MSP to Rochester High Speed Rail

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David Greene
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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby David Greene » January 21st, 2015, 2:38 pm

You're thinking in a silo. Remember that we're building systems here, not individual lines. It makes much more sense to go to either downtown than the airport because the supporting transportation infrastructure is much better.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby mulad » January 21st, 2015, 6:45 pm

Regarding an airport connection (MSP end)...

Here's a set of RST airport travel data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The overall number of passengers (arrivals+departures) for the 12 months ending October 2014 was 235,000, and the RST-MSP market is roughly 106k total (the page only reports departures from RST at 53k).

Most of that traffic has got to be connecting to other flights rather than just making the short hop -- it's pretty expensive (though I think the price has fallen -- only $202 for a one-way trip now that I check Orbitz), and Rochester is too close for flying to make sense (roughly an hour and a half -- you could easily spend that much time at the airport before the plane even takes off, and it's currently scheduled to take 48 to 52 minutes from gate to gate).

I think the line should primarily be built for Minnesotans to use to get between the two areas -- exclusively catering to the air market is not a very good idea. Having the Rochester station in downtown rather than in a field 8.5 miles away would probably be more attractive than the current situation, but we'd really want to have a line that can pull in, say 750k to 1+ million riders per year, and you just can't pull those numbers from MSP airport traffic.

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Andrew_F
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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby Andrew_F » January 21st, 2015, 8:14 pm

FISHMANPET wrote:It would be nice if it was built in such a way that you could also run slower but more local service on the line, I don't really know what European best practices are for that, but I'm sure they do it all over.
Besides perhaps a second Dakota Co stop a bit closer in, what's the point of local service on this route at all? I can see maintaining local service on the River Route to Red Wing and Winona (maybe also Hastings?) when/if HSR gets extended east from Rochester to LaCrosse, but I just can't imagine demand for a local service on the Zip Line route.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby mulad » January 21st, 2015, 9:25 pm

Yeah, I tend to agree that running almost non-stop is better here. I have a few ideas, but I'm not sure if any of them really meet the threshold of having significant value to anyone.

First, the mostly-abandoned Chicago Great Western corridor through Hampton is partway between Cannon Falls and Northfield. It would be interesting to have a stop near there, since a shuttle service could be set up along Highway 19 to link the station to Northfield, Cannon Falls, and maybe even Red Wing. There's also still a rail branch from Northfield to Cannon Falls that could hypothetically be used (and the Cannon River Trail follows the old rail right-of-way to Red Wing, but that's a stretch to consider rebuilding.

I still like the idea of having the line stay a bit to the west as it approaches Rochester, since it could then go through Byron, Kasson, and maybe Dodge Center, but that's partly because I grew up in Byron. I think the DM&E rail corridor that runs parallel to US-14 would be a pretty good regional rail service, since it goes through New Ulm, Mankato, Waseca, and Owatonna on the west end and connects to Winona (and the Amtrak network, such as it is) on the east end.

When done correctly, it's good to combine multiple rail services on shared corridors since it spreads the cost around, so I just think the slightly western swing would make it a bit more feasible to consider regional east-west service sometime down the line. It does come with its own set of complications, though.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to dislike the idea of HSR slicing straight through small towns, especially if they aren't stopping. Depending on the speed and how well it's grade-separated, it can be dangerous for residents on local grade crossings, and trains do make quite a bit of noise (varying depending on speed, whether they're diesel or electric, and the state of repair of the vehicles and tracks). It isn't necessarily as important to directly hit a town as it is to pass nearby and be able to selectively have trains branch off the main line to serve some subset of towns along the corridor. More expensive and more complicated, but that allows much more flexibility in terms of scheduling and reduces the negative impact on communities that get bypassed by many/most of the trains.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby acs » January 21st, 2015, 9:37 pm

I think the biggest thing they need to figure out first (and this is something I had hoped they would answer in the scoping document) is what exactly is the long-term point of this line? Is this an intrastate commuter-orientated line or a regional line? Or is this the first leg on an express train to Chicago? As I've said before, 186 mph electrified trains are absolutely overkill for the former, and even for an intrastate regional line ala NLX fast diesel trains and a high average speed matter more if you're going to be making intermediate stops. If they really push for the real-deal high speed rail and get their wish it will be a game changer for sure. There's no way MNDOT and Midwest HSR wouldn't want to use this corridor as their main express route to the twin cities.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby Southside » January 21st, 2015, 10:01 pm

The purpose and need document is very clear, the long term point of this line is to connect the Twin Cities to the rapidly expanding Mayo Clinic. It even calls out that 70% of all visitors to Rochester are there to visit the Mayo Clinic.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby froggie » January 22nd, 2015, 9:18 am

It should be noted that the 2003 study envisioned what is now called ZipRail as the first leg in an eventual TRUE (150+ MPH) high-speed rail service between the Twin Cities and Chicago. Even at that time, the expectation for the existing river route is that they could only max it at around 110 MPH.

Now, the conversation has changed in the past dozen years, but that doesn't mean the pendulum couldn't shift again.

Here's a collection of Tweets from this morning...a pretty lively debate echoing some of the concerns/issues mentioned in this thread:

https://storify.com/ajfroggie/ziprail-discussion

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby FISHMANPET » January 22nd, 2015, 9:34 am

I'm slightly biased because like Mulad, I've grown up in the area, but connecting towns like Cannon Falls (lived there), Zumbrota (lived there), and Pine Island (parents worked there) could be nice. Those are all 3 small towns with relatively intact downtowns and could easily support some form of car-lite while still being able to live in a pastoral rural village.

Obviously I'm projecting all kinds of economic and sociological changes onto this. But ultimately given the choice between connecting a place and not connecting a place, shouldn't we connect the place?

I'm also spoiled from watching Great British Railway Journeys and seeing all these tiny nothing rural towns that have regular rail service, and I can't help but think that we can do that too.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby mattaudio » January 22nd, 2015, 9:37 am

Mulad made a comment to that effect earlier, though it doesn't make sense as part of ZipRail. But someday let's hope we return to a sustainable land use centered around people, at which point a local/regional mesh of rail connecting nodes (whether major centers, walkable suburbs, regional centers, and small towns) becomes viable once again.

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby FISHMANPET » January 22nd, 2015, 9:38 am

Holy crap people how are you able to have that kind of debate at that hour in the morning. I was barely out of the shower then and here an hour and a half later downing caffeine I can still barely think. You morning people are weird :)
mattaudio wrote:Mulad made a comment to that effect earlier, though it doesn't make sense as part of ZipRail. But someday let's hope we return to a sustainable land use centered around people, at which point a local/regional mesh of rail connecting nodes (whether major centers, walkable suburbs, regional centers, and small towns) becomes viable once again.
Yeah I don't think it's feasible for this specific project, but let's at least do this in a way that doesn't rule out making those kinds of changes in the future.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby mattaudio » January 22nd, 2015, 9:45 am

I'm not sure those types of changes are feasible. ZipRail, if it ever happens, will likely stick to farmland and existing transportation corridors as much as possible. It will probably avoid unserved but populated places (especially towns) like the plague. I know they have alluded to this in meetings when the ex-GCW Railroad corridor comes up, which goes through Hampton/Randolph/Stanton/Dennison/Nerstrand/Kenyon/West Concord/Dodge Center... the HSR will undoubtedly bypass well around the towns. A 52 alignment is less certain, since 52 goes partially through these towns. But I can't imagine that HSR would fit cleanly in the median of 52 given the often narrow median width and the curve/grade geometry.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby froggie » January 22nd, 2015, 3:01 pm

A 52 alignment is less certain, since 52 goes partially through these towns. But I can't imagine that HSR would fit cleanly in the median of 52 given the often narrow median width and the curve/grade geometry.
It's for this reason why I sketched a routing along the old CGW corridor. I'm considering revising both the approach into SPUD and into downtown Rochester, but it's a low priority for me at the moment.

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mister.shoes
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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby mister.shoes » January 22nd, 2015, 3:05 pm

froggie wrote:
A 52 alignment is less certain, since 52 goes partially through these towns. But I can't imagine that HSR would fit cleanly in the median of 52 given the often narrow median width and the curve/grade geometry.
It's for this reason why I sketched a routing along the old CGW corridor. I'm considering revising both the approach into SPUD and into downtown Rochester, but it's a low priority for me at the moment.
Admins: the rant -> pant filter just broke froggie's URL. That's a little nuts.
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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby bubzki2 » January 22nd, 2015, 4:05 pm

mattaudio wrote:But I can't imagine that HSR would fit cleanly in the median of 52 given the often narrow median width and the curve/grade geometry.
I've posed this very question. You might be able to get the train in the US 52 ROW, but nowhere near the speeds we want. If you really pay attention, it's kind of amazing how much 52 zigs, zags, rises and falls.
Last edited by bubzki2 on January 23rd, 2015, 8:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Mdcastle
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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby Mdcastle » January 22nd, 2015, 5:12 pm

Also worth noting there's been 10 overpasses on Highway 52 that have been built in recent years, none of which were designed with provisions for rail. The time to plant this was in 2000 when the Moving Minnesota popup funds got the studies and construction going.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby Southside » January 22nd, 2015, 9:06 pm

FISHMANPET wrote:I'm slightly biased because like Mulad, I've grown up in the area, but connecting towns like Cannon Falls (lived there), Zumbrota (lived there), and Pine Island (parents worked there) could be nice. Those are all 3 small towns with relatively intact downtowns and could easily support some form of car-lite while still being able to live in a pastoral rural village.

Obviously I'm projecting all kinds of economic and sociological changes onto this. But ultimately given the choice between connecting a place and not connecting a place, shouldn't we connect the place?

I'm also spoiled from watching Great British Railway Journeys and seeing all these tiny nothing rural towns that have regular rail service, and I can't help but think that we can do that too.
I love the British Railways, too, but Great Britain has more than 10 times the population density of Minnesota. Saying we could support a similar system to the British is like saying St. Cloud could support a metro like the Chicago L.

Local service at these stations would probably pull in single digit ridership per day.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby froggie » January 23rd, 2015, 7:07 am

Local service at these stations would probably pull in single digit ridership per day.
Double-digit would be more realistic. Southeastern Minnesota has a fairly decent Amish population...who won't drive cars but will ride trains.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby Southside » January 23rd, 2015, 9:19 am

That's fascinating. The little I know about the Amish is from American Experience on PBS. It's certainly curious what heuristic allows for them to ride on trains with 21st century technology, but not drive a Model T.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby Silophant » January 23rd, 2015, 9:32 am

As I understand it, the issue is with owning or driving vehicles, not riding in them. They're perfectly willing to accept and/or pay for car or bus or train (or plane, presumably) rides.

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Re: Zip Rail to Rochester

Postby xandrex » January 23rd, 2015, 9:58 am

^I was under the impression they could even own the cars, but not drive them. My uncle lives around some Amish in Indiana and I remember him saying many of them own cars and hire people to drive them when needed.

Of course, he's also seen some of the Amish who live along the nearby river riding on Jet Skis, so...


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