Wednesday, June 04, 2008

New train to Raleigh

The Easley administration has just announced the addition of another east-and-west train between Charlotte and Raleigh, thanks in part to increased ridership. Currently there are two round trips daily, including morning service and evening service in each direction. This would provide mid-day service. This is good news for travelers tired of $4 gas and an often-tense ride between the state's political and economic capitals. The bad news, if that's the right word, is it will be six months, maybe longer, before the new train service is in operation. Here's a press release the governor's office just put out:
GOV. EASLEY ANNOUNCES MORE RAIL SERVICE BETWEEN RALEIGH AND CHARLOTTE
Third Train To Be Added To Meet Growing Ridership And Consumer Demand
RALEIGH Gov. Mike Easley today announced that a third intercity passenger train between Raleigh and Charlotte will be added to the current service to help meet growing demand as well as ridership increases. The new train service will run at midday, with departures from Raleigh and Charlotte.
“Ridership is increasing significantly along this route and adding a midday train run will meet the growing demand and provide needed services to North Carolina travelers who are looking for economical alternatives to driving,” Easley said. “As fuel prices continue to climb, more and more people are turning to rail as their choice for transportation.”
From October 2007 to April 2008, ridership was up more than 22 percent with 197,126 travelers riding either the Piedmont or Carolinian trains. On the Piedmont (trains 73 and 74) ridership was up almost 26 percent from 28,309 to 35,681 passengers; the Carolinian (trains 79 and 80) was up 18 percent from 136,358 to 161,445.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation currently sponsors both the Piedmont and Carolinian trains as part of North Carolina’s Amtrak service. Each train makes a morning and evening run between Raleigh and Charlotte, a trip that is competitive with auto travel at 3 hours and 9 minutes, including intermediate stops at Cary, Durham, Burlington, Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury and Kannapolis. The Carolinian also makes stops in Selma, Wilson and Rocky Mount, in the eastern part of the state. Fares for the round trip between Raleigh and Charlotte start at $50.
The estimated cost to operate the additional route is $3 million a year. The money will come from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program.
“Federal funds are going to cover startup and operational costs for the next three years, so it’s a win-win,” said Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett. “Riding the train offers a safe, efficient and environmentally-friendly way to travel.”
Officials at the state transportation department estimate that it will take between six and 12 months to make the third run operational. Rail cars and locomotives will need to be refurbished for the service.
The Piedmont and Carolinian trains are supported by the state transportation department, Amtrak and passenger fares. Complete schedule and train information is available by going to: www.bytrain.org on the Internet. Reservations are required. Travelers should book early for best fares. Tickets can be purchased at www.Amtrak.com or by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is great news. What I would like to see now is for the state to expand intracity rail between all of NC's major cities.

And it's time for North Carolina to focus on building high-speed rail. That rail trip between Charlotte and Raleigh could take half the time using currently available rail technology -- if only the state would make the investment.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with anonymous about intracity rail. It would be great if NC could lead the nation in transportation flexibility and get people out of their cars!

Gerry Cohen said...

This was one of the recommendations of the 21st Century Transportation Committee:

"#12 ... expansion of intercity passenger rail service, including increased frequency ..." (Intermodal Committee Report)

"Intercity Passenger Rail (3rd Amtrak train Raleigh-Charlotte)" (Intermodal Fund spreadsheet)

-Gerry Cohen

Anonymous said...

Just need to find a way to limit the delays (1 - 2 hrs or more) on the routes due to having to pull over for freight trains.

Todd Phillips said...

One comment earlier asked for high speed rail. It is in the works as part of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor. Environmental Plans are in effect and trains are projected to run as early as 2013.

WebAppArchitect said...

The part about it taking 6 months or more I don't understand. Does anyone know why it would take that long?

TD said...

This is good news, but I also agree that it is not enough. I have daughters in college in Raleigh and Greenville,NC. We've used the service between Charlotte and Raleigh, but the furthest east that it gets is Wilson. Based upon the size of ECU plus the medical facilities in Greenville, plus the fact that rail lines run right into the ECU campus, I think it is a shame that there is no passenger rail service out that far.

Anonymous said...

To answer the last two question "Why does it take so long"
Well the State first have to find the Locomotives and the passengers. Next would be the crews to operate the train I'm thinking the trian will have Norfolk Southern engineers since this is the railroad that's runs from Charlotte to Raliegh. Plus the train will be ran by the state but operated by Amtrak so it would need to be added to there time table. Also the times that the train will operate will need to be planned and worked out.
As for rail service to Greenville the state doesn't have any plans that I know of to bring service to that area. I know there talk about running a train from Raliegh-Goldboro-Warsaw and on to Wilmington but nothing been approved.
Check WWW.BYTRAIN.ORG there's alot of good information on current and future rail service in the state.

Anonymous said...

Great news, it would be nice if the state could work with South Carolina to extend the Piedmont (will we call it Piedmont service similar to Hiawatha service Chicago-Milwaukee?) to Greenville-Spartanburg.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear this news. NC is one of the few states that does a decent job sharing the costs for passenger rail with Amtrak, and I only hope the SEHSR system can come online faster than 2013. (It was first proposed in 1993 or 1995, I think.)

Now if the state could get Norfolk Southern and CSX to expand their sidings to cut down on delays (especially CSX, which NEVER gives passenger trains the right-of-way unlike virtually all other freight railroads), it might make for a faster trip up and down the East Coast to Florida, Washington, Philly, NYC, and Boston.

Anonymous said...

This is super. If Amtrak would add daytime connections from Charlotte to SC and GA, it would increase ridership more. Currently the only way to get to Spartanburg, SC, is to catch a train in the middle of the night, and the Charlotte train station won't allow riders to wait between trains!

David McKnight said...

The mid-day connections will be very helpful to businesspeople, consumers and tourists alike. But what are the station-access possibilities for Lexington? It seems a shame that Salisbury-to-High Point passenger rail service would not include a stop in Lexington, which is an important hub of mid-Piedmont transporation and business.

Service to Greenville, N.C., and East Carolina University is a must. Isn't ECU one of the bigger campus destinations for college students from Charlotte and Meckleburg County?

And improving connections to the Carolinas and Georgia Piedmont southwest of Charlotte should also have a high priority, including Gastonia, Spartanburg, Greenville, Anderson, and Athens, Ga., and the University of Georgia.

Perhaps Gov. Easley could invite the governors of South Carolina and Georgia to come up to Raleigh for a chat about the passenger rail and auto highway outlook for the Southeast in the coming decade.

Someone will have to remind The State newspaper in Columbia that yes, Virginia, there is an Upstate in South Carolina which deserves to be included in 21st Century regional transportation expansion.

John Thacker said...

The only thing holding up SEHSR right now is the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Part of the project includes restoring the old Seaboard Air Line (CSX "S" Line now) which provides a straighter shot from Richmond to Raleigh (along US 1, basically) than the "A" line that heads along I-95 and goes west from Selma to Raleigh. That by itself cuts 1-1.5 hours off the Richmond-Raleigh time. Restoring the unused line required a more substantial Tier II EIS, though, which is the big holdup. All the EIS work is supposed to be done by the end of 2010, and then we can really get going.

To respond to other comments, the sidings are being lengthened, and double-tracking is coming back along the Greensboro to Charlotte portion. Various other incremental improvements have reduced the Raleigh-Charlotte time down from 3 hours 45 minutes to a more car-competitive 3 hours 10 in the last 6 or 7 years.

And yes, there are plans to extend it further from Charlotte through Greenville-Spartanburg and then on to Atlanta. That'll take another few years though.

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