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.
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:
Explore information on the Tier 1 EIS Alternatives:
The investment program for the No Action and Action Alternatives consists of:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.