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View Diary: Sunday Train: Frequency and Waiting on a Train (22 comments)

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  •  the book has come out at a great time (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox

    It's really pretty amazing that passenger rail service is still an option at all with decades-old equipment crisscrossing a few remaining routes.

    For those of us on the Missouri route, the basic problem is delays. A morning and afternoon route is sufficient for a lot of travel needs; the main problem is that since passengers are subordinate to freight, you can't count on a schedule.

    When you're being picked up at a 'station' that is little more than a box in many towns, an hour delay is an enormous hassle.

    •  Its not just that passengers are subordinate ... (5+ / 0-)

      ... to freight, its the bi-directional single track "revolution". Say you have 200 miles of track without a siding, the Amtrak slot is given priority to pass ahead of it, and then there is another Amtrak slot coming the other way (since Amtrak trains also go both ways on the same track). Amtrak westbound misses its slot. If the very slow freight does not enter the track trailing the "ghost" Amtrak westbound, then it won't be out of the way in time for the Amtrak eastbound. Remember that at, perhaps, an average of 25mph~50mph, that's four to eight hours that the slow freight is allocated to that track section. Reversing it so that the westbound Amtrak can get ahead of it means that it will still be on the track when the eastbound Amtrak needs it.

      Its easy to say that its priorities of the freight railroad at fault, and sometimes it is (different railroads have a different culture with respect to passenger rail), but when its a mechanical problem at Amtrak that caused the original delay, its just a consequence of running on a track network that is not designed for freight running to time sensitive schedules.

      The real problem is that there is not 10 miles of passing track for every 50 miles of track, which would let a trailing Amtrak catch up to the freight and pass it, and then later if the freight is behind schedule it can hold in front of a switch for an oncoming Amtrak to pass it the other way. And that passing track increases the freight haul capacity of the line as well as the passenger rail capacity, so its not like the freight railroad would turn it down if the offer way made to build it and hold the infrastructure under public ownership so that it did not increase the railroad's property tax burden.

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