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Author Topic: Train frequency-Demand relationship?
tarheelman
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Hi folks--

Does anyone know if there is an established correlation between the number of trains on a particular route and the demand for service on this route?

I'm wondering about this because I'd like to see more trains on the 'Piedmont' route. (Currently, there are only two---one westbound morning train and one eastbound afternoon train.) IMO, if there were more trains, it'd be more convenient for a business traveler to take the 'Piedmont' instead of driving because there'd be more flexibility in planning your schedule around the train's schedule. However, I know that the NCDOT isn't going to invest in more locomotives and refurbished heritage cars for this train unless there's sufficient demand to allow the DOT to recover the cost of this additional equipment. Consequently, I'm wondering if there's any way to predict whether there would be sufficient demand to allow such cost recovery.

Thanks!

Posts: 100 | From: Kernersville, NC | Registered: Oct 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Gilbert B Norman
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Amtrak Corridor services such as The Downeaster and air carriers such as Southwest have shown that when entering a market, if you can't run "five a day", forget it.

Your North Carolina services operate over railroad ROW's, and the roads such as CSX can and do dictate the passenger train frequency over THEIR road.

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delvyrails
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There is one very approximate rule of thumb: the service frequency in hours should about equal the usual trip also measured in hours. That tells us why the Acela runs hourly but the Southwest Chief need run only once a day (1000-mile average trip length).

Of course, it's also economics; the train must be reasonably filled.

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Mr. Toy
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This July Press Release from the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority suggests a correlation. Here are relevant excerpts:

quote:

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) has announced that May 2007 marked the highest monthly ridership total in the history of the Capitol Corridor service with 141,789 passengers, surpassing the previous record set in April 2007 with 127,572 passengers....

Fiscal year-to-date ridership has increased 13.3% due to eight consecutive months of substantial growth, and revenue has also increased 21.7% during the same time period. This positive trend can be attributed to the introduction of a 32 train schedule last fall and targeted marketing aimed at filling seats on trains with available capacity.....

When CCJPA began managing the service in 1998, there were eight daily trains and 463,000 passengers annually. Recovery of costs from passenger fares in 1998 was 29.8% Today, just eight years later, nearly 1.4 million passengers ride the Capitol Corridor annually, and passenger fares cover nearly 50% of the cost of service, among the best recovery ratio for public transportation in the country.

It stands to reason that if people can choose trains that go when they want to travel, they are more likely to use it than if they have to adjust their personal schedule to meet the train's schedule.

--------------------
The Del Monte Club Car

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tarheelman
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Thanks for the replies, folks. [Smile]

Mr. Norman, I understand the reasoning behind your reply---the freight railroads own the tracks in most areas except the NEC. As such, they won't allow a lot of passenger traffic if such traffic interferes with the movement of their freight trains. However, I don't know if you're aware of this or not, but the 'Piedmont' route is entirely on track owned by the state-controlled North Carolina Railroad. This track is under long-term lease to Norfolk Southern Railway. As part of the lease agreement, NS has the right to reject any increase in passenger train traffic if this increase is a hindrance to their freight trains. Because of this fact, the NCRR is currently studying the cost of adding another track over part of the 'Piedmont' route. It's my understanding that this track would be reserved for passenger trains in order to keep them from interfering with NS's freight operations. Consequently, adding more trains to the 'Piedmont' route would be possible if the cost of building this extra track turns out to be affordable. I should've mentioned this in my original post in order to clarify that any increase in the number of trains on the 'Piedmont' route wouldn't necessarily be rejected by the freight railroad that operates over this track. I apologize for not doing so.

Mr. Toy, thanks for supplying those excerpts from the CCJPA's July press release. They indeed suggest a correlation between train frequency and demand. After all, as you point out, it seems logical that people will be more likely to choose train travel if the trains go when they want to go, instead of having to fit their schedule to the train's schedule.

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notelvis
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The most recent rumblings I've heard from the NCDOT suggest that a third round-trip between Charlotte and Raleigh on the Piedmont route will more likely come to pass before service to Asheville or Wilmington happens.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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tarheelman
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quote:
Originally posted by notelvis:
The most recent rumblings I've heard from the NCDOT suggest that a third round-trip between Charlotte and Raleigh on the Piedmont route will more likely come to pass before service to Asheville or Wilmington happens.

IMO, the 'Piedmont' would make a great business travel train if there were more round-trip trains on this route during business days. As you know, traffic on Interstates 40 and 85 between Raleigh and Charlotte gets worse every year. Consequently, if there were more trains on the 'Piedmont' route, thus making it easy to plan a business trip around the train schedule, I'm sure that a lot of folks who currently drive between Charlotte and Raleigh on business would gladly take the train in order to avoid dealing with the traffic mess on the Interstate. That's why I was wondering if there's a correlation between train frequency and demand---such a correlation would make a stronger argument for the investment needed to add more trains to the 'Piedmont' on business days.
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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by tarheelman:
the 'Piedmont' route is entirely on track owned by the state-controlled North Carolina Railroad. This track is under long-term lease to Norfolk Southern Railway. As part of the lease agreement, NS has the right to reject any increase in passenger train traffic if this increase is a hindrance to their freight trains. Because of this fact, the NCRR is currently studying the cost of adding another track over part of the 'Piedmont' route. It's my understanding that this track would be reserved for passenger trains in order to keep them from interfering with NS's freight operations.

Tarheelman: If you haven't I would suggest you visit www.bytrain.org which is North Carolina DOT's web site for their railroad work. Look at the section called Track Improvements as see both what they have done and what they are planning.

Let's start with what they had when they decided to begin the state supported passenger trains: As you say, between Morehead City on the Coast and Charlotte the line is the State Owned North Carolina Railroad, leased to Southern Railway (now NS) since about 1896. East of Greensboro the line was single track and unsignaled. Essentially a medium density branch line. Between Greensboro and Charlotte, it was part of the Southern Railway's Washington to Atlanta main, generally realingned and double tracked throughout in the early years of the 20th Century. In the 1960's something less than half the second track was removed, leaving alternating sections of single track and double track of roughly 10 miles each.

Skipping a lengthy period of negotiation and court battles, the state began to run their state supported trains and started a program of track improvements to speed up these trains.

By now they have picked all the "low hanging fruit" and are working further up the tree. None of the track improvements are for passenger use only, as such. What they have done over the last few years is add a CTC signal system between Greensboro and Cary, lengthen sidings and put #20 turnouts on their ends, and eliminate some of the slower speed restrictions. They have also increased superelevation on a lot of the curves, particularly in the Greensboro to Cary section. Right now they are replacing about 10 miles of the second main on a single track section between Greensboro and High Point. It is planned to restore the second main on the other single track sections between Greensboro and Charlotte, but not at a very fast rate. There is at least one new siding planned between Greesboro and Cary.

It is not a question of "studying" adding additional track, it is in the plan. It is a matter of money and time to do it. These will not be passenger only tracks, but restored second main.

The restoration is not simply a matter of replacing a new track where one was once before. Where it is gone, the second main has been gone for 40 years. Much has happened since then. The remaining main may have been shifted over in places, bridge removed or double track bridges replaced with single track ones. Therefore, varying amounts of grading and bridge work is required before the track can be installed.

My guess, and it is only my guess, is that once the double track is restored between Charlotte and Greensboro, additional passenger trains will be acceptable to NS. I would say that the Raleigh to Greensboro section has plenty of capacity right now for additional trains.

North Carolina has also done a lot of work on stations, which is generally independent of the track work and includes stations on all lines with passenger service, not just the NCRR tracks. One particular jewel of this work is the restoration and reopening of the Southern Railway Greensboro Station. This work also included two new platforms with associated tracks so that both the Crescent and the NC DOT trains can pull in, stop with no reverse moves, and pull out without dealing with low speed trackage.

George

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notelvis
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To add to my thought last night - a third or fourth frequency between Raleigh and Charlotte makes more sense than a single train on a new route. The station costs between Raleigh and Charlotte are pretty much going to be what they are going to be whether it's 4, 6, 8, or even 10 trains which stop at them.

Once the track improvements have progressed to a reasonable point, extra trains could be run just for the cost of fuel and salaries for the crew members......and depreciation on the equipment.

Regardless, I feel like North Carolina has taken a reasonable approach to getting into the passenger train business......but the support which was red hot in the mid-to-late 90's has cooled a bit.

George - I was on the Piedmont from Raleigh to Charlotte just last month. It is quite the rush to blast through Mebane, NC at 79mph on the newly improved and signalled line between Greensboro and Cary. Former top speed on the line was 59mph but only 35 through town.

It is essentially a new railroad there.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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George Harris
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David:
Even before the passenger service started back there was quite a bit of work on the line, otherwise it would have been painfully slow. A look at the 1973 Southern ETT shows:
"Between Greensboro and Goldsboro: 35 mph"
Also, 10 mph on main track through crossovers at Burlington and Durham and through SCL connection at Fetner. So, even 59 mph was quite an improvement over where the line was.

Also, at the time speed on the Washington - Atlanta main line through the Greensboro area was 20 mph.

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tarheelman
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quote:
Originally posted by notelvis:

It is quite the rush to blast through Mebane, NC at 79mph on the newly improved and signalled line between Greensboro and Cary.

Having ridden the 'Carolinian' through this stretch of track two months ago, all I can say is: "You ain't kidding!" [Big Grin]
Posts: 100 | From: Kernersville, NC | Registered: Oct 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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