Capacity on the Northeast Corridor

Tucked into the testimony of Amtrak President Joesph Boardman at last week’s Senate hearing on the future of the Northeast Corridor is this graphic demonstrating the number of daily train movements by operator at different locations along the spine of the Northeast Corridor:

One interesting thing to note is the difference in the volume of Amtrak trains (light blue) north of New York, compared to south of New York. This also makes it easy to see the relative volume of Amtrak intercity trains and commuter trains, as well as a few freight movements per day north of Washington Union Station. Capacity improvements are needed to allow for a combination of increased intercity and commuter services (or even better), and other bottlenecks are likely in need of greater capacity for freight expansion on adjacent corridors.

In other Amtrak news, Systemic Failure takes note of the US rail regulatory apparatus continuing to shoot itself in the foot on even allowing efficient high speed rail and learning from everyone else around the world that has already done this hard work. The FRA rejected Amtrak’s reasoning below, with emphasis added by Drunk Engineer:

The assumption that the standards simplify the design process of the equipment and would save $2,000,000 per train set is false. The Acela example indicates the exact opposite to be true. The FRA rules, as existing and proposed, eliminate the possibility of purchasing off-the-shelf equipment. The engineering work required to design new compliant equipment alone would far outstrip any possible savings from the rules if there were any to be had.

For background on the previous history of the Acela’s regulatory weight problems, see posts here, herehere, as well as a GAO report here.

2 comments to Capacity on the Northeast Corridor

  • The FRA rule changes are mostly about cant deficiency and are reasonable. The main complaint re the Acela was not regulatory cant deficiency limits but buff strength, a rule that the FRA didn’t address in this round of revision but has said it is reconsidering.

  • Alex Block

    So, FRA is trying to reassure everyone that this is OK:

    The FRA and Amtrak are working very closely and cooperatively with each other and worldwide train manufactures through the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) to achieve a consensus on safety design standards. There is unanimous consensus on the path forward with all of our stakeholders, including Amtrak, all international railcar manufacturers and other partners. Together through the RSAC process we are writing safety standards will allow proven trainsets used in other countries to operate in the U.S. market. Our process is and has always been a fluid and iterative process. Collectively, our goal is to establish and implement safety standards that are appropriate for U.S. operating environments so that passengers, employees and communities along rail routes are and remain safe.

    Which could either mean the adoption of the same standards used in Europe or Japan, or it could be the Acela all over again…

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