashville to Chicago would be a good thing. LOL. But that's how it would go: Nashville-Bowling Green-Louisville-Indianapolis-Chicago.

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... how to introduce/re-introduce Amtrak to the largest metro areas that do not have service.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_major_cities_in_U.S._lacking_Amtrak_service#cite_note-4

Nashville:

You could probably go in several directions:

a) to IND/CHI via Louisville (which would take care of Louisville as well),

b) to ATL,

c) ...

Maybe you can have a CHI-ATL train through Nashville. But I'm not aware of any practical routes.

 

Louisville:

You could go to IND/CHI or to CIN. Perhaps you can combine with Nashville. ...

...

 

That's how it would go: Nashville-Bowling Green-Louisville-Indianapolis-Chicago.

 

Indianapolis is so badly served by Amtrak that it deserves a mention here. The segment Indianapolis-Chicago is the bastard child of passenger rail city pairs. Nearby, with large populations, strong business links, connections at Chicago to the national system. The route was part of the Midwest HSR plans. But, it happens.

 

Now the poor Cardinal runs only 3 times a week, a schedule designed to fail. Then the state of Indiana more or less pays for the Hoosier State for the other 4 days of the week. The route is convoluted and congested and most of all slow. A study for the Dept of Highways was lacking stuff, but concluded that half an hour could easily be cut from the trip time by upgrading the tracks within Indiana alone (not including any future upgrades in Illinois).

 

So about $250 million for two long sidings and rehab of the existing tracks to get trains from Indy into Chicago half an hour earlier. Adding another departure or two on the corridor could get riders home from the business trip by bedtime.

 

Indiana is not gonna invest $250 million. It would need a large federal match before any such thing could happen. But get a daily Cardinal, two more corridor trains Indy-CHI (as per the Dept of Highways study), a train Nashville-Louisville-Indy-CHI and another ATL-Knoxville-Louisville-Indy-CHI, and perhaps one or two Cincy-Indy-CHI, and this corridor would really hum.

Edited by WoodyinNYC

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I honestly don't understand the goal of a thread like this.

 

"Largest Metros Without Amtrak Service (How to Serve Them?)"

 

So are we going to waste time and money bringing new transportation services to people who never wanted them and probably won't use them anyway?

 

How about we consider changing the topic to something more like this...

 

"Largest Metros That Want New/More/Better Amtrak Services (How to Serve Them?)"

How do you know markets that either have never had Amtrak or had it and lost it don't want or wouldn't use Amtrak? Do you have proof? Can you show any market who has never had Amtrak specifically say "we don't want it, we won't use it"? I guarantee Nashville if they had Amtrak would want/ride it but you can't guarantee they won't.

 

So what actual proof do you have to back up your guarantee?

 

My own city modified our charter to prevent any rail based passenger service from using public funds or public land unless majority approved by a citywide vote ahead of time. Non-rail passenger services are exempted from this uniquely punitive restriction. Numerous other cities and states have elected staunchly anti-rail politicians to represent their interests. Even if the people who voted for such officials secretly want more passenger rail it's not worth fighting their silly bipolar battles for them. Better to spend that time and money matching funds and effort from staunchly pro-rail areas instead.

 

 

Forgot to say "can't" guarantee.

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If those 2 sidings could be built arrivals in CHI could be guaranteed if the CHI mess can be mitigated. During this past few days around Christmas 51 & 851 have arrived CUS over 30 minutes early

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Speaking of whether cities want Amtrak service, I've seen very strong indications that the border cities on the Rio Grande (Brownsville and McAllen) would love to have Amtrak service. I also see every indication that the state government will do whatever it can to make sure they don't get it. Or any other public services.

 

It can be interesting to analyze the politics of these locations. It's obvious that more populous metro areas have more potential for train service (more passengers), so it's interesting to try to figure out the dynamics which are preventing train service in some of these places.

Edited by neroden

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Amtrak-less markets with 500,000 or more people:

Phoenix:

Is a return to the old route practical? How about a separate train from LAX to Phoenix?

This is the biggest, but probably the hardest to fix.

First get daily service on the Sunset Ltd or Texas Eagle or whatever it will be called when it's done. That move will double ridership, and that fact alone will make a compelling case for further investment. The PRIIA study suggested that the Phoenix market would be helped the most by daily service. With the current 3-days-a-week plan, no shuttle bus or limo service connecting Mariposa to the cluster of cities that comprise the market can make money. (What are they supposed to do with the vehicles and drivers the other 4 days a week?) So it doesn't happen. With 7-days-a-week operations, they could make money just like they do serving the airport.

One big step toward the daily service got a big boost in the past round of TIGER grants. The present station at Maricopa has short platforms, so the Sunset has to stop twice to unload and load passengers. Meanwhile, it blocks one of the town's main streets during the morning rush hour. That level crossing will be replaced by a grade-separated crossing. The station will be moved down the way a bit, to get its own track. This move will allow the UP's freights to pass while the Sunset is in the station. Everyone will win.

The sad history of service to Phoenix you can research on Wikipedia. Basically, an Amtrak train was sabotaged and crashed into an arroyo, in what may have been domestic terrorism, or perhaps an act disgruntled crazy employee. The authorities claim not to know, or not to have a provable case, so the public does not know who or why. Not too long after the derailment, the UP decided to move its main line out of the heart of Phoenix, to the bypass thru exurban Maricopa.

To return service to downtown Phoenix -- a city with a growing population and a growing light rail system -- would require rebuilding the tracks on the old right of way. Not easy, and not cheap. Maybe one day a commuter line could be put on part of the route to share the costs of rehab and operation. But not cheap and not soon.

There's been a lot of talk about a state-supported corridor between the largest cities: Tucson-Phoenix. But the other day I stumbled onto a link from the FRA page to a recent study of that route, with a rough estimate of $4.7 Billion to build it. Let me repeat that: An estimated $4.7 Billion for about 120 miles.

Meanwhile the proposed South of the Lake upgrades, from CHI to the already upgraded Michigan corridors, has a rough estimate of $2.5 Billion. The St Louis-CHI route has used $1 Billion for the first stage, another Billion or Two is needed for the second stage. Nobody in the Midwest is talking $4.7 Billion.

Well, O.K., the SEHSR route D.C.-Richmond-Petersburg-Raleigh night get close to that figure, with the new Long Bridge over the Potomac, urban congestion, and a lot of rebuilt track. But how does Arizona claim $4.7 Billion for 120 miles when most of it is open desert? Anyway, putting out a number like that kills enthusiasm for Tucson-Phoenix, much less Tucson-L.A. (about 500 miles).

++++++++++++++++++++

btw Maricopa is the textbook example of the importance of close-in stations, or not. Ridership at the smaller city of Tucson, with a city center station, was 28,700 last year. Meanwhile exurban Maricopa, standing in for Phoenix, gathered only 12,100 passengers.

 

Edited by WoodyinNYC

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Arizona routinely sandbags studies of train service by pretending that they'll cost far more than they actually will. If one of them gets approved anyway, expect it to come in under budget (as the Phoenix Light Rail did).

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Thanks for the Wikipedia link, Philly Amtrak Fan!

 

I was thinking about this just the other day. Amtrak can't serve every town in America, but in a perfect world they could hit the "sweet spot" cities: those metro areas with at least 100-200k people and poor commercial flight options. It is quite frustrating when an existing route could serve a nearby metro (and boost ridership), but doesn't due to host RR issues or other obstacles.

 

My desire would include the following modifications to western routes:

 

Southwest Chief reroute to Pueblo

Sunset Limited service to both Phoenix and Las Cruces

California Zephyr service to Des Moines instead of southern IA

Coast Starlight serving Medford and Roseburg instead of Klamath Falls

Regarding Medford/Ashland -- There are still tracks over the very significant pass between Northern California and Southern Oregon (Ashland). In fact as per this article in the local paper, freight service was recently restored, though the line gets limited use. Another hopeful idea might be to extend Cascades incrementally south from Eugene. http://www.dailytidings.com/article/20150519/NEWS/150519795

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If Oregon ever wanted to put in real money (sigh) a reroute over the Medford route would be very successful. Klamath Falls is no loss. The Medford route needs a lot of money to bring it up to decent speeds, though, and I just don't see Oregon putting in the money in the next decade or two.

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I honestly don't understand the goal of a thread like this.

 

"Largest Metros Without Amtrak Service (How to Serve Them?)"

 

So are we going to waste time and money bringing new transportation services to people who never wanted them and probably won't use them anyway?

 

How about we consider changing the topic to something more like this...

 

"Largest Metros That Want New/More/Better Amtrak Services (How to Serve Them?)"

 

How do you know markets that either have never had Amtrak or had it and lost it don't want or wouldn't use Amtrak? Do you have proof? Can you show any market who has never had Amtrak specifically say "we don't want it, we won't use it"? I can't guarantee Nashville if they had Amtrak would want/ride it but you can't guarantee they won't.

Beyond (as Philly Amtrak Fan says) confusing the different ideas of political will and ridership demand, which ignores all the vagaries that come with the former,* arguing that "they don't want it" ignores that trains run in both directions :giggle: and maybe, just maybe, people in cities with Amtrak service want to be able to go to Las Vegas, Nashville, Madison, etc. by train.

 

 

*For example, Madison as a city & metro area quite wanted Amtrak service, the extension of the successful and relatively frequent Hiawatha service at mostly Federal expense. Scott Walker overruled them. :angry2:

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I (and others) had previous ideas about a 3-C train to serve Columbus and Dayton. Then if the train gets extended between Cincinnati to Louisville and Nashville you would serve four new markets with one train. To make it eligible for federal funding you'd have to extend it to 750 miles. You can go from Cleveland to New York via the LSL route and make it the "Music City Limited". But you'd have nowhere to service an LD train in Nashville. One idea would be to also extend it south to New Orleans along the old Louisville & Nashville Humming Bird Train: http://www.american-rails.com/humming-bird.html. That would give Amtrak a 2nd NYP-NOL train but serving Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee instead of the Crescent route and if you use the Humming Bird you also pick up Montgomery and Mobile.

 

Does Amtrak need a 2nd NYP-NOL route? If not, this could become a new NYP-Texas train. You could extend this train to HOS-SAS (now we're looking at a near 2000 mile train?). Or instead of going to NOL go from Birmingham to Meridian and across the Meridian Speedway to Dallas.

 

Using the proposed Cincinnati section of the LSL (http://freepdfhosting.com/cf26514bc8.pdf), that would be about 19 hrs between NYP-CIN. CIN-Birmingham (old Humming Bird schedule) would be another 13 hrs. If you did Birmingham-NOL (Crescent) you get 7.5 hrs and NOL-SAS (SL) is 15 hrs. So that adds up to 54.5 hrs (assuming you can run on the HB schedule)! If you did Birmingham-Meridian alone it would be 3 hours and if you use the Thruway Bus schedule it would be 10-11 hrs. That would be about 46 hours NYP-DAL. I'd have to play around with the schedule but my initial though would be overnight through upper New York State with the second overnight south of Nashville.

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