Rail Corridor Analysis

Rail services in several mid-size American cities show how passenger trains that are tailored to a local market can operate successfully. SMART plans to serve 14 stations in a 70 mile corridor reaching from Larkspur to Cloverdale, initially focusing on commuter services.  The Tri-Rail line northwest of Miami, Florida serves 18 stations in a 71 mile corridor; the Trinity Railway Express between Ft. Worth and Dallas serves ten stations in a 34 mile corridor; the River LINE between Trenton and Camden, New Jersey, serves 20 stations in its 34 mile corridor. All three rail systems were based on single track freight lines with passing tracks, and grew to serve over a million riders per year within their first ten years.  All three lines have made successful use of self-powered railcars. Although Miami, Dallas and the Delaware River areas are more populous than the North Bay, densities near the stations along these corridors are relatively low, permitting reasonable comparisons to be made between these systems and SMART. (Details of these operations are set forth below.)

California rail services have also been very successful in many diverse corridors.  The 48 mile Coaster between Oceanside and San Diego carries nearly 1.5 million riders per year. The 86 mile Altamont Commuter Express takes over 750 thousand riders yearly from the Stockton Area toward San Jose in the morning, then home in the evening, with mid-day service, but no reverse-commute.  The Capitol Corridor serves a nearly equal number of riders, and Caltrain is the successor to the long-established service on the San Francisco Peninsula, carrying riders all day in both directions.  The coastal Metrolink corridors in Southern California share tracks with the Amtrak California Pacific Surfliner, one of the most heavily-used passenger rail services in the country.

Details about each corridor are summarized below, with links to official websites and source information.

Operator: South Florida Regional Transportation Authority
Location: Greater Miami, Florida: Mangonia Park – Miami International Airport
Ridership: 14,800 (APTA Q4 2013), end-to-end fare $6.90
Length: 71 miles Commuter Rail, 18 stations, travel time ~2 hr.
Service: 25 trains each direction on weekdays; 15 trains each direction weekends
Rolling Stock: 16 locomotives, 26 bi-level coaches; bicycle racks
Connections: Metrorail (Miami-Dade Transit Heavy Rail), Amtrak, local buses, Palm Beach International Airport, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, Miami International Airport
Parking: Park and ride lots are at many of the stations
Details & History: Opening in 1989, the line started as a temporary measure to provide traffic relief during a 5-year project to widen I-95. The right-of-way parallels Interstate 95 and is shared with Amtrak passenger and CSX freight services. Between Ft.Lauderdale and Pompano Beach, double-tracking and rehabilitation of the signal system now allow more frequent service. Another line on the Florida East Coast Railway corridor called “Coastal Link” is planned to be operational by 2020.

Trinity Railway Express
Operator: Herzog Transit Services
Location: Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, Texas: Texas & Pacific Station, Fort Worth – Union Station, Dallas  
Ridership: 8,200 (APTA 3-2015), end-to-end fare $5.00
Length: 34 miles Commuter Rail, 10 stations, travel time 1 hr. 4 min.
Service: 22 Eastbound, 25 Westbound trains on weekdays; 9 Eastbound, 10 Westbound on Sat.
Rolling Stock: 9 locomotives, 25 bi-level coaches
Connections: DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit light rail), Amtrak, Ft. Worth bus, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Parking: Available at no charge, except medical center and Union Station; bicycle lockers available at most stations
Details & History: Opened in 1996 and is jointly owned by Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Fort Worth Transportation Authority. Service is provided by contractor Herzog Transit Services and track maintenance is provided under contract by BNSF Railway, which has rights to operate freight trains on the line, as does Union Pacific (about 25 freight movements per weekday). Original fleet was 13 refurbished Budd Rail DMU Cars.

River LINE
Operator: New Jersey Transit
Location: Delaware Valley, New Jersey: Trenton – Entertainment Center, Camden
Ridership: 9,014 average weekdays (NJ Transit 3-2015), end-to-end fare: $1.25
Length: 34 miles Light Rail 20 stations, travel time: 1 hr. 20 min.
Rolling Stock: 20 Stadler diesel multiple 72 seat units; bicycle hanging rack system
Connections:Amtrak, SEPTA, New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor Line, PATCO Speedline, local buses
Parking: Available at most stations for no charge; no parking at Trenton, Camden, Burlington.
Details & History: Opened in 2005 as an effort to revitalize a declining corridor, the line was established by a “design, build, operate and maintain” agreement between New Jersey Transit and a Bechtel-Bombardier consortium at a cost of about $600 million. Right of way was purchased from CSX, which retains the right to use the line for freight service at night.