Discussion of Canadian Passenger Rail Services such as AMT (Montreal), Go Transit (Toronto), VIA Rail, and other Canadian Railways and Transit

Moderator: Ken V

  by mdvle
Tadman wrote:I disagree on number three. There is no rule that says Amtrak has to connect with Via in Detroit.
Never said there was (*).

There are however cost advantages to sharing a station, both in ongoing operations and in the construction costs.
Tadman wrote: And I'm not sure what the state of Michigan gets to say about this, if the deal is between VIA, Ford, and CP.
While Ford has indicated a willingness, perhaps even a preference for train service to return to MCS that is a very different thing to Ford actually putting up any money. Given that the last I head Ford was requesting money just to move into MCS I don't know that they would foot the cost of a VIA/Ontario station and the required customs facilities, and there would certainly be political issues on the Canadian side of the border if VIA or Ontario were paying...

Which leaves either Amtrak (unlikely) or the State of Michigan, and I only see the State getting involved if like I said the cost could be covered in an overall Amtrak returning to MCS cost.
Tadman wrote: Can you really imagine Michigan declining this operation because they want to force Via to use that dumpster fire of a depot in New Center? That place is utterly disgusting.
Again, nobody saying that. I mentioned above far more likely that such a service would use Dearborn if MCS wasn't available. But that would be a long shot given how long the train would be in the US without hitting customs/immigration, or you return to doing it on the train which I don't see starting again.

* - having said that, there are opportunities to in essence recreate the Toronto - Chicago train albeit using a different route by having this hypothetical Detroit/Canada service make a connection. In fact, if a miracle happens and the high speed rail went ahead and gave us the estimated 2 hour Windsor - Toronto there is no reason there couldn't be 2 Chicago - Toronto services daily. Michigan might like this if it reduced the subsidy that I assume they are paying for the existing Wolverine service.
  by Backshophoss
Would the tunnel need a bunch of upgrades to allow passenger service again? When CR sold off their share of the tunnel,
CP has total control and doesn't play nice with VIA as it is now.
CP will make VIA pay for any tunnel upgrades.
VIA might be better off crossing at Sarnia/Port Huron and enter Detroit from north of the city.(skip Windsor)
  by electricron
Detroit lies right across the border, within one mile or kilometer from Windsor.
How many VIA train stations does VIA stop at within one mile or kilometer from another?

While having a train station in downtown Detroit might be better than downtown Windsor, it is not necessary. The existing station in downtown Windsor serves Detroit just as well as it does Windsor.
  by mdvle
CP only owns 16.5% of the tunnel, Borealis (division of OMERS [Ontario Municipal Employee Retirement System]) owns the rest so if passenger rail offered increased profits it would happen.

Crossing at Sarnia/Port Huron won't work as it would mean restarting customs/immigration onboard the train, and that killed off the previous Chicago - Toronto train.

Yes, in many ways the existing Windsor station serves Detroit. 2 things however make a Michigan side station preferable if possible:

1) it allows a resumption of Toronto - Chicago train service with an "easy" change somewhere in the Detroit area (ie. staying within the same physical station with the change in trains only being driven by customs necessity, though it is also possible that with an appropriate design the same train could be used with customs being done on train at the platform for through passengers.

2) a continuation of one of the reasons Ford is moving back into Detroit - the younger generation are not buying cars the way they would have in the past, and thus there are a sizeable percentage that rely on various forms of public transit and walking. For them driving from Detroit to the Windsor VIA station is a significant hurdle that a Detroit station would solve (and of course the reverse, there are a lot of younger people in Toronto who could view Detroit (as it finally starts to regenerate) as a weekend away if transit was available.
  by mtuandrew
I really like a move to MCS, or at least a second stop at MCS while keeping Detroit New Center for the moment. I really, really like VIA moving to the south side of Windsor, but failing that, I’d put up with that long backing move in order to access the Essex Terminal Railway/CPR route to the tunnel.

For that matter, that half-hour tour of southern and eastern Windsor would give Customs officials from either country enough time to do their jobs, don’t you think? Board at Windsor VIA, do their interviews, ride to Detroit MCS, get off and wait for the next train back in a secure lounge.

And Ford has a lot of incentive to make that happen too, as a transnational company with major facilities in either city and country.
  by mdvle
Perhaps a bit of a rethink of services is what the State of Michigan should be doing.

Change the Wolverine to a Chicago - Detroit service with it terminating on the eastern end at a redone MCS.

Use the recent rule changes to get some European DMU equipment to run not just MCS to Pontiac but all the way up to Port Huron, thus helping to turn Detroit into a focal point for the state.
  by andrewjw
electricron wrote:Detroit lies right across the border, within one mile or kilometer from Windsor.
How many VIA train stations does VIA stop at within one mile or kilometer from another?
The correct measure of distance for train service is not in miles, but in hours. The time it takes to drive across the border is substantial - and substantially more than the added train time. This is why a Detroit extension would be worthwhile from a ridership perspective.
  by Backshophoss
Most of the cross border freight is JIT auto parts to the factories in both Detroit and Windsor,the Ambassador Bridge carries more trucks then cars
during the work week. There's always some congestion at the customs booths on both sides,in most cases it's paperwork issues
Sarnia/Port Huron is not as busy with cross border freight,and might be easier on passengers on board a train to cross at.
If I have an option to cross at Detroit or Port Huron,will take Port Huron over Detroit if possible,less traffic,less congestion,
and a straight shot west/south on I-69 over crowded,beat up Detroit highways/streets

The International was a joint operation between VIA/Amtrak like the Maple Leaf is now.
So it's not as simple as the Cascades/Adirondak/future Montrealer service that can run"sealed" from the terminal to the border.
  by andrewjw
Yes, there are more trucks than cars - that is the point! People do not want to drive across that bridge to get a train.
And yes, a Port Huron crossing train would need to operate like the Maple Leaf - that is why a Detroit crossing, terminating at a sealed facility at MCS, would be superior! There is no need to bring back the International - just extend some Via corridor trains to Detroit (not Chicago).
  by NIMBYkiller
Just because the previous train was a joint operation (because it went all the way to Chicago) doesn't mean this one has to be. It would be a strictly Canadian operation terminating in Detroit. And as mentioned before, not having the stop in Detroit is a deterrent to anyone going to or traveling from Detroit, especially (as mentioned) with my generation largely wanting a more urban lifestyle with no or minimized use of a car. Saying Windsor serves Detroit is like saying Hoboken serves New York. But we all saw what happened once Midtown Direct started.
  by mtuandrew
From my totally unscientific Google-provided overhead view, MCS looks to have seven platforms and a maximum of twelve track alignments. Currently there appear to be six tracks at least partially in place, of which zero look like they’ve been usable since last millennium :P

How about this proposal:
1) within five years rehab the southernmost three platforms and four tracks, and reconnect them to the main on the east. Also realign the CP/Conrail mains to allow an outboard platform track on the far southern platform. Use them as a freight inspection station for USCBP, but make them all passenger-ready.
2) within ten years when an international train becomes feasible again, use one of the three platforms (whichever is least useful for freight, probably the third from the south) as a sealed passenger platform.
3) simultaneously with 2) stabilize the inner four platforms and rebuild the subgrade supports for their seven tracks, under the presumption that these will be stub-end tracks for push-pull commuter and Amtrak service.
4) within fifteen years or whenever MDOT and Amtrak get around to it, build out those platforms and commence service to the suburbs and further to Lansing, Toledo, DTW (KDTW for our av-geeks), Midland-Bay City-Saginaw, and Port Huron.

  by mdvle
We don't need to guess - links to trainshed cross-section and track plan below.

MCS has/had 10 through passenger tracks (with 6 platforms), 1 Express track and platform, followed by 7 through tracks south of the trainshed for through bypass lines.

Given that it is unlikely, as most of the land has been built on, that the yards and other trackwork will ever return west of MCS I think it is safe to say the 7 through tracks will remain overkill.

The big advantage the MCS has (compared to say Toronto Union) is that the above ground portion of the train shed is long gone so no preservation issues and we can thus build to 2020 standards/needs. Thus maybe 4 to 6 total track capacity but much wider platforms.

The area around where the Express track used to be could be set up for international trains and have glass walls to ensure separation to allow for forcing people to a below tracks customs/immigration area.

Given that 7 through tracks aren't needed, I would take the southernmost alignment of 1 or 2 tracks to allow a (wishful thinking) return of the southern Express Office and give it a direct platform. With road access this could be an interesting possibility for a freight DMU/EMU in the future for smaller parcels, etc. - say a Fed-Ex style thing. If Ontario ever builds the high speed line to Windsor a 2.5 hour Detroit - Toronto service could be attractive to someone, so given it just means allocating some otherwise unneeded space at really no cost seems reasonable.

Cross-section - https://www.flickr.com/photos/ashtonpar/3966786241/

Track plan - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ ... C_1914.jpg
  by bdawe
Tadman wrote:
Consider the available connections at Vancouver for a similar international operation, the Cascades:
1. Canadian to Edmonton/Toronto - 2x/week, arrives very unpredictably late westbound, overnight connection eastbound.
2. Rocky Mountaineer - erratic schedule, station 1 km away from Cascades terminal
3. West Coast Express - station 3 km away from Cascades Terminal, absolutely no same day connections
4. BC Ferries - Tsawwassen port is 35 km away, West Vancouver port is 10 km

Clearly in both cases, the connection options are very poor and must not be important enough.
Connections at Pacific Central Station are:

1. Near anywhere you can reach by coach bus from Vancouver, since Pacific Central is the main coach station.
2. The Expo Line, by far Vancouver's most important rapid transit line, which is across the street

Moreover, just because the connections aren't amazing doesn't mean they aren't important. The Vancouver leg of the Cascades only sees 50,000 riders. It would see more if there were more good connections to be made
  by mdvle
Also worth considering the issue of requiring a passport to cross the border now. While the number of Americans with a passport has grown (currently around 42% apparently) there are still a lot of people who could in the past easily cross the border and now can't.
mdvie: A US or Canada Passport is NOT absolutely necessary for a land border crossing.

An Enhanced Drivers License (EDL) issued by border states/provinces (Ontario, Michigan and
New York are prime examples) are as sufficient to cross a land border as a passport would be.

A US or Canada Passport is the best border crossing document that one can have - no dispute
there - but there are other documents (Passport, NEXUS and FAST Cards) that are just as good.

The one instance in which nothing less than a US or Canada Passport is necessary is to - FLY -
across the border. There has been disinformation written about border crossing documentation
since the requirements were tightened back in 2008. We have had discussions on this subject
in the past...MACTRAXX