Private! Eau Claire - St. Paul Passenger Service

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Private! Eau Claire - St. Paul Passenger Service

Postby Jeff Smith » Thu Mar 09, 2017 12:50 pm

I can't recall seeing a topic on this; no operator is mentioned: Leader Telegram

Passenger rail in region back in spotlight

Passenger rail in Eau Claire is a concept that’s, ahem, gaining steam of late.

The current incarnation is privately financed rail service from Eau Claire to Union Depot in St. Paul. Potential stops include Menomonie, Baldwin, Hudson and Stillwater, Minn., with possible shuttle services to tertiary locations.

“Eventually there would be service to the east to Milwaukee and Chicago, as well as service directly into Minneapolis,” said Scott Rogers, chairman of the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coaliton. “One of the values of the service would be the development potential at station stops.”
...
The concept is for four rides a day each way, each taking around 80 minutes. For riders, the cost of a ticket is expected to be about $32, with discounts for regular customers.

Existing Union Pacific rail track would be used for the line, though reaching speeds of 80 mph would require retooling. The Star Tribune cited startup costs that range from $140 million to $450 million. Rogers said it’s too early to put a price tag on the project.

“The next step in our analysis is to develop an agreement with Union Pacific to do a study of the physical requirements to upgrade track and add capacity,” he said, adding that results could be available in the fall.
Next stop, Willoughby
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Re: Private! Eau Claire - St. Paul Passenger Service

Postby mtuandrew » Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:47 am

The Star Tribune article in question:

http://m.startribune.com/all-aboard-fro ... 414763563/

All aboard from the east? Wisconsinites plot rail to Twin Cities

By DAVID PETERSON , STAR TRIBUNE
February 25, 2017 - 8:03 AM

East metro residents who fight their way to work amid thousands of Wisconsin commuters may one day get a lift to work courtesy of a train coming out of the Badger State.

A push is on for privately financed passenger rail service from Eau Claire to St. Paul’s Union Depot, with a stop in Stillwater. Such a train has been official planning policy in Minnesota since 2009, and a Wisconsin county board a few days ago passed a resolution supporting such a project amid concerns from critics that taxpayers will end up with the tab if the private line fails.

The push for the line, fueled by business interests, is coming from the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition. With strong residential growth in the east metro and a jobs base that leans west, east metro motorists often face a plugged-tight commute that can turn epic with any hint of serious weather.


The remainder of the article (with a map) states that the business coalition has "conditional approval" from UP. I read that as, "$100m plus track upgrades gets you a seat at the negotiating table. Hugs and kisses, Omaha." "Track upgrades" also means PTC and probably some right of way upgrades (mostly single track) and bridge replacements (still a fair number of non-ballasted bridges, some considerably high and long, that UP would want through-decked.) I'd like to see an alternative to dodging semis on I-94, especially with the Chip Falls extension, but it's tough to justify when MN and WI are just completing a major multi-hundred-million-dollar bridge project across the St. Croix as it is.
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Re: Private! Eau Claire - St. Paul Passenger Service

Postby Rockingham Racer » Fri Mar 10, 2017 6:59 am

Is this the UP Altoona Sub that is part of the plan?
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Re: Private! Eau Claire - St. Paul Passenger Service

Postby mtuandrew » Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:39 am

Rockingham Racer wrote:Is this the UP Altoona Sub that is part of the plan?

The entire Altoona Sub, yes.
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Re: Private! Eau Claire - St. Paul Passenger Service

Postby JMAN123436 » Sun Apr 02, 2017 7:06 pm

Living in Eau Claire, it will be interesting to see if this goes anywhere. If it does happen I am wondering where they would put a train station, as the line past downtown is up on a hill, and the old train station was torn down and the land is now privately owned.
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Re: Private! Eau Claire - St. Paul Passenger Service

Postby John_Perkowski » Tue Apr 04, 2017 1:02 pm

How many people commute from Eau Claire to the twin cities daily?

How many runs would you have to do to satisfy the need? Remember, if I work from 6A-2P, and the train doesn't leave at 4A to be at destination by 530A, you won't get me as a passenger.

What's the freight density on the line? Can it support multiple runs per day of passenger?

What's the break-even in term of seats filled per day to attain profitability?

To me, this run seems to be a visit of the good idea fairy, not a viable shot at interurban rail.
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Re: Private! Eau Claire - St. Paul Passenger Service

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Apr 04, 2017 5:54 pm

Colonel: I'd like to see this, but a Chicago Tribune article from 2003 puts the number of Wisconsin - Twin Cities commuters at 44,000. I'll assume that numbers have gone up (they probably haven't, since the housing bubble popped) and 45,000 go to a point in the Twin Cities readily accessible by transit (besides the eastern suburbs *cough 3M cough* many go to Duluth or across the Mississippi River) from a point near the railroad (many come from northeast of Stillwater).

I'd be surprised if this service saw 400 round trip riders/day, though it could surprise me - Northstar has somewhere over 2,000/day (1,000 each direction, probably). If Metro Transit can't support a St. Cloud extension at a significant subsidy though, the commuter market definitely couldn't support a route all the way to Eau Claire anywhere near profitably.

(Not saying it's a bad idea, just not feasible under private auspices without a major subsidy.)

Also for reference, BNSF got $107.5m just for a permanent operating easement. The track upgrades and stations and equipment and operating budget were all above and beyond that figure. The Altoona Sub's 100 miles need a lot more work than the Staples and Wayzata Subdivisions' 40 did.
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