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Author Topic: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news  (Read 3060 times)

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Offline clvlndr

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2700 on: January 18, 2017, 02:58:26 PM »
Gonna miss ya, Uncle Joe. Thanks for your leadership in creating the largest federal capital improvement program for passenger rail in American history.

Several days ago, he tweeted:
Jan 20, Jill and I will head home to Delaware the same way I have for 44 years: by train. Serving this country has been our greatest honor.


Awesome photo.  It totally captures the down-to-earth nature of Joe Biden... I actually had the honor of shaking hands with him on an Amtrak train to D.C. back in the late 1980s while he was just returning to his duties in the Senate after his near-death aneurysm.  He was skinny as a rail, but had his textbook warmth and smile; he greeted everyone and, of course, we all were happy he had survived.  The fact Joe has suffered so many family tragedies he's shared publicly while, yet, keeping his same positive and friendly demeanor is a large part of what makes him special in my book.   

Offline KJP

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2701 on: January 19, 2017, 10:39:39 AM »
^^  Ok, that makes MUCH more sense; I must have misread the story. However, the article also said that the FRA is getting so much opposition to doing anything in CT that they are focusing on projects south of NYC.

The new high-speed alignment away from the historic, twisting, curving rail line just a few feet above the water along the coast is not an urgent issue. Much more urgent is to add two more Hudson River tunnels, rebuild the old ones, replace the Portal bridge, and all the other components of the $20 billion Gateway program between Newark and Manhattan. Also essential is a new tunnel alignment on the southwest side of Baltimore that bypasses the Civil War-era tunnels, replace the Susquehanna River bridge, ease some curves near Philadelphia (including the one at Frankford Jct that claimed a Northeast Regional train in May 2015), and of course the upgrades already funded that will allow train speeds to be increased from 135 mph to 160 mph in New Jersey and Maryland.

Of course, all of the little towns along the coast of Connecticut and Rhode Island from New Haven to east of Westerly don't want to see the main line moved away from them. But many of the Northeast Regional trains probably won't be rerouted out of those communities. The Acelas will be rerouted, but they don't stop in Westerly, Mystic, New London or Old Saybrook anyway. I suspect the political clout of New York City, Boston, Providence, New Haven, Stamford etc. will overcome the smaller coastal towns east of New Haven. And if they don't force the new alignment, rising sea levels along the coast will.

This is in New London. Not a high-speed alignment....


Much of the Northeast Corridor east of New Haven is only a few feet above the Long Island Sound, especially at river crossings (many have movable bridges -- a no-no on a high-speed rail line!) like this one at the Niantic River. At least the 105-year-old bascule bridge was finally replaced with a new, more reliable movable bridge in 2012 for $105 million...
« Last Edit: January 19, 2017, 10:42:28 AM by KJP »
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Offline clvlndr

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2702 on: January 19, 2017, 10:51:20 AM »
While riding the NEC this past December, I noticed Amtrak is slowly setting up catenary upgrades in central New Jersey.  Some new supports are in place.

Offline seicer

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2703 on: January 19, 2017, 11:56:56 AM »
Even still, the old alignment can be used for local service?

Offline Dougal

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2704 on: January 19, 2017, 03:46:23 PM »
Also essential is a new tunnel alignment on the southwest side of Baltimore that bypasses the Civil War-era tunnels,

Baltimore and the State of Maryland have just about agreed on a scheme to replace the old tunnel as well as a rework of the tracks northeast of Penn Station. It could begin as soon as this year.  The NE section of Baltimore is pretty scary looking (even by Cleveland standards) - not a great introduction to the city for passengers from arriving from the north. Unlike CT and RI folks, MD locals really WANT to do this, the sooner the better.

Offline KJP

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2705 on: January 19, 2017, 05:14:43 PM »
Even still, the old alignment can be used for local service?

Definitely. That includes the Northeast Regional Service as well as the growing Shore Line East commuter rail service that runs from Stamford, through New Haven to New London. Shore Line East already runs 36 trains each weekday and 20 trains on Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays. And, only one Acela round trip stops anywhere between New Haven and Providence, so they're not going to miss anything if/when those trains are rerouted onto a new, straighter, faster and more inland routing.
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Offline unusualfire

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2706 on: March 16, 2017, 05:27:48 PM »
Trump is cutting subsidies for long haul Amtrak routes.

Offline The Cincinnati Kid

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2707 on: March 16, 2017, 05:48:11 PM »
Trump is cutting subsidies for long haul Amtrak routes.

Just saw that service would end in Cincinnati.

Online StapHanger

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2708 on: March 16, 2017, 05:52:02 PM »
Trump is cutting subsidies for long haul Amtrak routes.

KJP and others probably know better, but I doubt those cuts get picked up in the actual budget. How likely is it that we even get a new budget, instead of just another CR?

Offline KJP

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2709 on: March 17, 2017, 10:36:03 AM »
Trump "wants" to cut federal operating subsidies for Amtrak. Congress will have the final say, as they have in the past when other presidents have proposed cutting or eliminating Amtrak. But if Trump is successful, cutting all federal operating subsidies means cutting the long-distance trains since all of the state-supported trains and Northeast Corridor trains get no operating subsidies. However.... Many of the state-supported and NEC trains depend on connecting revenue from the long-distance trains, which means they will require more state subsidies. Also more of the costs of the NEC, Chicago, Indianapolis, LA, Bay Area, Seattle servicing/maintenance facilities will fall solely on the short-distance trains, rather than be spread out among many more trains. For example, half of the costs of the Chicago hub are supported by revenues from the long-distance trains.

Amtrak also is in midst of taking delivery of $300 million worth of new railcars for its long-distance trains in the east, including for two Ohio routes. And while boardings at Ohio stations are small because we have only five daily trains that pass through our state in the middle of the night, those five trains carry the equivalent of 15 fully loaded 737 jets every day. It should also be noted that boardings at Ohio stations have grown since 2000 by up to 75 percent, especially at stations across the northern part of the state.

Lastly, if you want better rail service, it is easier to add service to an existing route, namely over part of a long-distance route. You don't have to build new stations or add a crew base and servicing facility at one end, or completely build a market from scratch, or bear the entire costs of a new service on that service. Many routes like Chicago-St. Louis, Chicago-Milwaukee, Chicago-Quincy, Chicago-Carbondale, Chicago-Indianapolis, Chicago-Milwaukee, Washington DC-Richmond/Newport News/Norfolk, Charlotte-Raleigh/New York, Los Angeles-Santa Barbara, Sacramento-Oakland-San Jose, Eugene-Portland-Seattle/Vancouver, and probably others I'm forgetting were all built on the foundations set by long-distance trains.

If Ohio wants more convenient service to places like Chicago, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Toronto, New York, etc. then building them on the foundation of the long-distance trains is much easier than building them where no service exists. Once you lose a train, it's damn near impossible to get one back.
America will never be destroyed from the outside. -- Abraham Lincoln.

Offline clvlndr

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2710 on: March 17, 2017, 11:05:33 AM »
^I'm sure people reading this stuff have heard this a thousand times since Nov. 8th, but it's worth noting again... elections have consequences!  If people are passionate about Amtrak and want to save it, they really need to EDUCATE friends and family (and others) about these issues in depth, and target which pol really is going to help ... and which is going to hurt.  I feel that too many people who know better didn't take this election seriously and allow people to perpetuate fallacies like 'voting doesn't matter' and 'both parties are corrupt/the same' and blah-blah-blah... Tell that to Cincinnati folks when Amtrak pulls up its rails there...

As we know, passenger train travel was thin enough in America and should be expanded not shrunk.  But we have to realize that the resistance to Amtrak, and mass transit for that matter, his little to nothing to do with fiscal responsibility as it does to socio/racial politics pushed by republicans... As we see today, Amtrak is just one of the people-centered government programs republicans are pushing... And once again, let's not just focus on Trump.  It's easy to focus our aggressions on him because he's a circus sideshow.  But the fact is he's just an example of republicanism run amok.  They are hiding behind Trump to do their dirty work.  Pence, Ryan, McConnell, ... even smiling John Kasich... Let's not pretend these guys are saints just because they're not Donald Trump.

Offline mrniles

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2711 on: March 18, 2017, 01:07:17 PM »
^I'm sure people reading this stuff have heard this a thousand times since Nov. 8th, but it's worth noting again... elections have consequences!  If people are passionate about Amtrak and want to save it, they really need to EDUCATE friends and family (and others) about these issues in depth, and target which pol really is going to help ... and which is going to hurt.  I feel that too many people who know better didn't take this election seriously and allow people to perpetuate fallacies like 'voting doesn't matter' and 'both parties are corrupt/the same' and blah-blah-blah... Tell that to Cincinnati folks when Amtrak pulls up its rails there...

As we know, passenger train travel was thin enough in America and should be expanded not shrunk.  But we have to realize that the resistance to Amtrak, and mass transit for that matter, his little to nothing to do with fiscal responsibility as it does to socio/racial politics pushed by republicans... As we see today, Amtrak is just one of the people-centered government programs republicans are pushing... And once again, let's not just focus on Trump.  It's easy to focus our aggressions on him because he's a circus sideshow.  But the fact is he's just an example of republicanism run amok.  They are hiding behind Trump to do their dirty work.  Pence, Ryan, McConnell, ... even smiling John Kasich... Let's not pretend these guys are saints just because they're not Donald Trump.
Of course you are correct. I am felling nothing but negatives. :-(
 

Offline clvlndr

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2712 on: March 19, 2017, 10:57:27 AM »
^If people are really passionate about Amtrak, at the very least maintaining what little we already have, they need to organize at the grass-roots level and pressure their elected representative.  But I just don't sense the rail lobby is that organized or passionate.  Passenger rail, as an issue before the electorate is practically invisible in this country.  The highway lobby and the airlines, pushed by Detroit and Big Oil, dominate.  The only region where Amtrak holds sway is, surprise!, the Northeast where, until Jan. 20, you even had the Vice President of the United States regularly riding the train to commute to his home district in Delaware.  California is moving on their own high-speed rail initiative, but it remains to be seen whether they can defeat the powerful, well financed conservative anti-rail hit men/women.

... There is some good news: at least mass transit at the local level has been catching fire in many cities, particularly in the West, South and Southwest (the so-called Sun Belt), even while transit remains a non-starter in more backward regions like Ohio.

Offline Mendo

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2713 on: March 19, 2017, 11:11:09 AM »
... There is some good news: at least mass transit at the local level has been catching fire in many cities, particularly in the West, South and Southwest (the so-called Sun Belt), even while transit remains a non-starter in more backward regions like Ohio.

Local transit projects have their own issues to deal with, like the TIGER grants program getting canned in this same budget proposal.

Offline clvlndr

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2714 on: March 19, 2017, 11:17:51 AM »
... There is some good news: at least mass transit at the local level has been catching fire in many cities, particularly in the West, South and Southwest (the so-called Sun Belt), even while transit remains a non-starter in more backward regions like Ohio.

Local transit projects have their own issues to deal with, like the TIGER grants program getting canned in this same budget proposal.

While I question the future of the TIGER grants, the good news is that Trump's budget proposal appears to be DOA.

Offline KJP

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2715 on: March 19, 2017, 12:14:51 PM »

Local transit projects have their own issues to deal with, like the TIGER grants program getting canned in this same budget proposal.

Or, even worse, the termination of the much larger New Starts funding.
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Offline Dougal

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2716 on: March 19, 2017, 01:04:27 PM »
Rosy scenario case: Trump has specifically mentioned railways in his infrastructure spending  comments.  If all the Feds ddo going forward is underwrite some of the massive tunnel and bypass problems, that would constitute a "huge" contribution. Existing and ad-hoc reactionary state-level support could keep a lot of the long distance trains running at a fairly modest additive cost per state.

Transportation has been subsidized by every government that we know of since Cyrus the Great. It will continue in some form or other.

Offline KJP

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2717 on: March 19, 2017, 05:10:56 PM »
Rosy scenario case: Trump has specifically mentioned railways in his infrastructure spending  comments.  If all the Feds ddo going forward is underwrite some of the massive tunnel and bypass problems, that would constitute a "huge" contribution. Existing and ad-hoc reactionary state-level support could keep a lot of the long distance trains running at a fairly modest additive cost per state.

Transportation has been subsidized by every government that we know of since Cyrus the Great. It will continue in some form or other.

Only if it is paved and traveled upon by rubber tires.

And the cost attributed to running the long-distance trains is very high. The Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland-New York/Boston "Lake Shore Limited" carries nearly 400,000 riders per year but costs $30 million more than the revenues generated by the train. That cost includes substantial overhead, terminal costs, general support, etc. How substantial? If the Lake Shore Limited stopped running, it would save Amtrak only $1.6 million per year. The remaining $28.4 million cost would fall on to the remaining state-supported trains and Northeast Corridor trains, making them less financially viable. And that doesn't include the substantial connecting revenue made possible by this and other long-distance trains. That all goes away too.

Consider ("direct costs" are those that are incurred "above the rail" and solely attributable to that train):
Long-distance trains direct-cost losses-FY2012 by Ken Prendergast, on Flickr

Note that Amtrak covers 94 percent of its costs from revenues compared to 88 percent for federal aviation (per FAA) and 78 percent for federal highways (per FHWA).

And if we are tempted to blast Amtrak for running money-losing trains, consider how Amtrak compares to regional commuter railroads (trains on regular railroad tracks, often shared with freight trains) that some consider "good" and Amtrak "bad." This chart is from 2009 when Amtrak covered only 80 percent of its costs from revenues. Today it covers 94 percent:
Amtrak cost recovery vs regional rail by Ken Prendergast, on Flickr
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Offline Dougal

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2718 on: March 20, 2017, 12:06:27 PM »
And the cost attributed to running the long-distance trains is very high. The Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland-New York/Boston "Lake Shore Limited" carries nearly 400,000 riders per year but costs $30 million more than the revenues generated by the train. That cost includes substantial overhead, terminal costs, general support, etc. How substantial? If the Lake Shore Limited stopped running, it would save Amtrak only $1.6 million per year. The remaining $28.4 million cost would fall on to the remaining state-supported trains and Northeast Corridor trains, making them less financially viable. And that doesn't include the substantial connecting revenue made possible by this and other long-distance trains. That all goes away too.

This says to me that Amtrak is misapplying the non-operating cost burden, perhaps deliberately (creatively?) as an encouragement to state subsidies. I'm much more familiar with airline indirect cost application, but I know you can play those costs like a violin. I'm assuming there's flexibility in RR accounting also.

What's really disappointing to me is Amtrak's failure to schedule more trains that would benefit travelers in the middle of their routes, the Toledo-Buffalo passenger, for example. I've read articles that say Amtrak would lose more money per passenger by adding service to a route - and never understood the rationale. At the same time, I have to say I was amazed by how many people riding the Cardinal were traveling from NY and DC all the way to Chicago; maybe there are no Cincinnati-Charleston passengers.
 

Online jmecklenborg

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2719 on: March 20, 2017, 02:44:56 PM »
The cardinal service is completely oriented around serving West Virginia, since it travels through the state during daylight hours.  Cincinnati has a higher population than the entire state of WV, but the train comes through in each direction around 2am.  If there were two Cardinals per day with one traveling through Cincinnati (and Indianapolis) during the middle of the day, ridership would be very high. 

Offline seicer

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2720 on: March 20, 2017, 02:54:26 PM »
The champion of that is the late Robert C. Byrd (D-WV).

Offline KJP

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2721 on: March 20, 2017, 06:47:12 PM »
This says to me that Amtrak is misapplying the non-operating cost burden, perhaps deliberately (creatively?) as an encouragement to state subsidies. I'm much more familiar with airline indirect cost application, but I know you can play those costs like a violin. I'm assuming there's flexibility in RR accounting also.

There's been allegations of that for a long time. I remember hearing it when I first got involved in passenger rail advocacy (late 1980s).

Quote
What's really disappointing to me is Amtrak's failure to schedule more trains that would benefit travelers in the middle of their routes, the Toledo-Buffalo passenger, for example. I've read articles that say Amtrak would lose more money per passenger by adding service to a route - and never understood the rationale. At the same time, I have to say I was amazed by how many people riding the Cardinal were traveling from NY and DC all the way to Chicago; maybe there are no Cincinnati-Charleston passengers.

Depends on the route. One of the reasons why the NYC-Florida route does well financially is because it hosts multiple trains per day -- Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Auto Train, Palmetto (north of Savannah), Carolinian (north of Raleigh) and many more trains north of Richmond. These trains carry more than 1 million people per year. But why is their financial performance so much better than the Empire Builder or California Zephyr each of which carry about 500,000 riders per year? Because there's only one daily round trip over most of the route of the Builder and Zephyr.

The Lake Shore Limited does very well financially for two reasons. First, it shares half of its route with 4-11 daily round trips east of Buffalo and south of Albany. It also shares the western 341 miles from Cleveland to Chicago with the Capitol Limited, but they would probably do better if these trains were operated on more differentiated schedules. Second, the Lake Shore has a great deal of passenger turnover along its route. Only 10 percent of its 400,000 riders per year travel the entire route, from New York City or Boston to Chicago (or the opposite way). On routes with little passenger turnover, a short-distance passenger leaves that seat empty for most of the train's journey (and potentially blocks a higher-revenue longer-distance passenger from booking a trip). On a high-turnover route like the Lake Shore, the seat never gets cold and thus keeps producing revenue whether it's a short- or long-distance passenger occupying it.

BTW, if I was king of Amtrak, I would limit its responsibility to operating a basic train service (locomotive, coach cars with food cart) and rent out the last coupler to a food service provider wishing to offer made-to-order meals and lounge/beverage service as well as to hospitality companies and others wishing to offer sleeping car services. I would also enter into a revenue-sharing and marketing partnership with the freight railroads to provide high-priority mail/express shipments. In other words, I would do what the railroads did when passenger rail service was successful, albeit with Amtrak's better technologies, less onerous work rules, and more public ownership of rail stations.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2017, 06:50:53 PM by KJP »
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Online Cleburger

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2722 on: March 21, 2017, 02:57:50 AM »

Offline westerninterloper

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2723 on: March 21, 2017, 07:13:50 PM »
Quoting KJP:
Depends on the route. One of the reasons why the NYC-Florida route does well financially is because it hosts multiple trains per day -- Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Auto Train, Palmetto (north of Savannah), Carolinian (north of Raleigh) and many more trains north of Richmond. These trains carry more than 1 million people per year. But why is their financial performance so much better than the Empire Builder or California Zephyr each of which carry about 500,000 riders per year? Because there's only one daily round trip over most of the route of the Builder and Zephyr.


This makes me daydream about regular train service in Ohio. I live near Toledo, which by the standard of any other country as wealthy as the US, should have regular train service NESW of town. I imagined hourly express service from Toledo to Chicago, with quick stops in Angola, Mishawaka, South Bend, and Gary...that basic frequency to nearby cities would so quickly rejuvenate the centers of each of them - imagine hundreds and hundreds of people *without cars* arriving and departing each hour from Toledo. Ugh, one can daydream.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2017, 07:14:50 PM by westerninterloper »

Offline mrnyc

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2724 on: March 30, 2017, 10:59:26 AM »
the beautiful hell gate bridge celebrates it 100th anniversary this week. it certainly could be better utilized, it only carries 40 amtrak runs and a few freight runs daily. anyway, sydney sends it regards.

more:
http://www.amny.com/news/hell-gate-bridge-an-astoria-icon-turns-100-years-old-1.13324799



Offline KJP

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2725 on: March 30, 2017, 11:03:12 AM »
It probably will, with expanded MetroNorth New Haven Line train service coming to Penn Station -- unless federal funds for rail projects get axed by Trump/Heritage Foundation adherents.
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Offline mrnyc

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2726 on: March 30, 2017, 11:15:33 AM »
^ i believe that work is supposed to start as soon as east side access is completed. or was? yeah funding seems up in the air these days.

Offline clvlndr

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2727 on: March 30, 2017, 11:32:34 AM »
You know, mrnyc, I never noticed the similarity of Hell Gate to Sydney's Harbour (aka "the Coat Hanger") Bridge, but there is one.  The Hell Gate is certainly a majestic bridge, but it's kind of off to the side away from Manhattan and largely in a semi industrial-type area -- I'll bet most people, even New Yorkers, don't pay attention to it and certainly don't know its name (like we transit geeks) whereas the Coat Hanger sweeps into Sydney's dramatic downtown next to the clam-shell Opera House -- plus it carries auto and ped traffic, too, unlike the Hell Gate ...

If I'm not mistaken, MTA-MetroNorth (New Haven) currently runs Giants/Jets non-stop specials into Secaucus for the Meadowlands connection.  btw, aren't there currently only 2 active tracks across the Hell Gate?  Is there room for 4 and are they planning to add tracks once MetroNorth

Offline KJP

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2728 on: March 30, 2017, 01:10:14 PM »
Three tracks across Hell Gate: two passenger and one freight.
America will never be destroyed from the outside. -- Abraham Lincoln.

Offline unusualfire

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Re: Amtrak & Federal passenger rail news
« Reply #2729 on: April 08, 2017, 10:02:04 AM »
Why do trains cost so much? Here is your answer.