SEPTA RRD on the 25th Street Viaduct

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SEPTA RRD on the 25th Street Viaduct

Postby Bill R. » Sat Oct 22, 2016 3:59 pm

Before starting, I did a search, and the closest thread I could identify was this Why Can't SEPTA's Subway System Look Like This?

The motivation for generating a dedicated thread for the concept is basically in response to the level of development & redevelopment in the Gray's Ferry, Point Breeze, and West Washington Avenue neighborhoods. Yes, there are other Philadelphia neighborhoods undergoing development & redevelopment that also could benefit from improved transit facilities, but the existence of the viaduct creates the possibility for passenger rail service to be implemented somewhat easier (than an area with no obvious right-of-way).

So here are my assumptions and ideas which are presented (to be refuted if necessary):

1) There is no fixed guideway transit system crossing the Schuylkill River south of Market Street

2) The Gray's Ferry, Point Breeze, and West Washington Avenue neighborhoods are close to the proposed 30th Street Station District development, which will stimulate future housing and travel demand in the area.

3) Obviously an accommodation with the freight carriers has to be worked out. Building new infrastructure for freight movement through Eastside Yard would simplify operations and reduce responsibilities for superannuated infrastructure that currently burden the freight carriers

4) The High Line will eventually become problematic from a life-cycle standpoint, requiring (expensive) solutions to address the structural deterioration

5) Residential redevelopment will continue further into South Philadelphia

6) Institutions that are located in University City (i.e. CHOP & U Penn) are beginning to expand southeast across the Schuylkill River, a trend that will continue as they seek more space

7) Due to the proximity, Grays Ferry, Point Breeze and West Washington Avenue are possible locations for additional student housing.

8) A commuter rail line could also serve the Navy Yard complex with frequencies more appropriate to the density of development in the area.

So the proposal is this: starting to the south of University City Station, switches would connect to a new single track located in the pocket of land between the current tracks that would rise to a bridge over the NEC, turning south to join the High Line curve adjacent to the PECO substation. After crossing the bridge over the Schuylkill River, using the 25th Street viaduct, and curving east around the south side of FDR Park, the track would rise to a new, primarily single track viaduct located within the centerline of League Island Boulevard to a terminal at Kitty Hawk Avenue. Intermediate stations would be located at Grays Ferry Avenue, Tasker Street, Snyder Avenue, Oregon Avenue, Broad Street, and between Intrepid Avenue & Rouse Boulevard.

The proposed South Philadelphia RRD line could be through-routed (to the degree that it occurs anymore) with Chestnut Hill West via a Swampoodle reroute. Headways = 20 minutes peak, 60 minutes off-peak.
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Re: SEPTA RRD on the 25th Street Viaduct

Postby roadmaster » Mon Oct 24, 2016 7:53 am

Right now, there is little need for such a project. For something like this to be considered, it would have to be created as a type of TOD based on future development. As such, many different transportation alternatives would be studied along with the development goals to see what is feasible. With that in mind, here is my view to each point:

Bill R. wrote:1) There is no fixed guideway transit system crossing the Schuylkill River south of Market Street


There never really was a need and this project would have to establish this- which is your point :-D

Bill R. wrote:2) The Gray's Ferry, Point Breeze, and West Washington Avenue neighborhoods are close to the proposed 30th Street Station District development, which will stimulate future housing and travel demand in the area.


Close, but close enough? For these neighborhoods to be a part of the UC development, a transit line as part of a TOD analysis could at least start an alternative analysis. Usually when an area expands in this scope, a full heavy railroad commuter line is overkill and light rail would be the type of service required. As for the development, I will go more into this for later points.

Bill R. wrote:3) Obviously an accommodation with the freight carriers has to be worked out. Building new infrastructure for freight movement through Eastside Yard would simplify operations and reduce responsibilities for superannuated infrastructure that currently burden the freight carriers


This is a huge IF. With the inability of expanding rail in this area, having to provide high cost improvements for freight railroads is a hard obstacle to overcome. It appears this is easy to do when a highway project needs to be built, but always gets flack when it comes to commuter rail. If the freight lines already need some type of heavy work improvements, implementing this work as a shared cost improvement could help overcome this obstacle.

Another issue is the operation of the line itself mixing in commuter and freights. Of all the railroad lines I worked on, this line was the worst for knowing what traffic will run day to day. I'm going by the last time I worked there, about 10 years ago, but the railroads could only give us the traffic flows 24 hours in advance, that was it. They had no idea after 24 hours what would be running and how many. Do not know if this still holds true. Even though it is not that unusual to have such erratic traffic flows for freight, this line was the worst for lead times I ever dealt with.

Bill R. wrote:4) The High Line will eventually become problematic from a life-cycle standpoint, requiring (expensive) solutions to address the structural deterioration


When a project like this is being considered, a certain lifespan is designated. If the high line is identified as not being able to last for this lifespan, then it's rehab would be a part of this project - which would be in the negative category for this project. Again, if it is identified as a problem and an improvement for the freight lines, thne a shared cost could help overcome this.

Bill R. wrote:5) Residential redevelopment will continue further into South Philadelphia


This a very important point. It's not so important if the development continues, it's important if it is welcomed and wanted - especially by the city. There has been opposition with gentrification and development in certain South Philly neighborhoods - to the point a city councilmen is involved. A project like this to include a commuter line would need an overwhelming majority along with the city to be onboard.

Bill R. wrote:6) Institutions that are located in University City (i.e. CHOP & U Penn) are beginning to expand southeast across the Schuylkill River, a trend that will continue as they seek more space


Bill R. wrote:7) Due to the proximity, Grays Ferry, Point Breeze and West Washington Avenue are possible locations for additional student housing.


Both of these fit in with the the response to #5 even though they are not residential - I consider dedicated student housing non-residential. Development like you mentioned will most likely creep into the area one block at a time and receive some local opposition here and there. Once you wrap up this development as a vision and add a commuter line, you now attract more organized opposition and more headaches. In the end, I agree that if this development continues like you assume, then some type of transit improvement will have to be provided.

Bill R. wrote:8) A commuter rail line could also serve the Navy Yard complex with frequencies more appropriate to the density of development in the area.


The Navy Yard could use better transit options but not sure if a line like this would be the best benefit. I've went down there a few times and parking can be very tough. How it could be tied in with the core development improvements you mentioned above would be a far reach making this the terminus for this line. I think the best rail access option into the navy yard would be extending the BS, but maybe having the navy yard as the terminus helps substantiate the line you're proposing and be a cheaper option then tunneling.

Bill R. wrote:So the proposal is this: starting to the south of University City Station, switches would connect to a new single track located in the pocket of land between the current tracks that would rise to a bridge over the NEC, turning south to join the High Line curve adjacent to the PECO substation. After crossing the bridge over the Schuylkill River, using the 25th Street viaduct, and curving east around the south side of FDR Park, the track would rise to a new, primarily single track viaduct located within the centerline of League Island Boulevard to a terminal at Kitty Hawk Avenue. Intermediate stations would be located at Grays Ferry Avenue, Tasker Street, Snyder Avenue, Oregon Avenue, Broad Street, and between Intrepid Avenue & Rouse Boulevard.


This is a big proposal, can be done, but as an alternative in this scope, could be a non starter. It can be too easy to just say a project like this can never be done today with septa, but it is a reality. Heavy capital improvements, coordination and improvements for the freight infrastructure, and establishing commuter rail as the viable transportation alternative to work for such an area are tough obstacles.

I think a light rail service would be what this type of project needs but the need to use the freight infrastructure would negate this option also. The one thing going for your idea is that it does make good use of existing infrastructure - as long as the needed freight accommodation / improvement cost stay reasonable. A light rail line would need a lot more dedicated infrastructure.

Another look would be, does this line have to run from UC to the Navy Yard? Could a spur from the BSL suffice. Again, like the light rail option, the cost for this option would be astronomical.

Just my $0.02. In the end I think this idea is good in theory - especially if the development continues.
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Re: SEPTA RRD on the 25th Street Viaduct

Postby Bill R. » Sun Oct 30, 2016 5:12 am

roadmaster, thanks for having the time and interest in responding. You have some valid questions - I'll try to answer as best I can. Full disclosure: This is a suggestion, and I don't expect to ever see it built (certainly not in my lifetime). Areas withing the City of Philadelpia are regenerating, and it would be good if the infrastructure led development (as in Western Europe) as opposed to the reverse being true.

roadmaster wrote:Right now, there is little need for such a project. For something like this to be considered, it would have to be created as a type of TOD based on future development.


Agreed, at the current time there is little need. While TOD coordination with TOD would certainly enhance the viability (and value) of this proposal, continued organic redevelopment of the neighborhoods in question would support the implementation of fixed guideway eventually.

roadmaster wrote:As such, many different transportation alternatives would be studied along with the development goals to see what is feasible. With that in mind, here is my view to each point:


Bill R. wrote:2) The Gray's Ferry, Point Breeze, and West Washington Avenue neighborhoods are close to the proposed 30th Street Station District development, which will stimulate future housing and travel demand in the area.


Close, but close enough? For these neighborhoods to be a part of the UC development, a transit line as part of a TOD analysis could at least start an alternative analysis. Usually when an area expands in this scope, a full heavy railroad commuter line is overkill and light rail would be the type of service required. As for the development, I will go more into this for later points.


I have also considered several light rail versions for this corridor, but posted the commuter rail version because of the modal compatibility with existing infrastructure.

roadmaster wrote:
Bill R. wrote:3) Obviously an accommodation with the freight carriers has to be worked out. Building new infrastructure for freight movement through Eastside Yard would simplify operations and reduce responsibilities for superannuated infrastructure that currently burden the freight carriers


This is a huge IF. With the inability of expanding rail in this area, having to provide high cost improvements for freight railroads is a hard obstacle to overcome. It appears this is easy to do when a highway project needs to be built, but always gets flack when it comes to commuter rail. If the freight lines already need some type of heavy work improvements, implementing this work as a shared cost improvement could help overcome this obstacle.

Another issue is the operation of the line itself mixing in commuter and freights. Of all the railroad lines I worked on, this line was the worst for knowing what traffic will run day to day. I'm going by the last time I worked there, about 10 years ago, but the railroads could only give us the traffic flows 24 hours in advance, that was it. They had no idea after 24 hours what would be running and how many. Do not know if this still holds true. Even though it is not that unusual to have such erratic traffic flows for freight, this line was the worst for lead times I ever dealt with.

Bill R. wrote:4) The High Line will eventually become problematic from a life-cycle standpoint, requiring (expensive) solutions to address the structural deterioration


When a project like this is being considered, a certain lifespan is designated. If the high line is identified as not being able to last for this lifespan, then it's rehab would be a part of this project - which would be in the negative category for this project. Again, if it is identified as a problem and an improvement for the freight lines, thne a shared cost could help overcome this.


Here's what I was thinking: The High Line will eventually deteriorate to the point where it can no longer handle heavy freight trains safely. That circumstance is coming sooner rather than later.

There isn't the room the build another High Line, and it isn't clear that spending the money to replace it In-Kind is justified given it's utilization. Additionally, I'm willing to bet that the 30th Street Station District redevelopment partners would want the High Line to be removed - more flexibility for the redevelopment and no more unsightly railroad bridge to tarnish the grand view of sparkling new buildings. Sources indicate that there was even discussion of replacing the RRD Schuylkill River bridge until reality intruded associated with the exorbitant cost.

Perhaps the better solution for freight is spending money on reroutes and/or rationalizations that increase utilization of other pathways. If the High Line goes away, there is no access from the north, and then the traffic on the 25th Street viaduct is much less, especially if the freight reroutes involve moving through or around the periphery of Eastside Yard.

roadmaster wrote:
Bill R. wrote:5) Residential redevelopment will continue further into South Philadelphia


This a very important point. It's not so important if the development continues, it's important if it is welcomed and wanted - especially by the city. There has been opposition with gentrification and development in certain South Philly neighborhoods - to the point a city councilmen is involved. A project like this to include a commuter line would need an overwhelming majority along with the city to be onboard.


Agreed. The developers seem to be having their way with the City right now (the Ori Feibush / Kenyatta Johnson flap notwithstanding). The developers need to embrace the value that a fixed gudeway transit facility can bring to their project. Right now, they're more interested in making a quick buck.


roadmaster wrote:
Bill R. wrote:8) A commuter rail line could also serve the Navy Yard complex with frequencies more appropriate to the density of development in the area.


The Navy Yard could use better transit options but not sure if a line like this would be the best benefit. I've went down there a few times and parking can be very tough. How it could be tied in with the core development improvements you mentioned above would be a far reach making this the terminus for this line. I think the best rail access option into the navy yard would be extending the BS, but maybe having the navy yard as the terminus helps substantiate the line you're proposing and be a cheaper option then tunneling.


[screed]The City of Philadelphia made a complete bollocks of the Navy Yard. What it could have been, and will never be, is like HafenCity in Hamburg, Germany.[/screed]

The ideas for continuing to the Navy Yard are:

1) Ending the line at Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia didn't seem to be a viable project

2) The choice of RRD would make access from much of the suburban areas easier

3) again, compatibility of existing infrastructure

The Broad Street Subway is going to be expensive, and the Navy Yard isn't ever likely to have the density to support rapid transit frequencies by itself. So I thought that tying together the two areas via this RRD proposal would make sense, especially as the redeveloped neighboorhoods would also be attractive to employees working at the Navy Yard.
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Re: SEPTA RRD on the 25th Street Viaduct

Postby NJTSmurf » Sun Nov 20, 2016 10:12 pm

Bill R. wrote:
roadmaster wrote:
Bill R. wrote:4) The High Line will eventually become problematic from a life-cycle standpoint, requiring (expensive) solutions to address the structural deterioration


When a project like this is being considered, a certain lifespan is designated. If the high line is identified as not being able to last for this lifespan, then it's rehab would be a part of this project - which would be in the negative category for this project. Again, if it is identified as a problem and an improvement for the freight lines, thne a shared cost could help overcome this.


Here's what I was thinking: The High Line will eventually deteriorate to the point where it can no longer handle heavy freight trains safely. That circumstance is coming sooner rather than later.



CSX is currently rehabilitating the 25th Street Viaduct, so the above shouldn't be an issue.
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Re: SEPTA RRD on the 25th Street Viaduct

Postby rrbluesman » Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:27 am

Who owns/maintains the catenary poles on the 25th Street viaduct? I know Amtrak owns the catenary over the long abandoned PRR Schuylkill Branch and maintains them, wondering if it is the same circumstance at 25th Street.

-Ed
Ed

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Re: SEPTA RRD on the 25th Street Viaduct

Postby ekt8750 » Mon Jan 23, 2017 3:09 pm

rrbluesman wrote:Who owns/maintains the catenary poles on the 25th Street viaduct? I know Amtrak owns the catenary over the long abandoned PRR Schuylkill Branch and maintains them, wondering if it is the same circumstance at 25th Street.

-Ed


I believe they're PECO. They originate at their power station in Eddystone.
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