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  #1  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2009, 7:19 PM
sharkfood sharkfood is offline
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Five best and five worst ideas for expanding inter-city rail service

If there is going to be a major investment in passenger rail infrastructure, let's do it right.

These are the top five routes that scream out for high speed rail service.
Yes, all of them are in the sunbelt, because that's where the most economic growth has occurred in the last 50 years and that's where the existing rail infrastructure is the smallest:

1. San Francisco - Los Angeles.
2. Houston - Dallas.
3. Washington - Richmond - Raleigh/Durham - Charlotte - Atlanta.
4. Miami - West Palm Beach - Orlando - Tampa
5. Los Angeles - Las Vegas

And these are the least worthy candidates for high speed rail:

1. Philadelphia - Pittsburgh: Listen, I'm from Philadelphia. I'm been to Pittsburgh once in my life. That says something. Pittsburghers would say the same thing. This is not a criticism of the Keystone Service, which actually connects Pennsylvania with New York.
2. Buffalo - Albany: Please.
3. Anything involving El Paso.
4. Anything connecting cities inside Ohio: C'mon. Think outside your state.
5. Northern New England.

Routes I'm on the fence about:

1. Any routes involving Chicago. Chicago is a large city, obviously. The problem is there are no similar heavyweight cities nearby to pair it with.
There's no New York-Washington or Houston-Dalls type pairing. (Sorry, St. Louis).

Ok, feel free to chime in or criticize.
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  #2  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2009, 7:45 PM
mhays mhays is offline
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How about Vancouver-Seattle-Portland. Three cities that are reasonably dense, transit-friendly, and centralized, all in a row, at ideal distances for HSR. Plus they're growing and need to accommodate increases in travel between them. The main difficulty is the lack of rail ROWs, particularly through Seattle.

I'd add core density and transit usage to your criteria. Population growth should be a factor, but mostly in the context of handling growth via rail rather than mostly/only via highway and airport expansions.
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  #3  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2009, 7:57 PM
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In Canada the best choices would be Edmonton-Red Deer-Calgary and Windsor-London-Hamilton-Toronto-Ottawa-Montréal-Québec City due to their populations and being 'economic corridors'. Another good one would be above - Vancouver-Seattle-Portland, and perhaps from Portland-Salem-Sacramento-San Francisco, then on to LA. Connecting Vancouver to Edmonton or Calgary would also be great, but hard, because outside the Okanogan there isn't much population, not to mention the terrain between Vancouver and the two Alberta cities. Windsor could also connect to Detroit, then to Ann Arbor then Toledo then the major Ohio cities. To me all those would be the best ones. That along with BoWa, Denver-Kansas City, Chicago-Milwaukee-Minneapolis/St. Paul-Sioux Falls, Las Vegas-Phoenix-Albuquerque-El Paso, Indy-Fort Wayne-Lansing-Ann Arbor, México City-Tijuana to San Diego-LA, and the ones above mentioned would be great to have, too.

Not so good ones would be from Winnipeg to Toronto, it's a long distance with very little return for right now, I mean you'd stop in Thunder Bay, (Greater) Sudbury...and that's it. And I doubt it will ever happen for a while. Any HSR going over Montana or the Dakota's (save Sioux Falls I guess) also not so much a good idea due to their low population densities and probably won't use it as much, even if there are stops. Would loose money. Also going from San Francisco east to Nevada and other states wouldn't be the best (for now), cause there aren't many major centres.

Bottom line it will be a while before North America gets a interconnected massive system of high-speed-rail, as for a while it will only be small legs going from example San Francisco to LA and Houston to Austin to El Paso to Juarez.

Last edited by ue; Jul 16, 2009 at 8:21 PM.
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  #4  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2009, 8:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sharkfood View Post
These are the top five routes that scream out for high speed rail service.
No Boston-Washington?? (or was that just too obvious to include?)


Quote:
1. Philadelphia - Pittsburgh
Not a priority perhaps, but it'd be the best route if there were ever to be a connection between midwestern and eastern systems.


Quote:
2. Buffalo - Albany
That'd be needed if you ever wanted to connect to Toronto + possible Canadian HSR route.


Quote:
5. Northern New England.
Likewise for Montreal.
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  #5  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2009, 8:50 PM
twoNeurons twoNeurons is offline
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Originally Posted by mhays View Post
How about Vancouver-Seattle-Portland. Three cities that are reasonably dense, transit-friendly, and centralized, all in a row, at ideal distances for HSR. Plus they're growing and need to accommodate increases in travel between them. The main difficulty is the lack of rail ROWs, particularly through Seattle.

I'd add core density and transit usage to your criteria. Population growth should be a factor, but mostly in the context of handling growth via rail rather than mostly/only via highway and airport expansions.
The problem is... there is little political will on the Canadian side of the border.

Seattle - Vancouver are actually a perfect match for high-speed rail. With the border crossing and traffic, traveling between these two cities can be 3-4 hours, but modest upgrades could do the run in less than 1.
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  #6  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2009, 9:19 PM
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i'd like to see a buffalo to albany HSR but new york to albany would probably make better financial sense. though it would make sense if it meant easier access to toronto.
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  #7  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2009, 9:25 PM
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Originally Posted by twoNeurons View Post
The problem is... there is little political will on the Canadian side of the border.

Seattle - Vancouver are actually a perfect match for high-speed rail. With the border crossing and traffic, traveling between these two cities can be 3-4 hours, but modest upgrades could do the run in less than 1.
I've gone to from Portland to Seattle several times on Amtrak and it always seemed busy/full. I'd imagine that if it were quicker, even more people would ride (I believe there are currently 5-6 trains per day between the two cities)
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  #8  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2009, 10:15 PM
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Quote:
Routes I'm on the fence about:

1. Any routes involving Chicago. Chicago is a large city, obviously. The problem is there are no similar heavyweight cities nearby to pair it with.
There's no New York-Washington or Houston-Dalls type pairing. (Sorry, St. Louis).
I'm sorry but you underestimate the isolated Midwesterners' undiscovered blood thirst for [fast, alternative] connectivity to Chicago. I will contrast your sentiments by saying a Chicago HSR hub is actually the most promising and deserving of development.
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  #9  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2009, 10:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sharkfood View Post
Routes I'm on the fence about:

1. Any routes involving Chicago. Chicago is a large city, obviously. The problem is there are no similar heavyweight cities nearby to pair it with.
There's no New York-Washington or Houston-Dalls type pairing. (Sorry, St. Louis).

Ok, feel free to chime in or criticize.
While I agree that SF-LA and Houston-Dallas are really great routes, I'm pretty sure that St. Louis, the Twin Cities and Detroit are the same size or bigger than Portland, Orlando or Vegas. So I'd put at least one of the Chicago projects up there with LA-Vegas or Miami-Orlando.
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  #10  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2009, 11:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sharkfood View Post
1. Any routes involving Chicago. Chicago is a large city, obviously. The problem is there are no similar heavyweight cities nearby to pair it with.
There's no New York-Washington or Houston-Dalls type pairing. (Sorry, St. Louis).

Ok, feel free to chime in or criticize.
es stultus?

Chicago being the rail hub of the entire country .....if that is not justification what is


LA-Vegas seems utterly foolish; as is just about anything in FLorida
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  #11  
Old Posted Jul 16, 2009, 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by edmontonenthusiast View Post
In Canada the best choices would be ..... Windsor-London-Hamilton-Toronto-Ottawa-Montréal-Québec City due to their populations and being 'economic corridors'. ....
This is a touchy one that will get very heated if anything ever goes forward. Many would say it should be Windsor-London-Kitchener/Waterloo-Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec City. History would suggest that your listing is the more likely.
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  #12  
Old Posted Jul 17, 2009, 12:44 AM
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Originally Posted by lawfin View Post
es stultus?

Chicago being the rail hub of the entire country .....if that is not justification what is


LA-Vegas seems utterly foolish; as is just about anything in FLorida
care to explain how connecting Miami to Orlando to Tampa is utterly foolish? You are basically connecting 3 Florida metros under 320 miles within each other and a collective population of nearly 10 million.
Florida also came close to being the first state to build HSR in the country but was later repealed under then Governor Jeb Bush.
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  #13  
Old Posted Jul 17, 2009, 5:01 AM
lawfin lawfin is offline
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Originally Posted by bobdreamz View Post
care to explain how connecting Miami to Orlando to Tampa is utterly foolish? You are basically connecting 3 Florida metros under 320 miles within each other and a collective population of nearly 10 million.
Florida also came close to being the first state to build HSR in the country but was later repealed under then Governor Jeb Bush.
Yeah sure 2 words : optimal distance:
-----HSR works best roughly at 150 - to perhaps as high as 500 miles; Orlando to Tampa is about 85 miles --HSR cannot compete with a car at this distance; this doesn't even consider the ingrained autocentric lifestyle of Florida

2 more words : Population density

Another 3 words: Land Use patterns


another 3 words: Intensity of use; of those land use patterns

another 3 words : terminal mobilty modality
---so you take HSR fromTampa to Orlando --- now what? Rent a car?? -- won't work


Successful rail depends on nodes that have all 5 characteristics; there are other as well but I am just point this out. My opinion may be incorrect; but based on these 5 characteristics I don't see it as high a priority as the Eastern Seaboard # 1. 2. (a or b)THe Pacific coast running from San Diego through LA to SAn Francisco perhaps even up to portland and Seattle; 2 (a or b) Chicago connecting St Louis; Milwaukee,Madison, Ann Arbor, Detroit , Cleveland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh

Last edited by lawfin; Jul 17, 2009 at 6:20 AM.
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  #14  
Old Posted Jul 17, 2009, 5:16 AM
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Chicago might not be very close to any other large cities besides Milwaukee, but there are a dozen large cities orbiting it at an approximately 500 mile radius, and almost each of those is on the way to another large city. Go south of the lake through Indiana and Michigan to Detroit, then south through Ohio and Pennsylvania to New York; Due south through St. Louis, Memphis to the gulf coast; westward to Denver with stops in places like Rockford, Des Moines and Omaha or southwest to Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Dallas and the Texas/Southwest lines; north to Minneapolis via Milwaukee and Madison. Chicago makes a lot of sense as a rail hub of any kind, it's right there in the middle of the country and SW lake Michigan is a very populated place. People from as far as Winnipeg gravitate to Chicago. It's the big city we go to up here. (After Minneapolis.)
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  #15  
Old Posted Jul 17, 2009, 5:47 AM
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In my opinion, priority would be:

1. A REAL Bos-Wash HSR. by REAL I mean faster than Acela more along the lines of TGV and Shinkansen
2. LA-SF and then I say San Diego but maybe that is a bias. LA-Vegas is a busy corridor to be taken more seriously than "foolish," but San Diego has more traffic with LA (Surfliner is Amtrak's second busiest service).
3. Chicago Hub - I bet the demand is there. They're used to riding trains already, it would just be a boost in the level of service like the northeast.
4. Houston-Dallas. Two very large metros with the right spacing. Makes sense.
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  #16  
Old Posted Jul 17, 2009, 6:19 AM
lawfin lawfin is offline
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Originally Posted by vid View Post
Chicago might not be very close to any other large cities besides Milwaukee, but there are a dozen large cities orbiting it at an approximately 500 mile radius, and almost each of those is on the way to another large city. Go south of the lake through Indiana and Michigan to Detroit, then south through Ohio and Pennsylvania to New York; Due south through St. Louis, Memphis to the gulf coast; westward to Denver with stops in places like Rockford, Des Moines and Omaha or southwest to Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Dallas and the Texas/Southwest lines; north to Minneapolis via Milwaukee and Madison. Chicago makes a lot of sense as a rail hub of any kind, it's right there in the middle of the country and SW lake Michigan is a very populated place. People from as far as Winnipeg gravitate to Chicago. It's the big city we go to up here. (After Minneapolis.)
Indy (~800K ; 2 million CSA) is about 180 miles......believe me this will be the only time you'll see me defending naptown.....a true HSR could do this in less than an hour
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Old Posted Jul 17, 2009, 7:57 AM
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I would argue that a Chicago-Twin Cities line is just as justified as a Portland-Vancouver line, or any of the lines along your list other than LA-SF. Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are supportive of high-speed rail. The cities along the route (Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Rochester, St. Paul, Minneapolis) are generally progressive, with strong urban cores, decent transit systems, and strong economies. The only exception is Milwaukee, which fails on the "decent transit" count and has only a lukewarm economy.

Chicago-St. Louis and Chicago-Detroit would need to be marketed differently along those more conservative and autocentric routes. Stations would be designed with a heavier parking component and direct freeway access, with stations away from the urban cores. In St. Louis, for example, the HSR line might need to extend into the suburbs to be successful. Requiring all travelers to drive downtown to catch trains up to Chicago is a bit of a burden, especially when a suburban station would radically cut door-to-door travel times for most St. Louisans.
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  #18  
Old Posted Jul 17, 2009, 12:37 PM
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sharkfood is missing the point. First of all, what do you consider a "heavyweight city"? Your definition must be pretty arbitrary, because some of the places you deem "worthy" are smaller than St. Louis (Las Vegas, West Palm Beach, Charlotte, etc.), so I'm not sure I follow your rationale. Secondly, the Sunbelt cities you mention are absolutely worthy of getting in on high-speed rail, but they are also well known to to be some of the most car-centric places on Earth. Would people in those places give up their Hummers and SUVs? Especially in Texas.

I think the biggest push for high-speed rail should be concentrated on the major cities of the Midwest, where decades of disinvestment have eroded the economic vitality that this region once held. This could be a serious opportunity for rebirth. The Midwest has 12 metro areas with a population of 1+ million, and they need to be connected.
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Old Posted Jul 17, 2009, 2:16 PM
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From Chicago my top 5 are...

Chicago-Detroit
Chicago-Cleveland (via Toledo)
Chicago-St. Lou (via Champaign)
Chicago-Minn (via Milw)
Chicago-Columbus (via Ft. Wayne)

Honorable mention;;
Chicago-Cincy (via Indy)
Chicago-KC (via Peoria)
Chicago-Des Moines ( via Quad Cities)
Chicago-Louisville (via Indy)

bottom 5 (oops I only have 1 least favorite)
Chicago-Dubuque ( I'd rather see Chi-Madison via Rockford)
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  #20  
Old Posted Jul 17, 2009, 2:20 PM
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I appear to have struck a sensitive Midwestern nerve.
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