Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

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fehler
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby fehler » November 30th, 2012, 10:10 am

Read an article that Menards will soon be flying employees from Eau Claire to Minot for one week shifts, living in hotels, to staff stores in the booming region.

This is crazy. And got me thinking about Intercity rail.

Is Minnesota pursuing the wrong approach? Should instead of focusing our efforts on the St. Paul-Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago line, would it be better (and politically be easier) upgrading a high speed rail link from St. Paul-St. Cloud-Fargo-Grand Forks-Minot?

Amtrack Empire Builder is 9 hours, 20 minutes. Overnight Friday and Sunday tickets are $126 round trip. That's not much an improvement over driving, for time. But cheap enough that people should wake up to the advantage of ND jobs sitting there waiting for you to take them.

How quickly could an "improved" (Acela) train go? How about a true high-speed? How short would the trip need to be to incentivize people into commuting daily from Minneapolis-Minot? Is a four hour ride, with a four-day shift, and return possible?

If the eventual goal is full high-speed rail between the east and west coasts, why not start with this segment, rather then building out of the "major" cities first? Isn't Minneapolis "big" enough?

Tcmetro
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby Tcmetro » November 30th, 2012, 10:49 am

For 125 mph operation you need grade separation on the line. This is why Midwest HSR plans top out at 110. In any case, I doubt there are diesel trains that operate faster than 125, so electrification is needed if we want any kind of speed.

As for the capabilities of the Acela train, I recently saw a video of testing on the NEC at 170 mph, and some portion of the line has been improved to 165 mph.

As for an HSR line to North Dakota? I would be quite skeptical. Chicago is a city of 9 million and has connections to the rest of the (heavily-populated) Midwest. Fargo has 200,000 people, and beyond is the rest of North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho.

High speed rail from the East to the West coasts is never going to happen, unless the trains are running 500 mph and run non-stop across the country.

UptownSport
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby UptownSport » November 30th, 2012, 6:16 pm

Yes, I'm not sure the goal is E-W coast connection at this point, perhaps think of this as a subset ...

You could start a thread to discuss a Dakota line, would be interesting to hear more about ridership

Seems the world record diesel line is 125MPH (Google) although it will 'top-out' faster

I just don't see any value in making the line marginally faster but not significantly so-
I do see a real value to business in being able to move people and goods from Twin Cities to Chicago quickly, predictably and economically.
125MPH (or 110) doesn't do this any more than the current line, making it a non-option for business.

To make it competitive with airtravel, speed would have to be over 200MPH. I believe this should be the standard, and at current pace, a reasonable one for estimated completion date (a generation)

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby MNdible » November 30th, 2012, 6:59 pm

UptownSport wrote:I just don't see any value in making the line marginally faster but not significantly so-
I do see a real value to business in being able to move people and goods from Twin Cities to Chicago quickly, predictably and economically.
125MPH (or 110) doesn't do this any more than the current line, making it a non-option for business.
This has been discussed before, but I just don't buy this line of thinking.

It would be noticably faster than the current situation because:

1. Obviously, the train is going faster. Like 50% faster.

2. This plan would eliminate a lot of at grade conflicts, likely add double track to reduce conflicts with freight, etc. It will make the trip smoother and more predictable.

3. Does it eliminate some stops vs. the Empire Builder? I'm honestly not sure about that, but I'd guess it does.

How long does it really take to get from downtown Minneapolis to downtown Chicago by plane? I'm thinking if you count all of the mode transfers, TSA time, etc., you're looking at 4 hours best case. 110 MPH rail is competitive with that, and for my money it's a much less stressful trip.

O'hare is a mess, and delays there are frequent. Midway is better, but air travel isn't the easy, glamorous mode of travel that it once was.

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Andrew_F
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby Andrew_F » November 30th, 2012, 7:42 pm

Not only does Ohare suck, so does the Blue Line. It's a long slog to get out there.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby twincitizen » November 30th, 2012, 8:52 pm

About as long as the slog to Union Depot in St. Paul? ;)

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby twincitizen » November 30th, 2012, 8:57 pm

I hope this doesn't take us too far off track, but what kind of potential does HSR to Chicago have to reducing air traffic at MSP?

I guess one of my biggest secondary hopes for HSR is that we'd stop flying noisy gas-guzzling jets to Chicago umpteen times per day. A 4-hour train ride that is competitively priced would go a long way towards doing that, especially as fuel costs continue to rise. I don't think I'd ever drive to Chicago again, unless of course the train only ran once per day!

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby UptownSport » November 30th, 2012, 9:52 pm

MNdible wrote:
It would be noticably faster than the current situation because:

1. Obviously, the train is going faster. Like 50% faster.

2. This plan would eliminate a lot of at grade conflicts, likely add double track to reduce conflicts with freight, etc. It will make the trip smoother and more predictable.

3. Does it eliminate some stops vs. the Empire Builder? I'm honestly not sure about that, but I'd guess it does.

How long does it really take to get from downtown Minneapolis to downtown Chicago by plane? I'm thinking if you count all of the mode transfers, TSA time, etc., you're looking at 4 hours best case. 110 MPH rail is competitive with that, and for my money it's a much less stressful trip.
At 110MPH 400+ miles would take about 4 hours, IF train could average that speed.
Add in stops, reduced speed areas, accel / decel time and it'd take hours more-
My memory is the upgrades transit time would go from 8 hours 16 mins (At current 79MPH MAX) to 7hrs-
Can't find the post on Minnescraper

In short;
aircraft takes only one hour, but it ends up being more, as MNDible explained
Just as travel to airport, TSA, booking, boarding are finites, the same holds true for train stops, etc.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » November 30th, 2012, 9:57 pm

MNdible wrote:3. Does it eliminate some stops vs. the Empire Builder? I'm honestly not sure about that, but I'd guess it does.
I believe the 110-mph proposals for the corridor to Chicago have suggested adding a station or two -- I think there was a suggestion to add a suburban stop around Cottage Grove. The train might also hit the Milwaukee airport stop (currently skipped by the Empire Builder and only served by the Milwaukee-Chicago Hiawatha). The MKE airport stop might also get used by the "second Empire Builder" currently being studied. (Too bad the airport stop is over a mile away from the terminal building -- you have to take a bus to it.)

I think they're still planning a 5h30 trip time from SPUD to Chicago for 110-mph HSR (averaging about 75 mph).

Apologies as I wander off-topic for a moment, just since western trains were mentioned a while back:

As for the opposite direction, it might be possible to justify higher speeds to North Dakota if a train were to continue to Winnipeg -- the city is only around 50 miles farther from the Twin Cities than Chicago. I'm not sure if the MSP-YWG travel demand would be all that great, but the Winnipeg, Grand Forks, and Fargo metro areas are 730k, 100k, and 210k in population, respectively, spread out along a 220-mile corridor. That's probably not too far removed from the viability of the NLX corridor (Winnipeg is obviously a lot smaller than the Twin Cities, but I think travel demand is more closely tied to the size of the small terminal city than the larger one). Anyway, it could be considered as two overlapping services -- considerable travel demand between cities on the northern end, plus a good amount of intrastate travel in Minnesota and FAR/GFK to MSP.

Winnipeg is about halfway along VIA Rail's Vancover-Toronto Canadian, which doesn't have any connections to the U.S. other than from its termini. Even plain 79 mph trains wouldn't be too bad considering that it costs around $450 for a direct flight from MSP to Winnipeg at the moment. A train ticket would probably be priced in the $80-$160 range, so plenty of people would choose a slower train over a faster jet.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby Didier » December 1st, 2012, 9:54 am

Maybe North Dakota could kick in some of its oil money to help speed things up (pun somewhat intended).

I'd also love to see Minnesota do more to embrace our Canadian neighbors. There is a perception that Minnesota is "almost Canada," but outside of the State Fair adding poutine to the menu it's hard to find a lot of meaningful connections. I can't even think of one local business that advertises itself as "Canadian." Aren't there enough expats here to justify some guy opening up a hole in the wall that sells Molson and streams hockey all day? I don't know if a train to Winnipeg is the answer, or if it's justifiable, but I'd love to see more done to "open the borders." *

*Says the guy who went to a Tragically Hip concert last night

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby Didier » December 1st, 2012, 10:02 am

I might be testing the limits of a move to "Anything Goes," but just as an another example:

Last year on a whim I decided to go up to Thunder Bay for a weekend and see what it's all about. To be sure, it's a dump, but it was kind of disheartening to see that the closest Canadian city to Minnesota seemed to have many more ties to Detroit than it did it to Minneapolis. Thunder Bay is even on our TV weather maps!
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby UptownSport » December 1st, 2012, 5:59 pm

mulad wrote:I think they're still planning a 5h30 trip time from SPUD to Chicago for 110-mph HSR (averaging about 75 mph).
We can do better- And need to. Some steam trains would do over a hundred MPH. Ridiculous

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » December 1st, 2012, 6:47 pm

That was the top-end speed, not average. The historic trains took about 6h15 to go from Chicago to Saint Paul, which is slower than what has been proposed. And I've heard at least once that the 5h30 number would actually be from The Interchange (Minneapolis) to Chicago rather than SPUD, so a SPUD-CHI train could be as low as 5 hours.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby UptownSport » December 1st, 2012, 7:22 pm

mulad wrote:I think they're still planning a 5h30 trip time from SPUD to Chicago for 110-mph HSR (averaging about 75 mph).
mulad wrote: The historic trains took about 6h15 to go from Chicago to Saint Paul,
A 45 min (Or even giving you an hour) improvement over 100+ year old steam train tech is the best we, the most powerful nation on earth can do?
I'm not impressed in the least. We can and should do better because there is better, an has been for decades

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby MNdible » December 2nd, 2012, 2:03 pm

I'm sorry you're not impressed. Why don't you go to Washington and convince some congressmen that an investment in rail makes sense?

In the meantime, I'd still argue that a 5h30m trip is competitive with air travel and would capture a significant chunk of the travel over this route.

min-chi-cbus
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby min-chi-cbus » December 2nd, 2012, 2:12 pm

UptownSport wrote:
mulad wrote:I think they're still planning a 5h30 trip time from SPUD to Chicago for 110-mph HSR (averaging about 75 mph).
mulad wrote: The historic trains took about 6h15 to go from Chicago to Saint Paul,
A 45 min (Or even giving you an hour) improvement over 100+ year old steam train tech is the best we, the most powerful nation on earth can do?
I'm not impressed in the least. We can and should do better because there is better, an has been for decades
I agree. I am ALL for the investment by the Government (the left side anyways) into HSR but it HAS to be state-of-the-art, not just a slight upgrade over Amtrak. I realize this can't be done overnight but start with the NE, CA and the Chicago hubs and go from there. In spaces between cities where the distances between stops is several hundred miles, the top speeds reached by HSR should be WELL OVER 200 mph!

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby 612transplant » December 2nd, 2012, 7:08 pm

Didier wrote:Maybe North Dakota could kick in some of its oil money to help speed things up (pun somewhat intended).

I'd also love to see Minnesota do more to embrace our Canadian neighbors. There is a perception that Minnesota is "almost Canada," but outside of the State Fair adding poutine to the menu it's hard to find a lot of meaningful connections. I can't even think of one local business that advertises itself as "Canadian." Aren't there enough expats here to justify some guy opening up a hole in the wall that sells Molson and streams hockey all day? I don't know if a train to Winnipeg is the answer, or if it's justifiable, but I'd love to see more done to "open the borders." *

*Says the guy who went to a Tragically Hip concert last night
I've thought for some time that an MSP to Winnipeg HSR would make a lot of sense, but assumed that the international politics of funding it make it almost impossible...

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby ECtransplant » December 2nd, 2012, 7:09 pm

Apologies for starting to drift off-topic, but while we bicker about our pathetic rail service, Japan is building mag levs.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... Japan.html

UptownSport
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby UptownSport » December 2nd, 2012, 8:53 pm

perhaps they could sell us the old bullet trains ...

Maglev speed would be the answer- I wonder what time it would reduce trip to?

I understand that guideway must be highly precise so ground composition is important-
And entire guideway needs to have 'windings' (copper=expensive) along both bottom edges

mplsjaromir
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mplsjaromir » December 3rd, 2012, 8:23 am

All we need first is Japanese levels of population density and a dirigiste government and we are set for maglev bullet train construction.
Last edited by mplsjaromir on December 3rd, 2012, 9:45 am, edited 1 time in total.


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