How Fast New York Regional Rail Could Be Part 3

In the third and last installment of my series posting sample commuter rail schedules for New York (part 1, part 2), let’s look at trains in New Jersey. This is going to be a longer post, covering six different lines, namely all New Jersey Transit lines that can go to Penn Station, including one that currently does not (Raritan Valley) but could using dual-mode locomotives.

As on Metro-North and the LIRR, very large improvements can be made over current schedules, generally reducing trip times by 30-43%, without straightening a single curve. However, electrification is required, as is entirely new rolling stock, as the electric locomotives used by NJ Transit are ill-fit for a fast schedule with many stops. Moreover, all low platforms must be raised to provide level boarding and some must be lengthened to avoid overuse of selective door opening, which may require a few new grade separations on the North Jersey Coast Line. As a first-order estimate, 50-something trainsets are required, each with 8-12 cars. This is not quite free, but the cost is low single-digit billions: about $1.5 billion for trains, maybe $400 million for 160 km of electrification, and around $700 million for what I believe is 70 low- or short-platform stations.

The timetables

Here is a spreadsheet detailing speed zones for all New Jersey Transit lines passing through Newark. In support of previous posts, here are other similar spreadsheets:

  • New Haven Line (express schedule, add stop penalties as appropriate for locals) – the spreadsheet is about a minute too fast, missing some slowdowns in the terminal, and the version in my post (part 1) corrects for that
  • Harlem Line
  • Hudson Line locals and expresses
  • LIRR Main Line (including Port Jefferson, not covered in my posts)

Line by line schedules

The New Jersey Transit timetables are less consistent than the east-of-Hudson ones; I attempted to look at local midday off-peak outbound trains whenever possible.

Northeast Corridor

Station Current time Future time
New York 0:00 0:00
Secaucus 0:09 0:06
Newark Penn 0:18 0:10
Newark South Street 0:12
Newark Airport 0:24 0:15
North Elizabeth 0:27 0:17
Elizabeth 0:30 0:19
Linden 0:35 0:23
Rahway 0:39 0:25
Metropark 0:45 0:29
Metuchen 0:49 0:32
Edison 0:54 0:36
New Brunswick 0:59 0:39
Jersey Avenue 1:03 0:41
Monmouth Junction 0:47
Princeton Junction 1:16 0:53
Hamilton 1:23 0:58
Trenton 1:35 1:01

This fastest rush hour express trains do the trip in 1:12-1:13, and Amtrak’s Regionals range between 0:55 and 1:04, with trains making all nominal Amtrak stops (including rarely-served New Brunswick and Princeton Junction) taking 1:15.

North Jersey Coast Line

 

Station Current time Future time
New York 0:00 0:00
Secaucus 0:09 0:06
Newark Penn 0:19 0:10
Newark South Street 0:12
Newark Airport 0:24 0:15
North Elizabeth 0:17
Elizabeth 0:29 0:19
Linden 0:35 0:23
Rahway 0:39 0:25
Avenel 0:45 0:29
Woodbridge 0:48 0:31
Perth Amboy 0:55 0:34
South Amboy 1:00 0:37
Aberdeen 1:08 0:42
Hazlet 1:12 0:45
Middletown 1:19 0:49
Red Bank 1:25 0:53
Little Silver 1:29 0:56
Monmouth Park 0:59
Long Branch 1:39-1:42 1:01
Elberon 1:46 1:04
Allenhurst 1:50 1:07
Asbury Park 1:54 1:09
Bradley Beach 1:57 1:11
Belmar 2:01 1:14
Spring Lake 2:05 1:16
Manasquan 2:09 1:19
Point Pleasant Beach 2:15 1:22
Bay Head 2:24 1:23

 

In electric territory, that is up to Long Branch, my schedule cuts 38% from the trip time, but in diesel territory the impact of electrification nearly halves the trip time, cutting 48%.

Raritan Valley Line

Station Current time Future time
New York (0:00) 0:00
Secaucus (0:09) 0:06
Newark Penn (0:18) 0:10
Newark South Street 0:12
Union 0:27 0:17
Roselle Park 0:30 0:19
Cranford 0:35 0:22
Garwood 0:38 0:24
Westfield 0:41 0:25
Fanwood 0:46 0:28
Netherfields 0:49 0:30
Plainfield 0:53 0:32
Dunellen 0:58 0:35
Bound Brook 1:03 0:39
Bridgewater 1:06 0:41
Somerville 1:12 0:44
Raritan 1:15 0:47
North Branch 1:21 0:50
Whitehouse 1:28 0:54
Lebanon 1:34 0:58
Annandale 1:39 1:01
High Bridge 1:52 1:04

 

The Raritan Valley Line does not run through to Manhattan but rather terminates at Newark Penn because of capacity constraints on the mainline, so the New York-Newark trip times are imputed from Northeast Corridor trains. So really the trip time difference is 1:34 versus 0:54, a reduction of 42% in the trip time thanks to electrification.

Morristown Line

Station Current time Future time
New York 0:00 0:00
Secaucus 0:10 0:06
Newark Broad Street 0:19 0:11
Newark 1st Street 0:13
East Orange 0:15
Brick Church 0:25 0:17
Orange 0:28 0:19
Highland Avenue 0:21
Mountain 0:23
South Orange 0:33 0:25
Maplewood 0:38 0:27
Millburn 0:42 0:29
Short Hills 0:45 0:31
Summit 0:49-0:50 0:34
Chatham 0:55 0:39
Madison 0:59 0:41
Convent 1:03 0:44
Morristown 1:07 0:47
Morris Plains 1:11 0:50
Mount Tabor 1:18 0:54
Denville 1:21 0:56
Dover 1:32 1:00
Mount Arlington 1:40 1:06
Lake Hopatcong 1:45 1:09
Netcong 1:53 1:12
Mount Olive 1:58 1:15
Hackettstown 2:14 1:22

 

This timetable is cobbled from two different train runs, as electric wires only run as far out as Dover, so trains from New York only go as far as Dover, and trains to Hackettstown serve Hoboken instead. Observe the 35% reduction in trip time in electric territory despite making a few more stops, and the 48% reduction in trip time in diesel territory.

Gladstone Branch

Station Current time Future time
New York (0:00) 0:00
Secaucus (0:10) 0:06
Newark Broad Street (0:19) 0:11
Newark 1st Street 0:13
East Orange 0:24 0:15
Brick Church 0:26 0:17
Orange 0:29 0:19
Highland Avenue 0:31 0:21
Mountain 0:33 0:23
South Orange 0:36 0:25
Maplewood 0:39 0:27
Millburn 0:42 0:29
Short Hills 0:45 0:31
Summit 0:50 0:34
New Providence 0:55 0:37
Murray Hill 0:58 0:40
Berkeley Heights 1:02 0:43
Gillette 1:05 0:46
Stirling 1:08 0:48
Millington 1:11 0:50
Lyons 1:14 0:53
Basking Ridge 1:17 0:56
Bernardsville 1:20 0:57
Far Hills 1:26 1:02
Peapack 1:30 1:06
Gladstone 1:37 1:08

 

As the line is entirely electrified, the time saving is only 30%. Note that Gladstone Branch trains do not run through to Penn Station except at rush hour, so I’m imputing New York-Newark Broad trip times using the Morristown Line.

Montclair-Boonton Line

Station Current time Future time
New York (0:00) 0:00
Secaucus (0:09) 0:06
Newark Broad Street (0:20) 0:11
Newark 1st Street 0:13
Newark Park Street 0:15
Watsessing Avenue 0:26 0:18
Bloomfield 0:28 0:19
Glen Ridge 0:31 0:21
Bay Street 0:34 0:23
Walnut Street 0:37 0:24
Watchung Avenue 0:40 0:26
Upper Montclair 0:43 0:28
Mountain Avenue 0:45 0:30
Montclair Heights 0:47 0:31
Montclair State U 0:50 0:33
Little Falls 0:56 0:37
Wayne-Route 23 1:00 0:40
Mountain View-Wayne 1:02 0:43
Lincoln Park 1:07 0:46
Towaco 1:11 0:49
Boonton 1:18 0:53
Mountain Lakes 1:22 0:56
Denville 1:27 0:59
Dover 1:34 1:04

 

Beyond Dover, a handful of evening trains continue to Hackettstown. Interestingly, the saving from electrification is only 32% – and the train I drew the current schedule from is a Hoboken diesel train. Electric trains run from New York to Montclair State University, but are for some reason actually slightly slower today than the Hoboken diesels on the shared Newark-MSU segment. I suspect that like the LIRR, NJ Transit does not timetable electric trains to be any faster than diesels on shared segments even though their performance is better.

Discussion

There are specific patterns to where my schedule outperforms the existing one by the largest margin and where it does so by the smallest margin.

Terminal zone

Between New York and Newark, I am proposing that trains take 10-11 minutes, down from 18-20 today, cutting 45% from the trip time. This comes from several factors. The first is avoiding unnecessary slowdowns in terminal zones: Penn Station should be good for about 50 km/h, ideally even more if there are consistent enough platform assignments that the turnouts can be upgraded to be faster; Newark should not impose any speed limit whatsoever beyond that of right-of-way geometry.

The second is increasing superelevation and cant deficiency. The worst curve is the turn from Harrison to Newark; its radius is just shy of 500 meters, good for around 110 km/h at normal cant and cant deficiency (150 mm each), or even 120 km/h if the cant is raised to 200 mm in support of higher-speed intercity service. But the current speed limit is a blanket 45 mph, even on Amtrak, whose cant deficiency is fine. The Newark approach is then even slower, 35 mph, for no reason. It’s telling that on my schedule, the Secaucus-Newark speedup is even greater than the New York-Secaucus speedup, despite the Penn Station interlocking morass.

The third is reducing schedule padding. The schedules appear extremely padded for what NJ Transit thinks is a capacity problem but is not really a problem in the midday off-peak period. Between 9 am and noon, 18 trains depart Penn Station going west, 10 on the Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast and 8 on the Morris and Essex Lines and the Montclair Line.

Unelectrified lines

On lines without electrification, the time savings from electrification are considerable, with the exception of the Boonton Line. This is especially notable on the tails of the North Jersey Coast and Morristown Lines, both of which allow for 48% reductions in trip time, nearly doubling the average speed.

This is related to the issue of low platforms. These tails have low platforms, whereas the inner segment of the Raritan Valley Line (up to Westfield), which already has mostly high platforms, does not exhibit the same potential speed doubling. Outer segments may also not be well-maintained, leading to non-geometric speed limits. Between Long Branch and Bay Head the tracks are fairly straight, but the existing speed limits are very low, at most 60 mph with most segments limited to 40 or even 25 or less.

Upgraded lines

In contrast with the enormous slowdowns between New York and Newark and on unelectrified tails, the workhorse inner segments (including the entire Northeast Corridor Line) radiating out of Newark are only about 1.5 times as slow as they can be, rather than twice as slow. The Gladstone Branch, which runs EMUs rather than electric locomotive-hauled trains, manages to be only about 1.37 times as slow, in large part courtesy of low platforms.

Of course, 1.5 times as slow is still pretty bad. This is because no line on NJ Transit is truly modern, that is running all EMUs serving high platforms. But the electric lines manage to be less bad than the diesel lines, and the suburbs less bad than the New York-Newark segment with its excessive timetable padding and terminal zone slowdowns.

How to get there from here

NJ Transit has a problem: perhaps unaware of the new FRA regulations, it just ordered bilevel EMUs compliant with the old rather than new regulations. If it can cancel the order, it should do so, and instead procure standard European EMUs stretched to the larger clearances of the American (or Nordic) railway network.

Simultaneously, it should complete electrification of the entire Penn Station-feeding system, including the Raritan Valley Line even though right now it does not run through to New York. This includes some outer branches with low traffic, not enough to justify electrification on their own; that is fine, since the 31 km of wire between Dover and Hackettstown, 25 km between Long Branch and Bay Head, 27 between Raritan (where semi-frequent service ends) and High Bridge, and 30 between MSU and Denville permit a uniform or mostly uniform fleet with no diesel under catenary. EMUs are far more reliable than anything that runs on diesel, and if NJ Transit retires diesels and only runs EMUs on the most congested segment of the network, it will be able to get away with far less schedule padding.

In Boston, at Transit Matters we’ve likewise recommended full systemwide electrification, but with priority to lines that connect to already-electric infrastructure, that is the Stoughton branch of the Providence Line, the Fairmount Line (which is short enough to use Northeast Corridor substations), and subsequently the entire South Station-feeding system. By the same token, it is more important to electrify the outer edges of the Morristown and North Jersey Coast Lines and the entire Raritan Valley Line than to electrify the Erie lines not analyzed in this post, since the Erie lines’ infrastructure points exclusively toward Hoboken and not New York.

In addition to electrification, NJ Transit must replace all low platforms with high platforms. This should generally be doable with ramp access rather than elevators to save money, in which case a double-track station should be doable for about $10 million, if Boston and Philadelphia costs are any indication. In addition to speeding up general boarding, high platforms permit wheelchair users to board trains without the aid of an attendant or conductor.

All of this costs money – the infrastructure should cost somewhat more than $1 billion, and new rolling stock should cost about $1.5 billion at European costs, or somewhat more if there’s an American premium for canceling the in-progress contract for inferior equipment. But none of this costs a lot of money. New Jersey is ready to sink $2.75 billion of state money as part of an $11 billion Gateway tunnel that would do nothing for capacity (since it four-tracks the tunnel but not the surface segments to Newark); it should be ready to spend about the amount of money on a program that is certain to cut 25-50% off of people’s travel time and perhaps halve operating costs.

48 comments

  1. James s

    Njt is planning on making Perth Amboy a high platform station. They plan on doing this by building the high platform where the outer tracks were. This will permanently reduce the ROW from 4 tracks to 2 tracks.

    Do you think this is a mistake or a good choice?

    • adirondacker12800

      Someday far in the future it can be two islands, change between trains to Wall Street and Penn Station? Via Rahway or via Elizabethport ( the current Chemical Coast, the former CNJ ) To all the new transit villages where the tank farms used to be?

    • Alon Levy

      If it’s possible to avoid that then they should, but if not then it’s fine, I don’t see much of a case for running high-frequency express service on the NJ Coast Line.

      • adirondacker12800

        High frequency express service means they lose the urge to drive to Metropark. 40 trains an hour to Penn Station and 20 trains an hour to Wall Street means the local that gets to Wall Street via the Chemical Coast line can loiter at the platform until the express to Penn Station departs. Doing that at an enormous park and ride where the Garden State Parkway crosses over the line might be a better idea. They’ll lose the urge to clog up Aberdeen/Matawan.

  2. Matthew A da Silva

    Thanks for all your work put in to this!

    With regards to equipment – have you taken a peek at the proposed performance standards in the MLIII EMU contract? Is it M7-level performance or something worse? Likewise, you mentioned your anecdote about Metro-North’s team knowing nothing about the new FRA specs and suspect NJT might be similarly ignorant…that being said, who is taking advantage of the new specs besides Caltrain – who had a waiver anyway?

    With regards to high-level platforms and station modernization in general, unlike SEPTA or MBTA, there seems to be no coherent strategy towards utilizing platform improvements to decrease dwell time and improve schedules. As recently as the 2000s NJT was installing brand-new mini-highs at East Orange, Madison, Morristown, and South Orange and claiming “historic preservation” as their excuse not to do a full high-level platform…yet by 2010 or so they had changed their tune and committed to doing full highs at similarly historic stations at Newark Broad St. and Ridgewood. Some very high-ridership stations like Maplewood and South Orange still have low-level platforms while NJ Transit focuses on stations like Perth Amboy and Somerville that have much lower ridership. They rebuilt Metropark from the ground up in its original inefficient side-platform configuration, even though they had the opportunity to install island platforms that would reduce interference between Amtrak and NJ Transit service and increase reliability for all trains.

    With regards to the unelectrified tails of the Morristown Line and Raritan Valley Line, their ridership is so low is it even worth electrifying versus just running a shuttle operation? The outer fringe of the metropolitan area is depopulating, very few NYC commuters live in the area, and local politics are incredibly hostile to transit-oriented development. The outer Coast Line, which sees summer weekend beach traffic and has much more built-up town centers, is definitely worth electrifying though. The Montclair-Boonton is also probably worth electrifying, at least as far as Mountain View/Wayne, but probably to Dover for reasons of operational flexibility.

  3. James S

    Also, for the NEC, if an Amtrak with two stops (Newark, Metropark) takes 1 hour, I don’t see how your local can offer the same time. Obviously electrification isn’t the issue with Amtrak, neither is having low platforms. Slow acceleration shouldn’t be an issue either, considering the distance between stops.

    What it is then?

    • Alon Levy

      Amtrak is extremely padded because of poor reliability. I’ve seen Regionals recover from 20-minute delays east of New Haven by the time they reached Boston.

      • Shaul Picker

        My train from NY to Boston on Friday and my train from Boston to New York both arrived 10-15 minutes early. The latter was 5 minutes late after Stamford.

  4. JJJJ

    …and I wish there was an edit option.

    Hamilton-Trenton takes 12 minutes now, vs 3 on your schedule.

    This isn’t the result of end-of-line schedule padding. This is the result of a very long and very slow segment. As a passenger, it feels like all 12 minutes are done at 10mph. How can this be fixed?

    • Alon Levy

      The outbound schedule from Hamilton to Trenton ranges between 8 and 15 minutes depending on the train, and the inbound schedule from Trenton to Hamilton is 6 minutes, occasionally 7. So a lot of it is actually end-of-line padding. The maximum speed on the local and express tracks is the same, 135 mph most of the way and then 110 mph on the last kilometer to Trenton; if you saw a 10 mph crawl, it’s an artifact of padding.

      The one thing that might be a real problem is that Trenton’s track layout isn’t great for a terminal. Trains terminate on the outer 4 tracks, while Amtrak trains run through on the middle 2 tracks. There’s no ladder track near the station, let alone a grade-separated path, and it takes about a mile for trains to switch from the outbound local track to the inbound platform or from the outbound platform to the inbound local track.

      I don’t know what the switches’ speed limit is, but the current speed limit is certainly too low. Speed limits on US switches through interlockings are consistently too low by a factor of about 1.7, e.g. 20 mph on a #10 switch where at 0 cant and 150 mm cant deficiency it’s 55 km/h. It’s possible that to squeeze the last minute’s worth of difference, NJT will need to install high-speed switches (which it should anyway for Amtrak) or a ladder track near the platforms (ensuring the ~65 km/h speed limit of a #12 switch lasts 500 meters, not a mile).

      By the way: this is why some people, like Richard, were so adamant that Caltrain four-tracking for HSR be done in fast-slow-slow-fast mode and not the more usual slow-fast-fast-slow: that way local trains could terminate on the middle tracks without crossing opposing intercity traffic at-grade.

      • adirondacker12800

        The local tracks are class 6 or maybe perhaps if they squeezed hard during the upgrade, class 7. They don’t have four tracks of class 8 for a train an hour.

  5. The Economist

    It is going to be hard to get NJT to string wires where they do not currently exists. NIMBYs and the constant shortage of money will see to that. The Bombardier equipment, both the ALPs and the MLVs, will be with them for at least another 3-4 decades as it is relatively new. The thing that is the easiest, and also likely to be the cheapest is making all platforms high level. High level platforms not only bring ADA compliance, but also speed boarding tremendously. Unfortunately, somehow NJT seem able to get away without making the platforms high level. I really do not get it why there are organizations that constantly sue the MTA for not having the subway accessible in NYC, but nobody seems to have pushed NJT to make their stations accessible. There is nothing like an ADA lawsuit to concentrate the minds of the powers to be, but I really have no idea why we have not seen any …

  6. Fbfree

    On the coast line south of Long Branch, there are a lot of level crossings, which probably impose the given speed limits.

    • Alon Levy

      Level crossings don’t impose a 60 mph speed limit, let alone a 25 mph one, unless a specific locally connected NIMBY complained (one speed limit on the MBTA originates in that), and even then it’s possible to say no. The FRA rules on the subject are pretty clear: normal gates are good up to 90 mph and quad gates (which IIRC cost high 6 figures per crossing) up to 110 mph. All grade crossings in populated areas should have quad gates to enable quiet zones anyway, apparently there are people in Connecticut who are constantly pissed at the train horns at the grade crossings on the branches of the New Haven Line who had no idea that fixing the problem would cost so little.

      • The Economist

        The speed limits at level crossings in the US, especially in the Northeast, tend to be set by politicians, not railroad or transportation professionals. One car going around the gates being hit or one pedestrian crossing with the gates down that gets killed is immediately followed by calls to the local representative/senator whose jerk-like reaction is to complain on the news how it is the railroad’s fault and given that these people approve the budget, the railroad folds. NJT is riddled with crossings with too slow speed limits for that reason and you are not going to get rid of them any time soon. Notice that this dynamic does not exist with the Brightline in Florida and their crossings all have substantially higher speeds. That is because even though people still complain to their representative/senator, that person does not hold any budget strings that he/she can pull. They have to go through the DOT and the other government agencies which tend to be filled with professionals and idiotic complaints that the trains are going too fast through the crossing tend to not make it though the professional assessments.

        • adirondacker12800

          Pesky democracy getting in the way of the technocrats. The ones you like.

          • Alon Levy

            It’s democracy in the same sense right-wing populists here say they support democracy and mean a referendum on every naturalization (an actual policy plank of the extreme right in Switzerland) or on repealing gay marriage (an actual demand of the Gilets Jaunes in France). Meanwhile, democrats happily run referendums on clear economic policy questions like whether to raise taxes to build various infrastructure projects rather than on people’s civil rights.

          • adirondacker12800

            Speeds through grade crossings aren’t a civil right.

          • adirondacker12800

            Of professionals you want to listen to. Other people can choose to ignore their advice. Messy this whole democracy thing. Not being run by the technocrats you like. There are other technocrats that may side with the people who want the trains slowed down. Pesky isn’t it?

          • The Economist

            There are issues where democracy and referenda are the right thing to do, but there are many areas of life where the average citizen and his elected representative have no clue about how things work. You would not want a politician to decide what level of lead or PFOA is safe in the water would you? That’s why the EPA and the state environmental departments are full of scientists, not political hacks. Somehow in western Europe, which is full of as good democracies as ours, the politicians tend not to tell the railroads what the speed limits at crossings are. In our democracy everyone is an expert on everything, especially the politician who is trying to win your vote. I think we are a little of the mark here, not them.

  7. adirondacker12800

    four-tracks the tunnel but not the surface segments to Newark

    It’s a separate project to go with the second Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River. The plans that were proposed for ARC had six tracks to Newark. Four to Penn Station and two to Broad Street. It’s going to be something similar. There are threads on railroad.net about how the upper level at Secaucus can be reconfigured. Converting the side platforms to islands and six tracks seems most likely, to me anyway. Until I consider how to avoid Son Of East Side Access at Grand Central. Send East Side Access trains to Penn Station and Broad Street. Or narrow that down even more and stop all Morris and Essex trains to Penn Station at Secaucus, change for Grand Central there. Or sumptin. Sending everything to the three destinations in Manhattan is too much capacity. And it’s tangled up with what to do for Eastern Queens and where HSR is going to go.

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah, Portal Bridge is separate, but the current status of that project is a two-track bridge rather than a four-track one, and no four-tracking on the surface.

      • adirondacker12800

        Because Gateway isn’t going to open until 2045 and building the bridge now would be silly,

        • Alon Levy

          I don’t think it’s silly… if you four-track the entire surface segment, you create two positive things:

          1. Plenty of space to rearrange trains that missed their scheduled slots, creating more capacity through the two-track tunnel, in the same way the two-track RER B+D tunnel carries 32 peak tph.

          2. More justification for the Gateway tunnel on capacity grounds, since 48 >> 32 whereas whatever capacity the tunnel alone would create is not much more than 25.

          • adirondacker12800

            Clap harder Wendy. Amtrak has been suggesting the bridge be replaced for decades. It’s what Amtrak was able to get money for. And has the charm that the second bridge will be a decade or two younger than the first bridge.
            Likely not what they are planning but they will have four tracks once the new bridge is open. Two on the new one and two on the old one.
            Everyone agrees they need more capacity. Everyone except Chris Christie and other Republicans who live in their ever so slightly different alternate reality. For two decades, since Midtown Direct hit it’s 2010 ridership projections a few months after opening.

    • Martin

      How much traffic is there under the Portal Bridge that doesn’t fit under its 22′ clearance? If it’s just barge traffic, aren’t there ships that can be purchased as part of diesel emission replacement that would fit under the span?

      • The Economist

        The traffic has really dwindled to one customer and about 15-25 openings per year. Unfortunately you will need at least 20+ years of absolutely no traffic before the Coast Guard even considers permanently allowing a low fixed bridge. The Passaic River above the Dock Bridge has seen no traffic in decades, but the bridges are still required to be movable.

        Theoretically, you could get boats and barges that fit in that clearance, but that will not make the Coast Guard agree to allow the bridge be welded in place. There is always the possibility that someone with a taller boat could show up and demand passage …

  8. Gok (@Gok)

    Just to clarify, why are the new NJT EMUs expected to be deficient? Is it purely an issue of weight, and therefore worse acceleration? What would be a suitable replacement?

    • Alon Levy

      It’s weight, mostly. But I also suspect they’re not configured for maximum passenger egress speed at Penn Station, even though at super-busy stations that is the limiting factor more than seating (which is why Tokyo almost never uses bilevels even though the loading gauge permits that).

        • Alon Levy

          The KISS is bilevel but has wide, quarter-point doors. I’m not sure how the high-platform KISSes will do on Caltrain if/when it raises all the platforms, but Caltrain specifically does not have a problem with dwell time at one super-busy stop (4th and King has comparable traffic to White Plains or Stamford, not Penn Station or Grand Central), so bilevels are good there. It’s certainly good enough for 30-second dwells at intermediate stops.

          The Bombardier bilevels used in North America have narrow passageways that are not designed for fast rush hour egress.

          • Gok (@Gok)

            Ok so on the diesel lines, if there was only enough political will for one of:
            (a) Electrify, but stick with old FRA bilevels and locomotivtes
            (b) Buy as-nice-as-possible bimodal DMUs

            Which would get closer to these schedules?

          • Alon Levy

            Wait, why are these two separate alternatives? It’s not cost, because a fleet of dual-mode DMUs is more expensive than one of EMUs + electrification. It’s not novelty, because DMUs are less familiar to Northeasterners than EMUs (the M-7s and M-8s aren’t even that bad, that’s why I include schedules for them as well as for Euro-EMUs).

            Anyway, if somehow electrification precludes buying new rolling stock, then the answer is to get euro-EMUs for the electrified parts and then run diesel shuttles. The ridership on the diesel lines other than the RVL is weak, and the RVL doesn’t run through to New York anyway.

          • The Economist

            Alon, I am not sure what you are talking about. The ridership on the Main/Bergen line exceeds the RVL ridership. That of course is not exactly a reason to electrify the line even though it is close to the typical 4 trains/hour (on each Main and Bergen separately) at peak which justifies electrification. Electrification will only ever have a chance here if the Bergen Loop ever gets built. Otherwise it will be diesels forever.

            The RVL is a better candidate for electrification, only because it already has the connection to the electrified NEC, but the peak loading is certainly less and the off-peak/weekends falls to 1 train an hour.

          • Alon Levy

            I meant the diesel lines that run through to Penn Station, i.e. the tails of the Morristown, Boonton, and NJC Lines.

          • adirondacker12800

            The choice is build the Loop so trains can go to Midtown or build ten billion dollars of Port Authority Bus Terminal so you can sit in traffic. Be sure to elect a Governor who isn’t trying to impress Real Americans(tm) who drive everywhere.

  9. Onux

    Some of these schedules (and schedules in previous posts) have run times just outside a takt interval, such as 1:01 to Trenton or 1:04 to Dover. Although a takt is not necessary for frequent regional service, an interval is, because 0:57 to the end of line allows 4tph with 8 sets not 10. What level of improvements would be necessary to get these cases to a nominal hour? Are there cases where intermediate stops could be chosen at 0:29 to allow more frequent service in the inner suburbs (Metropark seems to already be there)?

    • Alon Levy

      That assumes you can time everything right at the New York end, which you can’t, because everything funnels through a two-track tunnel. The same problem occurs in Boston on a smaller scale: see here for NSRL schedules I tried coming up with in 2017, just please be aware that I wouldn’t sign my name to all speed zones today – it’s just an example of the difficulties of short-turn takt scheduling through a trunk tunnel, with or without through-running.

      A few of the lines can be improved a bit through curve modification, but most can’t. Essentially all of the speed improvement is already baked in through better rolling stock, electrification, and some track repairs that can be done in a few weekends of closure using track geometry machines. Probably the single biggest improvement that can be squeezed is getting rolling stock that’s aerodynamic enough to run faster through the tunnels feeding Penn Station, which together with higher superelevation at the curve through the portal speeds up everything by a minute. In some circumstances I might even suggest figuring out ways to cut the schedule padding below 7%, but on a line with so much branching and so much traffic, I’m squeamish even if everything is double-tracked.

      • adirondacker12800

        They can turn trains at Rahway without doing much of anything. The express to Trenton doesn’t have to stop in North Elizabeth if the local to Matawan will be. Glancing at satellite images there is plenty of space west of Summit and Bound Brook to turn trains. Or north of Ridgewood or Wayne.. The Wall Street trains can all turn around in Great Neck and every third Penn Station train can go to Port Washington. It’s not BART where all trains must stop at all stations

      • The Economist

        From Google imagery it appears that only Perth Amboy and Little Silver are low level platforms on the electrified portion of the NJC. I personally would argue that Millburn should have been made high level years ago, but NJT does not have the guts to restore the third track through the station first and is probably using this as an indefinite excuse for doing nothing. Short Hills is going to be low level forever until some decision on fully triple tracking to Summit is made, but the third track used to exist through Millburn, so it is unexcusable that they have been using it as a reason to not put two side hide level platforms. Watchung and Walnut Street in Montclair should also get high level platforms without too many issues. Putting high levels in Glen Ridge and Bloomfield will do wonders for speeding up boarding during rush hour, but excuses about historical stations plus low clearance have prevented that from happening.

  10. Shaul Picker

    It would be great if you could make a big list of all the necessary infrastructure improvements that should be made, such as double-tracking a section near Far Rockaway on the LIRR, or grade-separations on the NJCL, which I hadn’t thought about.

  11. Spudsfan

    How does the RVL sharing the line with the freight trains between Cranford and the NEC junction affect the timing? I remember some time back they tried adding another evening express and almost every night it had to sit there for 10 minutes waiting for the eastbound train to come through

    • Alon Levy

      It doesn’t, the freights can slot between the passenger trains at evening frequency.

      The single-track turnout is genuinely a problem (albeit one that can be scheduled around), but in the grand scheme of things it’s not expensive to double-track and grade-separate it.

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