Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

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woofner
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby woofner » July 2nd, 2015, 2:47 pm

Sorry if this was covered when we were last talking about this two or more years ago, but why do they assume superliners are required? Seems like single level cars would be cheaper. Not that they're trying to make the 2nd train affordable, since they're assuming at least $95m in capital costs for a line that already sees traffic vary by well over one train per day.
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » July 2nd, 2015, 2:55 pm

I agree. The reason is probably because they want to cut down on the number of times they have to spot the train at intermediate stations with shorter platforms. But I don't know why they couldn't just have an announcement and request that people disembark from a designated car (maybe the lounge car or something) in the middle. And if you have a larger group that's in one car, then do a second spot.

I have no idea why we need to study this so much for so long. There are over 70 flights a day between cities in this corridor... over 40 alone between MSP and CHI. It will NOT be hard to fill up a second train. Why not just DO IT already?

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby MNdible » July 2nd, 2015, 3:46 pm

Because Scott Walker will need to agree to fund half the cost?

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Mikey » July 2nd, 2015, 4:30 pm

MNdible wrote:Because Scott Walker will need to agree to fund half the cost?
HSR from Milwaukee to Madison should already be running :evil: :evil: :evil:
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby twincitizen » July 2nd, 2015, 5:59 pm

What if Minnesota & Illinois just pay for it and it won't stop in Wisconsin at all?

Joking and also not joking.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Silophant » July 2nd, 2015, 6:40 pm

Works for me.
mattaudio wrote:The reason is probably because they want to cut down on the number of times they have to spot the train at intermediate stations with shorter platforms. But I don't know why they couldn't just have an announcement and request that people disembark from a designated car (maybe the lounge car or something) in the middle. And if you have a larger group that's in one car, then do a second spot.
They already put little notes above each passenger's seat with the stop they'll be leaving at, presumably so the attendants can make sure people don't sleep through overnight stops. It would be super simple for them to walk through and tell the two or three people that need to get off at Tomah or wherever that they'll be arriving in 15 minutes, and they need to make their way to the lounge car to disembark.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » July 6th, 2015, 2:03 pm


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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Anondson » July 6th, 2015, 2:20 pm

Good stuff. Felt the rage flowing through your veins. And entirely justified.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » July 16th, 2015, 3:11 pm

http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/observation- ... rvice.aspx
WTF, Soo/CP ripped out the double track in the early 1990s? WHYYY!

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby froggie » July 16th, 2015, 5:58 pm

Mostly likely due to the combination of the cost of CTC implementation plus that was still before the renaissance in freight rail traffic.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » July 16th, 2015, 11:24 pm

I'd be pretty surprised if CTC was implemented that late on the line, considering it had in-cab signaling dating back to the 1920s. I haven't found any specific information about the old Milwaukee Road corridor to the Twin Cities, but I've found references to other parts of their system getting CTC in the 1950s.

I'd put my bets just on the general trend of the '80s and '90s where railroads were ripping out infrastructure left and right, though if you have some more specific info, it would be nice to know. There was a lot of excess capacity to start out with. Well, it looked that way, at any rate. I suppose Amtrak's travel reliability has been the canary in the coal mine for a long time, since their services operate much faster than freight and are more susceptible to disruption.

A mixed passenger/freight line is kind of like a narrow highway where cars can go 70 but trucks are limited to just 35 or 40 -- it works okay if there isn't much traffic, but once things back up, it turns into a big mess really quickly. Making rail infrastructure more efficient for freight by ripping out unneeded track made investors and accountants happy, but made it much more difficult to restore or add passenger service.

I don't really think there's been a renaissance of freight traffic -- it's been a pretty continuous slow build for decades. The country's population is almost 60% higher than it was when Amtrak began, but the freight rail network shrank dramatically in that time. A depressing lack of foresight by the folks who tore all that stuff out.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » July 17th, 2015, 8:55 am

Makes me wish we could have an incremental build out of a MSP-CHI dedicated passenger line. The only remaining mainlines are UP (CNW), BNSF (CB&Q), and CP (MILW) right? It's a shame we let so many roads be dismantled, especially in western Wisconsin.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » December 28th, 2015, 11:34 am

The discussion on the Northstar thread got me wondering: Could an additional frequency from MSP to Chicago be extended to St. Cloud to provide this regional link? We're already considering serving SPUD, MMM, and Coon Rapids-ish. It could also serve a station at Elk River or Big Lake, then St. Cloud. If this additional Amtrak service couldn't be managed out of the Amtrak yard in Chicago, maybe it could operate out of an expanded OMF at Big Lake.

Also, what has been discussed for rolling stock for this hypothetical service? Superliners and single-level Amtrak rolling stock seem stretched thin. Existing Illinois Services use Amfleet and Horizon cars with P42 power. The planned/stalled Black Hawk was going to use Nippon Sharyo trainsets. And there were, of course, "surplus" Wisconsin-built Talgo trainsets, but those got snapped up by Oregon.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby FISHMANPET » December 28th, 2015, 11:46 am

2 of the 4 scenarios considered in the study of the second daily train went to St Cloud. Mulad posted the link at the end of the last page. I could have sworn I wrote words on it, but apparently not.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » December 28th, 2015, 11:55 am

Speaking of:
Amtrak sees big drop in riders through Twin Cities
http://www.startribune.com/amtrak-sees- ... 363599201/

I'm not surprised. We used to take Amtrak to Chicago once or twice a year, if we had a little extra time to spare. But after our most recent trip getting into Chicago in the middle of the night 10 hours late, we haven't taken it since. When you can fly to Chicago for 6,000 avios points on American, or a few thousand Southwest points to Midway, or *worst case* $75-100 per person each way... it's really hard to justify taking a train that could be 10 hours late.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby jw138 » December 28th, 2015, 2:59 pm

I really want to love Amtrak and really want to see it be successful but I doubt either will ever happen without significant changes. Heck, maybe it's just not possible... Every time I travel to Chicago I always check Amtrak first but have rarely ever bought a ticket. Instead, I either choose to fly, take Greyhound, or the Megabus. To illustrate why, I chose a cheap day to travel (Thursday, February 18th) with little demand and gathered the following data:

Amtrak: $68 (7 hours 55 minutes)
Greyhound: $24 (7 hours 44 minutes)
Megabus: $5 (7 hours 55 minutes)
Spirit Airlines: $41 (1 hour 35 minutes)

There were several options for most modes, I chose the cheapest and fastest. I also ran several other dates but the data was similar. Outside of Megabus in these samples (it's generally closer to $20), this is usually very similar to what I see whenever I check.

I just can't see how Amtrak can compete in the St Paul <-> Chicago corridor. Without federal subsidies and the actual profitable routes on the east coast, Amtrak wouldn't exist. Is it going to take a high speed network to turn things around or is there anything else that can be done? And if it does take a high speed network, is it even remotely feasible that ticket prices could be kept low?

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby grant1simons2 » December 28th, 2015, 3:31 pm

-1

This is a great breakdown of how it usually is for me too. I check out Amtrak, see a $122 ticket for a round trip to Chicago. Check a flight to see I could go for $109 in 1.5 hours. Then see how cheap the buses are. It's the same deal for Milwaukee too! Amtrak either needs to reduce its prices, or figure out how to speed up the trains a great deal more than they are now.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby FISHMANPET » December 28th, 2015, 4:14 pm

Spirit is deceptively cheap. $41 gets you a place to put your butt and a purse or briefcase or small back pack. If you want to carry on, that's $35 generally, checked luggage is $25. Also that 1 hour 35 minutes isn't really realistic, because how much earlier do you have to get to the airport to go through security and such. Granted it was really busy at the airport, but when I flew out of O'hare the 24th, it was about 4 hours and 40 minutes from the time we got off the blue line in Chicago to the time we were waiting for the Blue line back here in MSP (20 minutes of that was waiting for our checked bag). And that was Spirit, for the record. My wife and I paid $180 round trip with 1 checked bag each way.

So it was still cheaper than Amtrak, and overall less time (and far more reliable than the eastbound Empire Builder). But if there was HSR to Chicago that took 4.5-5.5 hours, I'd gladly take that as the time is of higher quality (not an hour spent standing in a security line). For me roundtrip, since I'd be going downtown to downtown, it'd probably be faster overall (20 minutes to airport on blue line, 30 or 40 minutes to the loop on CTA vs 10 minutes to Target Field on the Blue line and not very many minutes from Union Station to hotel or whatever). I'd even gladly pay more than I would for a Spirit ticket to be on a train, because my wife doesn't like flying and would be much more relaxed on a train.

But as it is, Amtrak is kind of a crummy deal.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Nick » December 28th, 2015, 4:38 pm

MORBIDITY ALERT:

The airport vs. train station time savings thing has always struck me as kinda weird as eventually someone's gonna do something on a train that will even those security measures out.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby FISHMANPET » December 28th, 2015, 4:42 pm

I mean, airport security it pointless theater anyway. There have been train bombings in Europe and those haven't made us step up security here in the US.

Even more Morbid: even if we put heavy security in busy places like SPUD, Chicago's Union Depot, maybe Milwaukee, some ebil terrist can jump on in a place like Winona where there's no station staff and carry his bomb right on board or whatever. So we're screwed either way. Who wants to help me dig a fallout shelter?


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