Where should there be frequent corridor service?

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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby Backshophoss » Tue Aug 14, 2018 9:22 pm

AGES ago there was an ATSF Branch from Goffs to Searchlight Nv, could have extended to Henderson Nv(UP Boulder Branch) at RR Gulch to
reach "Lost Wages".
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Aug 14, 2018 9:51 pm

Backshophoss wrote:AGES ago there was an ATSF Branch from Goffs to Searchlight Nv, could have extended to Henderson Nv(UP Boulder Branch) at RR Gulch to
reach "Lost Wages".

Could have. I think I mentioned upthread how surprised I am that ATSF didn't bother to reach Las Vegas in the 1920s. Maybe they didn't feel like bothering with extending an already long branch further into Nevada, especially with the relatively hefty grades.
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby gokeefe » Tue Aug 14, 2018 10:03 pm

Question answers itself. Las Vegas was only Incorporated in 1911 and gambling legalized in 1931. ATSF had no reason at all to bother with what was essentially a UP town in 1920 or perhaps ever.
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby Ridgefielder » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:57 am

mtuandrew wrote:
Backshophoss wrote:AGES ago there was an ATSF Branch from Goffs to Searchlight Nv, could have extended to Henderson Nv(UP Boulder Branch) at RR Gulch to
reach "Lost Wages".

Could have. I think I mentioned upthread how surprised I am that ATSF didn't bother to reach Las Vegas in the 1920s. Maybe they didn't feel like bothering with extending an already long branch further into Nevada, especially with the relatively hefty grades.

The only thing that mattered in Southern Nevada in the 1920's were the goldfields and mineral deposits along the Nevada/California border northwest of Las Vegas. And the Santa Fe could get that traffic via its connection with the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad at Ludlow, CA and the T&T's connection with the Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad (yes that was a real company) at Beatty, NV. No need to build miles of its own line through the emptiness of the Mojave Desert.
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby NIMBYkiller » Tue Sep 18, 2018 11:46 pm

Bringing this thread back since my question directly pertains to the title subject. What parameters constitute a good candidate for "frequent" corridor service? Frequent is subjective and frequency is certainly relative to market size, but overall, I think we can all agree there are some corridors currently operating that exist more because the local politicians are friendly and less because it's a corridor that actually makes sense. Obviously distance is a parameter, and that distance varies depending upon the max speed that could be achieved. I'm more interested in what is the minimum market size required to say a corridor is a good candidate. What cities, provided there was another city within the maximum allowable distance that also met the minimum metropolitan area population, would be a good candidate? What's the minimum population of the metropolitan area of a city that says this city qualifies for corridor service? Is it 2 million people? 1 million people? 500,000 people? And if there's not necessarily another city within the maximum allowable distance, but a string of smaller cities, does that mean the corridor is a good candidate? What is the minimum population that should exist along a corridor?

Once this population question is answered, you can take whatever the maximum allowable distance is, draw that radius around the qualifying cities, and connect the ones whose circles overlap, and there you have your answer of "where should there be frequent corridor service."
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby electricron » Wed Sep 19, 2018 8:54 am

I don't think you can answer this question with a formula based on statistics, there is just too many variables. Which is why there has been pages upon pages of replies in this thread.

If you look at it from a business point of view, only one corridor qualifies because only one corridor is operated privately with frequent daily service, Miami to Orlando. There might be others, but no private company has stepped in to provide the frequent corridor service.
Two other corridors have potential private operators being planned, Dallas to Houston and Los Angeles to Las Vegas (although not quite all the way to Los Angeles yet). I'm not aware of any other privately financed and operated frequent train services under discussion.

From a public subsidized point of view, we're limited to existing corridors with frequent service Amtrak operates today, for whatever reasons local governments subsides Amtrak. I'm not aware of anywhere Amtrak wishes to expand its frequent corridor services, except one. It seems like Mobile to New Orleans is under discussion, but I'm not sure it will ever happen. There certainly isn't enough business for Amtrak to resume Sunset Limited east of New Orleans on its own, so it is actively pursuing state subsidized service - although how frequent it will be is still unknown.

So every other frequent corridor proposal is subject to the desires and financial status of local governments based upon local politics. Each and every one has its' own individual pros and cons issues - because each and every one is relying upon local politics. Just as you (NIMBYkiller) pointed out as the reasons why many existing frequent Amtrak services exist.
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby east point » Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:53 am

The CLT <> RGH corridor is certainly one that is in operation and subject to another RT later this year . There are 2 extensions that are considered for this route although probably only one RT per day that is to Gastonia and to Selma - Goldsboro - Morehead city. What would be even better is for a Day train ATL - CLT - RGH - Richmond - WASH - NYP. That connects this NC corridor to both ends of high population centers.
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby east point » Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:56 am

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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby Arborwayfan » Wed Sep 19, 2018 10:09 am

Electricon's right that politics determines where subsidized service will go, but NIMBYkiller's idea isn't unreasonable.

I won't try to define corridor (I did when I started the thread, but that was an arbitrary definition to start a discussion and most people went ahead and used their own definition anyway) unless I am ever in a position to write a law for funding corridor service (pretty unlikely).

I will say that the basic idea that a corridor should serve a string of towns of a certain size is a good start. I would add that what really matters is towns with large populations of likely riders. How many people in the towns don't have cars, or have one car per family? How bad is the traffic between the towns? How many of the towns are good pedestrian/transit destinations? How difficult would it be to expand the highways between the towns? (When that is hard, expanding train service on existing ROW may be more politically popular, right?)

Sure, in the abstract we could say four cities of x size within y miles should have train service every z minutes, but practically speaking we know that the answer for where such a service would draw enough riders to justify its subsidy or pay its costs would be different in different places because of people's lifestyle choices and the urban design that goes along with those choices. Those choices and designs can change but it is slow.
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby eolesen » Wed Sep 19, 2018 11:59 am

Agree. You can't look at population alone. There has to be a logical tie-in for why people would need to travel, i.e. a university, business center or center of government, etc. that would drive natural traffic between the two places.

I have an unofficial "five Walmarts" rule to determine if a community can support service from an airline hub. Walmart's very deliberate about where they open a store, and even moreso about staying open 24/7. Once there's a population large enough to support five 24 hour Walmarts, it's a fairly safe bet to consider the local economy has demand and disposable income for outbound travel.

Find a few of those along an existing rail corridor, and you just might be able to make it work.
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby eolesen » Wed Sep 19, 2018 12:08 pm

And now Brightline is jumping into LAX-LAS...

https://www.progressiverailroading.com/ ... ute--55646

Can't really call that a corridor per-se because aside from Barstow, there's nothing but scrub and maybe some grazing land between the two terminal points.
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby east point » Wed Sep 19, 2018 12:44 pm

although most routes only have NIMBYS (ex Brightline ) there are some YIMBYS !
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Sep 19, 2018 3:39 pm

NIMBYkiller, I’m curious what makes you say there are corridors that (paraphrased, maybe poorly) have greater political value than transportation value. I’m at a loss to identify any Amtrak-defined Corridor Service that’s mainly there to get votes; can you point any out? (If you’re more broadly including LDs or proposed corridors, I can see where you’d have a point especially re: the Cardinal and Sunset Limited.)

Ohio seems like a prime candidate for multiple corridor services, but also seems to be a particularly difficult state to serve efficiently, fairly, and cost-effectively. I guess you could have a triangular service model with Toledo, Cleveland, and Cincinnati as the corners, with TOL-CIN and CLE-CIN meeting in Columbus?


Re: Brightline XpressWest, there’s an active thread in General Discussion: Passenger Rail on them.
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby NIMBYkiller » Sat Sep 29, 2018 11:14 pm

Perhaps I'm a bit flawed in my understanding of some of the existing corridors, but it blows my mind that a route like Chicago-Quincy, whose towns only claim to fame that I can find are a couple of small to mid sized universities (which are good for Fridays and Sundays, and the occasional business traveler or visiting speaker, during fall and spring) is seeing 2 trains a day while a city pair like Los Angeles to Phoenix, a city with a metro area population of 4.6 million people and less than 400 miles away, has NOTHING (don't give me this nonsense of Maricopa being a Phoenix train station), or that Dallas/Ft Worth (7.1 million metro residents) to Houston's (6.7 million metro residents) only prospect rests with a private company ramming new tracks through ranches and what not and terminating at an abandoned mall on the outskirts of town. Not to mention that finding a way to use the existing ROW would take it literally right past the largest university in the United States where Texas Central's Brazos Valley station is at best an Uber ride or friends car ride away. That's why I say, as you paraphrased perfectly, certain corridors have greater political value than transportation value.

And don't take my comment about private rail wrong, I'm happy to see private interest in passenger rail, but I'd rather see it not happen at all if it's going to be done as idiotically as the Texas Central project. For government funded initiatives though, I'd agree that on corridors where there is a real transportation value it would be worth it for the US to pay for the upgrades to appease the private freight owner in order to get the trains running. And when it comes to the US investing money on rail infrastructure, whether its government owned tracks or privately owned tracks, it's best to spend the limited dollars where we're going to get the most bang for our buck, like a corridor where there's the potential ridership to justify more than just a handful of trains a day. Hell, what about the US government rebuilding or upgrading a nearby ROW to higher standards than what the freight railroad has on its current line and trading it to said freight railroad for the line they're currently utilizing so Amtrak could get it for passenger service to areas that actually make sense to serve? Looking at https://www.openrailwaymap.org/ there look to be several unused ROWs in the midwest that freights could be re-routed over as a trade for Amtrak to gain control of the original route (obviously this depends on whether or not the freight railroad is just using the line to get from A to B or if they have customers/facilities along the line). And again, perhaps I'm being too idealistic, but on corridors where the physical characteristics of the existing ROW would allow for actual true high speed rail with little modification to/expansion of/deviation from the existing ROW, the money should be poured into bringing those up to the maximum potential speeds. Given that most of the ROWs are freight owned, that would likely mean adding tracks and dancing around the slower freights or having dedicated tracks adjacent to the existing ROW (and may even mean grade separation at certain points), or again, trade for a newly refurbished unused ROW. Following the ROW though at least gives the argument of precedent, that the train was already there, and that this is no different than widening a highway, and for the most part, these ROWs go right through the heart of potential generators of ridership (ya know, because the towns developed around these railroads).

I would add that what really matters is towns with large populations of likely riders. How many people in the towns don't have cars, or have one car per family? How bad is the traffic between the towns? How many of the towns are good pedestrian/transit destinations? How difficult would it be to expand the highways between the towns? (When that is hard, expanding train service on existing ROW may be more politically popular, right?)

For smaller stations along the way, I'd say these are all very good questions, along with those about drivers of ridership like universities, medical centers, etc, but I think the bigger the city, the less the current answers to your questions matter. Supposedly my generation and the one after me are less likely to own a car and are looking for a more urban lifestyle, which I guess makes sense given the influx a lot of cities are seeing. That being said, if true, we can count on a higher concentration of potential riders as time goes on in all of these large and medium sized cities.
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Re: Where should there be frequent corridor service?

Postby mtuandrew » Sun Sep 30, 2018 1:48 pm

I see what you mean about political value, but from my perspective the balance point is much further toward Viable Transportation Option and away from Pork-Barrel Express for most Amtrak trains. Where the corridors aren’t served well or at all by rail, it’s due to a vacuum of political willpower, rather than small-endpoint trains being solely a concession to political pressure - if that were the case, those trains would have much worse load factors than they do in reality.

In regards to right-of-way swaps, most railroads have very deliberately chosen which routes they occupy today. If Amtrak were to propose swapping the NS Chicago Line (ex-NYC Water Level Route) for both an upgraded Chicago, Ft Wayne & Eastern (ex-PRR) and upgraded ex-Nickel Plate across Indiana and Ohio, they’d get laughed out of Norfolk because the ex-NYC has a much more favorable grade profile. If they tried to negotiate for the ex-PRR mainline from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, they’d get laughed out because of the online traffic and shorter route, even though there is a lower-grade route via Sunbury, Williamsport, and DuBois.

We’ve recently seen agencies buy a permanent right-of-way easement next to a freight line for a passenger main, or build a second, third, or fourth main for mixed traffic, or agree to assume ownership/a lease over a secondary railroad that sees (could see) much more passenger traffic than freight, or take over custodial duties on a railbanked line with the intent of reactivating it. I don’t think you’ll ever get the really major extant routes under government ownership or control, except possibly in cases where a merger makes one line redundant. (For instance, if CP and UP merged, it’s conceivable that the FRA could insist that they lease the ex-Milwaukee Road or the ex-Omaha Road to the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.)
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