Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Saturnalia » Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:51 pm

J T wrote:
Great. Ad hominem attacks by Typhoon. Typical. :roll:



That’s how you know you’re winning.

“Hundreds” of daily riders is pretty weak. I-196 does thousands. So much cheaper just to expand the freeway, or as this study points out, a bus.

The train would be a waste of money which will fail to solve a problem that doesn’t even exist. Another idea to add to the same box as WALLY and A2TC - barely useful and impractical ideas written for consultants by consultants.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby NS3322 » Tue Nov 13, 2018 3:18 pm

How about another Pere Marquette train?!!
There should not be one train between GR and Chicago per day.

This could turn out to be a blunder for Holland, Hudsonville and GR.

I reference the WES Commuter train in Oregon as a case study.
This train runs for 14.7 miles between Beaverton, Oregon and Willsonville, Oregon (both suburbs of Portland).

TriMet wrote:According to TriMet, WES Commuter Rail has a cost of $16.32 for each rider; compared to $4.21 for a bus rider or $3.23 for a MAX light rail rider. There are no plans to expand WES service, owing to low ridership. From the start of the first serious discussions of the idea, it took thirteen years and $166 million to get WES operational.[


Average Weekday Ridership in 2017: 1,590

Population Along Route:
Beaverton: 97,590
Tigard: 50,444
Tualatin: 26,054
Wilsonville: 21,484

Total Population: 195,572

Although, they run with DMUs (with small capacity) these numbers should be higher. Especially in a metro area like Portland where traffic is worse than Chicago.

==============================================================================================================================

"West Michigan Express" Route Population:
Grand Rapids: 198,829 (Amtrak Riders: 39,376)
Grandville: 16,002
Jenison/Georgetown Charter Township: 46,985
Hudsonville: 7,285
Zeeland: 5,559
Holland: 33,366 (Amtrak Riders: 36,653)

Total Population: 308,026
And let's be honest, not many in GR would use this train.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Typhoon » Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:11 pm

Saturnalia wrote:
J T wrote:
Great. Ad hominem attacks by Typhoon. Typical. :roll:



That’s how you know you’re winning.

“Hundreds” of daily riders is pretty weak. I-196 does thousands. So much cheaper just to expand the freeway, or as this study points out, a bus.

The train would be a waste of money which will fail to solve a problem that doesn’t even exist. Another idea to add to the same box as WALLY and A2TC - barely useful and impractical ideas written for consultants by consultants.


Winning? It is not a contest. It is typical of certain posters to move goalposts when their statements fall flat. They want examples of places were commuter rail and ride share feed off of each other. When they see examples of such presented, their weak response is “well that is not Holland.” Well no kidding Sherlock. Personally I doubt such a service would see hundreds of daily riders, as it is Western Michigan. But to dismiss ride share being able to move that many people is ignorant to the product.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby J T » Tue Nov 13, 2018 6:40 pm

Typhoon wrote: Personally I doubt such a service would see hundreds of daily riders, as it is Western Michigan.


So we agree after all.

But to dismiss ride share being able to move that many people is ignorant to the product.


Of course ride sharing works, I use it quite often. But for this specific application, the added time and expense of ride sharing, along with that of riding the train to Holland, would be impractical for those commuting to areas outside the Holland city center on a daily basis.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Standard Railfan » Tue Nov 13, 2018 8:33 pm

This discussion seems a bit moot. I believe that when the coal trains no longer travel to West Olive, the passenger trains will run HLD GRR KZO.
CSX will not want to maintain the line South of Holland. The state already invested in the Kalamazoo line. The Cost to upgrade an maintain the GDLK line vs. the CSX line should be less given a shorter distance, no draw bridge, and no “hill” .
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Saturnalia » Tue Nov 13, 2018 8:42 pm

Standard Railfan wrote:This discussion seems a bit moot. I believe that when the coal trains no longer travel to West Olive, the passenger trains will run HLD GRR KZO.
CSX will not want to maintain the line South of Holland. The state already invested in the Kalamazoo line. The Cost to upgrade an maintain the GDLK line vs. the CSX line should be less given a shorter distance, no draw bridge, and no “hill” .

1. CSX will still offer local freight service on the GR Sub and significant overhead traffic to/from GRR
2. The GDLK is NOT significantly shorter...in fact it may actually be longer
3. Hills mean nothing to passenger trains
4. The GDLK's track is in terrible shape, relative to passenger standards. CSX is a 60+ MPH line already
5. The GDLK doesn't have CTC and PTC, CSX already does
6. There is no NW wye at Kalamazoo
7. There is no connection from the GDLK to the GR Amtrak station without TWO backup moves, THREE if you're coming from Holland...that's three backup moves and one controlling-end switch to run HOM-GRR-Kzoo
8. The MDOT has already invested in the CSX live via paying for the Pere Marquette. That's way more than the nearly nothing MDOT has spent on upgrading the GDLK.
9. Hollanders won't ride to Chicago if they have to go to GRR first, adding close to two hours running time
10. Amtrak would no longer serve the South Haven/St Joseph areas
11. There is no meaningful population between GR and Kzoo

I guess these passenger train ideas are like communism. They're terrible in almost every way but refuse to die.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby PatAzo » Wed Nov 14, 2018 8:40 am

Standard Railfan wrote:This discussion seems a bit moot. I believe that when the coal trains no longer travel to West Olive, the passenger trains will run HLD GRR KZO.
CSX will not want to maintain the line South of Holland. The state already invested in the Kalamazoo line. The Cost to upgrade an maintain the GDLK line vs. the CSX line should be less given a shorter distance, no draw bridge, and no “hill” .


Moving the Pere Marquette to a Holland-GR-Kalamazoo route is on MDOT's 2010 wish list. Their estimated cost was way low once you consider signal and crossing upgrades. It is perhaps just a contingency plan should the route down the lake shore become a problem. It's blaspheme to suggest it but CSX unloading its route across Michigan isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Ben Higdon » Wed Nov 14, 2018 9:45 am

Moving the Pere Marquette to a Kalamazoo routing is a no-brainer. Once West Olive is done the line from Porter to Holland is toast.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby SD80MAC » Wed Nov 14, 2018 10:45 am

Ben Higdon wrote:Moving the Pere Marquette to a Kalamazoo routing is a no-brainer. Once West Olive is done the line from Porter to Holland is toast.

Well you've got about 20 years before West Olive is done receiving coal trains. Lots of new business cropping up south of Holland, too. CSX might not want it after West Olive is done, but to suggest the line would just be ripped up is woefully ignorant.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Saturnalia » Wed Nov 14, 2018 12:56 pm

SD80MAC wrote:
Ben Higdon wrote:Moving the Pere Marquette to a Kalamazoo routing is a no-brainer. Once West Olive is done the line from Porter to Holland is toast.

Well you've got about 20 years before West Olive is done receiving coal trains. Lots of new business cropping up south of Holland, too. CSX might not want it after West Olive is done, but to suggest the line would just be ripped up is woefully ignorant.

Something can't be a "no-brainer" when there's a huge list of reasons to do the alternate.

If you're going based on online traffic, in terms of keeping a line open, please note that the GDLK has even less traffic than the CSX. And no signals. And no connection in GR. And no connection in Kalamazoo...
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Farmboybello » Wed Nov 14, 2018 5:42 pm

Ben Higdon wrote:Moving the Pere Marquette to a Kalamazoo routing is a no-brainer. Once West Olive is done the line from Porter to Holland is toast.

You should also take into account that coal is not the only thing that runs on this line. This line is the only connection for the Michigan Shore and the West Michigan to the national rail network while also being a big source of cars for the Coopersville and Marne, the Grand Rapids Eastern, the Grand Elk and Marquette Rail. This line is way too valuable to be abandoned and ripped up. If CSX wants to get rid of this line in 20 years I am sure another Class I would pick it up very quickly.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Standard Railfan » Wed Nov 14, 2018 7:11 pm

I have added a few comments in italics.

Saturnalia wrote:1. CSX will still offer local freight service on the GR Sub and significant overhead traffic to/from GRR Local service is not dependent upon a 60+ mph track segment. Overhead traffic does not need to run through GR.

2. The GDLK is NOT significantly shorter...in fact it may actually be longer Shorter distance to Dedicated high speed passenger corridor

3. Hills mean nothing to passenger trains I wasn’t aware that the laws of physics do not apply to passenger trains.

4. The GDLK's track is in terrible shape, relative to passenger standards. CSX is a 60+ MPH line already This situation can be remedied.

5. The GDLK doesn't have CTC and PTC, CSX already does. See #4

6. There is no NW wye at Kalamazoo. See #4

7. There is no connection from the GDLK to the GR Amtrak station without TWO backup moves, THREE if you're coming from Holland...that's three backup moves and one controlling-end switch to run HOM-GRR-Kzoo. Kzoo already needs to be reconfigured. Note the excess movements GDLK is required to make

8. The MDOT has already invested in the CSX live via paying for the Pere Marquette. That's way more than the nearly nothing MDOT has spent on upgrading the GDLK. This “investment” is a recurring cost.

9. Hollanders won't ride to Chicago if they have to go to GRR first, adding close to two hours running time care to cite your source? (You are probably right)

10. Amtrak would no longer serve the South Haven/St Joseph areas St Joe can be served in other ways. Bangor is low volume and seasonal.

11. There is no meaningful population between GR and Kzoo There is no meaningful population between Holland and Indiana

I guess these passenger train ideas are like communism. They're terrible in almost every way but refuse to die.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Saturnalia » Wed Nov 14, 2018 8:14 pm

Saturnalia wrote:1. CSX will still offer local freight service on the GR Sub and significant overhead traffic to/from GRR
Standard Railfan wrote:Local service is not dependent upon a 60+ mph track segment. Overhead traffic does not need to run through GR.

Is this any different than the GDLK? They both literally have the same sort of traffic base, once you factor out CSX's coal trains. So maybe the CSX wouldn't then really need to be 60, but neither does the GDLK.

Saturnalia wrote:2. The GDLK is NOT significantly shorter...in fact it may actually be longer
Standard Railfan wrote:Shorter distance to Dedicated high speed passenger corridor

Yes, but does that actually significantly reduce travel time? The AML routing is actually about 10-15 miles longer based on a quick Google Maps measurement which isn't as exact as the 136 miles I have as timetable from GR to Porter. So you have to make up that extra time. 110mph is worth something, but it isn't light speed. So they could save perhaps 15 minutes. So what? Most of that would probably be due to fewer station stops by cutting out HOM, BAM and SJM, since they'd likely run mostly express from Kzoo to Chicago.

While we're on this one, they could probably shave off 10-15 minutes from the existing route by getting a few small towns to drop their antiquated slow orders so trains can operate according to track geometry. Perhaps agree to throw up a couple thousand dollars in fencing. That's a cheaply-gotten 15 minutes right there.

Saturnalia wrote:3. Hills mean nothing to passenger trains
Standard Railfan wrote:I wasn’t aware that the laws of physics do not apply to passenger trains.

Oh man you caught me red handed. Allow me to clarify: Hills mean nothing to passenger train operations.

Amtrak is almost never slowed significantly on gradients because of the grades themselves, they can typically maintain track speed as defined by track geometry. Saugatuck hill is about 3 miles long. So they can only go about 40 mph for 3 miles. Not a deal breaker what so ever.

Saturnalia wrote:4. The GDLK's track is in terrible shape, relative to passenger standards. CSX is a 60+ MPH line already
5. The GDLK doesn't have CTC and PTC, CSX already does.
6. There is no NW wye at Kalamazoo.
Standard Railfan wrote:This situation can be remedied.

"Situation that can be remedied". If I have it straight, your logic is: Let's spend a century's worth of PM operating subsidies to upgrade the GDLK.

Figure at least a million bucks per unimproved crossing (there are at least a couple dozen of those on the GDLK), several dozen miles worth of new rail, replace the vast majority of the ties, install at least one if not more controlled sidings, throw up tens of millions in new signal equipment (plus PTC!) and perhaps build a new station or two. Don't forget that new connector in Kalamazoo which will probably require some land acquisition. And the Grand Rapids Station alignment needs a new diamond in a curve over CSX. I'm sure Jacksonville won't like that idea!

Right now MDOT pays about $2 Million to cover the 370/371 operating loss each year, a sum that includes track maintenance fees to CSX. So you're arguing that we should put somewhere around a century worth of subsidy into upgrading a different line. Even quadruple these fees, assuming Amtrak must maintain a greater share of the GRS, and you still would have a 25-year investment return period, based only on the upfront upgrade costs. MDOT would still be on the hook for the recurring maintenance and operating losses.

Saturnalia wrote:7. There is no connection from the GDLK to the GR Amtrak station without TWO backup moves, THREE if you're coming from Holland...that's three backup moves and one controlling-end switch to run HOM-GRR-Kzoo.
Standard Railfan wrote: Kzoo already needs to be reconfigured. Note the excess movements GDLK is required to make

The connector Amtrak needs is not the connector the GDLK needs. The GDLK needs a new NE wye, while this new Amtrak route would need the NW wye. So no, these two projects, while dealing with the same track, have almost no overlap. construction-wise, a few million might be saved in mobilization and combining the signal work, but that's probably about it. Separate land acquisition, track installation, and additional signals.

Saturnalia wrote:8. The MDOT has already invested in the CSX live via paying for the Pere Marquette. That's way more than the nearly nothing MDOT has spent on upgrading the GDLK.
Standard Railfan wrote:This “investment” is a recurring cost.

Of course it is. So you propose another round of hundreds of millions in new investment...which results in little to no savings in the recurring costs, because they'd still have to pay for track maintenance on the GDLK - and actually probably a higher share than even on a coal-train-less CSX. The operating loss would still be there, too. So this point is moot on operating and stinks to heck in terms of up-front capital.

Saturnalia wrote:9. Hollanders won't ride to Chicago if they have to go to GRR first, adding close to two hours running time
Standard Railfan wrote:care to cite your source? (You are probably right)

I don't need a source, it's simple math.

Right now you can drive from HOM to CHI in about 3 hours. The train takes about 3 hours. The train via GR/Kzoo would be at least 5 hours. What would you be doing?

Saturnalia wrote:10. Amtrak would no longer serve the South Haven/St Joseph areas
Standard Railfan wrote:St Joe can be served in other ways. Bangor is low volume and seasonal.

What "other ways"? I mean sure they could drive to New Buffalo. Or you could continue to serve a popular stop. Following my logic above you're also cancelling out Holland, which serves not just Holland but the lakeshore up towards Grand Haven and Muskegon as well. Those people will not be driving to Grand Rapids to take the train, if none are available from Holland.

Saturnalia wrote:11. There is no meaningful population between GR and Kzoo
Standard Railfan wrote:There is no meaningful population between Holland and Indiana

Sum this up: you're assuming Holland is meaningful (that's one good intermediate stop) and let's add St Joseph as well.

So we're dropping two decently busy intermediates for zero. Sounds like a great service plan to me!

So to summarize, just to shave off 15-30 minutes of running time and create GR-Kzoo passenger rail access, we're willing to throw well over a hundred million dollars at the upgrades (probably more like double or triple that), and toss out the busy stops at HOM and SJM.

This is the worst deal in the history of deals, maybe ever.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Doktor No » Thu Nov 15, 2018 9:43 am

How many people in the SJ and BH area drive to Niles to get frequent service via rail? Or even Michigan City?
And you do NOT need a signal system to run a passenger train.
So you go 59. When traffic is at a standstill on 131 you go right on by into AZO.
Rail on GDLK is heavy welded for a lot of the distance. Conrail rebuilt it, heavily rebuilt it. A lot of hard granite ballast in place. Only bug is the many little bridges over the cross watersheds.
As for hills and passenger trains. The only thing that holds the PM back on Saugatuck is the curves. They can climb that hill just quick as you please.
Adding lanes to I196 would cost substantially MORE then just running the train as is on CSX rails...but again, no one will. The population concentration just is not there...even if a hundred uber/lyfts show up every morning and evening. Ride to train, ride on train then ride to work when you just get in your car and go to work...THAT is brainless.
And stop extrapolating what may or may not happen when WO stops using coal..MY GOD that 20+ years out!
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby J T » Thu Nov 15, 2018 1:08 pm

Doktor No wrote: Adding lanes to I196 would cost substantially MORE then just running the train as is on CSX rails...but again, no one will. The population concentration just is not there...even if a hundred uber/lyfts show up every morning and evening. Ride to train, ride on train then ride to work when you just get in your car and go to work...THAT is brainless.


Amen!
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Plannerdad » Thu Nov 15, 2018 11:03 pm

$2.5 to $3.0 million per lane mile, and alot of projects in front of it.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Saturnalia » Thu Nov 15, 2018 11:16 pm

Plannerdad wrote:$2.5 to $3.0 million per lane mile, and alot of projects in front of it.

So figuring 30 miles each way, 60 miles total, for $180 million to triple-lane I-196 from GR to Zeeland (where most Hollanders exit).

For context, purchasing the Michigan Line was $150M and upgrading has been around another $200M. That for more miles but it gives a sense of scale.

In dollar per passenger mile terms, adding a lane beats the pants off a new commuter service even if commuter rail is only half as expensive as the road widening.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby Ben Higdon » Fri Nov 16, 2018 9:41 am

Standard Railfan wrote:I have added a few comments in italics.


Thank you for the reality check. I hate to see trackage downgraded/removed as much as the next train nerd, but the only thing keeping Porter to Holland in top notch shape is coal.

There is a simple concept called economies of scale. It is more efficient (better ROI) to have a higher concentration of trains on fewer lines. Eventually the Pere Marquette will be routed via Kalamazoo, or if there is ever a second daily train, they would route it that way.

And back to the GR-Holland commuter train, I'd be upset if those were my tax dollars being spent on the study. As someone already pointed out, if Brighton to Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor to Detroit can't get up and running, there's no way in the foreseeable future for GR-Holland.
Buy a few buses and set up park and rides.
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Re: Holland to GR Commuter Train Study

Unread postby PatAzo » Fri Nov 16, 2018 10:33 am

There are a couple prospective's for a Holland-GR commuter service. In the present and near term most commuters will stay in their cars. I watched the commute times this week through the morning and it's 34-38 minutes every day. I looked at MDOT traffic count. 196 carries 25,00-50,000 vehicles per day until you reach GR then it's over 50,000. In contrast I94 from west of Kalamazoo to east of Jackson is carrying 50,000-100,00 cars vehicles per day with mostly two lanes. There is no real congestion on 196 and there is capacity. Maybe you can't roll 80 in the left lane your whole trip but no real congestion. The average person will stay in their cars vs. the inconvenience of commuting by rail. Present and near term it doesn't make sense.

Longer term your looking at a shift in behavior. If you believe that growth in traffic and personal vehicles in unsustainable then you look to commuter services. You can't shift behavior and get people to live near stations and use the service unless the service already exists. You build it before it's needed. I recall my dad talking about driving on I94 when it was opening in the 50's and how few cars there were on it. Perhaps the same with rail but your looking decades down the road. Maybe it makes sense and maybe not. If Elon Musk comes through with solar powered 7¢ per kwh charging stations all those commuters could be in electric cars.

Back to the heresy but for the sake of argument lets say CSX spins off the old Pere Marquette. Hunter Harrison reborn is at the helm. He's fighting off the Children's Fund and Wall Street is demanding quick cost cutting and cash generation. West Olive or no West Olive, CSX leases the Pere Marquette to G&W or Watco. It's not automatic that MDOT and Amtrak will flee to the GR&I. There is the obvious big capital investment to get the track ready to host Amtrak. Consider too that all short lines need cash flow and Amtrak is paying to run their train. With signals, track structure and capacity that already support passenger service, what GM isn't going to work to maintain a suitable deal with Amtrak. Business is business and cash is king.
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