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  #21  
Old Posted Oct 12, 2019, 2:09 AM
SFBruin SFBruin is offline
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Originally Posted by Skintreesnail View Post
In regards to Philly, the SEPTA regional Rail is already built out like an s-bahn system with all lines through-running, but they don't use it that way. It could be vastly improved by just increasing frequency. The station spacing is close on many of the lines, especially within the city limits. If they added a couple more stations on the main 4-track trunk in north philly and west philly, that would probably also improve ridership; it runs through some pretty densely populated neighborhoods that aren't served by subway. They could run express trains from the suburbs on the inner tracks that bypass the local inter-city stations.
I feel like Philadelphia needs a new tunnel through downtown. I am not an expert on Philadelphia, so I don't know where to put it, but the existing, geographically-to-scale map of the commuter rail looks a little convoluted.
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  #22  
Old Posted Oct 12, 2019, 12:25 PM
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EMU commuter trains or EMU light rail trains?
In many cases light rail would be both better and cheaper to operate.
They are two different technologies that should be used for two different purposes. There's a reason cities like Frankfurt and Cologne in Germany have both stadtbahn (light rail) and s-bahn(commuter rail).

Commuter rail has higher top speeds and is designed for longer distances with fewer stops per mile. IIRC for RTD the airport line from downtown light rail alternative was about 20 minutes slower over the course of it's 23 mile 7 stop journey.

Light rail has quicker acceleration and is more flexible in where it can go. The flexibility makes it cheaper to implement in urban areas with limited ROW, and the acceleration makes it better on lines with more stops per mile.

In general light rail is better as an urban transit solution. If the lines go beyond the inner suburbs and the average space between stations becomes greater it might be better to use commuter rail as a suburban to urban transit solution.

Last edited by bobg; Oct 12, 2019 at 12:36 PM.
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  #23  
Old Posted Oct 12, 2019, 3:23 PM
Skintreesnail Skintreesnail is offline
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Originally Posted by SFBruin View Post
I feel like Philadelphia needs a new tunnel through downtown. I am not an expert on Philadelphia, so I don't know where to put it, but the existing, geographically-to-scale map of the commuter rail looks a little convoluted.
Yeah, the commuter rail gets meandering after getting out of the city limits, but it does go through some densly-populated areas of North Philly that aren't served by subway. Problem is there are only a couple of stations since it focuses on serving the suburbs. It's a 4-track Trunk though, and tunnels through center City to university city, which would make it convenient for some service that is more subway-like or at least greater frequency.

There are already 4 actively used tunnels through center City, but another tunnel would be nice in South Philly. I think that's a weak point for the system as it only has the broad Street line and it's very populated. Also the navy yard is becoming a big office center and isn't served by anything. There's a 3-track elevated track that runs down 25th to the navy yard, but csx owns it. Then there are plans to do light rail down along the Delaware river, but it feels like that project is not going anywhere.

The broad-ridge spur tunnel (diagonal orange line on Google maps) was supposed to go all the way to northwest Philly but the great depression hit sit it just connects to broad. There's an unused 6-track tunnel that goes from broad, past the art museum that would be nice to put to some use. Septa owns it but just sits on it. Then there's the patco tunnel (red line on Google maps) that just ends at Rittenhouse square. It was supposed to loop around the city, but again the depression. I think there are a couple blocks of tunnel under arch from the loop plan but unused. There were a couple other lines I think that never happened and plans for something to northeast Philly down Rosselvelt Blvd.
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  #24  
Old Posted Oct 13, 2019, 6:47 AM
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It is clear that you have thought about this more than I.

I was thinking that the commuter rail alignment between Sedgley Ave and Glenwood Ave was a weird alignment, and should be replaced by a new alignment closer to the Market-Frankford line for cross-city trips.

I, again, know next to nothing about Philadelphia, so please take my critique with a grain of salt.
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  #25  
Old Posted Oct 13, 2019, 3:37 PM
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Originally Posted by SFBruin View Post
It is clear that you have thought about this more than I.

I was thinking that the commuter rail alignment between Sedgley Ave and Glenwood Ave was a weird alignment, and should be replaced by a new alignment closer to the Market-Frankford line for cross-city trips.

I, again, know next to nothing about Philadelphia, so please take my critique with a grain of salt.
What you're saying makes sense, but that's the northeast corridor you're referring to. It cuts across the city to 30th Street station then continues south to DC. Only 2 septa lines actually use that alignment. Amtrak owns it and I think there is some push to limit SEPTA's access so they can run more trains as part of the NEC master plan. The Roosevelt Blvd project I mentioned would run parallel to the NEC through NE Philly and then connect with the broad Street subway. I think that would accomplish some of what you suggested. Also, I've heard of a plan of connecting one of the 2 septa lines that use that alignment (Chestnut Hill West) to run along the broad Street subway as well, but not sure if that is just a rumour. The broad Street subway is 4 tracks and gets less usage than the market/Frankford El which is 2 tracks.

There is a pretty massive plan to develop around 30th Street station, so the current alignment would make more sense since that would be the destination for a lot of commuters. The east side of the city, along the Delaware, is more of a tourist destination with all the historical stuff. From broad Street to the Schuylkill river is the office center of the city.

Last edited by Skintreesnail; Oct 13, 2019 at 3:51 PM.
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  #26  
Old Posted Oct 14, 2019, 2:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Skintreesnail View Post
What you're saying makes sense, but that's the northeast corridor you're referring to. It cuts across the city to 30th Street station then continues south to DC. Only 2 septa lines actually use that alignment. Amtrak owns it and I think there is some push to limit SEPTA's access so they can run more trains as part of the NEC master plan. The Roosevelt Blvd project I mentioned would run parallel to the NEC through NE Philly and then connect with the broad Street subway. I think that would accomplish some of what you suggested. Also, I've heard of a plan of connecting one of the 2 septa lines that use that alignment (Chestnut Hill West) to run along the broad Street subway as well, but not sure if that is just a rumour. The broad Street subway is 4 tracks and gets less usage than the market/Frankford El which is 2 tracks.

There is a pretty massive plan to develop around 30th Street station, so the current alignment would make more sense since that would be the destination for a lot of commuters. The east side of the city, along the Delaware, is more of a tourist destination with all the historical stuff. From broad Street to the Schuylkill river is the office center of the city.
Regional Rail is a woefully underutilized asset. SEPTA management and the unions are what keeps it from realizing its full potential.

There's never been an official proposal to take one of the Chestnut Hill lines and convert it into a subway line though I made a fantasy routing doing just that and posted it here a while ago. Such a plan would be sensible in some ways.
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  #27  
Old Posted Oct 14, 2019, 1:28 PM
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^^ I bet I'm remembering one of your posts then regarding chestnut hill west/BSL. I think it definitely makes sense given the bandwidth that BSL has. Would need to convert the catenary to third rail though, which I have no idea what that would take.

The under-utilization of SEPTA regional rail really frustrates me though. They've done all the hard work to make it a true s-bahn (electrifying the whole system, building the connector tunnel for through-running service that all the branches feed into, a 4-track trunk to allow local and express station calling). It just seems like after all that they just shrugged and called it a day.

I'm sure unions and mgmt are a big issue, but I don't think the funding is where it should be either. Also, I wonder if they could automate a large portion of the system. There are some grade crossings that would need to be fixed, but I think a lot of it is grade-separated. To SEPTA's credit, they're at least getting all the rates under septa key and adding raised platforms to improve loading times.
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  #28  
Old Posted Oct 14, 2019, 2:12 PM
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Originally Posted by volguus zildrohar View Post
Regional Rail is a woefully underutilized asset. SEPTA management and the unions are what keeps it from realizing its full potential.
An interesting long video about the history of SEPTA agrees with you.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkWxbAoOK2o

Additionally, that video mostly about passenger trains near Philadelphia, reflects what was basically going on nationally as private enterprise was pulling out of transit and government stepped in. Many errors were made.
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  #29  
Old Posted Oct 14, 2019, 4:13 PM
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^^^ interesting video, they really hit on the frustration of it all. Didn't know about the swampoodle connector; that would be one (fairly low-cost) solution to the chestnut hill west line sharing the NEC issue. also like the mention of our "temporarily suspended" trolleys 56 and 23. at least they brought 15 back.
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  #30  
Old Posted Oct 30, 2019, 4:20 PM
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So what commuter rail extensions/creations would be most useful? I definitely feel that if these systems are greatly expanded, ridership would explode. Here are a few ideas for expansion, I feel would be fantastic, by metro.

NY:
MOM rail to Toms River
Extension to Hightstown, NJ
West Trenton Line
Allentown extension via High Bridge
Washington, NJ extension via Hackettstown
East Stroudsburg
New Paltz via extension through Sparta, NJ
New branch through Suffern that turns out to Goshen on to Port Jervis
North East NJ extension through Tenafly up to Newburgh.
New Milford, CT extension.
Torrington extension
Extend metro north out to New London
Re establish branch to Sag Harbor

LA:
Santa Barbara extension
Victorville extension
Palm Springs extension
Hemet extension
Temecula extension
DMU Line from DTLA to Costa Mesa

Chicago:
Milwaukee extension
Lake Geneva extension
Rockford extension
Rochelle Extension
Ottowa extension
Wilmington extension
Kankakee extension
Lowell ext
Crown Point ext
Valparaiso ext
LaPorte extension

San Francisco:
BART to San Rafael
SMART to Sonoma
BART to NAPA
Caltrain to Vacaville via new transbay tunnel with BART
Caltrain to Antioch
BART ext to Danville
Caltrain to Stockton and Modesto replacing ACE
Caltrain to Salinas
BART to Santa Cruz

Philadelphia:
Newtown ext
New Hope ext
Quakertown ext
Reading ext
Lancaster ext
West Chester ext
Oxford ext
Northeast ext
Dover ext
Woodstown ext
Glassboro ext
Mount Holly ext

Boston:
Portsmouth ext
Manchester ext
Gardner ext
Clinton ext
Webster ext
Milford ext
New Bedford/Fall River ext
Hyannis ext

What’s a few hundred billion to make our lives better.
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  #31  
Old Posted Oct 30, 2019, 4:56 PM
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Originally Posted by liat91 View Post
So what commuter rail extensions/creations would be most useful? I definitely feel that if these systems are greatly expanded, ridership would explode. Here are a few ideas for expansion, I feel would be fantastic, by metro.

What’s a few hundred billion to make our lives better.
That's a question to be answered by the local transit authorities and whatever their tax revenues could support to build and subsidize. After a 10 year federally mandated EIS process, you might get 50% federal funding to build - but not to operate and maintain.

Why limit your commuter rail corridor to just the cities you listed? Couyldn't other metros have a fantastic commuter rail line? Like Denver to Boulder?
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  #32  
Old Posted Oct 30, 2019, 5:52 PM
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I can only speak as a Philly resident; I think given the growth of the Lehigh Valley, the extension of the Lansdale line out past Quakertown to Bethlehem/Allentown would be very beneficial. Also, while Reading hasn't seen the same growth, the traffic on 422 is horrible due to the population density along that corridor. Extending the Norristown line towards Reading would help relieve that. SEPTA is already working on an extension of the Norristown high speed line to King of Prussia which will help, but I still think the regional rail extension is needed on top of that. Problem is that Norfolk Southern is fighting it and I'd expect they would want to electrify the service (septa regional rail is all electrified), since that was the reason they discontinued the original service to Reading; it used diesel engines after Norristown. West Chester would also be nice (322 and route 1 get pretty backed up) and SEPTA is already building an extension to Wawa and I believe are doing studies for continuing out to West Chester. That line was electric all the way to west Chester, so not sure why they cut it to begin with.

The Northeast corridor extension is an interesting idea but I don't know if Amtrak would fight that since they want to run more trains. I always thought that Philadelphia and NYC are close enough where it would make sense to kind of integrate into a single massive regional network (I know, doubtful). Local trains on the NEC between the two cities could run on this network on the outer tracks while Amtrak runs express trains down the middle 2 tracks. this would replace the current NJT and SEPTA lines that currently run on it (you currently need to change trains at Trenton between the two systems). NJT is looking into resuming service out to Easton in the Lehigh Valley and the current North Trenton SEPTA line could tie into the NJT Somerville line using existing track. I also read Scranton PA is working to get a NJT line extension there, but Scranton is pretty isolated due to the mountains.

The others listed are nice to have but not sure if the ridership would be there.
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  #33  
Old Posted Oct 31, 2019, 2:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Skintreesnail View Post
I can only speak as a Philly resident; I think given the growth of the Lehigh Valley, the extension of the Lansdale line out past Quakertown to Bethlehem/Allentown would be very beneficial. Also, while Reading hasn't seen the same growth, the traffic on 422 is horrible due to the population density along that corridor. Extending the Norristown line towards Reading would help relieve that. SEPTA is already working on an extension of the Norristown high speed line to King of Prussia which will help, but I still think the regional rail extension is needed on top of that. Problem is that Norfolk Southern is fighting it and I'd expect they would want to electrify the service (septa regional rail is all electrified), since that was the reason they discontinued the original service to Reading; it used diesel engines after Norristown. West Chester would also be nice (322 and route 1 get pretty backed up) and SEPTA is already building an extension to Wawa and I believe are doing studies for continuing out to West Chester. That line was electric all the way to west Chester, so not sure why they cut it to begin with.

The Northeast corridor extension is an interesting idea but I don't know if Amtrak would fight that since they want to run more trains. I always thought that Philadelphia and NYC are close enough where it would make sense to kind of integrate into a single massive regional network (I know, doubtful). Local trains on the NEC between the two cities could run on this network on the outer tracks while Amtrak runs express trains down the middle 2 tracks. this would replace the current NJT and SEPTA lines that currently run on it (you currently need to change trains at Trenton between the two systems). NJT is looking into resuming service out to Easton in the Lehigh Valley and the current North Trenton SEPTA line could tie into the NJT Somerville line using existing track. I also read Scranton PA is working to get a NJT line extension there, but Scranton is pretty isolated due to the mountains.

The others listed are nice to have but not sure if the ridership would be there.
For the South Jersey ones, the PRSL ROW is largely intact and the layout of the region -- as in the whole Philly metro -- supports high commuter rail ridership. The River Line linking Camden and Trenton has been a success, and there's ongoing work to extend it to Glassboro. What I want to see is all those old PRSL routes (and the PRR route to Toms River) returned to passenger use, and eventually tied into the Regional Rail network.

That is of course in addition to extremely useful extensions such as those to Quakertown (and eventually Allentown), Atglen (which used to be a major junction where the PRR passenger and freight main lines from Philly to Harrisburg diverged), Pottstown, West Chester, and Newtown, and into the fast-growing area around Kennett Square, all of which have been proposed amongst transit activists since forever. There are also some routes I've dreamed of, e.g. to Middletown, DE, up the Perkiomen valley, and through an underserved part of Northeast Philly that would likewise prove useful.

As others have noted, Philadelphia, moreso than any other city in the US, has the infrastructural base for a high-quality S-Bahn system. The problem here is mainly one of poor administration (which is, to be fair, a common problem throughout the US).
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  #34  
Old Posted Nov 1, 2019, 1:51 PM
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As others have noted, Philadelphia, moreso than any other city in the US, has the infrastructural base for a high-quality S-Bahn system. The problem here is mainly one of poor administration (which is, to be fair, a common problem throughout the US).
I don't think it's just poor administration. Philly isn't a particularly congested city. It isn't that hard to drive and find parking. It also isn't particularly centralized.

Philly has fantastic rail infrastructure (for a U.S. city), with the RER-style tunnel, but the ridership just isn't there. On paper, Philly should have some of the highest transit share in North America, but it doesn't fully translate. Still decent ridership, of course, but you would think it would have higher ridership than, say, SF, which has a vastly inferior regional network.
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  #35  
Old Posted Nov 1, 2019, 2:43 PM
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Perhaps better fare and connection integration would get better use out of it.
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  #36  
Old Posted Nov 1, 2019, 3:14 PM
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I don't think it's just poor administration. Philly isn't a particularly congested city. It isn't that hard to drive and find parking. It also isn't particularly centralized.

Philly has fantastic rail infrastructure (for a U.S. city), with the RER-style tunnel, but the ridership just isn't there. On paper, Philly should have some of the highest transit share in North America, but it doesn't fully translate. Still decent ridership, of course, but you would think it would have higher ridership than, say, SF, which has a vastly inferior regional network.
Parking in greater center city is pretty horrible and I would say the congestion is just as bad. Everyone I talk to who lives and works in the city hates driving. Didn't they make some show about parking in Philadelphia?

SEPTA regional rail is actually a good performer, it's highest in the nation after NYC and Chicago systems with a much smaller reach in track miles.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...s_by_ridership

I agree that we have a pretty great system by US standards, but I'd argue that improving headways, extending operation time and simplifying the pricing structure will improve ridership quite a bit without making any physical modifications to the system. After that extending the system to population centers and better connecting major business nodes in the region will boost it even more. There are some pretty densely-populated regions that are missed by the current system. If anything, SEPTA has shown that an s-bhan type system in the US (and a somewhat neglected one at that) works well and is worth investing/expanding.

Also, I just wanted to add that a fairly large portion of center city residents reverse-commute. I can already walk to 30th street station and get access to plenty of job centers in both the region and other nearby cities (NYC is an hour by Amtrak). Folks living near the trunk stations on the system can do the same, which also encourages building out the system to other job centers not yet served.

Last edited by Skintreesnail; Nov 1, 2019 at 3:26 PM.
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  #37  
Old Posted Nov 1, 2019, 4:31 PM
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Parking in greater center city is pretty horrible and I would say the congestion is just as bad. Everyone I talk to who lives and works in the city hates driving. Didn't they make some show about parking in Philadelphia?
I've never had problems driving in Philly. Parking seems to be very convenient and congestion is minimal for a metro of its size. I think this contributes to the fairly high car usage, considering the context. Philly is the second most urban U.S. city, but doesn't have the second highest transit share.
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SEPTA regional rail is actually a good performer, it's highest in the nation after NYC and Chicago systems with a much smaller reach in track miles.
Philly has the fourth highest commuter rail ridership in the U.S., well behind Chicago and Boston (and obviously NYC). But it has arguably the best system, with the RER-S-Bahn layout and all-electric mode. But really, Philly has the sixth highest ridership, because DC and SF basically have hybrid regional rail systems. I believe Philly also trails Toronto too.

So, to me, Philly is an underperformer. It should have, at worst, the second or third highest ridership. There's no way in hell it should have lower ridership than Boston, which has a fragmented, 90% diesel system. Toronto has a joke of a system, all diesel, with booming ridership.
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  #38  
Old Posted Nov 1, 2019, 11:55 PM
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Most of Chicago's system is diesel as is most (all?) of Boston's system, so obviously that doesn't make a system a "joke" at least compared to most of the continent. Of course I realize Toronto is just a popular insult target for some so such remarks shouldn't be interpreted as serious points.
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  #39  
Old Posted Nov 2, 2019, 4:31 AM
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Toronto's 'joke' commuter rail network is receiving enormous investment, which is gradually transforming it into a true rapid transit network. Its high ridership is no joke.
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  #40  
Old Posted Nov 3, 2019, 1:21 AM
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I've never had problems driving in Philly. Parking seems to be very convenient and congestion is minimal for a metro of its size. I think this contributes to the fairly high car usage, considering the context. Philly is the second most urban U.S. city, but doesn't have the second highest transit share.

Philly has the fourth highest commuter rail ridership in the U.S., well behind Chicago and Boston (and obviously NYC). But it has arguably the best system, with the RER-S-Bahn layout and all-electric mode. But really, Philly has the sixth highest ridership, because DC and SF basically have hybrid regional rail systems. I believe Philly also trails Toronto too.

So, to me, Philly is an underperformer. It should have, at worst, the second or third highest ridership. There's no way in hell it should have lower ridership than Boston, which has a fragmented, 90% diesel system. Toronto has a joke of a system, all diesel, with booming ridership.
The fault lies not with SEPTA but with the City of Philadelphia...more specifically it's insistence on a city wage tax that ensures Center City continues to lag behind it's peers in being a center of employment for the region. Boston, Chicago and DC have far greater job concentration in their cores than Philly. As long as economic dynamism is a low priority in City Hall, nothing SEPTA can do will bring the RR system to have the ridership it's infrastructure could support.
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