News & Reviews News Wire Study says Scranton-New York passenger service could carry more than 470,000 riders annually

Study says Scranton-New York passenger service could carry more than 470,000 riders annually

By | March 23, 2023

Analysis by Amtrak, regional authority calls for sub-3-hour travel times, three daily round trips

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Map of Scranton-New York City rail route
The proposed rail service between Scranton, Pa., and New York City. Amtrak

SCRANTON, Pa. — A two-year analysis of potential rail service between Scranton and New York City estimates the service could carry more than 470,000 riders per year and generate some $111 million annually in economic benefits.

The study released by Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority includes development of a sample schedule, economic impacts, and an infrastructure assessment for the 60 miles owned by the PNRRA between Scranton and the Delaware Water Gap.

“Restoring and expanding this corridor with daily multi-frequency service would dramatically boost mobility and economic development for residents of Scranton and northeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and the broader Northeast region,” Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner said in a press release.

Startup costs are not fully delineated. They would include $100 to $175 million for infrastructure improvements in Pennsylvania and $70 million to $90 million for acquisition of two trainsets. Amtrak anticipates using its new Airo equipment but says additional trains would need to be purchased. The report estimates these items would be 30% to 45% of the total project costs. Not included are infrastructure costs for the New Jersey portion of the route, which would require upgrading to allow for a travel time of 3 hours or less between Scranton and New York City.

The ridership projection is based on three round trips per day with travel times of 2 hours, 50 minutes, with maximum speeds of 110 mph on a rebuilt Lackawanna Cutoff segment and nine stations: in Scranton, Mt. Pocono, and East Stroudsburg, Pa.; Blairstown, Dover, Morristown, Montclair, and Newark, N.J.; and New York City. The study projects economic benefits of $84 million in economic activity, such as increased tourism; $20 million in benefits to passengers, such as the ability to be productive on the train; and $7 million in societal benefits, such as reduced traffic and pollution.

“This study reinforces what we have advocated for decades that rail passenger service to this region is a huge economic positive,” said PNRRA President Larry Malski. “The study’s release is extremely timely with last year’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that for the first time makes available federal funding for developing Scranton service, especially restoring the Lackawanna Cutoff and upgrading PNRRA trackage.”

The next step in pursuing funding for the project is to complete an application under the Federal Railroad Administration’s Corridor Identification and Development program [see “FRA unveils Corridor ID …,” Trains News Wire, May 17, 2022]; deadline for that application is March 27.

18 thoughts on “Study says Scranton-New York passenger service could carry more than 470,000 riders annually

  1. Marketed properly, owners of resorts in the Poconos could make good use of this. College students, some commuters, visitors in either direction, and it COULD get some traffic of I380 and I80, especially at busy times. I’m a native of Scranton, and getting there from Long Island is somewhat painful, worse as I get older. I’d use it at times.

  2. Thanks to all you thread posters for all the above/below nostalgic comments about the former E-L RWY where I worked as a tele-communications tech from 1968 (first 20 months as a RR cop) headquartered out of various places from Hoboken, NJ to Susquehanna, PA, and beyond to Bingo, and even rarely to Elmira, until my 1982 Conrail Title5 buy-out. As a RR cop, I recall the last of the Hoboken-Buffalo Owl and the commissary that prepared all it’s meals in Hoboken., And we were first lectured on the new SCOTUS Miranda rights decision bck then. One day I “tripped” over the Phoebe Snow drumhead laying on the floor in the J.C. Modoc building, but I did not take it…lol. After 1982, I briefly worked one year for Walter Rich’s Cooperstown D-O (NYS&W and other branches) shortline conglomerate as a signal-electric supv. In 1983, I hired on with SPRR in El Paso, TX, (and absorbed by UPRR in 11/96), in AZ & NM as a microwave and VHF/UHF, where I worked as traveling telecom field tech and totaled 42 years at my 2010 retirement.
    I’ve often wondered what ever became of the DLW bridge freight traffic over the Delaware River. And recall the Scranton-Bingo line being double track at that time, as the D&H took it over and scrapped their line from Bainbridge Jct. to Scranton via under the Erie Starucca Viaduct in Lanesboro, PA . So I guess Amtrak will have to redo that DLW/D&H single track (Nicholson Viaduct). back to dbl track again. I also see the Boonton/Denville line was connected to the DLW passenger end spur in East Orange in order to shape the NJT system the way the above map now shows. And the Newark Branch ran from near Croxton to Patterson via North Newark assing under the then east end Boonton Line and I suppose that turn table bridge over the Passaic River has been eliminated??? That proposed NYC to Scranton Amtrak line, and perhaps beyond, will be very interesting to see.

    1. Jeffery Amtrak will not have to double track the Nicholson viaduct seeing as how it is north of Scranton an that’s as far they are talking about going with this. Maybe if NYS Want’s it to go to Binghamton they may double track it but for the amount of traffic I don’t think it would be needed. An like someone else said on here that line now belongs to NS. An good luck putting a passenger train on it.

    1. Step 1, Stop building interstate highways. Done.
      Step 2, Stop maintaining the highways you have. In progress.

  3. let us break down purely speculation. 470,000 passengers per year? 5 years out actually will probably 20% more or less but let’s use 470k. Average is ~9040 per week. figure weekends will be half of weekday. Gives 6 x 6 = 36trrains. That is average of 251 passengers for each one way trip.

    variations per day maybe 30% so needed capacity of ~ 325 seats. ~~ 60 seats per car = 5 – 6 coaches. Well, that becomes fuzzy math very quickly ?

  4. At the rate the cutoff extension renewal is progressing, the Airo equipment will be worn out before it’s needed.

    1. Al The rebuilding got off to a good start but when hurricane Sandy hit NJT was under water an I do mean under water. Everything came to a halt. No money no work. They are back to work on it now an making good progress.

  5. Cost-benefit analysis is spreadsheet witchcraft. It was discredited about a week after someone first came up with the term in the middle of the last century. I’ll take the example closest to me, which is The Hiawatha. The benefit is that people ride it, at the cost of the subsidies from the two states and the federal treasury. It transfers auto parking from downtown Chicago, which is impossible, to the three Wisconsin stations Milwaukee, Milwaukee Airport, and Sturtevant), where freeway access is easy and parking is plentiful and hassle-free. It’s a pleasant, fast and restful ride on the train, compared to a dreadful drive by auto.

    Whether the Hiawatha brings any economic development to Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Lake and Cook Counties is entirely speculative. Similarly the number of cars it takes of Wisconsin IH-94 or Illinois I-94 is very small compared to the total auto traffic.

    My point is, cut the corporate speak/ consultant speak nonsense. Either fund the train or don’t, based on how much it would cost and how many riders.

  6. First, this project is in NORTHeastern PA, not Southeastern PA. It is the former DL&W Main Line, the Route of Phoebe Snow. The last schedulled passenger train was in January, 1970, when EL withdrew the schedules of EL 5 and 6, the Lake Cities, which ran overnight to Western NY and in daylight across Ohio and Indiana to Chicago.

    The entire route is in public ownership; the operator will not have to beg a Class 1 for trackage rights, Indeed, the Pennsylvania Counties bought the RR for the purpose of restoring this service. GVT (DL) operates freight service under contract with the Counties. Both GVT and Steamtown have operated passenger trains on the line but the track would need upgraded for through line passenger service.

    On the Jersey side, NJT owns the right of way but needs to restore track to the Lackawanna Cutoff. Part of that is already under construction.

    As to continuing beyond Scranton, the DL&W trains largely did continue to at least Binghamton, but the RR from Scranton to Binghamton (and Buffalo) is NS owned, so the operator WILL have to beg for trackage rights from NS. There has not been a great deal of interest on the part of the PA or NY Counties in restoring service beyond Scranton. The population density is fairly low West of Scranton so the business is between Scranton and NY City.

  7. We’ll see if Scranton/ Amtrak Joe coughs up the funding so Mayo Pete can cut the ribbon.

    Service to the NY Southern Tier would be great, but once you get past Scranton, freight train interference would be a very real problem. Running passenger trains on a single track railroad with 200 car freights opposing it doesn’t work well. Norfolk Southern would demand a billion or more to replace track that Conrail ripped out.

    Of course NYDOT is hopeless. We’re still waiting on the EIS for higher speed trains for the Empire Service. CSX and the state and federal governments have successfully bottled that up for 13 years now. And Empire Service is last in line for Airo equipment. Fans will come from all over the world to photograph 60 year old Amfleet; too bad there aren’t any F40s to put icing on that beautiful cake!

  8. “Start-up costs are not fully delineated ….” – Hmmm

    I’m not familiar with this rail corridor in Southeastern Pennsylvania, but it would seem to me that if this service is going to operate at (up to?) 110-MPH, but perhaps the $100-$175M figure cited for infrastructure improvements in the state of Pennsylvania might be a bit low? And aren’t there a number of curves on this alignment through the Delaware River Gap as well?

    Oh well, no-doubt “Amtrak Joe’s” infrastructure program will have plenty of $$$ for this questionable project …..

    1. Yes Thomas there are a number of curves on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware river. But the article states with maximum speed on the rebuilt Lackawanna Cutoff segment would be up to 110 mph. Except for one wide sweeping curve most of the cutoff is quite straight with no grade crossings. I did read some where that when it was built between 1908-1911 they could run up to 100 mph an that was 112 years ago. The only problem is that it is only 28 miles of the whole line from New York to Scranton.

  9. A few thoughts: 1. Assuming all the Airo equipment is in service before the world ends, where does all the Amfleet equipment go? 2. I love how a dollar value is put on “the ability to be productive on the train.” Lotsa variables there. Are all 470,000 of us assumed to be diligently staring at our laptops and contributing to the economy as we zip along at 110 per? 3. Same for “reduced traffic and pollution.” I’m all for the service coming on, but statistics and accounting are wondrous arts. Sorta like “You find me the person, I’ll find the crime.” Just thoughts, like I said.

    1. I totally agree George. How do you put a dollar amount on being able to produce a spreadsheet on the train? And what are social benefits? Most of these consultants’ reports are produced to prove a point. The report doesn’t say who did the study but it was released by Amtrak and PNRRA so you can be sure that it says what those two groups want it to say. My guess is that the number of passengers is overstated, and the costs are wildly understated. They are reconstructing the Lackawanna Cutoff almost from scratch. That ain’t gonna be cheap. And Gardner’s quote from the press release is nothing but garbled political speak.

  10. I’m glad to see the travel time reduced to 2:50 from the 3:35 of the Connect America proposal, which gets average speed to 48-mph from an abysmal 39-mph. If only we could get an extension to Binghamton, but NYSDOT and NYS public leaders are sleeping.

    1. Ideally run to Bingo and thence to Buffalo via Hornell and Corning. Open up more areas of the state to rail travel. Unfortunately the narrative of things like these becomes an either/or exercise instead of actual growth. Then again this still involves a ROW bereft of track in spots so all bets are off until that’s fixed.

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