Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

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Re: Empire Builder

Postby mattaudio » December 12th, 2013, 5:24 pm

So if BNSF is short crews one week, they'll put their crews on a crude train but not a people train? Seems to me like crude would complain less if it was delayed... and I'm guessing the refineries have intake reserves to moderate supply.

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Re: Empire Builder

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

I would like to see an additional frequency as well. It's very difficult to choose amtrak to Chicago though, considering the airlines and buses are cheaper and faster.

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Re: Empire Builder

Postby commissioner » December 13th, 2013, 12:16 am

Amtrak has their own crews (both operating and on-board) for their trains not BNSF. Basically Amtrak pays BNSF for use of the track and that's it and BNSF has a time slot for them to run and if they are out of that slot, they are screwed.

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Re: Empire Builder

Postby mulad » December 19th, 2013, 7:10 am

Not sure if anything will come of it, but there's some movement to add a stop in Culbertson, Montana, which is roughly halfway between Wolf Point, Montana and Williston, North Dakota -- currently one of the longer runs between stations. They're near the Bakken region and have a north-south highway.

http://www.krtv.com/news/culbertson-wor ... lder-stop/

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby Chauncey87 » January 4th, 2014, 3:01 pm

"Push is on for high-speed passenger trains"

"Advocates for more passenger rail lines in Minnesota will once again request bonding money at the state Legislature in 2014.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Passenger Rail Office is recommending a $27 million bonding request — the same amount as an unsuccessful request last year. On Thursday, the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission, a joint-powers organization that advocates for the implementation of high-speed service between the Twin Cities and Milwaukee and Chicago, supported the bonding request in a resolution."

Read more: http://finance-commerce.com/2014/01/pus ... z2pSw1hBZU

The article also talks about NLX and the second daily to Chicago.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » January 4th, 2014, 4:25 pm

"Eventually, MnDOT wants to run six round trips between the Twin Cities and Chicago a day on trains traveling at 110 mph."
That's not the post promising. Shouldn't it be "Eventually ... 220+ MPH" ??

Also, I wonder if at some point it would make sense to terminate the Empire Builder at SPUD and then through-connect passengers to Chicago. The EB's segment west of MSP is notoriously unreliable from a timetable perspective, and if a train got in late they could connect those passengers on the next frequency to Chicago without burdening the eastbound passengers departing MSP. I'm sure this plays out similarly for the services connecting CHI-STL/MEM/KC long distance routes that also form a large percentage of the Illinois Service frequencies.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby writruth » January 5th, 2014, 2:13 am

Seems very unlikely there will be any progress on true high-speed rail routing through Wisconsin while Gov. Scott Walker continues to hold office. He's consistently opposed millions in federal money to upgrade the Chicago to Minnesota route through his state. And yes, it's a shame we are not even planning to build true high speed rail aka "bullet trains" anytime soon.

Unless the Minneapolis to Rochester Zip Line train is built, the future for development and construction of true HSR appears very unlikely.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby MNdible » January 5th, 2014, 10:45 pm

I know we've had this discussion before, but... Eventually, we'll have transporters and won't need to worry about trains. In the meantime, six departures a day traveling at 110 mph would be a massive improvement, and would make the train preferable to (and time competitive with) air travel for many users. It's not something to poo poo.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby Andrew_F » January 6th, 2014, 9:13 am

mattaudio wrote:
Also, I wonder if at some point it would make sense to terminate the Empire Builder at SPUD and then through-connect passengers to Chicago. The EB's segment west of MSP is notoriously unreliable from a timetable perspective, and if a train got in late they could connect those passengers on the next frequency to Chicago without burdening the eastbound passengers departing MSP. I'm sure this plays out similarly for the services connecting CHI-STL/MEM/KC long distance routes that also form a large percentage of the Illinois Service frequencies.
I guess that point would only arrive if for some reason we are servicing similar equipment here in MSP already-- perhaps once NLX has a maintenance facility. Even then, I would imagine that whatever we are to use on new HSR would be different enough from Superliners that it would really cost a lot to service them here. I believe Amtrak's shops south of Union service most of the trainsets for the western two-thirds of the country. It would be tough to come close to that efficiency through another model.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » January 6th, 2014, 12:30 pm

I have to agree that super-fast trains should be looked at again, but there's unfortunately a tendency to focus on the tip of the spear and not talk much about the fact that a true high-speed line should be integrated into a larger network and not just be a standalone goal.

MnDOT came out with a state rail plan a few years ago which was okay on suggesting routes, but they were all Twin Cities-centric -- not necessarily bad since more than half of the state's population lives here, but they missed the opportunity to add an outstate route (probably the most viable would be Mankato to La Crosse via Rochester), and integration with bus lines in the state (a bit complicated now since Charlie Zelle is MnDOT commish).

A broader problem with Wisconsin's recalcitrance on rail is that they halted work on their state rail plan in addition to the study of faster trains along the existing route. Wisconsin's population is more distributed than in Minnesota, so they have some corridors which don't have to fling a line out through a large empty space (like NLX) -- A route from Milwaukee to Green Bay around the western side of Lake Oshkosh would probably do really well. But we don't really know what routes they were going to propose, and how they might integrate with ideas for Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. And despite some hopes that we might be able to run something through Iowa and avoid Wisconsin, it turns out that Terry Brandstad has turned out to be just as anti-rail as Scott Walker.

(Incidentally, Twin Cities - Rochester - Quad Cities would be a good idea anyway, since it would get halfway to St. Louis -- Twin Cities to St. Louis is a significant gap in the nation's freeway network, so it would have relatively constrained competition from auto traffic, but it's still a pretty long haul.)

The discussion of $27 million for rail planning strikes me as a bit low, especially if we need to sustain planning several routes at the same time going forward. Perhaps its better than I think, but I certainly don't like the trap of starting out a negotiation at the same point it broke down the last time around -- I wish they'd push for something better to start. I know there's been a suggestion for sustained funding of about $10 million by redirecting property taxes collected from freight railroads, which would be okay, but not great. Does anyone know if there's a model out there for using some dedicated stream of funding and then using some sort of a match formula (50:50 or better) to obtain additional dollars from the general fund? It seems unlikely that we'll be able to identify a good source of money without dipping into the general fund somehow.

Anyway, however they get the funds, MnDOT should really hire on a good contingent of engineers and planners for working on intercity rail projects and a -- at the moment, they're very reliant on outside consultants, which can cause significant conflicts of interest.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby David Greene » January 6th, 2014, 10:44 pm

mulad wrote:I(Incidentally, Twin Cities - Rochester - Quad Cities would be a good idea anyway, since it would get halfway to St. Louis -- Twin Cities to St. Louis is a significant gap in the nation's freeway network, so it would have relatively constrained competition from auto traffic, but it's still a pretty long haul.
Twin Cities-St. Louis would be amazing. Even more so if it could continue along the Texas Eagle route at least to Austin. Even to Kansas City would be nice. It's a real pain to take the train to the southwest due to scheduling through Chicago. You're forced to stay overnight.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby David Greene » January 14th, 2014, 11:06 am

http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2014 ... ession.php

Sen. Dibble specifically calls out a second Empire Builder to Chicago.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby MNdible » April 14th, 2014, 3:19 pm

David Greene wrote:I've never really understood why we need HSR to Minneapolis when we just built a $1 billion LRT to connect the cities. If HSR were proposed to go to St. Cloud that would be a different story, but as far as I know that isn't on the table. The St. Paul-to-Minneapolis HSR seems like another ego-driven project like Target Field Station.
Why in the world wouldn't we extend this to Minneapolis? It's where the majority of people will want to go, and there are already tracks that go there. It would be like having the HSR drop you off in Evanston and telling you to take the purple line to downtown Chicago.

[Inflammatory comparison of St. Paul to Evanston, sorry.]

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby FISHMANPET » April 14th, 2014, 3:30 pm

When comparing downtown to downtown travel times, adding an extra 40 minutes and a transfer, compared to 10-20 minutes of seated luxury and no transfer (though maybe a transfer to the light rail to get from Target Field station...) seems like a no brainer, as long as the track and station are there. Though wouldn't a train have to back out of target field station, since it's basically a terminal, at least as service going any direction but Southwest are concerned?

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby mattaudio » April 14th, 2014, 3:39 pm

In Europe, half the seats are "backwards" and thee trainsets run both ways. The new crew walks to the far end of the train at the terminal, similar to how we do LRT.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby Tcmetro » April 14th, 2014, 5:34 pm

IIRC, in Japan the HSR trainsets have seats that can be swiveled into the other direction at the terminal. But, HSR to Minneapolis on existing tracks is a no-brainer as Minneapolis is the economic powerhouse of the Upper Midwest.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » April 14th, 2014, 8:04 pm

MNdible wrote:Why in the world wouldn't we extend this to Minneapolis? It's where the majority of people will want to go, and there are already tracks that go there.
Actually, no. From what I've been told they will need a new river crossing.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby MNdible » April 14th, 2014, 8:48 pm

David Greene wrote:Actually, no. From what I've been told they will need a new river crossing.
I'd be curious to hear why that would be the case.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » April 14th, 2014, 9:42 pm

MNdible wrote:
David Greene wrote:Actually, no. From what I've been told they will need a new river crossing.
I'd be curious to hear why that would be the case.
Me too. I heard this second-hand so take it with whatever amount of salt you would like. This person has proved very reliable in the past.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby FISHMANPET » April 14th, 2014, 9:55 pm

Well, mulad is gonna know way more than any of us, but I can at least follow tracks out of Target Field all the way into SPUD. If that river crossing Northstar currently uses to get out of downtown isn't good enough, then it probably needs to be upgrade anyway.

The biggest problem with Target Field station is that it's basically a terminal station along the main line, so any through running train is going to have to reverse out of the station and turn around at the wye at Harrison and Hennepin, but again mulad would have to speak to how feasible that is.


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