Northstar Commuter Rail

Roads - Rails - Sidewalks - Bikeways
Tcmetro
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Re: Northstar

Postby Tcmetro » February 24th, 2014, 8:14 am

According to their twitter account, the first trip was delayed 75 min+, the 2nd trip was delayed 15 min, the rest delayed 60-90 min, then the reverse commute train canceled and replaced by a bus.

This is a serious damage to the image of the Northstar line. If this keeps up all the gains in ridership that have been made will vanish.

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Anondson
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Re: Northstar

Postby Anondson » February 24th, 2014, 9:10 am

This is outrageous, but it seems railroads are given unbelievable leeway in operations. Maybe we need to turn Botineau into a commuter rail line out to Monticello to partially function as a backup for when Northstar gets these Bakken-delays.

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Re: Northstar

Postby mattaudio » February 24th, 2014, 10:57 am

I wonder what the choke point is...
There's a plan to triple track the main line from Northtown to Coon Creek Junction (where the line splits to St. Cloud and Duluth). But double track should be plenty to allow passenger trains to have priority, unless there's a backup getting freight into or through Northtown Yard.

There's also a single track choke point from Big Lake to Becker. Double tracking is assumed to be a requirement for extension to St. Cloud. Having driven along Hwy 10 a few times in the past few months, there has often been significant eastbound congestion, usually 4-6 eastbound trains waiting between Becker and St. Cloud.

Or, is there a chance this would be an issue with the mainline being fouled due to switching somewhere along this stretch? Sherco has such a lengthy loop that I'm guessing their multiple coal unit trains per day aren't an issue, but some other switching could be a problem. This is a problem elsewhere in the metro. For example, the Cottage Grove car loading facility fouls the westbound combined CP/BNSF mainline from Hastings to St. Paul.

In other cities where passenger rail is a priority, freight moves and switching are done at night. An example of this is the Caltrain (Union Pacific) line up the peninsula to San Francisco. Although that's a very different rail mix from a high volume freight transcontinental mainline.

Tcmetro
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Re: Northstar

Postby Tcmetro » February 24th, 2014, 11:09 am

Maybe we can help fund a 2nd/3rd track in return for half hourly service during off peak hours and 15 min peak hour service.

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Re: Northstar

Postby Didier » February 24th, 2014, 11:18 am

I'm curious if Jason Lewis or somebody like that has taken up this issue. When you have Star Tribune comments like this one below, it is usually a telltale sign that somebody has over-simplified a problem/solution for the commenter.
swmnguy
Feb. 24, 14
8:58 AM
The destruction of our freight infrastructure through willful neglect and mal-investment is causing effects that ripple through our entire economy.

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Re: Northstar

Postby mattaudio » February 24th, 2014, 11:42 am

I'd be curious to see how much it would cost to rehab the Monticello line to 60 MPH standard and build a new bridge at Monticello to connect to the existing double track at Becker. Probably much more than the additional tracks from Fridley-Coon Creek and Big Lake-Becker. But it would also allow for Amtrak and other trains to through-route via the Interchange.

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Re: Northstar

Postby MNdible » February 24th, 2014, 11:51 am

Yes, I've long thought this would be a good long term solution. Mulad has some more specifics about the technical reasons why this may not work out, but I think it makes a great deal of sense. Costs notwithstanding.

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Re: Northstar

Postby mulad » February 24th, 2014, 12:21 pm

I think the Strib comment Didier posted is fairly true, but the disinvestment was forced upon the railroads to a certain extent. mattaudio posted this video to Twitter over the weekend -- a reminder of how bad things had gotten for many railroads by the 1970s:



Of course, that was Penn Central, the result of a merger between two collapsing railroads. I don't know if Burlington Northern had gotten quite that bad. There was a mix of penny-pinching business decisions due to declining revenue plus government regulations that didn't keep up and allow the railroads to be more flexible. When regulations were finally relaxed, the railroads had to make deeper cuts to their infrastructure than they would have if regulations had kept up with the times (certainly easy to point fingers now, but I can't say how apparent the right ideas were back then).

Anyway, I'm sure there are many reasons contributing to the current issues. The weather is a legitimate problem -- we're having the worst winter in 35 years, and that's affecting switches and other infrastructure, and the trains themselves run into problems with the cold -- air brake lines can freeze up, for instance. The weather has been affecting half the country, so slowdowns outside of Minnesota can contribute to problems here. I believe they had problems with their yards filling up with incoming traffic, so trains have essentially had to park on one of the two mainline tracks at times, or any siding they can find, and that has a huge impact on capacity to move anything. It's fairly well-known that when true congestion happens, you end up stuck with a route or system that needs to have a lot of traffic drained off before it can operate at the pre-congestion capacity again.

This winter is turning into a cautionary tale for anyone who shaves their capacity down to the bare minimum -- yes, there's single-track between Big Lake and Becker. There's also a longer stretch farther north between Little Falls and Staples (though there are a few sidings along the way). I think they're also suffering from a lack of alternate routes -- I suspect there should be greater cooperation between the different railroad companies to reroute along others' lines, but that might not gain very much since they may end up going through some of the same choke points at junctions.

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Re: Northstar

Postby mulad » March 28th, 2014, 7:04 pm

Ramsey is issuing an RFP to study what it would take to (apparently) extend their station's pedestrian bridge all the way across US-10. Cost unclear at this point.

http://hometownsource.com/2014/03/24/75179/

Tcmetro
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Re: Northstar

Postby Tcmetro » June 13th, 2014, 8:44 am

No service on Northstar, big freight derailment near Elk River and Ramsey.

http://www.metrotransit.org/northstar-c ... eled-today

mattaudio
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Re: Northstar

Postby mattaudio » June 13th, 2014, 8:54 am

The derailed train had 16 empty cars, mostly boxcars. Shouldn't take them long to clean it up.

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talindsay
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Re: Northstar

Postby talindsay » June 13th, 2014, 8:55 am

Wow, there's going to be, like, dozens of angry would-be commuters today...

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Re: Northstar

Postby mulad » June 13th, 2014, 10:37 am

That seems like an odd place to derail -- straight track without any nearby switches. There is a gentle curve by the golf course, but Northstar takes that at full speed.

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Re: Northstar

Postby holmstar » June 13th, 2014, 11:28 am

talindsay wrote:Wow, there's going to be, like, dozens of angry would-be commuters today...
So like 179 dozen? There are something like 2157 riders per day, (or at least there were in 2013). Though a small number compared to the total commuters in the twin cities, it's still quite a few people.

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Anondson
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Anondson » June 24th, 2014, 7:48 pm

Anoka grand opening of station skyway and parking ramp on Wednesday. $10.4 Million, 344 spaces, with elevator

http://www.startribune.com/local/north/ ... GURGedK.97

Tcmetro
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Tcmetro » June 26th, 2014, 4:31 pm

Speed restrictions (and associated delays) for the next few weeks:

http://www.metrotransit.org/speed-restr ... art-july-1

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talindsay
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby talindsay » July 18th, 2014, 2:51 pm

Since we were discussing the Adam Sandler movie question (which is the worst?) over in the Red Line thread I thought I'd tie this thread in directly.

For a variety of reasons nobody wants to abandon Northstar despite its very mediocre ridership and its very high subsidy. I suggest that one way to improve its usefulness would be to actually add back in the Northeast Minneapolis station that was originally planned but then dropped. With tie-ins to bus connections to the UofMN it would probably provide a faster ride there than the current Northstar-Green Line combination; it would allow people to use the Northstar to get from Northeast to Downtown; and it would mean people who work in Northeast could get a ride to their work from there.

Actually I suggest going a step further and just adding stops every mile or so from Fridley into the city - one right at the Central / University area, and another couple between there and Fridley. They don't need to be big, expensive park & ride stations - just light rail style platforms. Realistically I don't think they're likely to add more than a couple minutes to the trip, and while they're not likely heavy trip generators, they'd certainly get more people on board. We could even run the trains every half hour all day between Fridley and downtown without dramatically increasing costs, providing something of a northeast service.

I don't know if it would make financial sense to do this, but what we're currently doing certainly doesn't make *more* financial sense, and this sort of thing would at least mean that the denser areas that already have to deal with the presence of the line would at least get to use it.

Seriously, imagine all the current trips happening as they currently do, except with three additional light-rail-style stops between Fridley and Target Field. Instead of having all the rolling stock sit downtown all day, one of the sets simply rolls back up to Fridley, waits a few minutes, rolls back into downtown, and repeats that all day until it needs to make its next run over the full line.

All stops from Fridley to Target inclusive would be standard bus fare for a ride - $1.75 off peak, $2.25 peak. The higher fares only set in once you're north of Fridley.

Since it's there we might as well integrate it into our actual urban rail scheme.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby fehler » July 18th, 2014, 3:22 pm

How about extending it to St. Paul? We put in a nice heavy rail station, and people are complaining top to bottom about all the stops the Green Line takes. Could it make Union Depot in under 25 minutes?

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talindsay
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby talindsay » July 18th, 2014, 4:40 pm

Heck, I bet it could make it to Union Depot in under 25 minutes *WITH* a Stadium Village station in between, which is what I'd suggest. The thing is, this could be done quite cheaply if we cut out all the processes and just built (what am I up to now?) four platforms along the tracks. I suppose trackage rights in the Central Corridor could be a challenge though.

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Nathan
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Nathan » July 18th, 2014, 5:31 pm

And then shoot it down to Northfield...


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