Amtrak Service Chicago - St Paul (Empire Builder 2nd Freq)

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Re: Amtrak Service Chicago - St Paul (Empire Builder 2nd Fre

Postby Tadman » Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:53 am

MTU Andrew asked me for a review of the newly refreshed SPUD. I've used it perhaps 3 times in the last two years, every time coming or going to Chicago on 7/8.

Overview: SPUD is a historic depot that was long forgotten, then revitalized when people realized a few things: downtowns matter, suburbo-industrial area depots are not conducive to ridership, and people actually ride trains. It is fairly formulaic for mid-size city grand stations. You once had 50-100 trains/day, now you have 2/day, how does the station remotely support itself. Imagine JFK or O'Hare with 2 flights/day. Nuts.

The answer is to make it a transit hub, with local bus, LD bus, light rail, and Amtrak. And also add some restaurants, office tenants, museum, et al... See Cinci, KC, Denver, Dallas, et al... Like KC, today's passenger waiting area is the concourse above the tracks. At one time, with the load factors of pre-1960, there were enough passengers that the concourse was a wide hallway and passengers waited in the grand hall.

This usually works but when the train is 8 hours late, as it was once eastbound, there is not enough seats. We wound up sitting on the floor. Thanks to the track-a-train map, we didn't sit there for 8 hours, more like 1-2.

The renovation was done quite nicely. The building is in good shape and kept up. But it's kind of boring, because I'm not really into buses, and that's 99pct of traffic. Also, because the light rail has to swing by the capital, it street runs out front, when it could be under the concourse.

Finally, although SPUD is a better location than Midway, it's not great. Saint Paul has something like 10pct of residents in the TC area. Minneapolis is far bigger. I understand the GN station is gone and MILW station is landlocked and one-ended, but a brief stop in Minne would be nice. Uber quotes 35 minutes ride to Minne, light rail quotes 45. This would be similar to the way the Eagle stops at both Dallas and Fort Worth, and the California trains stop at Jack London and Emeryville. That said, I have no idea if the trackage in Minneapolis would support this. How does the train go through town? The North Star station is empty at 1030p, but requires a backing move. More to follow on that comment.
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Re: Amtrak Service Chicago - St Paul (Empire Builder 2nd Fre

Postby Rockingham Racer » Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:28 am

Would Fridley work as a stop for Minneapolis. It could cause logistical problems for the BNSF, given that it's close to Northtown Yard and has only one platform.
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Re: Amtrak Service Chicago - St Paul (Empire Builder 2nd Fre

Postby Ridgefielder » Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:27 pm

This is something I should know but don't-- what route does the Builder take to access SPUD from the West?
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Re: Amtrak Service Chicago - St Paul (Empire Builder 2nd Fre

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:57 pm

Ridgefielder wrote:This is something I should know but don't-- what route does the Builder take to access SPUD from the West?

BNSF ex-GN to Midway, Minnesota Commercial ex-Minnesota Transfer to Merriam Park Jct., CP Rail ex-MILW to St. Paul Union Depot.

Rockingham Racer wrote:Would Fridley work as a stop for Minneapolis. It could cause logistical problems for the BNSF, given that it's close to Northtown Yard and has only one platform.

In theory it would, in practice you’re right that the reduced flexibility of a single-track platform makes it obnoxious. Coon Rapids (Riverdale) or Anoka would be better operationally, though farther from Minneapolis.
Last edited by mtuandrew on Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Amtrak Service Chicago - St Paul (Empire Builder 2nd Fre

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:03 pm

Tasman: thanks for the review! That largely squares with what I remember of the facility. And yes, St. Paul Lowertown is a far cry from Minneapolis’ Warehouse District or Dinkytown in terms of nightlife. If only there was an Amtrak station near Minneapolis (the in-planning Northern Lights Express service is supposed to use the Minneapolis Target Field Station.)
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Re: Amtrak Service Chicago - St Paul (Empire Builder 2nd Fre

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:36 pm

mtuandrew wrote:BNSF ex-GN to Midway, Minnesota Commercial to Merriam Park Jct., CP Rail to St. Paul Union Depot.

Mr. Stephens. may I modify your captioned statement to read as follows:

"BNSF ex-GN to Midway, Minnesota Commercial to Merriam Park Jct., CP Rail ex-MILW to St. Paul Union Depot."
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Re: Amtrak Service Chicago - St Paul (Empire Builder 2nd Fre

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:52 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:
mtuandrew wrote:BNSF ex-GN to Midway, Minnesota Commercial to Merriam Park Jct., CP Rail to St. Paul Union Depot.

Mr. Stephens. may I modify your captioned statement to read as follows:

"BNSF ex-GN to Midway, Minnesota Commercial to Merriam Park Jct., CP Rail ex-MILW to St. Paul Union Depot."

Indeed, Mr. Norman - I wouldn’t want to leave your former employer out of the mix.
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Re: Amtrak Service Chicago - St Paul (Empire Builder 2nd Fre

Postby Ridgefielder » Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:47 pm

mtuandrew wrote:
Ridgefielder wrote:This is something I should know but don't-- what route does the Builder take to access SPUD from the West?

BNSF ex-GN to Midway, Minnesota Commercial ex-Minnesota Transfer to Merriam Park Jct., CP Rail ex-MILW to St. Paul Union Depot.

Seems to me that, if you're not going to run into Target Field Station, it would make sense to build a new Minneapolis station somewhere over there on the east bank of the river. On the edge of Dinkytown, say. Or where the GN crosses Hennepin Ave. near the Minneapolis Jct. wye.

That's as close as you're going to get to downtown without a reverse move or a wholesale re-route of the Builder onto the old GN Willmar Division.
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Re: Amtrak Service Chicago - St Paul (Empire Builder 2nd Fre

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:06 pm

Ridgefielder wrote:Seems to me that, if you're not going to run into Target Field Station, it would make sense to build a new Minneapolis station somewhere over there on the east bank of the river. On the edge of Dinkytown, say. Or where the GN crosses Hennepin Ave. near the Minneapolis Jct. wye.

That's as close as you're going to get to downtown without a reverse move or a wholesale re-route of the Builder onto the old GN Willmar Division.

Makes me wish there was still a little bit of ROW on the West Bank parallel to West River Road, but that ship has sailed.

I suppose if you really, really wanted, after coming west on the BNSF Wayzata Sub to Target Field, you could reroute over the BNSF ex-GN Monticello Sub and the CP MNS Sub, then back across the Mississippi at Camden and loop through Shoreham Yard to go North again. It’d only take an hour and a half to travel a mile :P

Here’s my suggestion, from the Single Ended Station thread:
mtuandrew wrote:Are you thinking about Minneapolis Target Field Station? It would be a solid midpoint station for the Empire Builder, though it’d be more convenient operationally to create a station abutting the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium at the end of SE 23rd Ave..
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