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Mackensen

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johnny.menhennet

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Apologies if this is old news but I don't remember seeing it discussed before. Wisconsin and Minnesota are discussing requesting a feasibility study from Amtrak for a second daily Chicago-Milwaukee-Twin Cities train. Full story here: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/wisconsin-minnesota-ponder-expanding-amtrak-service-3q3psvu-137397853.html.
I read this exact story last night, and I do rind it both a feasible route and a possibility, given the strong local and political support. I can't help but wondering, though, why the line through Eau Claire (sorry if I butchered the spelling of it) would not be better. It sure looks as strwightand seems to serve a greater population.
 

Mackensen

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Apologies if this is old news but I don't remember seeing it discussed before. Wisconsin and Minnesota are discussing requesting a feasibility study from Amtrak for a second daily Chicago-Milwaukee-Twin Cities train. Full story here: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/wisconsin-minnesota-ponder-expanding-amtrak-service-3q3psvu-137397853.html.
I read this exact story last night, and I do rind it both a feasible route and a possibility, given the strong local and political support. I can't help but wondering, though, why the line through Eau Claire (sorry if I butchered the spelling of it) would not be better. It sure looks as strwightand seems to serve a greater population.
I think it comes down a question of what's possible. The existing route already hosts passenger service. It has signals, stations, and track maintained to a usable standard. If we're talking about using the existing rail route through Eau Claire (see http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/localgov/docs/railmap.pdf), that means switching to the Union Pacific at Camp Douglas. UP is often hostile to hosting new service, and I'm sure will conjure up a horrifying figure for rehabilitating the line. Per the group advocating this project it's not all even welded rail (http://westwisconsinrail.org/corridor02.html).

Confusingly, the article is talking about two different things. There's upgrading existing service, and there's installing a 220 mph high-speed service. The latter has no chance of happening. Any money spent on it is money thrown down the drain. We shouldn't even be talking about it until we have, at minimum, six round-trips a day between the Twin Cities and Chicago with average speeds above 70 mph, topping out at 100-110 mph.

EDIT: Thanks Anderson. Freudian slip?
 
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afigg

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Apologies if this is old news but I don't remember seeing it discussed before. Wisconsin and Minnesota are discussing requesting a feasibility study from Amtrak for a second daily Chicago-Milwaukee-Twin Cities train. Full story here:
This $60K study funding to Amtrak is a good sign in that the small amount indicates that this is to be focused on Amtrak coming up with specific costs and what it would take to add, for a start, a daily Chicago to St. Paul/Minn daily corridor train. That WI is looking to find $30K to fund half of the study, however shows that Gov. Walker may not cooperate. Even in tight times, a State DOT can find $30K in funds in loose change in the couch if they looked.

In December, MN DOT released a fairly extensive feasibility and alternative route study for a CHI-MSP high(er) speed corridor. The study and documents are available here. The Complete Draft Selection Report is a 310 page document which provides the details, tables and maps on why the recommendation is to use the current EB route.

If Amtrak can make the equipment available, the odds are good that a corridor service on the current route could start in several years, if WI does not get in the way.
 

Anderson

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Thrown down the train? Or drain?:p

Joking aside...ok, seeing mention of yet another bullet train makes me want to hit my head against the keyboard. I'd do that, but I might accidentally write Twilight. Seriously, misplaced bullet train (or in their case, maglev) hopes basically kept Tennessee from studying a Chattanooga-Atlanta corridor train. That said, the link is dead...but this does seem like a market worth seriously looking at (especially in light of Minnesota's NLX project from Minneapolis to Duluth). The market was almost assuredly over-served in the late 60s/early 70s with something like 9 trains per day on three roads, but given the amount of traffic that MSP is generating with one train per day, they probably need the second train in the long run if they don't want to start dropping lots of cars in Minneapolis from the Builder. Moreover, while CHI-MSP is a reasonably reliable run on the Builder, MSP-CHI is a farce because of all the trouble the Builder can run into over the first 2000 or so miles of its trip.

Edit: Seeing as MN is pretty interested in rail stuff, I'm wondering if they might not just find a way to steamroll the train through WI if the estimated deficit is small enough (<$5 million a year seems like something that MN might be able and willing to come up with, and I could see one train per day having costs in this range...particularly if it was able to transfer at least some CHI-MSP business from the Builder; I think you'd see a substantial increase in traffic on the corridor with an additional train, but at least eastbound I think this would pull a lot of business over from the Builder).

Edit 2: At least with the higher-speed project, it looks like they might be able to beat out the old "400" times by at least some margin.
 
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Exiled in Express

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This $60K study funding to Amtrak is a good sign in that the small amount indicates that this is to be focused on Amtrak coming up with specific costs and what it would take to add, for a start, a daily Chicago to St. Paul/Minn daily corridor train. That WI is looking to find $30K to fund half of the study, however shows that Gov. Walker may not cooperate. Even in tight times, a State DOT can find $30K in funds in loose change in the couch if they looked.

If Amtrak can make the equipment available, the odds are good that a corridor service on the current route could start in several years, if WI does not get in the way.
The Builder is on the 2012 PRIIA list so hopefully some hard numbers will be forthcoming in the next few months.

Edit: Seeing as MN is pretty interested in rail stuff, I'm wondering if they might not just find a way to steamroll the train through WI if the estimated deficit is small enough (<$5 million a year seems like something that MN might be able and willing to come up with, and I could see one train per day having costs in this range...particularly if it was able to transfer at least some CHI-MSP business from the Builder; I think you'd see a substantial increase in traffic on the corridor with an additional train, but at least eastbound I think this would pull a lot of business over from the Builder).

Edit 2: At least with the higher-speed project, it looks like they might be able to beat out the old "400" times by at least some margin.
The political will for heavy rail is not as great as I would like. The compromised to failure Northstar commuter service is a whipping post for Republicans that currently hold both houses of the MN legislature and attempted to enact cuts to even existing intra-city bus service in the last budget. The move to SPUD is also going to lessen the political will for Minneapolis/west metro politicians to stick out their neck.

Demand is also very seasonal, I arrived in MSP on #8 this morning and there were perhaps 30 passengers waiting to board, none in the sleeper lounge. This could partially be attributed to the surprising 30 minute early arrival but mostly I believe it is seasonality. That said if there was a eastern bound night train or to a lesser extend a train not tied to the delays of North Dakota weather, my patronage would increase greatly.
 
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TCRT

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While I know that Northstar has been a failure, isn't the Hiawatha Line years and years ahead of projections?
Yes! The Hiawatha Line had a 2020 projected daily ridership of 24,600; it matched that in its first year of operation and is currently seeing 35,000 daily riders.

I would certainly use a daily CHI-MSP train far more frequently than I use the Empire Builder, as I've been stuck a few too many times by a several hours late eastbound train. Like someone else posted, CHI-MSP is usually a good bet, but MSP-CHI can easily result in missed connections or a bus ride down I-94. I know more than a few Twin Cities residents who would love to make more use of train service if it were more reliable and/or faster (CHI-MSP times are currently about 2.5 hours slower than at their peak in the 1940's).

It's also worth noting that, despite Amtrak moving to SPUD, there's always the chance that a corridor train that terminates in MSP could be sent into downtown Minneapolis to the Northstar terminus after stopping in Saint Paul. Of course, given that the Northstar station is an unstaffed set of shelters, I doubt this would happen, especially once the Central Corridor LRT offers direct SPUD-Minneapolis service.
 

WICT106

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Don't forget about adding service through Madison, WI. part of the recall effort is due to Walker's rejection of the funding.
 

TCRT

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Don't forget about adding service through Madison, WI. part of the recall effort is due to Walker's rejection of the funding.
Sure, but as I recall (and I might be wrong) that rail line is limited to 30mph and would therefore need more investment than simply adding another frequency on the existing line would.
 

afigg

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Don't forget about adding service through Madison, WI. part of the recall effort is due to Walker's rejection of the funding.
Sure, but as I recall (and I might be wrong) that rail line is limited to 30mph and would therefore need more investment than simply adding another frequency on the existing line would.
Major repair and upgrades for the line to Madison was the biggest component of the $810 million awarded to WI to extend service to Madison. The repair was also going to improve the tracks for freight traffic, but that got lost in the controversy over the project. I think someday the project will get resurrected, but it will take years and a sustained federal funded program for high speed and intercity passenger rail.

Meanwhile, MN should go ahead and start service over the current EB route, making the low cost improvements to the corridor that provide the best bang for the bucks.
 

WICT106

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Don't forget about adding service through Madison, WI. part of the recall effort is due to Walker's rejection of the funding.
Sure, but as I recall (and I might be wrong) that rail line is limited to 30mph and would therefore need more investment than simply adding another frequency on the existing line would.
Major repair and upgrades for the line to Madison was the biggest component of the $810 million awarded to WI to extend service to Madison. The repair was also going to improve the tracks for freight traffic, but that got lost in the controversy over the project. I think someday the project will get resurrected, but it will take years and a sustained federal funded program for high speed and intercity passenger rail.

Meanwhile, MN should go ahead and start service over the current EB route, making the low cost improvements to the corridor that provide the best bang for the bucks.
Afigg, you're correct. I'm one of the Wisconsinites endeavoring to make it sooner instead of later. We in Wisconsin have to work at removing our Dear Governor, first, while garnering more public support for train service. It was very disappointing to come so close, after two decades ( in some cases more ) of work, and then have several political opportunists slap it all away.
 

Mackensen

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I didn't see any proposed timetables or schedules, but I think you could manage adding a round-trip with one trainset. I'm assuming no reduction to the eight-hour trip time from Chicago to St. Paul:

Lv Chicago 6:00 am.

Ar St. Paul 2:00 pm.

Lv St. Paul 4:00 pm.

Ar Chicago midnight.

This would replace the first Hiawatha Service (#329) outbound, and add a late-night option from Milwaukee to Chicago.
 

Anderson

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To be fair, I sort of blame the outgoing Governor for not forcing the agreement through and accepting the money before Walker could derail it (and the Obama administration for not moving things out quicker once it became clear it was going to be a bad year...which was apparent well before late October). But there's plenty of blame to be had all around.
 

afigg

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I didn't see any proposed timetables or schedules, but I think you could manage adding a round-trip with one trainset. I'm assuming no reduction to the eight-hour trip time from Chicago to St. Paul:
Too far and long a trip for the service to be reliably provided by a single trainset. A trainset would have to be stored at St. Paul overnight. The Empire Builder trip time includes padding for a LD train schedule which should be trimmed for a corridor train. If there are some affordable track and capacity improvements that could be done, MN can do those before or as service starts.

A question is what equipment would be provided for the corridor service? Horizon cars? Would Minnesota be able to provide state funding to buy additional bi-level corridor cars as part of the Midwest order? Many things to work out and lots of hurdles to clear before corridor service can start.
 

Exiled in Express

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I didn't see any proposed timetables or schedules, but I think you could manage adding a round-trip with one trainset. I'm assuming no reduction to the eight-hour trip time from Chicago to St. Paul:

Lv Chicago 6:00 am.

Ar St. Paul 2:00 pm.

Lv St. Paul 4:00 pm.

Ar Chicago midnight.

This would replace the first Hiawatha Service (#329) outbound, and add a late-night option from Milwaukee to Chicago.
Those are nasty times in Chicago, and not too friendly in St Paul either. I would like to see a ~9pm or as late as possible without swamping the MSP station and staff with 2 overlapping departures (7), departure from St Paul with an early morning arrival in MKE/CHI. It affords a full business day in either city and maximum connectivity to other routes. A Chicago morning departure is sound though, maybe 8 rather than 6am, pushing it later to allow for northbound connections would creep to far into the current Builder schedule.
 

Anderson

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I didn't see any proposed timetables or schedules, but I think you could manage adding a round-trip with one trainset. I'm assuming no reduction to the eight-hour trip time from Chicago to St. Paul:
Too far and long a trip for the service to be reliably provided by a single trainset. A trainset would have to be stored at St. Paul overnight. The Empire Builder trip time includes padding for a LD train schedule which should be trimmed for a corridor train. If there are some affordable track and capacity improvements that could be done, MN can do those before or as service starts.

A question is what equipment would be provided for the corridor service? Horizon cars? Would Minnesota be able to provide state funding to buy additional bi-level corridor cars as part of the Midwest order? Many things to work out and lots of hurdles to clear before corridor service can start.
Well, at least in theory the funding for the cars needed could come out of the federal funding pool. What would it be? 2-3 sets of (1) engine, (2-3) bilevel coach cars, (1) cafe, and (1) cab car?
 

AlanB

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While I know that Northstar has been a failure, isn't the Hiawatha Line years and years ahead of projections?
Northstar is far from a "failure". Is it a rousing success? No! But it isn't a failure either and as ridership continues to grow it's numbers will get better. Even now using the 2010 NTD numbers, Northstar moves people at a slightly cheaper, very slight, rate than a bus does; 88 cents per passenger mile for Northstat vs. 90 cents per pax/mile for a bus (national average).

And once the new Central light rail line opens, I'd expect a good bump in ridership on Northstar too, as people will be able to get to more places.
 
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jphjaxfl

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Thrown down the train? Or drain?:p

Joking aside...ok, seeing mention of yet another bullet train makes me want to hit my head against the keyboard. I'd do that, but I might accidentally write Twilight. Seriously, misplaced bullet train (or in their case, maglev) hopes basically kept Tennessee from studying a Chattanooga-Atlanta corridor train. That said, the link is dead...but this does seem like a market worth seriously looking at (especially in light of Minnesota's NLX project from Minneapolis to Duluth). The market was almost assuredly over-served in the late 60s/early 70s with something like 9 trains per day on three roads, but given the amount of traffic that MSP is generating with one train per day, they probably need the second train in the long run if they don't want to start dropping lots of cars in Minneapolis from the Builder. Moreover, while CHI-MSP is a reasonably reliable run on the Builder, MSP-CHI is a farce because of all the trouble the Builder can run into over the first 2000 or so miles of its trip.

Edit: Seeing as MN is pretty interested in rail stuff, I'm wondering if they might not just find a way to steamroll the train through WI if the estimated deficit is small enough (<$5 million a year seems like something that MN might be able and willing to come up with, and I could see one train per day having costs in this range...particularly if it was able to transfer at least some CHI-MSP business from the Builder; I think you'd see a substantial increase in traffic on the corridor with an additional train, but at least eastbound I think this would pull a lot of business over from the Builder).

Edit 2: At least with the higher-speed project, it looks like they might be able to beat out the old "400" times by at least some margin.
The Chicago-Twin Cities railmarket was not overserved in the 1960s and before! I lived in Minneapolis for 20 years and had many older friends who talked about the packed Zephyrs, Hiawathas and the 400. At one time there were 7 railroads with passenger service from Chicago to the Twin Cities. As with anything where there is multiple options, everyone had their preference for travel. It might have been due to the dining car menu as all major trains had full dining cars and most had Parlor Cars. Even Amtrak had 2 daily trains each way from Chicago to Minneapolis until the early, 1980s and they were well patronized. One train was discontinued due to budget cuts, not due to lack of passengers.
 

jis

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I didn't see any proposed timetables or schedules, but I think you could manage adding a round-trip with one trainset. I'm assuming no reduction to the eight-hour trip time from Chicago to St. Paul:

Lv Chicago 6:00 am.

Ar St. Paul 2:00 pm.

Lv St. Paul 4:00 pm.

Ar Chicago midnight.

This would replace the first Hiawatha Service (#329) outbound, and add a late-night option from Milwaukee to Chicago.
Those are nasty times in Chicago, and not too friendly in St Paul either. I would like to see a ~9pm or as late as possible without swamping the MSP station and staff with 2 overlapping departures (7), departure from St Paul with an early morning arrival in MKE/CHI. It affords a full business day in either city and maximum connectivity to other routes. A Chicago morning departure is sound though, maybe 8 rather than 6am, pushing it later to allow for northbound connections would creep to far into the current Builder schedule.
The tried and tested old North Star schedule from the 70s may be a good starting point. It was something like:

Code:
10:30p   d  Chicago               a   7:10a

12:07a   a  Milwaukee             d   5:40a
12:12a   d                        a   5:35a

7:15a    a  Minneapolis/St. Paul  a  10:15p
But such a train would naturally require Sleeper(s) service, and would be business friendly.

The other possibility would be a schedule resembling the Milwaukee Road Afternoon Hiawatha which departs each end around noon arriving at the other end at around 7pm. If the westbound departure is considered to be too close to the EB it could be moved to the old Morning Hiawatha timing leaving Chicago at 10am arriving into Minneapolis at sometime after 5pm. This would naturally be a day train and would be cheaper to operate, sort of Palmetto style and would probably have better farebox recovery, as does the Palmetto.

BTW, could someone please fix the URL posted by the OP at the top of this thread to:

Code:
http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/wisconsin-minnesota-ponder-expanding-amtrak-service-3q3psvu-137397853.html
The URL is currently broken.
 
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Exiled in Express

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The tried and tested old North Star schedule from the 70s may be a good starting point. It was something like:

Code:
10:30p   d  Chicago               a   7:10a

12:07a   a  Milwaukee             d   5:40a
12:12a   d                        a   5:35a

7:15a    a  Minneapolis/St. Paul  a  10:15p
But such a train would naturally require Sleeper(s) service, and would be business friendly.

The other possibility would be a schedule resembling the Milwaukee Road Afternoon Hiawatha which departs each end around noon arriving at the other end at around 7pm. If the westbound departure is considered to be too close to the EB it could be moved to the old Morning Hiawatha timing leaving Chicago at 10am arriving into Minneapolis at sometime after 5pm. This would naturally be a day train and would be cheaper to operate, sort of Palmetto style and would probably have better farebox recovery, as does the Palmetto.
Thanks for that, I really don't know the history of the route, just what would work for me. :D North Star timing is great for a MSP based rider, 14 hours of scheduled downtime is tempting to do something else with the trainset though.
 

Hotblack Desiato

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Really, there ought to be at least three trains daily on the route.

One would be the Empire Builder, one would be the overnight, and one would be a morning CHI departure/afternoon MSP departure.

The morning train would leave CHI around 7 or 8 am, get to MSP some time early/mid afternoon, and turn to the evening/overnight departure. The overnight out of CHI would drop its sleeper in MSP (to be picked up by the train that arrives in the afternoon and departs for the next overnight), then turn for the afternoon departure which would get into CHI in the evening.

Roughly speaking, you'd have

CHI 07:00 14:15 22:00

MSP 15:15 22:30 06:15+1

 

MSP 07:50 13:00 22:00

CHI 16:00 21:15 08:00+1*

*(this train could take the slot of the first Hiawatha of the day MKE-CHI)
 
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MikefromCrete

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The tried and tested old North Star schedule from the 70s may be a good starting point. It was something like:

Code:
10:30p   d  Chicago               a   7:10a

12:07a   a  Milwaukee             d   5:40a
12:12a   d                        a   5:35a

7:15a    a  Minneapolis/St. Paul  a  10:15p
But such a train would naturally require Sleeper(s) service, and would be business friendly.

The other possibility would be a schedule resembling the Milwaukee Road Afternoon Hiawatha which departs each end around noon arriving at the other end at around 7pm. If the westbound departure is considered to be too close to the EB it could be moved to the old Morning Hiawatha timing leaving Chicago at 10am arriving into Minneapolis at sometime after 5pm. This would naturally be a day train and would be cheaper to operate, sort of Palmetto style and would probably have better farebox recovery, as does the Palmetto.
Thanks for that, I really don't know the history of the route, just what would work for me. :D North Star timing is great for a MSP based rider, 14 hours of scheduled downtime is tempting to do something else with the trainset though.
No state is going to pay for a train that passes through in the middle of the night.
 
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jis

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The tried and tested old North Star schedule from the 70s may be a good starting point. It was something like:

Code:
10:30p   d  Chicago               a   7:10a

12:07a   a  Milwaukee             d   5:40a
12:12a   d                        a   5:35a

7:15a    a  Minneapolis/St. Paul  a  10:15p
Thanks for that, I really don't know the history of the route, just what would work for me. :D North Star timing is great for a MSP based rider, 14 hours of scheduled downtime is tempting to do something else with the trainset though.
The original North Star of course went to Duluth to make further use of the consist.
 
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