Rail feasibility tracks

Operations & Service Planning

A key factor in developing new passenger rail service or altering existing service is ensuring diligent operations and service planning. RLBA has been involved in planning operations of many new-start commuter rail services since the 1980’s, offering expertise in many areas including negotiations with freight railroads, alternatives analysis, rail operations simulation, contract procurement and benefit / cost analysis.

Select Project Descriptions:


RLBA was engaged by Northern Virginia’s commuter rail service, Virginia Railway Express (VRE), to develop a rail network simulation model depicting VRE’s and Amtrak’s existing passenger services as well as the existing freight railroad operations of CSX and Norfolk Southern (NS) to support analysis of CSX, NS and Amtrak-owned railroad lines to host additional VRE services. RLBA employed Rail Traffic Controller (RTC©), the gold standard of rail network simulation applications. Additionally, RLBA trained one VRE staff member on basic skills needed to construct an RTC network and to modify the network provided by RLBA as well as providing an overview of RTC to VRE staff at its headquarters.


RLBA participated in Michigan’s Higher Speed Rail Study of the Chicago – Detroit passenger rail corridor with respect to service planning and preliminary alternatives development. Specifically, RLBA estimated unimpeded run-times on ten prospective route options between Chicago and Michigan City, IN using the train performance calculator (TPC) tool within the Rail Traffic Controller (RTC©). Additionally, RLBA managed the portion of the Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac Passenger Rail Corridor Investment Plan comprising passenger station analyses and a maintenance facility plan. The maintenance facility plan examined the area around Pontiac, MI, to determine a suitable site of which to locate a locomotive and passenger railcar maintenance facility and described what maintenance will be done and estimated capital and operating costs.


A team lead by RLBA was engaged to perform an objective evaluation of potential Metrolink commuter rail extensions. Key tasks included determining and evaluating ridership, operating and capital costs to assess the feasibility of service implementation in eight, independent scenarios, each of which combined a service level and an alignment. The alignments linked:

  1. Riverside with Banning/Beaumont;
  2. Riverside with Indio;
  3. South Perris with Winchester, Hemet and San Jacinto;
  4. South Perris;
  5. with Winchester, Murrieta and Temecula; and
  6. South Perris with Murrieta and Temecula.

Other evaluation criteria developed included constraints on developing the routes, operating and financial feasibility and the percent of low income households that would be served.