Nyterider wrote:The Newtown line is useless and won't be missed. It runs no more than 3 miles from any point on the West Trenton line. Losing the possibility of service to Bethlehem, on the other hand, is a much more serious blow. There is NO alternate route for rail between Philly and the Lehigh Valley. The Lehigh Valley should eventually get train service to Philadelphia and to New York City, although admittedly New York is always the more viable market. This is a state transportation issue and state government should intervene before it is too late, just like they acted to save Amtrak service to Harrisburg.
The Chestnut Hill lines run parallel to one another - never more than a mile or so apart, but neither line is hurting for ridership. The Hill East is about 3 miles from both the Norristown line and the Main line. The West Chester line is within 3 miles of the R2 Wilmington until you get south of Wallingford. They all serve different population clusters, and so would the Newtown line.
Folks from the immediate Newtown area might not use the Woodbourne park & ride a short distance away, but seem far more likely to use Cornwells Heights. Maybe it's a lack of parking capacity, or maybe it has to do with ritualistic driving habits. Say I live in one area and commute along a certain corridor. I eventually become used to the services on that corridor. Say for example, I semi-frequently go to a Wendy's along that corridor. Then I move a short distance away, in the same general area. There now may be a Wendy's that is closer to my new home, but along a different corridor. I will still remain loyal to the old Wendy's, because it is what I'm used to, and it's along a corridor that I frequent. Case in point - Newtowners aren't using Woodbourne, they're using Cornwells Heights, because they ritualistically drive I-95 to get to the city.
Now Newtown happens to be the only population center of its size and proximity to the city that lacks direct rail service. I mean Phoenixville is only a hair further out, and with significantly more potential riders, but rail service out that way is really a no-brainer anyway. Pitting Newtown against Quakertown is a little interesting. All you have to do is go to Hatfield, and the population density drops dramatically. You have to restore more railroad towards Bethlehem to get the amount of riders that you would get from restoring to Newtown. There's also a handy political advantage to Newtown service. Montgomery County obviously couldn't care about the line, where Bucks is more enthusiastic. Now say they restore Newtown service - and only service Newtown, Village Shires, Holland, Churchville, and Southampton. Then you have these shiny new trains whizzing through Montco, making no stops for the new Woodmont 'station' development, the Toll Brothers' new Huntingdon Place development, or the new Walnut Hill development - making a bee line for the city. Shouldn't be all that difficult then to find someone that'll pick up the tab for some nice deluxe ADA-compliant stations. Perhaps even Bryn Athyn will get on board! Hell, the gas prices are hurting everyone. Those folks could use a little more interaction with the immediate 'outside world' anyway. Of course, the Bethlehem branch has the advantage of a workable right-of-way and trackbed, whereas Newtown - in some, but not all places - needs total reconstruction. Personally, I think it's a wash between the two. Another thing to consider is the mobility of the populations. I'm willing to bet more Newtowners, Churchvillagers, and Southamptonites are commuting to jobs that are more than 10 miles from home, whereas more Hatfielders, Soudertonians, and Sellersvillagers probably work in or around their communities. One more consideration is the added strain on system capacity placed by more riders or more trains. If the extensions are operated as shuttles, I think you can keep the same number of trains, and simply add cars. But if you're providing a one seat ride, then you might need to be adding trains during the rush. Having more trains on the line between Philly and Lansdale has the potential to get ugly with this glorious new stripped-down excuse for a signal system, whereas if you're only adding trains between Philly and NX (mostly 4 tracks, except Wayne Jct - NX) there's less potential for bunching. Generally, I believe if you're closer to home, it's easier and cheaper to maintain and operate.
Bringing service all the way to the Lehigh Valley, and Reading for that matter, almost seems like a completely different ball game. This really falls under the scope of intercity passenger rail, not commuter rail, doesn't it? Is there really a large number of daily commuters coming from Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton and Reading - large enough to warrant regular train service? Or is there just a great deal of interest to link the population centers, with casual ridership potential? If the latter is the case, then the service might do well to be operated by a new authority. Granted, Septa historically operated trains to Allentown and Pottsville, but that was long ago, and they have since become specialized in operating mostly Philly-centric intra-city services. It would probably be more sensible from a operational/managerial perspective for Septa to simply accommodate such a service while someone else runs it. I mean Septa never exactly seemed to be aggressive about expanding their services anyway.
Anyway, those are just my biased thoughts, loosely based on half-assed research.