Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » April 15th, 2014, 1:26 am

I don't know much about that other than to agree with the other guys that this sounds like BS. There are two tracks for most of the distance between Target Field and the junction with the Midway Subdivision. There's a short segment of single-track right where the passenger spur for Target Field station splits off (probably done to avoid the cost of a full double-crossover) and the legs of the wye at Harrison Street / Minneapolis Junction are also basically single-tracked. The bridge isn't a capacity constraint, as far as I can tell, but the surrounding track is.

Parts of bridge are very old, however -- it was originally built in 1893 and was remodeled in 1926. The truss span next to Nicollet Island was added in 1963 to allow river navigation farther north (put in as part of the project to add locks to St. Anthony Falls, which also mangled the Stone Arch Bridge). It should probably be replaced within the next decade or two, but that all depends on whether it's shifting/decaying or not. But it seems to be a no-brainer to set up another nearby station whenever that happens, such as at the University of Minnesota.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » April 15th, 2014, 7:31 am

I was going to say the same thing... convert that pinch point at the south end of the existing bridge to a full double crossover, and double-track the wye curve towards St. Paul. This would allow independent routing of BNSF trains from Wayzata towards Northtown OR Midway while simultaneously allowing passenger rail to access the Interchange from Midway. I am also a proponent of MnDOT slowly building a dedicated passenger ROW between SPUD and the Interchange... especially procuring the CP Merriam Park Sub, and dedicated trackage through the MNNR yard to the south side of the BNSF at Midway (and eliminating the human switching by the MNNR).

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby kellonathan » April 15th, 2014, 11:06 am

In addition to the ROW, Target Field station would probably need to go through some expansions as well.

I remember there were some renderings of passenger concourse on top of the current Northstar platform for the phase 2 of the Interchange project. Anyone know where I can find those images again?
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby David Greene » April 15th, 2014, 11:13 am

kellonathan wrote:In addition to the ROW, Target Field station would probably need to go through some expansions as well.
That is a central part of the rail layover issue. Segmentation is explicitly disallowed by NEPA but they're doing it anyway. By segmenting the project planners can delay or avoid environmental studies and the community doesn't know which project to concentrate on, because every project says, "no, it's that *other* project, not us!"

Moreover, government agencies keep telling Harrison that, "this won't happen for 30 years, why do you care?" They care because the neighborhood is effectively being held hostage until this is resolved. No developer is going to consider building on Linden Yard East with the possibility of diesel train layover and maintenance in the future.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » April 15th, 2014, 11:15 am

Hopefully we can move rail layover discussion to the Interchange thread.

Regarding more trains to Chicago: Imagine that we are able to add not only one, but two (or possibly three) trains to Chicago.

Imagine it's something like:
- 808 (existing) departing at 8 AM
- 818 (new) departing at 12 PM
- 828 (new) departing at 4 PM

Then imagine eastbound EB (8+28) shows up more than an hour late. Just hold it, and combine it with the next train (8+28+818). Or if it's 5+ hours late, combine it with the afternoon departure (8+28+828).

This would probably preclude the use of Talgo-style articulated trainsets unless there was a way to just have the two trains coupled end to end (heck, TGVs do this out of Paris, splitting further out of the city). This would also require at least two spots at most intermediate stations, but Amtrak already seems to do that most of the time.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby ProspectPete » April 15th, 2014, 1:13 pm

A bit off topic: has there been discussion that there could be a dedicated train between SPUD and Interchange? I know I read it somewhere here, can't seem to find the thread.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby David Greene » April 15th, 2014, 1:58 pm

ProspectPete wrote:A bit off topic: has there been discussion that there could be a dedicated train between SPUD and Interchange? I know I read it somewhere here, can't seem to find the thread.
It's called the Green Line.

And Route 94.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » April 15th, 2014, 2:04 pm

Yep, I can't imagine we'll see a dedicated MSP-St. Paul express rail service. The one thing that would make sense, however, is if future regional/commuter/intercity heavy rail was routed to service both stations and both downtowns.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby ProspectPete » April 15th, 2014, 4:10 pm

I was referring to like an intercity rail. The green line will get me there (eventually) after crossing 20+ intersections, and who knows how times the train will have to grind to a stop due to red lights, or incompetent drivers.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby David Greene » April 15th, 2014, 4:13 pm

ProspectPete wrote:I was referring to like an intercity rail. The green line will get me there (eventually) after crossing 20+ intersections, and who knows how times the train will have to grind to a stop due to red lights, or incompetent drivers.
Take Route 94 if speed is your primary concern.

Now the fact that Route 94 serves neither the Depot nor the Interchange is an entirely different issue driven as much by egos as it is planning.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby FISHMANPET » April 15th, 2014, 4:15 pm

The 94 isn't exactly a cup of tea either. I suspect that some day we'll see some kind of express rail service between the downtowns, either as its own service or just commuter/regional rails from all over converging and going to both stations.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » April 15th, 2014, 4:20 pm

David Greene wrote:Now the fact that Route 94 serves neither the Depot nor the Interchange is an entirely different issue
I wonder when we'll see bus service at the Interchange :lol: :lol:
But yes, the 94 kinda stinks. Especially the express fare when its ridership does not consume expensive P&R parking. Someday I hope to see a combination of interlined regional/intercity/commuter heavy rail between both stations, and HOT lanes on 94 that make the service more comfortable and reliable.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby David Greene » April 15th, 2014, 4:27 pm

mattaudio wrote:
David Greene wrote:Now the fact that Route 94 serves neither the Depot nor the Interchange is an entirely different issue
I wonder when we'll see bus service at the Interchange :lol: :lol:

But yes, the 94 kinda stinks. Especially the express fare when its ridership does not consume expensive P&R parking. Someday I hope to see a combination of interlined regional/intercity/commuter heavy rail between both stations, and HOT lanes on 94 that make the service more comfortable and reliable.
Say we do get interlined intercity passenger rail between the downtowns. Is it drop-off only or will people be allowed the board? If the latter, what's the fare? It seems like it should be something higher than the general transit fare because otherwise, why bother with HOT lanes and an upgraded 94?

Realistically, how many people travel from downtown to downtown? Sure, people coming in from outside the city can catch transit now (and I will do that with the Green Line) but does it really make sense for people to transfer to heavy rail for this short ride? Myself, I'll just stay on the Green Line from West Lake all the wat to the Depot and get a lot more work done.

It seems like the only natural regular users are those who live in one downtown and work in the other.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » April 15th, 2014, 4:32 pm

Re: Intercity rail. The primary value would be serving boarding/alighting passengers from both downtowns to/from destinations such as Elk River, Eau Claire, or Chicago. But a value add can be offering express downtown-to-downtown service. Seattle's Sounder does this with Amtrak Cascades trains: http://www.soundtransit.org/Fares-and-P ... ares?tab=4

Re: 94. The 94 would be a much more attractive transfer option if it weren't an express fare. For example, the fastest route from my house may be the 14 to the 94. But it's $0.75 cheaper to go 14>53 or 46>74. This express fare penalty for the 94 needs to end.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby Chauncey87 » April 15th, 2014, 4:59 pm

ProspectPete wrote:A bit off topic: has there been discussion that there could be a dedicated train between SPUD and Interchange? I know I read it somewhere here, can't seem to find the thread.
It is right here.

https://forum.streets.mn/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=280

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby talindsay » April 15th, 2014, 5:04 pm

We're getting *WAY* ahead of ourselves (like fifty years, probably) but there's plenty of precedent for a service model wherein *ALL* trains - intercity, high-speed, commuter, etc. - that serve both downtown hubs charge a universal fare on a universal ticket for the hop between stations. In other words, under this model an Empire Builder departing SPUD could be boarded for $2.25 on a Metro Transit ticket to go from SPUD to TFS. This approach is widely used in Europe - all rolling stock that covers local stations as part of its service become a de facto local service within that service area. To me this would be the logical thing to do. So the express connection between the two hub stations could be cobbled together out of whatever rolling stock is already covering the connection. I've stood in the loading area of many a European intercity train to get from one local station to another. They're already running, no harm providing a place to stand.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby ProspectPete » April 16th, 2014, 3:03 pm

50 years!?
Sigh. You are probably right. Its frustrating how these projects proceed a such a glacial pace. We are conservative in the true sense of the word: we just don't change much and when we do its with extreme caution.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles (not a fair comparison but I'll do it anyhow): "within the next calendar year, Metro could have an unprecedented five rail projects being built simultaneously that will add about 29 miles of rail to the existing 87-mile Metro Rail network. All five projects are also receiving significant funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008."
The above quote is from this article:
http://thesource.metro.net/2014/02/20/f ... connector/

Sorry this probably doesnt belong in this thread

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Re: Empire Builder

Postby mulad » June 14th, 2014, 5:41 am

Yesterday's freight derailment between Elk River and Ramsey, which caused the cancellation of Northstar, also forced the Empire Builder to go on its old route through Willmar. A few people were even let off at the old Willmar station.

http://www.wctrib.com/content/freight-d ... k-detour-4

Here's a nice chase video from a guy who posted a bunch of things to the Empire Builder Facebook group

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10 ... permPage=1

A video from the Willmar stop he posted to YouTube:


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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder

Postby Silophant » June 17th, 2014, 6:04 am

Does anyone know what came of the study on a second daily Empire Builder from Chicago to St. Cloud? All I can find on the MnDoT and mnhighspeed rail websites is that it was supposed to be complete by early 2014.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder

Postby mattaudio » June 17th, 2014, 7:46 am

They could add two or three services, and then just tack on the EB long distance train to whichever one fits, if late. This would guarantee better timeliness MSP-CHI, the RRs would have known slots during the day, and the long-distance train would still work out. I can't imagine there's a hold up, other than rolling stock.


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