Troll Rail Projects

In lieu of a real post, I want to discuss a few possible rail projects that are not completely thought-out. By this I mean rail projects that probably have critical constructibility and cost problems, but not obvious ones. They lie somewhere between true trolling – say, transcontinental HSR from New York to Los Angeles – and projects that are difficult and not yet proposed but need to be seriously considered, such as new train tunnels to Lower Manhattan or a Geary subway.

The projects are roughly ordered from most serious to most frivolous. The projects for the Northeast may well be feasible and should be at least considered, and the first was probably originally not done due to agency turf issues. The rolling stock projects are the most speculative – they suggest things to be done by competent rolling stock manufacturers that probably would’ve done them already if they could. The non-Northeastern infrastructure projects are somewhere in between. Make of this what you will. Just, please, do not use any of this as the basis for any alternative proposal, and do not link with a description like “Why have transit agencies not thought of this?” unless you know what you’re doing.


ARC-North: the proposals for cross-Hudson tunnels that connect to Penn Station, including ARC Alt G and now Amtrak’s Gateway, would have the new tunnels connecting to the south of the main intercity through-tracks: ARC goes to the southern tracks, currently used by New Jersey, and Amtrak eventually wants to add tracks to the south. I propose that when they eventually build such a project, they build the new tunnels to the north, connecting to the existing northern pair of East River Tunnels; a connection to Grand Central could then be built from one of the two East River tunnel pairs, the one not used by intercity trains.

Right now, the northernmost tracks have the most access points and the southernmost tracks the fewest. The system would take advantage of the reduction in demand to Penn Station after East Side Access opens. In case the present-day North River Tunnel diameter is too narrow to allow for higher speeds, the new tunnel could then be used (also) by intercity trains at 200 km/h while letting commuter trains go to Grand Central without reducing capacity there.

Northeast Corridor to Market East, on the cheap: a short connection between North Philadelphia and North Broad, similar to that proposed for the Chestnut Hill West Line but used for the Northeast Corridor instead, would let intercity trains serve Market East or Suburban Station, in addition to 30th Street Station. Trains continuing down to Washington would probably not want to use such a connection, as it would slow them down because of the sharp turn in the SEPTA tunnel, but trains continuing on the Keystone Corridor would emerge from 30th Street oriented the right way. Right now trains to the Keystone Corridor have to either reverse direction (as they do today) or use a connection that skips 30th Street Station (as the fastest New York-Chicago trains did in the Broadway Limited era). It could be useful for local HSR trains if there ever were HSR from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.

Philadelphia Bypass: also on the subject of HSR from New York to the Keystone Corridor, if express trains skip Philadelphia, it would be useful to build a bypass roughly along existing freight routes and I-276, starting at Trenton and ending somewhere between King of Prussia and Exton. The cost may not justify this in terms of cost per minute saved on New York-Pittsburgh (and New York-Cleveland, and New York-Chicago).

Providence Downcity Station: using the East Side Rail Tunnel, trains could continue west to Downcity, and then connect to the legacy tracks by hopping over I-95 in Federal Hill. For commuter trains, an underground station at Thayer Street is necessary. This is a pick-your-poison project in terms of takings: there are tradeoffs between curve radius, i.e. noise, and takings, and also between both and centrality. One option would be a curved station over City Hall Park, which would become the new Kennedy Plaza, and then what is now Kennedy Plaza would be landscaped and turned into the new City Hall Park. Another would go straight west, cutting through Citizens Plaza, and have a station elevated over Memorial Boulevard.

To troll even further, trains could use abandoned trackage starting from East Providence and then go to Fall River (reconstructing more abandoned trackage) and Newport (building new tracks through Bristol and over the Mount Hope Bridge).

Old Erie Line Revival: New Jersey Transit’s Main Line trains do not use the Erie Main Line south of Paterson, which is abandoned, but instead go along the Lackawanna’s old Boonton Branch. The right-of-way for the original Erie line is still intact, and serves the center of Passaic better. It might be useful to rebuild the tracks, which would require viaducts, and realign the Main Line. Service on all lines would probably require too many outlets – not even a dedicated tunnel to Lower Manhattan, combined, could be used for all lines serving that part of North Jersey, so some would have to be severed and turned over to light rail (maybe the Northern Branch) or the subway. The old Erie line is actually the best candidate for being part of a subway extension, since it serves dense communities and has a natural terminus at Paterson, where it would probably have to go underground.

Steinway Tunnel Widening: the Steinway Tunnel was widened from trolley loading gauge to IRT loading gauge when what is now the 7 was built. Since the rest of the 7 is built to the wider BMT/IND loading gauge, widening the tunnel is a useful capacity reliever to spend money on. It’s probably supremely expensive – I’m sure the MTA has studied it in the past; it’s also far from the most crowded Queens-Manhattan crossing point. But the cost may compare favorably with other means of providing extra capacity, and it may also be beneficial to let some Flushing Line trains serve Broadway and some Astoria Line trains serve 42nd Street.

West Coast

Subway to Burbank: Los Angeles’s Red Line does not go straight north along Vermont to Burbank, but swerves west to swerve more of Hollywood and serves Universal City and North Hollywood on the Valley side of the mountains. Since Downtown Burbank is a major secondary employment center, soon to be served by HSR, why not extend the city’s transit system in that direction? The Orange Line there should be a no-brainer, but more speculatively, the MTA could find money (another ballot measure, maybe?) and program another a subway branch off the Red Line that serves Burbank, with excessive splitting prevented by a new Vermont subway, or even (to troll further) an entirely new line that follows Western south of the mountains.

San Jose – Almaden Street Station: San Jose has a medium-sized CBD, roughly comparable to Providence or Burbank, but Diridon Station is separated from it by a freeway. Since there’s already a plan to spend large amounts of money of turning it into a multi-level train station, which the local technical activists have dubbed Diridon Intergalactic (or Pangalactic), why not also move the station? Trains could go on an alignment like this, elevated over Almaden, on a viaduct dedicated to Caltrain and HSR so that only four tracks would be needed. It would also bypass the current reverse curve between Tamien and Diridon, obviating the need for an iconic bridge. In a realistic, cost-conscious blended plan this is too expensive, but they should at least compare the cost with both a blended plan and the proposed full-fat business plan before rejecting it.

San Francisco – Embarcadero Station: with Transbay Terminal facing every planning and constructibility problem known to humanity, and the current terminal at 4th and King too far from the CBD, why not extend the trains under King Street and then the Embarcadero and build a station near the Ferry Building? Building this close to water is a nightmare, and the curve from King to the Embarcadero may be too sharp, but at least this connects to BART directly and has no station length constraints. On the third hand, the Embarcadero is wide but possibly not wide enough for three platforms and six tracks.

Rolling Stock

Tilting HSR: tilting HSR trains are either relatively low-speed (the Pendolino is limited to 250 km/h, with a few derivatives capable of a bit more) or relatively low-tilt (Talgos are capable of 180 mm of cant deficiency, and the latest Shinkansen trains have active suspension allowing up to about the same for the E5 Series. However, trains capable of 250 mm cant deficiency and 360 km/h are feasible; this is the main subject of Martin Lindahl’s thesis, which I (and others) have been quoting as a ready source of HSR track standards around the world. That said, probably the only place in the world that needs such trains is the Northeast Corridor, due to its unique combination of long straight stretches, on which very high speeds are possible or could be with minor infrastructure upgrades, and long curvy stretches, on which even major upgrades could not bring up to full HSR standards.

Catenary-free HSR: there’s new technology for catenary-free light rail, which is intended for use in historic city centers with aesthetic opposition to trolleywire. The contactless power supply is buried under the tracks, with each segment activated only when a train is completely above it. Although the technology is still low-speed, it could be useful for HSR. Pantographs generate disproportionate noise at high speeds, and Japan specifically has been squeezing every possible decibel out of low-noise pantographs. Being able to eliminate the pantograph would carry this to its logical conclusion. On the margins, it would also permit narrower rights-of-way, since no space for catenary poles would be needed.


  1. Adirondacker12800

    ARC goes to the southern tracks

    ARC was canceled. I thought the main problem with ARC was that it didn’t connect to Penn Station. And last time I was in the Herald Square neighborhood Macy’s Basement is north of Penn Station. I suspect it still is. And it could have connected to Grand Central anytime after Water Tunnel 3 is completed.

    The system would take advantage of the reduction in demand to Penn Station after East Side Access opens.

    The MTA estimates there will be little if any decrease in demand from Long Island. Being able to make frequent connections at Jamaica is expected to increase demand. ( from the train headed to Grand Central to the train, from another branch, headed to Penn Station or vice versa ) And they are going to be running enough trains to relieve overcrowding on the trains destined for Penn Station.

    Market East on the cheap.

    Don’t need to build new tunnels to get to Market East. They can run the NY-Philadelphia trains to 30th, then Suburban – like they did when Suburban opened until well into the Amtrak era – and from Suburban to Market East. If you want Harrisburg-Temple on the cheap just run the Harrisburg trains out to West Trenton and onto New York. No reason why the Harrisburg-NY express couldn’t use the New York Subway to get to the northbound NEC and the Harrisburg local run to West Trenton.

    Philadelphia Bypass:

    Just use the PRR’s Trenton Cutoff.

    Since the rest of the 7 is built to the wider BMT/IND loading gauge

    Where do you get this stuff? They cut back the platforms on the Astoria line so BMT trains could run on it. From Wikipedia: However, the stations on the Astoria and Corona Lines were built to IRT specifications, which were too narrow for BMT rolling stock.
    I suppose they could cut back the platforms like they did on the Astoria Line.

    San Francisco

    The Southern Pacific wanted to put the terminal across from the Ferry Building in 1903. But San Francisco didn’t want that. I’m sure RM can tell you how many alternate routes were studied. But they wanted the bus terminal to stay exactly where it was. So they are just as fucked as they were in 1903, give up. They are hopeless.

    • Alon Levy

      I think, but do not know, that the original ARC Alt P’s connection to Penn Station was also to the southern tracks. (It’s this connection that was dropped once costs started going up.)

      I know the MTA thinks there won’t be any decrease in LIRR demand to Penn Station, but I’m skeptical. There are only so many people in Long Island who work in Manhattan.

      Of course you can run trains from New York to Market East via 30th Street, but then they have nowhere to continue to without awkwardly looping around themselves.

      Yes, the Trenton Cutoff is the line I was thinking of; I forgot the name of the line. It would need to be straightened, though.

      The Flushing and Astoria Line were built to BMT loading gauge, like the rest of the Dual Contracts, but the platforms were IRT. That’s why they could shave back the platforms there to run BMT trains, where they can’t do the same on the IRT mainlines. I’m almost certain the 7’s 42nd Street portion was also built to BMT specs and it’s only the tunnels that are holding trains back (modulo shaving back the platforms, but that’s easy and I’m sure the MTA could do it at under half a billion bucks per station or something).

      And yes, I know Southern Pacific wanted to get to the Ferry Building. Probably it was feasible then; I would be surprised if it is now, though you never know.

      • Zach

        I think the real problem with running Astoria trains down 42nd Street is that nobody needs them. Almost nobody transfers from the Manhattan-bound N/Q to the 7 in the morning — it’s mostly the other way around. An N/Q-to-G transfer at Court Square would probably be appreciated one day, though.

        Frankly, I’d rather they spent any such money on the ability to provide more Queens Boulevard service. (And not just as a heavy E train user.) This seems to be the next foreseeable crisis for the MTA, and their long-term plan is… signal upgrades? If I were truly pipe-dreaming, I’d ask for a new subway through Metropolitan Avenue to Union Turnpike, serving something like 23rd St, with that infrequent-stations technique they propose for all new construction lately, to relieve Jamaica. But I’d settle for lots more LIRR service at new local stations in Queens. And, say, twice as many R or M trains.

        • Alon Levy

          If SAS ever gets to Phase 3, it’ll probably be easiest to build a relief line under Northern, sharing tracks with the F but never the E; the MTA isn’t planning to use the track connection in regular service, but it’ll be there, and Northern makes it useful and also serves a dense part of Queens without close-by subway service. It’d require either building around the express shortcut between Steinway and Broadway, or rerouting the line and possibly also the F to serve where Sunnyside Junction should be.

        • Nathanael

          Queens? Long Island?

          People, look at the revised flood maps with the increase in sea level due to global warming melting the glaciers in Greenland.

          Large portions of Long Island, and Queens specifically, are going to be underwater. The question will be which parts of Queens are worth protecting by seawall and pumps.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Moderately cheap to protect Queens, well northern Queens anyway. Seawall from Montauk to Rhode Island. You get southern Connecticut in the deal. Western Brooklyn, the seawall from Sandy Hook to Coney Island or the Rockaways takes care of that and you get most of northern New Jersey and the western side of Westchester in the deal.

          • Adirondacker12800

            The people staffing the pumps weren’t the problem. It was the people in charge of maintaining the seawalls. And it didn’t help that there were a bunch of people in charge who were more concerned about lowering taxes than they were about investing in infrastructure. And anyway New Orleans isn’t in Real America(tm) what with all those New Orleansians in it…

          • Adirondacker12800

            The people in Real America(tm) think everybody in Queens is Archie Bunker.
            New Orleans is where Mardi Gras happens. Makes Real Americans(tm) pucker their sphincters so tight they could turn coal into diamonds. It’s where Senator Vitter was corrupted. And for certain Real Americans(tm) they can gaze in wide eyed fascination at the pictures from Southern Decadence. I’m sure Senator Craig knows where to send them for the pix. The ones that are not on the official site


          • Adirondacker12800

            I wasn’t the one who brought up Queens. Not it’s not New York.
            …. don’t I know it. I haven’t seen a bialy in years. No one boils bagels. They have these things that are like unsweet doughnuts. Except for the ones that have all sorts of sweet things mixed into them. If I want cinnamon raisin I’ll buy some Entenmann’s. I have to go all the way to Saratoga Springs for decent fresh mozzarella, capicola or sopresseta. If I tell the person behind the counter at the deli department that I want the prosciutto cut so thin she can see through it, that works most of the time – at the supermarket that has prosciutto. I found a butcher with his own smokehouse who calls me when he makes kielbasy. I have to stop in the church with the onion dome on top sometime and ask if the ladies of the altar society raise money by making pierogi, haven’t seen fresh pierogi, unless I make them myself in years either. They think Cantonese is a bit exotic and their idea of General Tso’s is Sweet and Sour with broccoli in it instead of canned pineapple chunks. And the looks I get when I ask if the fried calamari come with or without tentacles. The tentacles make it more interesting. And they tend to be crispier… What I wouldn’t give for some Kosher Cuban-Chinese. or just plain ol’ Cuban-Chinese….

      • anonymouse

        I thought the MTA was counting on the reduction in LIRR demand and thus service to Penn to make room for Metro North service from the New Haven and Hudson Lines to go there. Realistically, if there’s 30 tph out of Penn now, and 24 tph that will be going to GCT, it’s pretty reasonable to expect a bit of a reduction in Penn Station service, though maybe to “only” 20 tph in the peak hour. The other problem is that both the Main and Babylon lines have only two tracks, which somewhat limits their throughput, so even if there’s demand on Long Island and capacity in Manhattan, there might not be capacity in the rest of the LIRR network. The Main Line third track would help consideraby here, though there’s stil the question of how everything would fit through Queens interlocking and through Jamaica.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Of course you can run trains from New York to Market East via 30th Street, but then they have nowhere to continue to without awkwardly looping around themselves.

        That they are passing under North Philadelphia as they pass through North Broad isn’t much concern for all the people who got off at 30th, Suburban, Market East and Temple. Almost all of them will have gotten off by then. The train can continue on the West Trenton line to become the “other” NY_Philadelphia regional. Like the Clockers and the Crusader. NY-Philadelphia on the PRR used to run on a takt “On the hour, once an hour”. If you missed it there was another train. The CNJ-Reading route didn’t have as much demand but it ran all day long. Quickly checking a 1956 schedule, 17 trains a day.

  2. Andre Lot

    I think one front you should consider, in urban settings, are monorails. Despite the extreme skepticism they are looked at, innovations in rolling stock are pushing them up as feasible option for grade-separated elevated placement with a fraction of the visual obtrusion caused by elevated railways that require the whole deck to be floored through instead of a sleek concrete track.

    São Paulo, in Brazil, is right now building two major monorail lines. They are long (19 and 30km respectively), with lots of stations (14 and 27) and relatively high capacity (up to 38.000 passengers/hour/direction at peak times). From what I could gather out there, their decision to use monorail on these specific projects has to do with shorter completion time and 1/3 of costs of underground structures. Bear in mind São Paulo has some extremely busy subway lines (up to 68.000 pax/h/direction) with intervals below 120 sec. Both lines will be fully automated with platform screen doors.

    Monorails do have a problem of vendor lock-in. If they can get past that (in practice, convincing Bombardier and their Korean copycat to release some common standards), I truly think monorails can be a great solution for American cities that have plenty of space on wide boulevards for rapid transit pylons such as Phoenix, Los Angeles, Houston etc.)


    Another project that I would consider on line with these you cited are some cross-town trams in New York City. In all seriousness, you couldn’t get better places to fit tramlines from the Hudson to East River than in Midtown and Upper Manhattan (maybe even some line across the Central Park W-E): they could integrate Manhattan with its mainly N-S subway lines and drastically reduce the need to run filthy cross-town buses on those streets.

    • Zmapper

      Monorails have a tendency to shut down when it is very hot outside, because the rubber tires overheat. Disneyland often has to shut down their monorail during most of the day if it is warm out because of that problem.

      • Alon Levy

        I think the Paris Métro is reliable in heat, even its rubber-tired lines (they certainly were when I was there), and Paris gets hot in summer. Could it be that the implementation used at Disneyland is defective?

        • Zmapper

          Perhaps it has something to do with each individual installation. To be fair, it isn’t like tracks are completely immune to high temperatures; improperly installed tracks can have a tendency to warp and bend.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Not that it was a monorail in the same sense as the Disney one… Airtrain at Newark Airport was a monorail. They designed it with heaters in the guideway, to melt the ice and snow. It didn’t work. They had to rip everything out and redo it. I don’t remember how long the monorail was out of service but it was out of service for a very long time. There’s a reason, among many, why the Port Authority’s second rail connection to the national network – Airtrain to JFK – is more conventional.

        • Beta Magellan

          Alweg monorails (the classic Seattle/Disneyland ones) have issues with having tires gripping more services—although there are advantages with acceleration and hill-climbing, there are big disadvantages in terms of turn radius (which is probably the big limiting factor in threading monorails through most cities), energy consumption, poor-weather traction (in intemperate climates they either need heaters in the track or, in the case of Moscow, blowers to clear snow as the train passes), and mechanical complexity.

          I’d love to see a modernized version of the Wuppertal Schwebebahn actually come close to implementation, though.

      • Andre Lot

        Las Vegas monorail, operating under much more harsher weather conditions (dust + heat), doesn’t shut down even on summer heat waves… I think that has to do with other aspects of the Disney project. Maybe something like underpowered a/c.

      • Walter

        I’ve never heard of the Disneyland monorails shutting down because of the heat, but it’s a different system than the usually reliable Walt Disney World monorails (where heat has never been a problem). The new-generation retro Disneyland monorails are probably just shoddily built, and do not even have air conditioning.

    • Alon Levy

      My skepticism about monorails comes from a slightly different angles: the first line is new and exciting, but afterward people want subways. Vancouver has this problem – the Expo and Millennium Lines are almost entirely above-grade, but the Canada Line, going along a major city street had to be built half underground. To make things worse, the storeowners on the street were traumatized by cut-and-cover street disruption, so if they build a Broadway subway, it won’t be cut-and-cover under Broadway – I read somewhere, I forget where, that they want to build it under 10th Avenue instead (they’re parallel, 100 meters apart.)

      I’m not sure what to think about crosstown trams in New York, honestly. The Vision42 project I think is genuinely frivolous – 42nd has a subway on its central segment, so there’s not much ridership to be had there. 125th, 86th, and 14th are more promising, but honestly 125th needs to be subway (and is something the MTA at least thought about and judged feasible, if anyone wants it), and for the other two I’d still categorize trams as serious enough to not make this post. I deliberately left out anything that if someone said no to I would seriously argue back.

      • Henry

        I remember reading somewhere that there’s an earthquake fault line under 125th. Wouldn’t building a subway there be an issue?

      • Andre Lot

        Vancouver is a complicated case IMO. It has a lot of low-hanging fruits for rail transit, but the special demographics living along proposed corridors make everything more difficult. When you don’t have homeowners wanting to preserve the quaintness of their area, you have shop owners afraid of losing traffic.

      • Beta Magellan

        I’d suspect a UBC subway would be under Broadway and switch to 10th around Alma.

    • Nathanael

      The “looks” advantage of monorails being “slender is *illegal* in the United States for new construction, because a side walkway is required along the entire length as an escape route. Not sure when that rule went in.

      Forget monorails. Waste of money. Steel pairs of rails, thank you.

  3. Brian

    ARC Plan

    I feel that NJ Transit needs more than just one access to NYC (Using what most commuters want idea of a one seat ride to NYC). NJ Transit needs to connect to Lower Manhattan (Fulton Transit Center). When the ARC tunnels are built more Morris and Essex trains will have options to go to Penn and I am sure the Raritan Valley Line will be electrified allowing more people in to Penn Station, and I haven’t added NJ Transit’s other projects Monmouth Ocean Middlesex (MOM) rail project that wants access to New York Penn or the revival of the West Trenton Line which can connect to Penn. I feel that as quick as capacity will go up when the tunnel is finished the capacity will be maxed out quickly going in to Penn Station, since this is the only NJ Transit one seat ride station in New York City. Plus, the NYC Subway trains leaving Penn would be overly packed with Commuters looking to go up town or Downtown, with service expansions NJ Transit would have going in to Penn. NJ Transit needs to get to Fulton Transit and be able to provide a one seat option for their travelers to reach Lower Manhattan. Once this is done, this will alleviate the crush of trains going in to Penn in the morning and exiting Penn in the evening. The best route I feel to get to Fulton Transit center would be through Staten Island and under the Harbor to Lower Manhattan. NJ Transit needs a quick route to lower Manhattan and Staten Island Commuters need a fast all weather route to Lower Manhattan. The tunnel would be expensive, but I feel it could be split between NJ Transit, MTA, and the Feds. This option would be win for NJ. and win for Staten Island, win for New York City subway (Easing congestion on Subway around Penn Station), and win for Path (alleviating the congestion on PATH since Hudson Bergen Light Rail is bringing in more customers from along the Jersey City, Bayonne, and Weehawken areas, plus expansions up to Tenafly).

    After this, next expansion would be to go from the Fulton Transit center to Hoboken (I think the old Erie Line in the Bergen Arches probably best place to start drilling the tunnel), allowing through service to the Erie Division Lines and this would allow the Erie DIvision Lines to be electrified and have a one seat option. But, more importantly, thanks to through routing, trains would not need to turn around. A North Jersey Coast Line train could start in Long Branch, go up to Perth Amboy, cross Arthur Kill to Staten Island Railroad, run express through Staten Island, go in to the Harbor Tunnel, stop at Fulton Transit Center, then continue North in a tunnel under the Hudson River and I would suggest this tunnel could emerge in the Erie’s Bergen Arches area, then continue up the Erie Division Lines. However, this expansion would take place much later.

    • Adirondacker12800

      If you build the tunnel from Jersey City first, everything, except for the Princeton Shuttle, could, in theory, get to either Penn Station, Grand Central – if they extend ARC to Grand Central, or Fulton Transit Center. You build through Staten Island and only Monmouth County riders can get to Fulton. And until you build the very expensive tunnels to Midtown only Fulton.

      • Brian

        Not only Monmouth County riders would benefit, Northeast Corridor could access these tunnels using the Staten Island North Shore Line (project that has been floated numerous times), crossing the Arthur Kill Lift Bridge, using the old Baltimore and New York Railway pass the Linden Refinery and then a ramp would need to be built from where the old Baltimore and New York crosses the North East Corridor, just north of Linden Station. Then, if demand warranted, the whole Baltimore and New York Railway Line could be rebuilt to Cranford, connecting to the Raritan Valley Line, allowing access to the Lower Manhattan. So building through Staten Island could link most of Central and Central Western NJ. with a one seat ride to Lower Manhattan. I am sure there are many commuters, not just on the North Jersey Coast Line, but also North East Corridor and Raritan Valley that would love to have the one seat ride to Lower Manhattan, as well as the Staten Island Commuters.

        • Adirondacker12800

          No they couldn’t. The north shore line is twisty and some of it has been reclaimed by suburbia. If its such a peachy keen idea for New Jerseyans, you could do the reverse and let Staten Islanders use the tunnel from Jersey City. In any event a tunnel from Staten Island to Manhattan isn’t very useful for the riders on the former DL&W or Erie lines.

          • Brian

            Passengers on the old DLW lines (Morris and Essex Lines) can be served when the project is continued through to the Erie Bergen Arches cut. The Morris and Essex Lines cross just above the Erie Bergen Arches area. So, when the project is complete NJ Transit would have a loop through Lower Manhattan. I agree that the North Shore Line is crooked in some places, but in the 50’s it only took about 12 minutes to go from Arlington to St. George. So, the North Shore Line would be short, most of the grades have been eliminated. I agree some parts go through Private Property, but this route would alleviate congestion on the North East Corridor, especially through Newark Penn Station and Elizabeth areas.

          • Adirondacker12800

            So would sending trains from the NEC to the tunnel in Jersey CIty. There’s a wide, straight ROW along the west shore of the Arthur Kill that could be used for the trains from Perth Amboy and points south.

          • Brian

            The right of way along the West Shore of the Arthur Kill is the Chemical Coast. There are Freight trains idling along that line constantly. The cost of building any tunnel under the Hudson or under the harbor would be costly, that why the NJ. Gov. pulled the plug on the ARC project. The Cross Harbor tunnel, yes would be expensive, but could be split between MTA, NJ Transit, and the Federal Government, which would make that pill easier to swallow. Plus, there is a demand on Staten Island for rail service directly to Manhattan. I would not have NJT trains stop in Staten Island (North Shore Line for North East Corridor) or the Staten Island Railroad Main Line (a route for North Jersey Coast Line Customers). Using Staten Island, especially with it’s rail capacity under used would be better to use for Nj Transit Customers south of Rahway, it is the most direct route Lower Manhattan and would avoid going through the choke points at Newark and Elizabeth. South of Elizabeth the North East Corridor is five tracks with plenty of running room. Plus, dead ending at Fulton Transit could cause major congestion, getting trains off loaded and then back out the tunnel to make room for the next train. Basically, I look at New York Penn as the transportation heart and since the lines going in to New York Penn are extremely clogged a bypass is needed to get in to the heart and a through access routing connecting North Jersey Coast and North East Corridor via Staten island and Cross Harbor tunnel and through routing through Fulton Transit center and out through another tunnel under the Hudson and having the Hudson Tunnel emerge in the Bergen Arches would then allow these North Jersey Coast and North East Corridor to link (via one continous rail) to Morris and Essex Line, Main Line, Bergen County Line, and Pascack Valley Line. You could run more service with less trains. One minus could be that the seats may not get cold.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Who said anything about deading ending at the Fulton Transit center. They could run through to Brooklyn and continue out onto Long Island. Gets all the Long Islanders who now clog Penn Station on their way to their Wall Street jobs out of Penn Station and off the subway. It means people in Brooklyn could have Amtrak Service. And Wall Street could have Amtrak service.

            The people in Woodbridge might disagree about getting better service for all of the people south of Rahway and some of the people south of Rahway might get a bit miffed when they lose service to the NEC. While places like Newark aren’t the destination New York is, people do use the trains for intrastate travel.

          • Brian

            I would not suggest getting rid of service totally to New York, because there are commuters that need to get to midtown. I think running the Staten Island service would free up room on the tracks, especially for trains picking up passengers north of Perth Amboy and Rahway. I am sure the Staten Island Main line could run three tracks (at points) and the North Shore line is not very long, may only need two tracks with crossovers. I would believe that the trains will get more crowded as time goes on. So, moving people through different routes would need to be considered.

    • Alon Levy

      I wrote a long post about this a few months ago, regarding possible alignments from Jersey to Lower Manhattan. I didn’t consider going through Staten Island, but I’ll defend that on the following grounds:

      1. Although a Staten Island-Manhattan connection is desirable despite the high cost, it can expect to get heavy local traffic, because of the large amount of travel demand from Staten Island to Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. Four-tracking the existing SIR is possible, but the North Shore Branch has several two-track wide viaducts in constrained urban locations.

      2. Building a bridge from Tottenville to Perth Amboy isn’t free. It’s much cheaper than a tunnel across the Hudson, but a tunnel would have to be built for Erie trains anyway.

      3. For all traffic except North Jersey Coast trains, it’s much faster to go to Penn Station than through Staten Island – more direct, and the lines are faster and less curvy. Even for NJC trains I think it’s faster, though by a small margin.

      So the result is that you’d be building the Tottenville-Perth Amboy connection for just a portion of Jersey Shore traffic, and that’s not all that much.

      • Brian


        I did read your post and it sparked my interest in this forum. To respond to your comments:

        I would not run the tunnel in to Brooklyn, a straight route from about St. George to Lower Manhattan. Brooklyn has the subway links to Manhattan already.

        The North Shore line, you are correct can probably only hold two tracks but the line is short from Arlington to St. George (old SIRT Time tables with numerous stops has the one way trip being about 16 minutes in 1953). Obviously, I don’t think there should be many stations on the North Shore to start until demand picks up, but I would not have NJ Transit stop at any stations on this branch. I think this line needs to have crossover to allow NJ Transit, run around the local SIR trains on the North Shore Branch. I think the SIR could have some trains run to under the tunnel to Fulton and most of the trains should bounce back and forth on the line between Tottenville and Arlington. I would think during off peak NJ Transit should make one stop in Staten Island to pick up people desiring to go to Lower Manhattan, but only at one station before going in to the tunnel. I understand this would be a transfer for Staten Island passengers, but it is off peak and it’s certainly better than the transfer to the Ferry (in terms of time to Lower Manhattan).

        The Erie Division, your are correct tunnel needs to be built anyway, so it should start there, but I don’t know if NJT could build the tunnel on it’s own and PATH nor MTA would want NJ Transit to start building from there because this would mean less riders on PATH and on the Subways, so I think the long cross harbor tunnel would be allow for more agencies to be involved to split the massive overruns. I think once that is built, Morris and Essex and Erie Division customers would demand to have direct connection. With the current Morris and Essex and Erie Division alignments, I think the commuters would not need this project right away, because if you divert some passengers from North Jersey Coast and North East Corridor through Staten Island, this would free up seats and congestion on trains bound for New York Penn Station. Plus, with some North Jersey Coast and North East Corridor Trains diverted before Newark or Elizabeth, space is freed up in the existing Hudson River tunnels to Penn Station, this can allow more trains from Morris and Essex and Montclair Boonton to run direct to New York Penn. Also, this will allow for placing catenary on the Raritan Valley.

        For the Jersey Shore traffic, that traffic is only going to increase over time, with Monmouth and Ocean counties being amongst the fastest growing counties in New Jersey. Plus, the MOM rail line will open up more commuter traffic on either the North Jersey Coast or North East Corridor. So, right now you maybe right building through Staten Island may not be much now, but with planned extensions of the network those few minutes saved going through Staten Island will grow because of the greater congestion going through Newark. I looked at the distance, using Google Earth and the distance using the Perth Amboy-Tottenville(SIR Main)-St. George-Lower Manhattan alignment is about 21 miles. Perth Amboy to Lower Manhattan via Bergen Arches using Waterfront Connection to Hoboken would be 27 miles, but counting at least one stop in Newark. So, I think for North Jersey Coast Line there would be time savings using Staten Island. Using the Linden-Arthur Kill Lift Bridge-North Shore Branch-St. George Tunnel to Fulton distance is 14.6 Miles, while the distance going from Linden to Fulton using Bergen Arches and Waterfront Connection is 16.6 miles with at least one stop in Newark using Google Earth. So, Staten Island alignment is shorter, not much, but there would be a stop in Newark. So, there would be some time savings (not much).

        I think building through Staten Island would be the bypass and I believe you need to at make the SIR Main Line have, at least, 3 tracks to allow NJ Transit to run express all the way through, as well as select SIR express trains. I understand this would be expensive, but it could be done and it will allow NJ Transit to run quickly through Staten island. Demand is there for Staten Island and New Jersey sides, especially when reading about the MOM traffic studies.

        • Alon Levy

          I’ll discuss this more in full later, but just two things, picking on your North Shore paragraph: wrong-way overtakes are unacceptable on even a medium-frequency railroad (Caltrain, which peaks at 5 tph total, doesn’t have them), and the density and travel demand to Manhattan in Staten Island are so far ahead of the same in Central Jersey that local service must have precedence.

          • Joey

            CalTrain has one wrong direction overtake, where occasionally northbound locals stopping at 22nd Street will be overtaken by northbound expresses on the southbound track. Unless they got rid of that since the last time I checked…

  4. orulz

    Are you suggesting that they abandon one of the east river tunnels and instead connect it to GCT? Or are you suggesting to add a junction to one of those tunnels?

    In either case,

    The question to ask, I suppose, is how much money this would actually save compared with what ARC alt G suggested, building the connection to GCT utilizing the planned third pair of tracks under 31st street?

    • Alon Levy

      Add a junction.

      My guess is that the costs would be even, or possibly a bit higher. The reason I put this in this post is that the costs could be far higher, due to lack of space for curving toward Grand Central (and also higher land values with every block you go north). It’s for operations more than anything; that said, I’m intrigued by IRUM’s proposal to do Alt G as proposed but then realign the Empire Connection toward the northern tracks and connect that to the northern East River Tunnel pair.

    • Adirondacker12800

      Those teleporters they use on Star Trek. Get between here and there even faster than vactrains. And no problems with having to build big stations in central locations. Teleporters could be scattered all around.

        • Adirondacker12800

          Neither do the vactrains. It’s not going to be pretty when something traveling 4,000 MPH hits the wall that’s only inches away…. when the vacuum fails ever so slightly for instance.

  5. Tom West

    Given the USA’s definition of “high-speed rail” as being anything over a snail’s pace, then I would argue caternary-free HSR already exists in southeast England… it’s called “3rd rail”, and operates up to 100mph.

    • Beta Magellan

      Given what Amtrak wants to pay for true high-speed rail in the northeast I’m surprised Alon didn’t include a Northeast Corridor superconducting maglev.

    • Sascha Claus

      Given the USA’s tendency to sue for pain, I wouldn’t recommend a large-scale installation of top-contact 3rd rail. And I don’t know of any off-the-shelf, bottom-contact 3rd rail that is ready for 100mph. OTOH, if the HSR lines will be fenced off completely for other reasons, it might be acceptable.

      • Alon Levy

        What’s the top speed for trains using overhead rail, in tunnels that don’t have the clearance for catenary? I seem to remember it’s 200 km/h, but I may be wrong.

        • Sascha Claus

          German Wikipedia tells us that the overhead conductor rail in the Austrian Sittenberg tunnel was approved for 200km/h / 124mph operation in 2004. In 2010, they successfully tested 260km/h / 161mph. For the Koralm tunnel, they are planning with 250km/h / 155mph. The main supplier seems to have approval for 250km/h.
          This are only ordinary rail speeds, but it seems the technological speed limits are still far away. I’d guess the meteorological limits of snow and ice buildup are more serious for 3rd rails on the ground.

  6. Henry

    In regards to the Steinway tunnel, is that really the only constraint on BMT/IND operation on them? The curves east of the tunnel in Queens are pretty tight – in particular, the 7 makes a VERY sharp turn approaching Queensboro Plaza from Manhattan.

    Out of complete curiosity, would it be feasible to splice off the Port Washington line, convert it to subway operation, and connect it to either the 7 or the G via Hunterspoint Ave (or a new crosstown line somewhere in the general vicinity of 34th St)? The line runs parallel to the 7, and I’ve always wondered why the MTA has never really considered using it as a redundancy measure when they shut down segments of the 7.

    One could also consider extending the N/Q from Astoria to Flushing via Ditmars, Astoria Blvd and Northern Blvd, but that’s probably a pipe dream.

  7. David Edmondson

    Re: Embarcadero Station

    I’ve wondered about that, actually. Integrating the region’s rail network with its ferry network would be quite an achievement, and the result could bring ferry travel into the modern era. As a Marinite, too, I find the idea of a ferry-Caltrain commute intriguing.

    My own trolling project is a combo SMART/Geary subway, in essence putting the old BART Marin Line back on the table but utilizing the SMART right-of-way to do it north of the Bridge. With an Embarcadero station, an alternative alignment would run the line under North Beach and terminate at Embarcadero. it would provide direct connections with Caltrain, CAHSR, BART, and the region’s CBD.

  8. Mike O'Dorney

    Speaking of Geary (San Francisco)
    I look at BART reaching capacity at Embarcadero and the limits to loading and off boarding, even with three door cars.

    Having some of the trains skip Embarcadero, and make their first city stop at a new station near the present Montgomery, only under Geary. Then head out to the Richmond, and turn south, going under 19th Avenue. This would serve SF’s busiest bus line. 19th Ave is a “welterweight” – 10,000 daily riders, and would be hard to justify alone.

    What is interesting is the 14 Mission with 38,000 riders. The route essentially parallels BART.

  9. Joey

    On the subject of Embarcadero/Transbay – there’s probably enough room for 3 platforms in front of the Ferry Building, but as you say, construction would be a royal pain. I still think that for a larger, less constrained terminal, the space between Beale and Main is still the way to go. The BayCrest “towers” (they’re only 10 stories) (just north of the bridge) would probably have to go, but it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to save the Watermark (just south of the bridge). You do have a bit of an issue with the Bay Bridge supports and anchorage, though I’m willing to bet that the issue is lessened the closer to the surface you are. Tunneling directly under the surface would probably require moving the sewer main under The Embarcadero, but is probably not as big a deal as they made it out to be in the AA. I’ve created a (highly unoptimized) track map of what it might look like. Minimum curve radius 200m, 10 400m long platform tracks with 25m tails (you could probably add two more shorter platforms to the west if you modify the throat a bit), I didn’t even use curved turnouts (though there’s not much reason not to if it would optimize things a bit…).

    Regional services to a new transbay tube could be provided via new tunnels via 7th to Mission. You miss the densest parts of Mission Bay this way, but sacrifices were inevitable after they built 301 Mission.

    • Joey

      Oh and also re: Embarcadero. In front of the Ferry building you’ve got the MUNI metro tunnels and the BART tunnels below that. So whatever you built would have to be below both. Did I mention that you’d be building in mud?

  10. Matthew

    Curious choice of words, calling this “trolling”, but anyway…

    A crazy idea that I sometimes wonder about is to take advantage of dual mode locomotives and/or multiple-units to rapidly switch between diesel and electric mode and back. The point is that the main performance advantage of electric traction is the acceleration from stand-still to full speed. So, you could minimize the amount of wiring you need to do by only putting up catenary in the vicinity of stations. After a station stop, the pantographs could be raised to contact the wire, accelerate to a cruising speed, and then retracted when the wire ends. The diesel prime mover would then supply electricity to maintain velocity.

    I can think of a few objections that may sink it: the bulk of the cost of electrification is from substations, not wires; and I’m not sure if this scheme really reduces costs, although it could cut out a few substations. Or, with more closely spaced stations, the wired sections would be so close anyway, may as well hook them up. There may be maintenance headaches associated with constantly raising and lowering pantographs.

    Alternatively, perhaps agencies should be more open to liberal use of dual-mode operation on their longer commuter rail lines. For example, perhaps costs don’t justify electrification of the Framingham/Worcester all the way (though I think they do). But the inner portion through Newton would certainly benefit greatly. The usual proposal is to run short-turn electric trains to Riverside. But another alternative is to run on diesel outside of Rt128, and on electric inside, serving the proliferation of urban and inner-suburban stations more efficiently.

    • Beta Magellan

      When NICTD was (still is?) looking into adding a West Lake line to complement the South Shore Line in northern Indiana, I remember reading that they considered using married pairs where one unit was electric and the other diesel. Although the West lakes Line probably wouldn’t generate enough traffic to justify electrification, this arrangement would still allow them to use existing Metra/NICTD catenary to reach Millennium Station (which can’t ventilate diesels).

    • Alon Levy

      The problem with this idea is that a partially electric train still needs to lug around the non-electric cars, and this kills acceleration. One of the variables influencing the initial acceleration rate is what percentage of the train’s weight is on driving axles; if only half the cars are powered at a given time, and those cars are no heavier than the trailers because the trailers need to become motors off the catenary, it’s hard to maintain high initial acceleration. It’s also expensive to maintain high power-to-weight ratio when half the train’s weight isn’t used for acceleration at a given time. (Of course, some EMUs have not all axles powered, but then they’re saving money by substituting trailers for motors, whereas here everything costs as much as a motor. Rolling stock is cheaper than concrete, but it’s not cheaper than catenary.)

      • mulad

        It really should be possible to run all of the motors all the time regardless of whether the electricity is coming from overhead catenary or from a diesel-powered generator.

      • ant6n

        You just need the generator, not a motor – and you could power it’s axles as well.

        A vaguely similar idea would be to wait for better batteries than today, put big ones on trains, and only electrify near cities. Suburban trains could run off the batteries once they leave the cities. So in the cities where lines converge, electricity would be available — but that’s also a small section of the overall network. The farther you get from the city, the lesser the frequency per track, but there you don’t electrify.

        • Adirondacker12800

          catenary is cheap. “Better” batteries probably won’t be. Catenary last more than ten years the lifecycle of heavy duty deep discharge batteries.

        • Ian Mitchell

          The energy density of diesel fuel is incredible. I’d say that taking the chevrolet volt approach (fossil fuel generator, all-electric drivetrain) could be an absolute winner for many places in the U.S.

      • Matthew

        I also forgot to add the potential objection that lugging around all that diesel fuel (or battery) would probably kill acceleration too. I haven’t done any calculations, but it’s probably along the same lines of what you said.

  11. Kevin Newman


    There is another possible ‘Troll Rail Project’ that you had not mentioned,the Beacon line.This 41 mile branch line from the Hudson line in Beacon NY to Danbury CT,was purchased by the MNRR in 1995.They have yet to run a single regurly scheduled revenue passenger train.This mostly east-west line connects to the Harlem line via a crossover near the Southeast station
    (prev known as BREWSTER NORTH) in Putnam county.

    Currently there is no easy bi-directional connection between Danbury CT and the Harlem line.A new Y track would have to be built for this,and so the trans Dutchess Hudson – Harlem line section would be the most practical and relatively least expensive to restore passenger service.Indeed,it is this link which would provide ‘reverse’ commuting from Westchester county that was touted as one of the benefits of having passenger service on this line in 1995
    here is an excerpt from a 1995 NY Times article in regards to the Beacon line purchase:
    “It is no longer just everyone piling into the city,” said Daniel Brucker, a spokesman for Metro-North. “It is reverse commuting, intrastate commuting and inter-county commuting.”
    The western part of the line between Hopewell Jct. and Beacon would serve the most populated and commercialy developed partof the county and would provide a much needed link from the Hudson to Main Street in Beacon.A portion of the line goes through a
    part of Beacon’s downtown along Main Street.This area,near the 1869 Matteawan station (only in America do we turn our passenger train stations
    into a beauty parlor and apartments),is currently under development – a ‘reverse TOD’ A number of old factories are being renovated-repurposed.
    One of the biggest and most ambitious projects – “The Roundhouse At Beacon Falls” – is almost complete.The Swift restaurant is now open.This project encompases a cluster of old buildings and an old hydroelectric plant.A restaurant-spa-hotel is in an old bldg.
    with a semicircular section that gives this structure it’s name (nothing to do with a similar shaped RR bldg. for locos) There are condos that have been built in another bldg.All 5 units have been sold.The hydroelectric plant has been restored.The Roundhouse bldg. itself is literaly just feet away from the BL track.One East Main Street,another large development
    project under way just across the street from the above,will include new housing units.This will form a transit village -that is if there were trains and the county buses were to stop nearby (this latter will be much easier than the former)

    for more on my grand vision for the Beacon Line I refer you to the 2012 rev 2 edition of my ‘Southern Dutchess Interurban Rail Transit’ PDF document presentation available online at the following URL:

    Click to access TDRA_project-presentation_rev2.pdf

    Kevin Newman
    Poughkeepsie NY

  12. Peter Brassard

    Reusing the Providence East Side Rail Tunnel might not be that simple. Since the tunnel was mothballed and the tracks to the new station relocated, a 13,000 square meter office building has been built that obstructs a direct route to Memorial Blvd (the former track right-of-way). Brilliant planning! Following the old right-of-way in East Providence to the East Bay area and beyond to Newport makes a lot of sense. Rather that using the circuitous legacy right-of-way, the I-195 corridor would offer a fairly straight path to Fall River and potentially beyond to New Bedford and the Cape.

    • Alon Levy

      Oh, I know about Citizens Plaza. Its construction cost was not that high, $43 million if I remember right; that’s less than a kilometer of viaduct even outside a constrained city core. The problem is more political (Chinese wall! Don’t interrupt the beauty of Memorial Boulevard!) than economic.

      • Peter Brassard

        Providence to Cape Cod – Existing north route or new South Coast route?

        The three main cities of the Providence MSA are not interconnected by mass transit, because federal law prohibits the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) from crossing the state line into Massachusetts to provide transit service.

        Due to complicated built environments and topographic conditions in Downtown and the East Side of Providence and in Fall River, it might be difficult to design and justify construction costs for a new heavy rail corridor. A LRT corridor would likely be less expensive and more flexible in navigating urban districts, but is slow.

        Possible Routes Options:
        Providence to Hyannis – existing rail ROW Providence to Attleboro to the Cape
        Providence/Fall River/New Bedford alternate to Hyannis – I-195 corridor
        Providence/Fall River/New Bedford alternate to Hyannis – East Bay rail ROW to I-195

        Operation Options:
        Heavy rail Amtrak or commuter rail, or light rail (LRT)

        A possible South Coast route could be from Downtown Providence to the East Side Rail Tunnel and link in East Providence to the partially built Henderson Bridge/Expressway corridor following the state line south to connect to the center median of route I-195, where the majority of the alignment could be located. From Swansea/Somerset through Fall River the route could follow US-6 or alternately MA-103 to I-195 to New Bedford and beyond.

        To reuse the Providence tunnel for heavy rail, a new elevated rail structure would have to be built, which as mentioned would be political suicide. Ironically the old Chinese Wall you could walk or drive through. As I understand it from Alon, it’s not possible to tunnel under the rivers to connect to the NEC and use the old tunnel at the same time, because the slope would be too extreme for heavy rail.

        If LRT is used, an incline from the tunnel portal at Benefit Street to North Main’s street level could be built. Pittsburg has some light rail track with 6% slopes. From Providence to Fall River LRT would be barely ok, but with stops, it would take too long to reach New Bedford.

        To reuse the East Bay rail corridor, I suspect it would receive high resistance from Barrington and Warren residents as back and side yards, even houses go right up to the edge of single-track corridor. The affluent Town of Barrington killed I-895 in the 60s. Also the East Bay ROW is now the most popular bikeway in Rhode Island and the Brayton Point Power Plant now obstructs the East Bay ROW to Somerset and Fall River. No one would care about using the Route 195 median.

        Since LRT is slow and has limited capacity, would DMUs be an alternate? With DMUs the route would be unable to connect to the NEC and require a terminal at the tunnel portal between Benefit Street and North Main or extending to Canal. Traversing Fall River would be more difficult with heavy rail because of the hill and might require tunneling. There’s an abandoned railroad track in Fall River parallel to Route 195 (between Plymouth Av and Route 24), which potentially could in part be reused as part of an alignment.

  13. Kevin Newman

    RE:Mathew and all dual mode replys

    all of you who have gone on about this dual mode type of rail vehicles etc. must not be from here in the northeast and/or don’t live in Metro North RR (Metropolitan Transit Authority) country

    there have been dual mode locomotives for many many years here on the Hudson line – they have a 3rd rail 600 VDC contact shoe – ostensibly the big diesel engine shuts down when in GCT (Grand Central Terminal NYC) however Amtrak also has to have the same dual mode locomotives for service into Penn Station

    in the early 1990’s,when I had first moved into Dutches county, MNRR were operating the 1950’s EMD FL9’s Amtrak also had to use these locomotives as well (FYI:the Amtrak TurboLiners – America’s first high speed train with passengers – was also dual mode) – there was nothing else until the late 1990’s around 1996 GE came out with a new passenger locomotive the “Genesis” series the Genesis series 1 were single mode but they produced a dual mode series 2 the P32 AC-DM they have a 3800 HP 16 cyl. prime mover diesel engine,AC traction motors,and can operate (traction only) from the 600 VDC 3rd rail – I understand that this dual mode is for traction power only and the diesel engine still has to run for the HEP (head end power)

    and much more recently for those that don’t keep up with rail vehicle technology and/or don’t live in NJ Transit rail countrty – There is a new locomotive they have that has both OCS (overhead catenary system) and a diesel engine I forget the designation ALP something??

    • Adirondacker12800

      ALP-45s They are in regular revenue service now. I’m not sure if they are in regular dual mode revenue service but they are in revenue service. In New Jersey and Quebec.

  14. Jef Nickerson

    When I think about reusing Providence’s East Side rail tunnel I think of using it for buses or maybe lightrail out to Fall River, maybe as far as New Bedford via 195. I never really think of connecting it back to the NEC, for the reasons Peter outlined and more. It is just so cut off due to the poor planning of the Capital Center District. Any reconnection would require at least some portion of elevated track to reach existing NEC track and everyone would just literally die. The East Siders would light themselves on fire. However, short of having service just end at the portal one story above street level, it is hard to engineer any service through the tunnel without an elevated structure.

    However, since we’re trolling, I really would like to see more direct service between the Cape, New Bedford, Fall River, and Providence. Once we have that reaching the East Side tunnel portal, it seems insane not to build another few hundred yards of track to connect it to the NEC. I could imagine the Cape to T.F. Green being a popular route if timed right.

  15. jim

    I like the Market East idea. Just to prevent Keystones reversing, it’s worth it. The other benefits are gravy.

    There are a bunch of reasons that people have proposed new trans-Hudson tunnels south of the existing North River Tunnels:

    1. The A yard runs to 10th Ave and there’s nothing in the way to hinder connecting a pair of those tracks to a new tunnel. Even the E yard has a pair of tracks running under 31st St which could be continued into a connection to a new tunnel.. Most of the tracks in the C yard terminate at 9th Ave and only the pair of tracks under 33rd St could be continued into a tunnel connection. From those it would be very hard to reach platforms south of track 16.

    2. If ever there’s a new tunnel east of Penn Station, either the ARC Alt G connection to Grand Central or the Penn Studio proposal for HSR through Long Island or the Vision proposal for an HSR tunnel under 3rd Ave, it will be along 31st St. A southern tunnel connects to it; a northern tunnel doesn’t.

    3. Expanding Penn Station south, shallowly under the block between 31st and 30th Sts, shoild be cheaper than expanding it north, deeply under 34th St. A southern tunnel services a southern expansion.

    Against these is that a southern tunnel leads to tracks currently used by NJT. But that platform allocation is not immutable. There is an argument that the stub tracks should be used for HSR trains terminating/originating in New York. If the Washington-New York trip time is short (and the Philadelphia-New York even shorter), then the time taken to run the trains through to Sunnyside to turn them adds unacceptable length to the round trip Washington-Washington (or Philadelphia-Philadelphia) time. HSR trains between Washington and New York will need to be turned in Penn Station: unloaded, cleaned, the seats reversed, loaded and back the way they came. Time saved in turnaround is the same savings in operational cost as trip-time saved. NJT doesn’t need to turn trains in the station. It can run them through to Sunnyside and turn them there. It doesn’t matter which set of equipment makes a reverse peak trip and which dead-heads.

    • Adirondacker12800

      Track 1 is under 31st St. Tracks 1 through 4, the stub end tracks, are too short for intercity trains. Shoring up the buildings along 31st would be very very time consuming and very very expensive. It’s one of the reasons they picked deep under 34th for ARC, it’s cheaper, faster and less disruptive.

    • John W

      @Jim – “the seats reversed”??

      How much time does that take? I don’t think I’ve ever seen that on a train in the UK, or on any of the trains I’ve taken in Europe. Certainly not on intercity services.

      • Adirondacker12800

        On commuter cars the commuters did it. It took seconds, The seat remained stationary, just the back flipped.

      • Alon Levy

        Europeans don’t care about seat orientation, Americans and Japanese and Koreans do. On the Shinkansen, the seats are rotatable so that you can have the orientation you like; as Adirondacker says, on some American commuter trains the backs flip, but then you sacrifice comfort somewhat. In Korea the seats are fixed like in Europe, but you get a 5% discount if you’re riding a backward-facing seat on the KTX.

  16. Nathanael

    My troll rail proposal is the Second Transbay Tube, which keeps being rejected as “too expensive”, decade after decade.

    But my *real* troll rail proposal is the Bering Strait Bridge, with connecting service across the Yukon. (The bridge is actually the easy part. The extension of the Trans-Siberian is easy too. Crossing the mountains in Alaska and the Yukon is the hard part.)

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