mtuandrew wrote: ↑Thu Aug 06, 2020 10:17 am
As for South-of-the-Lake, we often hold NICTD up as an exemplar single-purpose commuter road. It does its job well; its fastest morning train is carded at 1h 55m westbound from South Bend Airport to Millennium Station Chicago, and 11th St Michigan City to Millennium Station is consistently about 1h 35-40m.
Think about that statement, though. You have a local commuter train with street running making many stops that almost beats a limited express making no stops. If the last mile in South Bend is ever fixed and they 25mph zone is gone, you actually can beat the limited. And the limited is on one main, no handoffs, going into a reasonable terminal (PRR and NYC were parallel for quite some distance and PC consolidated into one main, it's all NS now).
A better comparison is the Homewood run. The City gets 50m out, 1:30 in. The Illini gets 40 out, 1:15 in. No stops.
Metra does it in 38 out, 41 in. Five stops on a Harvey zone train. A Kensington local does it in 42 with more stops than I can count.
Arborwayfan wrote:3-hour trips: sensible. Potentially car-competitive and serve many city pairs on which air travel is not a significant competitor.
Shaving 20 mins off a trip, especially 20 slow, confusing mins right at the beginning or end of the trip that might bother casual passengers: also a sensible thing to consider.
But if we're trying to use trains for convenient, fast transportation over 3-hour distances in areas with a lot of people, wouldn't we want to encourage trips from one side of any given metro area to the other? Isn't Kankakee-Milwaukee a potential good market?
The first part of your post is spot on. The second part is a tough sell as most of them are handoffs, and where does the train go? Most except the MKE run are south side terminators, so does it change end? Better just to transfer.
I do not see how moving the terminals would improve the corridor trains. If we go with your stated rule that corridor trains must be three hours or less and look at the current service we see the following:
The run to Milwaukee is 90 minutes - well under the three hour limit.
Trains 3, 5, 381 and 383 on BNSF serve Galesburg around 2:40 away from Chicago. No major cities would be added within the three hour limit by leaving from a station other than CUS.
Trains 21, 301, 303, 305 and 307 serve Bloomington around 2:15 away from Chicago. No major cities would be added within the three hour limit by leaving from a station other than CUS.
The CN-IC trains (59, 391 and 393) serve Champaign around 2:10-2:30 from Chicago. No major cities would be added within the three hour limit by leaving from a station other than CUS.
The NS Chicago Line trains to Michigan will get you to Battle Creek (Detroit is 5 hours) or Holland (Grand Rapids is 4 hours). There is no free way to cut an hour off of the Grand Rapids service. Building a connecting track to the RI to terminate at LaSalle St doesn't avoid the problem of being blocked by NS trains coming out of the yards and heading east past where the RI would connect or trains clogging the track "south of the lake".
There are improvements that can be made ... arbitrarily creating new terminals away from CUS would not be an improvement.
As we've seen in the above examples on the homewood run, we can take 20-30 minutes of planned time out of timetables and 30-60 of unplanned time.
(a) it's the unplanned time that really kills you, as it's bait-and-switch. Customer rides once, gets a big unplanned delay, never rides again. I hear it all the time.
(b) if Champaign is 2:30-2:40, now it's 2 hours to downtown. That takes a downtown ride from borderline to very viable. Considering most people have 15-30 minutes aboard the L or Metra, plus 20 minutes layover, Champaign is actually 3:15-3:30 and now just under 3 hours.