Monday, April 18, 2011

Sensible Amtrak Schedules

One thing has always bugged me about Amtrak's Northeast Regional services on the Northeast Corridor: they're not regular. You can't say "oh, I'll take the three-o'clock train" without consulting a schedule first, because they don't operate on a very logical schedule.

For example, these are the weekday departures from Washington DC, heading to Boston. Regional trains on the left, Acela Express on the right:
0315    0500
0450    0700
0725    0900
0840    1000
1025    1200
1205    1300
1405    1400
1502    1500
1605    1600
2200

And southbound departures from Boston:

0615    0510
0815    0605
0935    0715
1103    0910
1340    1113
1520    1215
1735    1310
1848    1515
2130    1630
               1720

There's no pattern to any of the Regional departures; they're not even concentrated at a few minutes past the hour like the southbound Acelas are.

All of the services should be like the northbound Acelas: almost hourly, and always at exactly the same interval past the hour. This should be the ideal northbound schedule:


0330    0500
0530    0700
0730    0900
0830    1000
1030    1200
1230    1300
1430    1400
1530    1500
1630    1600
2130

Put the Regionals on the half-hour, and Acelas on the hour. The British (who always know how to run a railway) do it that way. For example, this is what the services out of King's Cross in London look like:

xx:00, to Edinburgh Waverley (extended on alternate hours to Glasgow Central).
xx:10, to Leeds.
xx:30, to Newcastle (with some services extended into Scotland).
xx:35, to Leeds.

It's fantastically simple. You know the 12:00 is to Edinburgh and the 12:30 to Newcastle, because it's like that every hour. It's simple, easy to remember, and convenient. And that's what brings in transit riders.

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