Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

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jtoemke
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby jtoemke » November 7th, 2018, 7:18 am

Alright, Wisconsin now has a guaranteed 4 years with a Democrat as governor. I say we crank this rail corridor up a notch.

tmart
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby tmart » November 7th, 2018, 9:21 am

Wisconsin still has a GOP supermajority in the state legislature and senate, so while a major obstruction is gone, I wouldn’t expect a lot of cooperation (particularly state money). Remember, what Walker rejected was federal money. It’s possible Pelosi and crew will negotiate HSR cash—she did talk a lot about wanting to make an infrastructure deal last night—but it’s still a much weaker position than the first time around when there were lots of actual dollars set aside.

phop
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby phop » November 7th, 2018, 10:07 am

Edit: not really sure how much say the state legislature has here. Evers could probably find funds somewhere to move this along.

Scott Wood
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Scott Wood » November 7th, 2018, 11:52 am

tmart wrote:
November 7th, 2018, 9:21 am
Wisconsin still has a GOP supermajority in the state legislature and senate
They have a significant majority in each house, but as far as I can tell it's short of a 2/3 veto-proof supermajority (at least in the senate, not sure about the assembly). Hopefully this translates into a fairer map during redistricting.

Vagueperson
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Vagueperson » December 1st, 2018, 10:44 pm

Why does it cost so much money to study a second train that will run on existing tracks?

"Rail planners need $4 million in capital funds to conduct an environmental analysis and generate a service development plan."

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/t ... speed-rail

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Multimodal » December 2nd, 2018, 7:44 am

Wait, high speed rail between St. Paul & Chicago is only *half* the price of the SWLRT project?! Just $1 billion?

Let’s.
Do.
It.

P.S. Why is any legitimate newspaper quoting the Center for the American Experiment?

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby DanPatchToget » December 2nd, 2018, 8:22 am

Why all the money and time to study this second train? Because bureaucracy BS aimed at slowing it down. Meanwhile an airline could add a MSP-Chicago flight tomorrow (assuming any of Chicago's airports has a slot open), and a bus company could easily add another roundtrip between the Twin Cities and Chicago. Most, if not all, of this route used to be double track when it was owned by the Milwaukee Road so I don't see why there needs to be extensive environmental studies. The only real need for studying is where to add more track capacity and negotiating with the railroads.

Don't get too excited about the price tag for that "high speed rail". What they meant was higher speed rail (110 miles per hour), and that would likely be for only one or a few short segments. Its likely the hope would be to continuously upgrade the corridor to higher speed rail standards in phases like what they did with the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

Quoting a right wing think tank is seen as balanced reporting. I don't get it either.

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Bob Stinson's Ghost
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Bob Stinson's Ghost » December 2nd, 2018, 9:58 am

The fall in ridership since 2012 is a bit of a headwind to adding additional service.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Multimodal » December 2nd, 2018, 10:17 am

Cheap gas? More flights? Slow, erratic train service? Any guesses as to the drop in ridership?

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby DanPatchToget » December 2nd, 2018, 10:20 am

Bob Stinson's Ghost wrote:
December 2nd, 2018, 9:58 am
The fall in ridership since 2012 is a bit of a headwind to adding additional service.
Maybe if it wasn't a joke compared to other modes of travel there would actually be good ridership? It doesn't help that when buying a ticket for the Empire Builder you're betting on it not being hours late, especially when relying on the eastbound train coming all the way from the Pacific NW.

This is a chicken and egg situation. Which came first, the good service or the good ridership? You think if European countries had the same type of service as Amtrak they would still have good ridership? Of course not. You think if European countries focused almost all of their resources on roads and air travel like we have that their rail service would be good? No. They have balanced transportation funding while we give much more priority to roads and air travel, and then punish train travel when its not performing well, which at our level of service is pretty much all the time.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Tcmetro » December 2nd, 2018, 11:11 am

I don't think adding a second train is going to be a big improvement to usability in the way that faster speeds would be. A downtown-to-downtown trip by plane and local transit takes about 4-5 hours, while the train is roughly 8 hours. The train is comfortable, but the carriages are dated and the food service is worse than an airport food court. Most of the people taking the train seem to be retired or traveling to smaller intermediate places that do not have bus service.

Additionally, there are about 6 million people in the Chicago suburbs. If the Chicago-side destination is in the suburbs, O'Hare is infinitely better to get out of the the Loop.

If the train could do downtown-to-downtown in four hours with airport access and useful suburban stations, it could be a real competitor. Until the infrastructure improvements happen, any added train service is going to prove marginal in utility.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Multimodal » December 2nd, 2018, 11:42 am

Would downtown to downtown service be more reliable in that it’s not dependent on a train from Seattle? If so, that would be a train that more people would use, and would only benefit from more speed as incremental improvements are made to the line.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby DanPatchToget » December 2nd, 2018, 12:30 pm

It is possible to reroute the Empire Builder (and any other TC-Chicago train) via O'Hare Airport using existing track. There would need to be a junction built in Des Plaines to get back to the original route to Milwaukee, and trains would skip Glenview. I don't know how much of a gain or loss it would be having a station at O'Hare and no longer serving Glenview. The O'Hare Transfer Station looks like it would also need to be rebuilt to make it easier to get to the airport people mover and make it more comfortable waiting for a train.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Tcmetro » December 2nd, 2018, 12:33 pm

It's fine for people who want to ride the train all day or are traveling to the minor stops. Looking at the feasibility study, the optimized option is only offset by four hours from the existing train. I think that the limited difference in schedule means that many of the riders are going to shift from using the Empire Builder.

Chicago to St Paul:
Lv. ~9:30 AM, Arr. ~4:45 PM (option A/B)
Lv. ~10:15 AM, Arr. ~6:15 PM (optimized option)
Lv. ~2:15 PM, Arr. ~10:00 PM (existing Empire Builder)

St. Paul to Chicago:
Lv. ~8:00 AM, Arr. ~4:00 PM (existing Empire Builder)
Lv. ~11:45 AM, Arr. ~7:15 PM (optimized option)
Lv. ~12:30 PM, Arr. ~ 8:00 PM (option A)
Lv. ~2:30 PM, Arr. ~10:00 PM (option B)

http://www.dot.state.mn.us/passengerrai ... ummary.pdf

--
It is possible to reroute the Empire Builder (and any other TC-Chicago train) via O'Hare Airport using existing track. There would need to be a junction built in Des Plaines to get back to the original route to Milwaukee, and trains would skip Glenview. I don't know how much of a gain or loss it would be having a station at O'Hare and no longer serving Glenview. The O'Hare Transfer Station looks like it would also need to be rebuilt to make it easier to get to the airport people mover and make it more comfortable waiting for a train.
The O'Hare Metra station is actually adjacent to the new rental car facility, which the people mover will serve next year. I believe there will be a walkway through the garage to the Metra station.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby DanPatchToget » December 2nd, 2018, 12:51 pm

Tcmetro wrote:
December 2nd, 2018, 12:33 pm
It's fine for people who want to ride the train all day or are traveling to the minor stops. Looking at the feasibility study, the optimized option is only offset by four hours from the existing train. I think that the limited difference in schedule means that many of the riders are going to shift from using the Empire Builder.

Chicago to St Paul:
Lv. ~9:30 AM, Arr. ~4:45 PM (option A/B)
Lv. ~10:15 AM, Arr. ~6:15 PM (optimized option)
Lv. ~2:15 PM, Arr. ~10:00 PM (existing Empire Builder)

St. Paul to Chicago:
Lv. ~8:00 AM, Arr. ~4:00 PM (existing Empire Builder)
Lv. ~11:45 AM, Arr. ~7:15 PM (optimized option)
Lv. ~12:30 PM, Arr. ~ 8:00 PM (option A)
Lv. ~2:30 PM, Arr. ~10:00 PM (option B)

http://www.dot.state.mn.us/passengerrai ... ummary.pdf

--
It is possible to reroute the Empire Builder (and any other TC-Chicago train) via O'Hare Airport using existing track. There would need to be a junction built in Des Plaines to get back to the original route to Milwaukee, and trains would skip Glenview. I don't know how much of a gain or loss it would be having a station at O'Hare and no longer serving Glenview. The O'Hare Transfer Station looks like it would also need to be rebuilt to make it easier to get to the airport people mover and make it more comfortable waiting for a train.
The O'Hare Metra station is actually adjacent to the new rental car facility, which the people mover will serve next year. I believe there will be a walkway through the garage to the Metra station.
Only the riders going somewhere between St. Paul and Chicago would/could shift. Everyone going somewhere outside of that segment will have to stick with the current Empire Builder.

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Bob Stinson's Ghost
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Bob Stinson's Ghost » December 2nd, 2018, 3:10 pm

About a year ago a friend rode the Empire Builder east from Seattle and she said they stopped the train when it entered Montana and walked drug dogs through it. She suffers from Crohn's disease and had picked up some medicine at a dispensary in Seattle. Interrogating her and seizing about a half ounce total of several varieties of flowers delayed the train 55 minutes. It's not just weather causing the delays.

DanPatchToget
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby DanPatchToget » December 2nd, 2018, 3:57 pm

No one ever said weather is the only cause. Another major cause are the freight railroads. Sure they have to give Amtrak priority, but if it's a single track line and there's a freight train coming then Amtrak might have to take the siding and wait. Even worse is if a freight train breaks down or derails and its a single track line. Then you're screwed. My point being there needs to be a major track capacity increase if we're going to add more passenger trains.

jebr
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby jebr » December 3rd, 2018, 9:55 am

Tcmetro wrote:
December 2nd, 2018, 11:11 am
If the train could do downtown-to-downtown in four hours with airport access and useful suburban stations, it could be a real competitor. Until the infrastructure improvements happen, any added train service is going to prove marginal in utility.
I don't think direct O'Hare access is all that critical for its success. Intermediate stops needing airport access could either transfer to the Blue Line or an enhanced North Central Service at Chicago's Union Station (or the 54 bus/future Riverview line at SPUD) or a stop could be added at the Milwaukee airport (which already has the facilities and is on the existing route.) An arrangement could be made with the nearby Hertz or Enterprise facilities in Glenview for rental cars, and Glenview seems to be okay for northern suburb access.

I also disagree that four hours is the make-or-break point for the corridor. If frequency is good, an under-8-hour trip is still relatively comparable to driving if your destination is downtown (the drive itself is about 6 and a half hours, and depending on how often you need to stop total drive time rapidly approaches 7-8 hours.) A six-hour trip starts to become competitive with flights, especially when considering a good portion of that can be uninterrupted work time (flying basically means that much of that 4-5 hour trip is unproductive, so there's the possibility that the additional work time would offset a slightly longer trip time.) At any rate, while 4 hours downtown-to-downtown would be nice, I really don't think that's essential for the train to become very useful for a lot of MSP - Milwaukee - Chicago traffic.


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