Since the 1970s when passenger rail travel reached an all-time low in this country there has been an increasing interest in commuter/light rail transit (LRT) options by those wishing to escape the "rat race" of highways and freeways when heading to and from work. This effort has been aided by states, such as California and North Carolina, that have spent millions in recent years to promote such travel for the public. Traditionally, rail has received far less in subsidies than highways and airlines even though it, too, is not directly profitable from the fares. Hopefully, in the future other states will jump on board the LRT bandwagon as the public has often responded very positively. Provided here are several of the most well known commuter rail services from Chicago's Metra to Philadelphia's Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).
The Altamont Commuter Express commuter rail service, better known as simply ACE, is a relatively new commuter operation having just been started in 1998. It has become steadily popular over the years (going from operating two trains a day to four) and currently operates over Union Pacific Railroad trackage connecting Stockton and San Jose, California on a route that covers nearly 90 miles. Because of the success ACE has had since its inception future plans are already in the works to extend the system to Pittsburg (via Stockton) and a connection between Sacramento and Modesto. All in all if you live in the San Francisco Bay area and the ACE is an option for you to commute to work you may want to consider using their trains as it sure beats the rush of the highway. California is continually growing its commuter, transit, and light rail systems (LRT, or light rail transit).
The state is a leader in commuter railroad operations and one reason behind this is its attempt to find ways to reduce its large amounts of carbon monoxide emissions, mostly from highway traffic. The state’s commuter rail system includes the CalTrain (the Bay Area), Metrolink (Southern California), and Altamont Commuter Express (serving the Central valley and the Silicon valley). Of course, the state is also home to plenty of local services like Amtrak’s Surfliner and Capitol Corridor operations part of the passenger carrier’s and state’s Amtrak California services as well as San Francisco’s famous trolley system. The Altamont Commuter Express, named for the Altamont Pass in which the Union Pacific line passes through between Stockton and San Jose, has its beginnings dating as far back as 1989. The current ACE system, which stretches 86 miles, serves ten stations and connects with three other commuter/light rail systems which include Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), and Caltrain (which connects Gilroy with San Francisco).
The stations the
serves include (from south to north) San Jose, Santa Clara, Great
America, Fremont, Pleasanton, Livermore, Vasco Road, Tracy,
Lathrop/Manteca, and finally Stockton. One note about Caltrain, it is
another of California’s many commuter rail agencies serving the
San Francisco region. Fully funded and operated by the City of San
Francisco, San Mateo County Transit District, and Santa Clara Valley
Transportation Authority it came about after the venerable Southern
Pacific opted out of commuter rail service to the region in the late
1970s (the railroad once had extensive commuter rail operations
throughout California, this during a time well before state/city funded such operations). Between 1980 and 1987 Southern Pacific continued to operate commuter service to the San Francisco area under contract by the California Department
of Transportation. After 1987 the Caltrain service was launched
operating its own equipment and connecting Gilroy with downtown San
Francisco. Since its inception the service has become very popular with
several future extensions and upgrades already either in the planning
stages or soon to happen.
Caltrain is another of California’s many commuter railroad agencies serving the San Francisco region. Fully funded and operated by the City of San Francisco, San Mateo County Transit District, and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority it came about after the venerable Southern Pacific Railroad opted out of commuter rail service to the region in the late 1970s (the railroad once had extensive commuter rail operations throughout California, this during a time well before state/city funded such operations). Between 1980 and 1987 SP continued to operate commuter service to the San Francisco area under contract by the California Department of Transportation. After 1987 the service was launched operating its own equipment and connecting Gilroy with downtown San Francisco. Since its inception the service has become very popular with several future extensions and upgrades already either in the planning stages or soon to happen.
California is continually growing its commuter, transit, and light rail systems. The state is a leader in commuter rail and one reason behind this is its attempt to find ways to reduce its large amounts of carbon monoxide emissions, mostly from highway traffic. The state’s commuter rail system includes the CalTrain (the Bay Area), Metrolink (Southern California), and Altamont Commuter Express (serving the Central valley and the Silicon valley). Of course, the state is also home to plenty of local services like Amtrak’s Surfliner and Capitol Corridor operations part of the passenger carrier’s and state’s Amtrak California services as well as San Francisco’s famous trolley system. While Caltrain currently only operates one route covering some 77 miles (serving 32 stations), running due south, it is broken down into six different zones (the zones are in place for pricing purposes and the further your trip the higher the price).
The different zones are (by stations):
· Zone 1: Serving San Francisco, 22nd Street, Bayshore, South San Francisco, and San Bruno.
· Zone 2: Serving Millbrae, Broadway, Burlingame, San Mateo, Hayward Park, Hillsdale, Belmont, San Carlos, and Redwood City.
· Zone 3: Serving Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Stanford, California Avenue, San Antonio, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale.
· Zone 4: Serving Lawrence, Santa Clara, College Park, San Jose DIRIDON, and Tamien.
· Zone 5: Serving Capitol and Blossom Hill.
· Zone 6: Serving Morgan Hill, San Martin, and Gilroy.
The service continues to grow in popularity, today seeing nearly 40,000
weekday riders. It’s most popular
service is currently the Baby Bullet Express, which shaves down transit
times by making fewer stops, while future plans include extensions in
downtown San Francisco, south of Gilroy, electrifying the system’s
tracks, and wireless Internet access.
All in all Caltrain has grown to become a very reliable and quite
efficient operation, enabling commuters another option of mass transit
in the Bay Area.
Shore Line East is the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s (ConnDOT) commuter rail system, which connects New Haven with New London, Connecticut. Since the service’s inception more than 20 years ago it has become a very successful operation, which is one reason it was saved from an attempted shutdown by one-time governor Lowell Weicker. For railfans, however, what makes Shore Line East’s operations so unique and interesting is its nod to history. Because SLE operates over the ex-New Haven Railroad’s main line, which connects Boston and New York City, it has painted its locomotive fleet in the road’s famous “McGinnis” livery of eye-catching orange, white, and black.
A relatively newer commuter operation, Shore Line East dates back to 1990 when it was created by the Connecticut Department of Transportation to serve Union Station in New Haven and a connection with Amtrak at New London. Connecting services at the system’s two determination points also allow riders to reach further points like Boston and New York City. Even the Shore Line East’s name is a nod to the New Haven as the section of line the commuter service operates on was originally called the Shore Line by the NYNH&H. The New Haven Railroad, its complete name the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, was a mid-sized Northeastern carrier that is best remembered for moving more people than freight (interestingly it derived a good portion of its revenues from commuter services).
Since 1990 SLE has steadily been growing and today serves 11 different stations operating its trains in the “push-pull” fashion using diesel locomotives for faster operations (thus saving time). The idea behind push-pull operation is instead of having to run the lead locomotive around the train to be on the head-end once it completes it journey it simply pushes the train from behind (thus making the last car the head-end). While this may seem unsafe the FRA has concluded that there has been no evidence to prove such and you are just as safe riding in push mode as you are in pull mode (this following the deadly Metrolink accident in California in 2005 when a fool parked his SUV on the tracks causing a horrendous crash among three different trains).
The future for the Shore Line looks even brighter. Now that Amtrak has electrified its Northeast Corridor between New York and Boston the commuter line is seriously contemplating purchasing electric locomotives to replace its diesel fleet, which should allow for even faster transit times (if they do purchase electrics this will do away with the push-pull operations). So, even after 30+ years since the New Haven pulled its last commuter train, most of its routes, especially its New York-Boston main line, continue to be a vital link for commuters heading to work all along the New England coast.
The Florida Tri-Rail commuter railroad system, operated and maintained by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (or SFRTA), has been in operation since 1987 and today is a north-south linear system stretching 72 miles from the Florida Miami International Airport to Mangonia Park Station where it connects with Amtrak’s Silver Service operation. Interestingly Tri-Rail was initially meant only as a temporary means of mass transit until upgrades to Interstate 95 were completed but became so popular in the Miami area that has remained in operation for the last 20+ years and extended to its current length in 1998. Today, it has become an even popular mode of transportation for commuters and vacationers in and around the Miami region, particularly as gas prices continue to rise.
The Florida Tri-Rail trackage was purchased from CSX Transportation in 1989 of ex-Seaboard Coast Line trackage although CSX continues to dispatch and maintain the route through contract with the Florida Department of Transportation and Veolia Transportation, who currently manages the system, although eventual plans hope to allow the commuter system to do its own maintenance and dispatching. Today, the service sees daily ridership exceeding 15,000 commuters serving 18 stations and a system that just completed a double-tracked route in 2007 allowing for even faster and more efficient commuting times between all three of South Florida’s international airports (Miami, Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood, and Palm Beach). Even Tri-Rail’s equipment is the latest featuring bi-level coaches from both Bombardier and Colorado Railcar bedecked in a flashy tropical theme of blue, white, orange, and green. The agency’s motive power fleet is all-EMD either rebuilt or currently being modified for commuter rail service:
· #801 – 805: F40PHL-2 - Rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen
· #807 – 809: F40PH-2C - Rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen
· #810 and #811 : F40PHR - Ex-Amtrak rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen
· #812 – 817: GP49PH – Ex-Southern GP49s rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen
All in all, the system has become a much more successful and larger endeavor than ever originally planned or anticipated. However, since its inception it has given commuters and travelers another means of transportation, particularly one that is less stressful and more pleasant than facing nearby congested I-95. Future plans hope to see the system extended onto the nearby Florida East Coast Railway and expanding commuter rail operations further throughout Florida, which, with any luck, will become reality.
MARC Train, also known as the Maryland Rail Commuter Service, is a commuter railroad agency funded by the State of Maryland and operated by the Maryland Transit Association (which is part of the Maryland Department of Transportation). It has been in operation since 1984 and operates mostly over ex-Baltimore & Ohio Railroad trackage under contract with CSX Transportation (successor to the B&O). MARC has become an increasingly popular mode of transportation for those who live and work in and around Baltimore/Washington, D.C. (stretching as far west as Martinsburg, WV), opting to take commuter trains over the increasingly-busy Interstate and highways.
When the service began in 1984 it took over many of the commuter operations once handled by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and later Chessie System in and around the Baltimore region. The ability of the transit service to revive the B&O’s operations is a testament to the adage; particularly regarding passenger railroading that if the service is provided and reliable riders will come. Today, the service has three main railroad lines, which include the Camden Line, Brunswick Line, and Penn Line. Also, the commuter railroad plays host to over 30,000 daily passengers and currently makes stops at 43 different railroad stations. Here is more information regarding all three lines:
MARC Train's Penn Line, the busiest of its three seeing around 20,000 commuters daily, is named after the station which it serves, sBaltimore's Penn Station. Along with serving this station the route also serves Union Station in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport; Bowie State University; Odenton; Perryville; Aberdeen; Edgewood; and Martins Airport. The Penn Line is partially operated along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and also is the only route that offers mid-day service between D.C. and Baltimore.
The Brunswick Line is MARC Train's second busiest seeing about 7,000 commuters daily. It serves such points as Brunswick; Washington Union Station; Frederick; Gaithersburg; Rockville; Silver Spring; and lastly, even Martinsburg, West Virginia. This route is not owned by MARC as it has been granted trackage rights over CSX Transportation along its Cumberland Subdivision, including the famed B&O's Old Main Line (its original line built in the early 19th century).
The Camden Line sees the fewest commuters of the three lines at around 4,500. This route also operates on ex-B&O trackage which dates also dates back to the early 19th century and is the oldest route in the United States still in existence serving passenger trains on a daily basis. Stops along the route include the famed Camden Yards (once a B&O yard now home to the Baltimore Orioles Major League Baseball organization), Washington Union Station; Dorsey; Laurel; and College Park (home of the University of Maryland).