Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby dgvrengineer » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:54 pm

I think the first priority on the NS line would be to restore double track most of the way to Lynchburg. It was all double track before Southern pulled up half of the second track. You want to have reliability before considering increasing speed.
I also think any train beyond Roanoke should be a separate train. If you extend the current train you increase the chance of delay. Nothing kills ridership more than constant delays. This train is a good performer and should not be stretched anymore. A separate train could leave Bristol at say 7am, Roanoke 11am and DC 5pm. Return could leave DC 11am, Roanoke 5pm and Bristol 9pm. This would give DC-Lynchburg-Roanoke a second train that the state has said they want, give good times for the many colleges along the route and still be a through one seat ride to NY.
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby gokeefe » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:02 pm

Given that PTC will be in place the real answer could end up being that Amtrak will run 3x+/day to Bristol. Higher frequency at Class IV speeds might make more sense than anything else.
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby roavabees » Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:36 pm

I came across the story it might be a bit old
http://www.newsadvance.com/news/local/l ... 297ac.html
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby Woody » Wed Feb 07, 2018 12:00 am

gokeefe wrote:VA DRPT ... an extraordinary position to be in.
... the real problem is going to be figuring out what they can or will do ten years from now. The next steps once the Virginia Regional network is built out are not clear at all other than perhaps more trains to the same places.
They'll need more money, of course. But Virginia should have plenty opportunities for new trains.

It would work out best if Virginia can get some partner states. We can hope that Virginia's continuing successes with Amtrak Virginia will get others interested in passenger rail.

North Carolina of course. Building, or rebuilding, the line Richmond-Petersburg-Raleigh will take time, money, and effort. Then you don't stop the corridor service at Raleigh. North Carolina will take some of those trains to Greensboro and Charlotte, investing in further upgrades to this Piedmont route. For sure a North Carolina train is headed to Wilmington, for political balance if nothing else. The eastern part of NC has good population in a number of small cities, but none are large enuff to draw good air service. Tourists arriving for North Carolina's beaches might help them to compete with Myrtle Beach, some miles down the strand.

South Carolina needs to get in the game at some point, tho. A second frequency Raleigh-Hamlet-Columbia-Charleston-Savannah train should work. And Charlotte-Columbia-Charleston-Savannah is an obvious corridor needing service. The fabled "Day Train to Atlanta" may await a new ATL station; meanwhile extend a Piedmont Charlotte-Spartansburg-Greenville-Columbia-Charleston-Savannah. Wih the existing Meteor and Palmetto trains, and three more proposed here, there'd be five trains a day each way on the Charleston-Savannah corridor.

West Virginia will be a harder sell, to a broke state. But it could use a daily Cardinal AND at least a corridor train from the NEC to Charleston/Huntington/Ashland, OR EITHER and much better, a second frequency on the Cardinal route to Cincinnati-Indianapolis-CHI.

A second "Cardinal" -- a bluebird" a robin? -- is the only way to solve the problem that "Cincinnati will be served between midnight and dawn." (When God plunked down those Ohio Valley cities and carved out the New River Gorge, She made them either too close or too far apart for ideal stopping times.) One size train will not fit all. We'll need two trains to do the job.

Back to Virginia. The Lynchburger and the Norfolk train are successful, and now the Roanoker seems on the way to success. Top priority will be DC-Richmond, 90 mph and 90 minutes. Isn't that the goal? That project alone could keep a weaker state exhausted of energy and funds. But another train is coming to Norfolk next year, and yet another down the road a bit. And of course, Virginia's share of the Richmond-Raleigh rebuild.

Next steps either connect the successful Norfolk and Tidewater segments with Richmond-Lynchburg OR extend from Roanoke to the New River Valley first and then connect to Richmond. Only then comes Bristol.

An extension to Bristol will be a big gamble: The area has low population and difficult terrain, expensive to make faster for daylight passenger service. So it is most likely to succeed, not as a stub train to and from Bristol, but as a segment of a long distance train Knoxville-Chattanooga-ATL/Birmingham. That means any Bristol extension alone may not get enuff passengers to be successful unless or until Tennessee completes its segments Bristol-Knoxville-Chattanooga-and beyond. This factor makes it vulnerable to political nonsense.

But once a train pushes past Bristol into Tennessee, the concept is for it to meet another new LD, or at least a medium distance train like the Palmetto or the Carolinian, with a train coming down from Kentucky: Louisville/Cincinnati-Lexington-Knoxville-Chattanooga-points south. Note how this scheme puts two trains a day each way Knoxville-Chattanooga, kickstarting corridor service.

All of the potential routes outside Virginia will require an enormous political shift in Washington and the former Confederate states. I'm optimistically looking forward to such a tectonic shift. Otherwise I've been wasting too much time on these boards. If things don't reverse but continue toward a government with a Maximum Leader ... well, in that case, I think I can put my hands on recipe for a hemlock drink that will take care of my distress. :wink:
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby electricron » Wed Feb 07, 2018 1:41 am

Woody wrote:It would work out best if Virginia can get some partner states. We can hope that Virginia's continuing successes with Amtrak Virginia will get others interested in passenger rail.
North Carolina of course. Building, or rebuilding, the line Richmond-Petersburg-Raleigh will take time, money, and effort.
South Carolina needs to get in the game at some point, tho.
West Virginia will be a harder sell, to a broke state.
Back to Virginia. Top priority will be DC-Richmond, 90 mph and 90 minutes. Isn't that the goal?
An extension to Bristol will be a big gamble: The area has low population and difficult terrain, expensive to make faster for daylight passenger service. So it is most likely to succeed, not as a stub train to and from Bristol, but as a segment of a long distance train Knoxville-Chattanooga-ATL/Birmingham. That means any Bristol extension alone may not get enuff passengers to be successful unless or until Tennessee completes its segments Bristol-Knoxville-Chattanooga-and beyond. This factor makes it vulnerable to political nonsense.
All of the potential routes outside Virginia will require an enormous political shift in Washington and the former Confederate states. I'm optimistically looking forward to such a tectonic shift.

Most Southern states are not that rich! Here's a listing of the 50 State budgets.....
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U ... te_budgets
1. California $170.9 billion, $4,366 per capita
2. New York $149 billion, $7,527 per capita
3. Texas $106.3 billion, $3,870 per capita
4. Washington $93.7 billion, $13,068 per capita
5. Florida $92.3 billion, $4,553 per capita
6. Illinois $87.4 billion, $6,796 per capita
7. Minnesota $71.3 billion, $12,988 per capita
8. Oregon $70.9 billion, $17,598 per capita
9. Kentucky $66.0 billion, $14,915 per capita
10. Ohio $65.7 billion, $5,657 per capita
11. Michigan $54.0 billion, $5,442 per capita
12. Virginia $51.8 billion, $6,179 per capita
13. New Jersey $50.5 billion, $5,637 per capita
14. North Carolina $43.3 billion, $4,312 per capita
15. Maryland $42.3 billion, $7,042 per capita
16. Massachusetts $39.1 billion, $5,755 per capita
17. Wisconsin $36.9 billion, $6,394 per capita
18. Arizona $36.6 billion, $5,360 per capita
19. Tennessee $34.9 billion, $5,288 per capita
20. Indiana $31.9 billion, $4,819 per capita
21. Pennsylvania $31.5 billion, $2,460 per capita
22. Alabama $30.0 billion, $6,009 per capita
23. Louisiana $29.2 billion, $6,252 per capita
24. Arkansas $28.6 billion, $9,603 per capita
25. Missouri $27.4 billion, $4,504 per capita
26. Colorado $27.1 billion, $4,966 per capita
27. South Carolina $26.3 billion, $5,372 per capita
28. Nevada $23.8 billion, $8,233 per capita
29. Georgia $23.7 billion, $2,320 per capita
30. Connecticut $20.4 billion, $5,681 per capita
31. New Mexico $18.4 billion, $8,824 per capita
32. Kansas $15.9 billion, $5,461 per capita
33. Utah $15.1 billion, $5,040 per capita
34. North Dakota $14.2 billion, $18,760 per capita
35. Hawaii $13.5 billion, $9,430 per capita
36. West Virginia $12.2 billion, $6,616 per capita
37. Montana $10.1 billion, $9,778 per capita
38. Wyoming $9.3 billion, $15,867 per capita
39. Nebraska $9.0 billion, $4,746 per capita
40. Rhode Island $8.9 billion, $8,426 per capita
41. Iowa $8.4 billion, $2,689 per capita
42. Maine $8.3 billion, $6,244 per capita
43. Idaho $7.6 billion, $4,592 per capita
44. Alaska $7.2 billion, $9,750 per capita
45. Oklahoma $6.8 billion, $1,739 per capita
46. Mississippi $6.4 billion, $2,139 per capita
47. Vermont $5.8 billion, $9,265 per capita
48. New Hampshire $5.7 billion, $4,284 per capita
49. South Dakota $4.5 billion, $5,242 per capita
50. Delaware $4.1 billion, $4,334 per capita
This list above might surprise some of you...

FYI: The average per capita tax was $6461. Surprise, surprise, surprise!
If your state taxed more, you live in a high tax state. Some states, for example California, really isn't a high tax state, while another like North Dakota is. Just the opposite of what you might think.....
Only two of the ex-Confederate states could be considered high tax states: Kentucky and Arkansas. Only three have larger budgets than Virginia: Texas, Florida, and Kentucky. North Carolina ranks just below Virginia amongst the ex-Confederate states for budgets, but lags behind in per capita taxes. The only reason it can afford to run its own regional intercity trains is because it per chance owns the railroad corridor wholly or in part - since it was constructed over 150 years ago. :)
The only bordering state to Virginia that could possibly afford collerbating with Virginia for running regional intercity trains is Kentucky. Yet I've never read any suggestion from anyone on these forums suggesting a train between cities in Kentucky and Virginia. Maybe because there isn't a good city pairing, or mostly another state aka West Virginia and the mountain range in between. :)

Finances plays a very important role upon what a state can afford to do when it comes to transportation and infrastructure projects.
Last edited by electricron on Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:50 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby east point » Wed Feb 07, 2018 2:06 am

Spent many years in Bristol area. From what old timers told the VA - TN line really divides the area . the trains thru Bristol would have very few passengers and passenger counts rose both toward RNK and Knoxville - Chattanooga, Sleeper traffic was much the same except for the midnight Birmingham specials. 3 - 4 sleepers terminated each way in the mornings at Bristol. Then originated in the evening.

Now does that mean that metric would still be true ? Have no idea. Train times RNK - Bristol - Knoxville are still terrible and now freight traffic may have 10 - 12 daily each way of 7000 foot + trains vs. 2 road and one local each way in the past. N&W was CTC but SOU was ABS train order.
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby Arlington » Wed Feb 07, 2018 9:52 am

Please focus on markets where trains can win, not lines on a map where rails happen to be, or empty corners of which look big (take up a lot of space) but have no people, no money, and few reasons to travel to the NEC (and, in Bristol's case, have a 79mph right of way ready to go, in the form of I-81, which a bus could ply either to Roanoke or all the way to DC)

Trains win when people choose them because they are superior means of going from origin to destination. Criteria here include
- Being faster, cheaper, more predictable
- Having fewer alternatives: no bus (or) no car (or) no plane (or) no interstate (and, ideally, multiples of these missing)

Being superior has nothing to do with being historical. In 1911 trains went everywhere there was to go, and if you weren't on a rail you didn't exist. So should trains go everywhere today? We've been pulling up tracks and cancelling trains since 1911 precisely because first the autos, then the buses, then the planes, then the interstates came. Since trains were the only way to get anywhere before the interstates, where trains happened to go before interstates basically tells us nothing. 70mph highways were a game changer and the ultimate train-killer. Please admit the game has changed everywhere the interstates go.

"We used to play checkers on this grid" means nothing when the game is chess. Many interstate segments in Virginia were not completed until the 1980s (e.g. I-66 blue ridge), so how people travelled before then is a different world, a different game. {EDIT: I-81/77 between New River Valley and Bristol didn't open until 1987 if there'd been any Bristol trains left to kill, that would have killed them}. That the trains died before the interstates were complete, only really shows that trains to Bristol would definitely been killed by the completed network we have today.

So where do trains win? It ain't about nostalgia. That Amtrak Virginia makes money and the Carolinian will get there in 2018, and the Palmetto is leagues beyond other LDs. Hmm. What do these trains have in common?

1) Car-lite and Car-free households, like students and urban millennials.
Where Zipcar is, basically. Here's where Zipcar is:
• Blacksburg [VaTech]
• Charlottesville [UVa]
• Fairfax [George Mason]
• Harrisonburg [James Madison]
• Lynchburg [Liberty U]
• Newport News
• Norfolk
• Richmond [VCU 30k]
• Williamsburg [William & Mary]
(and Arlington/Alexandria, as part of DC Metro)

2) Interstates non-competitive
2a) Because there are no interstates (Lynchburg)
2b) Because the interstate doesn't go where you want (Charlottesville)
2c) Because the interstate represents a large % of the trip and is hopelessly congested (trips involving I-95 Richmond - DC, or I-66 Manassas - DC, or I-64 NFK/NPN

3) Affinity with the Northeast Corridor
3a) Young people education-migration (I grew up in .... but I went to college in ... and now I work in ...)
3b) Work migration (being an employment center of the "New South", such as Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill)
3c) Retirement migration (moved at age 55 or older from train-culture Northeast; often to Va Tidewater or NC Winston-Salem Greensboro or Mountains)

{4) People and Money}

Blacksburg (VaTech) and the New River Valley station have #1, and #3, but Virginia is also experimenting with subsidizing buses to DC because from some corners of the state (looking at you, Bristol) the interstates win.

Bristol does not have the car-lite/car-free students
Bristol's I-81 can be loaded up with buses zipping at 79mph at no capital cost (and run as an extension of the Virginia Breeze bus, see below)
Bristol has no obvious NEC affinities. (Eastman Chemical is global, but not particularly NEC-ish)
Bristol has just 95k Virginians

Of the Zipcar markets, There's only two...Blacksburg (VaTech...which will merit a NER extension) and Harrisonburg (JMU...which will get the Virginia Breeze bus) ...that don't also have a successful Amtrak train. NO BRISTOL. And a train will die of thirst in the mountain desert between the NRV (VaTech) station before it gets to Zipcar in Knoxville. Sorry.

And Virginia sees this. The state-sponsored bus service ALONG I-81 is called Virginia Breeze and launched on Dec 1. (Operated by Coach USA, interlining with Megabus)

VIRGINIA BREEZE BUS SERVICE (USING I-81; SERVING CAR-FREE / CAR-LITE TOWNS)
• Blacksburg (Squires Student Center)
• Christiansburg (Falling Branch Park & Ride) Radford/
• Lexington (Food Lion in Stonewall Square) [VMI + Washington & Lee]
• Staunton (Martin’s on Richmond Avenue)
• Harrisonburg (Godwin Transit Center at JMU)
• Front Royal (Crooked Run VDOT Park & Ride)
• Dulles Airport (Curb 2E)
• Arlington (Kiss & Ride lot at the West Falls Church-VT/UVA Metrorail Station)
• Union Station DC

Bristol Bristol Bristol. Bus Bus Bus.

If Virginia continues to be as smart as they have been, the last new station will be New River Valley. After that they have to return to increasing frequency on the network they have and increasing speed&capacity Fredericksburg-DC
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby daybeers » Wed Feb 07, 2018 5:33 pm

Very good post with very interesting points, Arlington. They all make sense to me!
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Feb 07, 2018 5:39 pm

Arlington: I’m also thinking there will eventually be a second WAS-CLT via Charlottesville, if not the WAS-ATL day train we’ve been asking for.

Trans-Dominion rail service still seems far-fetched, but I will welcome Virginia Breeze bus service LYH - RVM/RVR.
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby Greg Moore » Wed Feb 07, 2018 8:27 pm

Arlington wrote:Please focus on markets where trains can win, not lines on a map where rails happen to be, or empty corners of which look big (take up a lot of space) but have no people, no money, and few reasons to travel to the NEC (and, in Bristol's case, have a 79mph right of way ready to go, in the form of I-81, which a bus could ply either to Roanoke or all the way to DC)

We're now advocating busses exceeding posted speed limits? (that's the only way I can interpret "have a 79mph right of way ready to go, in the form of I-81".
And honestly, having driven that road... you're really only going to make speed about as far as Blacksburg. Once you hit the mountains and the trucks struggle to make the grade, you're in trouble.
I can't recall a time I'd say I made great speed (let alone consistently 9 mph over the speed limit).

And to a certain extent, we really can only focus on where rails happen to be because laying long stretches of new ROW is probably a non-starter. So we DO have to start with "where the rails are" (or at least were).

That said, I agree with your other points, Bristol's is probably a lost cause, except perhaps as part longer package into Knoxville or something.
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby Backshophoss » Wed Feb 07, 2018 8:46 pm

I-81 from the I-40 jct in Tn to the I-76 interchange in Pa is getting just as congested as I-95,best avg speed is around 65 mph and lower! :P
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby Arlington » Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:21 pm

My experience on 81 this August & Labor Day was that while dicey in PA, VA was generally free flowing and that a bus going with that flow would go over the speed limit at least some of the time. (EDIT Winchester and Harrisonburg were dicey but aren't really parallel to the Lynchurger)

79mph was chosen to show comparability to a best case scenario on rail --that between whatever track class and curves apply, a train can't win in a race with 81. (But trains can win vs US29 and the all-day crises on 66, 64, and 95)

79mph is also how fast park-and-ride customers can be expected to drive themselves to RNK (or future NRV) on 77/81. Given sprawly land use beyond NRV, driving from home to NRV will probably make for much shorter total trip times than driving to a station further south along 81. A $10m parking structure at NRV will get you more and faster trips than $10m spent with NS would.
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby Backshophoss » Thu Feb 08, 2018 1:36 am

I-81 on race weekends is the pits near Bristol,near Blacksburg on football gameday,as the connecting segment for I-77(Whytheville) and I-64(Stauton/Lexington)
can get "interesting" at times on 3 day weekends,rush hours in the Roanoke metro area in foul weather.
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby Arlington » Thu Feb 08, 2018 8:17 am

I can definitely see a market for excursion extras to/through RNK on Tech game days or Bristol speedway race days, and some other weekend-only service that takes advantage of NER equipment availability, fall foliage, and a turn at Bristol (no fancy berth/service or local crew)

Daily operations, however seem to require a lot of empty running hours where a bus would be right-sized and could run faster and more frequently to a bus/car/multimodal garage/hub at NRV or downtown RNK.

But even for excursions, NS would have to have very moderate $ demands for rail upgrades for it to make any sense for VA to pay NS for capacity instead of, say, spending money on some HOV lanes on 81 that address the same need. If backups in Bristol on race day are 10 miles, it might just take 5 miles of HOV lanes to get a meaningful improvement (and no operating costs). Same in RNK: maybe just a 2-mile jump lane for HOVs past the worst, most-predictable backups. And VaDOT will find it much easier to negotiate upgrades with itself, and will find them useful every hour of the day, every day of the year (a better payback than upgrading NS)
Last edited by Arlington on Thu Feb 08, 2018 8:57 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Lynchburg VA NE Regional (ext. to Roanoke and Bristol)

Postby gokeefe » Thu Feb 08, 2018 8:29 am

Backshophoss wrote:I-81 on race weekends is the pits near Bristol,near Blacksburg on football gameday,as the connecting segment for I-77(Whytheville) and I-64(Stauton/Lexington)
can get "interesting" at times on 3 day weekends,rush hours in the Roanoke metro area in foul weather.

That may be but as we have seen with the Downeaster it's the routine clear weather congestion happening daily that really will drive ridership. If you don't have population density you have to have congestion and as Arlington notes this is not generally the case with I-81.

In some ways I see many parallels to how things were in Northern Virginia for many years. Wide open highways negated any potential demand for intercity passenger rail.

That being said a study for Bristol is underway and VA DRPT seems to be pursuing a vision that extends service right to the furthest reaches of the Commonwealth. I am also not convinced that good travel times on I-81 would mitigate the desire to avoid congestion between WAS or NYP and/or unreasonable fares from small airports.

People tend to get on as close to home as they can unless the time savings is really significant (20m or more). If service runs to Bristol I am confident it would have good but not necessarily great ridership. This is why, for example, people don't drive to Wells and then take the train to Boston even though when driving in perfect conditions you could beat the train from Portland everytime (@ 75 MPH +). In this example I am ignoring of course that there is quite a bit of daily congestion that otherwise drives ridership.
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