Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

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DanPatchToget
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Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby DanPatchToget » August 26th, 2017, 9:23 pm

Years ago I remember reading about a proposal for light rail in Rochester, I believe connecting between downtown and Rochester International Airport. Nothing developed since then, though I wonder if the Mayo expansion could spur discussion again.

Now an at-large Duluth city council candidate is proposing a light rail loop-http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/opinio ... ect-duluth

I don't know about light rail considering in the Twin Cities we can barely get a third LRT route under construction, but are there any highly traveled routes in Duluth, Rochester, St. Cloud, etc. where ABRT, BRT, streetcar, or LRT should be studied?

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Tiller
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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby Tiller » August 27th, 2017, 12:27 pm

Man, yesterday I tried laying out a light rail loop like was described in that article (and a couple other articles/posts) for Duluth, and while rail transit in Duluth would be nice, his proposal isn't feasible. He wants it to be a single direction/track elevated loop that would be long enough to serve spirit mountain, the Miller Hill mall, UMD, Downtown Duluth, the Lake Superior Zoo, and I think the airport was mentioned at one point. No way that could work out.

If you had a line from UMD to downtown/canal park, you could probably make that work if you kept costs low. I would even be in favor of extending it out to the marginalized areas of west Duluth if they did some rezoning and tried to spur development out there. But there's no one talking about that right now.

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby DanPatchToget » August 27th, 2017, 2:12 pm

Do you have a link to his specific proposal/route? Going all the way from Spirit Mountain to UMD seems very impractical if its only going to be in one direction. I'm not an expert on travel patterns in Duluth nor the geography, but it seems some type of transitway on Grand Avenue and then Superior Street would be the best bet for a starter line and then assuming thats successful expand to other areas of Duluth (UMD, the airport, Canal Park, etc.).

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby Tiller » August 27th, 2017, 4:52 pm

I just placed some of the destinations he said it would serve on a map (like spirit mountain and UMD) and looked at the kinds of ROW between them that he suggested using (highways, railroads, part of skyline Parkway). I couldn't find any kind of map or detailed description of it online, though he would probably be willing to give a more detailed answer if someone were to contact him.

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby David Greene » August 27th, 2017, 7:31 pm

Seems the hill would be a rather large problem, no? Unless there are some abandoned rail corridors around.

Rebuild the funicular!

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Tiller
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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby Tiller » August 27th, 2017, 8:30 pm

David Greene wrote:
August 27th, 2017, 7:31 pm
Rebuild the funicular!
+ 1

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby gopherfan » August 28th, 2017, 11:31 am

Here's my Duluth routing idea with phasing, primarily meant to serve the transit-reliant West Duluth. Duluth has potential to be the next 'Portland' or 'Seattle' type city, it's just missing transit. When and if Northern Lights Express happens, connecting a system to this could help the city immensely with tourism. https://drive.google.com/open?id=1U1yu_ ... sp=sharing

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby go4guy » August 28th, 2017, 5:38 pm

Rochester is currently working on a comp plan for transit. It appears fixed rail is out, and will most likely be enhanced bus. Anyone know the cost difference between street car to light rail to BRT?

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby David Greene » August 28th, 2017, 6:37 pm

Depends how one defines "BRT." If "BRT" has the same dedicated right-of-way as LRT, it's very cost-comparable. Streetcar is in the same ballpark. It's the right-of-way that drives the cost.

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby RailBaronYarr » August 29th, 2017, 9:44 am

That's.... not true. If you're building BRT on an existing street, and you're willing to spend the political capital of giving it the dedicated right of way in the middle of the street (like we did the the Green Line), it's far less expensive. Stations will cost a similar amount, though perhaps a bit less because platforms won't be as long. Buses, even high-quality articulated ones, cost less to buy than trains. You don't have all the power infrastructure required of LRT/streetcars. For example, (and I'm not advocating we should have done this!) we could have built the Green Line as a dedicated ROW BRT down University. Platforms in the same spots, 2-lanes of concrete right of way down the center of the street, etc. Would it have a worse ride quality? Yep. Would it have less capacity (or, potentially cost more to operate 4 buses every 10 minutes to have an equivalent hourly-capacity)? Yep. But it would have cost less.

Even dedicated BRT in a brand-new guideway, like the Rush Line, is still less expensive. Original documents comparing BRT to LRT in the same alignments had BRT at $600-900M while the LRT was in the $1.2-1.7B range.

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby DanPatchToget » August 29th, 2017, 5:25 pm

How long would the concrete last before potholes start popping up (or should I say down?) and then the ride quality is really bad? Not that I oppose BRT, but in some places rail is better and in other places bus/BRT is better.

Assuming a Duluth transitway serves UMD, Scholastica, Miller Hill Mall, and/or Duluth Airport the transit vehicle will have to climb a significant grade from downtown, correct? Would bus or rail be better capable of handling those grades whether its normal conditions or slippery conditions? Or as David said, is a funicular not an unusual idea for Duluth? I know they had an elevated railway a long time ago, but I don't know the specifics.

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby kellonathan » August 30th, 2017, 7:53 pm

I sense a smell of Detroit People Mover from that Duluth one-way light rail loop idea.....

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby go4guy » August 31st, 2017, 7:20 am

David Greene wrote:
August 28th, 2017, 6:37 pm
Depends how one defines "BRT." If "BRT" has the same dedicated right-of-way as LRT, it's very cost-comparable. Streetcar is in the same ballpark. It's the right-of-way that drives the cost.
I guess more so the BRT that would use the main right of way and have more suitable bus stops. Compared to street car and compared to LRT on a per mile basis.

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby David Greene » August 31st, 2017, 10:22 am

Without a tunnel/funicular/etc. it would have to be bus to negotiate the hill. Rail needs a much much gradual grade. I don't think there are any abandoned freight rail corridors available.

Duluth had a funicular back in the streetcar heyday.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duluth_Belt_Line_Railway
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7th_Avenu ... ne_Railway

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby VacantLuxuries » August 31st, 2017, 10:26 am

Duluth could build a cable car system to serve as a less right-of-way intensive alternative to a funicular. It would look great on the tourist brochures.

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby David Greene » August 31st, 2017, 11:41 am

VacantLuxuries wrote:
August 31st, 2017, 10:26 am
Duluth could build a cable car system to serve as a less right-of-way intensive alternative to a funicular. It would look great on the tourist brochures.
I thought about that but I imagine tunneling through all that basalt would get pretty expensive.

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby VacantLuxuries » August 31st, 2017, 11:45 am


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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby MNdible » August 31st, 2017, 12:25 pm

Yeah, I'd actually thought of the cable car idea, but the problem is that there aren't many great destinations until you get way up the hill. I suspect that was one of the issues with the original Incline -- it didn't really go anywhere that people particularly wanted to go.

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby Tiller » August 31st, 2017, 6:42 pm

So using gopherfan's map as a baseline (since it's a plausible rail line for Duluth), the trickiest part is getting from London Road to Wooddale Ave. The grade on Wooddale Ave is a bit over 6%, so a LRV/streetcar would only need to be beefed up a bit to navigate that portion (stronger motors/electrical systems). Beyond that, it's mostly below 6% grade, with the exception of a short hill between UMD and St Scholastica where there could be a short/shallow trench like near the capital complex on the green line. At St Scholastica a little bit of work would need to be done with the topography, but there's plenty of room for it and the needed grading adjustments aren't too large.

So on 21st Ave between London Rd and Wooddale Ave, the average grade is between 9-10%, with the steepest part being between London Rd and Superior St (at like 11% for 1000 ft). It's closer to 9% in the middle and 10% towards the top.

Looking for precedents, old-era streetcars in many places (Duluth, San Fran, cities in Europe and the eastern US, etc) had areas with comparable gradients. There are also streetcar systems that are currently in operation, both newly-built ones and holdovers from the legacy-streetcar-era, that reach grades of 9-10% for parts of their routes.

There's a list of past and current examples here: http://www.lightrailnow.org/myths/m_myt ... s_20060205
and these are some of the steepest adhesion railways currently in existence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_s ... n_railways

The closest parallel may be Nordhausen's tramway, which "negotiates a 9.8% grade in Stolberger Strasse for about 500 meters" (1640 ft). The length of 9-10% track on 21st Ave is about 937 meters (3073 ft), plus ~1000 ft of 11% grade track.

Using momentum from travelling down one hill to go up another isn't an option, since this just goes from the base of the hill to the top, over 500 ft in total elevation rise. 500 ft is also too much to level out by elevating the tracks at the base of the hill and tunneling near the top (which also wouldn't work because of the basalt). So the only options would be to engineer the 9-10% grade until it works, or not build to UMD.

Combing through Duluth's bus schedules, none of their individual routes are "high frequency" as Metro Transit defines it, but generally along Grand Ave and Superior St, From the Zoo until UMD, is a high frequency corridor shared between a ton of bus routes.
Image

UMD provides a ton of ridership (567,354 in 2011-2012's school year), doesn't have much parking relative to the size of its student body, and is growing in both enrollment and transit ridership. It provides something like 12% of DTA's total system ridership. It would be a mistake for any LRT in Duluth to not serve it, like if the Green Line didn't pass through the U on the way to St Paul.
http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/busine ... luth-buses

Back when buses were first introduced, some of the first streetcars they replaced were on steep slopes since buses performed better there, but those were the streetcars of 100 years ago. It should be possible to build a single-car LRV today that can handle it. Things like stronger motors on each axle with more power available over the catenary. A third non-load-bearing track to be used on the hill with a special set of track brakes. Perhaps some form of electromagnetic braking could be used. Etc.

The ADA implications might be a bigger challenge, since I don't know how to keep wheelchair users safe on the hill.

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Re: Transitways in other Minnesota cities?

Postby gopherfan » September 1st, 2017, 9:07 am

This is great Tiller! My rationale was not completely hashed out in my post, but as you point out- frequency, slope, UMD service and rail corridor right of way factored into my proposed route. Connection to the airport after a St. Scholastica stop could also be achieved fairly easily if that was also a desired connection.


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