Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

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min-chi-cbus
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby min-chi-cbus » December 6th, 2012, 6:08 pm

I still don't know what your point was.....but maybe somebody else does.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby UptownSport » December 6th, 2012, 7:09 pm

Point was thread was about rail to chicago- Their discussing rail that would (ultimately) tie to chicago is under that umbrella, not just twin cities

min-chi-cbus
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby min-chi-cbus » December 7th, 2012, 7:51 am

I can't say I love the MSP to CHI route on that map.....it zigs and zags too much to be as efficient as it could be. Now I realize it does this to capture the large population centers, but I can now see why this route with its zig-zag features and the large # of stops (6) could be one of the least efficient branches of the Chicago spoke system. Also, WI's anti-HSR stance of late hasn't helped anything.

Probably why it'll be funded last among the purple routes.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby UptownSport » December 7th, 2012, 3:46 pm

From one of the High Speed Rail websites, from some of their other map legends, we'll be getting Very High Speed Rail in 2015 ...
In short, I wouldn't put much stock in the map.

I agree on efficiency; My thought is train primarily needs to be as fast as possible between the two metropolises-
So shortest distance and few stops.
Madison is large enough and nearly in direct path to warrant a stop- Milwaukee too far out of the way.

Even if it doesn't stop in your particular burg, you'd still be ahead by driving to the station and getting lightening service to Mpls / Chi / Madison, as opposed to a watered down regional train where you just as well drive the entire distance.

I believe delays by the political climate is a good thing- by the time project rolls around very high speed rail will have been built in California, and hopefully will be more the standard, and Maglev will be more accepted

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Andrew_F
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby Andrew_F » December 7th, 2012, 4:54 pm

I'm not sure where you're proposing to get money to build a greenfield route between Madison and Chicago. Milwaukee is actually a lot less out of the way than a lot of people think. Additionally, if anything is going to go true high speed in the midwest, it's going to be Chicago to Milwaukee. You're not going to get Wisconsin to pony up much money for the route if it doesn't connect Madison and Milwaukee. It's a stretch to imagine getting enough to build greenfield MSP-Rochester-LaCrosse-Madison-MKE-Chi in the next century. Cut any of those out and there's not a chance.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mplsjaromir » December 8th, 2012, 9:21 am

Why in the world would you ever build a high speed rail line between Chicago and Minneapolis and not include Milwaukee? That has to be one of the most ignorant statements I have ever read. Maglev is dumb too.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby Tcmetro » December 8th, 2012, 9:58 am

It depends if HSR is built to Rockford. Rockford-Madison is not that far, and a trip bypassing Milwaukee could save something like 20 minutes. In reality it is unlikely for HSR to be built to Rockford, but MSP-CHI is one of the largest travel pairs in the Midwest, and cutting Milwaukee and Rochester along the way could save something like a half-hour, which is very important to air travel competitiveness.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby ECtransplant » December 8th, 2012, 12:00 pm

mplsjaromir wrote:Maglev is dumb too.
Yes the newer, faster, better technology is dumb. :roll:
A very American attitude when it comes to transportation.

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Nick
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby Nick » December 8th, 2012, 12:12 pm

ECtransplant wrote:
mplsjaromir wrote:Maglev is dumb too.
Yes the newer, faster, better technology is dumb. :roll:
A very American attitude when it comes to transportation.
His statement wasn't graceful, but highlights that a lot of what's in this thread is fantasy. Which is okay, but keep in mind that there are actual plans we can implement to have improved rail service from Minneapolis to Chicago. Maglev is not one of them. Shinkansen-style bullet trains connection Mankato and Fargo...probably not going to happen either.

The reason the Northeast Corridor is the only part of the US that has rail service comparable to Europe isn't just because the General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy [/sarcasm], it's because that's the only part of the US that has density similar to Europe. Not just people per square mile in cities, but the actual spacing of towns and cities in the country. Most of the US west of Chicago is empty space. It's not a great use of very limited funds to string catenary for a greenfield rail line connecting just thousands of people.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby ECtransplant » December 8th, 2012, 2:07 pm

Yeah, you're right. But even in the NEC we suck. I'd hardly compare the Acela, which is the best we can do, to European or other international lines.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » December 8th, 2012, 4:46 pm

Regarding the route to Chicago and the places it should go through -- if you map out Minneapolis to Chicago with a great circle tool, the straight-line path takes you right down the Mississippi River until roughly La Crosse, and then cuts across southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, probably running a bit south of Madison. The distance from MSP to Midway Airport is 349 miles, while the distance via rail from Target Field to Chicago Union Station is around 420 miles (following the current Empire Builder route) -- only about 20% farther. Going absolutely direct could have its own problems -- the Mississippi River isn't exactly straight (though the old Chicago, Burlington and Quincy tracks on the east side are straighter than the west bank's former Milwaukee Road trackage -- too bad the east side is more sparsely populated) and once you exit the river valley, there's the Driftless Area to contend with (not exactly mountainous, but a lot of up and down going on...). Going faster, at least without completely busting the budget, probably involves skirting around the Mississippi valley and the Driftless Area as much as possible -- otherwise a super-fast train would need tons of bridges, tunnels, cuttings, and embankments, which means pretty massive environmental impact. There are flatter areas where the impact wouldn't be quite so bad, and speeds could be higher to compensate for the longer distance.

Anyway, I hear the argument that the NEC is the only place for true HSR in the U.S. pretty often, closely followed by the idea that it can only work in the NEC, California, and a bit in Florida. I really think that's way too conservative. From the studies I've seen, I think there are probably around 20 or 30 corridors around the country that would work. Mostly they'd radiate out from the East Coast and into the Midwest, but a few routes could radiate out of Atlanta and Texas could support a small network all by itself. The Pacific Northwest has been slowly moving in the direction of faster rail for a long time, and obviously California is trying to build something as well. A route between Denver and Albuquerque would probably make sense, and the plans for HSR from the Los Angeles area to Las Vegas could pretty naturally extend to Salt Lake City if a good route through the mountains can be found. Los Angeles to Phoenix also seems to make sense.

The NEC doesn't work nearly as well as it should -- while the top speed on the corridor is or will soon be 160 mph (up from 150), the average speed still isn't that great. True HSR lines in other parts of the world have average speeds in the range of 125 mph, yet the Acela Express is barely nudging 80. Yet even at that slow pace (plus with roughly half of the intercity trains running even slower as Northeast Regionals, and lots of commuter trains running slower than that), the corridor runs a surplus of around $300 million each year, so imagine how things might look if the average speed could get raised to be on par with HSR in other countries.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby UptownSport » December 8th, 2012, 11:42 pm

In any case, sounds like the federal is going with HrSR Chi-MKE,
http://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0134

In that reality Mpls rail's going to MKE, direct link from Madison to Chicago would be the only way for Mpls to bypass MKE.

Germans had a HSR train from Cologne to Berlin, as I see it it has six stops. The last leg is 180 miles non stop.
I recall the ride (and most of what was between major cities on other German intercity routes) to be mostly small towns & farmland.
It was definitely HSR; have photos of the marquee to prove it.

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Nick
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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby Nick » December 9th, 2012, 1:12 am

mulad wrote:Anyway, I hear the argument that the NEC is the only place for true HSR in the U.S. pretty often, closely followed by the idea that it can only work in the NEC, California, and a bit in Florida. I really think that's way too conservative.
For sure, I realize it's certainly physically possible, I just meant with our funding situation.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby UptownSport » December 9th, 2012, 6:16 pm

Circumstances change, and so do perceptions-
Any number of things can happen and are happening to change circumstances
Fuel costs / availability and gov't emissions standards could become very costly.
At some point a nut will get his hands on a SAM and damage an airliner- (One country already has missile defenses on its commercial aircraft) Air travel will instantly fall from favor-
Trains are opposite on efficiency and risk, and are only becoming faster

Maglev, for one, promises not only more speed, but increased safety and efficiency, while having low maintenance costs.

So, at some point the funding will become available

Here's Cologne to Berlin speed as promised, sorry about unsteadiness

Image

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » December 10th, 2012, 4:48 pm

Well, money has always been the primary reason why the country hasn't invested in faster train service, whether true HSR or just at moderately enhanced speeds. But the funding situation just comes down to decisions made by the public and the politicians who represent us. I know detractors often complain that "we can't afford it", but that's really not true. There was a report just a couple months ago that $750 billion is being wasted by the Medicare program every year. Billion, with a "b". We've also got a hugely bloated Department of Defense, and of course we've got a tax code that allows big companies and wealthy individuals to skirt around making proper payments. With sensible reforms, it would be possible to free up more money than we'd ever need to build a robust system.

Now, if you get down to it, I'll admit that a high-speed rail system is not at the top of my list of what the country should spend its money on -- there are issues of health and poverty that are much more important -- but it's a mistake to think that a country of 300 million people should only tackle one challenge at a time. Politically liberal folks also have a tendency to start out negotiating from a compromise position, but that tends to be a mistake. I'm going to keep pushing for what I think is the best option as much as I can -- I'll accept compromises as need be, but for intercity rail lines to be successful, you need to have a good base-level combination of speed and frequency. Too little investment, and you'll end up with a failure, particularly if the goal is a self-sustaining service that doesn't require operating subsidy.

Of course, conventional-speed and enhanced-speed trains up to 110 mph or so have the advantage that they can be implemented relatively quickly. Once we get one or two lines under our belt, it should only take around 5 years to go from proposal through design/environmental work and construction before reaching opening day. True HSR lines will take longer simply because they'd tend to go on greenfield alignments requiring more property negotiations and more intense environmental scrutiny.

Anyway, people have been thinking about HSR in the U.S. since the 1950s -- some initial interest seemed to have been spurred by the Japanese Shinkansen, and the issue has kept coming up again roughly every decade. On each cycle, we've learned more about what worked and what didn't, which technologies have been able to live up to their promise and which ones haven't. We finally had the Acela appear in 2000, and the first Amtrak trains outside the NEC began running at 110-mph in revenue service earlier this year due to funding put out at the tail end of the Bush administration and the beginning of Obama's term.

The funding wall is beginning to crack. It'll be a while before the trickle becomes a stream and then a river on par with highway spending, but we do probably need some time to build up the workforce to design, build, and operate these routes anyway.

Long story short: Despite the recent Tea Party backlash against rail, we're probably in the best position we've ever been in, and things should get better down the line.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby MNdible » December 10th, 2012, 5:21 pm

I'm all for advocating for true HSR, but there are a number of people here who have taken the position that we shouldn't pursue 110mph service because... well, I'm not going to try to re-state their reasons, because they don't make sense to me and I won't be doing them any favors. Basically, because it's not true HSR.

To me this seems completely ridiculous. There's existing demand between MSP and Chicago, and that's for a service that takes too long and is too unpredictable. To suggest that making this service faster, more reliable, and more frequent isn't something we should fight hard for just baffles me. Over the relatively short distance between Chicago and MSP, 110mph service will be competitive.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby min-chi-cbus » December 11th, 2012, 10:43 pm

MNdible wrote:I'm all for advocating for true HSR, but there are a number of people here who have taken the position that we shouldn't pursue 110mph service because... well, I'm not going to try to re-state their reasons, because they don't make sense to me and I won't be doing them any favors. Basically, because it's not true HSR.

To me this seems completely ridiculous. There's existing demand between MSP and Chicago, and that's for a service that takes too long and is too unpredictable. To suggest that making this service faster, more reliable, and more frequent isn't something we should fight hard for just baffles me. Over the relatively short distance between Chicago and MSP, 110mph service will be competitive.
But let's put it into perspective here.....the HSR upgrade to 110 mph will make the MSP to CHI trip, what, 7 hours? And this is suredly an upgrade from the 8-9 hours it currently takes on Amtrak, but the cost is ENORMOUS for that tiny upgrade!! I think people want to see a lot more bang for their $billion if there is going to be an investment. It's kind of like adding 1 lane of capacity to a freeway that needs 6 lanes and currently has 2. If the extra upgrade is incrementally less to be at "super high speeds" then let's just wait for that instead of putting all of the heavy up-front costing into a system that will be out of date the minute it's completed.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby MNdible » December 11th, 2012, 10:50 pm

Per Mulad, the 110mph service was estimated to take 5hr 30min. That's a real improvement that's worth the money. Let's not wait.

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby UptownSport » December 12th, 2012, 2:00 am

MNdible wrote:a number of people here who have taken the position that we shouldn't pursue 110mph service because...

Basically, because it's not true HSR.
You haven't paid attention to what's been written or are unable to understand it.
Just as well to say we're simply against good things. :(

Train times, from Minnescraper, which appears to be back up ... http://minnescraper.com/forums/viewtopi ... 580#p69580

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Re: Intercity rail to Chicago

Postby Andrew_F » December 12th, 2012, 5:23 am

Seems easily worth it to me, though of course I currently travel that route around a dozen times annually. :P


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