Expanded Virginia Regional Service

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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Jeff Smith » Sun Jan 20, 2019 9:33 am

Ridership Increases, both bus and Amtrak (no mention of VRE): WTOP.com

Could this portend more new or increased service? And how would they enable such? With Amtrak replacing Amfleet 1’s in the near term, would VA be interested in a state dedicated fleet?

WASHINGTON — Virginia saw higher than expected usage over the past year of Amtrak routes and a new intercity bus service connecting the D.C. region to Harrisonburg and Blacksburg.

Through the end of November, Amtrak ridership in Virginia was up 5 percent year-over-year, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation Director Jennifer Mitchell said.

“Very good results,” she told the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

The increases included 2.4 percent on trains to and from Richmond, 6 percent on trains to and from Lynchburg and Roanoke, and 7.8 percent on the Norfolk route.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Arlington » Sun Jan 20, 2019 12:38 pm

VADRPT has a great pipeline of projects
Norfolk #2 (see above)
Lynchburg #2 (pending NS upgrades)
Virginia Breeze 81-66 Bus #2 (as ridership builds)

CSX should be easier to deal with once the RF&P gets its 3rd/4th track.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby east point » Sun Jan 20, 2019 1:08 pm

Arlington wrote:^ Yes. Added r/t is weekdays only.



VA appears to be anticipating the extra train (s) will serve mostly commuter passengers? Would think weekend train schedule would make for day trippers to WASH, PHL ?
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Arlington » Sun Jan 20, 2019 1:35 pm

Except trains lose some of their competitive advantage on the weekends; driving into DC and Parking in DC are much less cost, delay, and stress, so the train is less attractive.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby gokeefe » Sun Jan 20, 2019 8:49 pm

For anyone keeping score I have to note the ridership results and additional Norfolk roundtrip are simply astonishing. After the gigantic failures of Virginia service in Amtrak's early years there was simply no basis to believe that passenger rail service would ever make sense aside from the main line between Washington and Richmond.

We've gotten used to success with Virginia services but nobody really knew whether Norfolk and Roanoke would work. Roanoke in particular has a checkered history with Amtrak. Instead state supported passenger rail has now become a non-partisan cause in Virginia and appears headed for even greater expansion in the years ahead.

I understand the population density and congestion arguments but we are far beyond that now. Furthermore it's not as if Norfolk had any shortage of sailors and their families during the Cold War.

Although Bristol may seem like the obvious "next step", I think other options are going to start coming up as well. The NS Piedmont Division is ripe for expansion and improvement between Washington and Lynchburg.

Although Southeast High Speed Rail may move forward at some point I think it's far more likely that Virginia will continue on with their successful incremental service growth plans.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Arlington » Sun Jan 20, 2019 9:11 pm

The WTOP story's bus details are important.
First, back in 2013 the state studied 4 routes:
- I-81-66 (today's Breeze)
- a Crescent overlay (to Danville)
- a Norfolk
- "W&OD" RT 7 to Winchester & 66 to Martinsburg WV

The bus has been huge:
bus that launched Dec. 1, 2017 was originally projected to carry 7,125 riders a year. In its first year, it carried 19,300 riders


On 110 seats x 365 days that's 40k seats and a 50% load factor. (And 83% farebox recovery)

You will *definitely* see more bus service before we see more trains. Zero capital costs (no host road) and great patronage at low subsidy is frankly a great model for pioneering new routes particularly if you can figure out a way to get a bus into the traffic choked City (in Virginia's case that is always Washington and sometimes the tidewater).

The solution for the Virginia Breeze so far has been doing the DC Union Station tag right in the middle of the day and avoiding all rush hours

If you can time it right, your next Lynchburg-Crescent operation may be a bus on US 29 that times the rush hours strategically.

The W&OD RR has long since been paved over and functions as i-66 and the Dulles toll road and a parallel bike path. At midday travel times would be quite predictable on this and the Dulles Greenway and route 7 all the way to Winchester Virginia.

Almost every place you see a pattern of trains and wish for a better pattern of service, the bus is going to be the natural way to run a trip at a time that does not have to be traffic.

And the train can still run at those times when beating traffic is critical such as the new commuter time to trains from Newport News and Norfolk
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Arlington » Mon Jan 21, 2019 12:26 am

Frankly, it would make perfect sense for Virginia to mount an entire network of 1-per-day buses that would:
1) Avoid rush hours by operating in exactly the windows that the Breeze does now
2) Complement the timing of existing trains (almost as a bi-product of needing to operate when the roads are good)
3) Often make connections at Dulles Airport possible

Take NPN & Williamsburg
Now that both NPN and NFK will have "commuter" trains that beat DC traffic both inbound in the AM and by heading southbound at 2p, 4p, & 5p, it leaves gaps in the schedule that will be perfect for buses (and William & Mary students) to run an 10am BUS from NPN that'd get to Union Station by 4pm, and a noon bus from WAS that'd get to NPN by 5pm, both of which would be timed for when DC traffic is most gentle/predictable and so also naturally be timed perfectly in-between the rush-timed trains. (I would not see these stopping at Dulles, but they *could* do RIC airport.

Take Lynchburg & Danville.

Weekdays the Roanoker departs WAS at 4:50p and the Crescent follows at 6:30p.
These are great times for trains because WAS PM outbound weekday rush would crush a bus (even with HOV)

Weekdays the Crescent arrives WAS at 9:53a and the Roanoker follows at 10:36a.
These are great times for trains because WAS AM inbound weekday rush was crush a bus (even with HOV)

But the genius of the Virginia Breeze bus is that comes & goes at midday on weekdays, and after rush (and inbound) on Friday, and at a non-rush on Sunday.

Danville is darn far by bus, and they might have an hours-of-service problem if they can't change drivers at, say, CVS, but just check out what an overlay of buses could do for the current "US-29" Crescent/Lynchburger/Danville service:

Sta Cres NEC Bus (BusFri)
DAN 4:43a ----- 7:30a 1:30p
LYH 5:52a 7:38a 9:00a 3:00p
CVS 7:09a 8:52a 10:30a 4:30p
CLP 8:01a 9:44a 12:00n 6:00p
MSS 8:35a 10:19 1:00p 7:00p
WAS 9:53a 11:05a 3:00p 9:00p
(Bus serves Dulles Airport & West Falls metro between MSS and WAS)

Sta Bus (BusSun) NEC Cres
WAS 9:30a 2:00p 4:50p 6:30p
MSS 11:30a 4:00p 5:49p 7:22p
CLP 12:30n 5:00p 6:24p 7:55p
CVS 2:00p 6:30p 7:23p 8:52p
LYH 3:30p 8:00p 8:39p 10:05p
DAN 5:00p 9:30p ---- 11:14p
(Bus serves Dulles Airport & West Falls metro between MSS and WAS)
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby east point » Mon Jan 21, 2019 1:00 pm

What will never happen but would be ideal is during bad weather events carry passengers on extra section trains. That especially on the routes proposed here for bus. Bad weather = hazards for a bus.

Virginia and to a lesser extent North Carolina needs to get some funds to supplement federal funds to start the Long Bridge expansion to 4 main tracks. That way 4 main tracks from Virginia avenue tunnel ( 1st ave tunnel ) through Alexandria station will give Amtrak and VRE all the slots they will ever need to provide proper services. That is That is 3 - 4 Amtrak to Lynchburg / Roanoke / Danville and Amtrak to Richmond RVM & RVR . + them including Newport news 3 - 4 and Norfolk 3 - 4. Then the "S" line HrSR Petersburgh - Norlina - Raleigh - Connecting and thru to Piedmont trains with a daytime train thru to Atlanta.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Bob Roberts » Mon Jan 21, 2019 1:25 pm

east point wrote:Virginia and to a lesser extent North Carolina needs to get some funds to supplement federal funds to start the Long Bridge expansion to 4 main tracks. That way 4 main tracks from Virginia avenue tunnel ( 1st ave tunnel ) through Alexandria station will give Amtrak and VRE all the slots they will ever need to provide proper services. That is That is 3 - 4 Amtrak to Lynchburg / Roanoke / Danville and Amtrak to Richmond RVM & RVR . + them including Newport news 3 - 4 and Norfolk 3 - 4. Then the "S" line HrSR Petersburgh - Norlina - Raleigh - Connecting and thru to Piedmont trains with a daytime train thru to Atlanta.


I would hope that the promise of Amazon HQ2 1/2 in Crystal City has put Long Bridge expansion at the front of the VDOT spending line. Given Amazon's final choices they made it pretty clear they are choosing sites that won't suffer from auto congestion and (I would expect) Amazon made that quite clear in their local agreements. Ideally VDOT and VRE are in discussions now for a through running agreement with MARC although three-jurisdiction passenger rail seems a bit too much to hope for in the US (particularly without a plan to run wire to Richmond).

NCDOT released their 10 year funded priorities list last week. While there is some spending to eliminate grade crossings on the S line near Raleigh (it is speculated its for commuter rail to Wake Forest) there was no line (that I saw) for Long Bridge or S Line track improvements north of Wake County. (there is very little passenger rail spending outlined in the document other than a couple new equipment sets for the Piedmont. Zero investment for Wilmington service)
Last edited by Bob Roberts on Mon Jan 21, 2019 2:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Jeff Smith » Mon Jan 21, 2019 1:33 pm

MARC switched or is switching to a diesel-only fleet (Charger pulled coaches) so,that’s not an issue. But I love the idea of through running! Could we be seeing the birth of a “DelMarVA” transit?
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Bob Roberts » Mon Jan 21, 2019 2:56 pm

Jeff Smith wrote:MARC switched or is switching to a diesel-only fleet (Charger pulled coaches) so,that’s not an issue. But I love the idea of through running! Could we be seeing the birth of a “DelMarVA” transit?


I didn't know that about MARC, it does make such a plan much more straightforward. Richmond to Aberdeen is about 170 miles. It would be very long for RER / S-Bhan type service, I think the RER has 80ish mile runs through Paris and the Berlin S-Bahn has runs less than 50 miles. Having said that (and aside from CSX grumpiness on the RFP) through running at DC Union could work well with appropriate improvements. There is a ton of employment on either side of DC, housing costs in the DC metro are out of control and traffic could not possibly be worse -- looks like a great commuter corridor to me.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby benboston » Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:34 pm

What if there was a Northeast Commuter route. This would go from Boston to Richmond, and it would run with stop frequencies of the likes of a commuter train, but at the distance of an intercity train. If wires ever got re-strung from DC to Richmond this would make it so that no loco switch would be necessary, and acceleration would be much greater over the entire distance giving better run times. Additionally, there would be lower operating costs.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby electricron » Tue Jan 22, 2019 2:15 am

benboston wrote:What if there was a Northeast Commuter route. This would go from Boston to Richmond, and it would run with stop frequencies of the likes of a commuter train, but at the distance of an intercity train. If wires ever got re-strung from DC to Richmond this would make it so that no loco switch would be necessary, and acceleration would be much greater over the entire distance giving better run times. Additionally, there would be lower operating costs.

Commuter rail operations in the USA average 32 mph. https://www.apta.com/resources/statisti ... t-Book.pdf
The NEC between Boston and D.C. is 454 miles.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_Corridor

Let's have some fun with elementary arithmetic.
454 miles / 32 miles per hour = 14.1875 hours, or 14 hours and 11 minutes.

Who is going to ride in a crowded, possibly standing room only, commuter train for over 14 hours? A commuter train leaving Boston at 7 am will not reach DC until after 9 pm - or vice versa.

There is a valid reason why intercity trains around the world do not stop at every commuter rail station along its path.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:06 am

Jeff Smith wrote:Ridership Increases, both bus and Amtrak (no mention of VRE): WTOP.com

Could this portend more new or increased service? And how would they enable such? With Amtrak replacing Amfleet 1’s in the near term, would VA be interested in a state dedicated fleet?

Wanted to catch this before it disappears.

And no, I doubt it. More VRE equipment sure, maybe even an extension of that service to Gainesville and Nokesville, as well as weekend trains. But, by getting their own Amtrak equipment and expecting it to stay in DC-Virginia service*, it will wreck the economies of scale achieved with through-running. That’s a good way to spend more money on inferior service. Amtrak is getting enough equipment to cover this and the other NEC routes anyway, so it isn’t necessary.

* since VA citizens would be rightly annoyed at their trains floating around the NEC, and there still isn’t enough demand for a Trans-Dominion Express or Richmond Hub service
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby benboston » Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:54 am

electricron wrote:
benboston wrote:What if there was a Northeast Commuter route. This would go from Boston to Richmond, and it would run with stop frequencies of the likes of a commuter train, but at the distance of an intercity train. If wires ever got re-strung from DC to Richmond this would make it so that no loco switch would be necessary, and acceleration would be much greater over the entire distance giving better run times. Additionally, there would be lower operating costs.

Commuter rail operations in the USA average 32 mph. https://www.apta.com/resources/statisti ... t-Book.pdf
The NEC between Boston and D.C. is 454 miles.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_Corridor

Let's have some fun with elementary arithmetic.
454 miles / 32 miles per hour = 14.1875 hours, or 14 hours and 11 minutes.

Who is going to ride in a crowded, possibly standing room only, commuter train for over 14 hours? A commuter train leaving Boston at 7 am will not reach DC until after 9 pm - or vice versa.

There is a valid reason why intercity trains around the world do not stop at every commuter rail station along its path.


My point was not that this train should be ridden from end to end, but instead, it is that this is a corridor that has almost complete commuter train coverage. This means that someone who wants to go from Greenwich, CT to Secaucus, NJ has to take Metro-North to Grand Central and then take the 7 "train" to the 3 "train" and then take one of the NJ Transit commuter trains from Penn Station. This is an extremely complicated way of going between these two locations. This service would not be meant to be ridden from Boston to Richmond, but instead, it would allow through travel on certain segments of the NEC.
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