SystemsConsciousness wrote:Structures of entities such as MN/LIRR/NJT/SEPTA/MBTA will eventually have to adapt to regional foci.
In a way, you could say they already have. Before there was Metro-North, there was the New York Central RR and the New York, New Haven and Hartford RR. Over the course of history, the NY Central's Hudson and Harlem Lines merged with the New Haven Line, eventually becoming what we know today as Metro-North. Such a merger makes sense. All three lines converge on Grand Central. All three lines run about the same distance out from Grand Central.
Beyond that, forget it. There's no way Metro-North, SEPTA, MBTA, etc. will ever form a "seamless web" stretching from Philadelphia to Boston. The folks running the trains on the MBTA in Boston shouldn't have to worry about what's going on in Philadelphia. They're hundreds of miles away from each other.
What are you expecting, one-seat service from Ronkonkoma alternating every half-hour to Poughkeepsie, Boston and Philadelphia? Ain't gonna happen, buster. Why would you want trains making local stops all the way from GCT to Rhode Island? There's a reason why very few New Haven Line trains make every single stop from GCT to New Haven. Look at train #1502, the very last northbound train on weeknights. It leaves GCT at 1:30am, and it arrives in New Haven at 3:40am. It takes more than two hours to travel only 73 miles. Even in the rare event traffic on I-95 is heavy that late at night, driving would still be faster than this train. You want the train to continue with local stops to Rhode Island? That's another 113 miles. Nobody wants to sit on a train for almost 5 hours each way, stopping at every single city and suburb along the way.
So what's next? Ahhh... express trains. Since sitting through nearly 5 hours of local stops from Rhode Island to New York isn't really going to attract any riders, why not skip some of the stops so the trains go faster? Maybe they can just make the bigger stops... like Providence, New London, New Haven, Stamford, and then right into New York City. It could be done with special high-speed trains that make the trip in just under 3 hours. Oh wait... that's what Amtrak's Acela already does!
The commuter railroads handle local service in their territories. Amtrak handles the regional/long-distance service. That's how it works now, and that's how it will continue to work. We'll probably see the polar ice caps melt enough to put Manhattan underwater before we ever see these commuter railroads unite under a common operation.
These discussions remind me of an old computer game called SimTower. From the outset, it looked like you were just building a skyscraper. But the real key to winning the game was in how you set up the elevators. If the "Sim People" couldn't get from the ground level to their destinations quickly, they would get upset and leave, resulting in your failure. In order to keep things moving fast, you had to provide local elevators (which stop at every floor) and express elevators (which only stop every 15 floors). The idea is to set them up so people take the express elevator to the nearest stop to their destination, then switch to the local. You could apply the same logic to Amtrak vs. your idea of regional commuter railroads. There's no reason for one train to make every local stop from NYP to Boston just so you can get a one-seat ride to Attleboro. Take Amtrak to Providence, then take MBTA to Attleboro. Yes, you have to change, but is it really that much of a hassle, especially considering you'll get there much quicker?