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Old 03-26-2012, 05:52 AM
 
Location: Chicago
6,365 posts, read 7,036,244 times
Reputation: 5733

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I'm curious as to what benefits those who are behind the planned Chicago-Iowa City rail link think will benefit both Iowa City and the University of Iowa? Does anyone know?

And what do you Iowans out there think the benefits might be?

Seems to me that this one is a no brainer. the university is already so connected to Chicagoland with huge portions of its enrollment coming from the metro area with those large out-of-state tuitions benefiting the university. A rail link would only intensify the incredibly strong draw of UIowa in Chicagoland, giving it something that a similar place to Chicagoland, Bloomington, IN, will never offer Chicago kids considering IU....easy, high speed access. Obviously I went to the university, but I can tell you that Iowa is virtually a "local university" here in suburban Chicago, its presence highly felt. You won't drive very far without seeing an Iowa or Hawkeye decal or bumper sticker.

Iowa City with its exceptional college town attributes and its eastern Iowa location is already heavily connected to the more populated regions across the Mississippi in the Great Lakes region.

Location. Location. Location. That eastern Iowa setting has been a link not only to the Chicagoland student population, but to the bulk of Big Ten country to the east, a place that IC fits into completely in a way that Lincoln does not.

I think this is a smart move. What do others think?
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Old 03-26-2012, 07:31 AM
 
Location: Iowa
23 posts, read 87,136 times
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I'm moving to Cedar Rapids soon from Philly. One of the first questions I asked of my new home (in this case Eastern Iowa in general) is how well connected it is to nearby larger cities. I was interested to see this proposed rail link was one of the beneficiaries of 2010 round federal rail funding, which makes it seem like it could be real. Any connection to an economic engine like Chicago is a boon to this or any region, in my opinion. However, I think the OP's emphasis on student populations is a mistake:

Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
Obviously I went to the university, but I can tell you that Iowa is virtually a "local university" here in suburban Chicago, its presence highly felt. You won't drive very far without seeing an Iowa or Hawkeye decal or bumper sticker.

Be that as it may, even within the comparatively rail-saturated NEC here students (and many professionals) will more often than not go the cheaper, rather than faster route anywhere. I see that megabus is running service 4x a day between Des Moines and Chicago, stopping in Iowa City, about 4 hours round trip. This is big, and I wonder if it alters the projected ridership math of the heavy gauge rail proposal. Round trip Iowa City into the loop runs a little more than $60, and would likely decrease with competition- I can only guess at the comparable rail fare, but unless it is about the same price and considerably faster, you may not draw students the way you think. (Do we have approximate round-trip times and prices?)

If then the target ridership becomes more business/traveler oriented, I would also submit that a stop in IC makes sense but that Des Moines is a far more logical terminus...
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Old 03-26-2012, 08:06 AM
 
Location: Chicago
6,365 posts, read 7,036,244 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by refried sushi View Post
. I see that megabus is running service 4x a day between Des Moines and Chicago, stopping in Iowa City, about 4 hours round trip. This is big, and I wonder if it alters the projected ridership math of the heavy gauge rail proposal. Round trip Iowa City into the loop runs a little more than $60, and would likely decrease with competition- I can only guess at the comparable rail fare, but unless it is about the same price and considerably faster, you may not draw students the way you think. (Do we have approximate round-trip times and prices?)
apparently there is room for competition. In addition to the DM-Chgo megabus and the proposed Chgo-IC rail link, IC and Chgo are also linked with a weekend bus that is designed to take students home and back to campus with suburban Chicago terminals at two shopping centers: Oakbrook (west suburban Oak Brook) and Woodfield (northwest suburban Schaumburg)
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Old 03-26-2012, 08:45 AM
 
1,114 posts, read 2,124,676 times
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As with any public transit projects, it comes down to whether the usage/ridership justifies the expense. I don't think much of anyone in IC would object to having rail access to Chicago, but is it worth the millions/billions of dollars it would cost to put it in?

One problem is that our rails are too slow, and too expensive, so for many people it would still be faster and cheaper just to drive into Chicago. Especially since I would guess that most U of IA students have cars in town anyways.

I like the idea of trains in general, but the Chicago-IC link is not one of my favorites. I think they are better off connecting two larger areas that both can draw people without cars. I think Minneapolis-Chicago could have been a great link, especially if it ran through Madison and Milwaukee, and ran fast enough (with few enough stops) to be quicker than driving. Chicago-IC strikes me as a bit of a rail-to-nowhere.
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Old 03-26-2012, 09:34 AM
 
Location: Chicago
6,365 posts, read 7,036,244 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1stpontiac View Post
As with any public transit projects, it comes down to whether the usage/ridership justifies the expense. I don't think much of anyone in IC would object to having rail access to Chicago, but is it worth the millions/billions of dollars it would cost to put it in?

One problem is that our rails are too slow, and too expensive, so for many people it would still be faster and cheaper just to drive into Chicago. Especially since I would guess that most U of IA students have cars in town anyways.

I like the idea of trains in general, but the Chicago-IC link is not one of my favorites. I think they are better off connecting two larger areas that both can draw people without cars. I think Minneapolis-Chicago could have been a great link, especially if it ran through Madison and Milwaukee, and ran fast enough (with few enough stops) to be quicker than driving. Chicago-IC strikes me as a bit of a rail-to-nowhere.
all excellent points, 1st, but is there also a case to be made that you can have your cake and eat it, too? seems to me that whatever is done with a Chicago-Iowa City link will be using existing rail lines and, I suspect, not a huge cost for infrastructure.

The very connections you speak of (Chi-M/SP or Chi-Mil-Mad) are part of a totally new construction concept: high speed midwestern rail.

i think an argument could be made that each of these projects is warranted based on the cost factors, both being in line with the scope of the projects. what do you think?
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Old 03-26-2012, 10:32 AM
 
1,114 posts, read 2,124,676 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
all excellent points, 1st, but is there also a case to be made that you can have your cake and eat it, too? seems to me that whatever is done with a Chicago-Iowa City link will be using existing rail lines and, I suspect, not a huge cost for infrastructure.
You'd be surprised how much it costs to run passenger lines down existing rails. The Northstar Line is a commuter trains that runs about 40 miles from north of Minneapolis to downtown. It runs on existing freight lines, and the stations are just concrete platforms with some bus-stop-shelters to stand in. I believe the costs to get that running were north of $300 million.

Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
The very connections you speak of (Chi-M/SP or Chi-Mil-Mad) are part of a totally new construction concept: high speed midwestern rail.
True high-speed rail (talking over 100mph) can't run on current freight tracks, though, so the cost to put that in is enormous. If you are stuck with 80mph trains, you aren't going much faster than cars, especially once you factor in extra stops and the fact that most of the midwest is pretty much free-flowing (not traffic gridlocks like the east/northeast metros).

Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
i think an argument could be made that each of these projects is warranted based on the cost factors, both being in line with the scope of the projects. what do you think?
I think its fun in theory, but analyzing the economics of any of it is pretty complicated. I'd have to know the actual projected costs and projected ridership to form much of a concrete opinion.

I know when I saw the ridership projected for the Chicago-IC link, I thought they were being pretty optimistic.
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Old 03-26-2012, 01:48 PM
 
Location: On the Rails in Northern NJ
12,381 posts, read 23,955,407 times
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Thanks to the FRA putting Passenger Services on any freight corridor costs alot more then it should. Any Passenger service wishing to use Freight corridors most put down 100 Million in Insurance costs. Then theres the weight issues , Trains must be built like Tanks , thus that adds more to the costs. The FRA is just as useless as the FAA , or EPA....too many old rules restricting Transportation growth.
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Old 03-26-2012, 02:39 PM
 
11,289 posts, read 23,038,040 times
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I think it's a great idea. As someone without a car, I'd use to to come back to Iowa City 4-5 times a year. Something like 47% of the U of Iowa students are from the Chicago suburbs anyway, and the U of Iowa always tries to keep its 30,000 students from all bringing cars. Back when I was at Iowa, I'd say around 50% of students would leave their cars at home or didn't have one in the first place.

If it were cheap enough, the train is a much easier way to go back and forth. You can sleep, read, do work/homework, etc. and not have to pay attention to anything.

I think moreso than students using it though, it would be alum living in Chicago (there are thousands) or residents of Iowa City and the immediate area going to Chicago for the weekend. You'd have to do a stop in the burbs to really have an impact on the student's taking it back and forth. Most students going home to see parents aren't going to want to go all the way downtown Chicago.
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Old 04-01-2012, 07:17 PM
MG3
 
14 posts, read 27,318 times
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The costs far exceed the benefits.

The megabus is cheaper and faster than any rail service will be. The train will not be cheaper than the megabus--taxpayers will subsidize it a lot.

I have spoken with a police officer who is concerned about problems with it. Serious crime seems to have dramatically increased in Iowa City in the last couple of decades.

I suspect Iowa people may use it to go to Chicago for the weekend to shop and spend dollars there. Students mostly seem to have their own cars or can take the megabus--I don't see anyone taking the train to Iowa to spend money here.

Alumni aren't going to want to be stuck in Iowa City without a car so they will likely drive back. It's a fairly quick road trip from the Chicago area if you drive.

This proposed rail service is a typical government boondoggle where the state and city workers and officials who are planning it are more than happy to spend other peoples tax dollars, help their own job longevity by creating yet another government project, and have overstated the benefits (in a big way).
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Old 04-02-2012, 11:35 AM
 
Location: SWE
887 posts, read 1,412,187 times
Reputation: 803
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexis4Jersey View Post
Thanks to the FRA putting Passenger Services on any freight corridor costs alot more then it should. Any Passenger service wishing to use Freight corridors most put down 100 Million in Insurance costs. Then theres the weight issues , Trains must be built like Tanks , thus that adds more to the costs. The FRA is just as useless as the FAA , or EPA....too many old rules restricting Transportation growth.
The cost of establishing the service is not really the big problem here. Half of that route would run on rails already hosting passenger rail service, and it has capacity for more passenger trains without significant investments (with the possible exception of Chicago Union Station). The other half, former Rock Island and now Iowa Interstate Railroad, used to host +100mph passenge trains, most work needed to get that back up to those standards are signal work and passing sidings, and a few bridges that are not in too good of a shape anymore.

The real problem is it doesn't exactly solve any kind of transportation bottleneck. It would be at best a moderate success ridership wise, and at what cost.. compared to the bus lines. Only reason why they are even proposing this, is to eventually extend the route to Des Moines and Omaha. Even with that, i don't see it relieving any kind of a transportation bottleneck.

If this was an area of significant road and highway congestion, the service would already be in place and it would have probably never even shut down in the first place.
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