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Old 02-14-2015, 06:17 PM
 
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In very severe weather rail is about as reliable as airline travel. Which is to say, not very.

Airlines cancel 7,500 flights as storms hits East | USA Today
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Old 02-14-2015, 11:08 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
Pretty much a disaster for NJ Transit. Equipment breaks down causing delays, crowding, and cancellations (sticking doors are a big one for smaller delays; electric locomotives for cancellations). Ice builds up on the North (Hudson) River tunnels. Power lines fail. The Portal Bridge, never reliable, fails to close more often.
I still remember being stuck at Liberty State Park for an hour in zero degree weather because of their crappy trains breaking down and stranding commuters. We could have moved back fast enough. So thankful not to have to spend winters in the northeast anymore after having two awful winters there.
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Old 02-15-2015, 07:40 AM
 
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The big problem in snow is when the power is from third rail electric. Then the snow can short out when it reaches a certain depth.
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Old 02-15-2015, 08:10 AM
 
Location: Chicago - Logan Square
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Originally Posted by cisco kid View Post
In very severe weather rail is about as reliable as airline travel. Which is to say, not very.

Airlines cancel 7,500 flights as storms hits East | USA Today
Rail transit (and public transit in general) is shut down much less frequently than airports. Closures at Logan are much more common than MBTA shutdowns.

In many ways it's hard to use closures of the MBTA (or any other transit system) as an indicator of rail service reliability. Transit systems are generally kept open or closed as an entire entity. This is done to keep people from taking subway service to a point where there should be a bus, but the roads are impassable. I'm sure the MBTA could keep some of their rail service running today (i.e. Red and Orange lines) but all that would do is strand loads of people in the middle of a blizzard).

Many workers on rail lines are also dependent on the roads to get to work, so if auto and bus traffic isn't moving they don't have the manpower to keep running.
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Old 02-15-2015, 10:08 AM
 
Location: Jersey City
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Originally Posted by urbanlife78 View Post
It depends on if the rail is above or below ground. It also depends on how bad the weather is, many above ground lines are capable of handling up to a foot of snow, but not so much for extreme weather.

I know in Portland, when we get an ice storm, they would run the trains constantly 24 hrs a day to prevent ice build up on the lines.
Indeed, it's less about how much snow falls and more about how much is allowed to accumulate on the track. We've had 20" snowstorms when all lines have remained in operation because snow removal was able to keep less than 6-8" from accumulating on the tracks (and off the third rail for the above ground portion of PATH). If it snows 3" per hour, however, it becomes much harder to keep up with and some lines may be suspended until the snow can be removed.

Another issue is temperature. LIRR has problems here and there almost every winter with track breaking due to extreme cold. Doesn't seem to happen nearly as often on MNCR or NJT. Track can buckle in hot weather too.
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Old 02-15-2015, 10:36 AM
 
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Originally Posted by cisco kid View Post
In very severe weather rail is about as reliable as airline travel. Which is to say, not very.

Airlines cancel 7,500 flights as storms hits East | USA Today
In very severe weather, rail is much better than bus transit. It really comes down to how prepared a city is in general to handle bad weather. In Chicago, they obviously get more than their share of it. The trains always fare better than buses though. I do think one advantage could boil down to track location. Underground certainly is an advantage, but so is elevated in many cases. It's a disadvantage if something does go wrong (because it is more difficult to get to and fix), but it avoids a major issue: drifting snow. Ice isn't a big issue as long as the authority keeps the trains going, but drifts can pile up quickly on at grade systems regardless of frequency.
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Old 02-15-2015, 10:49 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Chicago76 View Post
In very severe weather, rail is much better than bus transit. It really comes down to how prepared a city is in general to handle bad weather. In Chicago, they obviously get more than their share of it. The trains always fare better than buses though. I do think one advantage could boil down to track location. Underground certainly is an advantage, but so is elevated in many cases. It's a disadvantage if something does go wrong (because it is more difficult to get to and fix), but it avoids a major issue: drifting snow. Ice isn't a big issue as long as the authority keeps the trains going, but drifts can pile up quickly on at grade systems regardless of frequency.
In recent decades Boston has abandoned elevated railways in favor of at grade rails. That decision is coming back to bite them this winter. Windy snow storms have been the norm in New England this winter.
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Old 02-15-2015, 11:10 AM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Originally Posted by AtkinsonDan View Post
In recent decades Boston has abandoned elevated railways in favor of at grade rails. That decision is coming back to bite them this winter. Windy snow storms have been the norm in New England this winter.
The Orange line south of downtown is in a bit of trench, probably making snow worse. Many commuter rail lines going south and southwest run parallel, as well as Amtrak's Northeast Corridor service. Photo I took of it:

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Old 02-15-2015, 12:11 PM
 
Location: Chicago - Logan Square
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Originally Posted by nei View Post
The Orange line south of downtown is in a bit of trench, probably making snow worse. Many commuter rail lines going south and southwest run parallel, as well as Amtrak's Northeast Corridor service. Photo I took of it:
I doubt the Orange Line is causing a problem. I lived next it for years, and even during the awful winters in the early 90's they never seemed to have any problems keeping it clear (I'd take it downtown every day, as well as taking the Franklin line commuter rail fairly frequently). I think the Green Line trolleys start having problems long before the Orange Line (as well as buses and the Silver Line).

The elevated trains on Washington didn't do anything to help keep the trains running. It was clear of snow during the Blizzard of '78 and they still shut down the T, pretty much for all of the reasons I've mentioned above.

It's important to remember that they shut down systems, not lines or routes. Once significant parts of the system aren't working, running just parts of it does nothing but strand people.
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Old 02-15-2015, 03:01 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Attrill View Post

It's important to remember that they shut down systems, not lines or routes. Once significant parts of the system aren't working, running just parts of it does nothing but strand people.
Chicago has been rather fortunate in that their at grade sections are far from the city. At different times during major blizzards of the last 35 years, they have had some problems w the purple north of Rogers park, the Skokie swift (yellow) and the graded sections of the brown by the yards. They just announced on the platforms they weren't running the last 2 stops. Complete reliable for 95% if the people sure beats the bus situation...especially for those poor people in stalled out buses on Lake Shore Drive in '11.
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