Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by benjibear, Sep 18, 2015.
Good to see PennDOT pursuing this. I was getting worried since they forgot to add this as part of their 15 year master plan.
Surprised they are considering this in earnest, seeing it wasn't very long ago that they wanted to drop the Pennsylvanian totally.
Any idea what sort of timings they are going for?
Or whether NS would be amenable to it?
Maybe PennDOT has figured out that going from 1x per day to 2x per day typically gets 3x the ridership.
So, figure it this way: double the costs assessed to PennDOT. For actual variable costs, they really do double. Most of those costs are allocated overhead, so they don't really increase, but because of the allocation scheme, they will be doubled as PennDOT sees them.
So FY2014 fully allocated costs before OPEBs/IG were $16.5 million. Double to get $33 million.
But then triple the revenue. FY2014 ticket revenue was $11.4 million. Triple to get $34.2 million.
Pennsylvania quite likely goes from providing a subsidy to having a surplus -- or at least lowers their subsidy.
That would be worth it for them to look into.
Would the second train also start in New York?
Maybe starting in Philadelphia would proivide more options in terms of finding good timings that are not too close to those of the Pennsylvanian. Running on into the later evening or starting too early in the morning would limit ridership potential.
I guess a second train would need two additional sets of equipment that Amtrak would have to procure from somewhere. I'm not sure whether Amtrak has this surplus right now. Maybe they could get somebody like Iowa Pacific involved. Maybe penDOT could also procure their own NCDOT style,
Lots of unknowns that could potentially escalate the costs and kill the proposal.
Perhaps the Midwest corridor equipment -- mostly Horizon, but some Amfleet -- that will be freed up when the bilevels arrive? PennDOT is asking Amtrak to estimate the cost of a second Pennsylvanian, so nothing's going to happen in the immediate future.
Although a head-to-head competition -- one train run by Iowa Pacific or the like, one train still run by Amtrak -- would be mighty interesting.
On the other hand, a study from last year came up with a not quite double increase in ridership from three daily trains (http://triblive.com/mobile/9102965-96/amtrak-pittsburgh-train).
If they did NYP to CHI along the Pennsylvanian route, then PennDOT wouldn't have to pay (> 750 miles).
And Amtrak won't find the money for it. So it will be still born. The best bet at present is to get a PennDOT funded second train to PGH.
I think we can attribute PennDOT's request to a change in the Governor. The Corbett administration was not anti-transit, but my impression is that Corbett went along with the capital funding increase for SEPTA and other transit systems in order to get Democratic votes for the state gas tax increase, so he could address the state's road and bridge maintenance & repair funding shortfalls. Governor Wolf, who became Governor in January, has made statements in support of favor of transit, passenger rail and high-speed rail to Pittsburgh.
That PennDOT asked Amtrak to look into adding a second daily train indicates that the Wolf administration is ignoring the recent Keystone West corridor service report which was loaded with huge cost figures and everything but the kitchen sink for any additional trains to Pittsburgh.
The draft 2015 Pennsylvania State Rail Plan was posted recently and is still open for comments (PlanTheKeystone webpage). I have only skimmed parts of it, but there is little in that I saw about HAR to PGH expansion or improvements. Given how long it usually takes to write documents such as this, I expect most or all of the 2015 plan was defined and written during the Corbett administration or by holdovers from his administration. So it may not reflect the full opinions of the new Wolf administration staff and appointees.
As for schedule and NS willingness to accept a second train to Pittsburgh, we may have to wait for the Amtrak response. Which be several years from now, given the recent examples of Amtrak taking forever to produce even a short report in response to a state request.
New 43 West: Leave NYP slightly after 9am, PHL around 11am, HAR around 1pm, arrives in PGH around 6:30pm.
Train 41 West (Liberty Limited) Use the 43 schedule, push back 1-2 hour so it leaves NYP around noon-1pm, PHL around 2-3pm, HAR around 4-5pm, and arrives in PGH around 9-10pm. It would connect with the CL and the later times would cut the now almost 4 hour layover in PGH between the 43 and 29 (plus you can remain in the train).
I would prefer 2 hours later but it could be moved up to 1 hour. I also would rather move the CL up an hour going west so the train leaves PGH going west around 11pm instead of midnight but that's another issue.
Train 40 East (Liberty Limited) Use the 42 schedule except that they would be the through cars from the CL so passengers getting on in PGH have to wait for the CL.
Again, maybe the CL could be pushed back an hour for a better arrival time in PGH (the CL/SS connection is not bookable by Amtrak anyway and even if the CL gets in an hour later that should be plenty of time for a CL/SM connection).
New 42 East: Leave PGH around 11:30am, arrive in HAR around 5pm, PHL around 7pm, NYP around 9pm.
Essentially the Pennsylvanian would be the "new" trains and the current trains would be the "Liberty Limited" which would connect with the Capitol Limited.
Please suggest time adjustments.
'Amtrak's not going to fund another LD train, so it will be up to Penn DOT to sponsor the train.
not a bad plan to me, even though I am in Montana!
I read the 2015 PennDOT report with much dismay. It seems to have been put together by someone who was good at copying a whole bunch of stuff from the Amtrak NEC plan and that was about the be all and the end all of the passenger rail plan other than a few kind words for the Keystone Corridor. No mention of any of the other significant initiatives on the back burner for all these years in any positive light. I am glad that the new PennDOT is seeing it fit to correct those egregious errors.
Just to throw out an alternative for the second train, unless they want to figure out a way to find a second overnight stabling track in PGH that is not necessary for any other use, like for example shunting through cars between the Cap and the Pennsy, they would be better off doing the train on a schedule that allows it a same day turn back from PGH, which would mean a PHL - PGH train with early morning departure out of PHL and an mid afternoon departure out of PGH. To me, what the train is called is of relatively little importance. In the past the second train has variously been named the Three Rivers, the Duquesne, or the Juniata. This also reduces the need for additional equipment and may be feasible way before any of the other important events mentioned above take place.
I would sense the times would not be pleasant for PHL (leave too early and arrive too late) and even worse for NYP if you want to do the turn back in PGH as suggested.
Making the second train a PHL-PGH service would have some advantages. More flexibility in the schedule and not having to take an existing Keystone slot in NYP. The new train could take an existing PHL-HAR Keystone slot or, if PennDOT was interested, make it an entirely new train between PHL-HAR for an additional train to Harrisburg. Would also eliminate an engine change in PHL, so the new train would be diesel only.
if just PHL-PGH, then westbound, an early to mid-morning departure from PHL, but late enough to allow for connecting Regionals and Acelas from NYP. Then move #43 to a noonish departure for a later arrival at PHL and PGH. Eastbound, leave #42 as is for the CL connection; have the new #4x train depart PGH early afternoon to get to PHL in time for mid-evening connecting Regionals to NYP.
One observation is how often #43 arrives at PGH early. Sometimes 25-30 minutes early. Status Maps archive of #43 arrivals at PGH for the past month. Maybe a modest investment in several passing sidings, station platforms and crossing improvements between HAR and PGH would be sufficient to trim the scheduled HAR-PGH trip time to close to 5 hours, not billions.
The way to do it by a single additional consist is to forget about New York, which should not be PennDOT's first concern anyway. Have the train depart Philly between 6 and 7am, get into PGH around 2pm and head back around 3:30pm getting into Philly at around 10pm. t all depends on how quickly you want it and for how much incremental cost.
Anything involving an overnight in PGH requires two consist and the requisite additional incremental costs, and delays in implementation.
Then if they don't do the CL-Pennsylvanian connection, couldn't they push the 43 back to reduce the layover in PGH between the 43 and 29?
Keep in mind though that the first thing the folks in PGH want is a train that comes in from the east early enough to be able to commute from as far as Johnstown into PGH and leaves at time around late after noon heading east. There used to be such a train which ran Altoona to PGH at one time for a short while. AFAICT, 43 arriving later is not something that excites many people in PGH, as long as it arrives sometime in the evening.
The current Pennsylvanian with its current timing more or less serves the purpose of reverse commute out of PGH, though a slightly earlier arrival of 43 would be desirable. If one want to run a train to PGH, perhaps the needs of the folks in PGH should be given some consideration?
Hopefully with 2 daily trains arriving/leaving PGH then one can be the through cars to/from the CL and the other can be the train schedule you suggested (6:30am to 2pm PHL to PGH, 3:30-10pm PGH to PHL). Then we can move the through car times to reduce the layover in PGH for travel from CHI to PHL, Eastern PA, and New Jersey.
Yeah, that would be a good way to proceed at least as a first step, since I think this requires the least additional resources to get things going. Let's see what Amtrak comes up with, since they are the only ones that have true insight into the equipment situation.
My first priority would be a train that gets into Pittsburgh earlier than the current Pennsylvanian--I have never gone there because I don't want to be in an unfamiliar city trying to figure out how to get out of the station and to my hotel as late as it gets in now. (And yes, the wishes of the people who live in Pittsburgh most certainly are important, but I would think they'd like to get home earlier, too. ) If it got into Philly late coming back, I would stay overnight in Harrisburg and take a Keystone back east the next day.
Perhaps this is a silly question, but why not simply Harrisburg to Pittsburgh and back, with a connection to one of the Keystones?
Either you have friends or family in Harrisburg or can afford to stay overnight in HAR. I can imagine most of us are not in the same boat.
If you're running a train for 5.5 hours already, why not at least another 2 to PHL (we can debate the extra 2 hrs to NYP)? There is way more potential ridership east of HAR.
Also there are servicing facilities in Philadelphia, not Harrisburg.
I'm not sure where any money for improvements would best be spent, but I'm on record as saying that the long-term plan should reroute via State College, so I'd preferentially spend the money east of Lewistown or west of Tyrone. It's quite possible that the best bang-for-the-buck for improvements is inside the city limits of Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.
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