Too Many Branches, Too Few Trunks

A recent discussion on Twitter about the through-running plan offered by ReThinkNYC got me thinking about an aspect American through-running crayonistas neglect on their maps: the branch-to-trunk ratio. It’s so easy to draw many branches converging on one trunk: crayon depicts a map and not a schedule, so the effects on branch frequency and reliability are hard to see.

In contrast with crayonista practice, let us look at the branch-to-trunk ratio on existing through-running commuter networks around the developed world:

Paris

The RER has 5 lines, of which 4 are double-ended and 1 (the E) is single-ended, terminating in the Paris CBD awaiting an extension to the other side. They have the following numbers of branches:

RER A: 3 western branches, 2 eastern branches.
RER B: 2 northern branches, 2 southern branches; on both sides, one of the two branches gets 2/3 of off-peak traffic, with half the trains running local and half running express.
RER C: 3 western branches, 4 eastern branches; one of the eastern branches, which loops around as a circumferential to Versailles, is planned to be closed and downgraded to a tram-train.
RER D: 1 northern branch, 3 southern branches; the map depicts 4 southern branches, but only 3 run through, and the fourth terminates at either Juvisy or Gare de Lyon.
RER E: 2 eastern branches; the ongoing western extension does not branch, but is only planned to run 6 trains per hour at the peak, so some branching may happen in the future.

The RER B and D share tracks between Chatelet-Les Halles and Gare du Nord, but do not share station platforms.

London

Thameslink has 3 southern branches. To the north it doesn’t currently branch, but there is ongoing construction connecting it to more mainlines, and next year it will gain 2 new northern branches, for a total of 3. Crossrail will have 2 eastern branches and 2 western branches. Crossrail 2 is currently planned to have 3 northern branches and 4 southern branches.

Berlin

Berlin has 2 radial trunk routes: the east-west Stadtbahn, and the North-South Tunnel. The Stadtbahn has three S-Bahn routes: S5, S7, S75. The North-South Tunnel also has three: S1, S2, S25. Each of these individual routes combines one branch on each side, except the S75, which short-turns and doesn’t go all the way to the west.

Berlin also has the Ringbahn. The Ringbahn’s situation is more delicate: S41 and S42 run the entire ring (one clockwise, one counterclockwise), but many routes run on subsegments of the ring, with extensive reverse-branching. At two points, three services in addition to the core S41-42 use the Ringbahn: S45, S46, and S47 on the south, and S8, S85, and S9 on the east.

Munich

There is a two-track central tunnel, combining seven distinct branches (S1-8, omitting S5). S1 and S2 further branch in two on the west.

The excessive ratio of branches to trunks has created a serious capacity problem in the central tunnel, leading to plans to build a second tunnel parallel to the existing one. This project has been delayed for over ten years, with mounting construction costs, but is finally planned to begin construction in 2 days, with expected completion date 2026. At more than €500 million per underground kilometer, the second tunnel is the most expensive rail project built outside the Anglosphere; were costs lower, it would have been built already.

Tokyo

The Tokyo rail network is highly branched, and many lines reverse-branch using the subway. However, most core JR East lines have little branching. The three local lines (Yamanote, Chuo-Sobu, Keihin-Tohoku) don’t branch at all. Of the rapid lines, Chuo has two branches, and Tokaido and Yokosuka don’t branch. Moreover, the Chuo branch point, Tachikawa, is 37 km from Tokyo.

The northern and eastern lines branch more, but the effective branch-to-trunk ratio is reduced via reverse-branching. To the east, the Sobu Line has 5 branches, but they only split at Chiba, 39 km east of Tokyo. The Keiyo Line has 3 branches: the Musashino outer ring, and two eastern branches that also host some Sobu Line trains. The services to the north running through to Tokaido via the Tokyo-Ueno Line have 3 branches – the Utsunomiya, Takasaki, and Joban Lines – but some trains terminate at Ueno because there’s no room on the Tokyo-Ueno trunk for them. The services using the Yamanote Freight Line (Saikyo and Shonan-Shinjuku) have 2 southern branches (Yokosuka and Tokaido) and 3 northern ones (Utsunomiya, Takasaki, and a third Saikyo-only branch).

Conversely, all of these lines mix local and express trains on two tracks, with timed overtakes, except for the three non-branching local lines. The upper limit, beyond which JR East only runs local trains, appears to be 19 or 20 trains per hour, and near this limit local trains are consistently delayed 4 minutes at a time for overtakes.

Implications for Through-Running: Boston

In Boston, there are 7 or 8 useful southern branches: Worcester, Providence, Stoughton, Fairmount, the three Old Colony Lines, and Franklin if it’s separate from Fairmount. The Stoughton Line is planned to be extended to New Bedford and Fall River, making 8 or 9 branches, but the intercity character of the extension and the low commute volumes make it possible to treat this as one branch for scheduling purposes. To the north, there are 5 branches today (Fitchburg, Lowell, Haverhill, Newburyport, Rockport), but there are 2 decent candidates for service restoration (Peabody and Woburn).

The North-South Rail Link proposal has four-tracks, so the effective branch-to-trunk ratio is 3.5. It is not hard to run service every 15 minutes peak and every 30 off-peak with this amount of branching, and there’s even room for additional short-turn service on urban lines like Fairmount or inner Worcester and Fitchburg. But this comes from the fact that ultimately, Boston regional rail modernization would create an RER C and not an RER A, using my typology as explained on City Metric and here.

There are several good corridors for an RER A-type service in Boston, but those have had subway extensions instead: the Red Line to Braintree, the Orange Line to Malden, and now the Green Line Extension to Tufts. The remaining corridors could live with double service on an RER C-type service, that is, service every 7.5 minutes at the peak and every 15 off-peak. For this reason, and only for this reason, as many as 4 branches per trunk are acceptable in Boston.

Implications for Through-Running: New York

Let us go back to the original purpose of this discussion: New York through-running crayon. I have previously criticized plans that use the name Crossrail because it sounds modern but only provide a Thameslink or RER C. Independently of other factors, the ReThinkNYC plan has the same issues. It attempts to craft a sleek, modern regional rail system exclusively out of the existing Penn Station access tunnels plus a future tunnel across the Hudson.

Where Boston has about 7 commuter rail branches on each side, New York has 9 on Long Island (10 counting the Central Branch), 6 in Metro-North territory east of the Hudson, and 9 in New Jersey (11 counting the Northern Branch and West Shore Railroad). Moreover, one branch, the Hudson Line, has a reverse branch; where the Keiyo/Sobu reverse-branching in Tokyo and the Grand Central/Penn Station Access reverse-branching on the New Haven Line offer an opportunity to provide more service to a highly-branched line, the Hudson Line is a single line without branches.

The upshot is that even a four-track trunk, like the one proposed by both the RPA’s Crossrail NY/NJ plan and ReThinkNYC, cannot possibly take over all commuter lines. The frequency on each branch would be laughable. This is especially bad on the LIRR, where the branch point is relatively early (at Jamaica). The schedule would be an awkward mix of trains bound for the through-running system, East Side Access, and perhaps Downtown Brooklyn, if the LIRR doesn’t go through with its plan to cut off the Atlantic Branch from through-service and send all LIRR trains to Midtown Manhattan. Schedules would be too dependent between trains to each destination, and reliability would be low. ReThinkNYC makes this problem even worse by trying to shoehorn all of Metro-North, even the Harlem and Hudson Lines, into the same system, with short tunneled connections to the Northeast Corridor.

On the New Jersey side, the situation is easier. This is because two of the key branch points – Rahway and Summit – are pretty far out, respectively 33 and 37 km from Penn Station. The population density on branches farther out is lower, which means a train every 20 or 30 minutes off-peak is not the end of the world.

The big problem is the attempt to link the Erie lines into the same system. This makes too many branches, not to mention that the Secaucus loop between the Erie lines and the Northeast Corridor is circuitous. The original impetus behind my crayon connecting the South Side LIRR at Flatbush with the Erie lines via Lower Manhattan is that the Erie lines point naturally toward Lower Manhattan, and not toward Midtown. But this is also an attempt to keep the branch-to-trunk ratio reasonable.

The first time I drew New York regional rail crayon, I aimed at a coherent-looking system. The Hudson Line reverse-branched, and I was still thinking in terms of peak trains-per-hour count rather than in terms of a consistent frequency, but the inner lines looked like a coherent RER-style network. But the Hoboken-Flatbush tunnel still had 5 branches on the west, and the Morris and Essex-LIRR line, without a dedicated tunnel, had 4 to the east. My more recent crayon drops the West Shore Line, since it has the most freight traffic, leaving 4 branches, of which 1 (Bergen County) can easily be demoted to a shuttle off-peak, keeping base frequency on all branches acceptable without overserving the trunk; by my most recent crayon, there are still 4 branches, but there’s a note suggesting a way to cut this to 3 branches by building a new trunk. Moreover, several branches are reduced to shuttles (Oyster Bay, Waterbury) or circumferential tram-trains (West Hempstead) to avoid overloading the trunks. There’s a method behind the madness: in normal circumstances, there should not be more than 3 branches per double-track trunk.

I am not demanding that the RPA or ReThinkNYC put forth maps with multiple new trunk lines. The current political discussion is about Gateway, which is just 1 trunk line; it’s possible to also include what I call line 3 (i.e. the Empire Connection), which just requires a short realignment of an access track to Penn Station, but the lines to Lower Manhattan still look fanciful. New York has high construction costs, and the main purpose of my maps is to show what is possible at normal construction costs. But it would be useful for the studios to understand issues of frequency, reliability, and network coherence. This means no Secaucus loop, no attempt to build one trunk line covering all or almost all commuter lines, and not too many branches per trunk.

New York is an enormous city. It has 14 subway trunk lines, and many are full all day and overcrowded at rush hour. That, alone, suggests it should have multiple commuter rail trunk lines supplementing the subway at longer-range scale. It’s fine to build one trunk line at a time, as London is doing – these aren’t small projects, and there isn’t always the money for an entire network. But it’s important to resist the temptation to make the one line look more revolutionary than it is.

44 comments

  1. ckrueger99

    My SEPTA crayon has 4 short turn “locals” (FLIRT?) and 4 long (some express) ones: http://bit.ly/250M0aH The short turn pairs are Chester-Manyunk, Cemetery (Cynwyd) – Holmsburg, Airport – Chestnut Hill (West), Bryn Mawr – Fox Chase. I haven’t thought much about the longer lines. Something makes me want to run Wilmington-Trenton through Center City, but I’m not sure that’s best.
    The whole plan is based on a new tunnel connecting the ex-PRR Connecting Railroad with the ex-Reading SEPTA Main Line via Temple/North Broad, which also helps AMTRAK to straighten the infamous curve at Frankford for higher speeds across North Philly. http://bit.ly/1Siloyl

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah, I think you have too many branches on the Reading side. If I understand you correctly, you take the 6 existing Reading branches, add Trenton and Chestnut Hill West via Swampoodle (okay), kill Chestnut Hill East (why?), and then convert the West Trenton branch into 3 separate branches (why??????). So you get 9 branches, for a branch-to-trunk ratio of 4.5.

      The problem with what you’re doing is that the local lines will need frequency. A lot of frequency. 15/30 is too low for in-city branches like the Chestnut Hills (they parallel the 23 bus line, they need more frequency), the inner Main Line, etc. The trains going due north can do 15/30 and overlie high frequency south of Jenkintown, but elsewhere, too many lines branch off early and still need decent frequency. Think 7.5/15, or maybe 10/20 (but then you can’t mix 10/20 and 15/30 routes on the same track pair…).

      • ckrueger99

        CHE converts to branch on the Broad Street subway (separate crayon:http://bit.ly/22DxhR1).
        WTRE is only 2 branches (Trevose local and WTRE express). The purpose here is to add stops in the Great Northeast, an underserved (by rail; see: http://bit.ly/1MwAHRH) part of Philly. This is also the thinking in behind branching the TRE line into TRE express and Holmsburg local. Both new lines use existing freight lines.
        But your criticism of the unbalance between SW and NE is real, and I can’t quite solve it. I think it’s worth getting SEPTA TRE trains out of the Zoo, tho, and adding the potential for Amtrak to send a limited number of non-Acela NY/Harrisburg trains through CCP.

        • adirondacker12800

          Why would someone who wants to go from Harrisburg or Lancaster to New York want to wander through downtown Philadelphia when they can go directly to North Philadelphia from the Main Line, west of Zoo?

          • adirondacker12800

            There’s a very nice bypass of Zoo for trains from the Main Line to get to the New York line and vice versa just west of Zoo. Instead of loitering around in downtown Philadelphia whole train-loads of people could just go to New York without stopping in Philadelphia. People who want to go to Philadelphia would get on the train that goes to 30th, Suburban, Jefferson and Temple. Or perhaps the one that goes to Washington instead of Temple. Or all three. People in Jenkintown, Betharyes and Langhorne want to get to New York so maybe the instead of turning around at Temple it could just keep going until it got to New York.

        • kclo3

          1) A fully grade-separated, AC-electrified line has no need to be converted into a subway. Not today, not in the future when SEPTA may have a true S-Bahn network to easily tie it into. Philadelphia did not naturally develop its subway around existing rail corridors, unlike what New York or Boston did.
          2) Neither the CSX Oxford Road and Bustleton Branch are terribly relevant to the Northeast’s mobility needs, which strictly include Roosevelt Blvd, Frankford Ave, and Castor-Bustleton Ave. On Oxford Rd, you create the burden of an extra branch for the gain of four stations, three of which are relatively close to existing ones and the other close to a more direct path to FTC. Bustleton might be a place to keep short-turn Holmesburg runs occupied but again it isn’t time-competitive with a bus and transfer to FTC.
          3) Some of SEPTA’s fastest trackage is on the NEC stretch between North Phila and ZOO, 50-80 MPH. It only looks bad because it somehow commits the sin of crossing over itself, and there may be junction-related delays, but like I said, they’re not at ZOO, they’re at LEHIGH with the CHW. So if we had the $billions and the eminent domain to build this brutally massive interlocking of yours, we also have the $100’s of millions and no-ED to simply-grade separate the CHW junction. None of this influences whether or not Frankford Curve is fixed, which as Alon found doesn’t require any land takings whatsoever. A direct Trenton-Temple connection may seem nice, but it’s a 1-seat ride either way so time differences are less significant.
          4) Why does any intercity train that already connects to 30th, one of the best transit-connected stations in the country, need to stop at another station in Center City? Why does Amtrak have to subject itself to SEPTA’s 3.5% grade, 90-degree turns, 40MPH trackage and SEPTA’s territorial dispatching when the NEC is wide and open and not subject to SEPTA-dispatched delays?

          • ckrueger99

            kclo3:1. As general principle, I agree: No technical reason to do it. But here, we have 2 branches that go to almost the same place. A CHE->BSL spur would be equivalent to a reverse branch, as far as the overall transport network is concerned.
            2. I agree that Roosevelt Subway is by far the most important, but also most expensive. But *something* has to be done with that horrible stroad. http://bit.ly/1RX9tUE
            Re the NETC via Holmesburg, I calc 25 min for a Flirt to Suburban, vs 47 min on bus/el combo currently. (Subway would be about 31 min.)
            3. I think the benefits are greater than you think. But I hear you. Not a cheap project, with other more pressing needs.
            4. I think there’s plenty of demand for CCP to NYPS without having to go to 30th. It makes the trip effectively maybe 15 min faster, without making it much slower for HAR-NYPS through pax. Obviously less benefit at a much higher time penalty for the DC-NYPS through trains.
            adirondacker12800: I can see increasing the frequency of the Pennsylvanian (to 3-4X/day), running it express through Zoo, with a stop in HAR for connection to Keystone for destination PHL. (h/t M Noda: bit.ly/1WBvqM7, bit.ly/27rzVfT, bit.ly/1XundJ6)

          • adirondacker12800

            The gap between the platform would be too wide and step up too high to use Flirts. And they accelerate slower than Silverliners Vs.

          • kclo3

            The Chestnut Hills already function like a reverse branch, but with out the service constraints in that one, the more dense, important one, goes direct to Jefferson and the other direct to 30th. Both are useful in their own respect, both tie into a through-running network through CC. I really don’t get the notion of trying to modify this which would only create redundancies while reducing possible 1-seat trips.
            Roosevelt Blvd *isn’t* the most expensive when you’re talking about shoehorning in service with belligerent CSX on their 2-track mainline ROW, or an elevated on relatively narrower Castor and Frankford Aves. Roosevelt’s 70ft median has no other purpose than to accommodate an easily buildable elevated, or depressed as an expressway extension with median tracks. What isn’t cheap, however, is trying to tie it in with your unnecessarily elaborate multilevel N. Phila flying junction, when the tail tracks at Erie were expressly constructed for the extension. The notion of less coverage is solved by moving the subway to 5th St, as depicted here.
            Which Center City are you talking about? There has always been much stronger intercity demand from UC and Market West than from Market East, and this is becoming more evident with $billions of future 30th St development on the line. The case to not spend funding to make Market East intercity has never been greater than today. The NEC time penalty is easily solved and has more potential for faster speeds when you reform the brake test reversal procedure and upgrade catenary through the approach, not by shoving it through restricted SEPTA-governed speeds to avoid overtakes and through a 90-deg junction. Sometimes, a city’s regional trunk axis (E-W) doesn’t correspond to its broader intercity metropolitan axis (SW-NE), and that’s totally fine. To shoehorn it in when it doesn’t mean any real access needs is folly.

          • adirondacker12800

            Or you can just cut 30 minutes off the trip to New York by avoidong a 30 minute tour of Zoo interlocking and 30th Street station by just sending the train with people who want to go to New York to New York.

          • Alon Levy

            Neither Zoo nor 30th Street is 30 minutes. The turn at 30th Street is done in 10 minutes today and can be done in 5, and Zoo interlocking takes a couple minutes.

          • adirondacker12800

            Apparently it takes 11 or 12 minutes to get from Ardmore to 30th Street and 8 minutes to get from 30th Street to North Philadelphia.

            https://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/906/479/Keystone-Service-Schedule-030617.pdf

            Why do people who are going to New York need to stop at 30th Street? They don’t have to, there are tracks, one set in each direction, that they can use to get from Ardmore to North Philadelphia or vice versa without doing that. … Someday there will be more than one train a day passing through Harrisburg….

    • Car(e)-Free LA

      I wonder if it would make sense to combine New York regional rail and Philadelphia regional rail.

      • Alon Levy

        I can see some New York-Philadelphia runs, but the scheduling would be horrific. Going all the way from Wilmington (or Newark!) to New Haven… that’s, what, 4 hours each way? And that’s with two tidal peaks in the middle, one Philly-bound and one New York-bound, so it’s not some sort of service you can run all day on the same frequency. Even New Haven-Trenton gets dicey on that front.

      • adirondacker12800

        No. SEPTA runs short trains and NJTransit runs long trains. Getting Pennsylvanians who are going to Manhattan off Delaware River road bridges, New Jersey roads, New Jersey parking lots and NJTransit trains has it’s charms but ferrying people from Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery county to Manhattan is SEPTA’s job. There are enough of them to run whole trains.

        • car(e)-free LA

          OK Then. It just seems a bit inefficient to have NJT and SEPTA terminating at Trenton and West Trenton.

          • adirondacker12800

            It’s inefficient to run 12 car trains over a line that on a good day scares up enough people for two, three or four cars.
            SEPTA could run trains to New York, they prefer that New Jersey taxpayers subsidize their residents working in Manhattan.

    • adirondacker12800

      If I’m reading it correctly you want to eliminate one curve and add two. And figure out some way to get trains from the former PRR which is elevated over street level to the former Reading which is in a trench under street level.

    • kclo3

      What I said here about branching, and here about Swampoodle still applies. As of today, SEPTA could not ask for a better extant network: per-side, a nearly-equal number of branches (6/7), a roughly equal ridership balance (Reading has more untapped potential to further even it out), ample track capacity and sorting capability at 30th to route lines along multiple patterns. Any fundamental alterations to that severely increases the burden on the city yards, increases last-mile transfer requirements, and makes it harder to balance MU consists that are overcrowded on one side and undercrowded on the other.

      With that said, SEPTA should be focusing on these short-turn pairs, in order of importance:
      Bryn Mawr Lansdale
      Airport Warmister
      Marcus Hook Norristown
      Media CHE
      Cynwyd Fox Chase
      Holmesburg CHW (assuming Swampoodle)
      Any other lines can be built upon that, or terminated at Powelton/Wayne Junction.

      Alon, you should note that the 23’s ridership is only 16.6K, which probably wouldn’t top the busiest 50 routes in NYC. Its ridership figures are inflated because of 1) Lack of decent service on paralleling streets, and 2) Lack of free transfers, which would instantly make bus-to-BSL trips greatly more attractive. The Chestnut Hills can make do with 15/30, especially if they can be staggered to provide something closer to 7.5m peak service.

  2. ant6n

    I’d say as we move towards CBTC, 5 lines on each side are feasible. That’s 10minutes per branch, with a 30tph trunk. Munich has been running with this configuration for decades, using (small) fixed block signalling. They’re just starting to need more capacity, and they actually have 7 branches on one side.

    You’ve previously argued for 15minute fixed schedules, which should allow 7 branches.

    One way to relieve pressure in such a configuration is if there are some stations with multiple tracks, especially around the merge points. That’s what makes the B/D trunk tunnel work, which has 3/5 branches.

    Another way in which Munich tries to increase reliability is to always connect one “reliable” branch with an “unreliable” one. That is, for every line routing through the trunk, try to keep one of the sides shorter and/or on dedicated track, preferably with flyovers and without grade crossings.

    • Alon Levy

      The B/D tunnel works, in theory. In practice, it only runs 32 tph vs. design capacity of 36 (the D turns 4 tph at Gare de Lyon since there’s no room for them in the central tunnel), and the trains aren’t especially punctual, and there are periodic cancellations. There’s a stalled project to quadruple the tunnel, but apparently straight quadrupling would require some shutdowns at Chatelet-Les Halles, and building new platforms at Les Halles to avoid shutdowns raises the pricetag from €700 million to €2-4 billion.

      The A runs 30 tph with moving-block signaling, but it’s not getting any more branches. It probably could (and in the future should) get a short tunnel connecting it to the two southern branches of Transilien L, giving them a more direct route into Paris than the current arc from La Defense north through Gresillons; as it is, there’s too much service on the Saint-Germain-en-Laye branch at rush hour. But RATP/SNCF are not doing so. Part of it can be explained as “they’re not really investing in the RER,” but, part of it is that the RER A likes its 10-minute takt schedules. Not to mention, the punctuality here isn’t exactly Japanese, or Swiss.

      In Boston, a 15-minute takt would allow 6 branches; I’m uncomfortable with 7 with this amount of branching, especially if you also want timed overtakes between intercity and regional trains. Then there are some branches that really need double service, like Fairmount, or inner Worcester and Fitchburg, all of which need way better than 15/30 service.

      • ant6n

        …which adds another point on how to make 5 branches (6tph) or 7 branches (4tph) feasible: every train should run at the same speed in shared segments.

        Another example:
        S-Tog has 3 branches, but a local and skip-stop express train on every branch (some only during rush) . That gives 6 different lines. 2 are rush hour expresses that run every 20 minutes only, the rest run every 10 minutes.

  3. adirondacker12800

    if the LIRR doesn’t go through with its plan to cut off the Atlantic Branch from through-service and send all LIRR trains to Midtown Manhattan.

    They are building it.

    They are doing all sorts of things in anticipation of East Side Access. I’m sure the NIMBYs along the Main Line will regret their decision to be NIMBYs when the MTA offered to grade separate.

    For the page on Jamaica.

    http://web.mta.info/mta/news/books/archive/140623_1345_CPOC.pdf#page=52

    Which is somewhat out of date and I’m not going to try to ferret out something more recent. They expect the new platform to be completed in 2019.

  4. liamblank

    Hey Alon, thank you for your feedback, you are raising an excellent point! As you noted, this topic came to your mind after seeing an old graphic for our Rikers/LGA proposal, which shows a cross-125th St A Train. As you correctly noted, this is not a good idea because it would reduce A Train frequency in Washington Heights. Our current proposal (as it relates to the NYC subway) does not include a cross-125th St A Train, but it does have the 2nd Ave Subway turning right (instead of left) at 125th St and heading to Port Morris. We haven’t updated our LGA/Port Morris graphic in nearly 2 years, so I appreciate you bringing this to my attention.

    In regard to the ReThinkNYC Trunk Line proposal, please allow me to clarify. I have personally studied the capacity of the existing commuter rail and NYC subway system extensively for a little over a year now, so I am very familiar with the subject. Even still, please correct me if and when I’m wrong.

    1. The ReThinkNYC Plan does not propose funneling every commuter rail line into the Northeast Corridor for precisely the reasons you stated above. The idea is that once the Gateway Tunnels are complete, we propose a comprehensive phased approach to implementing through running commuter rail service at Penn Station. Part of this phasing includes modifying Penn’s platforms by widening them, extending all the platforms under Moynihan, shortening platforms 1-3 (on the east end), and rerouting the stub-end tracks into the East River Tunnel interlocking. The result will be wide platforms that passengers can actually safely wait on, trains that can be boarded from doors on one side, and alighted from doors on the other side, as well as major improvements to vertical circulation (additional stairs/escalators/elevators). Watch this video for more details on how we do this: https://vimeo.com/202374998 . With the additional capacity provided by Gateway and through-running service, we will run frequent commuter rail service through the trunk line with 2-3 minute headways (if I recall correctly). Remaining NJ Transit trains will continue to terminate at Hoboken. Remaining LIRR trains will terminate at Long Island City (as well as Grand Central Station once East Side Access is complete). The majority of Metro-North’s Hudson & Harlem trains will continue to terminate at Grand Central Station.

    2. The purpose of the proposed connection between the Northeast Corridor and Hudson & Harlem lines in the Bronx is not to redirect all Metro-North service into the Northeast Corridor, but to direct some trains into the NEC, and more importantly, provide system resiliency (for instance, when a train derails or a fire breaks out on the Park Ave viaduct – blocking all access to Grand Central). Another reason for this connection is to redirect Amtrak’s Empire Line into the NEC at Port Morris, where it will continue on to Sunnyside Station and Penn Station, and then terminate at Secaucus. Service on the Empire Line is very infrequent, so this would not create the same kind of problems as redirecting all Metro-North trains into the NEC. Furthermore, Metro-North’s New Haven Line will have the ability to alternate service by following its current route into Grand Central, or terminating at Secaucus by staying on the NEC (via Penn Access).

    3. The ReThinkNYC Plan does include the Secaucus loop, but similar to the Metro-North connection, the intention is not to redirect all of the current Hoboken Division trains into Penn Station. Instead, service will alternate, with most trains continuing to terminate at Hoboken, and some trains terminating at Port Morris (via the loop and NEC) when capacity is available – which should be more often than not considering added capacity of Gateway Tunnels and through-running at Penn.

    4. Our through running proposal is very unique, and is much more comprehensive than the other through running proposals I have seen put out there by various individuals/organizations. Instead of proposing a “paired through running” system, where all trains run from one part of the region, through the trunk line, and continue on to another part of the region (for instance, a train from Montauk, NY to High Bridge, NJ), the ReThinkNYC Plan proposes what we call a “non-paired through running” system. With this configuration, westbound commuter trains traveling on the trunk line (LIRR & Metro-North) will terminate at Secaucus Junction, and westbound Amtrak trains that would normally terminate at Penn will also continue on and terminate at Secaucus instead. A new rail yard at Secaucus (already proposed by Amtrak) makes this possible. Further, eastbound commuter trains traveling on the trunk line (NJ Transit) will terminate at Port Morris Station, and eastbound Amtrak trains that would normally terminate at Penn will also continue on to terminate at Port Morris. A new rail yard at Port Morris will make this possible. We propose this configuration for the following reasons:

    -Incompatible infrastructure (electrification, platform heights, etc.) and equipment (type of rolling stock, quantity of rolling stock, etc.) of the disparate regional rail systems.
    -To accommodate asymmetrical peak hour service (otherwise, we’d be sending a ton of empty LIRR trains into western NJ during the morning peak, etc.).
    -To relocate Penn’s current terminal functions (West Side Yards & Sunnyside Yards) from the center of the urban core toward the edge of the urban core (Secaucus Junction & Port Morris).

    In the future, once the trunk line is complete, if/when the rail systems become compatible with one another, some paired through running commuter rail service can begin to be implemented (for instance, NJ Transit or Metro-North operating trains from Trenton to New Haven, etc.)

    5. Secaucus and Port Morris were selected as the logical ending points of the trunk line because both locations are large enough to become major multi-modal transfer hubs, helping to distribute passengers outside the central business district (Midtown Manhattan). In our proposal, the new rail yard at Port Morris will replace the existing Sunnyside Yard, and a new Sunnyside Station will be built in its place, unlocking even more potential for new development in western Queens. Watch this video for more details on how we do this: https://vimeo.com/161960566

    6. If Rikers Island ends up being used for an expansion of LaGuardia Airport, our proposal also recommends a new AirTrain line that could connect the Port Morris Station and LaGuardia terminals. Connecting LGA with a major multi-modal rail station is a far better investment than connecting LGA to Willets Point (but who says you can’t have both?).

    7. Through running trains avoid the congestion of conflicting movements that are typical of terminal stations located within the heart of the city. Instead, New York’s urban core can be stretched beyond Midtown Manhattan, growing along the entire length of our proposed trunk line from Secaucus, to Sunnyside, and Port Morris. Possibility of easy growth is what the city needs… not more centralization and congestion (which is exactly what we get with Amtrak’s current Penn South proposal).

    I hope that answers your questions and concerns. Please let me know if you would like any further clarification. Our new and improved website will be unveiled soon, which will have all updated graphics and a more clear description of what we’re proposing. If you’d like, I am more than happy to discuss further with you.

    • Alon Levy

      It answers some of my questions, but then creates a lot of new ones. The biggest one concerns unpaired through-running. This is currently proposed for the RER E once it’s extended to the west, and the parameters of the systems, already not great for Paris, are completely unusable for New York. The current plan is to create an in-city trunk between Rosa Parks, at the northeast end of the city, and La Defense (technically in the suburbs), with 3 intermediate stations (Magenta/Gare du Nord, Haussmann/Saint-Lazare, Porte Maillot). Trains from the east, inherited from the Gare de l’Est commuter network, go through the trunk and turn at La Defense, with a peak frequency of 16 tph. Trains from the west, starting with just one branch inherited from the Saint-Lazare network, to Mantes-la-Jolie, go through the trunk and turn at Rosa Parks, with a peak frequency of 6 tph. This is intended to give a total peak frequency through the trunk of 22 tph.

      Even here, it’s problematic. 16 and 6 don’t combine well together, which would force uneven gaps outside the central trunk (to the west there’s only one branch, to the east there are two but the branch point is a few stations east of Rosa Parks). It would be a lot better for the RER E to take over more western branches, possibly taking over some RER A branches and then connecting new branches (like Transilien L to Saint-Cloud) to the RER A, and then run through the way the RER A-D do today.

      But in New York, it’s not possible at all. The 6 + 16 = 22 issue is the big problem: total capacity through the system is four tracks, so the total number of peak trains that can go through it is, more or less, 48 per hour. You can have something like 24 trains running New Jersey-Port Morris, and 24 running LIRR-Secaucus or New Haven-Secaucus, but then you have wrecked capacity. From New Jersey’s perspective, half its trans-Hudson capacity, equivalent to that of the expensive new tunnel, is wasted on trains that turn at Secaucus. From the LIRR and Metro-North’s perspective, half the capacity is wasted on Port Morris trains, which means there would be even less capacity than there is today.

      The two reasons you cite for unpaired through-running have both been resolved here, in different ways. The problem of different voltage systems is solved via multi-voltage trains; Metro-North already runs these every day with the M8, and supposedly it’s possible to modify the M8s in the shop to run under LIRR third rail as well as Metro-North third rail. The M8 can’t run under 25 Hz AC, but it’s just a few km of 25 Hz between 60 Hz territory on the New Haven Line and on the Morris and Essex Lines, and there are independent reasons why everything should be 25 kV 60 Hz; the cost of reelectrification is, by tunneling standards, a rounding error.

      The empty reverse-peak train problem is partly a matter of poor frequency and operating practices, precisely what Crossrail-type systems are supposed to solve. Over here, there are reverse-peak trains, at almost the same frequency as regular peak, and they’re pretty full. In New York, there are reverse-peak trains on the subway, even toward bedroom communities out in the sticks, like Far Rockaway, or for that matter Bay Ridge or Van Cortlandt Park. The combination of high all-day frequency and not-terrible land use near the stations ensures that the reverse-peak trains, while undercrowded, aren’t ridiculously empty. It turns out to be cheaper to just run reverse-peak trains than to build giant railyards near the center, as is the case today (Sunnyside, West Side) or under unpaired through-running (Secaucus, Port Morris).

      As for your other points:

      2. The Hudson Line has a way into Penn Station already, via the Empire Connection. For completely unrelated reasons to resiliency, it’s useful to route as many trains as possible that way: there is more demand from the LIRR and Metro-North than from New Jersey, so having the Hudson Line enter Manhattan from the west is useful for balancing.

      More to the point, it’s not normal to have interlockings from everywhere to everywhere for resiliency. The interlockings are extra moving parts that can fail (which seems to happen at Penn Station habitually), and actually running trains over them creates too much schedule dependency between different branches. If a failure is inevitable, it’s better to ensure there are transfer stations so that other lines, including subway lines, can provide relief. Hudson Line passengers thus have a third way into Manhattan, via the Marble Hill transfer. The Harlem Line is dicier, but it’s possible to build an infill station at 149th, connecting to the 2 and 4/5.

      5, 7. The logical end of a trunk line on the Jersey side is not Secaucus but Newark, which is a large secondary business center with existing bus and subway connections. Secaucus and Sunnyside are both nice TOD opportunities (Port Morris less so – the location is hemmed by highways), but there’s existing demand to secondary centers like Newark, Jamaica, and Flushing.

      6. I don’t know – is a multimodal station far better than Willets Point? Both are incredibly circuitous, and Port Morris is actually worse at connecting to the parts of Manhattan that fliers want to go to. The intercity connection is nice, but LGA is mostly a domestic airport with short-range flights that compete with intercity trains (or would if intercity trains outside the NEC didn’t suck); JFK is a bigger prize for intercity rail. Even Newark, intermediate in usage between the two, doesn’t get any Acela trains, only Regionals.

      • adirondacker12800

        The Acelas don’t stop at Newark Airport because people who can afford Acela fares are rich enough to not have to take long train rides to an airport that has the same destinations as the airport closer to them. Washington, Philadelphia and Boston have large airports with many many destinations.

          • adirondacker12800

            What about them? They can get on Regional trains just like every other state they pass through.

  5. Pingback: Atlanta’s I-85 Bridge Collapse — Another “Carmaggedon” That Wasn’t – Streetsblog USA
  6. F-Line to Dudley

    MBTA Woburn Branch is never going to be restored. ROW was sold off 35 years ago soon after abandonment, and it’s been partially obliterated by new condos. A new Lowell Line intermediate stop at Montvale Ave. (walking distance + bus stop to Woburn Center) is the nearest physically possible approximation, unfortunately. Peabody…hell, yes…they’ve never stopped screaming to get built yesterday.

    The inner half of the Western Route/Haverhill Line does not have the capacity to absorb more service because of the single-tracking in Somerville, Medford, and Malden due to the adjacent Orange Line. It also has complications further outbound in Melrose and Wakefield due to problematic grade crossing clusters, making it unable to match service levels through the NSRL with what any of the available southside mainline pairings are capable of throwing north. Single-schedule service on the Western Route all the way to Haverhill is a relatively recent historical phenomenon that began only in 1979. Prior to that Haverhill trains ran on the Downeaster’s route via the Lowell Line to Wilmington and the Wildcat Branch, while service to Reading was an entirely different inner-suburban terminating schedule. Indeed, the Wildcat Branch even has its own derelict North Wilmington stop at Salem St. a half-mile away from the Western Route’s N. Will stop, and is still owned by the MBTA if they ever need to swap stations back over or double-up service on both routings.

    The quickest/easiest ways to goose frequencies on inner or outer halves of Haverhill line is to split them apart to their pre-1979 routings: Reading short-turns running clock-facing all day as a re-christened part of the “Indigo Line” scheme a la Fairmount…but few to no thru trains further north. Then Haverhill taking the much faster and higher-capacity Lowell Line to boost its frequencies out to I-495 and slash travel times to the state line down to a taut hour. That divorce is probably inevitable within 10 years’ time, simply because rush hour trains today are so sardine-packed by Melrose that the schedule–and the traffic backups at the grade crossings adjacent to the inner stops–are starting to choke on the station dwells. And Reading needs the all-day frequencies, while heavy 24/7 freight on the unexpandable Andover-Haverhill stretch prevents clock-facing out in I-495 land and enforces some degree of permanent peak/off-peak dichotomy simply for portioning out alternating freight vs. passenger priority. Both halves get much more capacity to flush full of service increases for their differing characteristics if they go back their separate ways.

    The Orange Line was originally planned to be extended to Reading in the 1970’s before opposition in Melrose truncated it to Oak Grove. Given the cost involved with carving out double-track for commuter rail to Oak Grove, whacking enough of the grade crossings to plausibly match wits with the capacity of any crossing-free southside main, and AC electrification…it would cost less to just finish the Orange extension and delete Reading entirely from the RR network (much like the misfit Needham Line would be swallowed by Orange on the Forest Hills-West Roxbury half and a Green Line Newton spur on the Needham half). No construction whatsoever required in Medford/Malden for that, no duplication of electrification, and crossing eliminations in Melrose/Wakefield can be done cheaper and lower-profile at steeper HRT grades rather than RR grades. It’s the path of least resistance since the capital expenditures for RER-ing that stretch are a lot uglier than just finishing the Orange job from 40 years ago. Leaves RER with a mismatch in north vs. south mains (4 vs. 3), but the Fitchburg Line has extra slack capacity because it is branchless, freight congestion Ayer-Wachusett places a hard cap on end-to-end headways, but zero freight Boston-Littleton leaves near-inexhaustible slack capacity to backfill frequencies out to I-495. It’s the go-to dumping ground for tying up any loose N-S schedule pair mismatches, and would fill that same role even if the Reading gimp were still in the picture.

    Note that the outer-half of the Haverhill Line is also quite likely the one MBTA line that can never ever be electrified no matter how hard one tries for completism. It’ll be upgraded to double-stack freight trains in ~8 years for intermodal to Portland…but that’ll max out every last inch available under the overpasses in Lawrence, with location inside the Merrimack River floodplain preventing extra undercutting. An extra 2.5 ft. for 25 kV clearance almost certainly doesn’t exist without severing the downtown Lawrence street grid, and there’s no other freight route putting Greater Boston, Portland, and Port of Halifax within 48 hours of each other. So you wouldn’t want that schedule shackled to Reading’s if that put EMU’s out of the question, as Reading has the dense inner-suburban stop spacing and all-day demand. This will heavily inform that RER vs. Orange cost valuation on the inner half. If there’s no physical choice but to run a piggish dual-mode through the NSRL tunnel, better it be on a wide stop-spacing route like Haverhill-via-Wilmington that has to be pinned into a peak/off-peak shift change, and is doubled-up through the inner ‘burbs with a stronger all-electric line like Lowell/Nashua that demands all-day dense frequencies. The tunnel is designed to handle something as heavy-ass as an ALP-45DP because of Amtrak push-pulls. So long as their appearances are judiciously limited to ^^conditions-attached^^ outliers and other legit tough nuts to crack, and not a cop-out…they won’t get in the way of EMU-dominated traffic.

    Haverhill would, given this restriction, be a decent pairing match with Stoughton/South Coast Rail since electrification south of Taunton on the sparse-frequency New Bedford and Fall River/Newport branches is a utilization turd sandwich for infrastructure ROI. And there’d be good north/south symmetry with the “dominant left hand” Providence & Lowell service pairs and the wide stop spacing on the NEC & NH Main spanning Canton and Wilmington.

    (FWIW…if Andover-Lawrence clearances are an impossibility and you want an electrified Downeaster eventually, it’ll have to be via the Eastern Route instead. Newburyport re-extended to Portsmouth…then reconnection to the Western @ Dover via a re-animated Newington Branch laid alongside the NH 16 expressway, whose footprint cannibalized the original ROW.)

    • Alon Levy

      The MBTA owns the Haverhill Line tracks. If Pan Am wants double-stacks, and it’s not possible for trains to coast under the overpass, then tough shit. It’s not the MBTA’s job to build infrastructure for other users in a way that wrecks its own expansion plans. If Pan Am is so insistent on freight priority, it can build its own damn line.

      Nothing runs through the NSRL tunnel unless it’s an EMU. The grade from South Station to the south is 3%; dual-modes can climb it from a standstill, but at glacial speed. No way does that mix with EMUs with 1.2 m/s^2 initial acceleration. Not to mention, there’s like a 90 seconds per station difference in stop penalty.

      South Coast Rail via Stoughton is going to be electrified, because the Army Corps of Engineers insists that no diesel trains run through wetlands north of Taunton. Baker is trying to get the line rerouted via Middleborough to reduce costs, which would make it so circuitous it’s slower than a bus. Ultimately the correct alternative is No Build unless costs go down to below $200 million or so – maybe more at RER utilization rates, but even then, $500 million is probably the upper limit. And then on the Stoughton stub electrification is probably a higher priority than even Fairmount since it’s short and runs through to the Providence Line. (The priority we’re agreeing on at Transit Matters is, on the South Side, Providence, Stoughton, Fairmount; then Franklin; then Worcester; finally Old Colony. On the North Side we’re not sure.)

      Speaking of clearances, CSX just gave away the clearance rights on Worcester.

  7. F-Line to Dudley

    1) MassDOT’s own officially-filed State Rail Plan with the FRA highlights the DS project to Portland as a max-ROI priority (with the upcoming 2017 update kicking it higher up now that other projects have finished), so Pan Am is not the only dance partner here: https://www.massdot.state.ma.us/portals/12/docs/RailPlan/MAStateRailPlanSeptember2010v4.pdf#page=20.

    And it’s not “tough shit” when the state is making money hand-over-fist over Worcester County becoming the intermodal shipping node of Southern New England, trucking companies have been hiring like crazy feeding off the new freight nodes, and price of shipping is now under local control instead of reliant on fluctuations in drayage rates from Albany and New Jersey. This is the very ROI that helps pay for passenger rail investments, and with big rig volumes from Albany and NYC already declining as a result due to point-of-origin moving locally on less-crowded off-peak shifts it’s the ROI that’s culling the add-a-lane addiction on the interstates so they can spend more on rail corridors.

    2) Neither is it as simplistic as “build your own damn line” on a common carrier network. When Boston & Maine went bankrupt, the T bought all northside commuter rail service and line ownership–275 route miles, including a bunch of abandoned lines now preserved under landbanking–in 1976 for a song in the bankruptcy restructuring. Of the extremely few concessions B&M wanted in return for that great windfall, one was designation of the Mechanicville, NY to Portland, ME corridor as a protected freight main under B&M dispatcher and traffic priority since that was the only profit center they could rebuild around. Of which exactly 15 miles–5% of the proceeds–overlaps the Western Route. Pan Am’s still responsible for co-funding on the main, whereas they’re only trackage rights spectators elsewhere on the sold-off property.

    There is no “fuck off” clause in the long-reaching tentacles of that co-tenancy agreement, and any such attempts won’t survive the first lawsuit. If the state wants Pan Am gone from 15 piddling miles of territorial overlap at traffic levels that are good-for-Northeast but hardly a drop in the Alameda Corridor’s bucket…MA taxpayers will be the ones buying them a cleanroomed freight bypass at boondoggle price that won’t carry any passengers. The choice of which upgrades to co-invest in can be debated on their merits; Portland’s a ‘tweener for intermodal drayage distance and certainly not the game-changer Worcester was. But it is and always was a power-sharing situation: the state encourages Pan Am’s profit center on that segment because it made out like bandits on the 275 miles it acquired. There wouldn’t be a northside at all today if hermetically-sealed perfectionism has them walking away from that negotiating table in ’76, so there’s no buyer’s remorse if this is how it has to be. It’s a 13-line system; exactly one-half of one line is in a tough spot for electrification. As a schedule unto itself, that outer half of Haverhill would rank 13th out of 14th in system ridership. Perspective.

    3) Pan Am ≠ CSX. Allston was the end of the line for CSX, and Allston was bleeding away their profits to have all the big rig drivers come into Boston to fetch loads only for 80% of to drive all the way back out on the Pike to Route 128 and I-495 to distribute them. They had no intention of upgrading 30 miles of track east of 495 so twice the trucks could sit in line at the Allston tolls and drive an hour out of the way while costs increased. They were threatening to retreat to Albany altogether and slam the Pike in the Berkshires with big rigs forevermore. Harvard and MassDOT made them a “Pimp My Yard” offer to trade them out to Worcester, and CSX agreed because the clearances to there–and only there–were what max out their profit margins for years to come. It wasn’t a “go away” offer; it was a “please stay” wrapped up in a huge real estate deal. The clearances were waived because there is $0 in high-and-wide CSX remaining from Framingham to Allston now and forevermore with all suitable industrial property along the tracks being re-zoned commercial/residential.

    That’s not Pan Am. Their mainline goes from Albany to Bangor. They’re nothing without the Ayer-Portland midsection.

    4) Yes, the NSRL is going to be designed to allow push-pull trains. Always has been, because it’s simply not fundable as an ARC commuter rail-only thing that shuts out any Amtrak traffic. Either Virginia Regional-style continuing up to NH/ME, or simply as a practical matter because there’s no expansion yard & maint space southside to handle NEC FUTURE traffic levels. Anderson-Woburn terminating NE Regionals with new yard on the Woburn town dump are a viable path for clearing out Southampton Yard capacity for mid-century Acela, Inland Route, Boston-terminating Downeaster, etc. service levels. Of course in no sane universe would it ever be a good idea to have P-P’s be any significant share of the traffic load because of those grades, but they will exist as tunnel travelers grades be damned or the thing simply won’t be built. Coulda/shouldas don’t play into that debate; it’s wholly existential for the project to have any region-wide coattails. If it can’t physically be engineered to take P-P rolling stock some of the time, then there simply isn’t a purely intra- MBTA district funding mechanism large enough to get it built.

    The surface terminals also aren’t going away because the interlocking mash-ups are the main traffic limiter, and making a lateral trade to more tightly constrained underground Cove and Tower 1 interlockings isn’t going to increase frequencies transformatively enough like double-barreling would. There will be healthy traffic levels on the surface while tunnel slots get prioritized to the biggest-bang pairings and/or time slots. And there will be plenty of diesels turning at the surface on “A-Day” of NSRL service since electrification of the whole of Eastern MA isn’t going to be an instantaneous accomplishment; Cape Cod isn’t co-equal with Rockport on that pecking order. If there’s select surge slots that would benefit from a run-thru with a dual-mode instead of diesels turning on the surface, the thing will let them judiciously through. The gut-check is completing the system electrification quickly enough that it’s just trace share of Amtrak and a once-every-nth slot of the ‘never-cans’ like Haverhill. And not some of the malarkey that was being floated 10 years ago in the original scoping studies about dual-modes being some magic cure-all.

    5) I’d argue the minor point of Fairmount as a higher priority than Stoughton purely on technical scale-up. The “Indigo Line” services proposed for Fairmount and on the Worcester Line to Riverside can both be wired up chained to the terminal district’s existing substations if those subs’ uninstalled capacity were maxed out. And Indigo-Fairmount can be extended 2 stops further on the Franklin to Dedham Corporate Ctr. @ Route 128 (which is really exploding with TOD right now) without maxing out that electrical capacity. Stoughton, being further out and askew from Sharon substation on the NEC, carries a *slight* premium for feeder costs and may preclude the Riverside build without first adding a new substation. Not a big difference in sequence, but for hitting the ground running that Providence + 2 Indigos sequence is a much faster scale-up from zero. And would take care of a couple cut-and-dried service plans that don’t have the future-makeup question marks Stoughton carries with South Coast.

    Worcester has abundant availability of high-tension power lines in MetroWest, being crossed by all the major Southern New England feeders out of Quebec. Franklin unfortunately doesn’t have any high-capacity lines crossing it, and wiring it up south of Dedham would involve laying new feeders from the NEC along the Framingham Secondary to tap the source lines accessible there. Something you’d anyway as part of wiring up Foxboro service, but starting costs are steeper on the Franklin main than Worcester because of distance from their new substations to the nearest source. Both lines are obviously must-haves so it doesn’t matter in the long run, but how that affects build priority depends on how much weighting Transit Matters wants to put on startup costs viz-a-viz scaling momentum. There’s no one right answer for that, but it is a “how quickly?” variable when choice of either line ends up the clincher that surges the southside equipment pool to >60% EMU.

    • Alon Levy

      Your knowledge of this is literally decades out of date. To wit,

      a) When I say NSRL can’t accommodate push-pull, I’m not talking about the studies from the 1990s. I’m talking about how we’re construing the project in the 2010s. Look again at the study from the 1990s and look at their sample schedule: they’re talking about 8-minute South Station-North Station trips. The dwells alone would kill capacity. EMUs would do it in 4, and would have high speed gains on the surface, too. There are capacity and reliability gains from having single-class trains; you start mixing locos and EMUs on the same line, and you may not be able to run 24 tph on it. There’s a method to our madness.

      b) I don’t know why you think NEC Future is relevant here. The state doesn’t (it didn’t apply for any grants), the cost alone makes it a joke ($300 billion for alt 3, lol), and ultimately, Boston is the natural terminus of the line with far more demand than anything going north (there’s maybe 1 tph in Boston-Portland and 40 in commuter traffic), and the rolling stock is not going to be a locomotive anyway. Amtrak is stupidly ordering trainsets with dedicated power cars, but a) it’s a tiny fleet and any serious HSR line on the NEC would need better, and b) TGV-style trainsets with power cars have way higher adhesion factor than legacy electric loco-pulled trains, and can climb 3% grades, though not happily.

      c) Does Pan Am’s trackage rights agreement include an absolute right to make the state raise clearances for double-stack? If not, then it’s irrelevant.

      d) If 12.5 lines are electrified, the extra bother coming from running the 13th one diesel is such that it’s better to just shut it down, the way SEPTA culled the diesels in the 1980s. Railfans hate this and are wistful about Newtown, but SEPTA wasn’t going to run museum trains like the RDCs for such a tiny proportion of the system. The same reason the MBTA cites to run diesels under the wire to Providence works in reverse once almost everything is wired.

      e) The state plan you link to has weird ideas about ROI; for one, just after your map, it says that South Station expansion is a high-ROI passenger rail project (and not, say, the zero-ROI project it really is). As long as it’s not already built, assume it’s not a foregone conclusion.

      On a different note, looking at your older comment: I checked the inner Haverhill Line, and it’s mostly double-track. The segment alongside the Orange Line from Wellington to Oak Grove is single-track, but it’s short and you can run 4 tph in each direction on it. The sample schedule I put up here uses Wildcat but manages to run 4 tph on inner Haverhill anyway, with a meet just north of the beginning of double-tracking north of Oak Grove. Wildcat is used instead of the Western route, not because of the single track next to the Orange Line, but because it’s faster – same reason Franklin stays on the NEC, where on my slightly older map it goes via Fairmount to give Fairmount more frequency.

  8. Si Hollett

    “Thameslink has 3 southern branches.” There’s currently 4 service groups (Wimbledon loop counting as two) and really the via Herne Hill Orpington peak-only trains ought to add another branch rather than be considered part of the Sevenoaks branch that it shares very little with. Add in that the Brightons and the Gatwicks don’t share a single platform south of central London and that’s perhaps yet another.

    One could argue 4 groups (merging the Wimbledon loop services to Sutton into one) after completion – North Kent, via Catfords, via Croydons and Suttons, but we are looking at 24tph diverging to 10 termini (Rainham, Orpington, Sevenoaks, Maidstone East, East Grinstead, Gatwick, Horsham, Littlehampton, Brighton and Sutton) of which only one (Gatwick) is a short turn of another (Horsham), and Sutton is reached by two different ways, so that’s basically 10 branches (two of which – Gatwick/Horsham and Brighton – will see 4tph and the rest 2tph), with perhaps some possibility of considering some to be merged and treated as subbranches but it’s still rather a lot even with some conceptual merging. By my count, I’d say 2tph Rainham, 2tph Maidstone, 4tph Catford loop stoppers (Sevenoaks/Orpington), 4tph via Redhill (Gatwick/Horsham), 2tph East Grinstead, 2tph Littlehampton, 4tph Brighton and 4tph Wimbledon Loop makes a grand total of 8 southern branches!

    • Alon Levy

      I have tried looking at a map of post-Programme Thameslink to figure out which branches are branches and which are just short-turns. My conclusion: they should keep the spaghetti in Italy; the UK is horrible at it.

      • threestationsquare

        Since the “short turns” have very different stopping patterns (e.g. Thameslink trains to Luton make a lot more stops than Thameslink trains to Bedford) they arguably count as extra branches anyway.

        The inclusion of Rainham via Greenwich in that list on Wikipedia seems bizarre since it would require a flat crossing of the Cannon Street lines which is the sort of thing the Thamesline Programme was supposed to eliminate. (Much has been made of the short-sightedness of the promise to maintain Thameslink service to the Wimbledon Loop with similar flat crossings, but there was heavy pressure from existing users in that case.) The proposed list of branches keeps changing and I expect what actually runs to be different than what’s listed there.

        But yeah, it’s hard to find a bigger reverse-branched spaghetti mess than the South London network. It works surprisingly well though (Southern’s recent labour difficulties notwithstanding).

          • Si Hollett

            Crossrail 2 will take nothing off Thameslink. Both will serve Wimbledon station.

            Thameslink will remain serving 10 termini in the south* – of which only 1 is a short turn of an other (Gatwick a short term of Horsham). Even if you group the Catford loop stoppers and the Wimbledon loop, there’s still 8 branches. via Redhill is not really a short turn of Brighton as they don’t stop at the same platform south of London Bridge.

            Rainham was added because Croydon is still a bottleneck, and Cannon Street can’t turn enough trains now its sidings at Blackfriars are gone. It’s a total botch, but the Central division of the Southern region is a perennial mess, and the Eastern division not much better. The Western division is far superior (until Crossrail 2 adds a ton of reverse branching). People south of the river don’t want to change trains and are willing to have overlapping half-hourly services instead.

            *Rainham, Maidstone East (via London Bridge IIRC), Sevenoaks, Orpington, East Grinstead, Brighton (4tph), Littlehampton, Horsham, Gatwick Aiport, Sutton (2x2tph via different routes).

          • adirondacker12800

            …… Sir Horace won’t be catching the 10:15….

    • threestationsquare

      Additional data points:
      (note in many cases the branches referred to have reverse-branches supplementing their frequency)
      London:
      – East London Line: 1 north branch, 4 south branches
      – Metropolitan Line/northern side of Circle (proto-RER): 5 west branches, 2 east branches
      – District Line/southern side of Circle (proto-RER): 4 west branches, 2 east branches
      Madrid:
      – Cercanias via Sol: 3 north branches, 2 south branches
      – Cercanias via Recoletos: 3 north branches, 3 south branches
      Barcelona:
      – Rodalies via Catalunya: 1 west branch, 3 east branches
      – Rodalies via Passeig de Gracia: 2 west branches, 2 east branches
      Milan:
      – Passante: 4 north branches, 3 south branches
      Vienna:
      – S-Bahn via Hauptbahnhof: 3 west branches, 5 east branches
      Tokyo (in addition to those you listed):
      – Toei Asakusa Line: 2 north branches, 3 south branches
      Sydney:
      – Harbour Bridge/T1: 2 north branches, 3 west branches
      – Illawarra/T4: 1 north branch, 2 south branches
      – City Circle/T2+T3: 3 branches via west side of Central, 2 branches via east side of Central

  9. adirondacker12800

    then some trains could continue to Greenport and Montauk providing perhaps hourly service. Service to Danbury and Waterbury on Metro-North is of similar characteristics.

    ….. you do understand that one of the reasons it’s single tracked out that far is that that there is nobody out there? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to send the Ronkonkoma express to Greenport, empty. Much more sense, if you insist on sending trains to Riverhead, is to have a one or two car DMU meeting the express in Ronkonkoma. Anecdotally, extending the Ronkonkoma expresses a bit farther east, to someplace they can put big parking lots without paving over what passes for “downtown” might make sense. But electrifying to Riverhead to send ten car trains out there, empty, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Or even out to Montauk. It gets lots of traffic weekends in the summer and the rest of the year… there’s no one out there….

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