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  #81  
Old Posted Oct 22, 2021, 3:06 AM
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Originally Posted by SFBruin View Post
Okay, so I did a little more research on this, and the distance between the Tacoma Dome and King Street Station in Seattle is 32 miles (on the freeway). This is about the same distance as Warm Springs BART station to West Oakland.

I could see a heavy rail line here. I'm a NIMBY, anti-train conservative, whatever you want to call me, but I could see it.
King Street Station to SeaTac Airport is either 13 miles and 38 minutes or 14 miles and 40 minutes elapse time, depending upon which web link you choose to believe. So here's the average speed.......
13/38 x 60 = 20.5 mph average
14/40 x 60 = 21.0 mph average

Using the most favorable average speed of 21 mph average speed, to go 32 miles it will take how many minutes?
32 miles /21 mph x 60 = 1.52 hours or 91.4 minutes.

Sounder trains take 55 tp 62 minutes to travel those same 32 miles, depending upon time of day and which direction you are riding.
32/55 x 60 = 34.9 mph average
32/62 x 60 = 30.9 mph average

So, in this one scenario, the commuter train will be around 10 mph average speed faster than the Link light rail trains, by around 30 minutes, or a half hour on the clock..

Last edited by electricron; Oct 22, 2021 at 5:27 PM.
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  #82  
Old Posted Oct 22, 2021, 3:26 AM
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^ I don't see many intermediate urban nodes between the airport and Tacoma. The Sounder path in fact looks the most populated. I would focus on increasing speeds and service levels there, and probably adding a transfer station to the airport link at S Boeing Access Road rather than new heavy rail...

The north side Sounder needs some in-city infill stations (though there may not be enough capacity for frequent service, unfortunately). Stations at Belltown, Uptown, Magnolia Bridge, Dravus, 28th, Seaview ("Ballard"), 61st, Golden Gardens and Richmond Beach would definitely make the Sounder much more useful, with say, at least half-hourly frequency.
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  #83  
Old Posted Oct 22, 2021, 6:01 AM
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I agree, there isn't much between Seattle and Tacoma.

The main nodes are probably Kent and Auburn, which the current route serves almost perfectly.

The problem is, these two cities are not completely on the way to Tacoma, and so the Sounder has to meander slightly to reach them.

I think that a consistent theme for Seattle is that major business destinations are not always oriented in a straight line, which makes building an effective train system a little difficult.
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  #84  
Old Posted Oct 22, 2021, 2:50 PM
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Sounder's south line is aligned to the east because that's where the rail is. Rail is there because is follows river valleys.

Older towns are strengthening with Sounder's help, but the system is largely about park-n-rides.

Link is also being built south, currently to Federal Way Transit Center. This doesn't have major current nodes, but it will have future ones, at least of the six-story variety. FW has aspirations of highrises but they're harder to pencil here. The same is true with another extension underway to Lynnwood in the north.
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  #85  
Old Posted Oct 22, 2021, 5:46 PM
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I feel like there's some fatigue about public works, though.

BART was a pretty massive undertaking, in a metro area that is more populous than Seattle. I'm all for transit, but a BART-style system is unnecessary when a Caltrain-style one will do.
When BART was planned around 1960, the Bay Area only had 3.6 million people - less than the current population of the Seattle MSA.

Caltrain is successful because it has two major cities at each end with strong cores, and many walkable towns clustered along the line in between (not to mention a major university). It really is a sort of East Coast development pattern that doesn't usually exist in the West to the same extent. Sounder has Kent, Auburn, Sumner and Puyallup so it's not like there's no town centers, but Caltrain has far more of them and closer-spaced together.
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  #86  
Old Posted Oct 22, 2021, 10:44 PM
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Caltrain is successful because it has two major cities at each end with strong cores, and many walkable towns clustered along the line in between (not to mention a major university). It really is a sort of East Coast development pattern that doesn't usually exist in the West to the same extent. Sounder has Kent, Auburn, Sumner and Puyallup so it's not like there's no town centers, but Caltrain has far more of them and closer-spaced together.
Caltrain also runs many more trains per day than Sounder.
Caltrain owns most of the railroad right of way, Sounder does not.
There are few, if any, freight customers along the right of way for Caltrain, Sounder has two of the largest freight customers on the US West Coast, both Seattle's and Tacoma's ports, along the right of way with many more freight trains running over the tracks.
The passenger service rolling stock and locomotives may be very similar, but the freight conditions are entirely different. The operating environment is actually very, very different.
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  #87  
Old Posted Oct 23, 2021, 2:59 AM
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Caltrain owns most of the railroad right of way, Sounder does not.
That is the core of the matter.

Transit agencies are naturally not inclined to spend massive upgrades to rail lines they don't own. You only get the huge investments of grade separations, track twinning, improved stations, upgraded rail infrastructure, electrification, and all the benefits that comes with it IF the transit agency actually owns the track.

What CalTrain is doing is very similar to what Toronto is doing with GO rail taking it from a commuter service to a truly regional express rail system........essentially subway-lite. They are spending $13 billion to make it all happen but it is only possible because between 2000 to 2010 they bought all the rail lines that they will need for the service from CN & CP.


People lament that European countries give transit first priority over freight so why can't we but that is a false analogy. European freight traffic is Mickey Mouse compared to North America and hence it was never much of an obstacle to begin with. Canada ships more by rail freight every year than do all Western European countries........combined.
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  #88  
Old Posted Oct 23, 2021, 3:29 AM
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People lament that European countries give transit first priority over freight so why can't we but that is a false analogy. European freight traffic is Mickey Mouse compared to North America and hence it was never much of an obstacle to begin with. Canada ships more by rail freight every year than do all Western European countries........combined.
Absolutely. And even as worn out as some of it looks they say the US/Canada freight rail system really is the envy of the world.
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  #89  
Old Posted Oct 23, 2021, 4:09 AM
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Absolutely. And even as worn out as some of it looks they say the US/Canada freight rail system really is the envy of the world.
Well, there's Russian railways which manages to do both, but it helps to be a quasimonopoly in that case.
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  #90  
Old Posted Oct 23, 2021, 4:58 AM
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The combined GDP of the US and Canada is literallly 20 times larger than Russia. That at least has to make a difference in which freight rail network is "more important."

Anyways, back to commuter rail.
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  #91  
Old Posted Oct 23, 2021, 4:30 PM
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Originally Posted by electricron View Post
Caltrain also runs many more trains per day than Sounder.
Caltrain owns most of the railroad right of way, Sounder does not.
There are few, if any, freight customers along the right of way for Caltrain, Sounder has two of the largest freight customers on the US West Coast, both Seattle's and Tacoma's ports, along the right of way with many more freight trains running over the tracks.
The passenger service rolling stock and locomotives may be very similar, but the freight conditions are entirely different. The operating environment is actually very, very different.
This is very good point. There isn’t a gulf in terms of infrastructure and rolling stock, but there is in terms of outcomes as a passenger experience and service. It is too easy to become focused on expensive electric train services, when it is far easier to achieve broader and more effective gains with simple tweaks.


On the conversation around rail freight, the US and Canada are very large places (well over twice the size of the EU for example) and have been unified markets for freight for well over a century. Contrast that to Europe where freight distances are far shorter, the market is heavily fragmented, and the higher population density prioritises passenger services.

The real issue with freight in North America is the conflict in and around urban areas for passenger services. Segregating services would make a lot of sense (North American rolling stock is subsequently heavier and slower), and sometimes it is the small projects that can have immensely positive outcomes. As an example, the Werrington dive-under being constructed to the north of Peterborough (on the East Coast Main Line) in the UK will enable more freight to traverse the line, boost capacity by 33% and cut journey from London to Edinburgh by 21 minutes. Imagine local projects like that in the US and you’d see massive gains.
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  #92  
Old Posted Oct 24, 2021, 9:54 AM
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When BART was planned around 1960, the Bay Area only had 3.6 million people - less than the current population of the Seattle MSA.
Okay, fair enough. A BART-style system in Seattle is not impossible. I still feel like it is less than ideal.

Seattle is currently building a regional light rail system that is somewhat effective. I think that combining that with an electrified commuter rail system between Everett and Tacoma, maybe with a diesel extension to Olympia, makes the most sense for the region.
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  #93  
Old Posted Oct 24, 2021, 7:29 PM
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Originally Posted by SFBruin View Post
Okay, fair enough. A BART-style system in Seattle is not impossible. I still feel like it is less than ideal.

Seattle is currently building a regional light rail system that is somewhat effective. I think that combining that with an electrified commuter rail system between Everett and Tacoma, maybe with a diesel extension to Olympia, makes the most sense for the region.
Light rail really covers a broad range of characteristics and isn't a singular concept, but I will say Link is probably the most "metro-like" of American light rail systems. Long platforms, 8-car trains, and almost complete grade separation is planned for all the future extensions after the initial segment on MLK.
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  #94  
Old Posted Oct 25, 2021, 12:41 PM
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So what commuter rail extensions/creations would be most useful? I definitely feel that if these systems are greatly expanded, ridership would explode. Here are a few ideas for expansion, I feel would be fantastic, by metro.

Chicago:
Milwaukee extension
Lake Geneva extension
Rockford extension
Rochelle Extension
Ottowa extension
Wilmington extension
Kankakee extension
Lowell ext
Crown Point ext
Valparaiso ext
LaPorte extension
Other than to perhaps Gurnee on the MD-N line I do not think there is much of a need for any extensions to Metra. The lines are plenty long enough. In fact if you are going to price accordingly based on zone fares then those outer regions will become cost prohibitive to any transit commuters. They are already arguably becomign so under Metra's fare structure.

What Metra/Chicago could better use is more intergrated fares with CTA, faster trains, cleaner trains, more modern trains, denser suburban stations, and quicker headways along the current lines.

Last edited by nomarandlee; Oct 25, 2021 at 9:57 PM.
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  #95  
Old Posted Oct 25, 2021, 1:21 PM
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I really feel like Metra should electrify some of its higher-ridership lines. It would improve the aesthetics of the system, if nothing else.
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  #96  
Old Posted Oct 25, 2021, 2:58 PM
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Originally Posted by ardecila View Post
Light rail really covers a broad range of characteristics and isn't a singular concept, but I will say Link is probably the most "metro-like" of American light rail systems. Long platforms, 8-car trains, and almost complete grade separation is planned for all the future extensions after the initial segment on MLK.
Yes it's metro-like, but trains will be limited to about 400 feet long, which is four cars (with accordion middles so they may feel like eight). All current and planned stations are the same length.

We're going to have capacity issues pretty quickly. This can be solved by limiting how many buses end at stations vs. going to Downtown etc. The core segment will be fine with a train every three minutes (two lines) but the current south half will only be every six minutes. Pre-Covid, it was packed with a three-car train every five minutes at peak, enough that sometimes people had to wait.
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  #97  
Old Posted Oct 25, 2021, 3:08 PM
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Other than to perhaps Gurnee on the MD-N line I do not think there is much of a need for any extensions to Metra. The lines are plenty long enough. In fact if you are going to price accordingly based on zone fare than those outer regions will become cost prohibitive to any tranist commuter. They are already arguably becomign so under Metra's fare structure.

What Metra/Chicago could better use is more intergrated fares with CTA, faster trains, cleaner trains, more modern trains, denser suburban stations, and quicker headways along the current lines.
I would argue for a DeKalb extension to serve NIU. Kankakee is also worth doing but I'm not sure how you can do it cost-effectively unless Metra can buy some dual-mode locomotives and high-platform railcars that can switch onto diesel territory south of University Park.

It's looking like the Rockford line will be Metra as well (instead of Amtrak). I'm agnostic on which agency runs the service but I think it should be done to serve the state's largest city outside of Chicagoland. Having it be Metra just means less rail congestion on MD-W since you're extending existing Metra runs instead of trying to pump additional Amtrak trains through.

All 3 of these extensions would go outside of Metra's 6-county service area so they would require some special deals to happen (purchase of service, etc). I doubt Kankakee, DeKalb or Winnebago/Boone want to join RTA and pay the full sales tax.
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  #98  
Old Posted Oct 25, 2021, 4:43 PM
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Kankakee is also worth doing but I'm not sure how you can do it cost-effectively unless Metra can buy some dual-mode locomotives and high-platform railcars that can switch onto diesel territory south of University Park.
I think it's important to note that this may be the only modern wealthy nation where a relatively modest ~30 mile rail extension that requires electrification is contemplated like its a proposition of a manned mission to Mars.
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  #99  
Old Posted Oct 25, 2021, 6:12 PM
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Well, the ridership from Kankakee is gonna be pretty modest. You've only got 1/3 the population of Rockford area (for example). I think it's only worth extending rail service if it can be done at a reasonable cost.

Extending BNSF to Sandwich is estimated at $700M and includes a similar amount of new track, so I imagine the Kankakee cost would be similar before adding in electrification.
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  #100  
Old Posted Oct 25, 2021, 9:22 PM
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I really feel like Metra should electrify some of its higher-ridership lines. It would improve the aesthetics of the system, if nothing else.
Wait; how would stringing a bunch of wires overhead improve the aesthetics of the system?

As is obvious from Metra's recent rolling stock purchases, aesthetics are not much of a consideration to them.

I really don't understand the hard-on that so many people get for electrification of suburban rail.

It's not really that much greener. Diesel-electric locomotives, of course, are electric locomotives that carry their generators around with them. The inefficiency of having many small generators is not dramatically different from the transmission losses suffered in sending current many miles from a central generating station. DC transmission has enormous line losses, and onboard inverters also have substantial losses. Yes, the juice can be generated by wind or solar, but surely trains aren't the lowest-hanging fruit for carbon-neutrality. Get back to me when half of our heating and aircon is done by renewables. Or even half of the auto mileage. If particulate emissions is your worry, lots of other things—natural gas or turbine prime movers, regenerative braking—could be done for a fraction of the cost.

It simply doesn't save that much time in acceleration. UP-North takes 36 minutes to make 16 stops along 14.7 miles of track (Main St Evanston to Fort Sheridan). The much faster-accelerating Metra Electric, featuring high platforms for faster loading, takes 31 minutes to make 16 stops along 14 miles of track (87th St to Flossmoor). When you're only running one or two trains an hour, those five minutes are just not that meaningful. Even if you want the acceleration possible with big electric traction motors, it's not especially important whether you're carrying the generator around with you or leaving it miles away in Grundy County. Onboard batteries and regenerative braking—or even just a higher idle rate for the prime mover— can give you more tractive effort to the motors without the expense of stringing and maintaining miles of catenary.

It costs a bloody fortune to string and maintain all those wires. Ontario's study of electrifying the Toronto suburban network found a payback period—even with cheap government borrowing—of a century, longer than the useful life of the asset.

Change my mind.
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