All Things Sunset Limited (West)

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Re: All Things Sunset Limited (West)

Postby Tadman » Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:29 pm

I've spent time on the entire length of the Sunset Eagle in three segments: Chicago-DFW; DFW-San Antonio-Tucson; and Tucson-LA. Once aboard, it's par for the course. The frustrating thing is trying to schedule business travel around the 3x/week Sunset. Not having daily service hampers the usefullness of the train.

That said, when the timing is right, the LA-Tucson service is brilliant. Have dinner, board the train, go to bed, wake up at destination. In either direction. I've done this perhaps 3-5 times and it's been great every time.
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Re: All Things Sunset Limited (West)

Postby Tadman » Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:34 pm

I also see Tucson-Phoenix as the next best Brightline candidate. The drive is two hours of the worst freeway drivers. The Tucson airport is super-overpriced. The space between is wide open, which leads to the real win - real estate development. 110 miles of wide open space with a generous UP right of way in place to build a new main on. You could set up 20 transit-oriented retirement developments. The service could run Phoenix (1.6m pop), Sky Harbor (120k pax/day), retirement developments 1-20, Tucson north side (500,000 pop), University of Arizona (32,000 students), Davis Monthan AFB (10,000 employees).

In my opinion, the best option for the Sunset is to scrap the current train, run some sort of Texas corridor service, and run a Brightline PHX-TUS service with a nightly sleeper to LA. Imagine how impactful that would be compared to the current Sunset. For comparison, the Sunset hauls 100,000 riders over 2,000 route miles every year. The Wolverines haul 500,000 riders over 300 miles each year with 3x frequency. If an Arizona corridor and Texas corridor were established, you'd have 1 million passengers per year. That is such a big difference
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Re: All Things Sunset Limited (West)

Postby eolesen » Tue Jan 29, 2019 9:58 pm

Dunno... AZDOT is pretty far along on TUS-PHX. I can't imagine Brightline/Virgin or another private operator would step in where the State is already planning commuter service, and something tells me UP wouldn't want to deal with anyone other than Amtrak right now.

https://www.azdot.gov/planning/transpor ... is-and-rod

The option chosen by the EIS essentially uses the PHX sub's ROW, presumably with no significant additional ROW acquisition required...

And, getting back on topic, it won't go anywhere near Maricopa... the option via Maricopa was ruled out because it was longer, required negotiating with the Gila Reservation and missed the East Valley entirely. Maybe light rail can work it's way south along AZ-347...
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Re: All Things Sunset Limited (West)

Postby Tadman » Wed Feb 06, 2019 11:52 am

I have little faith in that project operating by 2030. Brightline has proven they can do, quickly, everything the government tells us is impossible. As of right now, the Arizona website notes: "There is currently no construction schedule and no funding identified for a project to build a rail system between Tucson and Phoenix. Moving forward, the public and policymakers will decide how to generate the funding to pay for the project".

IE don't count on anything before 2030. For comparison, how long has NICTD been saying the same thing about the MIchigan City bypass? Amtrak about the Hudson tunnels? Metra about the SWS going into LaSalle? These have all been under perpetual study since 1990. Heck Boston's NEC electrification took 24 years!

Also, Brightline opened in a corridor directly served by a commuter authority on the same route, with stops only a mile apart or so. If my experience with the Tri Rail was indicative of their usual service (below) I don't worry about Brightline suffering from Tri Trail competition. Like Tri rail, the any UP-hosted operation will have to deal with UP freights. I've spent quite a few times inbound to Tucson waiting for UP freights. 10 miles north of town, sit for half an hour. That won't fly in a corridor service charged with expediently moving business travelers over 90 miles. It totally ruins the math. Every time a corridor train with 200 passengers gets delayed 30 minutes for a freight, that's 200 people that likely will drive next time.

Finally, consider the goals of each operator: An Arizona-owned train will be run for the purpose of shuttling commuters into Phoenix. A Brightline-owned operation will be for moving people point-to-point between Sky Harbor, a handful of developments between the two towns, University of Arizona, and Davis-Monthan.

Tri Rail:
https://p1.liveauctioneers.com/857/2166 ... quality=50
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Re: All Things Sunset Limited (West)

Postby electricron » Thu Feb 07, 2019 1:49 am

UP and "new" commuter rail agencies can get along just fine if - - - -
the commuter rail agency buys the land within or adjacent to the UP corridor and build new tracks for passenger commuter trains on it.

Recent examples to make that point extremely clear - - - -
TexRail laying new tracks on land immediately adjacent to a UP owned corridor or immediately below or above the UP owned corridor.
Regional Transportation District laying new tracks on land immediately adjacent to a UP owned corridor or immediately above the UP owned corridor with flyovers.
Utah Transportation Authority (UTA) buying half the land within the UP owned corridor and building new tracks on it, building flyover over any remaining UP tracks.

Let us face reality, the UP does not want to share any tracks with any commuter rail transit agencies. The UP doesn't want to share their right-of-way either, but they might be willing to sell some land in their corridors for the right price as long as you do not affect their freight operations.

The idea that the UP will allow Arizona to share their tracks or rail corridors for a fairly cheap price is not logical.

As for Brightline's dealings with FEC, who is paying the full price to double track the existing line, and paying to buy or lease the land in new rail corrrdiors adjacent or within Florida's highways, turnpikes, and airports? Hint = It is not the FEC RR.
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Re: All Things Sunset Limited (West)

Postby Tadman » Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:44 am

I agree, a new track is the difference. But i think azdot is trying to make this work on existing tracks, right?
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Re: All Things Sunset Limited (West)

Postby electricron » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:18 pm

Tadman wrote:I agree, a new track is the difference. But i think azdot is trying to make this work on existing tracks, right?

If Arizona is thinking the UP will share those tracks, they are barking up the wrong tree!
The regional planners are hoping for the cheapest scenario, but ask Lone Star Rail what the UP wanted between Austin and San Antonio for access to an existing busy freight railroad corridor?
To make it simple, an entirely new freight railroad corridor. Austin and San Antonio hoped to reposition heavy freight trains away from the city centers. But after 10 years of studies and pleas to both State and Federal governments for finances, the UP killed the proposal even if money could have been raised. Why, the UP had too many freight customers on the existing line that did it want freight services very late at night or very early in the morning, the graveyard shift. The UP is not going to turn large freight customers away to make room for commuter trains running every hour.
Phoenix to Tucson freight traffic is large enough for the UP to nix sharing tracks.

If you are eventually going to have to build a new railroad corridor anyways, why not build a passenger train corridor instead of a new freight corridor?
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Re: All Things Sunset Limited (West)

Postby benboston » Thu Feb 07, 2019 7:33 pm

I mean.... AZ could just have Amtrak operate it as a state-supported corridor... right?
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Re: All Things Sunset Limited (West)

Postby eolesen » Thu Feb 07, 2019 8:12 pm

The only place there's a need for an extra track is Tucson-Picacho. There's no need to double-track the Phoenix Sub. The existing 2-5 freights a day can easily fit into a night-only operation, and if the Red Rock yard ever gets built, a lot of the current traffic may simply dray up I-10. As for existing customers... I can't think of a whole lot of high volume shippers between Picacho and downtown.

There's already some precedent for joint freight-commuter service on the UP in Chicago. They manage to maintain freight movements in the off-hours and evenings just fine on the 90 mile trip from Proviso up to Janesville and back. The local jobs all manage to fit into overnight or mid-day windows between the inbound and outbound rush.
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