• Fantasy Commuter Rail

  • General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by Passenger
New York City -- Sometimes I fantasize about a subway line on Second Avenue in Manhattan.

Silly me. :wink:
  by lpetrich
At least they are starting to build it again.

So I'll continue with some other places:

New York City

AirTrain from Jamaica station northward in the Van Wyck Expwy and Grand Central Pkwy to LaGuardia Airport.

Connecting AirTrain to Lower Manhattan, perhaps with the help of the Brooklyn Atlantic Ave. branch of the LIRR.

Extending electrification of the LIRR, Metro-North, and New Jersey Transit, and extending NJT out to the Delaware Water Gap.


Could we have new NEC tunnels, pleez? I remember going through them being gawdawful slow, though that was the 1980's. Your friendly neighborhood subway train can do MUCH better.

Washington, DC

The Purple Line, of course. And possibly an additional downtown line. All those converging Washington Metrorail lines are a recipe for congestion.

Using the Metrorail street map, I propose to split the Orange and Blue lines in downtown DC. From west to east:

Rosslyn - split - Virginia Ave. - (EJ Kelly Park) - Constitution Ave. - (Federal Triangle) - (Archives) - (Louisiana Ave.) - (Maryland Ave.) - Massachusetts Ave. - (Lincoln Park) - join - Stadium-Armory

This will be helpful for the planned Tysons Corner / Dulles Airport Silver Line, which can run on one of the two downtown Blue/Orange branches.

San Francisco Bay area

I couldn't resist. Another tunnel under the Bay paralleling the existing BART tunnel, to be used by any of:
light rail
commuter / intercity rail

The latter would connect the 4th + Townsend Caltrain station with the Oakland / Emeryville Amtrak line

Los Angeles

Subway to the sea? Good idea. The line to Wilshire/Western is an embarrassingly short stub.

And I'd also like a nice rail connection between Los Angeles Union Station and Los Angeles Airport -- there's already a branchline that goes from near LAUS to LAX.

And maybe the Orange County politicians will start a light-rail line. Just maybe.
  by fauxcelt
Here in central Arkansas, I have a few ideas which will probably never become a reality but I can still dream.
There is an old Rock Island ROW which could be used for a rail line to connect downtown with the suburbs to the southwest of Little Rock. I drove through there and, so far as I can tell, the old ROW doesn't have anything built on it--yet. Some of the tracks haven't been torn up and are still in use by Union Pacific and the Little Rock & Western.
When Interstate 630 was built east-west across Little Rock several years ago, it might have been a good idea to build the median wide enough for two tracks so there could be a rail line serving the west side of Little Rock. The intersection of I-630 and I-430 on the west side of Little Rock is having to be completely rebuilt because the west side of Little Rock grew much faster than the planners thought it would. Even a light rail in the median would help relieve the rush hour congestion. After the end of I-630 at its intersection with I-430, maybe the rail line could continue down the middle of Financial Center/Chenal Parkway for another mile or two.
Another highway where it might have been a good idea to build the median wide enough for two tracks is the Jacksonville Freeway (U.S. 67) which runs to the northeast but no one realized how fast the suburbs to the northeast would grow either.
And, last but not least, here in North Little Rock where I live, there is a single line railroad track which used to serve a large Army base called Camp Robinson. This railroad track hasn't been torn up and is still in place running through town although I don't think it has been used since I was a teenager. Its connection to Union Pacific's main line has been removed. If they would build a bridge above Union Pacific's main line and MacArthur Drive as well as under I-40, there is probably enough room on the west side of Pike Avenue for two tracks all of the way to downtown. At the other end, I envisage this rail line running out to the north end of Pulaski County to serve all of the people who live there.
Camp Robinson is still busy and still very much in use by the Army Reserve and National Guard for various training and military exercises. As for the west side of Pike Avenue, when I was a teenager, they bought up all of the houses on the west side of the street and tore them down because they were planning to widen Pike from two lanes to four lanes (with a turning lane in the middle). They bought up more land than they needed and now there is mostly empty land for about two miles on the west side of Pike Avenue.
In the NIMBY's don't object too strongly, perhaps the railroad line could be rehabilitated and tracks could be laid on the west side of Pike.

  by SemperFidelis
This idea gets floated from time to time:

Carbondale, PA - Scranton, PA with stops at every dying coal town in between.

It would probably help if any of these towns had jobs in them, but what the heck.
  by Passenger
Who else here has read the short story Interurban Queen by R.A. Lafferty? :wink:
  by fauxcelt
I haven't read Interurban Queen by Lafferty but I have read some other stories by him.
I got to meet Lafferty briefly at a science fiction convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1978. I remember a shy, gray-haired, overweight man who wasn't very talkative. When I asked him politely if he would autograph a collection of his short stories which I had bought with me to the convention, he was nice enough to sign it for me.

  by modorney
East Bay Light Rail

Around the East Bay of San Francisco are a number of short segments that would work well for light rail. My plan would link these segments into a contiguous line, making it possible to have just one maintenance facility. It is unlikely a passenger would ride the entire line, but that seat would see four or five different riders over the length of the system.

One aspect of the Bay Area is the parking situation at BART stations. San Francisco has a dual commute since it is a finance center. Many commuters work a schedule that follows the finance industry hours (dictated primarily by New York), so there is an early commute. Then the regular commute that starts around 7 AM. However, the parking at most stations is filled by 7:30 or 8 AM, and ridership is turned away. BART could easily build 15,000 more spaces (at 30 to 40 grand apiece, in multistory garages) but that would not go over well, politically. That same half billion could go toward a light rail system that fed BART, and had cheaper surface parking.

Another aspect of the geography is that there are large unbuildable areas, separating the residence areas into clumps. One way to deal with this is to have single track, fenced off, mostly grade separated rights of way, with a few passing sidings. These would be 80 mph, making for shorter commutes.

A third aspect is that there are a number of spots for commercial development, particularly where the rail meets a busy highway. Ideally, a development should have 500,000 square feet of rentable space, mostly office, but some "retail" (like credit unions, stockbrokers, insurance, mortgages, etc.) Half a million feet makes it viable for the center to have a snack bar. If someone does not have a car, they need a place to get food.

My system would total about 120 miles, for $2 billion. Ideally, end to end in three hours, using a few 80 mph segments and signal preemption to speed up the commute. (Even so, 40 mph average speed is a tall order) Here it is, by segments:

Segment A - Pittsburg to Brentwood

This is one of the Bay Area's toughest commutes. And, BART is stepping up, adding DMU's to extend service to Antioch. BART is primarily down the center median of Highway 4. I would propose a different route - possibly ion the right of way parallel to Lone Tree Way , and not duplicate BART. But, east of Antioch, I'd design it for a quick ride for commuters. This is a huge market, and probably a third of the ridership would occur on this segment. I would make provisions for turnback trains during commute times, the ridership would warrant this.

Segment B - Brentwood to Livermore

This segment would follow Vasco Road, a heavily traveled non-highway, and take commuters to Livermore's Vasco Road ACE Station. Most of this segment would be single track, 80 mph, with a passing siding. There's not much along Vasco Road, so there's no need for a station. But two stations at the north end (Brentwood) and two at the south - I 580 and ACE. At the I 580 station, I would have a commercial development of 500,000 square feet. Brentwood might support a smaller (200,000 sf) commercial complex, and, since the area is pretty developed, food is within walking distance.

Segment C - Livermore to Pleasanton BART

BART is currently extending to Livermore (including Vasco Road ACE) and has not selected the final alignment, which is mostly a choice between running down the median of I 580 or running along Stanley Boulevard. I would pick whatever BART doesn't. In addition, there is a quarry near Pleasanton, that is slated to shut down soon. I would plan on another 500,000 square foot commercial development on that site.

Segments B and C - Brentwood to Pleasanton - are also along one of the tough commutes. This would probably be another third of the ridership, and would warrant commute time turnback tains for the additional ridership.

Segment D - Pleasanton to Lafayette

This segment would start at the Pleasanton BART and cross the Pittsburg BART line at Pleasant Hill Road, east of Lafayette Station. Pleasant Hill Road, where it meets Rte 24, is an ideal spot for a 500,000 s.f. commercial development. The actual route is open to discussion, but Bishop Ranch would be a good stop. Danville would welcome a smaller (200,000 s.f.) commercial site, along with the property tax revenue. This line would support a lot of inexpensive parking, for commuters to BART. These last four segments would total about a third of the ridership.

Segment E - Lafayette to Martinez

A dual use line for commuters from Martinez, and riders to Martinez (Martinez is the county seat, and gets a lot of midday traffic). Single track is a viable option for this segment.

Segment F - Martinez to Crockett

A limited use, single track line that would head straight west from Martinez, and join up with the 4 at the Cummings Skyway (which is a possible site for a commercial development). Although Martinez to Richmond is a 25 minute ride on the Capitol Corridors, light rail would present a cheaper option, for about the same time.

Segment G - Crockett to Richmond

This parallels another busy commute highway. BART has looked at extending from Richmond to Crockett, and the ridership potential is good. There are a few railroad rights of way to use, or a city alignment (down San Pablo Ave.)might be an option. A perfect site for another 500,000 s.f. office complex is at the point where light rail crosses Interstate 80.

Mike O
  by fauxcelt
To my earlier comments, I would like to add a suggestion that maybe I-430 should also have been built with a wide enough median for two tracks so a branch line could have been built to the fast-growing suburb of Maumelle which is northwest of Little Rock on the north side of the Arkansas River. This imaginary line to Maumelle would split off from the line in the median of I-630 at the interchange between the two highways and run north-south in the median of I-430 to its intersection with Maumelle Boulevard on the south side of Maumelle. At the intersection of I-430 and Maumelle Boulevard, this imaginary line would leave the median of I-430 and run down the median in the middle of Maumelle Boulevard.
  by mtuandrew
Moderator's Note: I'm bumping this thread as a place to get out your creative energy, and not clutter up an otherwise practical forum. Besides, I like this thread. :grin:

Feel free to play with concepts here, and try not to judge others' ideas too harshly. I'll be moving forum members' proposals into this thread as time allows. Service proposed by outside parties, and properly cited as such, will stand in their own threads.

  by Passenger
Oh gee.

Another plug for Interurban Queen then. :wink:
  by Ocala Mike
I love 4266's vision. Makes Lewiston, ME a "hub," almost. Used to get there many years ago via the Maine Central from Portland.

Ocala Mike
  by mtuandrew
Welp, I'll toss in another two cents, and bring us to the Twin Cities.

Northstar is already in operation to Big Lake, MN, and it's fancy. Probably too fancy for the ridership, really. BNSF runs a fast, timely service, but charge a lot for what they provide. I'll set that line aside for now, as well as the Red Rock line to Hastings (undoubtedly the next to be built) on CP Rail, the BNSF line to Wayzata and the UP line to Hudson, WI, and concentrate on two previously unremarked lines.

Minnesota Commercial
This line extends into the northern suburbs, an area largely unserved by transit. I propose that Metro Transit buys out Scherer Brothers Lumber at the intersection of US 10 and I-35W and installs a park and ride - this would be especially important if the Vikings stadium moves to the Arsenal property across the highway. They then would install welded rail north of Bulwer Junction, upgrade it south of Bulwer, and run rush-hour and game day trains to New Brighton, County Road C, Hennepin/Como, University Avenue (connection with Minneapolis and the U of M via Central Corridor LRT), and thence down the CP Merriam Park Sub to St. Paul Union Depot.

Operator: Minnesota Commercial Railway, under contract to Metro Transit.

Equipment: used single-level coaches, with, say, an MNNR Alco Century in front and one of their Alco slug/powerpack/control units at the rear. The railfans alone would pay for the costs. :grin:

Minneapolis Uptown - 29th Street Corridor
The ex-MILW 29th Street line has been made over into a trail, but has room alongside for a single-track transit line and passing sidings. I propose here a heritage railroad with an FRA-certified Edwards Railcar or similar doodlebug. Passenger service would go from US 169 in Hopkins to Lake Street in Minneapolis on existing Twin Cities & Western tracks, and from there to Hiawatha Avenue on new-build tracks. Those tracks also would provide a back door for the Twin Cities & Western to cross Hiawatha Avenue at grade (only at night, and only limited numbers of crossings) and connect with the Hiawatha Milling District and Minnesota Commercial directly. The passenger line would have frequent stops, and serve as a circulator along the Lake Street corridor.

Operator: either Metro Transit, or Twin Cities & Western Railroad under contract to Metro Transit

Equipment: diesel-powered doodlebugs and trailer coaches (see the Edwards site above for examples), or Budd RDCs
  by kaitoku
The former SP Vasona Branch, either light rail or DMU railcars Palo Alto to Los Gatos. I remember as a little kid seeing an SP freight cross El Camino Real right by the Mickey D's (this of course long after passenger service had ceased and the Foothill Expressway built), I guess serving a nearby lumber facility (?).

Frankly, fantasy lines, though fun, are ultimately depressing for me. Instead I chose to live where fantasy for some is the reality for me. Such is the life of a lifelong railfan.
  by fauxcelt
The single line track here in North Little Rock which runs to Camp Robinson parallel to Camp Robinson Road has finally been torn up and completely removed. I am not sure what they are planning to do now but I have heard rumors that it might be converted to a "rail-trail". So much for using it for a fantasy commuter rail line out to the north part of Pulaski County.

  by Crazy Texan Railfan
Oklahoma City:
I think Oklahoma City would really benefit from a light rail network connecting Downtown/Bricktown to the surrounding areas:

Initial Lines:
Will Rogers Airport Line:
*Connect downtown OKC/Bricktown to Will Rogers Int'l Airport

Tinker AFB Line:
*Connect downtown OKC/Bricktown to Tinker AFB and Midwest City, via the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC).

Edmond Line:
*Connect downtown OKC/Bricktown to Edmond via OUHSC and Nichols Hills.

Moore Line:
*Connect downtown OKC/Bricktown to Moore

Warr Acres/Bethany Line: *
Connect downtown OKC/Bricktown with Warr Acres & Bethany, with a stop at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany.

Further Developments (build these only after initial lines are well-established):
Moore to Norman extension:
*Extend the Moore Line down to Norman, with a terminal stop at the University of Oklahoma Campus (top priority).

Will Rogers to Moore Connector:
*Build a connecting line between Will Rogers Int'l Airport and the Norman Line at Moore.

Warr Acres/Bethany to Yukon Extension:
*Extend the Warr Acres/Bethany Line to Yukon.

Will Rogers to Mustang Extension:
*Extend the Will Rogers Line to Mustang.

It would probably make the most sense to first build the Will Rogers Line connecting Downtown OKC to Will Rogers Int'l Airport and the Tinker AFB Line. In fact, build that all as one line first.
Then build the line to Edmond, followed by the line to Moore, followed by the line to Warr Acres/Bethany. Then after those initial lines are established, work on extending the Moore line to Norman/University of Oklahoma.
After that, work on the other projects as demand and funding permits.

Hopefully the recently passed MAPS 3 initiative will help foster the planning and development of a future light rail system for the OKC metro. Probably won't see anything substantial in the way of planning and development for a light rail system for OKC for at least another 10-15 years.