Most railroad passengers today are commuters. Its not as glamorous as long distance or high speed passenger travel. Its not very profitable to railroads. As a matter of fact, most commuter trains are operated by governments or public authorities.
Several books have been published on commuter railroads. “Show Me the Way to Go Home” is a 1959 book by Jerome Beatty, Jr. This book tells hundreds of amusing stories about commuting.
Once a train hit a detrained passenger and delayed hundreds of passengers for 60 minutes. The passenger couldn’t even get a refund on his commutation ticket because it was not “extenuating circumstances” (while waiting for the ambulance, he could have gone to the ticket agent). Another train hit a rock alongside the track and delayed homeward passengers for 80 minutes. This of course caused innumerable cold dinners, etc.
Most commuters don’t talk to one another or get overly friendly with one another. Even bridge players may not even know their partner’s last name. The only thing they have in common are the trials and tribulations of the day’s commute.
Commuters are sometimes proud of their dishonesty. Using someone else’s ticket is a favorite fraud. Getting an extra day or two on an expired one by holding a thumb over the date is popular. There used to be many people who were quite adept at cheating on their tickets and avoiding fares. Many conductors overlooked expired tickets in exchange for gifts at Christmas. A true commuter’s children never admit to being twelve. One girl didn’t pay full fare until she was married and pregnant.
There were always problems with non-smoking cars even when there were still smoking cars on commuter trains. A while back a commuter asked the conductor if he could smoke
“No,” was the reply, “this is not a smoking car.”
“Well, that’s funny,” said the commuter. “Then where did all the smoke and cigarette butts come from?”
“From the people who didn’t ask questions.” answered the conductor as he moved on.
Bar cars always seem full. I have never figured out how a 7:05 train has a full bar car at 6 PM.
Bridge and other card games have special rules and rituals. Even the kibitzers have alternates. Players used to rent boards and cards from the conductors. Sometimes they use the poster advertisements from the cars for a board. The time limit effects the psychology of the game. The rules are bent and modified according to whichever railroad the game is being played on. There is even a proper way for four players to sit to balance the board. The “Spuyten Duyvil three club” is just one of the special phrases associated with commuting bridge. This means the geographical point on the commuters’ route that the losers begin to mentally total up the score, calculate the number of hands remaining to be played, and direct their bidding along lines that, under the most optimistic conditions might conceivably overcome their opponents’ lead.
There is a big problem about what do the train crews do between morning and evening. Conductors hang around the trainmen’s room in the terminal. The engineers hang around their own room. Etc. Etc. There they have lockers, tables, chairs, reading material, television sets and bunks.
The conductors equipment consists of a watch, a switchkey for phone boxes and switches, and a ticket punch. Every ticket punch is a little different. Some might produce a design like a half star while others are more unique and do something like an outline of a state or the United States. When a conductor punches a ticket it is as though he puts his fingerprints on it.
Commuter trains are idle 21 hours a day and all weekend. Before public ownership, local governments were killing the railroads with property taxes while the state governments were killing them with regulation. For instance, the New York Central was forced to build a new bridge over the Harlem River at Park Avenue. There was nothing wrong with the bridge. Then the City of New York raised the property taxes because the bridge was now more valuable.
Station parking very difficult. Westport Connecticut has no station, it is really in Saugatuck.
In 1958 the New Haven tried to replace the bar car to Noroton Heights (the 5:11 pm from Grand Central). The old car was decrepit and all they wanted to do was put on a better car. The patrons liked the current car. They even had sort of a club— V:XIGBC (5:11 Gentlemen’s Bar Car). The president of the New Haven had been a guest on the car so the members assumed they had some clout. Also the club owned a share of stock (cost $13.26) which made it the only bar car in the country to own a piece of the railroad. Finally the club and the railroad compromised on another old car.
In the summer the New Haven’s NEPTUNE to Cape Cod was really a giant commuter run on Friday nights. There was music on the bar car (Dan the accordion man). The train split with half going to Hyannis and the other half to Woods Hole. It returned Sunday night.
Many commuter railroads had private bar cars. There were four on the New Haven, four on the DL&W, three on the Hudson Division of the Central, one on the train from Pawling, and 15 on the Jersey Central. There are none now because of no more private ownership. The usual procedure was that the railroad charged an annual rental on the car. For ice-cooled cars they also charged for ice. The club would guarantee a certain number of passengers (or the equivalent dollars). Attendants and bar supplies were extra of course. Many of the clubs had a “no women” rule.
Commuters are not a cross-section of the population. They represent a cross-section of the creative brains that converge on the metropolitan areas. Commuters are executives, artists, stockholders, publishers, etc. If a trainload of them where to disappear, it would be a calamity. Railroads have not always appreciated the impact of their passengers. It usually hits them hard when a newsman or announcer screaming about poor service turns out to be a commuter.
Several years ago, a radio station WOR early morning announcer was determined to commute from Fairfield County to New York on New Haven train #55. This was an accommodation train that left Springfield at 2:10 AM. To eliminate on-air complaints, the railroad finally gave him the telephone number of the Norwalk tower. He could then check 55’s progress each morning.
The highway system is the most communist institution in America and you fail to realize it
° government owned
° government operated, maintained and policed
° heavily subsidized by the government
° inefficient: planning not based on economic principles, but on political contributions and might
° uses taxpayer money for projects to benefit special interests (highway to new developments, etc)
° never made money; private railroads put most toll roads out of business; only exception is the New York Thruway, which then reinvests its earnings in some REAL losers like the Barge Canal
mass transit (before they went broke) and the railroads just are opposite
New York City Commuter Crisis 1966 is handled by the New York Central Railroad
(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)
2007 Commuting Cost Study by the Government
It’s often said that the trip to work can kill you. But if you live in Houston, what really takes a beating is your wallet. There, the average commuter spends 20.9% of his annual household costs on getting to work. He’s not alone. Cleveland, Detroit, Tampa, Fla., Kansas City, Mo., and Cincinnati also landed on our list of the country’s biggest cities where transportation eats up a fifth or more of household costs, according to a study by the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership (STPP), a nonprofit research firm, which draws on 2003 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the most recent available. The study looked at annual transit costs such as gas and tolls, and public transit fare, as well as money spent on car payments and maintenance.
America’s Most Expensive Commute Cities
5. Kansas City
Transit costs are high because Houston has few policies hindering sprawl, which in turn allows for cheaper housing. In San Francisco, which is much more dense and has more prohibitive zoning laws than Houston, residents rank 22nd in commute costs but fifth in the combination of housing and transportation.
Worst hit by the composite ranking were the residents of Tampa and Miami where housing and transportation costs were the most out of sync with the average household’s income levels. Tampa residents spent 57.7%, while Miami denizens spent 57.5% of their take home pay on the two.
The study also found a very high correlation between cities that had extensive train systems and those in which households spent the least on transportation costs. Four of the five cheapest commutes were rated as having large or extensive rail systems, and of the five most expensive commutes, only Cleveland was rated above having a small or non-existent rail system, according to STPP.
Besides saving commuters money on parking, tolls and gas, rail systems are often seen as a way to manage sprawl as train stations create central and desirable points for living and working.
It’s important to understand, though, that the least costly commutes tend to be accompanied by high housing costs. New York and San Francisco were among the cheapest in the country, at two and seven respectively and have some of the highest housing expenses and least affordable housing markets in the nation.
Traffic In Texas
That’s what’s happening in Dallas. It and Houston have 15% of the country’s fastest-growing suburbs between them. Dallas is investing $4.86 billion in expanding its commuter rail system, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), which services area suburbs and neighboring Forth Worth. The job is expected to be completed in 2013 and local economists say the city should reap $8.1 billion in increased economic activity over the life of the project. Houston, on the other hand, has mainly focused on road construction and expansion, which isn’t expected to pay off as well.
“To say DART Rail’s impact has been substantial for the Dallas region’s economy would be an understatement,” says Bernard Weinstein an economist at the University of North Texas Center for Economic Development. “It’s a trend that’s impossible to miss; the local business community certainly hasn’t.”
Who Was Alfred Jenny?
Not a lot appears on the Internet regarding Alfred Jenny. He travelled with Eisenhower during World War 11 as his transportation advisor. He immigrated from Switzerland to bring Swiss technology here. He clearly was way ahead of his time. Why did they not use his plan?
What is suburban or commuter traffic?
In the larger cities railroads provide frequent train service to and from outlying residential districts or suburban communities. This is called suburban or commuter traffic, and those who use the trains regularly are known as commuters. Suburban trains carry large numbers of commuters to and from the downtown business and shopping districts. They also carry many passengers for short distances in the outlying districts. Special suburban or commuter tickets are sold for ten rides or more; some railroads sell monthly suburban tickets. In such cities as New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco, suburban traffic is very large.
A Milford Commuter’s Idea
A Milford, Connecticut attorney,
Joseph H. Cooper, who commutes daily to work in New York City proposed a hostile takeover of Metro-North Commuter Railroad. Along with 95,000 other commuters who normally travel between New York City and Fairfield or New Haven counties in Connecticut or Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties in New York, he was angered by two recent wildcat strikes.
He feels neither the unions nor management have any vested interest in keeping the commuter-customer content, satisfied – let alone happy and well-served. Commuters seem to be only funders who constitute the system’s major source of revenue (other than state subsidies).
Cooper feels that if commuters had rights as shareholders, they would have at least some say, if only through proxies. Managers and union members ($40,000/year before overtime conductors) profit even if the commuters are not well served. There are no financial penalties for poor performance.
Cooper’s idea is to get a group of train-riding investment bankers to form a syndicate that will take over Metro-North and spin off the New Haven, Hudson and Harlem lines to their respective commuter-investor groups. It would be viewed as a hostile takeover (would the Long Island Railroad act as a White Knight?) but at least the investor would get something for his or her leveraged buyout.
Monthly commutation charges would be pegged to debt-service requirements. Single fares could accumulate in a sinking fund. It might come to pass that improved reliable service would result in debt retirement. Bar-car revenues alone might pay for a big hunk of operating costs. Special transit bonds would be issued to fund the deal.
Commuter Statistics: Metro North Railroad
Here’s a partial list:
1. Croton-Harmon 3368
2. Tarrytown 2677
3. Beacon 2040
4. Ossining 1650
5. Poughkeepsie 1633
6. Peekskill 1457
7. Hastings 1154
8. New Hamburg 997
9. Yonkers 922
10. Spuyten Duyvil 913
1. White Plains (8534)
2. Scarsdale (4125)
3. Bronxville (3318)
4. Hartsdale (2808)
5. Fleetwood (2617)
6. North White Plains (2403)
7. Chappaqua (2136)
8. Crestwood (1633)
9. Tuckahoe (1448)
10. Southeast (1398)
New Haven Division:
1. Stamford (6185)
2. Larchmont (3534)
3. New Rochelle (3472)
4. Greenwich (3052)
5. Bridgeport (3039)
6. New Haven (3020)
7. Fairfield (2702)
8. Port Chester (2457)
9. Mamaroneck (2440)
10. Pelham (2400)
11. Westport (2326)
12. Rye (2303)
13. Harrison (2207)
14. South Norwalk (1953)
15. Mt. Vernon East (1866)
NEW YORK CITY TERMINAL and NEW JERSEY UNION TERMINALS
| Listening to an all-news radio station, I constantly hear of long delays in New Jersey to New York City commuting. I wonder why better rail links to Northern New Jersey were never developed. Upstate New York, Connecticut and Long Island have excellent links while New Jersey-New York rail is “underdeveloped” and relies on constantly clogged automobile bridges and tunnels.
With the aid of a Yale University librarian, I decided to explore why this situation exists. I discovered that many ideas had been proposed over the years. The most interesting was a 1935 proposal (updated in 1946) by L. Alfred Jenny, a consulting engineer who began his career on the Grand Central Terminal project.
The plan consisted of a modern electrified railroad connecting the various railroads in New Jersey and bringing these lines into a compact union passenger terminal in mid-Manhattan.
The first link in New Jersey, outside of the tunnel portal at Bergen, would have been at New Durham, serving the Northern Railroad of New Jersey (Erie), the West Shore, and the New York, Susquehanna & Western. The estimated number of commuters was 4.2 million annually as well as 1.5 million other passengers.
Another link would have been a new railroad across the Hackensack Meadows to Kingsland on the DL&W Boonton Branch. It would also have connected with the Erie main line at Meadows. It was estimated 4.2 million commuters and 1.2 million others would use this connection each year.
The final link would have gone south across the Hackensack Meadows to a point southeast of Newark. It would have connected the Newark branch of the Erie, the DL&W main line, the B&O, Lehigh Valley and Central RR of New Jersey. This connection would have drawn 9.6 million annual commuters and 7.7 million others.
A transfer station at North Bergen would have allowed superior connections between Northern New Jersey and Southern New Jersey. Included in the plan was electrification of existing railroads in New Jersey. For instance, the West Shore would have been initially electrified to Dumont; the Erie main line to Paterson; and the NYS&W to Hawthorne. The 10.4 million “other” passengers planned for were the long haul types who began disappearing after 1946. Even included here were the trickle of passengers that the Ontario & Western still carried to the Catskills. The 18 million commuters would be a low estimate for today.
The terminal in Manhattan was to have been bounded by 49th Street, 50th Street, 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue. This site is now part of Rockefeller Center (Exxon Building). At the time of this proposal, that area was somewhat less developed and thus a bargain. The terminal was designed to be underground on two levels. Incoming trains would unload on the lower level, then proceed over loop tracks to the upper level for departure. Each level was to have had 14 tracks with 7 platforms long enough to hold from 10 to 14 cars. By combining shorter trains on the New Jersey side in order to reduce the number of trains, two one-track tunnels were anticipated. Escalators and stairways would bring passengers up to a concourse. Short connections would have been provided to 6th Avenue, 7th Avenue and Broadway subways.
It was planned to bring short freights through the tunnels during off-peak hours and connect with the New York Central West Side Freight Line.
A future add-on would have been a subway connection to Grand Central Terminal then to Fifth Avenue and downtown to the Battery. It could even have been extended under the Hudson River to Jersey City. A station at 33rd Street would have given direct connection to Long Island trains.
The 1946 cost was projected at $117,840,000 to be financed by a combination of Public Authority, the railroads, and the public. Railroads had always paid a premium to enter New York. When the B&O ran passenger trains into Penn Station, it paid $720,000 per year. By 1946, the B&O was using busses which cost almost as much.
Other ideas and developments went on during the first half of the century.
The George Washington Bridge was originally designed to have two tracks on the upper level with car lanes on each side. This rail line would have connected to the Eighth Avenue (IND) subway and continued to Paterson.
As part of the development of Grand Central, a study was made of bringing the West Shore through a tunnel. This project was abandoned. The McAdoo brothers, New York City subway builders, had a franchise for building a rapid transit line from Passaic to Times Square. They envisioned a West Shore transfer station at New Durham, NJ. This project was also abandoned.
The Port of New York Authority presented a plan in 1920 for bringing freight into New York by means of automatically controlled small cars. Many criticized this plan as impractical and as not trying to solve the passenger problem. Jenny submitted a plan in 1921 for a rapid transit loop which would intersect all the New Jersey railroads from Jersey City to New Durham then tunnel to mid-town New York, proceed to the Battery and return to Jersey City. New Jersey created the “North Jersey Transit Commission” to study the commuting problem. In 1927 this commission was abolished and the Port Authority took over its activities. Needless to say, nothing came of this.
During this era, a Mr. G. Lindenthal, who held a bridge franchise from the 1890s, pushed for bridges at 23rd Street and later at 57th Street. The Port Authority opposed him because of competition with their projects. Other New Yorkers did not want the 20 story height and the huge ramps because of real estate values. The War Department wanted a 200 ft. clearance but Lindenthal found this impractical and unsuccessfully offered to provide telescopic masts for all vessels that would have to pass under the bridge.
During this period much basic data was accumulated, many meetings were held, reams of reports were written but no real action was taken. A bill to create an authority to build tunnels died in 1940 in the New Jersey Legislature.
Many have said that adequate rail lines from New York City to New Jersey were never built because of Robert Moses. His attitude was that there was more profit in charging automobile tolls than in actually having to perform a service (run trains). This attitude continues to the present with the management of the Port Authority.
Even if a rail crossing was constructed, the situation in Northern New Jersey rail-wise is not a good one. NJ Transit still thinks of itself as a bus company first. While New York State passengers press to raise 79 mph track to 90 mph, the Pascack Valley Line struggles along at 27 mph! Elimination of the Erie Main Line in favor of sole reliance on the Graham Line forces passenger rail and freight rail to share a single track. It also forced a fast growing segment of the population onto busses.
Proposals for a rail commuter connection are still being made. The PATH railroad is at 100% capacity. Albert Cafiero of the Transit Committee of Bergen County has proposed a tunnel into the Lincoln Center area continuing into Grand Central Terminal. He would have a connection to Amtrak’s West Side Connector to provide a backup for the Park Avenue Tunnel.
REVISED JENNY PLAN: Access To and Through the New York City Metro Area
| ATTOMA (Access To and Through Our Metro Area) was prepared for New Jersey Senator Gerald Cardinale by Albert F. Cafiero and is adapted from the work of Col. Alfred Jenny. After his involvement in the building of Grand Central Terminal, Col. Jenny developed his comprehensive concept during the period from 1910-1950.
Modifications to the plan, which was proposed by Col. Jenny in 1961, have been made necessary by the “uptown creep” of the Midtown Central Business District, by the destruction of the Jersey Central Railroad’s Newark Bay Bridge and by an increasing need for access to Newark and Kennedy Airports.
This plan is competing against “ARC” (Access to the Region’s Core) which Mr. Cafiero feels should be reexamined with a more critical eye. He states the ARC Plan is inadequate, too expensive and myopic. The “Access to the Region’s Core” study, has designated Alternative “AA” as their “Preferred Alternative.” (Under AA two trans-Hudson tracks would go to Penn Station). However, they have neglected to address future transit needs resulting from the continuing “Uptown Creep” of Manhattan’s business district. Furthermore, AA is a closed ended proposal which cannot be easily modified to accommodate foreseeable needs of future development. In short, ARC’s proposal is already obsolete.
To the “preferred” Alternative AA, they have now added 11 variants (mainly to connect Penn Station with Grand Central) in an attempt to find some workable solution. It is critical that these variants are not only compared among themselves, but with Alternative BB (a 50th Street Hudson Crossing) and also with the updated version of the Jenny Plan (discussed below).
In this light, it would be advisable to revisit the “JENNY PLAN” before any further studies are undertaken. The updated JENNY PLAN enables loops coming from both NJ and Queens to the North of Midtown. These loops would connect to a common Spine Line running in a deep tunnel, with limited stops, to downtown Manhattan where they would split to go to both Brooklyn and Jersey. Such a plan could be implemented in stages, with success feeding upon success.