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Alternatives Development

Travel Market Data

Throughout its 150 year history, the Northeast Corridor has played a major role in shaping the development patterns, transportation systems, and economy of the Northeast. Now in planning for the future of this vital rail corridor, NEC FUTURE is taking a fresh look at the region's travel needs based on the locations of current population and employment centers and the region's changing development patterns. The NEC market area extends well beyond the NEC Spine and serves intercity passengers, commuters, and connecting corridors. Balancing the needs of multiple users is one of the challenges of NEC FUTURE.

Developing and assembling alternatives begins with analysis of Northeast travel demand and growth data to understand where people travel, where population and employment growth may occur, and what travel patterns are likely to change in the coming decades (if any). Answers to these questions will help identify the alternative routes and service characteristics that will be evaluated in NEC FUTURE.

NEC FUTURE examined regional and state travel demand and population growth data, ridership projections made by the railroad operators, data from states and planning organizations, and public and agency comments made during the scoping process to identify current travel patterns and potential new rail markets. These data will be validated in 2013 as results from new NEC FUTURE demand modeling become available.

Examination of current travel data show that the NEC's ridership is dominated by the four primary markets on the existing NEC Spine —Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, with New York especially dominant. Intercity travel to or from New York far outweighs trips that both begin and end either north or south of New York. Trips with one end in New York are also far more prevalent than those moving through New York. Only 9% of Amtrak riders on the NEC move through New York on their trips.

The data also show that there are other strong Northeast travel markets, both on and off the existing NEC Spine. Those on the spine—such as Baltimore, Wilmington, Newark, Stamford, and New Haven—already receive significant intercity and commuter/regional rail service. Those off the existing spine hold potential as future important rail markets, either via connecting rail service to the NEC Spine, or as markets along new NEC alignments, including potential high-speed rail (HSR) routes. These include Long Island (both Nassau and Suffolk Counties); Hartford; Springfield; and Worcester.

The data also support the importance of markets located on connecting rail corridors, including Richmond, Harrisburg, Lancaster, and Albany. Many of these off-corridor markets are currently under-served by passenger rail. These include the following:

  • Long Island to: Washington, Boston, Albany, and points in New Jersey
  • Hartford to: New York and Boston
  • New York to: Albany and Richmond

Regional population and employment growth projections through 2040 support the continued attractiveness and expansion of these primarily urban markets, which will increase demand for both commuter rail and intercity rail services.

Population Growth (2010-40)

Graphic of Population Growth

Employment Growth (2010-40)

Graphic of Employment Growth

Source: Moody's Analytics