Which rail route in the US would have the best business case for starting a regular passenger service?

PTR 444

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This is the overseas equivalent of the "Which rail line in Britain would have the best case for reopening" thread. Since America already has an extensive freight railroad, any suggestions can refer to either a reinstatement of passenger service on an existing railroad, or a brand new higher speed service using dedicated tracks similar to Brightline/Virgin Trains USA in Florida. No limit to how long or short the route can be either; In many cases, shorter commuter lines serving urban sprawl in major cities have a better business case than new intercity/Amtrak style routes due to the distances involved, and dedicated high speed lines due to the enormous cost of building new infrastructure on those.
 
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nlogax

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Philadelphia - Pittsburgh for one. The current Pennsylvanian service doesn't really cut it and Pittsburgh always feels just a little cut off to get the benefit of true East Coast connectivity. The line needs electrification and investment westwards beyond Harrisburg.

Sadly the practicalities (and therefore cost) of getting across the Appalachians more quickly seems to rule out this ever happening.
 

williamn

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its an international route so slightly off topic perhaps but i'd have thought that reinstating the Toronto-Chicago service would have a case.
 

Starmill

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What about Dallas - Houston? As I understand it there's no rail route currently otherwise than via San Antonio, and no direct trains?
 

nlogax

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What about Dallas - Houston? As I understand it there's no rail route currently otherwise than via San Antonio, and no direct trains?
That one's already in the works.

https://www.globalrailwayreview.com...-houston-high-speed-rail-closer-construction/

Dallas-Houston high-speed rail project now one step closer to construction
The construction of the high-speed rail line in Texas by Webuild, formerly Salini Impregilo, took a step closer to beginning with a ruling by the 13th Court of Appeals of Texas in favour of Texas Central, the project’s developer.
 

cle

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It's boring, but I would say connecting up the outer suburban lines to provide new competing regional/intercity routes.

The obvious one is NYC and Philly, bridging NJT/SEPTA at Trenton. Could be a new operator, either of them, or a JV.
And operate something like (for example) :
NY Penn - Newark Penn - New Brunswick - Princeton Junction - Hamilton - Trenton - North Philly - 30th.
Of course, options abound like Metropark and Cornwells Heights, which Amtrak seem to like.

But the idea would be a slower, cheaper NY-Philly service, but still competitive enough. Many more people ride Metro North than Amtrak to New Haven for instance. This seems comparable. A regular direct service from Princeton/Hamilton to Philly is a no-brainer also. One per hour would easily do it.

---

Based on the above, MARC or other could run DC - B'more - Philly also, without all the fiddly connects at Newark or Wilmington. MBTA might join forces with Shoreline East to reach New Haven.

I also agree with Philly - Harrisburg - Pittsburgh being ripe for attention. The Keystone route could even take on the older Acelas. Not many other wired routes lol.
 

MarcVD

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Is there any progress about Los Angeles to Las Vegas ? I think there were plans but I see nothing happening...
 

PTR 444

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It's boring, but I would say connecting up the outer suburban lines to provide new competing regional/intercity routes.

The obvious one is NYC and Philly, bridging NJT/SEPTA at Trenton. Could be a new operator, either of them, or a JV.
And operate something like (for example) :
NY Penn - Newark Penn - New Brunswick - Princeton Junction - Hamilton - Trenton - North Philly - 30th.
Of course, options abound like Metropark and Cornwells Heights, which Amtrak seem to like.

But the idea would be a slower, cheaper NY-Philly service, but still competitive enough. Many more people ride Metro North than Amtrak to New Haven for instance. This seems comparable. A regular direct service from Princeton/Hamilton to Philly is a no-brainer also. One per hour would easily do it.

---

Based on the above, MARC or other could run DC - B'more - Philly also, without all the fiddly connects at Newark or Wilmington. MBTA might join forces with Shoreline East to reach New Haven.

I also agree with Philly - Harrisburg - Pittsburgh being ripe for attention. The Keystone route could even take on the older Acelas. Not many other wired routes lol.
I think it would also be a good idea to electrify the Harrisburg - Pittsburgh route, then you can run Acela units along the route at higher speeds due to their tilt technology. In addition, a new decicated high speed line could be built between Harrisburg and NYC via Allentown which would cut the corner between the two cities and make Pittsburgh more attractive to travel to/from by rail.

Also, electrifying the lines from NYC to Albany and New Haven - Springfield CT to allow an hourly Acela service to run on these would be a massive improvement on what is there now.
 

MarcVD

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If we speak about new infrastructure, then I'm all for resuscitating the 30 years old "big dig" project of an underground rail link between Boston North and South stations.
 

popeter45

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would require a new line but looking at popular US domestic Air routes Atlanta (from other flight connections) to Orlando (for Disneyland/Universal) as a dedicated High Speed Rail line could work
 

the sniper

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To me it feels like California could really benefit from a far more cohesive network, with regular (at least 1tp2h) services along the Central Valley and from there over to the Bay Area. The offering in California is a bit all over the place, Caltrain is closest to what we'd recognise as a service and will be much more sensible once it's electrified. But the extension between San Jose and Gilroy get's a much poorer service. The line and service should electrified and extended through to Hollister, with an at least hourly clock face schedule through the day.

Outside of Caltrain, Amtrak California's San Jose/Oakland to Sacramento is usable but should be hourly. Outside of that could be much better. Additionally there's the Altamont Corridor Express, the network is theoretically good, but there are very few services.

Personally I think it'd be great if the relatively frequent timetable currently in place for San Jose/Oakland to Sacramento could be replicated for San Jose to Fresno (with some extensions to Bakersfield) and Sacramento (via Altamont Pass & Tracy). A more frequent service between Sacramento and Oakland to Fresno via the two Stockton stations could have a similar service frequency. With a relatively straight route, there'd be competitive journey times against the car, let alone Bus.

Sadly over the years the infrastructure to best facilitate this network has been lost. One of the routes that passed over the Altamont Pass that went through the middle of Tracy would have been ideal. That fed into the SP/UP route down the Central Valley which runs right through the middle of pretty much all the cities, ideal for a passenger service, rather than the BNSF route Amtrak currently uses which passes around many cities on their East sides. I believe capacity is an issue on the largely single UP route though.
 

delticdave

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It's boring, but I would say connecting up the outer suburban lines to provide new competing regional/intercity routes.

The obvious one is NYC and Philly, bridging NJT/SEPTA at Trenton. Could be a new operator, either of them, or a JV.
And operate something like (for example) :
NY Penn - Newark Penn - New Brunswick - Princeton Junction - Hamilton - Trenton - North Philly - 30th.
Of course, options abound like Metropark and Cornwells Heights, which Amtrak seem to like.

But the idea would be a slower, cheaper NY-Philly service, but still competitive enough. Many more people ride Metro North than Amtrak to New Haven for instance. This seems comparable. A regular direct service from Princeton/Hamilton to Philly is a no-brainer also. One per hour would easily do it.

---

Based on the above, MARC or other could run DC - B'more - Philly also, without all the fiddly connects at Newark or Wilmington. MBTA might join forces with Shoreline East to reach New Haven.

I also agree with Philly - Harrisburg - Pittsburgh being ripe for attention. The Keystone route could even take on the older Acelas. Not many other wired routes lol.

I might be out of date but NJT & SEPTA used to offer a Philly to New York round-trip fare, for approx. $25, changing trains at Trenton.
 

nlogax

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I might be out of date but NJT & SEPTA used to offer a Philly to New York round-trip fare, for approx. $25, changing trains at Trenton.
Still exists iirc, it's a single fare two-part ticket, one for the NJT section and one for the SEPTA section.
 

delticdave

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Still exists iirc, it's a single fare two-part ticket, one for the NJT section and one for the SEPTA section.
Makes sense, I bought mine from a dedicated ticket machine in the SEPTA section of 30th street station.
How much is the fare now?
I can't remember when though, probably before 09/11, 'cos entering the US wasn't difficult. It was a loop-trip, up to Canada & back by road from Philly in a Buick Le Sabre, stopping to photo / ride metro & commuter trains where possible. This was before I owned a digital camera so the pix will be "safe" somewhere at home, but hard to find. I remember visiting Scranton on a Saturday afternoon, & taking the train to Moscow & back, then stopping o/night in Bath (NY) & checking in to a hotel in the Toronto suburbs on Sunday afternoon.
 

cle

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NJT and then Septa - two tickets and two slow trains (except the peak ex-Clockers), is exactly what my proposal would be competing against.

Brightline/Virgin to Vegas: last I read, they were getting permission to build and run along the highway meridian. And looking at ways to extend from Victorville (famous for the plane graveyard and not much more) - to at least Palmdale, which would connect with a future Cali HSR and Metrolink, at least. Slow ride from there down to Burbank and DTLA. I'd expect Virgin would want in on any HSR route from Palmdale into LA. But this is America, these organizations rarely meld well.
 

gordonthemoron

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It would be nice if the NCTD Coaster service ran a decent service at weekends to connect into an also improved Metrolink at Oceanside as that would be a lot cheaper than Amtrak
 
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Ohio nearly got it's own passenger rail service just over a decade ago. Dubbed the 3C, it was to connect Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. The Obama administration was going to fund it, but Ohio had a Republican senator and in a nutshell, it became very political and the state rejected the funding.

Sadly, Columbus remains one of the USA's largest cities with no passenger rail link. There has been talk of a connection to Northern Indiana and Chicago several times over the past few years though.

Having lived in Columbus for a couple of years myself, it is crazy how a city of that size has such woeful public transport links.
 

nlogax

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Makes sense, I bought mine from a dedicated ticket machine in the SEPTA section of 30th street station.
How much is the fare now?
Joint fares are hard to find but a one way 30th St > Penn would set you back just shy of $30 at the moment. Still only half the amount of the cheapest Amtrak fare but only useful if you're really not in a hurry.
 

delticdave

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Joint fares are hard to find but a one way 30th St > Penn would set you back just shy of $30 at the moment. Still only half the amount of the cheapest Amtrak fare but only useful if you're really not in a hurry.
When I enquired Amtrak for a return to NY Penn it was circa $80. I was quite happy to take the slow trains.....
Maybe NJT & SEPTA could agree to run a limited stop service between Philly & Grand Central, they already own some decent e-loks, not so sure re. suitable passenger cars though.

There are a few similar operations in the UK, London to Peterborough is app. 76 miles & is served by Thameslink 100 mph emu's & LNER 125 mph Hitachi Azuma express EMU's. London to Birmingham, (circa 112 miles) is served by 3 operators, 2 routes (1 electrified, 1 diesel) with a wide range of fares, especially off-peak. The diesel route, (Chiltern Railways) has a nice mix of 100 mph dmu's & loco-hauled stock, the electric slow trains (110 mph emu's operated by London North Western) take a longer route via Northampton, the fast trains (125 mph tilting emu's) take a slightly shorter route, but cost more. Again,an interesting range of fares are available.
 

martinsh

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Considering a move to Memphis
Cheyenne - Fort Collins (or Greeley) - Denver - Colorado Springs - Pueblo - Trinidad - Albuquerque - El Paso "The Front Range"

Unfortunately not as useful to me as it would have been some years ago.
 

duncanp

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I did Chicago to St Louis a few years ago.

The distance (296 miles) is very similar to London to Newcastle Upon Tyne and it is interesting to compare the level of service on both routes.

Chicago to St Louis had (in pre COVID times) 5 trains per day with an average journey time of 5.5 hours.

Compare that with London to Newcastle where the service is at least hourly for most of the day, and the fastest journey time is under three hours.

Trains are often delayed (mine was 1.5 hours late into St Louis <( ) and much of this is due to the fact that the line is single track through a large part of Southern Illinois, and there are often conflicts between passenger and freight trains, which are often given higher priority than in the UK.

There is a project to upgrade the line to permit 110 mph running, which could cut about 1.5 hours off the journey time, which would make the train attractive compared to the plane, if that is the service can be operated reliably.

Details are at https://www.idothsr.org/

Other lines in the US which could benefit from such investment are New Orleans - Birmingham Atlanta, where the distance is similar to that from London to Dundee.

However public transport investment in the US is often political, particularly in Republican voting areas
 

STEVIEBOY1

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My cousin lives in Memphis Tennessee and there is a line that used to be for passengers, but now only for very long goods trains, that goes through her local suburbs and eventually I think to Atlanta, there has been talk for years to bring back passenger trains for local and longer distance journeys. At the moment the only passenger service at Memphis is the daily train that goes from Chicago to New Orleans.
 

jfisher21

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There are so many freight tracks in the US with no passenger service. It seems they had Beeching on steroids! There are tracks going into Kansas City from all directions, but only 1 train a day to Chicago, 1 to LA and 2 to St Louis. Maybe a Kansas City - Lawrence - Topeka shuttle to start things off. At present the only trains to these places run at ridiculous times in the night!
 

ainsworth74

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It seems they had Beeching on steroids!
Yes and no. Yes the passenger rail routes were absolutely slaughtered through the 50s, 60s and into the 70s (and occasionally even later see the withdrawal of Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 1997 when the Desert Wind was withdrawn or the Pioneer between Salt Lake and Seattle also in 1997) as car ownership rose and the interstate system developed followed by the spread of affordable air travel destroyed the market for train travel. But also it wasn't quite like Beeching because a lot of the railroads that withdrew their passenger services over that period were still operating their freight services (though at varying levels of profitability!) so a lot of lines so their passenger services withdrawn but remained open. That being said, however, I'd be willing to bet that the US has closed as much railway as the UK had at our greatest extent (probably several times over). They had a monumental amount of railway particularly in the east and still have a huge amount but somewhat more consolidated.

One of the more interesting features I've always found of the US system is the tiny railroads that still exist. Perhaps only operating a single branch line with a handful of locomotives. For instance this outfit in Maryland that have 60 odd miles of track and ten locomotives. I believe there others that are even smaller (and others that are larger). Though of course they're nothing on the monsters like Union Pacific, CSX or BNSF (32,000, 21,000 and 32,000 miles of track each respectively).
 

MarcVD

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There are short lines much smaller than that. For example, the Tyburn Railroad in Pennsylvania operates just 2,4 km of track with two shunting locos.
 

43096

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One of the more interesting features I've always found of the US system is the tiny railroads that still exist. Perhaps only operating a single branch line with a handful of locomotives. For instance this outfit in Maryland that have 60 odd miles of track and ten locomotives. I believe there others that are even smaller (and others that are larger). Though of course they're nothing on the monsters like Union Pacific, CSX or BNSF (32,000, 21,000 and 32,000 miles of track each respectively).
Although that example is part of a rather large group - Genesee & Wyoming, the owner of Freightliner.
 

popeter45

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Yes and no. Yes the passenger rail routes were absolutely slaughtered through the 50s, 60s and into the 70s (and occasionally even later see the withdrawal of Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 1997 when the Desert Wind was withdrawn or the Pioneer between Salt Lake and Seattle also in 1997) as car ownership rose and the interstate system developed followed by the spread of affordable air travel destroyed the market for train travel. But also it wasn't quite like Beeching because a lot of the railroads that withdrew their passenger services over that period were still operating their freight services (though at varying levels of profitability!) so a lot of lines so their passenger services withdrawn but remained open. That being said, however, I'd be willing to bet that the US has closed as much railway as the UK had at our greatest extent (probably several times over). They had a monumental amount of railway particularly in the east and still have a huge amount but somewhat more consolidated.

One of the more interesting features I've always found of the US system is the tiny railroads that still exist. Perhaps only operating a single branch line with a handful of locomotives. For instance this outfit in Maryland that have 60 odd miles of track and ten locomotives. I believe there others that are even smaller (and others that are larger). Though of course they're nothing on the monsters like Union Pacific, CSX or BNSF (32,000, 21,000 and 32,000 miles of track each respectively).
does sound quite similar to railways in the UK pre-grouping, america didnt do the nationalisation most nations did so is almost a bit of a railway time capsule with many freight focused operators with loads changing companies multiple times to reach its operation. i wonder what the US rail network would look like today if after the great depression a US railways was formed like BR and SNCF
 

ainsworth74

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There are short lines much smaller than that. For example, the Tyburn Railroad in Pennsylvania operates just 2,4 km of track with two shunting locos.
Although that example is part of a rather large group - Genesee & Wyoming, the owner of Freightliner.
Yes I was rapidly scrolling through a list of railroads and just picked one that was fairly short, so I was sure there were better examples (:lol:) though 2.4km of track is a very impressive example of a tiny railroad! o_O
 

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