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North Carolina Intercity Rail Transit


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Thanks for the info regarding the signals between Boylan and Fetner.

You may be right about the 3:05 thing, but NCDOT actually has enough equipment to make two Piedmont trainsets, plus a spare engine and a couple extra coaches. There is also a specific clause in the lease agreement between Norfolk Southern and NCRR that allows for "at least three" daily round-trip passenger trains between Raleigh and Charlotte, but I think NCDOT is worried that the line doesn't have enough capacity to handle that.

Interestingly, the new Greensboro depot will eliminate the single most consistent bottleneck on the route. Trains can switch tracks between Pomona and the new depot, and the new platform is double-sided, with a pedestrian subway. This allows trains in opposite directions to approach the station simultaneously. on either track, regardless of pedestrian traffic.

Previously, at Pomona, the eastbound train would often have to stop a couple miles short of the station, wait, and back up onto track 1, and then approach the station. They really hated letting passengers board on track 2 because it involved walking across track 1.

My prediction is that we won't see any increased frequency until a few more new sidings (east of Greensboro) and sections of restored double track (west of Greensboro) are done. Information about these projects can be found here: http://www.bytrain.org/track/pdfs/statuschart.pdf

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You may be right about the 3:05 thing, but  NCDOT actually has enough equipment to make two Piedmont trainsets, plus a spare engine and a couple extra coaches.

My prediction is that we won't see any increased frequency until a few more new sidings (east of Greensboro) and sections of restored double track (west of Greensboro) are done. Information about these projects can be found here:

I was not aware we had a full second set of coaches. I thought there were at least two engines that could be used for Piedmont service.

Here's the second part of that equation, though- staffing. With 3 roundtrips, does it make more sense to schedule crews that are assigned to one consist, or to assign them based on departure time? (i.e. crew moves from trainset to trainset)

Or, does having the third midday run remain unlinked via staffing to the early or evening run allow for that midday run to be at the most opportune time for customer demand? (or does the physical plant of the railroad already limit that opportunity?)

Lots of questions. My contact with the NCDOT Rail Division has left me quite impressed with their level of professionalism and organization. I'm pretty sure they'll figure it out.

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If memory serves, NCDOT has 6 coaches in working order, plus another two currently undergoing overhaul (including one "combine" - formerly a power/passenger car, being converted to a passenger/baggage car), plus a couple more regular coaches awaiting overhaul. They also have two lounges, recently back from a suspension overhaul.

I guess that's not enough to have two complete consists plus some spares right now but once a few more of the overhauls are done, we'd be in good shape.

This is what I remember from a discussion with one of the train hosts on the Piedmont, anyway. It was probably 6 or 7 months ago and my memory isn't that great, so I could be wrong.

Edited by orulz
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There used to be space for bikes on the Piedmont, several years ago. I don't know what happened to that. Perhaps they stopped allowing bicycles when they stopped adding a baggage car to the consist.

Bikes are difficult to handle without bi-level coaches or high platforms, because standard entrances are too narrow and the floors are too high. Perhaps the "combine" car being refurbished will make accomodations but don't hold your breath.

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There used to be space for bikes on the Piedmont, several years ago. I don't know what happened to that. Perhaps they stopped allowing bicycles when they stopped adding a baggage car to the consist.

My contact at NCDOT Rail has also suggested they are looking into putting a 6-bicycle rack into the baggage car if it is added to the Piedmont in October. This seemed tenuous rather than certain, but if they do it, NCDOT Bike/Ped division is likely to start promoting it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Since NCDOT already has those two FP59(?) locomotives in service for the Piedmont, which are sleek modern units capable of high speed (125mph wide open?), I think they should just buy a couple of those Talgo TPU tilting trainsets and run them at 110MPH on the upgraded and to-be-upgraded sections of track between Charlotte and Raleigh. Wouldn't that would be awesome? Heh... perhaps someday we will see such a investment made. Expanding existing service should be the priority for now of course.

Tilting trainsets aside, the trip is already rivaling what is possible in a car on heavy traffic days. My sister's friends took a train trip to Charlotte and said that it was barely longer than a car trip they had taken a week before. It sounds like the train trip is destined for a few more incremental bumps in speed too.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It would seem that the increased price of fuel has had a significant impact on Piedmont train ridership

Ridership last month on the Piedmont train increased 58 percent over last September.

"September is traditionally one of our slowest months as family vacations end and children go back to school," said state transportation Deputy Secretary David King. "But we carried more passengers last month on the Piedmont than any other single month this year."


A recent program of track improvements has reduced travel time between Raleigh and Charlotte to three hours and 10 minutes

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This article (use bugmenot.com) is a rather interesting one concerning Amtrak. I wonder what long term implications this will have for the NCRR component of the instate rail service?

The whole Amtrak story is confusing to me, and is even more confusing when you throw in the story by the Bush Administration (which isn't surprising).

I don't see how the 50/50 funding deal proposed by the administration is supposed to work. I assume this means that the federal government matches whatever funds NC throws at passenger rail. But does NC just need to continue subsidizing our own rail service, like they have been, and the feds reciprocate with money and Amtrak service, or just the money?

It seems that this question has really not been answered in micro-detail, and the administration's effort is more of a conceptual sales pitch to drum up support for something that, in the end, guts passenger rail in the US.

If Amtrak goes away, NC would definitely have to turn the operation of the trains over to an in-state rail transit authority... or perhaps a multistate authority shared with VA and MD (or others...).

NCART (North Carolina Authority for Rail Transit) or DELMARVANCART :lol: come to mind...

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The Amtrak Board is all Bush appointees. As movement conservatives, their primary goal is to destroy Amtrak as quickly as possible. David Gunn, the Amtrak President, largely accomplishes anything despite their meddling. In general, the federal matching grant program is a good idea, because it makes rail investment more predictable and less political. In effect, rail investment becomes more like highway, bike/ped or transit investment.

That said, Amtrak could stand some reforms. The most promising bill to come down the pike in some time is the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2005, or PRIIA 2005. Some information is below.

A good layman's description can be found at Trent Lott's (sponsor) PRIIA Page:


The More Official Version


This is as good as it gets for rail in the US, and if you are pro-rail, I also suggest reading NARP's page on this important bill.


But better yet, this bill is GREAT for rail in NC. Why? It opens up a federal partner to fund rail infrastructure. Outside of the Northeast Corridor, only CA, OR, WA (pacific coast states) and Illinois are in as good as shape as NC to receive rail investment. PRIIA provides a 50% match for improvements to rail infrastructure that have a state funding component and are part of a rail plan and have appropriate environmental documentation, etc. Not many states have rail plans. NC does.

The NCRR mainline, SEHSR project (the S-line and Winston-Salem connections), and the Asheville/Wilmington extensions may also be eligible. Like the other federal transport programs, this 50% match fund is for capital, and not operational costs. The states are supposed to pick up operations. This is fine- NCDOT is already doing this, and the Carolinian/Piedmont are close to breaking even as is. With increasing speeds, they may even soon take in more money than is spent on operations.

Allowing for the contracting of operations out is not a big deal- this is done all the time with bus services and other commuter rail operations. Also, if the freights (NS has had some change of heart recently on passenger operations) could then have these contracts as a moneymaker with incentives for on-time performance and safety standards, I don't see that this is a bad idea.

Here's the key for NC from my point of view. We have a list of improvements to be made in the Raleigh-Charlotte corridor that will take until 2009 to complete because of funding availability. Wouldn't it be nice to accomplish those in half the time with a 50% federal match? Not to mention see a 2 hour 50 minute RGH-CLT train which will be FASTER than driving?

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thanks for the interpretation/application to our situation in NC. that makes me much more happy about this legislation.

frankly, i think medium-haul rail trips are much more practical and efficient. and those the ones that the states will invest in. some of the extremely long routes that amtrak does are highly inefficient and with the possible exception of the auto-rail route from DC to florida... i doubt many people ride them the whole way.

NC's plans and investments in rail will go a long way to keeping us connected to the larger cities north and south of us as we grow.

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Yeah, I'm in the camp that wants better rail in the 100-500 mile journey distances. There are a lot of pro-rail folks who want to save the long distance routes or not make any changes to Amtrak, but my opinion is that they are condemning the US to a future of poor rail service in general.

We should NOT have a train from Orlando to Vegas. It just makes no sense. Fortunately, even the long-distance routes through NC are some of the better performers (Silver Service, Palmetto, etc) in terms of cost recovery.

The challenge to the PRIIA legislation is that a lot of states' congresspeople/senators are from states that

1. only have long distance service

2. pay nothing for it

3. are only willing to support Amtrak under those circumstances

The "starve the beast" conservatives want to end rail service, period.

The two coastal megalopolises are ready to invest in rail. However, up until now, they have only been able to win support for any rail service by making common cause with the "national or nothing" crowd that supports items 1-3 above.

This has lead to continual support for rail, but at a level that could best be described as "anemic" and unable to reach for the future.

PRIIA is the best option we've had in years to move beyond this stalemate. It forces some cost-cutting on the long-distance routes, but does not make draconian route eliminations across the country. However, it makes it hard to expand long distance routes, which conservatives like. THe handful of states ready to invest are waiting to step up for capital funds, and NC is probably among the top ten states likely to receive funding.

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I'm not sure what that means, but the bottom line is this. USAir still has a monopoly in Charlotte which means we will continue to pay the highest prices for airtravel (by far) of any city in the USA. Low cost does not mean Low Fare.

I believe air fares in Charlotte are the seventh highest in the nation. That's not great, but prices are improving. I admit I was shocked when I moved here and had to fly out of Charlotte for the first time. It was actually cheaper for me to drive (or even fly) to Atlanta and take another flight from there. Memphis was cheaper, too.

Re: the rail line from Charlotte to Macon. I asked about this in the Atlanta forum several months ago. IIRC, it's a part of a multi-state rail that would connect major cities in the SE. NC, SC, GA and TN were the most interested in the rail line. I love the idea of it. A 1-2 hour trip from Charlotte to Atlanta? That would completely change the south and its economy. Anyway, they've been discussing it since the 90s. I think the first proposed map was released in 2002. I haven't really heard much since then. They do have an official site. I'll try to find it.

Oh, my point about the rail is that it would have a HUGE impact on airlines prices and the viability of the companies involved.

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Girly, the only site that I know for that rail line is the Southeast High Speed Rail site. If you can find another that would be great. As far as I know, there isn't a plan to run any highspeed rail into TN.

In 2002 the Fed's designated highspeed rail corridors in the USA. While the map has a 2005 date on it, most of the work has been gutted by the Bush Administration. The only line that I am aware of where there is active work is the Charlotte to DC segment. The reason for this is that NC & VA is paying for the work.


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