Albany-NYC: strong potential for high-speed rail?

america 2050 high-speed-rail scores

It's a hot route.

New York City to Albany ranks as one of the corridors with the most potential for high-speed rail, according to a report from a planning/policy org called America 2050.

The report assigned scores to almost 8000 rail corridors (of less than 600 miles) across the country based on group of factors including population, employment, and transit ridership. The NYC-Albany corridor ranked in the top one percent of all routes in the nation.

For some comparison, Washington DC-NYC was the top ranked route with a score of 20.15. The NYC-Albany route scored 19.29.

The report includes some really delicious transit nerding. Transportation Nation has a further breakdown of the results, including some thoughts on the effect of national politics (and circumstance) on current high-speed rail projects (or, how Florida could end up with the nation's first high-speed rail corridor [or not]).

As we understand the way these scores were calculated, corridors with already strong ridership tend to score best. So it's not surprising that NYC-Albany scored well -- the Empire Service is the fifth most-traveled route in the entire Amtrak system.

So, what could high-speed rail mean for Albany? Well, it could open the possibility of getting from Albany to Manhattan in about an hour (potentially). That's a commute for some people.

(Thanks, Kizzi!)

Earlier on AOA:
+ The slow line to high-speed rail
+ The best way to get from Albany to NYC?

image adapted from "High Speed Rail in America" by America 2050


It means skyrocketing real estate prices and rents

@Ike: Exactly. It would Albany into Poughkeepsie. No thanks.

Yay, America 2050! We'll get high speed rail to NYC just in time for my retirement party!

put the train station back in albany. why is it in troy? when the convention center goes in down town albany does that mean the bus station will move to troy ? this is the capital city and it will be more expensive , and annoying to travel!

Yeah, like it isn't already getting too expensive to live here...

I'm in favor of high-speed rail and local commuter rail and any other improvement in mass transit you can think of, but that is a valid point. Make it too easy to get too and from NYC and all of a sudden you've got people who are used to paying a lot more for housing coming up here, which will lead to sellers and landlords falling over themselves to jack up prices to take advantage, pricing the rest of us out in the process.

@mg, last I checked, the Amtrak station was in Rensselaer, not Troy.

A one hour trip to NYC just moves the line between upstate and downstate to, say, Lake George.

Time to move to Vt. Or the islands.

Troy hasn't had a train station in a long time. But using that kind of definition, Albany doesn't really have an airport.

Are you really envisioning tens of thousands of people picking up and leaving the most exciting city in the world to live in Albany?

Maybe prices will go up, but the tax base will increase and...wait for should get better. More people with more money also means that they are spending some of that money here and that means opportunities for bars, restaurants, coffee shops and maybe it means we will get that Whole Foods/Trader Joe's/(Insert your market of choice here) that everyone complains about periodically.

I am all in favor of this, in terms of transportation as well as connecting Albany even more fully to New York City.

Ned is the only person thinking about this sensibly...

Complainers: you have about 30 years to save up to buy a house so you can cash in when real estate prices skyrocket due to our new NYC-suburb-status.

C'mon people, a high speed train isn't going to make your cheap slum house any more attractive to live in. And why are so many people afraid of making improvements that would make Albany a more desirable place to live? I didn't know that such backwards-minded individuals even used the web. Seriously, who walks around demanding that no improvements are made to the city?! Do you try to deface everything nice that you encounter?

"Ned is the only person thinking about this sensibly..."

I seem to recall saying I'm in favor of a possible high-speed link between Albany and NYC. I didn't realize being concerned about unintended consequences meant I wasn't being sensible.

Tim in Waterford is onto something. Up here, we reckon a one-hour train to Manhattan is intended to benefit us, but that may not be the idea at all.

When I was a kid, if I saw New Jersey plates up here they probably belonged to a visiting relative -- mine or somebody else's. Now they're mixed into Capital District commuter traffic. What's up with that? Who are these people? All I can figure is that more, well-off folks are splitting time between downstate and upstate. It seems they've extended their range north of the Mid-Hudson Valley in recent years, especially since September 11, 2001.

Can't say this is bad. Mobility's a good thing in general, and it all works out in time. But the near-term effect is likely to be higher prices here rather than lower prices in Manhattan. Better transport options in this corridor probably bring many more people north than they send south, and the effects are absolutely worth thinking about.


We have a number of NYC folks who own weekend places here in Schoharie - they usually purchase or build the more expenses houses - but I would imagine these folks all have a vehicle and wouldn't be taking the train.

While a high-speed rail line between Albany and New York would certainly increase traffic between the two cities, and likely bring with it a greater population of people who live in Albany and work in New York, I doubt it would have a significant impact on the cost of living in this area.

As the article mentions, that particular rail corridor is already the fifth most traveled in the entire Amtrak system; a large amount of people are already traveling back and forth between New York and here on a regular basis (currently, a train leaves or arrives almost every daytime hour), so I can't imagine that the traffic would increase SO substantially as to warrant a massive cost of living shift.

This would still (presumably) be an Amtrak corridor, and not operated by the MTA as the Metro North line in Poughkeepsie is. I think the price difference between the two makes Amtrak relatively cost-prohibitive as a full-time commuter line: there is, after all, a reason some people prefer to drive to Poughkeepsie and take the train in from there.

If anyone were to move to Albany from New York, the only reason to do so would be to take advantage of our lower cost of living. If that were to increase substantially, the entire purpose of a New Yorker moving here would be defeated. Perhaps my reasoning is flawed, but, that seems to indicate to me that less New Yorkers would want to live here if the cost of living here were to inflate, which in turn would remove the entire reason for inflation.

Let's also not forget that, unless this particular person happens to live in Rensselaer and work in Penn, their commute will likely be a bit longer than just one hour.

I think a more reasonable projection of events that might occur if high speed rail were to exist between New York and here, is that it would be exceptionally convenient for the people who do need to occasionally commute between the two cities for business, and exceptionally convenient for the people who don't mind living in a city the size of Albany, but occasionally want to experience more of what a big city has to offer.

If anything, the cost of living would increase simply because it would make the region a more desirable place to live overall (and not just for these alleged Manhattan transplants): I don't see this as a bad thing. Should we really avoid growth and development in order to keep our cost of living down? Conversely, would you advocate making our region less desirable in order to save a few bucks? Or perhaps you would prefer to explore the North Country; there are very few places to work, which is all right because there are even fewer places to spend money, and the cost of living is rock bottom.

Thank you, Lou, for your support, and thank you to Ned and especially HSRH for your cogent counterpoints.

I forgot that the price of the trip would likely not decrease (and could probably increase). We probably wouldn't see as large of a migration as my first comment feared due to that; all the high-speed rail would do is decrease the commute time. Commuting use would still be limited to the truly hard-core because of the price. I still think there would be some northward migration, though; surely some people would consider the price of the commute to be reasonable given the speed involved. Also, you'd likely see a huge increase in train travel for leisure use, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I still think it's worth exploring the various effects of a high-speed link between Albany and NYC, both positive and negative. (And can we get one to Boston while we're at it? :D)

@Tim in Waterford We basically agree, I think, with the exception that I politely don't think HSRH has said anything interesting.

IMO, we often don't appreciate the scale of everyday wealth in global capitals. There's a concentration of folks to our south who can spare $60k/yr to fund a Capital District second home and migration for one spouse and the kids, while other spouse maintains the Manhattan job. The cost of train tickets or rail time is a non-issue above certain income levels and for professional business travelers. It's what they do.

More, today the requirement for some folks is just to be in striking distance of NYC, for meetings and such. As fast transport expands, farther outlands see more colonization.

Again, it's not bad. Probably our geography -- close to the center of the universe as we are -- means that our cost of living is always pressured up and never down, and maybe that encapsulates upstate resentment in a way. It also lets upstate landowners cash-out at favorable rates.

But we need eyes wide open. I'll enjoy and use a faster train to NYC, but I don't think I'm the reason it'd be built. Far from it.


I agree with Mork and mg's comments above and hope that plans for high-speed rail in Upstate New York include both Albany’s Union Station and Buffalo’s Central Terminal.

I doubt any of us will live to see the day that a train ride from Albany to NYC is only one hour. Regardless, I live in Brooklyn, and depending on where I go in the city it can take me up to two hours using mass transit -- almost the amount of time it takes to travel on Amtrak between Penn Station and Rensselaer.

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