Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

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mulad
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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby mulad » September 23rd, 2015, 10:43 pm

I went to the meeting in Hudson this evening. As was mentioned in the invites, Dave Christianson of MnDOT spoke first, though he's retiring in a few days and wasn't there representing the DOT. The second speaker was Scott Rogers, who chairs the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition out of Eau Claire.

Christianson went through some of the information from the previous studies. He mentioned that the Gateway Corridor study had projected 900,000 riders annually if commuter rail was implemented to Eau Claire, though that would just be a pulse of inbound trains in the morning and outbound trains in the afternoon. Up to 400,000 is more likely for a service running back and forth throughout the day with more efficient use of the train equipment.

He said that MnDOT had calculated that a self-sustaining fare for operations would be about $33 for a trip from Eau Claire, which he mentioned is cheaper than the current $39 charged by airport shuttles from Eau Claire to MSP. I'm sure the number is rather fuzzy in reality, but it's good to see that someone put it on par with or better than some of the existing options (Greyhound and Jefferson Lines are cheaper than that, but have problems with frequency and dropping people off at that McDonald's far away from the town center).

He said that the Union Pacific line is now all Class 3 track following upgrades by the railroad over the last few years, which is better than the condition I had reported earlier, theoretically allowing passenger service at 60 mph today, if someone was able to start it. But that really needs to be bumped up to Class 4 track for 79 mph operation.

CTC and PTC signaling upgrades on the line were also mentioned -- apparently Union Pacific is moving forward with installing that on the line as well. Christianson put up an old estimate for track upgrade costs of about $2.5 million per mile in his presentation, but if you look at the improvements to date and signaling upgrades planned for the future, then I'd guess the cost would drop by close to 2/3rds, perhaps making it less than $100 million for the distance from St. Paul to Eau Claire.

There would still need to be stations, train equipment, a maintenance facility, and some cost for track access, but this seems to put it in a territory where it could be realistically funded from a variety of different sources, and without needing the state government's involvement. Rogers talked a bit more about what might work for that, including ideas like TIF for districts around stations and public-private partnerships, but his group is just getting started looking at what be applicable here.

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby mamundsen » October 13th, 2015, 9:40 am

There will be a meeting in Eau Claire on 10/15.

There will be a presentation by the Rail Coalition about passenger train projects being developed and implemented throughout the country, the reasons trains will be important to the economic future of our region, and efforts now underway to lay the groundwork for implementing train service from the Chippewa and St. Croix Valleys to places like the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago. Attendees will also be able to provide input on how they would use such trains when they become available.

"Imagine if you were going to a meeting in the Twin Cities and you had to be in early, instead of getting up early and getting behind the wheel, you'd be able to go to the train station, sit back, fire up your laptop and have a coffee, a snack while you go and not worry about the traffic," Rogers said.


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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby MNdible » October 13th, 2015, 9:49 am

mamundsen wrote:"Imagine if you were going to a meeting in the Twin Cities and you had to be in early, instead of getting up early and getting behind the wheel, you'd be able to go to the train station, sit back, fire up your laptop and have a coffee, a snack while you go and not worry about the traffic," Rogers said.
Now... imagine doing the same thing, but on a bus!

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby grant1simons2 » October 13th, 2015, 10:06 am

Buses can get stuck in traffic. They had the entire eastbound lane on a section of 94 closed on our drive home from Milwaukee on Sunday. You might think, well there's train traffic cause you know, oil. But in the years to come that oil traffic will drop as we start running out of oil. Aren't trains much better for the environment too? I thought that was why so many people liked them. And another point, the mass appeal is for trains, not buses, so if you want high ridership and less cars, use trains.

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby mattaudio » October 13th, 2015, 10:12 am

I do think buses could serve much of this need.

But not when the terminals are located in places like this:
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Greyh ... 118f33ceda

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby HiawathaGuy » October 13th, 2015, 10:13 am

grant1simons2 wrote:Buses can get stuck in traffic. They had the entire eastbound lane on a section of 94 closed on our drive home from Milwaukee on Sunday. You might think, well there's train traffic cause you know, oil. But in the years to come that oil traffic will drop as we start running out of oil. Aren't trains much better for the environment too? I thought that was why so many people liked them. And another point, the mass appeal is for trains, not buses, so if you want high ridership and less cars, use trains.
I think he was making that statement based on costs. And not to burst your bubble, but there are a lot of inaccuracies in your paragraph. Especially your belief that oil trains will decrease in the future. I suppose that's possible - if there's a new pipeline built. But baring that, the Bakken reserves are estimated to last > 20+ years. Which means there will be oil trains around for a long while.

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby mattaudio » October 13th, 2015, 10:17 am

There's already far less Bakken oil being shipped than 2-3 years ago, since OPEC dumped supply in an effort to destroy the Bakken boom.

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby MNdible » October 13th, 2015, 10:23 am

A full bus is much better for the environment than an empty train.

Most of the traffic that a bus on this route would run into is going to be in the east metro along I-94, and there will be HOV lanes the bus can drive in. And remember, you're not driving! You're on your laptop using free wi-fi! So time isn't so important.

I'm not anti-train, and I'm not even necessarily anti-train on this route. But for a fraction of the cost, the time investment, the studies, the everything... let's start running a bus tomorrow and see how many people want to ride it. If that bus gets full, add another. And repeat. Once you get maybe five daily routes that are consistently full, then you've got enough people (once you factor in the possible time savings and rail romance) to start running a train.

And if we can't scrape together the funds to run buses on the route, we should ask ourselves how we think we'd prioritize funding for this compared to other transit needs.

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby HiawathaGuy » October 13th, 2015, 10:25 am

mattaudio wrote:There's already far less Bakken oil being shipped than 2-3 years ago, since OPEC dumped supply in an effort to destroy the Bakken boom.
I actually think the train traffic has increased from 2-3 years ago. Even with OPEC not reducing output in the Middle East, most of the wells in ND have to keep pumping oil to pay their debts. Otherwise they'll go bankrupt. They may be cutting workforce and not drilling new wells, but supply is still high. As soon as oil stabilizes again (assuming the Chinese economy stops skidding), the higher oil prices will drive more well digging in that region again. It's a cycle that will likely continue for many decades.

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby BoredAgain » October 13th, 2015, 11:04 am

mattaudio wrote:There's already far less Bakken oil being shipped than 2-3 years ago, since OPEC dumped supply in an effort to destroy the Bakken boom.
This is the equivalent of saying that there is no such thing as global warming because it is cold today.

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby mulad » October 13th, 2015, 11:20 am

The Energy Information Administration has started tracking this on a monthly basis, so we don't have to speculate about the volume of oil by rail too much. The data lags a bit, but it appears that is down from a peak at the start of this year.

http://www.eia.gov/petroleum/transportation/
http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHa ... N_MBBL&f=M

Anyway, regarding the whole train vs. bus thing, I believe pretty strongly that we need to move in whichever direction encourages the largest number of people onto public transportation in the corridor. As the oil train discussion indicates, there needs to be concerted effort to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets and reduce the risk from moving flammable/explosive materials around. That requires a focus on walkability at the town/neighborhood level, and public transit for inter-neighborhood and inter-city travel.

I still think rail is a better option for many communities in this corridor since the tracks run straight through them or are close enough to be connected with a shuttle. People shouldn't have to put up with standing in the parking lot of a McDonald's or random gas station in order to make an intercity trip. But I still think a rail option is just going to attract a lot more people.

We should have a pilot program increasing bus service in the corridor, though the stop locations need to be chosen in a better way so that passengers don't get stranded miles away from town/city centers.

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby FISHMANPET » October 13th, 2015, 11:55 am

Is oil shipped along this rail corridor? This isn't anyone's mainline is it?
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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby mulad » October 13th, 2015, 12:19 pm

Right, I don't think this line gets used much for oil shipments, if at all. Maybe some ethanol? Though trains on this line have to contend with congestion centered around the Westminster and Division Street junctions northeast of Union Depot in St. Paul.

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby froggie » October 13th, 2015, 4:08 pm

BNSF gets the lions share of Bakken oil train traffic as it's their mainline that goes smack through the oil field, with Canadian Pacific getting the rest. Since this is a Union Pacific line, it doesn't see any oil trains.

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby matthew5080 » February 24th, 2017, 11:27 pm

A push is on for privately financed passenger rail service from Eau Claire to St. Paul's Union Depot, with a stop in Stillwater. Such a train has been official planning policy in Minnesota since 2009, and a Wisconsin county board a few days ago passed a resolution supporting such a project amid concerns from critics that taxpayers will end up with the tab if the private line fails.
http://www.startribune.com/all-aboard-f ... 414763563/

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby Silophant » February 25th, 2017, 10:10 am

It does seem more reasonable to start a privately-financed rail service on existing tracks than to build 90 miles of new high-speed track.

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby Qhaberl » February 25th, 2017, 1:37 pm

I like the idea of building a private funded train line, but what will be the cost? 


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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby Qhaberl » February 25th, 2017, 1:37 pm

I should be more specific, I would imagine that the tickets would be incredibly expensive.


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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby Tiller » February 25th, 2017, 2:54 pm

About the proposed service

From: Eau Claire to St. Paul

Trips: Four a day each way, 1 hour, 20 min. travel time

Fare: 20-37 cents per mile, $32 full-fare St. Paul-Eau Claire but with discounts for regular travel

Connections to: Express bus to airport, light rail, Amtrak, intercity bus, taxi, car rental

Amenities: Wi-Fi, food, drink

Source: West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition

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Re: Twin Cities to Eau Claire regional rail

Postby mister.shoes » February 27th, 2017, 10:45 am

Regional rail like this (moar pleez!) makes LRT for Riverview more appealing, no?
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