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Tier 1 EIS

Alternatives Development

Tier 1 EIS Alternatives

The FRA evaluated the 15 Preliminary Alternatives by comparing them to understand whether and how each met the Purpose and Need, and analyzing their benefits in terms of ridership, travel time, and service quality. The results are described in the Preliminary Alternatives Evaluation Report. Based on the evaluation of the Preliminary Alternatives, public input, and extensive consultation with stakeholders, the FRA repackaged the 15 Preliminary Alternatives into three distinct Action Alternatives for evaluation in the Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement. See also the Tier 1 EIS Alternatives Report for more details on the development of the Tier 1 EIS Alternatives.

  • Alternative 1 maintains the role of rail with sufficient service to keep pace with population and employment growth
  • Alternative 2 grows the role of rail with service to new markets and to accommodate a greater portion of the population
  • Alternative 3 transforms the role of rail by becoming a dominant mode choice for travel in the Northeast

A No Action Alternative was also defined to establish a baseline for comparative purposes. Each Tier 1 EIS Alternative consists of: a set of geographic markets to be served by passenger rail; a Representative Route (or footprint) that connects these markets; assumptions about the level of passenger rail service that will be provided to these markets; and infrastructure improvements that support this level of service.

Each Action Alternative represents a different long-term vision for improving passenger rail service that would enhance mobility options, improve performance, and better serve existing and new markets that support future population and employment growth in the Study Area. While the Action Alternatives are distinct in their service and physical characteristics, each of them:

  • Maintains and improves service on the existing NEC
  • Brings the NEC to a state of good repair by replacing or renewing aging infrastructure and eliminating the backlog of infrastructure requiring replacement
  • Addresses the most pressing chokepoints that constrain capacity on the existing NEC
  • Protects freight rail access and the opportunity for future expansion

Explore information on the Tier 1 EIS Alternatives:

What’s in an Alternative?

The investment program for the No Action and Action Alternatives consists of:

  • A set of geographic markets to be served by passenger rail
  • A Representative Route (or footprint) that connects these markets
  • Assumptions about the level of passenger rail service that will be provided to these markets
  • Infrastructure improvements that would support this level of service

The FRA took a market-based approach to develop Action Alternatives, first identifying current travel patterns, how they have changed over the past three to four decades, and potential new rail markets.

Specifically for stations, the FRA developed a hierarchy of station types, based on the size of the geographic market and type and quantity of rail service offered. This typology applies to existing stations and future stations included in the No Action and Action Alternatives. Stations are grouped based on similar characteristics into one of three categories:

  • MAJOR HUB stations serve the largest markets in the Study Area and have the full complement of rail services types. Major Hub stations serve the four primary markets: Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston, as well as other major markets within the Study Area, including but not limited to Baltimore, MD; Stamford, CT; and Providence, RI.
  • HUB stations offer some Intercity service, although the Intercity-Express service is more limited than the service levels offered at Major Hub stations. Hub stations include the existing smaller intermediate Amtrak stations, as well as selected key Regional rail stations and new stations that have the potential to fill connectivity gaps in the existing passenger rail network, serve special trip generators, and/or provide important inter-modal connections.
  • LOCAL stations are served almost exclusively by Regional rail trains, on the portions of the NEC where Regional rail service is offered. Examples of local stations include Halethorpe, MD; Claymont, DE; Torresdale, PA; Edison, NJ; Larchmont, NY; Westport, CT; Wickford Jct., RI; and Attleboro, MA.
Representative Route

The Representative Route refers to the physical path of an Action Alternative (or footprint) of an alternative, and is used to assess the potential environmental effects of the Action Alternatives. At the Tier 1 level, the footprint is only representative of where the physical route is located, and is not a prediction of future preferences or decisions. Recognizing the uncertainty that exists at this early stage of planning, the Representative Routes provide a sound basis for programmatic evaluation of the environmental effects of each Action Alternative.

Service Plan

The FRA developed representative service plans for the No Action and Action Alternatives to describe the types and levels of passenger train service operating on the NEC in 2040. These Service Plans depict a representative train operations pattern for a typical future weekday, and include the train stops by station for both peak and non-peak periods. The Service Plans provide a basis for estimating future ridership and capital investment needs and costs, as well as to assess the environmental impacts associated with planned construction and future operations.

For NEC FUTURE, the FRA organized the various types of passenger rail service based on travel distance, travel market, trip purpose, where and how the trains operate, and the service characteristics and amenities offered to passengers.

Diagram of Service Types

  • Intercity-Express — premium intercity high-speed rail service offered on the NEC, making limited stops along the NEC and only serving the largest markets. Intercity-Express service offers the shortest travel times for intercity trips, with a higher quality of onboard amenities, at a premium price, using state-of-the-art high-speed trainsets.
  • Intercity-Corridor — Intercity services that operate both on the NEC and on connecting corridors that reach markets beyond the NEC. These trains provide connectivity and direct one-seat service to large and mid-size markets on the NEC.
  • Metropolitan — Intercity service on the NEC, a subset of Intercity-Corridor service, and the successor to the existing Amtrak Northeast Regional Service. Whereas Intercity-Express service is aimed at the business travel market, Metropolitan trains serve both leisure and business travelers who are more price-sensitive.
  • Intercity-Corridor-Other — Intercity-Corridor service that provides connectivity and direct one-seat service between non-electrified connecting corridors and the large and mid-size markets on the NEC (as opposed to Metropolitan service that can only operate only in electrified territory).
  • Long-Distance — Intercity trains connecting the Study Area with other parts of the United States, generally entailing overnight travel with sleeping car and dining car service and handling checked baggage.
  • Regional Rail — service within a single metropolitan area to local markets. Regional rail trains provide local and commuter-focused service characterized by relatively low fares and a high percentage of regular travelers.
Infrastructure Elements

The Action Alternatives use existing and proposed infrastructure to support the operations necessary to meet market growth and the specific vision of that alternative. Infrastructure Elements that make up the Action Alternatives, as shown on the alternatives maps, consist of the following:

  • Chokepoint relief projects — location-specific capital projects to provide relief of train movement congestion and increase railroad capacity at several existing chokepoints
  • New Track — improvements that increase capacity or improve trip times, generally contained within the right-of-way of the existing NEC
  • New Segment — New track construction on new right-of-way that does not follow the existing NEC

Enhanced Service Concepts

Each of the Action Alternatives includes the adoption of enhanced service and precision operations concepts. These enhanced operating concepts represent national and international best practices, and are aimed at enhancing the attractiveness and convenience of train services, increasing the efficiency of operations, lowering the cost per capita of delivering rail service, and making the most efficient use of investments in new rail infrastructure, while providing flexibility for rail operators to deliver service that best meets the needs of the market in 2040. The links below provide more information.

Regular Clockface Schedules

Service Plans for the three Action Alternatives provide for regular schedules for all train services operating on the NEC. Trains operate at regular intervals, rather than on the basis of demand, as is the case today. Services operate at regular 15-, 30-, or 60-minute intervals, with local stations generally receiving two to four trains per hour during peak periods and major stations often receiving more service.

Metropolitan Service

All of the Action Alternatives introduce Metropolitan service, although the level of service and the performance characteristics of the service vary based on the railroad infrastructure and capacity provided in each alternative.

  • In Alternative 1, Metropolitan service share train slots with Intercity-Corridor-Other service, operate mostly over existing NEC tracks, and service is limited to no more than two trains per hour in the peak periods.
  • In Alternative 2, Metropolitan utilizes high-performance train equipment to provide four trains per hour, at regular 15-minute intervals, and services an expanded mix of Intercity and some Regional rail stations.
  • In Alternative 3, Metropolitan service utilizes high-performance train equipment to provide eight trains per hour stopping at expanded mix of Intercity and some Regional rail stations on both the existing NEC and on the new second-spine. For example, both Philadelphia 30th Street Station and the new downtown Philadelphia station on the second-spine are served by Metropolitan trains.
Run-Through Service at Major Stations

Regional rail run-through service, particularly applicable to Washington, D.C., and New York City, links branch lines from the different regional service operators and provides continuous revenue service on both sides of the metropolitan region through the Central Business District. It enables passengers to avoid transfers when traveling from one regional rail station to another through stations such as Penn Station New York and Washington Union Station. It also provides reduces dwell time at stations and reduces the number of train movements.

  • Alternative 1 retains the existing Regional rail operations with terminating services at Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston. However, there may be opportunities to initiate limited new run-through service in the New York area, with LIRR trains operating through to New Jersey and NJ Transit trains running through to Queens and Long Island. Intercity trains provide the principal through-running service at Washington, D.C., and New York City.
  • Alternative 2 provides through running opportunities at both Washington, D.C. (VRE and MARC trains) and New York City (MNRR/LIRR and NJ TRANSIT trains). Through operations not only enhance connectivity for passengers and expand capacity, they make for more efficient use of trains and storage areas.
  • Alternative 3 similarly supports through-running operations, which permits the most efficient use of platform and track capacity at the major hub stations and enables the dramatic increases in total train volumes that are possible in this alternative.
High Speed Zone Express Regional Rail Service

This enhanced service concept is a significant feature of Alternative 3, offering substantially faster commute times for longer-distance commute trips from the outer suburbs. For example, Maryland outer zone Regional rail trains can use the high-speed tracks between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Similarly, outer zone Regional rail trains in New Jersey can use the high-speed tracks on final approach to New York City to reduce trip times and relieve congestion on the local tracks. Alternative 3 provides opportunities for up to six or eight commuter express trains per hour from either Long Island or the Upper Harlem Line to Penn Station New York, depending upon the route option.

Coordinated Endpoint and Branch Line Connections

This includes the coordinated scheduling of Regional rail trains on systems that have multiple branch lines or multiple terminals, or where the outer ends of two regional systems meet at a common station (defined as endpoints), can provide for convenient passenger connections, extending the reach of the existing systems, substituting for costly extensions for one-seat-ride service, and providing a much more convenient transfer experience for rail travelers. Alternatives 1, 2, and 3 take advantage of opportunities for better connected Regional rail service at several locations on the NEC, effectively closing the gaps that now exist in Regional rail connectivity from one system to another. The Action Alternatives also improve connectivity between main line and branch line services at multiple locations.

Pulse-Hub Operations

A pulse-hub is a special application of service coordination, where multiple trains converge on a single hub station concurrently or in close succession, dwell simultaneously for a period of time while passengers transfer from one service to another, and then depart toward their various destinations. The Service Plans for Alternatives 2 and 3 provide for pulse-hub operations on the lower level of Philadelphia 30th Street Station with Intercity-Express, Metropolitan, Keystone Corridor, and Atlantic City trains all connecting with universal transfer opportunities every 30 minutes during the peak periods. The Alternative 3 route option from Long Island through New Haven, CT to Hartford, CT also provides a timed pulse-hub at New Haven.

Compare Tier 1 EIS Alternatives