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Municipalities seek passenger rail in Wisconsin and elsewhere in US

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Municipalities seek passenger rail in Wisconsin and elsewhere in US
Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 4:47 PM

Leaders from these communities—including Appleton, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Kaukauna, Madison, Menasha, Neenah, Oshkosh, Oconomowoc, Rock County (Janesville), and Watertown— have all responded to the FRA’s invitation, by submitting expressions of interest in passenger-train service.

Of course some pols (Vos and Walker) have called expansion of services "stupid" so the legislature likely will do nothing for the people.

 

 

 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 5:27 PM

They'll always be interested if they don't have to pay for it.

Those that have to pay for it will always be finding problems.

Be interesting to see what the communities bring to the table to set the service up and subsidize its operation, including safe stations.  Then tax dollars for additional trainsets or other improvements could be an easier 'sell' statewide.

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Posted by Gramp on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 11:50 PM

Proposed schedule for the 130 miles between Green Bay and Milwaukee by train would take an hour longer than it takes now using Amtrak Thruway. Same intermediate stops (except DePere Park and Ride is an additional convenient bus stop on Thruway schedule). Thruway runs 4 GB-Mke round trips. One of the RTs is via Manitowoc and Sheboygan. That one is roughly 2hrs shorter than proposed train schedule. 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, January 19, 2023 4:04 PM

Breaking news:  Things are going so well on the second Twin Cities Frequency plan that Canadian Pacific, WISDot and Amtrak all say they can start service in 2023 before any of the railroad construction and reconfiguration has started (scheduled for 2024).    They did not give a date yet so I presume this Summer or Fall.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, January 19, 2023 4:10 PM

Gramp
Proposed schedule for the 130 miles between Green Bay and Milwaukee by train would take an hour longer than it takes now using Amtrak Thruway. Same intermediate stops (except DePere Park and Ride is an additional convenient bus stop on Thruway schedule). Thruway runs 4 GB-Mke round trips. One of the RTs is via Manitowoc and Sheboygan. That one is roughly 2hrs shorter than proposed train schedule.  Add Quote to your Post

Yup and that is Amtrak's proposed schedule going solo, nobody else signed off on that.   WisDOT does not like Amtrak's routing and prefers via West Bend but I have no immediate proof other than in earlier studies, WisDOT preferred the last C&NW routing via North Milwaukee vs the dog leg all the way out to Duplainville.    Not sure if Amtrak is even aware the Duplainville connecting track to CN is now torn up.

So I would not give the current Amtrak routing  proposal much credibility at this point.    Personally, I think the most car competitive proposal would be relaying the C&NW track along the lakefront and using that exit route from Milwaukee and then diagnol to West Bend but I don't think Amtrak would spend the money and I am not sure the State would either.    When they bring this specific coordor back they really need to look at the route out of Milwaukee if they ever want it to be even remotely viable.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, January 19, 2023 4:24 PM

charlie hebdo
Leaders from these communities—including Appleton, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Kaukauna, Madison, Menasha, Neenah, Oshkosh, Oconomowoc, Rock County (Janesville), and Watertown— have all responded to the FRA’s invitation, by submitting expressions of interest in passenger-train service. Of course some pols (Vos and Walker) have called expansion of services "stupid" so the legislature likely will do nothing for the people.

Thats their take on the Madison proposal.   I have not heard any negative feedback on Green Bay and one reason why might be the Fox River Valley is a Republican voting strong hold of sorts.    Note that Walker never attacked Milwaukee to Chicago and even signed legislation to improve it, while he was in office.   He was only against the Madison route.    So there is some politics behind their inconsistent positions on this.    On the flip side though Madison has not planned much.    Green Bay hasn't either but Green Bay has been fairly consistent in wanting some train service restored where Madison has been off and on depending on who is paying for it.    Madison looks very opportunist.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, January 19, 2023 5:30 PM

CMStPnP

Breaking news:  Things are going so well on the second Twin Cities Frequency plan that Canadian Pacific, WISDot and Amtrak all say they can start service in 2023 before any of the railroad construction and reconfiguration has started (scheduled for 2024).    They did not give a date yet so I presume this Summer or Fall.

 

Given that the Minnesota DOT is a larger contributer than WI, where are they on this project?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, January 19, 2023 6:52 PM

charlie hebdo
Given that the Minnesota DOT is a larger contributer than WI, where are they on this project?

Not by much, $4 million.    Biggest contributor is the Feds.    Here is the link, new materials with latest updates are under the November 2022 title:

https://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/projects/multimodal/tcmc.aspx

 

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Friday, January 20, 2023 1:56 AM

CMStPnP

Breaking news:  Things are going so well on the second Twin Cities Frequency plan that Canadian Pacific, WISDot and Amtrak all say they can start service in 2023 before any of the railroad construction and reconfiguration has started (scheduled for 2024).    They did not give a date yet so I presume this Summer or Fall.

What equipment will the train use?  Amtrak is short not only on long-distance trains, but some regionals (such as one of the Chicago-Quincy trains) is equipmentless.

I challenge you to define the specifics of "Things are going so well."  Most likely, the lack of any pushback from Canadian Pacific is their desire to make as many people as happy until their merger with KCS is approved.  Just like the Baton Rouge-New Orleans train, it's YES to everything.  We'll see how this plays out in reality.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, January 21, 2023 5:56 PM

Vermontanan2
I challenge you to define the specifics

It's never been my policy to do so in this Forum because I feel that everyone here is a grown adult and possess basic knowledge on how to use the internet.   So if I said anything someone disagrees with they can post a link that backs up what they say and ask me to respond.    To just have someone out of the blue ask me to work harder to convince them.............I am not here to convince people of anything.   I am posting content for discussion.     Last but not least, the proof is all on the WisDOT website.    

Your also wrong about the CP relationship with Amtrak concerning the Midwest High Speed Rail Compact.    CP has agreed to no less than three frequencies between Chicago and Twin Cities once the current work is done by 2024.    Amtrak did not just ask for one additional train on the route but in this case was smart enough to ask for two more (so three frequencies total if you count the Empire Builder) .   It will only implement one additional for now.   The excellent working relationship with CP ties back to Milwaukee Road days and has nothing to do with KCS merger.    This project has been underway at least 5 years prior to the announced KCS merger and back then CP agreed to run the train provided the required capacity projects were all funded (which they are).

Your wrong about the Amtrak equipment shortage having anything to do with this specific route since they state that they will use the Amtrak Hiawatha equipment extended...........which by the nature of the verbage means the existing corridor equipment security agreement applies to the new train.    So it will have priority over most other Midwest trains for equipment since Amtrak is contractually bound to provide x number of trainsets of up to seven cars each for the Chicago to Milwaukee service.   I say x because I cannot remember if it is 3 or 4.   Whatever it is Amtrak feels it can extend another trainset for that agreement OR that it will have no trouble meeting that commitment.    Former Milwaukee Mayor Norquist and Governor Tommy Thompson put that agreement in place long ago due to frustrations with the up and down nature of Amtrak equipment availability.

WisDOT just paid for a full Siemens trainset plus I think it was 4-5 cab cars, I think it was two years ago,  as it's contribution to the Midwest Compact or this expansion....not sure which.

Now I should not have written all the above because it is all in the doco and some in the youtube video on the WisDOT website, you could have spent the time to read the information first.

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Saturday, January 21, 2023 10:02 PM

CMStPnP

Your wrong about the Amtrak equipment shortage having anything to do with this specific route since they state that they will use the Amtrak Hiawatha equipment extended...........which by the nature of the verbage means the existing corridor equipment security agreement applies to the new train.    So it will have priority over most other Midwest trains for equipment since Amtrak is contractually bound to provide x number of trainsets of up to seven cars each for the Chicago to Milwaukee service.   I say x because I cannot remember if it is 3 or 4.   

Well, good luck.  We'll see where we are on December 31.  But here's the reality check on Hiawatha Service equipment:  The seven round trips daily between Chicago and Milwaukee are handled by two (total) sets of equipment.  The one additional Chicago-St. Paul roundtrip will in itself require two sets of equipment (morning departure westbound from Chicago; late morning or noon departure from St. Paul, with a long layover of equipment at St. Paul, which is why All Aboard Minnesota is pushing to extend the train to/from Fargo).  

Therefore, the only way the new Chicago-St. Paul train can use existing Hiawatha equipment (as you state) is to discontinue all the other Chicago-Miiwaukee service, which I doubt is the intent.

 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, January 22, 2023 12:53 PM

Vermontanan2
The seven round trips daily between Chicago and Milwaukee are handled by two (total) sets of equipment.

lol, have you looked at the schedule of Chicago to Milwaukee trains.   Please do before you post a comment like that.    Also I actually used to live there and visit frequently I have counted three dedicated trainsets with one laying over in Milwaukee sometimes in the evening and I clearly stated that above it was a min of three.    I am not sure what they are going to do with the 4th that was purchased and I have no idea what Minnesota is allocated as part of the MWHSR compact.    Amtrak has plenty of Siemens equipment being delivered, I don't know where you get this "shortage" from.

Chicago to Milwaukee was supposed to increase to 10 frequencies but I believe the current agreement is 9 with TCMC because there is a dispute in Northern Illinois over the ramifications of adding 10 causing freight train delays.    They already ordered the equipment for the 10 frequencies though (which I mentioned above as the 4th trainset).   My guess is they will use that for TCMC and probably borrow another from the Midwest pool for Minnesota.    Your actually going to need 5 not 4 trainsets to cover existing Chicago to Milwaukee and the new TCMC.

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Monday, January 23, 2023 10:39 PM
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    CMStPnP

    lol, have you looked at the schedule of Chicago to Milwaukee trains.   Please do before you post a comment like that.    Also I actually used to live there and visit frequently I have counted three dedicated trainsets with one laying over in Milwaukee sometimes in the evening and I clearly stated that above it was a min of three.    I am not sure what they are going to do with the 4th that was purchased and I have no idea what Minnesota is allocated as part of the MWHSR compact.    Amtrak has plenty of Siemens equipment being delivered, I don't know where you get this "shortage" from.

    Indeed, I am very familiar with the schedule, and the current schedule of Hiawatha service is protected with only two trainsets.  Each makes seven trips per day with one overnighting at Milwaukee and the other at Chicago, with the overnighting location alternating between the two cities each night.  The Wikipedia entry for Hiawatha Service concurs, stating, "Two trainsets are required to operate the service." 

    CMStPnP

    Chicago to Milwaukee was supposed to increase to 10 frequencies but I believe the current agreement is 9 with TCMC because there is a dispute in Northern Illinois over the ramifications of adding 10 causing freight train delays.    They already ordered the equipment for the 10 frequencies though (which I mentioned above as the 4th trainset).   My guess is they will use that for TCMC and probably borrow another from the Midwest pool for Minnesota.    Your actually going to need 5 not 4 trainsets to cover existing Chicago to Milwaukee and the new TCMC.

    The shortages result from the large number of out of service cars nationwide.  Chicago-Quincy and St. Louis-Kansas City have only very recently returned to two daily roundtrips.   A refurbishment program in addtion to additional equipment will be required to add service.  More importantly, the salient disconnect in your line of reasoning is that the initial Chicago-St. Paul train as planned will require two sets of equipment.  Even by your flawed calculation, removing this quantity of cars from the Hiawatha Service pool would render Hiawatha service incapable of expansion.  While the cars may eventually be available, they are not available now.

    CMStPnP

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 12:41 AM

^^^ Which is exactly why you need to read the WisDOT links the information contained in them will correct most of your erroneous analysis above.    I am not aware of any participation in the Midwest Compact by Wikipedia.   I only know of the DOT's in each state on the route as well as Amtrak and CP and the public commitments each is making.    

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, January 26, 2023 9:42 AM

CMStPnP
I am not aware of any participation in the Midwest Compact by Wikipedia.   

So Wiki is in the passenger rail enterprise now?  No limits to their realm.

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Posted by D.Carleton on Friday, January 27, 2023 5:58 PM

CMStPnP
WisDOT just paid for a full Siemens trainset plus I think it was 4-5 cab cars, I think it was two years ago,  as it's contribution to the Midwest Compact or this expansion....not sure which.

Is this documented anywhere? Wisconsin received some Fedebucks maybe three years ago and put out a release of their intentions. But up until my retirement a few months ago nothing crossed my desk. And I didn't see anything about it in the mega Amtrak order like there was with Washington state.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, January 30, 2023 2:10 AM

D.Carleton
Is this documented anywhere? Wisconsin received some Fedebucks maybe three years ago and put out a release of their intentions. But up until my retirement a few months ago nothing crossed my desk. And I didn't see anything about it in the mega Amtrak order like there was with Washington state.

I don't think anyone here has a copy of the order invoice if that is what your asking.    The order was to be done seperately as an add-on to the large Midwest Order about 2019.    On the WisDOT links they have several EMails listed.   The most knowledgeable I believe would be Arun Rao.   Ask him via EMail.

I did make a mistake above it is actually three cab cars not five to six.   And I believe in addition to that it was six coaches.   If you Email you can also ask about the cafe cars because I do not see any order for them and I would be surprised if on Chicago to Twin Cities there was not any food service BUT at the same time if they are merely extending Hiawatha trainsets what they would do with the cafe cars between Chicago and Milwaukee since that corridor there is no food service offered.    So interesting question to ask on cafe cars.

Also, I have my doubts they would be tenatively setting a service start date if the equipment was not available.   WisDOT is a lot more careful than that.    The last service start date they were going with was post all construction activities in 2024 so this new one in 2023 which is pre any construction activities is a recent change.

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Posted by D.Carleton on Monday, January 30, 2023 12:47 PM

CMStPnP
 
D.Carleton
Is this documented anywhere? Wisconsin received some Fedebucks maybe three years ago and put out a release of their intentions. But up until my retirement a few months ago nothing crossed my desk. And I didn't see anything about it in the mega Amtrak order like there was with Washington state.

I don't think anyone here has a copy of the order invoice if that is what your asking.    The order was to be done seperately as an add-on to the large Midwest Order about 2019.    On the WisDOT links they have several EMails listed.   The most knowledgeable I believe would be Arun Rao.   Ask him via EMail.

I did make a mistake above it is actually three cab cars not five to six.   And I believe in addition to that it was six coaches.   If you Email you can also ask about the cafe cars because I do not see any order for them and I would be surprised if on Chicago to Twin Cities there was not any food service BUT at the same time if they are merely extending Hiawatha trainsets what they would do with the cafe cars between Chicago and Milwaukee since that corridor there is no food service offered.    So interesting question to ask on cafe cars.

Also, I have my doubts they would be tenatively setting a service start date if the equipment was not available.   WisDOT is a lot more careful than that.    The last service start date they were going with was post all construction activities in 2024 so this new one in 2023 which is pre any construction activities is a recent change.

Typically when there is a firm order there is a joint announcement from the manufacturer and the purchaser, the PR folks LIVE for stuff like that. To date there has been no such joint release. I wonder if they are navigating the procurement waters wherein there is one supplier of said equipment but legally you are required to put it out for bid.

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Posted by Cogloadreturnsagain on Wednesday, February 1, 2023 1:39 PM

Take a gander at these: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uh6wPNMfBdw&t=8s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uh6wPNMfBdw&t=8s

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Posted by Victrola1 on Wednesday, February 1, 2023 4:28 PM

On to Duluth?

After years of discussion, a long-awaited passenger train route running from the "Twin Cities to Duluth could finally get funding from the state legislature."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skt8sLkM5Xc&ab_channel=FOX9Minneapolis-St.Paul

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Posted by kgbw49 on Wednesday, February 1, 2023 7:02 PM

750,000 riders per year projected at startup for downtown Minneapolis to downtown Duluth per the MNDoT guy.

Sounds impressive.

Assuming daily service 365 days per year that is 2,054 riders per day, or 1,027 each way if evenly distributed.

If they run two frequencies per day that is 514 riders per train.

Once one gets to downtown Duluth which is not that large, I suspect there will be additional time and travel cost to get to the traveler's ultimate destination.

It will be interesting to see how close to projections they will get but even if they don't meet projections it will have been built so MNDoT will keep it running nonetheless.

Service to Hinckley may be a boon to the casino there.

Ticket prices will be interesting - need to be low enough to attract people out of their autos and leave them enough money to pay for the rest of their transportation to get where they are actually going once they get to downtown Duluth.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, February 2, 2023 11:17 AM

kgbw49
750,000 riders per day projected at startup for downtown Minneapolis to downtown Duluth per the MNDoT guy.

Sounds impressive.

It certainly does!  I had no idea there were so many people in Minneapolis who wanted to go to Duluth on any particular day -- far less what they'll all do in Duluth once they get there...

 

(/sarc -- glad you corrected it in the original!  It was clear from the context anyway.)

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, February 2, 2023 2:26 PM

750,000 riders per year.

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Posted by kgbw49 on Thursday, February 2, 2023 4:31 PM

My bad. Per year. Thanks for spotting - it is corrected.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, February 4, 2023 12:48 PM

750k per year?   =  ~~2054  + /- 25 %   ( +/- 500 a day )     hard to believe.   would need 4 RTs  of 6 coach cars each. 

Contact  Ripley;s believe it or  not

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Posted by kgbw49 on Saturday, February 4, 2023 4:13 PM

blue, agree.  The population of Duluth has been declining steadily - it was 86,697 at the 2020 census. It used to be well over 100,000, peaking at 106,844 in 1960.

Most-not all but most-people heading north to Duluth are trying to get way past Duluth to cabins, skiing and state and Federal parks and lands.

But returning passenger service to Duluth has been a holy grail of the MNDoT bureaucracy for several decades. The person in the interview talked about getting money to implement it. Then they will talk about getting money to operate it. The number of  persons employed operating it and overseeing it will be substantial.  People in MNDoT will spend whole careers administering it once it is running.

A Hiawatha extension between St. Paul and Chicago has a better chance at some farebox recovery of operating costs and with a high percentage of available seats being filled. It makes much more sense with the larger markets being served if they can keep on the advertised for trip times.

 

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Posted by Gramp on Saturday, February 4, 2023 11:53 PM

It's interesting what's happening in Milwaukee.  Northwestern Mutual has announced it will be moving 2,000 employees from its suburban Franklin campus to its downtown headquarters (which it's revamping and expanding). Milwaukee Tool is also moving HQ downtown. And new housing is going up a few blocks from the intermodal station. More potential traffic for Amtrak?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, February 5, 2023 12:31 PM

kgbw49
Most-not all but most-people heading north to Duluth are trying to get way past Duluth to cabins, skiing and state and Federal parks and lands.

I have a hard time guessing what exactly is the intent of MnDOT because they always seem to me to be disorganized and not really sure of their direction.    I suspect though the goal here is to make Duluth a kind of Transportation hub of sorts for Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, North Woods folks.    

I have to say though a good comparison would be, Portland, Maine only has a population of 68,000 and the Downeaster carries close to half a million people a year. in 2022 figures and close to 8.4 million since the service started up.    So I wouldn't poo-poo the Amtrak projections of ridership necessarily here.    I never thought the Downeaster would be the success it is with a terminus in Moose country but look at them continue to invest in and expand the service.

Additoinally, you guys are not looking at the tax ramifications here either.    You bring in 3-4 RT Train frequencies a day to Duluth, property values along the line are going to increase, resulting in money for the Minnesota Treasury that was not there before.     So I would be curious what the trains Economic impact is to the Minnesota Treasury minus the subsidy paid out.   Which also might be part of the motivation by Minnesota.

Lets also not forget the dynamics of the Siemens trainsets either, faster acceleration and braking......slightly faster than the equipment Amtrak has now in scheduled service.     The trainsets are also 125 mph capable and I would imagine MnDOT wants to at least convert portions that are not welded rail to welded rail and raise the speed on some or all the line to 90 mph if not more.    The Siemens trainsets make that improvement in speed a lot more likely.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, February 5, 2023 12:44 PM

Gramp
It's interesting what's happening in Milwaukee.  Northwestern Mutual has announced it will be moving 2,000 employees from its suburban Franklin campus to its downtown headquarters (which it's revamping and expanding). Milwaukee Tool is also moving HQ downtown. And new housing is going up a few blocks from the intermodal station. More potential traffic for Amtrak?

Make sure you swing by Central Standard Distillery and Restaurant nearby.    Good food and drink.   https://thecentralstandard.com/   Not a long walk from the train station either.   You can see the Post Office and Station from one of the roof shots.

I heard a while back they were going to turn the huge main post office right at Intermodal Depot into some new retail development or something of that nature but have not heard much since the initial announcement years ago.

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Posted by kgbw49 on Monday, February 6, 2023 9:56 AM

In Minnesota property taxes go to the county and municipalities.

The BNSF line to Duluth is all welded rail. Lots of grain heads in that direcation.

Regarding the Downeaster, the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area at 5.0 Million persons is about 40% larger than the Twin Cities Statistical Area at 3.5 Million persons. Downeaster also feeds from Amtrak coming up from New York City where many residents don't own automobiles, making the train a more viable option.

Glad the Downeaster works. Hope the Northern Lights Express will work. Know a second MSP-MKE-CHI frequency will work if it can hold to its trip time.

One unique factor about the geography of the Twin Cites is that for about 50% of the population, by the time they drive to a Minneapolis station they could be about halfway to Duluth up I-35 at freeway speeds on every day except bad weather days.

 

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