Northeast Corridor: Dealing With Capacity

To build high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor cheaply, intercity trains will have to share tracks with regional trains at several locations, which between them comprise a majority of the corridor. At most of these, commuter traffic is heavy enough that it must be accommodated in some way; only in a minority is it so insignificant that Amtrak can feasibly kick trains out if need be. So far I’ve only explained how track-sharing can be done between Boston and Providence and between New York and New Rochelle, both far from the busiest segments of the corridor.

I’d like to start tackling the more difficult segments, New York-Trenton and New Rochelle-Stamford. Thankfully, they are almost fully four-tracked; the one exception is the North River Tunnels and the immediate approaches, where there is little speed difference between intercity and regional trains. Unfortunately, even four tracks are not enough to provide full separation between services that do not run at the same speed, because those corridors are busy enough to warrant both local and express commuter service. This requires some scheduling creativity. In both cases, what is required is having express commuter trains weave between the local tracks and the intercity tracks.

As before, my explicit assumptions are that the rolling stock is optimized, and that speed limits except those coming from right-of-way geometry have already been eliminated. However, since unlike the MBTA, Metro-North runs good rolling stock, and New Jersey Transit runs passable rolling stock, we can’t realistically expect either to buy the most powerful regional trains on the market; that said, New Jersey Transit is looking into new trains, and we will assume those trains will be in line with the high-performance but heavy Silverliner Vs. What we can expect is better on-time performance and less schedule padding. The amount of commuter traffic is assumed to be similar to or slightly higher than today; the outer ends of both lines can be expected to lose traffic from commuter to intercity trains, but the rest will not.

Complicating all this is the requirement of making all the trains cohere into one line. In other words, unlike the situation for Boston-Providence, Newark-Trenton can’t stand on its own; the trains need to depart Newark with suitable gaps to allow trains to come in from the Kearny Connection. Likewise, New Rochelle-New Haven needs to feed into New Rochelle-New York in such a way that trains can share tracks on that segment. The most difficult portion is then combining the two commuter halves of the Northeast Corridor together to allow through-running, without holding commuter trains for too long at Penn Station. One possibility is to expand the entire route between the tunnels and Newark to a long overtake segment, and have all commuter trains stop at Secaucus to further slow them down and permit intercity trains that arrived at New York second to arrive at Newark first.


Current peak traffic on New Jersey Transit’s Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast lines is 13 trains per hour. Of those, only 2 make local stops from Rahway north, and both are North Jersey Coast trains. An additional 2 trains are express North Jersey Coast trains, leaving us with 9 trains at Metropark (3 stopping from New Brunswick, 3 more stopping from Jersey Avenue, 3 super-express from Trenton).

The introduction of high-speed trains would change the distribution of demand dramatically. From Trenton, HSR would be far faster. Even from Princeton Junction, it would be substantially faster to take a commuter train south to Trenton and connect to HSR to New York. For passengers desiring a one-seat ride, trains could continue to run, but make more stops along the way. We may suppose that no commuter train will skip any stop from Metropark south, and that an additional 2 trains that currently run express to New Brunswick or Jersey Avenue will run local, providing the Rahway-Newark segment with a peak local traffic of 4 tph.

The desired ideal is that all commuter trains will stay away from the inner two tracks, with brief forays when absolutely necessary. The above rule regarding local runs ensures no overtakes among the commuter trains take place south of Rahway. We are then left with the task of ensuring all overtakes north of Rahway make use of the two existing six-track segments, around Newark Airport, and from just south of the Elizabeth curve to Union Interlocking between the mainline and the North Jersey Coast Line, the latter segment including Linden and Rahway.

Because the southern six-track segment persists through the interlocking, it provides a fully separated route between local coast trains and express mainline trains, and also between local mainline trains and express coast trains southbound. Slightly modifying the interlocking to allow a separated northbound path between local mainline and express coast trains that does not use the inner two tracks may be required.

Now, a Silverliner V running at 160 km/h appears to lose about 90 seconds to a high-platform stop. For the record, a FLIRT would lose 75 seconds. Since there are five local stops north of the interlocking, we have to deal with 7.5 minutes. With 2-minute headways, this means local trains can depart Newark 9.5 technical minutes ahead of express trains on the same branch (mainline or coast), and 6.5 ahead of express trains on the opposite branch. Since 11/9.5 = 1.16 and a 16% pad is excessive, 11 scheduled minutes of separation are enough, and we obtain the following option for departure times out of Newark:

Express :00
Express :02
Express :04
Local :06
Express :15
Express :17

Each local must serve a different branch from the express immediately following, since 9 < 9.5. The express afterward – for example the :17 express after the :06 local – is separated by 11 minutes, and so can run on any branch. This allows 16 tph, of which 4 are local, and at least 4 have to run on the New Jersey Coast Line. Of course not every slot has to have a train scheduled in it.

Adding local frequency at the expense of express frequency is possible, but requires tightening the gap between a local train and the express that follows it, unless we allow inconveniences such as serving the local stations at highly irregular intervals. For example, 10-minute local headways allow trains to depart Newark at,

Express :00
Local :02
Express :10
Local :12

The 8-minute difference means each express must serve a different destination from the preceding local, and this underserves the mainline at only 6 tph. We can add stops to the express trains (or saddle them with inferior, locomotive-hauled rolling stock), but two stops are required, unless New Jersey Transit makes sure to get cutting-edge trains, which is unlikely; with FLIRTs, the time difference shrinks from 7.5 minutes to 6.25 and only one stop is required. In either case, we might as well squeeze an :x8 express, also serving a different destination from the local ahead of it.

Another option is to use the Linden-Rahway segment for overtakes. Trains lose 3 minutes there. If we add an infill stop, they lose 4.5, which is very close to the 4 minutes required to switch the order of two trains. This means express trains need to approach Linden 2-2.5 minutes behind the locals, and thus leave Newark 7 minutes behind. We obtain,

Local :00
Express :07
Express :09 (different destination from the :00 local)

(12-minute clockface pattern)

Since 12-minute schedules are generally awkward and my New York-New Rochelle proposal uses 10- (below) or 15-minute schedules (in the original link), we should add a Newark Airport or Elizabeth stop to the express trains, and then they leave Newark about 5-5.5 minutes behind the locals, and we can have a 7.5-minute pattern, which divides 15 evenly. Alternatively, we can add the stop and then have a 10-minute pattern again. We either get 6 local and 12 express slots with each express serving a different destination from the local behind it, or 8 local and 8 express slots, and there is no restriction on destination:

Local :00
Express :05
Express :07
Local :10
Express :15
Express :17


Local :00
Express :05
Local :07
Express :13
Local :15
Express :20

Note that nowhere here does HSR share tracks with anything except maybe in the Newark Penn Station throat, under any of the options. Thus, any discussion of HSR speed zones is irrelevant, except perhaps at the final stage when some tweaks to the basic schedule are under consideration.

New Rochelle-Stamford

Like Newark-Trenton, this is a four-track segment. However, commuter traffic here is heavier, and there are no six-track segments. Instead, overtakes between express commuter trains and intercity trains must be done on bypass segments. The one that we will consider is, as I outlined before, a route from just south of Rye to between Greenwich and Cos Cob, following the I-95 right-of-way.

No HSR on the New Haven Line should be considered with New Rochelle as it is. The flat junction and S-curve together severely constrain train speed and capacity. Since the junction has to be grade-separated, and some takings are required, we might as well assume the separation allows trains to proceed without crossing opposing traffic no matter where they go. Furthermore, the station should be six-tracked if necessary.

We will also assume the curve has been partially eased, to a radius of 700 meters with appropriate superelevation spirals, permitting our example 375-mm-equivalent-cant trains 150 km/h. We will also assume that Harrison has been partially eased to 1,500 meters, permitting 220; that the curve toward the bypass around Rye is 1,500 meters, which may be slightly too optimistic but not by more than a few seconds of travel time; and that the curves farther north until the Stamford approach are 2,000, permitting 250. The approach to Stamford consists of two curves forming a wide S, the western one at 1,000 (180 km/h) and the eastern one at 800 (160). Note that these upgrades allow express commuter trains to travel at 160 on the shared segments – indeed, they require it to avoid or at least limit cant excess. Local trains have more limited cant because of the needs of freight.

We will assume the number of trains is about the same, with capacity boosted with longer trains; where New Jersey Transit runs 12-car trains because of limited capacity across the Hudson, Metro-North tends to run 8-car trains. Unlike in New Jersey’s case, there’s little point then in programming more slots for trains.

Let us now consider Easy Mode, with all Metro-North trains using the existing route to Grand Central. We have two track-sharing segments, one between New Rochelle and Rye, and one between Greenwich and Stamford. The first segment is 12 km long and has 3 stations with 2 more at the ends; the second is 8 km long and has 3 stations as well, with just 1 more at one end.

On the first segment, there are 18 Metro-North tph peak today: 12 not stopping at all, 2 stopping only at Harrison, and 4 local. Now if the express trains share tracks with HSR rather than the locals, we will want to schedule trains HSR-express-express repeating every 10 minutes, or HSR-express-express-express repeating every 15; the former allows more versatile HSR slots (local and express), and the 15-minute assumption of New York-New Rochelle has no relevance in Easy Mode.

Current scheduled time between Rye and New Rochelle is 17 minutes for local trains; judging by both rolling stock capability and the local-express schedule difference, nonstop trains take about 10 minutes, and trains stopping at Rye but not New Rochelle take 12. Sped up to 160 km/h, with 7% schedule padding, nonstop trains would take about 6 minutes. HSR would take 3:35, again padded 7%. This means that, with 2-minute headways in both directions (fast-ahead-of-slow, and slow-ahead-of-fast), and 6-minute express commuter trains, we can have (northbound times from New Rochelle, HSR passing and commuter trains passing or stopping):

HSR :00
Express :02
Express :04
HSR :10

This is because by Rye, the :10 HSR is still 3.5 minutes behind the :04 express Metro-North train.

Alternatively, it’s possible but very tight to have an express-express-local schedule, assuming commuter trains are not sped up but the stop penalty is reduced to 80 seconds (so, 4 minutes for 3 stops), which is feasible at the speeds of the line:

Express :00
Express :02
Local :04
Express :10

This requires express trains to weave effortlessly to tracks 2 and 5 of a 6-track New Rochelle station, or to stop at New Rochelle.

A mixed schedule, with half the express trains sharing track with HSR and half with the local trains, is also feasible, but is essentially like drinking half coffee and half tea: while the 8-minute local-express gap on the local tracks is fine as it is, the gap on the HSR tracks requires speeding up the express trains anyway.

Note that if the all express trains share tracks with HSR, it is trivial to add local service, or to replace express trains with locals.

The other segment is easier, because it is shorter and lower-traffic, with only 13 tph (3 local, the rest express). HSR would take 2:24 with pad; express commuter trains take 7 today and could take 3:24 with a speed-up. The speed-up would be very significant here as this is a slow segment today, with the movable Cos Cob Bridge restricting speeds. The present speed difference is already almost small enough to allow HSR-express-express, as above; we need to cut another 36 seconds from the express travel time, which we can do with improved reliability reducing padding (the pad I’ve observed between Stamford and Grand Central is 10 minutes). Local-express-express would be 7 vs. 12 minutes, and if locals could consistently take just 11 minutes, as some already do, or if expresses could easily weave to the express tracks just north of Greenwich after HSR trains diverge to the bypass, then it would be feasible.

To finish Easy Mode, let us reconcile the two segments, which after all are populated by the same trains. If we have HSR-express-express on both segments and use the bypass as an overtake, we need to ensure that a commuter train that was 2 minutes ahead of HSR before is now 4 minutes behind after: 4, and not 2, because each HSR train overtakes 2 express trains. Losing 6 minutes is difficult, as the current local travel time between Greenwich and Rye is just 7 minutes. But with approaches this is a bit more than 8 minutes, and HSR would do the segment in 2:08, padded. This has the only drawback of awkwardly making express trains make stops at Greenwich (understandable given traffic), Port Chester, and Rye.

As an alternative, we can also do local-express-express on one segment and HSR-express-express on the other. Since the HSR-express-express schedule is tighter on the southern segment, the southern segment should have local-express-express. This only requires us to avoid having trains run a mixture of local and express too much: as two of the Greenwich-Stamford locals run express south of Greenwich and three of the Harrison-New Rochelle locals only run as far north as Harrison, we can simply combine those to create more locals going all the way from Stamford to Grand Central.

Now, let us move on to Hard Mode, which includes New Rochelle-New York. A consistent 15-minute schedule does not look possible to me on New Rochelle-Stamford without reducing peak commuter traffic to 16 tph, for example by lengthening trains and platforms. If that were done, 8 tph local on the local tracks with 4 turning at or south of Greenwich, and 8 tph express in HSR-express-express pattern on the southern shared segment, would be feasible.

So let us consider 10-minute schedules. HSR and express trains run at almost the same speed, since there are few areas south of New Rochelle on which even 200 km/h is at all feasible. The difference between HSR and express 145 km/h M8s (stopping at New Rochelle and Sunnyside), as already investigated in my original post on the subject, is 3:15 without pad, and 3:29 with. This means the express needs to leave New Rochelle up to 4.5 minutes after the HSR train, so that it will arrive at Sunnyside 8 minutes after, and 2 ahead of the next HSR. With a 9-minute time difference between HSR and the express trains from Greenwich to New Rochelle, this requires the express to be at least 4.5 minutes ahead of HSR at Greenwich, which with very minor speed-up is possible. What this means is that with mixed HSR-express-express and local-express-express as in Easy Mode, the first express after each HSR will go to Penn Station and the second one will go to Grand Central.

The question then is what to do with local trains. If they only go as far north as Co-op City, then it’s easy; with the exception of Hell Gate Bridge, the tracks in the Bronx would have to be four-tracked anyway to allow some overtake, and since there’s room, there’s not much traffic now, and this represents an expansion of Metro-North service, we can safely assume four-tracking. In that case local trains, making no stops in Queens except Sunnyside, would run at the same speed as the express trains on the two-track segment south of Hunts Point, and could be scheduled anywhere. An Astoria stop would require them to be scheduled immediately after the HSR and express trains southbound, which is feasible as near Sunnyside those would be close together already, with the express just ahead of HSR.

Of course, as this is Hard Mode, we cannot assume the local trains turn at Co-op City. Instead, we will make them turn at New Rochelle, or ideally run through farther north as locals. Now, southbound HSR trains, we have established, pass New Rochelle at :00, express trains leave at :04:30 and :06:30, and local trains leave at :02:30. This means we should extend four-tracking at Co-op City such that the local goes at the exact same speed as the express, which does stop at New Rochelle, until after it diverges to the local tracks at Co-op City; alternatively, if there is room in the schedule, we can have the local trains leave at :02 and then there is enough room.

Rearrangement of trains heading toward Hell Gate should be considered a trivial problem: if locals are too far ahead, or too far behind, the number of stops could be adjusted, or they could be held at the Bronx stations longer. Because the time difference between a local and an HSR in the Bronx and Queens combined is just under 10 minutes, the first option would require an extra stop or two or longer dwell times, making the local lose a full 10-minute headway and thus come immediately after the next HSR. By then the express has shifted back to about :07-:08 and so it’s not a threat even if the local does make an Astoria stop.


None of this is elegant. The schedules don’t necessarily match. Local HSR trains would add extra complications, though at least they’d reduce the speed difference with commuter trains in Metro-North territory. All agencies involved need to be on the same page. Through-running would involve a multi-overtake schedule, in which the most local trains get overtaken several times, by different classes of trains (HSR and express). Punctuality doesn’t have to be Japanese, but it needs to be Swiss, or else the entire edifice collapses.

And it’s still far cheaper than trying to overbuild everything to prevent this mess. The only commuter trains sharing track with HSR in this region are Metro-North, and those are fairly punctual, though this involves heavy padding. The rolling stock assumed is already in operation or in the procurement stage. The track repairs required are straightforward, and the curve modifications required, while annoying, are not the end of the world; the one greenfield bypass follows an existing Interstate, and the takings required, while nonzero, are low.

The travel time implied for this is a little more than 17 minutes from Newark to Trenton, for an intercity train stopping only at Newark (though this requires a top speed of 360 km/h causing severe noise impact in New Brunswick and Trenton), a little more than 8 between New Rochelle and Stamford, and just less than 10 between Sunnyside and New Rochelle. Depending on how much speed can be squeezed out of narrow tunnels and a new Portal Bridge, about 11 minutes Sunnyside-Newark, including New York and Newark dwell times, could be done; this is about 46 minutes Stamford-Trenton, a segment that Amtrak currently does in 1:45 excluding the long New York dwell time. And the amount of concrete pouring required is quite small for an hour’s worth of travel time reduction. Even a top speed that’s less noisy and ambitious, and lower speeds through the existing tunnels, do not raise this travel time far above 50 minutes.

Great things are possible if we first look at what is feasible, and then demand that agencies cooperate to achieve it, instead of program everything around public transportation agencies that act like rival gangs. If everything is optimized right, travel times not much higher than those Amtrak is targeting become possible, for a small fraction of the price, and capacity constraints can be kicked down the road to when passenger rail makes enough money to pay to relieve them. Organization, electronics, and small, strategic concrete pouring can go a long way. The choice is not between HSR for a twelve-figure sum and small improvements for an eleven-figure sum; it’s between low-cost HSR and agency turf battles.


  1. cvparker

    Overall I think this is a great idea, but I’d like to point out that Princeton Junction sees pretty heavy commuter traffic to Newark and New York (probably too much to be taken up by HSR), and based on NJ Transit timetables it would appear to add about 10 minutes to the travel time if you remove express service south of Rahway. Is this just a cost that has to be born?

    • Alon Levy

      Initially, yes, it’s the cost of this.

      But it may well be possible to allow some stop-skipping south of Rahway anyway. For example: say the schedule repeats every 15 minutes and goes express-express-express-local. The first express can skip stops. The local ahead goes to the other branch. So the train that it would catch is the next express, which is 11 minutes ahead of it at Rahway. This means you can skip about 5 stops. This only gives you about 2 slots assuming you have 2 mainline locals, but since there are 3 super-express tph today, it’s not that big a deal to cut from 3 to 2.

    • Richard Mlynarik

      Alon isn’t suggesting anything that competent rail operators don’t do hundreds of times a day every single day of the year.

      Moreover, the $100 billion or so left over by thinking instead of just building stupid things can buy a lot of reliability. A lot. Mass quantities of hugely under-utilized concrete are a testament to failures of maintenance and failures of organization, not to foresight against rare operational breakdowns. Everything has a price; good engineering takes those prices and prioritizes.

      If you’re proposing to spend tens of hundreds of billions of dollars, there are very skilled (non-American!!!!) professionals who can tell you whether you’re spending on appropriate things in the right places.
      Give a call if you’d like a nice analysis done on your behalf.

    • Nathanael

      The next extension is to figure out exactly what in the corporate cultures of NJT / LIRR / Metro-North / SEPTA / MBTA / Amtrak is impeding coordinated planning, and how to change the culture.

      By all accounts LIRR is the worst and the worst by a *very large* margin. But it has only a small overlap. Perhaps we can just allow LIRR to be dealt with by concrete-pouring.

      Metro-North seems to have an open hostility to increased maximum speeds; what else is going on in the Metro-North mindset which needs to be fixed?

      As for NJT / Amtrak coordination, that one seems odd; in many ways they work together fairly well, and I’m not sure what’s been causing the disruptions.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Increased maximum speeds means going to a higher track class. It’s why trains run at 90 in New York but not in Connecticut, CT isn’t willing to spend the money. The disruptions on NJTransit are mostly from creaky temperamental signals and even creakier temperamental power supplies.

        • anonymouse

          It’s a matter of priorities: Metro North and CDOT had to do a lot of work on a line that had been owned by a company that had been either bankrupt or about to be bankrupt for the past half century. By the time MN got control of the New Haven Line, there were all sorts of things that were past the end of their lifespans and needed to be replaced, starting with the power plant, and a full resignalling due to the change in traction power frequency that entailed. After that, there was still the track and the catenary to do, with the latter being a long and time-consuming project that is still underway, and of course they had to spend money to get new rolling stock too. And all of these things are necessary for MNR to provide basic and reliable commuter service. Why should they spend money on things that benefit Amtrak without benefiting MNR? Remember, speed increases won’t generally help MNR trains, especially not north of Stamford where most trains are locals anyway, but faster Amtrak trains are that much harder to fit into the timetable.
          I suspect that when it comes to doing things that help their own service, MNR would be a bit more eager. This includes the Shell interlocking improvements, and I suspect will include any bridge replacement projects for the moveable bridges.

          • Adirondacker12800

            New York inherited the same infrastructure Connecticut inherited. New York spends the money to maintain track that’s good for 90 MPH, Connecticut doesn’t.

      • Alon Levy

        Amtrak has enough things that Metro-North wants, and vice versa, that either railroad can break the ice if it wants. Amtrak can offer Metro-North funding for raising movable bridges, service to Penn Station, and upgrading track standards. It can also run more punctually if it cares to; Metro-North is the more punctual of the two, and part of its dispatching problem is that Amtrak shows up whenever it wants, which is especially egregious considering how westbound it’s coming from low-traffic track that it owns and eastbound it’s coming from a train station with 15 minutes of dwell time.

        • Nathanael

          OK, sounds like a plan. I think it’s worth finding out the actual sources of the Amtrak delays entering and exiting Metro-North, because delays are usually not *just* laziness, they’re due to laziness in some very specific part of operations.

          Penn Station Access is definitely quite the carrot for Amtrak to dangle in front of Metro-North.

          • Nathanael

            …at least on that section of Metro-North track Amtrak doesn’t have its usual and accurate excuse for delays, which is “our trains are coming from Florida/Chicago/Montreal”.

            I suppose it is still running trains through Metro-North’s New Haven line which come from Virginia, though. It would be interesting to see if they are more or less likely to cause delays than the trains originating on the NEC.

          • Alon Levy

            All I can contribute is anecdotes. First, by my count trains in both directions are late half the time; the trips on which I’ve measured this were either New York-Providence or New Haven-Providence. Second, one of those trips, from New York, the train sat on the tracks for a while in eastern Connecticut; when I asked a conductor why, he said that due to lightning strike the previous night, they had signal failure on the bridge over the Connecticut. Third, on a few other trips, the train sat on the tracks “due to single-tracking.” Draw your own conclusions regarding Amtrak’s scheduling and maintenance practices.

          • Nathanael

            Got it. If your anecdotes are generally correct, the problem is the maintenance windows and the ability of the track (,catenary,bridge, etc) maintenance workers to fix problems within scheduled maintenance windows; perhaps, indeed, the ability of the track maintainers to correctly estimate how large the maintenance windows they need are.

            This sounds like a specific problem relating to practice in the *maintenance of way* department. General complaints to Amtrak about on-time performance would *never* cause management to figure out that it’s MOW causing the problem — they’d assume it was dispatching or train engineers or something — unless they spent a long time digging into it. That’s why it’s worth figuring this sort of stuff out.

          • Nathanael

            As a further comment, if the problem does indeed lie in MOW, then Amtrak’s current restructuring, which will remove the currently sharp distinctions between that department and the operations department, putting the MOW workers under the same bosses as the people dispatching and running the trains, should help.

          • Adirondacker12800

            It’s partly budget. If you are trying to squeeze as much maintenance as possible out of the budget you tend to lose things like shift differential to have the MOW workers out there at 3AM. And they avoid the NIMBY opposition to working with all that loud noisy machinery at 3AM. And partly that if you need two crews to do all the work and you only have one you use them to fix the things that break because you haven’t been doing all the maintenance you should have been doing….

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  4. Brian


    I feel that commuter traffic needs to diverted from Penn Station from the North Jersey Coast Line (NJCL) and the Northeast Corridor (NEC). If this can be accomplished, there would be space for trains to run under the tunnel in to Penn Station New York. To divert the NJCL, there is a way to do it, without using the NEC around Rahway. NJCL line could be built from Perth Amboy and cross the Arthur Kill, just south of the Outerbridge Crossing, and link in to the Staten Island Railroad (SIR) just north of Tottenville. The NJCL could run express all the way up Staten Island to St. George. In St. George, there should be a regional rail tunnel built under the Upper New York Bay to access the Fulton Transit center. From here, NJCL and SIR customers could use the myriad of subway lines to go uptown, either east side subway lines or west side subway lines. For this Right of Way to be constructed a ramp from NJCL just north of Perth Amboy needs to be built, connected to the Perth Amboy Industrial track and then a vertical lift bridge needs to be built across the Arthur Kill to Staten Island, from there, there is very little obstructing the projected right away and there is plenty of room to create the approach. Plus, a third rail line would be needed to permit express trains from NJ. to zip on the SIR main line quickly. Also, SIR customers would get the rail tunnel they are in desperate need of. Construction costs of the Upper Harbor Tunnel could be split between MTA and NJT since both agencies will be using the tunnel (NJT and SIR). This will divert trains from NJCL off of the NEC.

    For the NEC, there is an opportunity to take NEC trains off just North of Linden train station. There is the old Baltimore and New York (BNY) railway that runs from Cranford to St. George along the North Shore of Staten Island. A ramp could be built from the NEC up to the BNY line that crosses the BNY. Then the NEC can take the BNY, across the Arthur Kill Lift bridge (already in operation) in to Staten Island and through the Arlington train yard. From here, the North Shore Line needs to be re-built from Arlington Yards to St. George (to connect to the Upper New York Harbor Tunnel). Most of the Right of Away is there, but again I would suggest making the line three tracked to allow for easier express train usage (This line would be harder to create a 3 track line, since there is not that much land to expand on). The citizens that live in Northern Staten Island have been looking for commuter rail for the last decade. The SIR could use the local tracks to provide service to this area. The building of the line, again could be shared.

    I am sure there are many NJT customers from the NJCL and NEC (South of Rahway) who would desire a one seat ride to Lower Manhattan, rather than transferring at Newark for the slow, overcrowded PATH, that will become even more overcrowded when more luxury condos are completed in Jersey City, Hoboken, and Weehawken. A couple more added pluses, if demand warrants, Raritan Valley Line trains, west of Cranford, could be routed over the BNY over the North Shore Line and directly in to the Upper Harbor tunnel. In addition, since the Upper Harbor Tunnel is routed from South to North, a future expansion of the line could move in Northwest to the Hoboken terminal which would allow Erie Division trains of NJT (Main Line, Bergen County Line, and Pascack Valley Line) a route to lower Manhattan as well and they can through service out of the tunnel to NEC, NJCL, or Raritan Valley Line.

    The main terminals of Newark Penn Station and Secaucus will still be needed for customers from Rahway North of the NJCL and NEC to get to Lower Manhattan (using PATH connection in Newark) and Erie Division Customers to get to Midtown Manhattan via Secaucus Transfer. So, the ARC tunnel does not need to be built, track capacity could be made from Newark Penn to New York Penn, Staten Islanders will have their rail tunnel, NJT commuters South of Rahway can get a fast one seat ride to Lower Manhattan, expansions by NJT (MOM rail line especially) will now have room on the NEC or NJCL for it to New York Penn or Lower Manhattan, and finally the massive bill to build the Upper Harbor tunnel, as well as improvements on the SIR could be split between NJT and MTA (SIR). It sounds like a win win for all parties involved.

    • Car(e)-Free LA

      I think that something similar could and should be done with routing the Raritan Valley line to a new crossing from St. George, either to Manhattan or Brooklyn. If capacity ever becomes a problem, the Staten Island Railway could cross to Bayonne and run along or replace the HBLR ROW to the Midtown PATH route (resulting in two path lines–Staten Island to Midtown and Newark (Airport) to WTC.

      • Adirondacker12800

        It would take longer than getting on the slow ferry. And there are all those pesky New Jerseyans on the trains taking up space.

        • Joey

          Longer for who under what scenario? Are you referring to detouring through Brooklyn? If so, I’m skeptical. The ferry is 25 minutes according to their website. If you tunnel to Bay Ridge, then St George – Wall St is about 15 km (give or take depending on the exact route of course). With 160 km/h running, 90 seconds lost per stop, and 3 intermediate stops, that’s still only 12 minutes. If you tunnel to Red Hookand have 2 intermediate (13 km) stops it’s 10 minutes. The direct route is 5 minutes, maybe 7 if you have a station at Governors Island. Going through Brooklyn costs a fair bit of time, but it’s still a lot faster than the Ferry. I make no claim here as to whether the time cost is worth the additional stations in Brooklyn, only that it’s much faster than the ferry either way.

          • Alon Levy

            You’re not doing 160 km/h through city tunnels. The ROW is constrained by urban features like underground infrastructure; 130 km/h is aspirational, and even 100 km/h isn’t guaranteed to be possible.

          • Adirondacker12800

            The video of the train in the 60th Street tunnel doing 57 mph has evaporated. Pity.
            WIkipedia says the design speed of NYC subway cars is 55 and some of them have been tested at much higher speeds on the LIRR. Something to do with track standards etc.

          • Joey

            Alon Levy: could you clarify? My assumption is that the tunnels would have to be bored either way, what could they run into on the straight segments that would constrain the geometry so much? There would certainly be curves near the ends, but those would likely be near stations too.

          • Alon Levy

            Building foundations, old infrastructure, different kinds of rock… the underwater tunnel to Staten Island can be straight, and so can Gateway (like the North River and East River Tunnels), but I’m wary about the tunnels within Manhattan.

          • Joey

            For a recent example, did the 2nd Ave Subway tunnels encounter anything like this? I know there were issues near the surface, but my understanding was that most of the utility relocation and other obstacles was in building the access shafts and that the actual tunnel boring went relatively smoothly. I would also expect Brooklyn to have fewer issues than Manhattan.

          • Alon Levy

            SAS is straight. You’re not getting a straight tunnel from Grand Central to Fulton Street, because you need to choose your avenues to avoid running too much under older lines or under building foundations.

          • Joey

            Right, but what about between St George and Fulton? It seems to me like 160 km/h running should be possible under the harbor or through Brooklyn

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  15. Jacob Manaker

    Is this affected if Amtrak runs two different styles of HSR (Acela vs. Northeast Regional, for instance)?

    • Alon Levy

      Yes. This schedule is based on precise slotting in which all trains of each class need to run at the same speed. This means Amtrak should stop bothering with the Regional and just run more Acela service.

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