• Eau Claire - Minneapolis Passenger Rail Proposal

  • General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by Jeff Smith
 
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.
  by mtuandrew
 
The Star Tribune article in question:

http://m.startribune.com/all-aboard-fro ... 414763563/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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.
  by JMAN123436
 
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.
  by John_Perkowski
 
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.
  by mtuandrew
 
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.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Small town with even smaller minds:

https://www.riverfallsjournal.com/news/ ... rough-area" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Fair Use:
group of people filled the River Falls Public Library's lower level Wednesday, April 24. The crowd gathered to learn more about potential plans for commuter trains going from Eau Claire to the Twin Cities.

William Draves, co-chair of the St. Croix Valley Rail Group, said his organization and the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition are planning a fully-private train, which would not use taxpayer dollars for support.

The group shared some history of efforts to bring a passenger train to the area, where those efforts are today, and then took time to answer questions.
This caught my eye because next door neighbor's Son will be attending University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonee Falls. The "Twin Cities 400" was gone long before A-Day, I asked him at his HS Grad Party how did he expect to get home (family does have the largest Toyota SUV, so I guess that will be "the trip up")? Standing right in front of them, I say "well I hope your Grandparents (lives in Mpls) are willing to come fetch so you can fly home".

A bit different from "my day" when EVERY Big Ten school had rail service available.
  by mtuandrew
 
Nothing wrong with UW-Stout, it was a safety school of mine and I know several professionals who had a very good education there, but certainly no Big 10 on its own. Same for UW-RF.

Should private funding show up (from where??) this service would mesh well with the oft-delayed oft-canceled Twin Cities-Hudson commuter rail. There’s already fairly frequent bus service to The Cities though, which probably stands in the way of such a train.

And your grandneighbor will probably receive A Brand-New (rather-used) Car as a grad gift if going to that distance - not quite far enough to fly - or a feed of Megabus tickets.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Mr. Stephens, you are the Moderator of this Forum, so I, even holding my "Moderator Emeritus" title, I ask you do as you see fit with this OT material, as in kill it or split it.

That it has been noted here that there is plenty of bus service between Eau Claire, Menomonee Falls, and MSP, I don't know where the proponents of rail service are coming from, and my guess is that it essentially "died" with the noted meeting.
  by eolesen
 
It's entirely possible UP might be more open to rail service than CP or BNSF are, which would be why this story hasn't died the way others have.

With the Stillwater power plant's impending death, and the perceived drop-off in frac sand shipments, there's going to be a lot less overhead traffic on the Adams and Altoona Subs...
  by Jeff Smith
 
Some older news I found (2/14/20): Baldwin-Bulletin.com
The question was asked during a meeting of the St. Croix County Transit Commission Tuesday in Hudson. Will there even be enough traffic to support passenger rail from Eau Claire to St. Paul?

Scott Rogers from the Western Wisconsin Rail Coalition (WWRC) believes there is. “We’ve got over 100,000 vehicles crossing the St. Croix River every day,” Rogers said to the commission. He then made light of the number of cars he saw driving from Eau Claire to Hudson on his commute for the meeting.
...
To review, the WWRC is envisioning a passenger rail service from Eau Claire with stops in Menomonie, Baldwin, Hudson/River Falls and Stillwater. Travel times from Eau Claire to St. Paul would be between 80 to 90 minutes. Four trains would be used daily each way.
...
-- The passenger rail service would use tracks that belong to Union Pacific Railroad. Union Pacific is willing to consider hosting the service. In exchange, they’ve asked the WWRC to engage in an engineering study to determine the operating requirements and costs.

-- The WWRC have had discussions with a Chicago-based firm which has the expertise and experience in providing and financing rolling stock. They are interested in being the private sector partner to provide the equipment, find a private operator acceptable to the railroad, and invest in a financing plan.
...
  by Pensyfan19
 
Jeff Smith wrote: Thu Jun 04, 2020 2:12 pm Some older news I found (2/14/20): Baldwin-Bulletin.com
The question was asked during a meeting of the St. Croix County Transit Commission Tuesday in Hudson. Will there even be enough traffic to support passenger rail from Eau Claire to St. Paul?

Scott Rogers from the Western Wisconsin Rail Coalition (WWRC) believes there is. “We’ve got over 100,000 vehicles crossing the St. Croix River every day,” Rogers said to the commission. He then made light of the number of cars he saw driving from Eau Claire to Hudson on his commute for the meeting.
...
To review, the WWRC is envisioning a passenger rail service from Eau Claire with stops in Menomonie, Baldwin, Hudson/River Falls and Stillwater. Travel times from Eau Claire to St. Paul would be between 80 to 90 minutes. Four trains would be used daily each way.
...
-- The passenger rail service would use tracks that belong to Union Pacific Railroad. Union Pacific is willing to consider hosting the service. In exchange, they’ve asked the WWRC to engage in an engineering study to determine the operating requirements and costs.

-- The WWRC have had discussions with a Chicago-based firm which has the expertise and experience in providing and financing rolling stock. They are interested in being the private sector partner to provide the equipment, find a private operator acceptable to the railroad, and invest in a financing plan.
...
How about Chicago to St. Paul via Eau Claire? Maybe St. Paul to Eau Claire as a commuter service and the Chicago to St. Paul route as an intercity service? Thus avenging the Twin Cities 400! (These could be possible stops too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_Cities_400)
  by dgvrengineer
 
I think at least in the near term, we would be better off concentrating on the current route. Having multiple frequencies on one route should generate more ridership and have lower overall costs than spreading the trains over several routes, at least as far as St. Paul to Chicago.