Saint Paul Union Depot

Roads - Rails - Sidewalks - Bikeways
DanPatchToget
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby DanPatchToget » September 19th, 2016, 7:47 pm

Tcmetro wrote: The remaining hope is to somehow become a through-stop for HSR between Minneapolis and Chicago, and that Duluth trains will extend over to St. Paul after stopping at Target Field.
Except that would be difficult since the train couldn't be through-routed from Target Field to SPUD.

Along with more rail service to Chicago I'd like to see regional rail from SPUD to Mankato via Union Pacific, to Northfield and farther south via the Spine Line, and make the Red Rock Corridor a rail service again.

mulad
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby mulad » September 20th, 2016, 7:00 am

The train just has to change direction if it is stopping at Target Field and then continuing on to somewhere else, though there's a good case to be made for having a different station in Minneapolis for trains that are running through via the BNSF on the east side of the Mississippi. The old grain elevator area near Stadium Village would probably be a good option -- close to the Green Line's TCF Bank Stadium stop. Minneapolis Junction where the 261 locomotive lives is close to bus service on route 10. There are a couple other spots in Northeast Minneapolis that might work.

But yeah, with the existing conditions of tracks along the Dan Patch line, any train service to Mankato or Northfield (and further south) needs to go via SPUD. Someday the Dan Patch line needs to be upgraded, and I think that's a critical link for Minneapolis (unless someone wants to deal with cutting a brand new line through the city and suburbs).

The Spine Line is one of the best potential corridors for passenger rail for the state, since it hits Northfield (pop. 20,000) and Faribault (23,000), Owatonna (26,000), and Albert Lea (18,000), and is fairly close to Austin (25,000). In fact, the line could branch out at Owatonna -- one staying on the main line to go south to Des Moines (metro pop. 600,000), another heading east toward Rochester, and a third going southeast through Austin and hitting major places in Iowa: Waterloo (city pop. 68,000), Cedar Rapids (126,000), Iowa City (68,000), and the Quad Cities (metro pop. 383,000). There's still a plan in the works to add passenger service to the Quad Cities (Moline, Illinois) from Chicago, so that would be a decent alternative to Wisconsin routings for rail service to the Twin Cities.

mattaudio
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby mattaudio » September 20th, 2016, 10:04 am

1. I think the easiest option would be a station at Minneapolis Junction, with a high-quality transit link along Central/Hennepin to Downtown Minneapolis. You could actually have a platform on the north side of the wye for the EB or other trains staying on the BNSF to NTW, and a platform on the west side of the wye for Northstar trains en route to Target Field. Lowest level would be something like the Nic-Central Streetcar, better yet would be more of a LRT service on a new north-south spine such as this: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?hl=e ... FUWCh5ROwI

2. The next upgrade IMO would be possible in coordination with elimination of the 3rd/4th "viaduct" ramps to I-94 and conversion to a street-level boulevard.... Build a railway in a trench/C&C under the existing I-94 ramps ROW. It would be a tight curve from the BNSF Wayzata Sub between the Ford Building and the Designers Guild building, but definitely doable (worst case would involve tinkering with the small Designers Guild parking ramp). The I-94 ramp ROW leads about 600 feet away from the existing RR ROW along the western riverfront, so there would be a gradual S-curve somewhere near 15th Ave N. Then, north on existing RR and across the existing double-track Northern Pacific bridge and to Northtown Yard. This would enable passenger trains - both Amtrak and any regional services which want to through-route NTW-DT Mpls-DT St Paul to stop at Target Field Station without any backing maneuvers.

3. The best option: Same alignment as above, but a double-track tunnel across Downtown (double level with LRT, similar to the BART/MUNI tunnel in SF) then connecting to the old NP#9 bridge through the Dinkytown trench. Of course, this would have been far easier as far as earthworks and portal construction if the portals/curves were built in conjunction with Target Field and US Bank Stadium construction. I mapped out this idea a few years back: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1IHFzz ... sp=sharing

MNdible
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby MNdible » September 20th, 2016, 12:26 pm

I think we've discussed this before (and I'm sure there's a reason it wouldn't work), but it seems like the easiest answer would be to use up some of the extra land in the wye and build a dedicated track to back out the train and get it facing the right direction. Not ideal, but we're not the first terminal station in the world -- stuff like this happens all of the time. Even in Europe.

at40man
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby at40man » September 20th, 2016, 3:22 pm

talindsay wrote:
ProspectPete wrote:
talindsay wrote:Forcing people into the building to make the building active shouldn't be a primary consideration for Riverview's route planning. Harming that line and forcing transfers to be more difficult just to make the depot seem active would be a poor choice.
But isn't that what the building was designed for (and renovated for?)
No, it was designed to be an intercity rail station, for people taking trips places. It wasn't designed to be an oversized, overly-complex impediment to local transit connections.

The back of the Depot is meant for intercity facilities. The Green Line has already established the front of the Depot as the place for local rail transit.

There's no good scheduling or routing reason to not have Riverview share tracks with the Green Line in front of the Depot, and many good reasons to do so: easy transfers, closer to all DT St. Paul amenities, easy access to the maintenance facility, no duplication of ROW constraints, to name a few.

It is the distance of less than a block (and at most, a block) to walk to the front of the Depot. If stopping behind the Depot and walking less than a block to the front of the skyway-connected Depot is an impediment, then no one would do anything in either downtown because you are "forced" to walk much further than a block to get to work and most activities...

mattaudio
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby mattaudio » September 20th, 2016, 3:24 pm

You're missing the point. There are already LRT tracks, a LRT station, LRT station amenities, and the possibility for interlining right outside the front door. In a location that's much closer to where people are actually coming from or going to, Lowertown or beyond.

David Greene
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby David Greene » September 20th, 2016, 3:57 pm

And it is not at all unusual to separate regional and local transit like this. It's how the Red Line operates with Union Station in Chicago, for example.

at40man
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby at40man » September 21st, 2016, 8:36 am

I'm not missing the point - I just think the argument that says we would be "artificially inflating the Depot numbers" by putting the trains in the area designed to accommodate trains 90 years ago to be silly. You aren't artificially inflating anything. Either people use the Depot or they don't. If you don't put anything in the Depot, people don't use it. Simple as that. To draw a comparison, would anyone make an argument that by putting an amusement park in the middle of the Mall of America that the management is artificially inflating the mall's numbers because people are "forced" to walk through the shopping concourses to get there? The Depot is no different in this regard.

Additionally, part of the reason the Union Depot was built the way it was is to welcome you and communicate that you have arrived somewhere worth being. People coming from the airport who would use the Depot get a wonderful welcome to the city and state by walking through the cathedral-like Depot. I have regularly heard Amtrak customers getting off the train in St. Paul "wowed" by the station. That is exactly the response it was intended to elicit. We shouldn't ignore the fact that good architecture is uplifting to not just the individual but to the collective dignity of society. That's enough reason for me to put a train from the airport in the back of the station instead of the front.

talindsay
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby talindsay » September 21st, 2016, 9:28 am

Right, but the point of regional transit investment is to get people where they need to go, not to produce activity in a rehabbed train station at the expense of efficiently moving people and effectively reusing our current transit investments.

BoredAgain
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby BoredAgain » September 21st, 2016, 10:14 am

at40man wrote:To draw a comparison, would anyone make an argument that by putting an amusement park in the middle of the Mall of America that the management is artificially inflating the mall's numbers because people are "forced" to walk through the shopping concourses to get there? The Depot is no different in this regard.
This is a bad analogy. The park is part of the mall. We don't say that adding a "Victoria's Secret" to the mall is artificially inflating the numbers because customer's going there pass through the rest of the mall.

A more accurate analogy would be if the blue line station at the mall were on one side and the bus drop-offs were somewhere else so that everyone transferring from buses to trains had to walk through the mall. That would be considered completely unacceptable to anyone considering the efficiency of local transit networks.

at40man
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby at40man » September 21st, 2016, 1:26 pm

BoredAgain wrote:
at40man wrote:To draw a comparison, would anyone make an argument that by putting an amusement park in the middle of the Mall of America that the management is artificially inflating the mall's numbers because people are "forced" to walk through the shopping concourses to get there? The Depot is no different in this regard.
This is a bad analogy. The park is part of the mall. We don't say that adding a "Victoria's Secret" to the mall is artificially inflating the numbers because customer's going there pass through the rest of the mall.

A more accurate analogy would be if the blue line station at the mall were on one side and the bus drop-offs were somewhere else so that everyone transferring from buses to trains had to walk through the mall. That would be considered completely unacceptable to anyone considering the efficiency of local transit networks.
Well, that's not exactly a good analogy either. The distance from the "Gate B" of SPUD to the front "LRT" platform isn't the equivalent of putting a train platform by Sears and a bus platform by LL Bean (or wherever). We are talking about the distance of half a block. That's approximately equivalent to the distance one would need to walk between the bus drop-off zone and the end of the LRT platform at the MOA.
talindsay wrote:Right, but the point of regional transit investment is to get people where they need to go, not to produce activity in a rehabbed train station at the expense of efficiently moving people and effectively reusing our current transit investments.
So again, I will ask: How is the distance of half a block an impediment to people going where they need to go? Because it takes a whole 1-2 minutes to walk? Or what? No one seems to be able to answer that. Just because you can interline doesn't mean you should interline.

When I was traveling in Europe this summer, I figured out how to change train platforms between regional and local trains and buses without issue, and never once did I feel like walking an entire block was inconvenient or an impediment or an inefficiency to getting to where I needed to go. And other than French and German, I wasn't able to speak the local languages. Are we assuming people are dumber than a box of rocks, or just lazy?

An example I can think of is that one could take a train or bus between Interlaken and Spiez. To take the train or take the bus took approximately the same amount of time, less than 5 minutes difference. I opted to take a train. The distance was about 19 km between the two cities, not much further apart than Minneapolis and Saint Paul, so it blurred the lines between regional and local much like our system often does. Trains were in the train platforms behind the station, buses were in front. To transfer trains, chances were high that you'd have to walk to a different platform. I did not find this to be confusing or inefficient in the least.

Denver's Union Station is quite active, and people do need to walk a bit to switch between local train platforms or walk half a block to transfer to local buses or get outside. DUS's re-activation has been widely lauded as a smash success. Do people here think that is also a foolish, inefficient design that is an impediment to getting where one needs to go because it "forces" activity through the station?

I also should point out that without putting trains into the station, and generating activity within the station, that we are potentially shooting ourselves in the foot. Union Depot has become a magnet of criticism for investing in transit in general. By having almost no activity within the station, it just generates even more criticism from anti-transit folks who don't want to see more trains or buses. By eliminating the argument about how few people use the station, you can then pick away at the argument that no one wants or rides LRT trains (an argument that is false, and should be taken away from them).

KML_1981
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby KML_1981 » September 21st, 2016, 1:42 pm

Really, the only way to get activation (especially in the short term) is to allow more space to be devoted to breweries, bars, restaurants, etc.

jebr
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby jebr » September 21st, 2016, 2:20 pm

I think it's more modal/route choice than anything else. It really doesn't make much sense to have local transit/light rail to only stop at Union Depot or at the base of the river when a lot of the activity is along/closer to the existing nodes, and it seems those are the preferred routes already. I can see it as an idea to put a light rail platform or two there as an extension or as the "Union Depot" station in the future, but in general local transit should be up front where we already have the services and the route is pretty much there already. It also likely makes it easier to hit local destinations and put people within a couple blocks of their destination, which is important for local transit (a Union Depot route from the airport would almost certainly straddle the river, where most of the activity is uphill from there.)

If we're looking at commuter rail or even an "express" train from the airport, I think it's fine to push Union Depot as the St. Paul transfer point (that type of service would likely only have one downtown stop.) But local transit where people are coming from nearby neighborhoods should feed throughout downtown, not just one point (which is kind of a pain to get to via the skyway in the winter, especially from the west.)

Tcmetro
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby Tcmetro » September 21st, 2016, 2:21 pm

If I worked it Downtown St Paul and I rode some potential Riverview corridor service, I'd like for it to serve the core of the city, not go past it so I can walk through a train station on my way back to the Downtown area. Likewise, if I am taking the Gold Line bus, I would prefer that it continue down the 6th St bus lane so I can get off where i work, not so I can see the beauty of some train station and take the Green Line for one stop.

mulad
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby mulad » September 21st, 2016, 2:33 pm

The neighborhood around the depot is continuing to see new residents show up, so hopefully we can see a critical mass fairly soon with new storefronts attracting people outside of weekday business hours and short windows outside of that. An office building kitty-corner to it is being converted to apartments, which will at least lead to more people in the neighborhood on evenings and weekends, and there are a couple lots on Wacouta that may get developed before long (I'm not aware of any plans at the moment, though). That Wold of Beer place opened just a little while ago, and it's helping to complete a ring of activity around Mears Park, only a block north of the depot (or the LRT stop, anyway).

I'd say the distance from the front to rear platforms is closer to 1.5 or 2 blocks rather than 0.5 blocks as at40man suggested -- I measure it to be 600+ feet, which would be closer to a 3+ minute walk time. Not terrible, but it would be nice if it can be avoided, even if it's only for one or two lines. One of the big issues for commuters is that many of them would want to get to the area around Central station, only one stop further west. Even with service every 10 minutes on the Green Line, it's probably easier (or at least more consistent) for people to just walk all the way from SPUD to their office rather than waiting for another train and the delays that can pop up on that short stretch between Union Depot and Central stops. If people need to go further than that, then the whole conversation about transferring makes more sense.

That could also be helped if there are multiple services sharing the tracks out in front -- the Green Line combined with Riverview giving a 5-minute interval between trains would help folks who aren't feeling up to walking over to the core business area. But I don't think anyone using Riverview would want to skip past downtown and then have to double back. If for some reason that gets routed along the bluff face, there'd have to be a new station built somewhere near the Science Museum or the old West Publishing building that's been getting torn down.

Anyway, there's supposed to be a full restaurant opening up in the depot early next year, presumably with longer operating hours, so it won't need to be as quiet as what mattaudio observed (on a Sunday) earlier this month.

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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby talindsay » September 21st, 2016, 3:06 pm

It's also a trip up stairs or an elevator from an outside platform, through a building, then out and back down a bit, just to get back to where it *could* already stop, before you can even begin your walk to whatever your destination is. Now imagine you're not a choice rider but a necessity rider - why are you being made to do that? So you can be a consumer in the Depot or at least make it "feel active" to some fan of transit who doesn't like that the building isn't active?

For young able-bodied men that may seem reasonable, but it's adding a lot of extra hassle for those who aren't all of those things.

at40man
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby at40man » September 21st, 2016, 3:16 pm

mulad wrote: I'd say the distance from the front to rear platforms is closer to 1.5 or 2 blocks rather than 0.5 blocks as at40man suggested
Well, two points:

1. St. Paul's blocks are smaller than most city blocks
2. I'm talking about Gate A (bus platform) and Gate B (set aside for future LRT) to the front, not Gate C (Amtrak, the rear platform) to the front. Maybe I'm just a fast walker?
3. If you want to transfer from LRT to a bus, you need to walk through the building anyway.

Regardless, my point still stands: it works in train stations across Europe, it works in Denver, it even works in Toronto where the station has a more convoluted layout with no straight-shot through -- so why are we assuming it is going to be inefficient in St. Paul?

Looking at 4th from above, how would backers of interlining propose to get to 4th anyway? In order for the Green Line to make a turn where Central Station is an entire building had to be eliminated. For all practical purposes, 4th St effectively ends at St. Peter street, where the City Hall is (yes, it technically ends at Washington but I don't think anyone wants to route a train along 2 sides of Rice Park). Thus, a potential alignment would need to go along 5th or 7th and somewhere in there make a very sharp curve and go down a hill to be able to get into Central station so it could then get to 4th. I don't know how well that could practically be done without eliminating a building. I don't think that it is practical to interline for the course of 4 blocks through this area, just because there is already an LRT platform in existence in front of the depot. It would be simpler to take a potential 7th St. alignment -> Forbes -> Exchange -> Kellogg -> 2nd which is barely used by motorists (it is more of a parallel parking lot for government employees than anything else). It sounds a bit convoluted, but when you look at it from above it would eliminate sharp curves and make for a very easy connection to the depot with minimal disruption.

So, it seems to me that putting the train on an alignment with extremely sharp curves and the steepish hill that exists between Wabasha and Cedar is not practical and would potentially be more expensive and certainly not more efficient in total travel time than having the train drop you off at Gate B of the Depot instead.

http://riverviewcorridor.com/wp-content ... lo-res.pdf

And if it turns out that Riverview is BRT instead of LRT, it would terminate at the bus platform behind the Depot anyway.... thereby "forcing" people to walk through the Depot (how awful it is to walk through our train cathedral!).

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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby mulad » September 21st, 2016, 3:27 pm

I measured the distance in Google maps to be about 600 feet.

Image

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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby seanrichardryan » September 21st, 2016, 4:07 pm

About 400' of which is heated and covered.

For comparison purposes, most people are willing to walk that on the average day just to get to seasonal merchandise at Midway Super Target.

Image
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matthew5080
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Re: Saint Paul Union Depot

Postby matthew5080 » September 22nd, 2016, 9:25 am

KML_1981 wrote:Really, the only way to get activation (especially in the short term) is to allow more space to be devoted to breweries, bars, restaurants, etc.
Similar to that of the Denver Union Station? The restaurants and shops in there are busy every time that I've been to the city.


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