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Old 12-05-2018, 11:48 PM
 
Location: In the heights
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Quote:
Originally Posted by craig11152 View Post
I don't pretend to be an expert at all on the topic but I have done some research/reading over the last couple days.
A couple things I've learned or in some cases been reminded of...
1. population density IS an issue for a nationwide system according to several people who are experts.
2.The USA has far and away more miles of track than any other country (twice as much as #2 China)
2a. A vast majority of our track is privately, built, owned and maintained.
3. Our rail system was built more to move freight long distances than people.
4. If you combine the 4 ways generally used to measure freight movement by rail we are #2 behind Russia
5. Because we move so much freight by rail sharing existing tracks with high speed trains is not practical. Freight trains chug along slowly as they do not have time constraints.

So it seems to me a high speed rail system to be effective and efficient needs its own tracks as opposed to sharing track with freight. In this country we are fond of property rights more than most other countries. That makes it problematic and expensive to acquire the land for new tracks. So that takes me to what stretches of the country make sense for the cost.
Certainly Detroit/Chicago meets some criteria in terms of distance and somewhat population. But on the negative side for the cost is the options already in place.
Sitting here in Ann Arbor I have 4/5 options to get to Chicago.
I can drive in 4-4.5 hours.
I can take a Mega bus for as little as $10 if I buy in advance (one way) 4-4.5 hours
I can ride the Amtrak for as little as $31 in advance (one way) 4-4.5 hours
I can fly in a plane for $165 round trip if I either plan in advance .
I can take a Greyhound bus for $22-$30. But since a Megabus is cheaper it is not the best bus option

Given all those options is the cost to build a true high speed train worth it?
As for Toronto in the mix going through customs would add time to the trip. Of course that is true no matter the form of travel.
I can find flights Chicago to Toronto and back for under $200 round trip. Nonstop under 1:45.
Flights from Detroit to Toronto seem to cost a bit more at $223 round trip.
That brings us to the Airport infrastructure in the United States which is the largest in the world. For fast travel in this country the prefered mode is airplanes.
These are excellent points and well put. I agree with the five items you’ve listed. One thing I want to do is put these in the context of the Chicago to Detroit portion of this line specifically. While private freight operators own the vast majority of trackage in this country and obviously prioritize their freight over passenger railroad running on their tracks, Amtrak actually owns the Michigan services track from Porter, Indiana to Kalamazoo. Additionally, MDOT owns the Michigan services tracks from Kalamazoo to Dearborn. These together are the single longest stretch of publicly owned track in the United States outside of the Northeast Corridor.

This is quite a novelty within the US and having such a publicly owned stretch of track and right-of-way means the cost of renting time on private tracks and haggling over upgrades and scheduling or having to outright purchase track as other corridors would need to do is mostly absent in this case and leaves this as mostly an exception to the general rule you’ve outlined. This ownership includes in portions lands around the tracks so if service is frequent enough and needs to pass by other passenger rail services, passing sidings or further trackage is possible at points.

Now this still leaves the relatively short stretches from Porter, Indiana to Chicago as well as the stretch from Dearborn to Detroit. For the former, there is the CREATE program that is trying to disentangle the routes for passenger and freight leading into Chicago. I think as part of trying to get the ball rolling on this would
be to place a high-speed passenger rail track on the agenda. For the Dearborn to Detroit stretch, one thing that would need to be figured out is what crossing is to be used to get over to connect to Windsor and Canada’s Via Rail service which would then be a guide to figuring out what the cost of building or acquiring that stretch is. Certainly those parts aren’t free, but at least there doesn’t need to be costs and time sank into the acquiring the Porter to Dearborn stretch or protracted and controversial eminent domain lawsuits.

I don’t know what the actual travel times from Detroit to Chicago would be as there are a lot of different parameters though if we have the specs put at least to the minimal definition of high-speed rail at 160 mph and this is electrified, as is standard for high-speed rail, for fast acceleration after stops, then two hours or less from Detroit to Chicago is pretty reasonable (so actual high-speed instead of the 150 mph for just 34 miles of the route that the Acela Express gets). Part of high-speed rail operations is the necessity to have rail built to very high standards which has generally resulted in in the rest of the world very smooth rides. So this is a relatively nice ride with city center Chicago to city center Detroit (well, hopefully) in two hours or less. This puts the two cities in comfortable daytrip territory.

As for crossing into Canada—yea, I don’t know what can be figured out. As I recall, there was something that was trying to be figured out for the Montreal to NYC line in order to not have the hour long border check, but because that rail line wasn’t frequently used due to it moving at a snail’s pace and therefore having low ridership, the suggestions weren’t pushed too hard. If I recall correctly, some of the suggestions were like preboarding checks for sequestered/separated parts of stations or traincars that were for passengers who were going to cross the border and/or onboard checks.

Last edited by OyCrumbler; 12-06-2018 at 12:07 AM..
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Old 12-06-2018, 11:56 AM
 
Location: Ann Arbor MI
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OyCrumbler,
As I mentioned before I enjoy taking the Wolverine to Chicago. I'd maybe enjoy it even more if the time was cut in half... Depending on the ticket price. It's often said "time is money" but that's only as true as someone willing to pay you for your time. At my age and life stage nobody is paying me for my time. As I also mentioned before I can find a ticket for as little as $31 but that would never be a Friday. If I want to go on a Friday 50-68 is more likely the cheap seat. So a faster train can't get too much more expensive before I would either fly for the "big bucks" or drive my 42 mpg (highway) Kia Rio, or take the Megabus for 10-20 dollars

Reading the Wiki page on the Wolverine line it mentions track upgrades to accommodate 110mph. Some of that included reconfiguring some bends. I wonder if they reworked those bends with something much faster in mind like the 160mph you mentioned?
Also wondering in your 2 hour scenario how many stops is that? Less than now? If so does a slower train still service those stops or are they no longer serviced at all by a train?
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Old 12-06-2018, 04:50 PM
 
24,854 posts, read 17,437,676 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by craig11152 View Post
OyCrumbler,
As I mentioned before I enjoy taking the Wolverine to Chicago. I'd maybe enjoy it even more if the time was cut in half... Depending on the ticket price. It's often said "time is money" but that's only as true as someone willing to pay you for your time. At my age and life stage nobody is paying me for my time. As I also mentioned before I can find a ticket for as little as $31 but that would never be a Friday. If I want to go on a Friday 50-68 is more likely the cheap seat. So a faster train can't get too much more expensive before I would either fly for the "big bucks" or drive my 42 mpg (highway) Kia Rio, or take the Megabus for 10-20 dollars

Reading the Wiki page on the Wolverine line it mentions track upgrades to accommodate 110mph. Some of that included reconfiguring some bends. I wonder if they reworked those bends with something much faster in mind like the 160mph you mentioned?
Also wondering in your 2 hour scenario how many stops is that? Less than now? If so does a slower train still service those stops or are they no longer serviced at all by a train?

Unless ROW is upgraded to electric no, you cannot get 160mph from diesel locomotives. Fastest such motive power today is the British Intercity 125 which can reach speeds of 145mph, but in regular service rarely goes above 125mph. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InterCity_125


FRA standards for crash worthiness and other safety measures mean American locomotives for passenger service are heavier than those in Europe, Asia and other places with true HSR. The ACELA like every other train/locomotive imported by Amtrak for use in this country had to be redesigned to meet said requirements. As such while "faster" than what normally passes for passenger locomotives in USA, that train can barely get out of its own way due to the added weight.


Much of Europe, UK and Asian countries benefitted in that large amounts of their rail ROW was already "under the wires" (electrified) before beginning HSR service. Basically post WWII years as those railroads moved from steam power on the point the trend was towards electrification, though there was and is diesel power. In a way this was dictated by fact few European nations or elsewhere have large oil reserves. So if you are going to burn coal for power, best to use it for generating electricity that can move trains.


The USA OTOH railroads simply went from steam to diesel largely because of the opposite; we have large oil reserves so fuel wasn't exactly an issue. Also the great distances traveled by trains in this country makes electrification expensive and impractical for all but local/regional trains. This is why you see electric service for commuter, subway, and of course the NEC of Amtrak. But that is about it, and no one is considering even going there due to costs.
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Old 12-06-2018, 04:51 PM
 
Location: In the heights
28,587 posts, read 27,799,178 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by craig11152 View Post
OyCrumbler,
As I mentioned before I enjoy taking the Wolverine to Chicago. I'd maybe enjoy it even more if the time was cut in half... Depending on the ticket price. It's often said "time is money" but that's only as true as someone willing to pay you for your time. At my age and life stage nobody is paying me for my time. As I also mentioned before I can find a ticket for as little as $31 but that would never be a Friday. If I want to go on a Friday 50-68 is more likely the cheap seat. So a faster train can't get too much more expensive before I would either fly for the "big bucks" or drive my 42 mpg (highway) Kia Rio, or take the Megabus for 10-20 dollars

Reading the Wiki page on the Wolverine line it mentions track upgrades to accommodate 110mph. Some of that included reconfiguring some bends. I wonder if they reworked those bends with something much faster in mind like the 160mph you mentioned?
Also wondering in your 2 hour scenario how many stops is that? Less than now? If so does a slower train still service those stops or are they no longer serviced at all by a train?
Hi!

Yea, I think Wolverine service is pretty decent. Generally, high-speed rail and conventional rail have slightly different markets as high-speed rail is usually faster and has a higher price. It often appeals more to business travelers and certain tourists than it does to students or budget fare.

Definitely some stretches of the rail right-of-way itself can accommodate 160 mph in terms of its geometry. In many places, the main difference that occurs in upgrading to high-speed rail is simply the rail tracks are built to higher standards and continuously welded and the service electrified and meanwhile non-high speed rail trains also still run on the tracks. Germany does a lot of this mixed-traffic rail (they mix normal, high-speed, and freight!) and that runs fairly well, but the issue is that Germany's trains usually get a top speed of 186 mph / 300 kph rather than the much faster train lines that some other places run--though to be honest, if the Chicago to Detroit line is hitting 186 mph speeds on stretches, then that's still really quite good and amazing for US passenger rail.

I think the mixed rail system probably works for this case and it'd be that there'd still be "normal" speed rail running at 110 mph as it does now with the current stops on the line and high-speed rail running faster with fewer stops. This mixed rail also means that normal rail running on the same tracks for the track lengths that are shared, except for potentially passing sidings, will likely have a very smooth ride as a side benefit from high-speed rail being implemented--it could very well be that the trainsets and tracks are virtually the same for "normal" and high-speed rail service are the same with the only difference being skipped stops which may still mean that some "normal" services still hit high-speeds.

In regards to acceleration, for reference, the Japanese N700 trains go 0-60 mph in 37 seconds, holds that acceleration for the most part to its top speeds and those are over a decade old at this point and I believe have been beaten by several other sets in recent years. To 160 mph at those rates, it'd be about 99 seconds. Now, given that actually creating high-speed rail on this route will take a lot of political wrangling as well as actual construction time, it doesn't seem like it'd be ridiculous to have at least the acceleration of a trainset already over a decade old at this point.


In regards to potential stops, I'll take the Wolverine stops from Chicago to Detroit and list them and bold the ones that I think are definitely necessary and italicize the ones that might also make sense along with my own reasoning. Obviously, an actual study might differ.

Chicago
Hammond - last potential transfer point with Pere Marquette service if ever it stops here again
Michigan City
New Buffalo
Niles - Niles-Benton Harbor metropolitan area, potential transfer to Blue Water
Dowagiac
Kalamazoo - Currently second highest riderships among MI stations, college town with a sizable metropolitan population, potential transfer to Blue Water
Battle Creek - Sizable town and last potential transfer point to Blue Water service, near one of the more prominent bends on the route so would be slowing down anyways, one of the more heavily used stations in MI
Albion
Jackson
Ann Arbor - Massive college town with a thriving economy of its own and currently most heavily used station in MI
Dearborn - Last potential stop to transfer to current Wolverine service that goes on to Pontiac if high-speed rail service to downtown Detroit/across to Canada happens, currently third most used station in MI
Detroit - This would likely have to be with a new and potentially underground station in or closer to downtown in anticipation of crossing the river and to more centrally locate the station--also neither MDOT or Amtrak own the rails east of Dearborn so better to build and own.

Visually breaking this down:

Current Wolverine route from Chicago to Detroit:
Chicago
Hammond
Michigan City
New Buffalo
Niles
Dowagiac
Kalamazoo
Battle Creek
Albion
Jackson
Ann Arbor
Dearborn
Detroit

High-speed rail route with all the stops that might be reasonable as I see it:
Chicago
Hammond
Niles
Kalamazoo
Battle Creek
Ann Arbor
Dearborn
Detroit

High-speed rail route with fewest stops by my reasoning:
Chicago
Kalamazoo
Ann Arbor
Detroit

Using the same reference point for acceleration, the Nozomi service using the aforementioned N700 trains cover the 320 miles from Tokyo to Osaka in 2 hours and 22 minutes with six stops and with some more bends and much greater elevation differences than the Wolverine line does. The Wolverine tracks from Chicago to Detroit currently spans 271 miles which is significantly shorter and the rail stations for high-speed service I outlined potentially range from a low of four stops to a high of eight stops.

Last edited by OyCrumbler; 12-06-2018 at 06:14 PM..
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Old 12-06-2018, 07:33 PM
 
Location: In the heights
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Sorry about the long winding posts and the general obsessiveness everybody!

I still wanted to add one more thing. I actually think a Hammond stop for the high-speed rail (and the Niles one, too) especially if it’s mixed rail with normal Wolverine rail, even at relatively high speeds, and the limited stop high speed rail, isn’t optimal. Porter, Indiana, where the current public ownership of track stops west to Chicago, should be, in my opinion, where a stop is instead due to both ownership and because it’s where multiple tracks meet with the commuter rail South Shore Line service, Wolverine/Blue Water, and the Pere Marquette tracks all meeting there. That should be built into an integrated transfer station for all of these and the limited-stop high-speed rail service.
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Old 12-07-2018, 05:49 AM
 
Location: Ann Arbor MI
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On a side note here in Ann Arbor there is an extremely controversial plan to replace the current station with an 85 million dollar (and counting) replacement a short distance east of the current one. It would sit below the hospital and include a large parking structure that may dedicate a large number of spots to the University.

In my opinion the biggest issue with the current station is a lack of parking.
I'm in the school that thinks the 85 million dollar plan is obscenely expensive. Especially since I believe the most popular Amtrak train is the Midday Friday run to Chicago for a weekend of fun.
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Old 12-07-2018, 10:19 AM
 
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Actually, the Chicago-Detroit-Toronto corridor is a textbook corridor for development. Each major metro hub is within 300 miles of the other, with substantial Hamilton, ONT between Detroit and Toronto (much closer to Toronto, of course). Also the fact that Amtrak is upgrading the Wolverine, which has healthy patronage despite serving car-crazy Michigan and, often, with substantial delays getting into/out of Chicago because of its heavy freight (and Metra commuter) prioritization since Amtrak rents local access into Chicago. And as other posters have noted, Detroit has the unused tunnel under the Detroit River into Windsor.

The United States, overall, is too large, spread out and, overall, low density for a total east-to-west coast HSR program ... at the moment. The California-centered initiative makes sense... (and hopefully they can stave of the Koch Bros lawsuits along with other misguided, right-wing knuckle-draggers trying desperately to thwart it)... As we know, after Chicago going west, the population drops off almost all the way to Vegas, with the only major cities in that long corridor being Denver and Salt Lake City. But there are other American pockets where HSR could be very attractive, and Chicago-Detroit-Chicago is one of them... Frankly there could/should be successful HSR from New York to Chicago, given all the major cities in this path, including Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh ... and others.
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Old 12-07-2018, 11:42 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Retroit View Post
I think the best way to go about this is to require all highway/expressway re/construction projects to provide enough median space to accomodate high speed rail. Once the whole expanse has been rebuilt (over a few decades probably), you can begin to “think about” building the rail. The only way you will get people to switch from cars to rail is if they see a train wiz by them while they are going 75 mph down the expressway.
The light rail in Denver is built along the highway as well. Traffic congestion in the growing metro has incentivized businesses to start offering employees an EcoPass, which is essentially a pass that provides you with unlimited access to public transit including buses and light rail. So, I think a large percentage of passengers during the day are those individuals who have an EcoPass. During the evenings and weekends, it's generally passengers who are attending an event (all arenas and major venues here have a dedicated light rail stop within walking distance) and do not want to deal with parking, drinking and driving, and traffic to and from after the event. It's not for everyone, but it is an additional layer of convenience that is often overlooked, but appreciated when used.
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Old 12-07-2018, 11:46 AM
 
Location: In the heights
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Quote:
Originally Posted by craig11152 View Post
On a side note here in Ann Arbor there is an extremely controversial plan to replace the current station with an 85 million dollar (and counting) replacement a short distance east of the current one. It would sit below the hospital and include a large parking structure that may dedicate a large number of spots to the University.

In my opinion the biggest issue with the current station is a lack of parking.
I'm in the school that thinks the 85 million dollar plan is obscenely expensive. Especially since I believe the most popular Amtrak train is the Midday Friday run to Chicago for a weekend of fun.
I read about FRA seemingly making endless requests for more studies without a particularly good explanation for why there needs to be more and more spent on studies. I think the crazy thing is to have local municipal funds support an increasingly large absolute and proportional amount, because Ann Arbor isn't a massive city and a large part of the rationale for a new station is that it would help with trains running the line as a whole so why would it make sense that if the FRA is requesting more studies and more hurdles and more spending that Ann Arbor must be the one to shoulder all the additional costs?

A better operating line and a new station with more parking is as a whole a good idea, but the financing scheme for the studies seems unfair to me given this is an interstate service that improves the service for everyone along it and can potentially become an international line. Now if there was a more rationale spending split, then I think a good idea for a new station would be that the parking structure and surrounding area leverages the potential transportation hub it can create to locate more densely built mixed use development out of it. It would at least give back something to the community, but really that should be done in addition to having the expenses split more fairly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheProf View Post
Actually, the Chicago-Detroit-Toronto corridor is a textbook corridor for development. Each major metro hub is within 300 miles of the other, with substantial Hamilton, ONT between Detroit and Toronto (much closer to Toronto, of course). Also the fact that Amtrak is upgrading the Wolverine, which has healthy patronage despite serving car-crazy Michigan and, often, with substantial delays getting into/out of Chicago because of its heavy freight (and Metra commuter) prioritization since Amtrak rents local access into Chicago. And as other posters have noted, Detroit has the unused tunnel under the Detroit River into Windsor.

The United States, overall, is too large, spread out and, overall, low density for a total east-to-west coast HSR program ... at the moment. The California-centered initiative makes sense... (and hopefully they can stave of the Koch Bros lawsuits along with other misguided, right-wing knuckle-draggers trying desperately to thwart it)... As we know, after Chicago going west, the population drops off almost all the way to Vegas, with the only major cities in that long corridor being Denver and Salt Lake City. But there are other American pockets where HSR could be very attractive, and Chicago-Detroit-Chicago is one of them... Frankly there could/should be successful HSR from New York to Chicago, given all the major cities in this path, including Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh ... and others.
I agree overall that it's a good corridor. Supposedly VIA Rail is looking at a two hour Windsor to Toronto plan. Now if Detroit to Chicago is reduced to a two hour trip and a reasonable border crossing plan is implemented, then that's a 4/5 hour Chicago to Toronto high-speed rail trip which by itself can justify much of the spending for it. It's also something that can cut through Canada to potentially Buffalo and Rochester in that time period for Chicago-Buffalo, Chicago to Rochester. For Detroit, that means putting Chicago, Toronto, Niagara Falls, and Buffalo in 2 to 3 hour travel time and potentially Milwaukee and Rochester in a 3 to 4 hour travel time. The current weakest link is the location of the current Detroit station in New Center, but a station closer to or in downtown to accommodate what would likely be an underground crossing to Windsor can help fix that, and given the probably long gestation period for creating this and the promising trends for Detroit, means that Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, and Windsor can be the largest beneficiaries of this as they sit in the middle.

As for where to place a Detroit station, the reuse of the existing tunnel can make sense. It may be the cheaper alternative though it doesn’t align well with the Windsor station nor is it in downtown itself so doesn’t yield a direct downtown station. If it’s done that way, then at the very least it’d require Windsor to build a new station and an extension of the people mover as well as development around the statiom. It may also help to have a more extensive freeway cap to make it blend into downtown proper better.

Essentially the Great Lakes states, the Northeast Corridor, the Windsor Corridor in Canada, and potentially portions of the Southeast/Upper South have large enough cities at close enough distances to create a high-speed rail network. However, this would need to be done in conjunction with a lot of cities having their urban core see better days and better mass transit solutions.

Last edited by OyCrumbler; 12-07-2018 at 12:57 PM..
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Old 12-07-2018, 03:03 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OyCrumbler View Post
The current weakest link is the location of the current Detroit station in New Center, but a station closer to or in downtown to accommodate what would likely be an underground crossing to Windsor can help fix that, and given the probably long gestation period for creating this and the promising trends for Detroit, means that Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, and Windsor can be the largest beneficiaries of this as they sit in the middle.
Yes... I suspect that, if HSR takes a serious leap in planning, that both New Center and Michigan Central may be eliminated as downtown Detroit station sites ... although, I understand, MC is directly accessible to the Windsor tunnel; this could be remedied... Support for relocating HSR stations is Philadelphia, among others, on a new HSR route utilizing much of the current NEC right of way. Plans have trains leaving the current NEC both north and south of Center City (aka: downtown Philadelphia) with a 2-track branch that would bypass the current 30th Street Station, at the very edge of Center City (similar to New Center and MC's location viz-a-viz downtown Detroit) for a new subway-type station somewhere near City Hall in Philadelphia's Center Square area.
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