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  #921  
Old Posted Nov 30, 2014, 1:36 AM
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volguus zildrohar volguus zildrohar is offline
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Bear with me for a little bit here.

Once upon a time I was the kind of nerd who would draw fantasy subway maps for s***s and giggles. A part of my brain still does when I look at maps and the other day I did it again for the first time in a long time. Pick apart this idea if you would please.

I visualized a "Red Line", a third heavy rail subway line for Philadelphia that requires very little new construction - obviously a large factor in such matters - and instead mostly repurposes existing infrastructure, namely the R8/Chestnut Hill West Line.



The biggest issue I factored into my little idea was cost. What was the least capital intensive way of expanding the city's subway system while not simply throwing a line on the map for the purpose of seeing it there? It started with a thought that I've had for a long time now - the two Regional Rail lines that operate exclusively within city limits, the Chestnut Hill East and Chestnut Hill West Lines, are good candidates for repurposing. Station distances are shorter than they are on other commuter rail lines, much closer to those found on typical subway routes. They already exist as ROW with operational infrastructure. So I figured which of the two would be a better place to apply this idea. As the CHW Line both seemed a bit more reasonable a setting considering some of the transit active areas that it runs through and near and the fact that its route doesn't require it to travel through an area like Wayne Junction which would have an impact on rolling stock due to FRA regulations made it an easier fit.



The idea is to sever the connection of the CHW Line to the Regional Rail network and convert it into a third rail operating rail route with rolling stock compatible with the under-capacity Broad Street Subway. Commuter rail service would still operate along the line while third rail is installed. The route would operate over the current CHW Line with two new stations - one at Hunting Park Avenue near the former Budd factory and the recent Bakers Centre retail development in Nicetown and another adjacent to the current Allegheny Station on the R6/Norristown Line forming a station complex similar in nature to the 61st Street-Woodside Station in Queens connecting the NYC Subway and LIRR though in an admittedly economically depressed area.



South of here the line would continue along the current ROW until a point somewhere north of the current North Philadelphia CHW Station which is offset from the main line North Philadelphia NEC station used by SEPTA and Amtrak. From here a new tunnel would connect the line to the Broad Street Subway at a point somewhere just north of North Philadelphia BSL Station. The route from there would operate south using the current express/Broad-Ridge Spur tracks until reaching a newly expanded 8th & Market Terminal which would be double tracked.



Double tracking 8th & Market would involve a level of ingenuity as the current terminal is single tracked, underpinned by PATCO and hemmed in on one side by 801 Market Street and the other by a commercial concourse adjacent to the Mellon Independence Center/Lit Brothers Building. Expanding the current terminal would probably involve truncating, reconfiguring, moving or eliminating the current concourse. In addition, the current fare lines would be reconfigured to allow a gateless transfer between the "Red Line" and Market-Frankford El/Blue Line. The recent news about a potential fare sharing agreement between PATCO and SEPTA also spurred my thinking about this. The current concourse that exists on both the north and south sides of Market Street in and outside of fare lines and allows access to SEPTA and PATCO on both sides could either be open to both systems on either side via any potential fare sharing agreement or, failing that, have one side dedicated to either system - the north concourse for SEPTA's Red/Blue Lines only and the south side for PATCO.

The Broad Street Subway was built as a trunk route for a larger network of subway lines expanding throughout the city, only one of which was partially built. The current BSL operates well under its potential capacity even at rush hour so I've always believed that any new heavy rail route should operate over a good portion of the BSL to access Center City from its outward endpoint.

Playing along and supposing that the money and will existed for such a project to occur the next issues are acquiring rolling stock which would have to be compatible with the specs of the Broad Street Subway as well as a storage/maintenance yard which would seemingly require the acquisition of private property somewhere along the industrial areas that exist between Broad Street and Queen Lane Station.

Such a new service could provide some operational flexibility along the BSL. Two potential Center City terminals - 8th & Market and Walnut-Locust - currently exist. Service along the "Red Line" could operate to one or both stations depending on circumstances, such as rush hour. In addition it would provide some form of full time express service on the Broad Street Subway although this certainly isn't anything of tremendous importance. I haven't given any thought to any other extensions/expansions purely because the cost of such a thing makes it a completely improbable idea as opposed to what I've just shared which I think is merely largely improbable.

Lastly, the idea appealed to me because of the SEPTA's recent move to operate the current subway system 24 hours a day on weekends. The upper reaches of the northwestern part of the city can be more difficult to reach via transit than they need to be during off-peak hours. Rail service along the commuter railroad doesn't operate at headways to make it terribly convenient as compared to a subway. Here there is a high speed, regularly timed and convenient means of reaching upper Germantown Avenue at intervals better than commuter rail and all night long during the weekends.

What do you think?
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  #922  
Old Posted Nov 30, 2014, 4:07 PM
Qubert Qubert is offline
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I think the Chestnut Hill East line would be better for conversion. It's better for the WOL/Ogontz/Cedarbrook area as well as Mt Airy.
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  #923  
Old Posted Dec 2, 2014, 3:33 PM
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Then we can remove the barrier before 8th & Market and PATCO can operate all the way up to Chestnut Hill? Sold! (The tracks are standard gauge, so if BSL trains can operate up there, so can PATCO, muahah.)

Flippancy aside, I love the idea of using existing infrastructure for expansion. America obviously isn't in a "let's built cool new things" mode, and probably won't be for a very long time, so using what's there is great. It's what NJ Transit's done in New Jersey with the Riverline and the upcoming Glassboro-Camden line.

I don't know the specifics of the technical aspects, but the fact that you only have a choice of like 3 trains to get to work in the morning from a point served by public transit (on either CHW or CHE) within the city is insane. I always thought it'd be great to see the Ridge Ave spur actually built out the entire length of Ridge up to Manayunk, but this is a good plan too.
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  #924  
Old Posted Dec 2, 2014, 3:42 PM
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volguus zildrohar volguus zildrohar is offline
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That was the whole idea. It's difficult to secure money for large scale new construction but retrofitting or conversion seems like a doable place short of that.
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  #925  
Old Posted Dec 2, 2014, 5:49 PM
Phil_North Phil_North is offline
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I like the idea VZ. The only potential drawback I see is the noise from more frequent and potentially 24 hour service going through Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. Living near a rail line can be a turn off to potential home buyers who imagine they will hear the train all night. The current commuter trains don't run overnight. Although most persons tend to get used to trains and "don't even hear them" after a while, it could take a bit of convincing to get some on board. I personally love the idea. It would be relatively cheap considering the existing infrastructure.

Another potential idea using existing right of way would be to utilize the Chestnut Hill East line north of Wayne Junction. The area served by the CHE is more densely populated and more dependent upon public transportation. Instead of travelling to Broad and Olney, residents of East Germantown, West Oak Lane, and East Mt. Airy could use the new line (as many currently do with the existing line). Using the CHW would require a new flying junction to built into the BSL. Flying junctions already exist north of both Olney and Erie stations which could be used to connect to the CHW. Yes, the extension between the two would much longer than the BSL and the CHE line. While I understand that cost was your main driver, building an underground flying junction on an existing subway line in an area sandwiched between the NE Corridor and Reading Main line would still take some serious work. Or the flying junction could be built just north of Glenwood Avenue and meet the CHW line somewhere around 17th and Clearfield Streets.

I'm all for replacing some of the commuter lines with high speed lines. However, if I had my pick I would have the Blvd route 1 line running under the blvd all the way to Neshaminy. Not only would it ease traffic on route 1, but it could relieve some stress on the Trenton and West Trenton lines if a park and ride were built near the city line. In my mind it would be worth the 10 billion dollar investment. Let's take the 7 billion needed for I-95 and put it towards a new subway line. I'm sure that will go over well in Harrisburg and Washington.
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  #926  
Old Posted Dec 2, 2014, 7:47 PM
Qubert Qubert is offline
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As it relates to the Chestnut Hill lines, an even cheaper solution would be the city kicking in money to bump off-peak service to every 15 minutes and make those lines Transpass eligible which would make them affordable to more riders. Same should be done for the Manayunk line.

Philly needs to stop trying to be NY and get off the subway kick. We'd be far better off restoring the former streetcar network and bringing it up to LRT standards and we'd more than have the capacity we need. Lines like the 23, 47, 57, 33, 7, 52, 21, 42, 5, 60, 66, 14, 20, etc could all be upgraded to LRT for the cost of major subway expansion.
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  #927  
Old Posted Dec 2, 2014, 9:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qubert View Post
As it relates to the Chestnut Hill lines, an even cheaper solution would be the city kicking in money to bump off-peak service to every 15 minutes and make those lines Transpass eligible which would make them affordable to more riders. Same should be done for the Manayunk line.

Philly needs to stop trying to be NY and get off the subway kick. We'd be far better off restoring the former streetcar network and bringing it up to LRT standards and we'd more than have the capacity we need. Lines like the 23, 47, 57, 33, 7, 52, 21, 42, 5, 60, 66, 14, 20, etc could all be upgraded to LRT for the cost of major subway expansion.
I agree about the commuter lines. However, the commuter lines as a whole would need a lot more customers to make up the deficit that would come from lower prices. However, it just might be possible.

Many bus routes including some of the ones you mentioned were once LRT in the past. Other than the coolness factor that some people love, what advantage does LRT offer over buses? I will say that reduced pollution is a plus. But trolleys still have to deal with traffic and detours are extremely limited, based on the track configurations. Using the 2014 Septa Annual Service Plan to compare operating revenue percentage (passenger revenue / expenses), many buses are on par or even exceed that of Septa's trolleys. Trolley's are cool, but I don't see the benefits of going back to them.
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  #928  
Old Posted Dec 2, 2014, 9:59 PM
Phil_North Phil_North is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qubert View Post
I think the Chestnut Hill East line would be better for conversion. It's better for the WOL/Ogontz/Cedarbrook area as well as Mt Airy.
How did I miss this? I agree 100% as I explained in my later post.
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  #929  
Old Posted Dec 2, 2014, 11:02 PM
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VZ's plan is actually really fucking good as far as transit nerdery goes. It solves a number of issues:

- maximal service for minimal cost
- only requires two to four thousand feet of new tunnel
- deletes a flat junction on the NEC
- new stops greatly improve transit access in the eastern Allegheny neighborhood
- dramatically improves transit service to underserved NW Philly

On the other hand, expenses will involve

- major reconfiguration of the 8th Street tunnel between Market and Race (beyond just a new configuration of the 8th Street station complex proper, which with fare unification between SEPTA and PATCO allows for a connection between the "Red Line" and El platform via the PATCO platform -- the second track would also have to be elevated above the PATCO track which in its turn would require*
- reconstruction of the NB platform at Chinatown station to the new track level
- refitting and reopening Spring Garden station
- construction of a new flying junction in North Philadelphia station environs (obviously utilizing the existing North Philadelphia station is cheaper but putting the junction box north of the station box might be a trickier technical challenge than is currently envisioned, since you need to add a grade and there are also support columns associated with the NEC in the tunnel)**
- construction of a 3rd rail distribution system along CHW parallel to the existing catenary, which cannot be dismantled until 3rd rail is active. This includes not just the rail itself but also a power line that links into the existing BSL distribution network and new substations roughly every mile along CHW, amounting to substations in the vicinity of the Budd plant, at Pulaski & Rittenhouse (next to the catenary substation), somewhere around Carpenter station, somewhere around St. Martins station, and next to the substation at CHW proper
- raising the platforms (which might require station relocation due to curvature) at Highland, St. Martins, Carpenter, Upsal, Tulpehocken, and Queen Lane
- procuring additional equipment to provide 15-minute service along this line (though that could be bundled in with a replacement order for the existing -- aging -- BSL fleet)

We're still looking at a complex project with a total cost around $1-$2 bn here.

On the bright side, however, there shouldn't be significant noise issues. Gravel trackbed is a great noise dampener, and none of the CHW curves are sharp enough to induce squealing.
--------------------
* The optimal solution might be a double-level tunnel, which is currently not in place. Such a tunnel would also have the advantage of double-tracking PATCO through this curve: unbelievably, there is a single-track PATCO segment between 8th Street and Franklin Square.

** The junction box between the BSL mainline and the Ridge Spur is 1000 feet long (for a 1.5% grade). The North Philadelphia station box ends at Somerset, which means this is where the junction box would have to begin. 1000 feet north of Somerset would be a very sharp curve onto Indiana.

OTOH if we specified a sharper grade, say 3%, we can shorten the junction box to 500 feet: this gets you to Cambria, which nets easier curvature but also requires the rather impressive feat of structural engineering of transmitting the load of the NEC crossing around the new line, which to accomplish would require either (a) greater clearance and hence a longer junction box or (b) a sharper grade. And this assumes the station box ends at Somerset! If it ends further north then you're fucked no matter what you do. Unless, that is, you build the junction box south of Lehigh, which allows you to clear under the existing station box at your own pace, but then that would require constructing an entirely new station box running from the BSL box all the way to the NEC North Philadelphia station. And this would require takings on the 1400 blocks of Somerset and Rush to accommodate! There are also further grade issues linking the new tunnel to the existing CHW infrastructure...

A further thought: Instead one can create a) a junction box south of Lehigh, b) side platforms under the BSL North Philadelphia platforms, and c) a 1300-ft tunnel from the north end of the station box to the CHW bridge over Indiana Ave (again requiring minor takings along the 1400 blocks of Somerset and Rush). This requires a 4.6% grade, however; decreasing the grade will also require increasing the superelevation; by taking the little block of Hicks and Sydenham south of Indiana as well we can extend this to 1600 ft for a 3.75% grade, which looks to be the best we'll get unless we want to extend the tunnel another thousand feet under the CHW ROW.

And another: To make that happen the Red Line tunnel would have to veer west of the BSL tunnel in the latter's north approach into the North Philadelphia station. Since the BSL tunnel occupies the middle 50 feet of Broad Street's ROW this means the Red Line tunnel would have ~25 ft of clearance between the BSL and the building line. And since every foot is precious, it might also be advantageous to align the Red Line North Philadelphia platform as a center platform below the SB BSL platform. In any event, it is clear that the grade must terminate where the Red Line passes under the existing BSL infrastructure.
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Last edited by hammersklavier; Dec 2, 2014 at 11:56 PM.
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  #930  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2014, 2:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hammersklavier View Post
unbelievably, there is a single-track PATCO segment between 8th Street and Franklin Square.
Whoa, what? There is?! Is there a map of the rails between the bridge and 8th & Market? It's too dark to make much out (I seem to notice a cavernous space at some point, but I have no idea where it is; I'm pretty sure I glimpse the Chinatown station at some point), and I'm so curious about how the track runs between those two points.
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  #931  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2014, 2:07 AM
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  #932  
Old Posted Dec 4, 2014, 6:53 PM
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http://www.psmag.com/navigation/busi...-subway-95755/

To back to the 24/7 subway service !!!
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