Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

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mulad
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Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

Postby mulad » August 6th, 2012, 3:47 pm

Something fun has appeared in the pipeline in today's Passenger Rail Forum meeting -- It sounds like there are early plans to spend around $1.5 or million in existing funds to figure out how to get passenger trains running quickly and reliably between the Saint Paul Union Depot and the Interchange in Minneapolis. I've seen this idea brought up before -- I think there was a TIGER grant request at least once (actually described as a "high-speed" connection, though I imagine it would be really challenging to pull off >79 mph anywhere between the two. Maybe...).

Ultimately, I doubt this will be anything all that exotic -- probably just adding extra passing sidings along the CP line from SPUD to Midway and then along BNSF rails to the wye near Central Avenue in Minneapolis. But we can all dream, can't we? I know I've come up with a bunch of kooky and not-so-kooky routings for this problem over the years.

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Re: Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

Postby ECtransplant » August 6th, 2012, 7:18 pm

If they laid an extra line of track with the CC they could have had express trains.

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Re: Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

Postby LRV Op Dude » August 6th, 2012, 7:53 pm

by ECtransplant
If they laid an extra line of track with the CC they could have had express trains.
There is no room to lay down a 3rd track next to Green Line.
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Re: Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

Postby ECtransplant » August 7th, 2012, 1:06 am

Perhaps not above ground in many places.

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Re: Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

Postby mattaudio » August 7th, 2012, 9:24 am

Here's to hoping they decide to someday go for a new dual-level tunnel under 6th street, so that underneath LRT we could have a heavy rail connection between NP#9 and Dinkytown trench all the way to the Interchange.... http://goo.gl/maps/ztZcB We can dream, right?

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Re: Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

Postby UptownSport » August 12th, 2012, 11:05 am

ECtransplant wrote:Perhaps not above ground in many places.
Nope.
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Re: Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

Postby mulad » September 10th, 2012, 4:34 pm

There was another Intercity Passenger Rail Forum meeting today (it's usually on the first Monday of a month, but Labor Day happened last week). Not a whole lot to report, though Mn/DOT is going to use their previous TIGER grant request (from 2010, I think) as a starting point. They plan to look at two routes -- the Canadian Pacific "Short Line" route that the Empire Builder currently uses, and the southern BNSF line through town which runs just on the north side of Pierce Butler Route.

Something that they intend to include this time around which wasn't present in the last go-around is traffic modeling between Saint Paul Union Depot and The Interchange. The letters "RTC" were tossed around ("Rail Traffic Controller", apparently) -- I'm not sure if that refers to a specific software package or rail traffic simulation in general.

Since Ramsey County seemed to get good results by engaging the freight railroads early in their East Metro Rail Capacity Study, Mn/DOT plans to do the same with this study. There wasn't any plan or request to allocate any funds yet,but Dan Krom of the Passenger Rail Office said they'd like to get something out there as early as next month (though it seemed like it'd probably be a couple of months before a request would be ready).

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Re: Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

Postby mattaudio » September 10th, 2012, 4:50 pm

It seems the operational benefits of through-running SPUD favor the Short Line, but apparently the MNCR section to BNSF requires hand-thrown switches. Yet I can't imagine using the BNSF tracks without having to back out of SPUD, unless I'm missing something.

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Re: Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

Postby mulad » September 10th, 2012, 5:03 pm

Yeah, unless someone wants to start tunneling or do something silly like loop through the West Side Flats area via the UP, I don't see any way that the BNSF route can be used without reversing moves -- for trains heading up/down the Mississippi River, anyway. The BNSF route probably has value for any trains coming up from Rochester, if/when that ever happens, since they'll probably use the Robert Street lift bridge to get to SPUD and would actually be pointing in the right direction. It's probably not worth worrying about that for a few years, though.

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Re: Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

Postby mattaudio » September 19th, 2013, 9:51 am

Here's what I'd like to see in the short term that do not seem to be addressed in planning documents:
- Some Union Pacific west side connections to help address congestion on the Downtown side between Pigs Eye and Fordson Jct. http://goo.gl/maps/jjBDa
- MnDOT or a rail authority explore purchasing the CP Merriam Park Sub between Union Depot and Midway Station, and potentially buying easements or adding a passenger track along the BNSF Midway Sub between Midway Station and Minneapolis Junction
This should be plenty for planned services including an additional EB or commuter rail from the east metro continuing to Minneapolis via SPUD.
Far down the line, if we see increased expansion of commuter rail and electrified ZipRail or HSR to Chicago, there are a few options to increase capacity on the Minneapolis end.
http://goo.gl/maps/597iX
- In conjunction with the eventual need for an east-west LRT spine to replace 5th St at grade, build a second level for heavy rail like the Market Street tunnel in San Francisco. This can serve commuter or passenger rail coming from the north/northwest through Minneapolis to the east metro, such as extending Northstar to St. Paul. These platforms would be at a lower grade but could be located on land thats currently HERC and the Heywood Garage.

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Re: Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

Postby Mdcastle » September 19th, 2013, 2:01 pm

I take it the whole Red Rock line is not happening so they're just looking at advancing the portion between the downtowns.

Any talk of extra stations- with the short line you could have one by the Wild Arena, and with the BNSF you could have one at the U and the State Fair/Energy Park?

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Re: Downtown-to-Downtown Rail Capacity Study

Postby mattaudio » September 19th, 2013, 2:50 pm

Yep. If there was interlining of downtown to downtown services on one or two trunk routes, it could provide for decent connectivity to regional transit spines and destinations.

On the northern (BNSF Midway) route, eastward:
NE Mpls, Stadium/Como, Snelling/Energy Park, Phalen/Swede Hollow/Etc

On the southern (NP#9, CP) route, eastward:
Downtown East, Dinkytown Trench, University/Cleveland, Snelling/Selby, West 7th.

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Re: Target Field Station (née The Interchange)

Postby FISHMANPET » January 30th, 2014, 10:30 am

I think we need some kind of fast shuttle between the two downtowns, maybe with a stop at Snelling and the University. Something that runs on existing freight tracks and starts and terminates at the Interchange and Union Depot. 39 minutes on Central Corridor to get between the two stations is kind of a bear.

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Re: Target Field Station (née The Interchange)

Postby mattaudio » January 30th, 2014, 11:37 am

I agree, which is why I hope someday we can interline regional/commuter/etc trains between SPUD and the Interchange. Hoping a public agency preserves and improves the CPRR Merriam Park Sub and MNNR connection past the old Midway Station.

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Re: Target Field Station (née The Interchange)

Postby talindsay » January 30th, 2014, 12:16 pm

FISHMANPET wrote:I think we need some kind of fast shuttle between the two downtowns, maybe with a stop at Snelling and the University. Something that runs on existing freight tracks and starts and terminates at the Interchange and Union Depot. 39 minutes on Central Corridor to get between the two stations is kind of a bear.
Something of an RER equivalent for fast express travel, layered atop the Métro equivalent that (sort of) is our light rail network? I agree, it would be great, especially since a viable heavy-rail corridor already exists along this stretch. For one, it would be a more useful thing to do with the Northstar fleet while they sit downtown all day. I think four stops would be appropriate: DT Minneapolis, U of MN East Bank, Snelling Ave, and DT St. Paul. Maybe set up as continuations of Northstar trains during the rush hours, and once hourly the rest of the day.

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Re: Target Field Station (née The Interchange)

Postby mattaudio » January 30th, 2014, 12:18 pm

This is why I hope that someday, when we decide grade separation is necessary for the Blue/Green lines, we build a dual-layer tunnel. The lower level would be like the Center City Connection in Philly or the BART/MUNI relationship under Market Street.... allowing for all passenger heavy rail services to fully interline between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

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Re: Target Field Station (née The Interchange)

Postby David Greene » January 30th, 2014, 12:28 pm

talindsay wrote:Something of an RER equivalent for fast express travel, layered atop the Métro equivalent that (sort of) is our light rail network? I agree, it would be great, especially since a viable heavy-rail corridor already exists along this stretch. For one, it would be a more useful thing to do with the Northstar fleet while they sit downtown all day. I think four stops would be appropriate: DT Minneapolis, U of MN East Bank, Snelling Ave, and DT St. Paul. Maybe set up as continuations of Northstar trains during the rush hours, and once hourly the rest of the day.
While I really like this idea, especially since I'll be using the Green Line to go from downtown to downtown for my commute, I wonder how much it would really be used. The Green Line wasn't designed primary to shuttle people from downtown-to-downtown but rather to serve the people making trips all along the corridor. I assume there's data somewhere that shows how many people travel from downtown to downtown (ridership on the 94 for example). My guess is that there aren't enough to justify the expense of running commuter trains between the downtowns, even with the stops you've outlined.

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Re: Target Field Station (née The Interchange)

Postby FISHMANPET » January 30th, 2014, 12:42 pm

I think that as time goes on, and we have more commuter rail and intercity rail, it's going to be easier to have some services only serve a single station, rather than both.

Then again, in London the main stations are all connected by Tube and not by additional intercity services, so maybe we should just suck it up and accept the 39 minutes.

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Re: Target Field Station (née The Interchange)

Postby twincitizen » January 30th, 2014, 12:50 pm

The problem with that Union Depot to Target Field commuter rail scenario is that 99.999% of downtown employees don't work at Target Field or Union Depot, but several blocks further into the core. By the time you shuttle yourself from the commuter rail depots to your final destination (by bus, foot, or bike it's at least 5-10 minutes), how many minutes are you actually saving over the Green Line or Route 94 that go right through the CBD? An express connection between the 'towns on existing freight track is not the answer. Improved frequency and reliability on the 94 with HOV/HOT lanes is.

Food for thought: how fast could trains even travel on the existing freight track between the downtowns? Mulad might be able to answer that.

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Re: Target Field Station (née The Interchange)

Postby Tcmetro » January 30th, 2014, 1:36 pm

Agree with twincitizen. Route 94 should be upgraded to 10 min frequency. End-to-end trip times are something like 20-25 minutes, and service could have ticket machines to speeding up boarding. All we need is MnDot to put in managed lanes and direct ramps to/from the CBDs.


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