Northstar Commuter Rail

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BoredAgain
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby BoredAgain » August 2nd, 2019, 9:45 am

mister.shoes wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 9:35 am
The primary advantage of this is eliminating the need to back out of a station and allowing for through-running west/north <--> east/south. While I didn't show it explicitly, I'd like to think plenty of development could be done above any sort of station which replaces the viaducts. But you're absolutely right w/r/t proximity to the CBD—it's just far enough away to be annoying.
Is this new station at the elevation of the existing viaducts? That would mean moving trains from a trench moving up to elevated platforms and that sounds ridiculous.

Is this new station at grade? That would require severing the North Loop in half through this area even more than it already is. the reason for your 4th street boulevard is to try to re-connect this area.

Is this new station below grade? That would match the grade of the existing rail line, but require extensive excavation and new bridgework to reconnect the existing grid streets.

If we are talking about removing major downtown freeway connections to make this happen, then the 394 trench is already there and runs directly parallel to the existing rail line for "easy" connections at either end for through-running lines. It is also significantly closer to the CBD and the existing transit and skyway networks.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby mister.shoes » August 2nd, 2019, 10:30 am

Excellent questions, all around. I tried to account for all your concerns ahead of time, but didn't explain any of the grade details in my original post.
BoredAgain wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 9:45 am
Is this new station at the elevation of the existing viaducts? That would mean moving trains from a trench moving up to elevated platforms and that sounds ridiculous.

Is this new station at grade? That would require severing the North Loop in half through this area even more than it already is. the reason for your 4th street boulevard is to try to re-connect this area.

Is this new station below grade? That would match the grade of the existing rail line, but require extensive excavation and new bridgework to reconnect the existing grid streets.
The platforms would be at grade such that the tracks would be level with the boulevard following the current 4th Street ROW. The current rail trench is only a trench east of 5th Ave and the tracks are reasonably level with the surface west of 6th Ave. In the past, most of the area between Washington and 4th from 5th to 10th was surface rail yards. There's a significant downhill grade change from Target Field to 6th Ave, such that the only excavation necessary would be to "punch" the passenger line through the hill behind the Ford Center and Be The Match.

The ghostly station of sorts I added as a placeholder spanning from the rail trench to roughly 7th Ave would allow pedestrians to enter at the level of 5th Street by Target Field and pass over 5th and 6th Aves before descending stairs to the platforms, not unlike the headhouse/platform arrangement at SPUD. Accordingly, both 5th and 6th Aves would remain open and functional, as would 10th Ave, despite the additional grade crossings at both ends. This concept wouldn't sever any existing streets and would only be a barrier across the North Loop if we fail to account for pedestrian connections as the properties along 5th Street are redeveloped.
BoredAgain wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 9:45 am
If we are talking about removing major downtown freeway connections to make this happen, then the 394 trench is already there and runs directly parallel to the existing rail line for "easy" connections at either end for through-running lines. It is also significantly closer to the CBD and the existing transit and skyway networks.
The existing rail line parallel to the 394 trench doesn't go where passenger trains coming from the east would want to go. The goal is to through-run north/west on the BNSF lines toward Duluth and St. Cloud, not the one to Willmar.
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby BoredAgain » August 2nd, 2019, 12:25 pm

mister.shoes wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 10:30 am
Excellent questions, all around. I tried to account for all your concerns ahead of time, but didn't explain any of the grade details in my original post.
BoredAgain wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 9:45 am
Is this new station at the elevation of the existing viaducts? That would mean moving trains from a trench moving up to elevated platforms and that sounds ridiculous.

Is this new station at grade? That would require severing the North Loop in half through this area even more than it already is. the reason for your 4th street boulevard is to try to re-connect this area.

Is this new station below grade? That would match the grade of the existing rail line, but require extensive excavation and new bridgework to reconnect the existing grid streets.
The platforms would be at grade such that the tracks would be level with the boulevard following the current 4th Street ROW. The current rail trench is only a trench east of 5th Ave and the tracks are reasonably level with the surface west of 6th Ave. In the past, most of the area between Washington and 4th from 5th to 10th was surface rail yards. There's a significant downhill grade change from Target Field to 6th Ave, such that the only excavation necessary would be to "punch" the passenger line through the hill behind the Ford Center and Be The Match.

The ghostly station of sorts I added as a placeholder spanning from the rail trench to roughly 7th Ave would allow pedestrians to enter at the level of 5th Street by Target Field and pass over 5th and 6th Aves before descending stairs to the platforms, not unlike the headhouse/platform arrangement at SPUD. Accordingly, both 5th and 6th Aves would remain open and functional, as would 10th Ave, despite the additional grade crossings at both ends. This concept wouldn't sever any existing streets and would only be a barrier across the North Loop if we fail to account for pedestrian connections as the properties along 5th Street are redeveloped.
BoredAgain wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 9:45 am
If we are talking about removing major downtown freeway connections to make this happen, then the 394 trench is already there and runs directly parallel to the existing rail line for "easy" connections at either end for through-running lines. It is also significantly closer to the CBD and the existing transit and skyway networks.
The existing rail line parallel to the 394 trench doesn't go where passenger trains coming from the east would want to go. The goal is to through-run north/west on the BNSF lines toward Duluth and St. Cloud, not the one to Willmar.
I guess I was considering connectivity for Dan Patch and other "Commuter" rail options for the Minneapolis hub and leaving longer inter-city rail to SPUD. I also completely missed your planned connection around the west end of North Loop onto the spur that serves the Star Tribune printing building. If we are imagining new rail connections, why not simply have a longer detour for longer intercity transport and put the new rail connections outside of the downtown core.

Are we going to accept the seven new at grade rail crossings of major and minor streets throughout the Northloop? You show an at-grade crossing of the new 4th street boulevard which is meant to replace a major highway connection.

Also, the distance from the end of your train platform over to Hennepin is over 3/4 mile. Will there be an associated shuttle bus or tram system like at the airport? People already hate the much shorter headhouse at SPUD.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Oreos&Milk » August 11th, 2019, 3:40 pm

I don't think we need to worry about expanding the station anytime soon.. Given Northstar only has what 8 trips a day. Hardly worth building a big station. Longer term I think building a waiting lobby and retail space above the platform would be good, could connect to the skyway so people can get to there workplace quick. Just keep the existing platform better utilized, plus I seen plans for a 3rd platform for Northern lights express.

Something like this, but would only be 2-3 platforms and the 2nd level would be more of a actual floor to allow waiting and retail, connect to downtown via skyways and would allow very comfortable travel from Duluth's skywalk network to Minneapolis skyway system be great way for business travlers to get around and for people on holiday too.
Image

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby TroyGBiv » August 12th, 2019, 12:16 am

Where is this train station?

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby MattW » August 12th, 2019, 7:44 pm

According to the image URL it's Wuhan Station in China. Really, it could be any station though. All major high speed stations in China look and feel about the same.

I originally was going to guess it was Guangzhou South Station.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby mister.shoes » August 13th, 2019, 10:17 am

Lots more words below. FWIW, I'm not arguing, just trying to address your thoughtful concerns.
BoredAgain wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 12:25 pm
I guess I was considering connectivity for Dan Patch and other "Commuter" rail options for the Minneapolis hub and leaving longer inter-city rail to SPUD. I also completely missed your planned connection around the west end of North Loop onto the spur that serves the Star Tribune printing building. If we are imagining new rail connections, why not simply have a longer detour for longer intercity transport and put the new rail connections outside of the downtown core.
I think there would be a real benefit to making it realistic for inter-city trains to stop in both cities and do so downtown. Right now, the lack of a through-route prohibits such a thing from working, and while this concept makes for quite the circuitous detour off the BNSF mainline, it could offer a real nice opportunity for flexible travel. Population trends being what they are, the center of gravity is only going to keep moving closer to downtown MPLS and the NL is quite an appealing destination. Anything terminating in MPLS could use the current Northstar station or this theoretical one. There appears to be room for at least 1/4 mile of platform in both places.
BoredAgain wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 12:25 pm
Are we going to accept the seven new at grade rail crossings of major and minor streets throughout the Northloop? You show an at-grade crossing of the new 4th street boulevard which is meant to replace a major highway connection.
Excellent point. Initially, my flippant response was going to be some combination of "Sure, why not? They'll calm traffic." and "There won't be that many trains anyway." As luck would have it, my family and I had taken a trip to Chicago (we stayed in Evanston) about a week before I posted my redo and since then I've had more time to think about grade separation. Obviously, nothing in MPLS will ever be as population or transit dense as Chicago, but it's fascinating to see how dedicated both Metra and CTA are to elevating (or burying) rail.

Anyway, your feedback sent me digging for topographic maps of the area after driving through the NL this past weekend and noting more variation in elevation than I'd initially thought (Aside, MnTOPO is fantastic). I have a revised concept linked below, but here's the crossings detail:

- 5th Ave crosses over the rail.
- 6th Ave is at grade and would be a good opportunity for being ped-only between 4th and 5th Streets.
- 8th Ave could be another ped-only connection, but go under the rail platforms.
- 10th Ave, 4th St, 3rd St, and Washington Ave could all go under the rail.
- 2nd St remains at grade.

The east/south end is the most developed, so I adhered fairly closely to existing elevations to dictate the types of crossings. The west/north end has two things going for it which pointed me at elevated rail: 1) the current rail line is higher where it crosses Plymouth Ave than any other point in the NL (8th/5th is the lowest point FWIW), and 2) the relatively undeveloped nature gives more flexibility to go ahead and lower streets.
BoredAgain wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 12:25 pm
Also, the distance from the end of your train platform over to Hennepin is over 3/4 mile. Will there be an associated shuttle bus or tram system like at the airport? People already hate the much shorter headhouse at SPUD.
Why would we assume travelers would walk from the station all the way to Hennepin? Assuming anyone could exit the station right about Fulton Brewing, they'd be just over a block from the Blue/Green lines at TF station, just over two blocks from a bus station (and theoretical new streetcar) at 6th/Washington, and about three blocks from the C and D lines at 7th/Olson, plus right next door to whatever new transit could run on the 4th Street boulevard replacing the viaducts.

***

@Oreos&Milk: No, we don't need to expand any time soon, but we have an opportunity to plan ahead and bank some land. Also, that station example you shared is great and would be ideal for covering both the current and some hypothetical future series of platforms.

***

Here's my updated idea: https://www.dropbox.com/s/pq7w2fdg9w1tx ... 3.jpg?dl=0
(I took the ghostly station outline out of this one to remove distraction. Assume we could do something like O&M's example spanning from 6th Ave to the trench and around Ford Center to TF.)
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby mister.shoes » August 13th, 2019, 12:41 pm

P.S. Since I wrote ^ that, I revised the idea a bit to fix the streets and rail at the west/north end. Angling 4th past 10th allowed me to connect Napco with 3rd and clean up the rail switches and curves. The Dropbox link is the same as above.
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Oreos&Milk » August 14th, 2019, 9:00 am

Getting Rid of the 394 ramps into downtown would be a nightmare for the ABC ramps. Unless your plan is to also demolish them as well. It sure would be progressive towards a car-less downtown, interesting idea but a bit unrealistic in today's climate. Not trying to put down your ideas, and dreams.. but the current design I think is a marvel in it's accomplishments to collect car commuters heading to downtown right as they exit the freeways and keeping more cars from clogging the downtown area. Granted not everyone is parking there from 394 but if we were to line the other freeway exits with major skyway connected and pedestrian friendly ramps then our downtown would be even better than it possible could be given we live in a car focused society.

Just think a convention center mega ramp could take care of the 94 and 35w North bound traffic into downtown, and a US Bank Stadium mega ramp could also take care of the South bound 35W traffic. There by making downtown less packed with cars, we could turn more streets into greenways like the Nicollet Mall.

As for more space for a train station, instead of Northloop wouldn't further back on the line be better? Royalton station area would allow people to transfer to the Green line into downtown without having to walk from Northloop into downtown. The ABC ramps are a big revenue generator so taking that away would be walking away from revenue streams that help fund other projects.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby DanPatchToget » August 14th, 2019, 10:13 am

Oreos&Milk wrote:
August 14th, 2019, 9:00 am
Getting Rid of the 394 ramps into downtown would be a nightmare for the ABC ramps. Unless your plan is to also demolish them as well. It sure would be progressive towards a car-less downtown, interesting idea but a bit unrealistic in today's climate. Not trying to put down your ideas, and dreams.. but the current design I think is a marvel in it's accomplishments to collect car commuters heading to downtown right as they exit the freeways and keeping more cars from clogging the downtown area. Granted not everyone is parking there from 394 but if we were to line the other freeway exits with major skyway connected and pedestrian friendly ramps then our downtown would be even better than it possible could be given we live in a car focused society.

Just think a convention center mega ramp could take care of the 94 and 35w North bound traffic into downtown, and a US Bank Stadium mega ramp could also take care of the South bound 35W traffic. There by making downtown less packed with cars, we could turn more streets into greenways like the Nicollet Mall.

As for more space for a train station, instead of Northloop wouldn't further back on the line be better? Royalton station area would allow people to transfer to the Green line into downtown without having to walk from Northloop into downtown. The ABC ramps are a big revenue generator so taking that away would be walking away from revenue streams that help fund other projects.
In regards to a station a little west of downtown, that’s what I’ve suggested. Specifically around the impound lot and future Basset Creek Station. Lots of space for growth (for now) and a hopefully easy transfer to the Green Line to reach downtown. Similar to how some European cities do it, this would be “Minneapolis West” and there would also be a “Minneapolis East” near TCF Bank Stadium.

We can (and should) take it a step further and have a “Minneapolis Central” so a select number of regional rail lines directly serve downtown with an underground station. Similar to what’s done in Oslo with Nationaltheatret Station for their regional rail service. Before anyone shoots this down and calls it fantasy, here’s a friendly reminder we built highways through mountain ranges and deserts. If we can do that we can easily do this with the right political climate.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby mister.shoes » August 14th, 2019, 12:41 pm

Oreos&Milk wrote:
August 14th, 2019, 9:00 am
Getting Rid of the 394 ramps into downtown would be a nightmare for the ABC ramps.
I assume you mean the 3rd/4th Street viaducts, not the 394 ramps, because I'm definitely not suggesting we do the latter. That said, C Ramp I can see (no pun intended) being affected, but I can't imagine too many commuters from the N or NW are coming in on the 4th St viaduct and looping around to either B or A.
DanPatchToget wrote: In regards to a station a little west of downtown, that’s what I’ve suggested. Specifically around the impound lot and future Basset Creek Station.
Anything west of downtown along that particular BNSF line (Wayzata sub to Willmar) cannot be part of a through route to or from StP to or from north of the Cities without major track additions and/or a more circuitous route than the little loop I stole from mattaudio for this concept. There are a grand total of two rail crossings over the Mississippi between Nicollet Island and St. Cloud, both in north MPLS: the first is the old NP which connects Northtown with the Strib printing plant (and used to continue through the NL to the former GN depot), the second is CP Rail which is not only farther north but is also really hard to connect with.

How about this?
- MPLS North (this station): anything coming from the north (BNSF Staples Sub, BNSF Hinckley Sub) and terminating or continuing on to StP
- MPLS West (TF or Basset Creek): anything coming from the west (BNSF Wayzata Sub) or south (CP Rail via BNSF) and terminating or continuing on to StP
- SPUD: should be able to handle terminations or through-routing for just about anything coming in on the CP Rail, BNSF, or UP
- Midway: optional stop for anything through-routed between MPLS and StP
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby DanPatchToget » August 14th, 2019, 1:24 pm

West Minneapolis would be mainly intended for through-routing east/west not north/south. A couple of examples being Wayzata-West MPLS-SPUD-Stillwater and Northfield-West MPLS-SPUD-Hastings. East Minneapolis would be used by trains going north/south from/to SPUD (SPUD-St. Cloud for example) in addition to any through-trains to/from the west.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby mister.shoes » August 14th, 2019, 9:58 pm

I hadn’t considered the East station for serving through routes because I didn’t think it would be close enough to downtown. But adjacent to TCF and the Green would work. Cool.
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby gopherfan » August 15th, 2019, 11:17 am

This long conversation belongs in Fantasy Maps or Intercity Rail. Nothing to do with Metro Transit's Northstar...

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby DanPatchToget » August 15th, 2019, 12:23 pm

gopherfan wrote:
August 15th, 2019, 11:17 am
This long conversation belongs in Fantasy Maps or Intercity Rail. Nothing to do with Metro Transit's Northstar...
How does this not have to do with Northstar? Whatever changes are made to Target Field Station or a new regional rail hub for Minneapolis would very much have an impact on Northstar.

While the city can pretend TFS is a transportation hub, in reality it’s far from it and developing every last piece of empty land around it won’t help any, so major changes will be needed if we want more regional and intercity rail service.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby MNdible » August 15th, 2019, 12:29 pm

While it has *something* to do with Northstar, this is 100% Fantasy Maps territory.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby DanPatchToget » August 15th, 2019, 1:49 pm

I bet Northstar was considered fantasy, and look what happened.

Reopening the Great Northern Depot or Milwaukee Road Depot in downtown to passenger trains is fantasy, but what we’ve been discussing is well within the realm of reality.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Oreos&Milk » August 15th, 2019, 4:10 pm

DanPatchToget wrote:
August 15th, 2019, 1:49 pm
I bet Northstar was considered fantasy, and look what happened.

Reopening the Great Northern Depot or Milwaukee Road Depot in downtown to passenger trains is fantasy, but what we’ve been discussing is well within the realm of reality.
Sadly in many ways Northstar is still fantasy. It's currently a incomplete line that has so little service it's a stretch to call it a commuter trail. I enjoy the discussion of the hopes, ideas, and dreams of the vision for a future rail station to service rail lines like the Northstar. However for today I would just be happy with seeing some traction on getting Northstar rail extended to St. Cloud and expanded to more frequent service. I know that would be difficult enough right there but we gotta start somewhere to build the demand for that fantasy rail station so it becomes more of a need instead of just pie in the sky. ;)

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby mister.shoes » August 15th, 2019, 9:55 pm

As the maker of the map, I 100% agree it’s fantasyland. That’s how I roll :-D
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby DanPatchToget » September 10th, 2019, 5:12 pm

I hadn’t realized until now northbound trains from Fridley have to go all the way to Coon Creek Junction to get on the north/westbound main. Would a crossover closer to Fridley help ease train traffic?


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