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Notes from Europe: Ride the high-speed rails

I’m on vacation in Europe until the 24th. Each weekday until my return there will be a brief post about some feature of the city I’m visiting that day.

Today, I ride the high-speed Thalys train from Paris to Amsterdam. The Thalys system covers parts of France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany. With top speeds of 186 miles per hour, it’s 24% faster than Acela‘s top speed of 150 mph, and much faster than Acela’s average speed.

Both Thalys and Acela trains are loosely based on French TGV trains, though they both have significant modifications.

Thalys high-speed trains at Paris Gare du Nord.
Photo by Darkroom Daze via flickr.

March 20th, 2014 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: intercity, transportation

US vs French intercity rail, side by side

Well, this is embarrassing.

Using Amtrak’s real-time train tracker and the French equivalent, one can see the number of trains operating in each country at any given time. Putting them side-by-side isn’t a pretty sight.

It’s not quite as bad as it looks at first glance, because at this map scale Amtrak’s tracker clusters bunches of nearby trains into a single purple-colored dot. So there are admittedly a lot more trains in the Northeast and near Chicago than appear individually here.

On the other hand, Amtrak’s map shows all trains, while the French version is only showing regular speed ones. For high speed trains there’s a separate map.

February 6th, 2014 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: intercity, maps, transportation

Everywhere you can get on intercity transit in America, in one map

This map, from the American Intercity Bus Riders Association, attempts to show all the major intercity transit routes in America. It includes Amtrak, Greyhound, and several other bus carriers.

Map of Amtrak and intercity bus lines, from AIBRA.

It’s probably impossible for this kind of map to be 100% accurate all the time. In all likelihood there are some missing links, and missing carriers. But it’s still quite an impressive undertaking, and a useful tool to bookmark.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.

February 3rd, 2014 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: intercity, maps, transportation

All northeast US passenger rail on one awesome map

This map shows every Amtrak, commuter rail, metro, light rail, and tourist rail line from Maine to North Carolina, to scale.

It comes from NortheastRailMap.com, and you can even download it in a fully-editable Adobe Illustrator format.

Image from NortheastRailMap.com.

Update: The map’s author has requested that you “like” their page on Facebook. Please help them out and do that!

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.

November 5th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: commuterrail, intercity, lightrail, maps, metrorail, streetcar, transportation

In 4 years, ride Amtrak to Roanoke

Having recently added new rail service to Norfolk and Lynchburg, Amtrak is now beginning planning to extend service to Roanoke.

The plan is simply to extend the highly successful Lynchburg train a few miles further southwest. But since Roanoke hasn’t had rail service in decades, it will take 3-4 years to get everything ready.

Even if progress is slow, it’s exciting to see American intercity rail become popular again.

Amtrak’s route to Roanoke.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.

August 22nd, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: intercity, maps, The New America, transportation

Top 10 busiest Amtrak routes

click to enlarge
An Amtrak Cascades train leaves Seattle. Photo by KurtClark on flickr.

Rail use in America continues to climb ever higher. In July, Amtrak posted its busiest ridership month ever. But what are the busiest individual routes?

Let’s take a look. Here are the 10 highest ridership Amtrak routes, as of July, 2013:

Number 1: Northeast Regional
July, 2013 ridership: 687,331

Number 2: Acela Express
July, 2013 ridership: 276,477

Number 3: Pacific Surfliner (Southern California)
July, 2013 ridership: 271,517

Number 4: Capitol Corridor (Northern California)
July, 2013 ridership: 140,533

Number 5: Keystone Service (NY to Harrisburg, PA)
July, 2013 ridership: 123,874

Number 6: San Joaquin (Central California)
July, 2013 ridership: 117,348

Number 7: Empire Service (Upstate New York)
July, 2013 ridership: 99,801

Number 8: Cascades (Pacific Northwest)
July, 2013 ridership: 85,565

Number 9: Hiawatha (Chicago to Milwaukee)
July, 2013 ridership: 79,423

Number 10: Lincoln Service (Chicago to Saint Louis)
July, 2013 ridership: 66,461

Correction: An earlier version of this story listed ridership data as being for the full fiscal 2013 year. Data is for July, 2013 only.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.

August 16th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: intercity, The New America, top10, transportation

Where is DC’s train to the beach?

click to enlarge
Ocean City’s boardwalk, with its tram.

If you live in New York, Philadelphia, or Boston, you can hop onto a commuter rail train any summer weekend and travel to the beach. But not if you live in DC. Here we have no train, and the buses are impractical and expensive.

Let’s compare:

Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority recently launched its Cape Flyer service, from Boston South Station to Cape Cod. A round trip ticket to Hyannis is $35.

New Jersey Transit runs trains from Philadelphia 30th Street Station to Atlantic City for $20 round trip, and from New York Penn Station to the Jersey Shore for $25 round trip. New Yorkers can also take Long Island Rail Road from Penn Station to Montauk for about $40 round trip.

For DC, there is no train, much less an affordable one. There are no tracks directly between DC and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The only track connection is at the very top of Chesapeake Bay, near Wilmington, DE. Amtrak does offer service to Ocean City, but you have to connect to an Amtrak bus at BWI, and it’s $120 for a round trip.

Greyhound also runs buses from DC to Ocean City, but it’s $50-$100 per round trip, depending on how far in advance you buy tickets online.

Building a new rail bridge across Chesapeake Bay is probably not practical. Even if it were, that’s surely not the top priority for limited transit funding. But why not better bus service? Ocean City is a natural transit destination; it’s compact and urban, at least near the boardwalk.

As summer rolls by and Washingtonians head out for weekend jaunts to the beach, how many of us wish we didn’t have to rent a car to get there?

July 8th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: bus, commuterrail, intercity, proposal, question, transportation

Amtrak’s spiffy new Northeast Corridor locomotives

The first of 70 new Amtrak locomotives rolled off the assembly line yesterday. They will fully replace all the locomotives on Amtrak’s non-Acela Northeast Regional trains, and can reach a top speed of about 125 miles per hour. Expect to start seeing them in service between DC and Boston this autumn.

Amtrak’s new “ACS-64″ locomotive. Photo from Amtrak.

May 14th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: intercity, transportation

Growing Baltimore might get more TOD and a fancy train shed

Baltimore’s decades-long population decline has officially reversed. The city grew by about 1,100 people last year. Congrats to Baltimore!

In more specific but also exciting news, Amtrak has adopted a new master plan for Baltimore’s Penn Station. It includes significant new development around the station, and a new canopy over the tracks that would dramatically improve the rider experience.

The plans are conceptual, and will have to go into greater detail before development can begin.

Concept plan for Penn Station. Image by Beatty Development.

March 15th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: architecture, commuterrail, demographics, intercity, master planning, transportation

Top 10 busiest Amtrak stations

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Chicago Union Station, busiest outside the Northeast. Photo by Vincent Desjardins.

As a follow-up to Monday’s map of Amtrak stations by ridership, here are the 10 busiest, ranked in order. Although it’s not surprising that New York, Washington, and Philadelphia are the top 3, it is pretty surprising that 2 of the top 5 and 4 of the top 10 are nowhere near the Northeast.

Number 1: New York Penn Station
8,995,551 boardings/deboardings per year.

Number 2: Washington DC Union Station
4,850,685 boardings/deboardings per year.

Number 3: Philadelphia 30th Street Station
3,872,392 boardings/deboardings per year.

Number 4: Chicago Union Station
3,393,695 boardings/deboardings per year.

Number 5: Los Angeles Union Station
1,606,121 boardings/deboardings per year.

Number 6: Boston South Station
1,360,162 boardings/deboardings per year.

Number 7: Sacramento Valley Station
1,175,046 boardings/deboardings per year.

Number 8: Baltimore Penn Station
953,170 boardings/deboardings per year.

Number 9: Albany-Rensselaer Station
769,626 boardings/deboardings per year.

Number 10: San Diego Union Station
753,739 boardings/deboardings per year.

The rest of the top 25 includes most of the secondary stations in the northeast, like Wilmington (12), BWI Airport (17), and Harrisburg (21), plus 6 more stations outside the northeast. Those are Seattle (14), Portland (15), Irvine (16), Milwaukee (19), Emeryville (20), and Bakersfield (24).

February 6th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: intercity, top10, transportation



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