Empire High-Speed Rail

At the beginning of the month, New York State released its draft environmental impact statement for high-speed rail from New York to the Upstate cities. The costs of HSR as proposed by the state are excessive, and as a result the state has eliminated the high-speed option. It is only considering medium-speed options – the fastest is 125 mph, for the cost of full-fat high-speed rail; it sandbagged the full-speed options. Consider the following passage, from the main document, section 3.2.2:

The dedicated right-of-way of the very high speed (VHS) alternatives would result in significant travel time savings (5:17 and 4:23 respectively for 160 mph MAS and 220 mph MAS), and commensurately higher estimated ridership (4.06 and 5.12 million respectively for 160 mph MAS and 220 mph MAS).

The length of New York-Buffalo is about 690 km. At 4:23, it is an average speed of 157 km/h. To put things in perspective, the Hikari express trains in the 1960s achieved an average of 162 km/h (515 km in 3:10) in 1965, with a maximum speed of 210 km/h.

In section 3.3.5, the 125 mph alternative, which involves greenfield dedicated track from Albany to Buffalo, is said to have an average speed of 77 mph, or 124 km/h. Considering that British express trains on the legacy East Coast and West Coast Main Lines restricted to the same top speed average about 130-140 km/h, this is unimpressive.

Likewise, the cost estimates seem too high. The cost proposed for 125 mph is $14.71 billion. That’s on existing track south of Albany with minor improvements; as per exhibits 3-19 and 3-21, 83% of the cost is said to be Albany-Buffalo, a distance of 380 km on new track plus 76 on existing track. This makes sense for a full-speed, 350 km/h line. But the cost of the full-speed 220 mph option is $39 billion, around $55 million per km from New York to Buffalo in an area with a topography that justifies at most half that.

The study also sandbags the higher-speed options, from 125 mph up, by overplaying the importance of skipped small cities. A greenfield line cannot reasonably serve Schenectady, Amsterdam, and Rome. It could serve Utica, but with some takings because the sharp curve from the tracks at the downtown station to the I-90 right-of-way to the west. Lack of service to Utica would be a drawback, but the study for some reason thinks that those four stations would need their own dedicated intercity line to New York, using a connection to Metro-North, which is said on PDF-p. 37 to have capacity problems on the Hudson Line (the Hudson Line runs 12 trains per hour at the peak today, and is four-tracked). I am told that people drive all the way from Watertown to Syracuse to take Amtrak; none of the skipped four stations is that far from Albany or Syracuse. If a regional train is needed, it can connect at Albany.

The problem is that the alignments studied are uninspiring. I don’t just mean it as a synonym for bad. I mean they avoid locations that look difficult at first glance but are actually reasonably easy. CSX bypasses Albany already; it is not a problem to run high-speed trains at low speed on the existing line between Rensselaer and a spot west of Albany where the line could transition to the Thruway, and yet exhibit 3-20 shows a passenger rail bypass of Albany.

For the full-speed option, I do not know how much tunneling and bridging the state thinks is necessary for its west-of-Hudson I-87 alignment from New York to Albany, but there’s an alignment east of the Hudson with only about 7 km of tunnel, all through the Hudson Highlands. Briefly, such a line would go east of the built-up area in Dutchess County and points north, with a possible station at the eastern edge of the Poughkeepsie urban area and another near Rhinebeck, closer to the city and to the bridge to Kingston than the present Rhinecliff station. In Putnam and northern Westchester Counties, it would utilize the fact that the ridge lines go northeast to southwest to swing to the southwest, to hook up to the Hudson Line slightly north of Croton-Harmon. With a curve radius of 4 km, and a maximum grade of 3.5%, only two tunnels are needed, one under Peekskill of about 2 km and one under the crest in Putnam County of about 5 km. Some additional viaducts are needed through the valleys in the Hudson Highlands, but from Dutchess County north the line would be almost entirely at-grade.

There is generally a tunnel vision in American high-speed rail documents like this, consisting of any of the following features:

– Excessive avoidance of greenfield alignments, even in relatively flat areas. The flip side is excessive usage of freeway rights-of-way. The Syracuse-Rochester segment is actually greenfield in the study, which is good, but there is no thought given to greenfield New York-Albany alignments, which are frankly much easier east of the Hudson than west of the Hudson.

– Questionable assumptions about the abilities of existing track in urban areas to have higher capacity, which often leads to excessive multi-tracking (as in California); there is never any effort to construct an integrated timetable to limit the construction of new tracks.

– No rail-on-rail grade separations. The study talks about Spuyten Duyvil capacity problems, which are very real if traffic grows, but says nothing about the possibility of grade-separating the junction from the Empire Connection to the Metro-North mainline to Grand Central.

– With the exception of California, which erred in the other direction, uninspiring speeds. It’s actually hard to construct a 350 km/h line that only averages 157; actual high-speed lines around the world in the 270+ range average about 180 or higher.

It’s not surprising New York is sandbagging HSR. A year and a half ago, the Cuomo administration killed an HSR study on the grounds that in a recession, the state can’t afford to build such an expensive project. Given how long it takes from the initial study to the beginning of construction, the argument is so transparently wrong that it raises the question of what the real motivation was. But whatever the real reason was, the state is not interested in HSR, and wrote a lengthy environmental impact study to justify its disinterest.


  1. letsgola

    Doing planning documents is a time honored way of appearing to do something while actually doing nothing.

    IMHO, the focus on following freeways comes from two things: one, we tend to conceptualize transpo in terms of freeway networks, so we assume that’s where rail should go too. Two, politicians are terrified of having to acquire property via eminent domain, especially an entirely new high-speed transpo ROW, especially in wealthy areas like Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess Counties. That, of course, is the reason that the 87 is on the west side of the Hudson in the first place.

    • Adirondacker12800

      It was on the west side of the Hudson before there was an Interstate system.

        • Adirondacker12800

          They decided that building a highway on the east side of the river was bad idea. The world is littered with places they decided it would be a bad idea to build a road. You can’t decide to put a road in a bad place, good place, mediocre place or call it I-87 before the Interstate Highway Act is passed. The Thruway was completed in 1956. The Interstate Highway Act was passed in 1957. By the time they are making decisions, first place ones last place ones or middle place ones about I-87 or even to designate it I-87 the Thruway has been open for years.

          • letsgola

            The point is that someone did try to locate a brand new transportation ROW on the east side of the Hudson, and couldn’t get it done because of local opposition. It hasn’t gotten any easier in the last 50 years.

          • Adirondacker12800

            the opposition was rational. they didn’t need the capacity then and they still don’t need it.

    • Ryan

      Frankly speaking, the “terrified of having to acquire property” argument goes straight out the window when you look at how property in certain wealthy areas is evidently valuable enough (or the construction of freeways and taking of properties for them didn’t depress property values enough) that development (including homes) gets far too close to the edge of the freeway in far too many places for the “simple” answer of “just using the freeway easement” to actually work in practice, at least in areas like Westchester County or lower Fairfield County. I’m not ruling out the possibility of it working in places like the Berkshires or Tolland County, but interstates in those areas are built to standards that can’t support HSR anyway because the curves are too sharp and the grades are too steep.

      The interstate highway network was not built with expansion of existing facilities in mind (the attitude was “we’ll just take the extra space as we need it” until it was “we can’t afford to take any more than what we need right now”), and for that reason it’s no simpler to staple HSR tracks into the easement than it might be to add more lanes; and since most of the places where the compelling argument to staple HSR onto the freeway to avoid expensive takings happen to be places that settled presumably-wealthy residential in the shadows of freeways anyway; or places where the freeways are built to road design standards that permit steeper grades and sharper curves than modern HSR could possibly handle.

      • letsgola

        The era of taking freeway ROW through wealthy areas ended with the freeway revolts over 40 years ago. Everyone is working with the ROW they already have.from that era. There indeed may not be enough available ROW in the freeway corridors to build HSR, but if you don’t really intend to build anything, it doesn’t matter.

        I haven’t been on the NY thruway in a while but if memory serves ROW would be little issue north of Suffern.

        • Ryan

          Just west and south of Kingston looks to me to be an incredibly problematic area for the ROW, as would be Catskill and Ravena – and if you’re committed to 87, you’re also committing to abandoning Rensselaer in favor of building a new station for Albany actually inside of Albany, which carries a whole different set of challenges with it.

          Of course, I do believe the sentiment of “[they] don’t really intend to building anything” is the correct one. So the technical challenges of 87 through upstate indeed likely do not matter.

          • Adirondacker12800

            It could be in Colonie out by the Thruway. No reason why it could leave Rensselaer and in East Greenbush head out to Selkirk I think it’s a fabulous idea because when the train gets to Suffern it can use existing ROW that has lots of trains on it already to get to Secaucus in 30 minutes which is a lot faster than going through Manhattan. The flyovers from the Main/Bergen line to the NEC are going to really cheap to build.

        • Nathanael

          FWIW, the people from the era of the freeway revolts… are retiring and even dying off.

          Now, politicians face younger generations frustrated that nobody seems to be able to build anything.

          I predict a major political change in 20-40 years due to that.

  2. Alan Robinson

    There seems to be quite excessive engineering requirements put into the EA. As the one obvious example I could see, there’s a requirement for 30′ track centers for 110mph operation. This really is a sandbagging.

    • Adirondacker12800

      The tax assessors have to have a little chat with CSX. If they need 30 foot track centers that almost worthless land they’ve been using as an excuse to get their assessments lowered isn’t so worthless.

      • Alan Robinson

        I should clairify. For 90mph running, the EA allows for a design with 15′ track centers. Thus, in the 110 mph alternative, the amount of actual 110mph track is artificially restricted. It has nothing to do with how much space CSX currently uses. It seems more like an ad hoc design requirement to increase cost and reduce benefit in the analysis.

        • Adirondacker12800

          It was four tracks all they out to someplace remote in Ohio back in the day. It hasn’t been significantly encroached – except maybe in places where the main line has been moved since the 50s and the narrow freight bypass or branch line has become the main line If CSX is insisting on wider track centers the land they’ve been saying is nearly worthless land isn’t so worthless and someone in the tax assessor’s office has to go back and look at their previous tax bills. And calculate their future tax bills.

        • Nathanael

          I’ve followed the history here. This stuff is specifically due to CSX making shit up. CSX thinks that 90 mph trains are OK but 110 mph trains will spoil their milk, or something.

          The correct thing to do is for Amtrak and the federal government to seize the line from CSX by eminent domain (there is precedent), and then rebuild it the way it was in the 1950s. But nobody has the guts to do it.

          • johndmuller

            I know it seems a little ridiculous, but in some areas it might not be a terrible idea for NYS/Amtrak to (re)acquire some of the alternate ROW’s which somewhat parallel the main line, build out a 2 track freight line and trade it to CSX for the equivalent section of the old mainline. For example, the portion of the West Shore line from Rotterdam Jct to Utica would be rebuilt as a two track freight line and the corresponding part of the mainline operated a predominately 3 track line with decent spacing and one track of which being available for CSX to service their local customers.

            Most of the passengers in that area seem to be on the north side of the Mohawk and the south side would not seem to be as likely a source of nimby activity, especially as we would not be needing to make as wide or as compulsively straight a ROW as would be needed for higher speed passenger service. CSX might still prefer the status quo, but their resistance would be a lot less deserving of sympathy. Much of their freight traffic is going on through this area anyway, I suspect.

            The same process could work all across the state, although sometimes it might be better to let CSX keep the mainline and build out a new or resurrected passenger route.

          • Nathanael

            john: I’ve thought of that possibility myself.

            The problem is subtler than it appears: the problem is that this would put a lot of new *freight train traffic* onto those alternate ROWs. They have a lot of grade crossings. And the locals would promptly come out in force to oppose the additional freight traffic. Trust me, there would be plenty of NIMBY activity among those farmers and “rural living” people.

          • Ralfff

            Step 1: Announce plan
            Step 2: Wait for NIMBY counterattack
            Step 3: Agree to build grade separations where needed, and ideally get counties/localities to pay some part of that cost.

            Everyone wins, face is saved, and NIMBYs are satisfied.

        • Adirondacker12800

          …we owned it up until 1998 when the private industry fetishists made us sell it.

  3. Adirondacker12800

    This makes sense for a full-speed, 350 km/h line. But the cost of the full-speed 220 mph option is $39 billion, around $55 million per km from New York to Buffalo in an area with a topography that justifies at most half that.

    I’m never going to have the gumption to go read the whole thing. I wasn’t able to quickly find an estimate of the cost of 125 west of Albany versus 160 versus 220. It not much since most of it is flat. And lightly populated. 125 mph diesels can run on track that has the geometry for 220…. it doesn’t make sense to design to 125 except in dense urban and there’s not much dense urban along the route. The 15 billion plan is mostly going to be spent west of Albany. Electrification is going to be a significant fraction of that cost. ( Very rough quick back of the envelope calculation of 2 billion just for electrification.) 125 MPH electrification costs the same as 220mph electrification.. The flat tangent parts are going to cost the same. Spend the extra half billion now and go for 220 except in the few miles that are urban. It won’t have to be spent in 2030 or 2040 when it gets connected to a wider system. The study ignores that it will be connected to a wider system.

    overplaying the importance of skipped small cities.

    Anecdotal but I asked people in Amsterdam and Rome if they would be willing to wait around for the four times a day single car “train” that toddles through on the freight tracks, that will take longer than driving to the enormous low cost parking garages at the HSR station. They’d drive. If there’s a 220 MPH option they’ll drive 20-25 minutes to the HSR station. Some hesitation if it was half as fast because then just driving all the way looks more attractive.

    I cannot find a reference. The mayor Rome when presented with the option of sorta kinda what he’s got now and something much much faster available in Syracuse and no service to Rome wanted high speed. They could work something out with shared cabs or even SuperShuttle kinda thing that would generate more traffic. The station in Rome is out in the floodplain far from downtown, carless people would still need a cab.

    It could serve Utica, but with some takings because the sharp curve from the tracks at the downtown station to the I-90 right-of-way to the west.

    Zoom out with the terrain option turned on in Google Maps. It’s hilly out by the Thruway. The people in Rome and Utica never got the urge to build a lot of stuff in the floodplain. It’s nice and flat. Staying more or less on the railroad ROW might make more sense.


    …locks are good approximation of places that aren’t dead flat. The places between locks are dead flat… Realllly squiggly rivers with oxbows are places that are very flat… Like the places on the north side of Utica’s Union Station…

    Lack of service to Utica would be a drawback,

    It doesn’t get better than Utica. It’s got tangent track right next to the restored gem of Union Station. It’s where you want to put the high speed tracks between Herkimer and Rome anyway.

    Stations… sigh. Rochester and Schenectady tore their’s down. Syracuse’s still exists but they used the ROW for I-690. Albany still has Union Station and the D&H station. Most of the ROW was used for I-787. Buffalo’s grand station is off in the suburban parts of town, not being used and they’ve managed to stabilize it. It doesn’t get better than Utica.

    capacity problems on the Hudson Line

    They fret about capacity problems in Penn Station too. There are right now but some decade soon East Side Access will open and there will be some room. And some decade soon Gateway or SonOfArc will open and there will be more capacity. Unless we screw around so long that either opens and pent up demand overwhelms it. I’d predict 2035 but ARC had it happening in 2040-2050 and Gateway is making a similar assumption. The headliner for Metro North access to Penn Station is 6 trains an hour during peak from the New Haven line. There’s planning going on for 4 an hour from the Hudson line. Assuming they find more places to pack more cubicles into in Manhattan there will be demand. They may not find many more places. High speed service to Utica makes it attractive to put a few of those cubicles in Utica. Wishy washy sorta kinda good enough for the developing world in 1973 just a bit faster than driving doesn’t.

    and yet exhibit 3-20 shows a passenger rail bypass of Albany.

    What little I have read talks a lot about wetlands and mentions in passing the parkland between Albany and Schnectady that the Thruway and the existing railroad ROW pass through. Wetlands can be mitigated. Loss in one place can be compensated for by restoring or creating it in another. It’s not wetland. It’s pine barren. Pine barrens can not be replaced. Pine barrens are rare. And it hosts at least one endangered species. The ROW there now, is the ROW they’ll use. Probably the railroad ROW because the Thruway narrows down to Jersey Barrier between opposing traffic and the Thruway isn’t going to give up lane space.

    It ignores traffic going north of Albany. There isn’t an easy way to do that across suburbia from the Thruway. The existing railroad ROW, with improvements in the near future – some of which are being done now – and maybe far in the future a tunnel under the Hudson, is good enough.

    Building a station in Schenectady where the bus shelter next to the Amshack by the side of the tracks is, is the place to put it. It’s where almost all the buses in Schenectady run. First pass of looking at this, bus service to a station on the Thruway didn’t look that bad. Just extend the very busy line that goes that way from downtown Albany out to the station. I then considered going north, endangered species and that the existing site in Schenectady is very good. Instead of extending the very busy bus line to the west just extend it to the east and the station in Rensselaer. It’s a much shorter distance, people destined for downtown have a much shorter ride and people transferring to the bus to the station from other bus lines have a much shorter ride. The existing sites in Rensselaer and Schenectady look reasonably good. The existing ROW looks reasonably good. Someday far in the future when there’s demand for super express service – the Boston or New York to Toronto or Cleveland market – think about a bypass of Albany farther south where it would be cheap to build.

    • johndmuller

      For all its weaknesses, it still is better than nothing. which is something we might have expected from the Guv-who-would-be-Prez. It continues to lay the necessary groundwork for at least the 110 mph scenario so that sometime down the road, if someone in DC is looking to spend money on rail projects, there will have been some degree of paperwork on file and some work to throw money at. I wish it hadn’t thrown so much environmental dirt on the 125 mph variation, but ….

      This makes sense for a full-speed,…
      I’m almost glad it isn’t pushing for the greenfield option up front, because I think that the third track and all the various other modifications to the old mainline should be done for the sake of all the towns along the line that are not Syracuse and Rochester – to get them connected in and ‘invested’ in this process. These are, after all, our Worchesters, Providences and Hartfords.

      I do not believe it matters much what the cost numbers say for the greenfield, as it looks like a straw man anyway. OTOH, it would be good to conduct a serious study on the routes that could be taken and what kind of costs they might incur.

      There are quite a few old disused/abandoned rail lines in NYS; quite a number are shown on this map. Not that these ROWs are at all appropriate for a high speed link, but they may be useful in part, or they may provide alternate routes avoiding sections where the old mainline cannot accommodate both Amtrak and CSX or is not the most direct (i.e. the detour to Rome), A lot of this is the West Shore route, which was originally built by the PRR, so it was probably reasonably well located and designed.

      • Adirondacker12800

        You aren’t going to like hearing this but there aren’t any towns along the line except Rochester, Syracuse and Utica. If Rome gets a station why doesn’t Oneida? Why not Batavia? Why not Herkimer? Or Little Falls? Why can’t the people in Amsterdam drive to Schenectady but it’s okay for the people in Troy to drive to Rensselaer? Why should the 34,000 people in Rome get a station? And the 82,000 in Colonie don’t?
        Metro Harford is bigger than anything Upstate including Albany’s combined statistical area which includes the Glens Falls metropolitan area. Metropolitan Springfield Mass. is bigger than Syracuse and more than twice the size of Utica’s. The 150 people a day in greater Rome who want to take the train can drive to Syracuse. As can the ones in Amsterdam to Schnectady or Newark to Rochester or Syracuse or the ones in other itty bitty little towns can drive half an hour to a station.
        If Seneca Falls, to pick someplace sorta kinda halfway between Rochester and Syracuse, had 200,000 people it might make sense, There aren’t many people out there.
        Trains stations aren’t cheap, not for trains that have level boarding. How much should we spend for the the tiny waiting room that has a handicap accessible bathroom and and elevator so wheelchairs can get up and down from the underpass near the station?

      • Alon Levy

        Upstate New York’s Providences, Hartfords, and Worcesters are exactly the four main cities. The sixth largest city in the state, Utica, has a metro population of 300,000, counting Rome. This isn’t Providence; this is New London. It’s worth a station if it’s already on the line, but it’s not worth much effort to get the station downtown, despite my romanticism for the possibility of stopping downtown and then swerving to I-90. After Utica, the next largest metro area between Albany and Buffalo is Auburn; Auburn’s metro population is 80,000, and serving it is exceedingly hard since it’s south of I-90 where the legacy line is north, and there’s a wildlife refuge and a lake in the way of the transition from the city west to I-90.

        • Adirondacker12800

          It’s not going to take much effort to get the tracks next to the existing station in Utica. The ones there are now are nice and straight. The flat straight place through there is the existing tracks or the floodplain next them. They aren’t going to have to build a station they already have a spectacular one. Assuming the decision is “lets use the flat straight place that nobody built much of anything in, right next to downtown Utica” putting a station in Utica makes sense.

        • Nathanael

          Auburn was served by the “Auburn route” of the NY Central, which goes by several different names and was actually the oldest incarnation of the NY Central line; the existing route is an express bypass built later.

          If I were designing a full network, I’d run one of the (many, frequent) daily Syracuse – NY trains to Auburn rather than onward to Rochester and Buffalo. The line is actually still intact and used by a short line.

          • Adirondacker12800

            There aren’t enough people in Auburn for an hourly 12 passenger bus

        • Nathanael

          Yes, Adirondacker, there are enough people in Auburn for that; 80,000 is plenty enough for that.

          Actually, they already RUN that much bus service (though it’s on an irregular schedule and uses larger buses).

          • Nathanael

            12 city buses a day from the public transit agency for the region.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Centro’s web site sucks. I’ve spend 45 seconds more than I care to looking, As near as I can tell it’s twice a day between Auburn and Syracuse. Almost everybody in Auburn has access to a car. Like everybody else north of Yonkers they drive.

          • johndmuller

            There is some tourist potential in the Finger Lakes from the NYC and other areas. It would seem that there are physical tracks for a train to Cayuga and Seneca lakes on a route between Syracuse and Rochester, and with some re-railing, also Canandaigua with a route that didn’t have to backtrack. Obviously this wouldn’t be your express, but if you ran a local along this route a couple of times a day with good connections on each end to the LD trains, you might have something to build on.

            Sure there might be a bus already, but I, for one will almost certainly not be on it, while I might take a train. There would need to be enough tourist infrastructure right there by the station for this to work, otherwise, it’s back to why not drive if you need to have a car anyway once you’re there.

          • johndmuller

            I wouldn’t be surprised if it were slower; the train would probably be more expensive too.

            Aside from the relative appeal of the train over a bus, there is the matter of whether the bus to train interface is convenient or not – location, luggage schlepping, etc. Reservations, ticketing, scheduling and so forth would likely coordinate better with a single operator (although I really don’t think it likely that Amtrak would want to get into this, it would probably take some other setup [cringing at yet another MTA like agency]).

          • Adirondacker12800

            they already have a public transit agency, Centro. “Public bus services for Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, and Oswego counties in Central New York.” from their web site.
            I’m not gonna go look up exact numbers. Auburn has 80,000 people. They do something really odd like average two round trips per year per person. Even odder they all take the bus. Odder still they all evenly space themselves out over the year and everyday. That’s 320,000 bus trips per year. rounded up to a whole person per direction per hour it’s 28 per hour per direction. But it’s only 30 miles. A bus once an hour means that it makes a good connection to the train to New York and an okay connection to the train from New York. It’s a 15 minute wait for the train to Boston and a 23 minute wait for the train to Buffalo and since the train to Montreal only runs once every three hours they don’t try to meet those trains at all and it’s a 40 minutes wait. People who can spend $150 a night on hotel rooms aren’t phased by 20 dollar a day parking fees in the garage in Syracuse and drive. Ya need a 12 passenger bus that will be half empty most of the time. On Thanksgiving weekend they can press the handicapped bus into service so something runs every half hour.

          • johndmuller

            Sounds like a perfectly adequate bus, assuming it makes useful connections in Syracuse (presumably) and/or Rochester. Unfortunately, it is still a bus and I don’t think it would do the trick for what I am talking about.

            I’m imagining a little clear-your-head trip from NYC to some hopefully relaxing, colorful and comfortable inn on a finger lake. We take a 5 1/2 hour trip on the Empire service to Syracuse, and get there about 4PM. Fortunately (?), the next bus to Skaneateles leaves at 4:08 (probably too tight) or 5:08 (not completely bad) ….. BUT …. those buses don’t go to the train station; the one that leaves from the train station is at 5:55, a good 2 hour wait …. BUT …. that bus is only on weekends. In fact weekends seem to be the only time that the buses go to the train station! Not off to a good start.

            Suppose we take a taxi or whatever bus option there might be to catch the 5 o’clock bus, the trip itself to Skaneateles is supposed to take only an hour to 1 1/2 or so hours depending on the route and only seems to cost a couple of bucks. However, I imagine it to be a city bus kind of affair (and in fact we will probably have to board it on a city street too) and may not be to friendly for our luggage, especially as this will be rush hour in Syracuse.

            So, we get dropped off in what I think is the middle of town, perhaps even right across the street from the lake (or at least close); couldn’t expect better of a train station, the Skaneateles station was/is probably in a similar location. Whatever is required to get to whatever idyllic retreat we’re going to is subject to local arrangements. Seems like about dinner time after all day in transit. Driving would be a couple of hours less time and probably cost about the same for 1 person or half as much for 2; the driving itself is some good and some bad, not that different from the long train ride.

            Skaneateles might not be my first choice, but that’s where Centro goes, so I used that; perhaps better connections are available for one of the other lakes.

            Think, though, if a real train, or a cute natural gas powered faux steam locomotive, or a Budd railcar kind of thing or even a light rail or street car were doing the trip straight from the Amtrak station, wouldn’t that make a lot of difference?

          • Adirondacker12800

            There is no rush hour in Syracuse, At worse is a rush minute and half and that only happens on summer Fridays. You picked the quaint little bed and breakfast that has a quaint little courtesy car that waits for you in the kiss-n-ride didn’t you? Or has an arrangement with one of the cab companies to send a car ’round.

          • johndmuller

            You’ve got me a nice porch overlooking the lake – with canoes and sailboats (no jet skis or powerboats except maybe the mini-paddlewheeler courtesy boat) ?

            Go ahead and book that.

            BTW, I could use a little more convenience at the other end too. How about the Amtrak courtesy horse and buggy pickup at the door?

          • Nathanael

            I didn’t mean to get sidetracked onto the topic of driving patterns in Syracuse and Auburn. :sigh: There actually is a rush hour in Syracuse, but it’s only noticeable on, basically, two roads.

            The Auburn-Syracuse buses are currently a crazyquilt mess of a schedule, although there are in fact 12 of them. I wonder how it would fare if the buses actually ran on an even schedule and between the same points on each run.

            If there were gobs of trains running from Syracuse to NYC, I’d run one pair of trains to Auburn for one reason only. You don’t need as many trains west of Syracuse to Rochester & Buffalo as you do east of Syracuse. Given any sort of likely intercity frequency, you have the option of building a large yard to park trains in Syracuse, or moving them further in another direction to park them overnight — towards the tourist market of the Finger Lakes, for instance — and the latter is probably worth the relatively little effort it takes.

          • Adirondacker12800

            There aren’t enough people in Auburn to be running trains there.

            Auburn has 80,000 people. They do something really odd like average two round trips per year per person. Even odder they all take the bus. Odder still they all evenly space themselves out over the year and everyday. That’s 320,000 bus trips per year. rounded up to a whole person per direction per hour it’s 28 per hour per direction.

  4. Patrice

    Sigh, why doesn’t electrification rise to the top of the list of improvements? Start there. IMO, the next logical electrified feeder extensions/branches to the NEC are DC-Richmond (if VA is serious about connecting to the richest region in the country with the most jobs) and NYP-ALB (maybe with some modern EMUs that don’t have to be turned around every dang time).
    Not Harrisburg-Pittsburgh (too much freight/hills) nor BOS-Maine (separate BOS stations & low pop density in NH/ME). CT is making slow but steady progress to electrify NHV-Springfield and eventually this will extend to BOS.

    • Ryan

      Connecting Harrisburg to Pittsburgh isn’t going to get any less problematic in five, ten, twenty years if we keep saying “it’s too hard, so just forget about it.”

      Fortunately, since the only real solution for PA is an expensive and intensive greenfield HSR line, the problem of freight traffic ends up being solved by virtue of the solution to the terrain problem.

      Unfortunately, “let’s just fail to connect both halves of PA to each other and to the state capital” is a bad answer. We’ve got to do something to complete a high-speed line between PHL and PGH; and we should get going on it sooner rather than later.

      The only reason to electrify BOS-Maine ahead of any of the priority corridors is if the political will and capital materializes for the North-South Rail Link; diesel trains should be expressly forbidden from entering that tunnel and for that reason electrifying BOS-Maine as a medium-speed line makes sense even though flagging it as a HSR corridor emphatically does not (for many reasons, not the least of which being that HSR trains can happily run over medium-speed tracks). Similarly, flagging NHV-SPG as a HSR corridor makes no sense (it’s 60 miles; the time savings of moving at 220 are not at all worth the added expense over a line moving at 125 or even 90/100/110) even though electrifying it makes a tremendous amount of sense.

      Having made those points, there’s no reason that NYP-ALB electrification has to be in conflict/competition with HAR-PGH improvements; especially given the fact that both projects are state-oriented and intra-regional rather than inter-regional.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Pittsburgh and Buffalo are halfway between Chicago and New York give or take ten or twenty miles. They are far away from either as Boston is from New York or San Francisco is from Los Angeles. What makes them intra-regional versus inter-regional?

        • Ryan

          Chicago to Pittsburgh is 450~ miles; Chicago to Buffalo is 525~ miles; LA to SF is 400~ miles; Boston to NYC is 225~ miles.

          What makes HAR-PGH and NYP-ALB intra-regional projects instead of inter-regional is because the primary reason to undertake the project is the immediate demand for completing that particular intra-regional link, with the inter-regional links being of secondary concern (e.g., because HAR-PGH isn’t the last missing link on a high-speed line to CHI; because Patrice specifically said NYP-ALB and not NYP-BUF).

          NYP-BUF would be an inter-regional project.

          • Adirondacker12800


            It’s 907 miles from New York to Chicago via Pittsburgh. Halfway would be milepost 453.
            It’s 438 miles from Pittsburgh to New York and 469 from Pittsburgh to Chicago. It’s halfway.


            It’s 435 from New York to Buffalo and 525 to Chicago. It’s 961 via Albany. Halfway is milepost 480. It’s roughly halfway.


            It’s 382 road miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles if you ask Google to map that. The trains won’t be using that route and once they decide where it’s going to go it’s going to be, roughly 450. Very roughly Buffalo-NY or Pittsburgh-NY or Buffalo-Chicago or Pittsburgh-Chicago or DC-Boston.

            San Jose to Los Angeles is 400 miles. San Francisco to LA is 450. Or Palmdale to San Franciso is 400. Roughly. Providence to DC or Baltimore to Boston. Roughly. Or Albany to DC.

            It’s the last part of high speed service from Albany to Philadelphia, Baltimore and DC. The report studiously ignores that. It’s the last part of high speed service to Newark, Trenton and Wilmington. Or high speed service to Metropark, BWI and New Carrollton. Or the northern missing link for high speed service to Richmond or Harrisburg. It’s will be almost free to cut a half hour out of Harrisburg-NY which cuts a half hour out of Albany-Harrisburg and Hartford-Harrisburg. Avoid stopping in Philadelphia. They could do that tomorrow if they wanted to…. The train that got “lost” a few months ago was going to use that route from the Bala-Cynwyd branch. They don’t because the just as fast as driving service Albany has and the just as fast as driving service Harrisburg has doesn’t generate enough demand.

            Albany is closer to Washington DC than Boston or Providence are to Washington DC. Not by much but closer. It’s ever so slightly shorter to go between Boston and New York via Springfield than it is to go via Providence. Hartford-Springfield is very roughly the same size as metro Providence. And closer to New York, not by much but closer, which makes it closer to Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC, Harrisburg and Richmond. Like it does when considering Albany.

            Going through Fresno and Bakersfield gets San Francisco to San Diego and Sacramento to Los Angeles. Albany to New York gets Albany and New York and Albany to Philadelphia and Albany to Baltimore and Albany to DC. Going from Albany to Buffalo gets Syracuse to Baltimore and Rochester to Philadelphia. It’s gonna be really cheap and easy to get from Depew to Cleveland ( downtown Buffalo to Cleveland not so much ) Going from Buffalo to Albany gets Cleveland to Syracuse. It’s not going to be very easy or cheap to get from Boston to Albany but Buffalo to Albany gets Cleveland to Boston. Hundred mile of track to Toronto gets all-of-those-places to Toronto. Hundred miles of not so cheap not so easy to build track across the Adirondacks and another hundred miles of cheap and easy to build track across not-Adirondacks gets all-of-those-places to Montreal.

            It’s very important that Albany, sleepy little ol’ Albany has very high speed service. To Boston, New York, Buffalo and Montreal. The train from Atlanta to Montreal and the train from Boston to Minneapolis will be passing through someday.

          • Ryan

            We’ve already had the argument about Hartford and Providence several times over on various other comment chains elsewhere in this blog, so I’m not going to rehash the same talking points with you when it’s clear that neither of us are going to be changing the other’s mind.

            It’s not the last part of very high speed service from Albany to anywhere, nor is Harrisburg the last part of very high speed service from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. To call something the “last part” of very high speed service implies that level of service already exists everywhere else on the line and it certainly does not yet.

            Arguing that a project is inter-regional today because trains from DC or NY to Chicago will run over it in 35 years after Ohio gets its act together and after enough people realize what a terrible idea it is to plan for there to be major gaps in the HSR network like between Pittsburgh and Cleveland and correct that error in corridor designation and after the Northeast Corridor is straightened out and permits high-speed operation is disingenuous.

            Let all of those projects materialize on their own terms: connecting Pittsburgh to Harrisburg or Albany to NYC has enough merit on its own to proceed as a intra-regional project that can and should be completed years before the inter-regional bullet train to Chicago starts running.

            As an aside: I don’t buy that there will ever be any direct rail service between Atlanta and Montreal or Boston and Minneapolis except as an excursion land-cruise for rail-fans – the sort of thing I would much rather not have the national rail corporation involved in except as much as they need to be to ensure that the yacht-like cruise trains don’t interfere with high-speed rail.

            The relative handful of people trying to take rail over very long distances because they can’t or don’t want to fly or drive can keep switching trains across the platforms at the logical end-points of various corridor services. If you’re already signing up for a 9+ hour train trip from Atlanta to Montreal, you’re probably not going to notice the 10-minute transfer across the platform in Washington DC, because you’re going in the same direction anyway. In fact, the overlapping of service corridors means you’re more than welcome to pass by transferring in DC if you happen to think that the platforms there smell funny or something – switch trains in PHL or NYP instead.

            The five guys trying to get from NY to LA by rail because of a medical condition that makes it unsafe for them to fly might be annoyed by having to get out of their train and walk across the platforms in Chicago and Denver, but they’re still going to do it.

            I’m perfectly happy with letting the horde of railfans who want a trans-national railroad for the sake of a one-seat ride across the country pay a sizable premium to get their cruise train fix in from Carnival or whatever other cruise company steps into what I’m sure is a very lucrative market that will spring up in the wake of all the hard work done to reknit the country together again.

          • Eric

            Adi, it’s 1400 miles from Boston to Minneapolis. That’s a 7 hour ride on a nonstop super-fast 200mph train. Nobody is going to prefer that over a 2-hour plane ride.

          • Adirondacker12800

            I don’t buy that there will ever be any direct rail service between Atlanta and Montreal or Boston and Minneapolis except as an excursion land-cruise for rail-fans

            Then you don’t know how trains work. I’ll give you a hint – it’s not an airplane. People will get on in Atlanta and get off in Charlotte, Raleigh, Richmond and DC. Except for the half dozen land cruise customers who want to get to New York the last of the passengers who got on in Atlanta get off in Balitmore. There’s lots of people in Baltimore who want to go to Albany and Montreal. they’ll have nice warm seats to sit in because someone from Atlanta got out of them two minutes earlier.

          • Ryan

            Equipment needs to be maintained at regular intervals, starting right from cleaning up after the horrible mess that 700, 800, 900 miles worth of people leave behind as they board and detrain at all of those stops along the way.

            There’s no conceivable benefit to running two train sets between Atlanta and Montreal when you can run one of those sets between Atlanta and NYC and the other between DC and Montreal. People who have nice warm seats to sit in also get to ride in a train filled with trash bags that really need replacing and a general layer of unspecified grime that could really use some wiping down and as long as that train is in the station what’s the harm in just giving it a quick once-over to make sure that everything is still on the up-and-up?

            People board trains based on where they’re going, not where they came from. With few exceptions, nobody in Baltimore is going to care where the train they’re taking to Albany originated from, and people in Atlanta trying to get to Raleigh or Richmond won’t care whether their train goes to NYC, Boston, Montreal or Pittsburgh – they only care that the train stops at the station they want to get off at. The handful of land cruise customers who care way too much about having one seat to ride in are better served riding a service that was expressly designed as a land cruise and everyone else trying to go past the “end” of a service is better served by changing trains.

          • Adirondacker12800

            The people who want to get from Richmond to Wilmington just like the people who want to get from Hartford to Providence.

          • Ryan

            Both sets of people will have direct, detour-free, single-seat rides, so I’m not really seeing what your actual objection here is?

          • Adirondacker12800

            You have to keep your delusions organized. You want to terminate trains from south of Washington DC in Washington DC. that means people in Richmond who want to go to Baltimore have to change trains. People from Alexandria who want to go to BWI have to change trains.

          • Steven Harrell

            I believe Ryan’s suggested service pattern was Atlanta to New York, and DC to Montreal. Under that scenario, an HSR passenger would need to transfer to travel from Albany to Richmond, but not from Baltimore to Richmond. Passengers traveling wholly within the Washington to New York corridor would have two trains to choose from, three if we haven’t abandoned DC to Boston (if not Raleigh to Boston). I believe he wants to terminate southern trains in New York, and Northern ones in DC.

          • Ryan

            This is correct, although there would probably be at least one regular service for a direct ride between Albany and Richmond.

            I don’t really want to start listing off all the city pairs within 900 miles of relatively straight line travel between each other; but generally speaking I believe in stopping service at the 900 mile mark (or the earliest available opportunity to turn trains after the 800 mile mark if nothing’s available at MP 900) in order to keep your trains cleaned and serviced.

            I do know that an awful lot of 900-mile corridors end up overlapping each other in various places on the eastern seaboard, and that’s fine. It’s actually more than fine, it’s great, because it means people anywhere on the DC – NYC corridor end up with something like seven or eight different services to pick from. Even if all of those services are hourly, the trains to Boston and Montreal and Toronto and Albany and Portland, ME and Long Island add up to a high-speed train between DC and NY every ten minutes.

          • Adirondacker12800

            People make trains ( or planes or buses or ferry boats or… ) dirty by the hour not by the mile.

          • Ryan

            ped·ant·ry /ˈpedntrē/
            noun: pedantry; plural: pedantries

            1. Excessive concern with minor details and rules.

            Miles traveled is convenient shorthand for how long one could expect the train to be running from end to end and you know it.

            If it makes you feel better, 900 miles is the magic number I arrived at by figuring 6 hours to be the reasonable limit past which train cleanliness would have fallen below acceptable levels and then multiplying that number by the 150 mph average speed I am cautiously optimistic all of our HSR lines will one day be traveling at.

          • Adirondacker12800

            that doesn’t change that people make trains and planes, buses, cars, ferry boats, aerial tramways, funiculars, vaporetto etc. based on hours. How come they don’t make everyone get off in Savannah and change trains when they are going to Florida? Or in some god forsaken wide place by the side of the tracks in North Dakota on the Empire Builder? Or in Brookaven Mississippi on the City of New Orleans?
            The train that people use to get from Charlotte to Baltimore can be the same train that people use to get from Washington DC to Trenton and Wilmington to Albany. They may not decide to do it that way but they could be. Why is Atlanta to Baltimore going to more popular than Richmond to Montreal? Other than to get to Baltimore the train has to be in Richmond or the plane touching down at BWI. it will take just as long to get into Baltimore.

    • johndmuller

      Richmond is a logical next step as you might want to get down to NC and eventually Florida, but it is a freight line with all those considerations (i.e. capacity and scheduling problems, etc.). The freight RR’s don’t generally have warm feelings about electrification, especially catenary, I believe. Tidewater is really more of a destination; there’s a lot more people and stuff going on (including a lot of freight too). Richmond is a lot like Albany, being the capital, and a convenient crossroads, but other than that, less of a go-to place than you might expect. It is a nice pretty city and they did salvage their old main station, but it is down by the river while most of the city is up on the hill.

      Harrisburg is also one of those capitals that are not so much a major city in their own state. What about the route from Baltimore to Harrisburg – connecting Harrisburg and DC? I don’t know whether it still is part of a viable DC-Chicago route (assuming Harrisburg-Pittsburgh gets taken care of), but for some reason, I generally seemed to build that segment in Railroad tycoon and it usually made money OK. OTOH, I was never very successful with the Harper’s Ferry/Cumberland route that Amtrak uses to Pittsburgh.

      • Adirondacker12800

        They have Record of Decision to upgrade it – the work has been approved from the environmental standpoint. Not for full fledged HSR but to greatly improve speed and reliability.

        • johndmuller

          Good for them; my latest info on VA had them extending the RF&P commuter line one more stop beyond Fredericksburg and adding something on to another route to Charlottesville (VA) serving UVA, both of these on the relatively minor side. This is a much bigger project and the interstate compact shows a degree of commitment. Pennsylvania and NJ should do something like that to stiffen their backbones and get moving on the Lackawanna Cutoff.

          • Adirondacker12800

            The whole route to Scranton has environmental clearance. No one has been able to find the half billion dollars it would take to make it happen. New Jersey is half heartedly rebuilding a single track as far west as Andover. A whole seven miles of it. Rumor has it they are doing it in house and work progresses when they have available crews. Rumor also has it that the final engineering for those seven miles was released and work halted because they wanted to clean the culverts that Conrail abandoned decades ago. Well they are clogged and it has created wetlands on the uphill side.Cleaning them out would drain the artificially created wetlands. People sued. … by the time they find the money people will sue because the environmental clearance is obsolete.

          • Nathanael

            The situation with the “wetlands” is exceptionally ridiculous and smacks of deliberate obstruction.

            The Scranton area is actually willing to put its own money in, but only if there’s some guarantee that the rails will actually get to Scranton. They don’t have enough money for that yet, and all the stuff which most needs rebuilding is in New Jersey, and it’s difficult legally for them to spend any money there. So everyone’s waiting for the New Jersey stuff, which is taking waaaaay longer than it should.

          • Nathanael

            Yeah, I know the tracks go from Scranton to the Delaware Water Gap. They need some upgrades for passenger service. But PA isn’t willing to spend the money upgrading those tracks until the tracks are reconnected from the Delaware Water Gap to Lake Hoptacong, and this makes perfect sense. A railway route is a lot less useful when it has a gap in the middle.

            Apparently there are legal issues specific to Pennsylvania which make it difficult for the counties in PA to spend money on the New Jersey side of the border, which is where the money needs to be spent first. Sigh.

          • johndmuller

            Providing some money for the Lackawanna Cutoff is the kind of thing that federal funds should be good for; adding enough $’s to make it less painful for NJ to do what is really somewhat of a favor for PA. Back when railroads made money, bridging this gap would likely be a no brainer; now, it’s not so obvious that NJ should ante up so that PA can lose money providing this service.

            For all I know, they already hove one, but this is a situation that may very well be addressed by means of an interstate compact. These compacts are essentially treaties between states (although I think that at least sometimes Uncle Sam has to sigh off on them) and as such are probably capable of superseding their respective state’s regulations. [International treaties are supposedly the supreme law of the land, or some such.] This would seem to be a natural application, especially if the real sticking point is PA’s inability to shell out for projects in NJ. If it is in fact political delay tactics that are in play, the setting up of an interstate compact would be just one more way to stall.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Wikipedia says metro Harrisburg is 564k, Lancaster is 482k. Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton is 790k. A-B-E like Scranton-Wilkes Barre doesn’t have any train service. Scranton’s metro is 564k. Springfield MA. is 692k and Hartford is 1.2 million. Albany is 1.1 million – 800k in the core area. Albany is 142 miles from New York, Springfield is 134. In nice round numbers Harrisburg is 100 miles from Philadelphia and 195 from New York. Lynchburg is 173 from Washington. Itty bitty Lynchburg gets good ridership. Richmond is 100 and it gets good ridership. Newport News-Virginia Beach Norfolk is 1.6 million… Going to Scranton makes sense. More sense that worrying about stopping in Rome or Batavia.

          • Adirondacker12800

            …Scranton is 133 via the route they are proposing…

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  6. Zack Rules

    Depressingly bad plans, if the state focused on upgraded the Albany-NYC stretch to 125mph, it would save at least an hour for all trains, not just the Albany bound ones! Pity the state did not buy and lease out the old NYC tracks to freight companies instead of going to Conrail route.

    • Adirondacker12800

      The government, either Amtrak or the MTA owns or has long term leases on everything east of Hoffmans which is near Rotterdam. They effectively own the places that are leased. From rumors read on railfan websites there are places where higher speeds are possible. Not a the moment because the trains running on it can’t go 110 much less 125 so they maintain the track for 110.

    • Nathanael

      The Albany-NYC stretch is by far the hardest to upgrade, unfortunately. It gets easier and easier as you head west from Albany. The state finally controls Albany-NYC, which should help — at least it’ll finally get up to 90 mph.

      I agree that it is a pity that the state allowed Conrail and CSX to take over the mainline. If the state owned everything from Buffalo to Albany we wouldn’t be facing lunacy like “30 foot track spacing!!!!”, which is coming entirely from CSX. Heck, if not for Conrail’s irresponsible practices, Syracuse Ontrack would be operating today.

      • Alon Levy

        It’s not all thaaat hard to upgrade. The line is passenger-primary and grade-separated. If the line is to be upgraded and not bypassed then it means the rolling stock is 200-250 km/h, which means tilting trains (the real kind, not the 2-degree active suspension Shinkansen) are a possibility.

        It’s harder to bypass, but in Columbia and Dutchess Counties an inland-ish route can be done zero-tunnel.

        • Adirondacker12800

          I can ‘t get mnrrv6.pdf to load in a reasonable time. Or pan well. There’s lots of 90 MPH track just not in really long sections. Approximately Hudson to Rensselaer is 110. …someone needs to find an employee timetable.. Other rumor is that there are moderately long stretches on Metro North that are good for 95 but since Metro North trains can’t go that fast Metro North maintains it for 90. North of Poughkeepsie there may be a lot of places that are good for 95 or 100 it’s just that it’s not worth maintaining them for 110. We need someone who writes employee timetables….
          The state has slowly but surely eliminating grade crossings north of Croton. I think there are still a few left. There is definitely a private one north of Hudson.

          • Nathanael

            Oh yeah — there’s large sections which could be restored to former speed limits of 90, sometimes 95 or 100, or occasionally 110. It’s after that that there are no easy upgrades.

            Inland bypass? We’ll need one due to rising sea levels, assuming NYC isn’t evacuated. The natural one was known as the Upper Harlem Line… sigh.

          • Adirondacker12800

            There’s a reason why the Upper Harlem line was abandoned. Looking at schedules from 1956 it took three and half hours to get to Chatham. It makes the Hudson line look flat and straight.

  7. Adirondacker12800

    Wellllll. they had the first meeting last night, March 4th, and a few people are not pleased.


    “…although Martin Robinson of Albany thinks it’s false advertising.”Four out of five speeds proposed don’t meet the federal requirements to be labeled as high speed, let alone the public perception of high speed rail,” said Robinson.”

    “..Edward Cupoli of Guilderland, who says he loves the notion of traveling around the state from city to city. “To me it always made sense that high speed rail was the way to do it, but it’s not going to be at 80 or 90 or 100 miles per hour. Why don’t I just stay in my car and drive myself?” said Cupoli.”

    • Nathanael

      I made it to a hearing; I was more polite.

      I simply don’t think we’re going to get high speed rail unless we get international conventional speed rail, which means 100 mph +, first. I can’t think of a country which has managed to do so, after looking at a lot of countries. I think the needed level of popular support for true high-speed rail doesn’t arrive until after you have functioning conventional-speed intercity rail, and that doesn’t really exist in the US outside the NEC and Keystone corridors.

      This <80 mph, never-on-time stuff has got to end, and it's got to end ASAP.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Albany to New York does almost as well as the Keystone. SEPTA service is no competition for Metro North service. In nice round numbers Poughkeepsie is 75 miles from Manhattan, Harrisburg is 100 from Philadelphia and Albany is 140 from Manhattan.

        • Nathanael

          Yeah, Albany-NY does OK. And will do better now with the currently-funded projects. But if we want more support for rail in the NY legislature, given the way NY politics works, we need people in Syracuse/Rochester/Buffalo to experience reliable, decent-speed rail too. And right now, well… that’s not happening, unfortunately.

          • Nathanael

            (I wouldn’t call Albany-NY functioning conventional-speed rail. But it gets decent ridership. It might become conventional-speed if the various sources of delay and slowdown which are currently being fixed are in fact fixed.)

          • Adirondacker12800

            At 2:25 which is the current schedule it’s faster than driving. It’s Amtrak’s ninth busiest station.

          • Nathanael

            All train services into New York City benefit from the fact that driving into New York City is really, really slow.

      • johndmuller

        I simply don’t think we’re going to get high speed rail unless we get international conventional speed rail, which means 100 mph +, first.

        Despite the glamour of true HSR, I think that this is more on track.

        While building a number of real HSR lines would seem to be a cooler thing to do, especially for someone with a national point of view, there is not much in it at a local level, except for the locales that would be the actual cities being served by the HSR.
        “All Politics is Local.” … Tip O’neill (and presumably others)
        Even if you live in a nearby suburb, you are still looking at an hour, anyway, to get to the HSR station, and very possibly more, if the connections are so-so. As you get further away, the benefits recede, but the costs – in taxes, or in construction, noise or other personal inconvenience if the HSR route is built nearby – probably do not recede.

        About half the people in NY state live in NYC or close enough that they could get to Penn Station without too much second guessing about the airport they could have gotten to instead. They may or may not like the idea of HSR, but they at least, have something to gain; upstate people have respectable service between Albany and NYC, otherwise not so much. Given this current situation, it is easy to see why there is little support upstate, especially given the general upstate/downstate polarization of politics in NYS.

        Aside form NYC, none of the other cities in the state are really on any non New Yorker’s short list for HSR service, except insofar as they are along a reasonable route to somewhere else and/or in a strategic location. Those might be Buffalo and Albany, as they are sort of natural junction points and spaced out nicely; add Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Poughkeepsie and whatever and you’re starting to look like the HSR equivalent of the late night milk train. Now, though, there is some basis of political support. Even with this slate, there are still a lot of voters getting missed altogether like Binghamton or dissed by having the train go right through without stopping most, if not all of the time.

        Performing the upgrades in the proposal and making the appropriate arrangements with CSX so that the passenger and freight services do not get in each other’s way could lead toward 110-125mph service along nearly the entire mainline. I’d like to think that doubling the average speed was a possibility, but that’s likely unrealistic without further separating the freight and passenger operations. In any case, providing frequent, dependable service through the Buffalo-Albany corridor is important both for helping people decide that they can get out of their cars and still get around OK and for helping them decide that further improvements are desirable and that they have the necessary connections to take advantage of them.

        I think that there is still work to be done at levels even more local than this, by way of feeder networks to these upgraded rail services.

        • Adirondacker12800

          40% of the people in New York State live in New York City itself and another 20% in the suburbs. They’ve had 100 MPH service since the 30s. 125 MPH service since the 60s. An hour away from New York on an commuter train gets you to a station that is the second or third Amtrak station away from New York except for the poor souls on Long Isalnd. Trains aren’t inexorably drawn to platforms. the train that leaves on the hour can skip Croton, Poughkeepie, Utica and Rochester. the one that leaves at ten minutes past the hour can stop at all of them. The train that leaves DC or Boston for Cleveland or Montreal can do the same thing. The one that leave at ten minutes after can stop at them all.

        • Alon Levy

          A milk run? Hardly. The stop spacing would be on a par with that of express Shinkansen. On both the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen, the fastest express trains make 5 stops, which makes for a stop every 100-110 km. On Sanyo, very few trains (Mizuho) make just 5 stops; nearly all Nozomi super-express trains make 6, so that’s a stop every 90 km. On the Tohoku Shinkansen, the fastest two daily express trains make 4 stops, but the other super-express trains make 6-9 stops; the average is a bit under 7, which is again a stop every 100 km.

          For comparison, New York-Buffalo is just under 700 km by HSR, so it would be about normal if every train stopped at Yonkers or Croton, Albany, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo. It could still do the New York-Buffalo trip in well under three hours.

          • Adirondacker12800

            someday far far in the future when there’s 8 trains an hour between Albany and New York I can see where some of them express between New York and Albany. The Nozomi to Toronto, Montreal and Chicago for instance. Everything doesn’t have to stop in Croton. Also someday far far in the future when there’s a South Tarrytown station under the new Tappan Zee Bridge with a huge bank of elevators to the bus terminal over the toll plaza perhaps cease stopping in Yonkers and Croton. Where everybody changes buses on the once 15 minute bus routes that radiate out from the exclusive bus lane between Suffern and Portchester on the Cross Westchester and the Thruway.

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