Twin Cities Underground Rail

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RailBaronYarr
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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby RailBaronYarr » December 9th, 2013, 12:54 pm

Alon Levy's work always takes purchasing power parity into account, leveling the playing field on wages.. and we still come out way more expensive than other parts of the world. I think a lot of it has to do with regulations we have in place on where everything is sourced, how it can be built, man power (as you note), etc. It's sad because if we're willing to spend ~$1b on a Central Corridor but could have had it underground for roughly the same price with different/fewer regs in place, an underground system would make so much more sense...

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby FISHMANPET » December 9th, 2013, 1:02 pm

My gut tells me that a developing economy doesn't value a worker as much as we do in regards to paying them to do a dangerous job and also paying to keep the job safe, so I'd bet that even adjusted for PPP, wages for workers are generally lower.

Maybe that's why Spain is so damn cheap, their economy sucks.

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby bandar_seri_begawan » December 9th, 2013, 1:07 pm

Regardless of wages:

Santo Domingo: Population of 965,040 and density of 24,000 per square mile (and their metro is only 17 miles long)

Athens: Population of 664,046 and density of 44,140 per square mile (Urban population of over 4 million and density of 25,230 per square mile)

Cairo: Population of 9,120,350 and density of 44,500 per square mile (Metro population of over 19 million)

Baku: Population of 2,122,300 and density of 2580.6 per square mile... however because the area of Baku is a massive 820 square miles it's probable that the areas that the 21.5 mile long metro actually serves are at a much higher density. Plus it was constructed by the Soviet Union decades ago.

Minneapolis: Population of less than 400,000 and density of 7019.6 per square mile. Hennepin and Ramsey counties have a combined area of 776.51 miles and a density of 2195.4 per square mile, although our vast suburbs make this density hard to compare to some foreign cities. I'm not going to pretend to have much of a grasp of Baku's cityscape, but I have a feeling that (like most European cities) as you move away from the center of the city the density goes from urban to rural without much in between. Actually even looking on Google maps it looks like a lot of Baku proper is pretty much unpopulated.

Minneapolis has a GDP of $192 billion, Houston has a GDP of $399.7 billion (also it seems theses figures are for the metro areas, so it's hard to compare them to cities in other countries). Yeah Houston isn't nearly as dense as us, but NONE of their light rail system is underground.

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby UptownSport » December 9th, 2013, 7:46 pm

I understand Mpls is expecting rapid population growth in future.
bandar_seri_begawan wrote: Plus it was constructed by the Soviet Union decades ago.
Being taken over by the 'Ruskies' briefly would've been a benefit to our transit (and vodka accessibility)?

At the moment, after negotiating frozen bustops and total ridiculous washboard roads (you should have seen us all bouncing in unison on the bus!) I and tens of thousands of other riders really don't care about things like density!!!!
A nice, warm platform to wait for a smooth riding train would be hard to argue with,

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Nathan
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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby Nathan » December 11th, 2013, 2:26 am

Just because this is being discussed and such, these are aerial photos of Helsinki's latest underground line being constructed...

http://taloforum.fi/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1200&p=63417 (link supplied by my friend Ryan some of you may have met at happy hour)

They have a population of about 600k in a metro of about 1.2mil. A population density of about 7300 per square mile.

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby helsinki » December 11th, 2013, 4:57 am

fotoapparatic wrote:Just because this is being discussed and such, these are aerial photos of Helsinki's latest underground line being constructed...

They have a population of about 600k in a metro of about 1.2mil. A population density of about 7300 per square mile.
Thanks for the fotos. Having lived in both Minneapolis and Helsinki, I can verify that the cities (indeed the metros) are strikingly similar in many ways. Each city lies on an extremely flat, watery landscape (admittedly, Helsinki is on the Baltic). They have moderately dense core cities (Helsinki perhaps a bit more, albeit not by much) with rather low surrounding density and sprawling suburbs. They are bitterly cold in the winter, receive significant precipitation, and therefore suffer from a vicious freeze/thaw cycle. They are similar culturally, with the predominantly white Lutheran culture generally inclusive of other social groups, including significant East African communities in both cities. Both cities are overwhelmingly dominant in their respective states (MN is highly centralized on MSP, Finland is higly centralized on Helsinki).

The public transportation in Helsinki is better than in MSP, but it isn't amazing either. The streetcar system is extensive, of high quality, on-time and user-friendly. The metro is limited. The commuter rail is extensive as well, although I suspect that this has contributed to the sprawl of Helsinki's suburbs. Inter-suburb public transportation is generally difficult and slow. The commuter rail system terminates at the Central Railway Station, making it highly centralized (unlike, for instance, a typical German S-Bahn system that is funneled through an underground spine of highly-used stations).

An important lesson Helsinki can teach MSP, I think, is that, despite how sprawling we are, we can still support underground rail. There seems to be a misperception that you can't have a proper metro line unless you are a European capital or an Asian mega-city. The argument typically proceeds thus: "We're so spread out. Only a few people need to go between point A and point B, so it doesn't make sense. We're not Paris or London." The problem with this is that, in downtown Minneapolis, you have extremely high densities of employment. I'd venture well over 100,000 people work within one square mile of downtown (despite its other ills, the skyway system - and zoning - seems to have clustered our office towers tightly together). This hyper-density is ill-suited to car commuting; it's the proximate cause of the barren parking lots and plethora of hideous parking ramps that plague downtown's periphery. At rush hour it creates unavoidable bottle-necks (or the system has been over-engineered to connect to every single street - See: Hiawatha Ave on-ramps and the resultant massive waste of space, the stubby tragi-comic farce of 394 jamming its way into downtown with Soviet-sized parking facilities straddling "the cut", or indeed the 3rd and 4th St mile-long on-ramps adding further proof that the one-way street system is a terrible idea). Underground rail into downtown would allow for a more natural form of development: less car storage and more productive land uses. I think this is a strong argument for at least putting the LRT spine underground (DTE, Gov't Plaza, Nicollet, Hennepin).

Helsinki is spread out like MSP with many trips made by car, but it combines a metro with streetcars very well. I think it tends to be forgotten that transit is not supposed to be for all trips. It will never serve the person going from Shakopee to Eagan, nor should it. The car is the proper travel mode for that trip. The car is not the proper travel mode to go to downtown Minneapolis, however. If the 160,000 people who work there and the 30-40 thousand people who live there were all going to drive, there would be nothing downtown except car storage facilities (which sometimes feels like the reality of downtown Minneapolis anyway).

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby mattaudio » December 11th, 2013, 8:45 am

helsinki wrote:I think this is a strong argument for at least putting the LRT spine underground (DTE, Gov't Plaza, Nicollet, Hennepin).
Sounds like a good reason to build my proposed dual-level (SFO Market Street-esque) tunnel under 6th St. This would get the most bang for the buck with our tunneling costs, even if not implemented all at once. It's also unfortunate that Target Field and the Vikings Stadium were lost opportunities to cut expense for the portals on both sides of DT.

The upper level would serve as the E/W LRT trunk.
Stops at The Interchange (connecting to heavy rail oriented on BNSF Wayzata Sub NE/SW axis and future HSR terminal), Nicollet (with street-level connections towards Hennepin and Marquette, with future connectivity to N/S LRT trunk under Nicollet), Government Center, Downtown East, and emerging above grade just north of the stadium.

The lower level would serve as the E/W heavy rail trunk, primarily for commuter and regional services to allow full interlining of Mpls and SPUD for all services. This is modeled after the Center City Connection in Philadelphia, which connected SEPTA districts which were previously served by the Pennsy and the Reading. Stops would be at the Interchange, Nicollet/Government Center (the platforms would connect to mezzanine levels for both LRT stations), and DTE/West Bank.

Trackage would either connect via a sharp curve and portal around the Ford Building, or reclaimed industrial ROW extending across the dual-track former NP bridge north of Broadway, down the west bank to the Strib plant, then through parking lots near 10th Ave N, around the Heywood Garage, and into the 6th Street dual tunnel with a portal under HERC. On the east end of DT, it could curve around the SE side of the new stadium underground, under excess 35W ROW, and emerge north of 1st St to cross the NP #9 bridge.

There would of course be two operating districts at The Interchange since this corridor and the existing Wayzata Sub are perpendicular. Most commuter/regional trains coming from St. Paul would be interlined with commuter trains coming from the north (such as Northstar) via this alignment. HSR and other services terminating in MSP from the east would use the existing platform arrangement. Commuter/regional coming in from the southwest would funnel together at St. Louis Park (including the potential for a well-serviced station at West End), stop at the Interchange, and head to Mpls Jct before heading east to SPUD.

If we actually had a vision for something like this and we took steps to get there alongside other projects where efficiencies could be realized, we wouldn't be that far away from it. Besides the tunnel itself, most of these engineering challenges would have been relatively low cost alongside existing major earthmoving projects on both ends of downtown.

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby mattaudio » December 11th, 2013, 8:48 am

And before anyone thinks it can't happen... look an aerial shot of either downtown in 1950, and then the same shot 2 decades later (or today). Look how much our urban freeways have changed our built environment. Not just the freeways themselves, but all the land uses around them. All of the condemned ROW (as Mike Hicks once mapped). Our leaders had that vision over a half century ago. Granted, their vision blighted our cities and set many neighborhoods back a long ways (not to mention how they gave the finger to low income communities in the way of their freeways). But the point is that with the right vision and matching political will, our future can look different.

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby twincitizen » December 11th, 2013, 9:24 am

Excellent point about the stadiums (Target Field and new football stadium) not taking advantage of the opportunity to accomodate future underground portals. Perhaps less necessary at Target Field, but the football stadium site seems like a huge missed opportunity to at least study how we would put the Green/Blue spine underground in the future. That stadium is going to be around for a long, long time (at least 30 years, but hopefully 50+). I'd hope we put our increasingly busy LRT spine underground before then. That football stadium is going to require a ton (many thousands of tons actually) of excavation. Would it really cost that much more to plan for a future tunnel next to it?

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby mattaudio » December 11th, 2013, 10:07 am

Unfortunately the county and met council are still in 80s mode when it comes to a regional transit system. A different vision is needed.

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby MNdible » December 11th, 2013, 11:24 am

Again, stupid planners fail to accommodate the pet fantasy projects of UrbanMSPers. When will they learn?!

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby mattaudio » December 11th, 2013, 12:32 pm

I'm wishing you were around to stand up to the Robert Moses wannabes 60 years ago who had pet fantasy projects that actually got built and nearly destroyed our cities.

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby twincitizen » December 11th, 2013, 12:36 pm

Does a tunnel for our downtown (stadium to stadium) LRT spine really fall under the category of "pet fantasy projects of UrbanMSPers"?

We're not talking about a year 2075 100-mile LRT network here... OK, mattaudio sort of was, but I was referring specifically to the failure to even study portal locations adjacent to the stadiums. It seems like a prudent thing to do, no? I'm not saying build underground stations in the stadiums that go unused for 50 years, but maaaybe an engineer should spend a few hours thinking about how that would work if the tracks were to dive underground somewhere in the vicinity of the new football stadium. Is that really too much to ask of a billion dollar project funded primarily by the public? I don't think it is.

Our current surface LRT arrangement will be maxed out at 10-min headways for each (Blue & Green) line. This volume of LRT traffic alone is going to wreak havoc on N-S traffic trying to cross 5th St. We have no room to increase downtown LRT frequency beyond 2014 levels, short of further reducing the number of streets that cross 5th Street and giving even greater priority to trains. Even Metro Transit likely wouldn't be on board with that, as it would further erode running times for buses on all N-S streets (Marq2, Nicollet, Hennepin).

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby MNdible » December 11th, 2013, 1:10 pm

I'm not saying that a tunnel for LRT through downtown doesn't make sense (although the double tunnel that Matt keeps harping on is truly stretching the bounds of what's realistic). I'm not saying that planners shouldn't be thinking about it. But what doesn't make sense is to condemn planners when they don't build very specific things to accommodate a very specific conceptual idea that hasn't been publicly vetted.

And we seem to do an awful lot of that on this board.

There are a number of instances where a lot of money has been spent to accommodate future plans that, by the time they actually get around to being built, aren't able to use the accommodations because the original builders guessed wrong. If we fall into a great deal of money and are able to build an LRT tunnel under Minneapolis, and if it does get built under 6th, then they can spend a little bit of extra money at that time to connect it to the stadiums.

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby mattaudio » December 11th, 2013, 1:15 pm

MNdible wrote:There are a number of instances where a lot of money has been spent to accommodate future plans that, by the time they actually get around to being built, aren't able to use the accommodations because the original builders guessed wrong.
Thankfully most of those things were ghost ramps (280/94, 335 at 35W) or bridges (the never used bridge at Hiawatha and 46th St) to urban freeways that were never built.

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby RailBaronYarr » December 11th, 2013, 1:27 pm

MNdible wrote:If we fall into a great deal of money and are able to build an LRT tunnel under Minneapolis, and if it does get built under 6th, then they can spend a little bit of extra money at that time to connect it to the stadiums.
There's a $1 billion surplus! Does anyone have Dayton's cell number??

I think what mattaudio's (and others on here, as pointed out) plans show is that there seems to be a lack of continuously evolving, out of the box ideas thrown at the board from our transportation and land-use folks. Lots of lacking coordination, a set "plan" (like that map of regional LRT/BRT lines we'll likely see forever) shape the thinking path of agencies for decades. MNdible is right that most ideas we toss around here have massive potential hurdles in feasibility/cost/priority, but it seems like some higher-up folks might do well to welcome some ideas from outside the organization (very dangerous thought there, I know).

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby talindsay » December 11th, 2013, 1:39 pm

twincitizen wrote:Does a tunnel for our downtown (stadium to stadium) LRT spine really fall under the category of "pet fantasy projects of UrbanMSPers"?
I think the capacity issue on 5th is on everybody's minds, including the planners. But it's going to be a bitter pill to swallow when it finally is required, because it's going to be extremely disruptive and expensive to build, and so they're looking at how to maximize the corridor as it currently exists, for as long as possible and for as much use as possible, before anybody turns seriously to the tunnel question.

I would go so far as to say that if both Southwest and Bottineau get built before 2025 I would be *shocked* if there isn't a tunnel replacing (or supplementing) the tracks on 5th by 2050. But in planning terms that's a long time in the future, and nobody wants to handle that political hot potato until it's abundantly obvious that we really, actually need it. I would say that as soon as trains are operating both from Edina Prairie to Saint Paul and from Maple Park to the airport (*smirk*) we'll see planning documents for an AA to evaluate solutions to the 5th Street problem. But at the moment there's no evidence that we'll ever really *need* it even though anybody who's paying attention would say of course we'll need it.

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby mattaudio » December 11th, 2013, 1:56 pm

Except for platform congestion, the downtown LRT will have the same number of tracks running next summer as it will in 2025 when Southwest and Bottineau are running. Not sure how those two extensions will make it any worse.

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby talindsay » December 11th, 2013, 2:13 pm

They won't, of course. But they'll increase overall ridership.

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Re: Twin Cities Underground Rail

Postby UptownSport » December 11th, 2013, 7:46 pm

My thought was to complete sections in increments- As funds became available. I read this was the idea of the "S-Bahn", but I wasn't sure exactly how that would work ...
Obviously (again, take these as examples only, NOT suggestions of routes!!!!!!!!!!) if one were to tunnel under, or cut 'n cover Lyndale, and stop at Lake, the line could continue operating as it was extended South of Lake- Much like the Hiawatha ballpark extension.

Putting a tunnel under 5th would likely require existing line to close during construction- "disruptive and expensive"


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