Saint Paul Streetcar Study

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mulad
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Saint Paul Streetcar Study

Postby mulad » October 26th, 2012, 7:39 am

I guess Finance & Commerce is making the rounds of various transit projects -- hot on the heels of yesterday's Northstar piece is a new one on the streetcar study happening in Saint Paul, which was briefly mentioned by an earlier article in September.

The study authors plan to find up to 10 corridors. Of course, Snelling gets brought up as one possibility -- hopefully that won't interfere with the attempt to try out rapid bus service there, since streetcar studies in Minneapolis are one reason why busier routes there hadn't been chosen as test beds for the technology.

Apparently this is going to be brought up at the city Transportation Committee meeting Monday afternoon.

bptenor
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby bptenor » February 9th, 2013, 6:20 pm

Looks like Phase 1 of the Feasibility Study was completed, which selected about 15 corridor/segments to carry forward for further study. More information is on the St Paul Transportation Committee website. I like most of the selected corridors so it will be interesting to see what may become of these corridors throughout the study, and, *cross fingers* implementation.

http://stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=4872

beykite
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby beykite » February 10th, 2013, 12:01 am

The corridors being advanced are:
Screen shot 2013-02-10 at 12.02.39 AM.JPG
* Ford Pkwy
* Snelling
* W 7th st
* Randolph
* Grand
* Selby
* Marshall
* Rice
* Payne
* Lexington
* Robert St
* Wabasha
* Cretin
* Raymond
* Cleveland
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Suburban Outcast
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby Suburban Outcast » February 10th, 2013, 12:38 am

I wonder what the daily ridership of entire network would be if they built every line shown in Phase 2 (maybe not the CP Spur though). 50,000-75,000/day? By the time they would actually build the system, they could use ground-level power supply tracks instead of overhead wires to power the trams like they do in Bordeaux. I dunno how much more expensive it is, but it could be cheaper to build in the future.

matt91486
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby matt91486 » February 10th, 2013, 8:41 am

I'm surprised they didn't do a better job potentially allowing transfers with LRT. A few of those lines appear to not intersect at stations, which really minimizes the effectiveness any streetcar network as a feeder.

Scott Wood
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby Scott Wood » February 10th, 2013, 3:22 pm

Which ones could reasonably intersect but don't? Note that the Marshall, Ford Pkwy, and W 7th lines have a little arrow at the end, suggesting an extension outside city limits to the Blue Line. I do hope that they will overlap the lines in some places, such as having the Ford Spur line continue along the Ford Pkwy line to the 46th st station, rather than requiring a transfer. Lines like Raymond, Cretin, and Cleveland could perhaps turn onto the Green Line tracks in order to connect to the nearest LRT station.

The southern tip of the Snelling line doesn't make much sense, both in terms of steep grade (noted in the study) and lack of an anchor. Might make more sense to shift over Davern at some point (though that does have a significant at-grade rail intersection), and then maybe continue along W 7th to MSP. Or turn down Ford Pkwy to 46th st station as the 84 currently does (especially if Ford Spur is built).

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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby Scott Wood » February 10th, 2013, 3:26 pm

Hmm, Davern looks steep too, maybe even a bit steeper, albeit for a shorter stretch and without curves.

mattaudio
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby mattaudio » February 10th, 2013, 4:26 pm

matt91486 has a good point. I realize they're likely looking at the viability of streetcars on particular streets and not as corridors, but this seems like a backwards approach to get a successful corridor. Why not figure out what areas need to be served, then narrow down the streets that would work as part of the analysis? I'd rather see a network of what could be, interlining and everything, then figure out what pieces of the puzzle we can work on first.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby RailBaronYarr » February 12th, 2013, 1:38 pm

Why can't streetcars and arterial BRT exist in the same corridor? Streetcars would do well to serve the local stops, be the extension of walking - ie you hop on when it's convenient and it saves you 5-10 minutes in your would-be 10 block walk. When you need to hike all the way from Randolph and Lexington to Como Park, you would never take the streetcar, it's way to slow and would be a 40 minute ride. Hop on the nearest BRT and it makes 1/2 to 1/3 as many stops (each of them utilizing the streetcar infrastructure), getting you there in 20 minutes or so.

In this way, streetcars serve to enhance the public space, help promote local mobility along existing corridors of residential and commercial development (thereby further spurring more development). BRT serves as the long-distance mobility enhancers to areas people would otherwise have considered driving to.

Thoughts?

MNdible
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby MNdible » February 12th, 2013, 5:17 pm

Except, as I've posted in the Nicollet streetcar thread, nothing is going to be able to move faster than the slowest streetcar -- not cars and not aBRT. The streetcars are going to be loading in the only lane of thru-traffic. No passing.

Matt
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby Matt » February 12th, 2013, 6:24 pm

RailBaronYarr wrote:Why can't streetcars and arterial BRT exist in the same corridor? Streetcars would do well to serve the local stops, be the extension of walking - ie you hop on when it's convenient and it saves you 5-10 minutes in your would-be 10 block walk. When you need to hike all the way from Randolph and Lexington to Como Park, you would never take the streetcar, it's way to slow and would be a 40 minute ride. Hop on the nearest BRT and it makes 1/2 to 1/3 as many stops (each of them utilizing the streetcar infrastructure), getting you there in 20 minutes or so.

In this way, streetcars serve to enhance the public space, help promote local mobility along existing corridors of residential and commercial development (thereby further spurring more development). BRT serves as the long-distance mobility enhancers to areas people would otherwise have considered driving to.

Thoughts?
If we had infinite (or just a lot) of money, I'd say go for it. Since we don't, I'd rather see resources spread across the city rather than doubled up on the same corridor. I know they serve different purposes, but it would be unfair for one important corridor to have two fancy modes of transit and another important corridor still relying only on regular bus service.

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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby VAStationDude » February 12th, 2013, 7:26 pm

At a certain point we (and I am as guilty as anyone) should stop with the improved bus versus street car arguments. I don't see new arguments being presented and no one is likely to change their mind (though I once backed streetcars). I will point out that street cars will cost more and not just a little but many many multiples of a similar length aBRT line. On top of that operating costs associated with maintaining an entirely separate fleet of transit vehicles will certainly add significant operational costs, not to mention the upkeep of overhead lines and rails. Extra operation dollars directed towards a slower, less frequent if slightly higher capacity street car could eat into bus funding as is the case in Kansas City. Sorry, but vague notions of placemaking aren't persuasive enough to adopt a slower much more expensive mode. I've been to plenty of German rail less cities with massive transit ridership (<200,000 population and 33 million annual transit rides) and wonderful street life. If we adopt some of their practices like off board fare collection, wider stop spacing and quality facilities, an aBRT system would be a boon to Minneapolis streetlife.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby RailBaronYarr » February 12th, 2013, 9:56 pm

Matt wrote:If we had infinite (or just a lot) of money, I'd say go for it. Since we don't, I'd rather see resources spread across the city rather than doubled up on the same corridor. I know they serve different purposes, but it would be unfair for one important corridor to have two fancy modes of transit and another important corridor still relying only on regular bus service.
I didn't realize many of the streetcars had the same station spacing as the proposed arterial BRT plan, I thought the BRTs were even more 'rapid'. And you're right, it would make very little sense to double up unless it was an extremely important or productive corridor.

Can anyone explain why the cities of Mpls and St Paul do these studies separate from Metro Transit's arterial studies? Seems like lots of overlap in work and money spent on evaluating ridership, land-use and acquisition costs, platform costs, etc. And those numbers may vary due to different methods used...

I wouldn't boil down streetcars to "vague notions of placemaking" - people clearly prefer rail. People ride rail in higher numbers. Streetcars pollute less and are not as loud, reasons people don't mind them as much. I understand the practical need for "speed" in today's world vs. a pie-in-the-sky hope for people who would use streetcars more as an extension of walking while they eat, work, play, etc local. But the proposals for the Mpls and St Paul SC seem to be 7.5 minute frequencies during peak time, the exact same as the aBRT proposals. And rail does signify a level of permanence in transit for developers, business owners, and residents. I've seen enough reports of streetcar operating costs being lower than BRT to say that, between the higher ridership and lowered costs there is a good chance of being cost neutral compared to BRT over the lifespan. And even if it costs more, what are the economic externalities of buses vs rail?

I'm not even a streetcar enthusiast. I recognize the drawbacks, I'm just not convinced that aBRT will be as successful in ridership or significant (if at all) lower costs (and certainly per rider, which affects corridor profit being +/-)

stp1980
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby stp1980 » February 13th, 2013, 8:19 am

I agree that these seem to overlap with Metro Transit studies and that they could be better served by working together. The map really looks like the old streetcar map for the city, tracks are even there (though probably not useable) for many of these lines. What are the costs/per mile (on average for these)?

Also, the more I see this the more I like the idea of a Yellow Line LRT. White Bear-East Side (via arcade)-DT St. Paul-W 7th-MSP-MOA-American Blvd-Eden Prairie Center

stp1980
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby stp1980 » February 13th, 2013, 8:20 am

Oh, and if this is not accompanied by a development plan or rezoning around certain areas, than all will be for nothing in terms of the development potential with any of these potential lines.

mulad
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby mulad » February 13th, 2013, 11:57 am

Well, the old streetcar network looks very similar to our current bus network if you simply chop off routes right at the suburban borders of Minneapolis and Saint Paul proper, so of course if we're going to convert a bus route back into a streetcar route, it'll probably go along one of the historic paths.

I still haven't really figured out why LRT is considered so much more expensive than streetcar (or conversely, why streetcar is considered so much cheaper than LRT), but there are a few things: One, streetcars will typically be designed for lower top speeds -- perhaps only 25 mph -- meaning that the overhead wire system doesn't need to be as complicated. Our LRT lines have complicated auto-tensioning catenary where the wires have weights on each end to keep it taut regardless of temperature, keeping the wire in better contact with the pantograph, and preventing waves generated by the pantograph from getting out of control. I'm suspicious that the setup along Hiawatha could probably support trains going about 125 mph.

Also, the idea of reduced costs for streetcar construction seems to rely on the idea that you can simply carve out a chunk of the existing street and only dig down about 1 foot, and use the existing underlying structure (various layers of soil/sand/aggregate). In contrast, LRT along University Ave involved complete reconstruction, often digging down several feet to relocate utilities and rebuild the lower layers of the road bed as well as the top layers, not to mention rebuilding sidewalks and making some pretty hefty stations and median barriers.

Anyway, the cost can go down quite a bit if construction is focused just on what's necessary for the streetcar itself and less time/effort is spent relocating utilities. In some cases, the streetcar tracks might even deviate around important underground infrastructure, like by running along the side of the street rather than the center. And I suppose someone might make the tradeoff of simply building tracks above something important, and simply accepting the fact that the streetcar will have to be shut down for a while in the future when utility work is done.

Beyond that, there are probably differences in how streetcar signals work as compared to LRT signals -- at least in historical operation, streetcars were allowed to stack up one right after another, while LRT seems to operate more like freight/passenger rail where only a single train is allowed to occupy a stretch of track at a time (though I'm basing that on the way Hiawatha works -- the Green Line might be different, at least along the Central Corridor segment -- Southwest will probably use automatic block signaling [ABS] like the bulk of Hiawatha).

Well, back to the question of why the cities are doing this -- I think that Metro Transit and the Met Council have been so focused on routes to the suburbs for a long time that they needed to get pushed to look at urban routes again. The federal funding formulas also haven't helped, since they were so biased toward fast routes to the suburbs, while the (bogus) math just never added up for upgrading slow urban routes. We can make Nicollet faster, but it's hard (on paper) to have it compete with something running along Interstate 35W just a couple of blocks east, for example.

But, from the core cities' perspective, these old streetcar routes typically have a good mix of retail and have better density than highways and freight rail corridors, and tend to have at least half-decent bus ridership today. The people who use the routes are Metro Transit's core customers and have been putting up with crappy service for a long time. If Hiawatha can get 30k+ riders/day out of a "train to nowhere" route (or, perhaps more aptly, "train through nowhere"), and yet the 16 gets half that, then the pro-rail/anti-bus bias must be massive around here. I imagine streetcars could have pretty positive effects on traffic congestion considering the current mode share of buses -- if you can double transit ridership along these corridors, that's a pretty sizable chunk of traffic going away (yes there's induced demand too, but I know there's recent research saying that just reducing traffic by 2% helps a lot with congestion).

Alright, enough of a ramble for today...

mulad
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby mulad » March 28th, 2013, 8:49 am

I see that the map of potential lines has changed a bit. Looks like an Arcade+Maryland (incorrectly spelled "Arcard+Maryland") route has been added. The Snelling line has been altered to go to Como Park via Midway Parkway on the northern end while the southern end no longer attempts to reach West 7th, but instead follows Ford Parkway to the Hiawatha 46th Street station in Minneapolis. The CP Ford Spur line has mostly been realigned along West 7th. The East 7th line seems to have been truncated by about half a mile. Selby now shows two options: Selby+Snelling (terminating at University Ave) and Selby+Marshall (potentially running into Minneapolis). Similarly, Grand Ave has two potential routes: Grand+Cleveland and Grand+Cretin. Along with a simple Cleveland route from Highland Park, they appear to terminate at University Ave, though it wolud probably make sense to try and interline at least one of them along the Green Line to reach Raymond Ave and continue north (like the 87 does today). The Randolph line has also been extended to Minneapolis along Ford Parkway/46th.

Image
saint-paul-streetcar-3013-03-01 by Mulad, on Flickr

helsinki
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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby helsinki » March 28th, 2013, 10:53 am

mulad wrote: [ ... ] from the core cities' perspective, these old streetcar routes typically have a good mix of retail and have better density than highways and freight rail corridors, and tend to have at least half-decent bus ridership today. The people who use the routes are Metro Transit's core customers and have been putting up with crappy service for a long time. If Hiawatha can get 30k+ riders/day out of a "train to nowhere" route (or, perhaps more aptly, "train through nowhere"), and yet the 16 gets half that, then the pro-rail/anti-bus bias must be massive around here. I imagine streetcars could have pretty positive effects on traffic congestion considering the current mode share of buses -- if you can double transit ridership along these corridors, that's a pretty sizable chunk of traffic going away (yes there's induced demand too, but I know there's recent research saying that just reducing traffic by 2% helps a lot with congestion).
This is a great observation.

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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby UptownSport » March 29th, 2013, 12:20 am

mulad wrote:I still haven't really figured out why LRT is considered so much more expensive than streetcar (or conversely, why streetcar is considered so much cheaper than LRT)
Just assume I quoted it all, but won't for space ;)

Central cost so much because they REBUILT THE ENTIRE STREET, SIDEWALKS AND UTILITIES, in some cases tearing up streetcar tracks ...
and digging was a few feet, actually more than a few.

I REALLY, REALLY wish it were a streetcar, would not have been near as fast DT to DT, but we've discussed the 94 is for that. I believe University has been destroyed as a corridor for anything except the train, and in doing so pulled any life it had out :(

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Re: Saint Paul streetcar study

Postby Tcmetro » June 24th, 2013, 6:30 pm

I saw this in a St. Paul transportation committee meeting packet that shows some of the Phase 2 screening.

http://www.stpaul.gov/DocumentCenter/View/65584


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