Old Railroad Axiom: Double the Frequency; Triple the Ridership.
Wouldn’t it be fascinating if that theory could actually be put to the test! There’s almost no end of potential trains from which to choose since almost all of Amtrak’s long-distance trains* operate on a once-a-day basis and any one of them could be the one that would prove the point.
But it would be hard to find a better, more likely test case than the Lake Shore Limited. The Midwest High-Speed Rail Association has come up with a plan which, if implemented, would be likely to confirm that theory once and for all. (Click on the map above to enlarge.)
The Lake Shore, as you probably know, runs daily in both directions between Chicago in the Midwest and both Boston and New York in the east. The eastbound train divides into two sections at Albany – one running down the Hudson River into New York City, the other passing through the Berkshire range in Massachusetts and terminating in Boston. That whole process is reversed for the westbound train.
Talk about potential ridership! According to the MHSRA, almost 30 million people live within 25 miles of one of the stations served by the Lake Shore Limited. The problem, and it’s inevitable for any one-a-day train, is that reasonable departure and arrival times on either end mean the schedule is awful in the middle. For example, the westbound Lake Shore gets to Buffalo at midnight, Cleveland at 3:30 a.m. and Toledo at 6:00. The eastbound schedule is pretty bad, too, with a 2:50 a.m. arrival into Toledo and 5:30 at Cleveland.
Rather than summarize and paraphrase and thereby no doubt do an injustice to the really excellent work done by Rick Harnish, Executive Director of the MHSRA, let me just say that they’re proposing additional frequencies over shorter segments of the overall route. It’s a fascinating study which should be taken seriously. You can find a very neatsummary here and there will be another link there that will take you to the detailed report.
In many ways, this is just like the high-speed rail issue: what we need is for one of these simple, obvious, can’t-miss rail projects to be implemented. More and bigger and better passenger rail projects are bound to follow!
*The Cardinal and the Sunset Limited run just three days a week.