tuna wrote:As I said there are no freight trains on the areas I am talking about. I don't know if there are freight tracks somewhere else that are also called the Union Pacific North Line, but the Metra tracks are dedicated through all the stops I've ever been at, the vast majority of the stops. Also my idea for train timing involves smaller trains which probably means that they can stop faster. If you have trains that can come from full speed to a full stop in 1 minute, which isn't even that fast (as in it wouldn't be uncomfortable for passengers, I don't know how feasible it is for train technology), I don't see why you would need anywhere near 10 minute headways. By your own description, Metra is relying on these "traffic lights" and the human work of conductors to avoid crashing into each other. There should be a more efficient way that takes away human error and could lead to lower headways.
I'm not saying run on exactly the same infrastructure with exactly the same trains. What I was trying to get at in my OP is that the UP North line has these 2 tracks dedicated for commuter rail service, with no freight interference, no complicated junctions with other lines, what if the federal government wanted to invest a lot of money into developing the future of commuter rail, something that would be much faster and more competitive with cars for getting from the suburbs to the city center. So you take the existing land, stations, and tracks of the UP North line and lines like it that have continuous dedicated right of way, and you develop a system to be much faster... are there any systems like this that exist?
About the only commuter rail example that I can think of with this sort of an arrangement is the LIRR in NYC between Penn Station and Jamaica, a major transfer point. Within this corridor, it's a four-track railroad, with locals on the outside tracks serving intermediate stations at Woodside and Kew Gardens, while the expresses run on the inner two tracks. But there is a reason the LIRR has the distinction of being the busiest commuter railroad in the country, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that it serves the largest mass transit market in America. However, there simply isn't enough demand for that kind of a sophisticated commuter rail network like that here in the Chicago area, and as stated earlier, the volume of freight traffic that our region contends with on a daily basis just wouldn't allow it. With that said though, there are other solutions that would better serve our needs, to wit:
Since you ride the UP/N line, then you've probably heard about the bridge renewal project within the city portion of the route that will be starting up again soon. As you may or may not now, this line was once owned by the CNW (Chicago & North Western), and at one time, it was a three-track ROW between Chicago and Winnetka, with the third track used mainly by intercity trains to pass slower commuter runs. About 40 years ago, after leaving the intercity passenger business to Amtrak, CNW removed one of the tracks (along the western part of the ROW), and it's been a two-track railroad ever since. Today, the bridge renewal project calls for the restoration of this track (Metra refers to it as "New Track 1, it was originally CNW track 1, but I digress...), and eventually, all northbound traffic will be shifted here. The plans also call for the removal of the easternmost track (Track 2) when the project is totally done, but I've heard this isn't final, and if so, I'm hoping UP and/or Metra can at least consider retaining the track somehow; it'll only cost more to restore it later on if it's removed now. If it is retained, then extra capacity will be available to run more express trains during peak periods. Whether it would be enough to sufficiently speed up service depends on how well the schedules are written to make full and efficient use of the new capacity. At best, some peak trains may see up to 10 minute improvements in running time in isolated cases, but the average time savings will likely be less.
Another solution on UP/N could be something similar to what is currently in use on MED: The use of BOTH tracks in peak direction, a style of operation used for main line service between Kensington and Matteson, where rush hour trains are divided into three "zones" (Harvey, Flossmoor, and University Park). If applied to UP/N, you could run both tracks in the peak direction between Waukegan and say, Highland Park, for instance. But to really make it work, you'd still need that third express track along the city portion of the line. Either way, it would still be a better option than creating 2 "passing tracks" for each station, not to mention a helluva lot cheaper.
Great thread, BTW...