Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by saml
 
Back in January 2011 Metra convened a conference on the feasibility of electrifying the
remaining 10 double main routes in the Chicago area. I have not heard a word since.
Did they post any results from that get together ???
  by trainmaster611
 
I'm guessing you're referring to this?

http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/01/19/ ... tra-lines/
With all the discussion about diesel soot and other air pollution at downtown Metra terminals and aboard commuter trains, RTA executive director Joe Costello says the idea of electrification has come up.

“No one’s putting a proposal forward, but it has cropped up with fumes in the news, and it’s come up at public hearings over the years,” Costello said.
That's the key piece of information right there. Electrification was brought up as a possibility, but not a formally proposed option, for a solution to the whole Metra soot fiasco uncovered by the Chicago Tribune.

The ultimate solution ended up being to just install high-efficiency air filters. So the immediate reasoning for electrification has been knocked out with this development.

However, with the operational cost reductions, the overall reduced air pollution (not just inside the cars), the higher energy efficiency, and better acceleration, Metra should still be considering electrification. But that's not possible with the current political climate -- short term savings on neglecting capital projects trump long term operational savings.
  by mtuandrew
 
Moderator Note: Split from thread EMU vs DMU in the General Discussion: Commuter, Light Rail and Transit forum.

Chicagoland mods, feel free to merge this thread with any other thread, and delete or edit this post. Thanks!
  by Tadman
 
Much as I'd like to see this happen, I don't think it ever will.

You've got a few things working against you:

1. The huge capital cost. Electrification is hyper expensive. With today's modern diesels, a few features have made them far more fuel efficient. This includes new methods of heating and lighting trains without running the locomotive at full RPMs, meaning the screamer F40PH will not always power Metra trains. Unfortunately, they've continued to use the screamer method of HEP after recent F40 rebuilds...

2. Conflict of technology: Metra is a a very conservative railroad when it comes to high-tech. They don't even operate 710-powered locomotives in order to only stock 645 parts. Now, applying that theory to electrification, you have the conflict of the 1500v DC install base versus the more common 600v DC and NEC-style AC electrifications. Since the MILW electrification was removed in the 70's and the CN and DLW were converted to AC, the high-voltage DC in Chicago is the only such system left in North America. It's much more expensive to construct than NEC-style AC. So which should metra pick? I actually would support continued high-voltage DC. It's more expensive to construct, but the rolling stock is much simpler (contrast the recent M8 and Silverliner debacles with Metra/NICTD's new Highliner EMUs).

3. NIMBYS - "oh my god, I don't want catenary towers in my backyard!!!". Never mind the diesel sound and pollution abatement, we need something to bitch about.
  by justalurker66
 
The biggest roadblock to electrification is the investment that Metra has in diesels, including the recent rebuilds. I wouldn't mind Metra using genset locomotives that can be scaled to the need but changing out the locomotives for full electric after all of the money poured into the current equipment would be foolish. The decision to "go electric" needs to be done when it makes the most economic sense.

I prefer electric, and would support a MED compatible 1500v DC. (Although what would one call the MED if more lines were electric? The Metra Illinois Central?)
  by neroden
 
justalurker66 wrote:The biggest roadblock to electrification is the investment that Metra has in diesels, including the recent rebuilds. I wouldn't mind Metra using genset locomotives that can be scaled to the need but changing out the locomotives for full electric after all of the money poured into the current equipment would be foolish. The decision to "go electric" needs to be done when it makes the most economic sense.
The question, then, is what the retirement schedule for Metra's current fleets of diesel locomotives is. Locos don't last *that* long.

It would be most desirable to electrify the BNSF line and to do so at 25kV 60Hz AC overhead, as it is the busiest non-electrified line. I suspect it would be desirable to finish the various planned grade separations, signal changes, and track improvements first, though, and I think there are still quite a few in the queue. The timing might work out well for a electrification a decade or two down the road, and that would require starting planning now.
  by byte
 
If Metra were to electrify anything, it would NOT be the BNSF. Not Metra's tracks, and no class 1 is going to want wires put up over its tracks, potentially limiting the shipment of oversize loads, and stopping traffic when a wire snaps in the dead of winter. More likely candidate? The Rock. All Metra owned, interchanges with the existing MED at Blue Island, as that's where the Highliner wheel shop is. Plus the Beverly Branch is where you could really tighten up the schedule with EMU acceleration, with a stop every four blocks.
  by Tadman
 
Byte, that's quite well put and something I hadn't thought of.

As for how long the diesels last, you get anywhere from 10-30 years between rebuilds it seems, depending how how much is rebuilt. That means the F40M's are the next in line, as they're right about at 20 years since new. If you wanted to electrify the Rock, you'd have to shift their new/rebuilt diesels to BN rather than rebuilding the M's, which are quasi-captive to BNSF.
  by neroden
 
BNSF has studied full-system electrification, as the cost trends are pointing that way anyway.

They're perfectly happy to electrify anything if someone else pays for it; they've made this quite clear. They'd require the wires to clear doublestacks. They're not running lots of giant dimensional loads on the Aurora to Chicago line; it's not like the aircraft parts situation in Seattle, where the clearance requirements are extraordinary.
  by justalurker66
 
byte wrote:More likely candidate? The Rock.
I agree. Line ownership and Blue Island are the best reasons I've heard.
  by octr202
 
A less than trivial question with regards to any electrification - how many overpasses over the line would have to be replaced/altered to make space for catenary? Not knowing much of the surroundings of either line, I'm guessing it's not quite as bad as out east, but for example in Boston that would be the "hidden cost" that often gets overlooked. If you start having to re-do almost every overhead bridge on a line, that adds up quickly.
  by Tadman
 
Being that we're DC out here, and a Rock Island electrification would presumably be the same, it doesn't quite present the same problems. I've heard AC electrification requires catenary to be much farther apart from the rolling stock and bridges than DC. I don't know if you've ever seen the Monroe bridge over the current Metra electric line, but they run gallery cars with the catenary quite low and the bridges just as low.
  by justalurker66
 
Tadman wrote:I don't know if you've ever seen the Monroe bridge over the current Metra electric line, but they run gallery cars with the catenary quite low and the bridges just as low.
Monroe St is one of the lowest clearances on the MED at 18ft . There are 7 other 18ft bridges between McCormick place and downtown. And a couple that have a little more clearance. There are a couple of lower clearance points on the line.

The lowest clearance on the MED is for the NS crossing at Grand Junction. Only 17 ft 2 inches. (The NICTD South Shore has lower clearance on their Michigan City to South Bend segment, 16ft 9in.)
Last edited by justalurker66 on Tue Nov 22, 2011 7:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by doepack
 
For the record, according to the Rock's operation profile, the lowest clearance is the Roosevelt Rd. bridge, at 18ft. 2in; with the others exceeding 20ft. Considering the tighter clearances that already exist on MED, this shouldn't pose too much of a problem overall if electrification is ever seriously studied for this route, assuming the same kind of equipment is used (which isn't much of a stretch, given Metra's conservative bias)...
  by octr202
 
I'd forgotten about the tighter clearances allowed with DC versus AC, thanks.

So that at least sounds like one more minor issue resolved.