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  #41  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2020, 11:37 PM
isaidso isaidso is offline
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We might have to wait a long time but it seems inevitable that we'll see a return to rail eventually. As Western Canada's population climbs so will the interest in passenger rail. Rail technology is improving quickly so perhaps it's a good thing that this isn't happening right now. Once you build large expensive infrastructure you're stuck with it for a long long time. When governments finally take the plunge maybe we'll get HSR between Calgary and Edmonton instead of medium speed rail.
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  #42  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2020, 11:53 PM
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Originally Posted by isaidso View Post
We might have to wait a long time but it seems inevitable that we'll see a return to rail eventually. As Western Canada's population climbs so will the interest in passenger rail. Rail technology is improving quickly so perhaps it's a good thing that this isn't happening right now. Once you build large expensive infrastructure you're stuck with it for a long long time. When governments finally take the plunge maybe we'll get HSR between Calgary and Edmonton instead of medium speed rail.
I'm honestly not sure, even though it's something I'd love. The amount of investment required is large but the payoff is relatively small. To build a worthwhile rail line between Calgary and Edmonton would be what, $5-10B? To gain maybe 20-30% of the market share of travel just between those two cities?

It won't be long before electric vehicles are just better all round, so that eliminates the climate change argument for rail, except when replacing planes. But as far as I can tell, in Canada, trying to achieve carbon reductions with rail will not achieve very much.

And in the timescale we are realistically talking about here (decades), we could well have established autonomous vehicles. If you put in dedicated lanes on our freeways, you could potentially run vehicles at higher speeds. If you could get an electric bus running uninterrupted at speeds higher than 110km/h between Calgary and Edmonton, that would be quite attractive and a lot cheaper to install and more flexible than rail.
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  #43  
Old Posted Apr 6, 2020, 8:09 AM
Urban_Sky Urban_Sky is offline
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Seems like someone still hasn’t understood that we have a dedicated thread here to discuss this topic:
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Originally Posted by swimmer_spe View Post
It is. Why not work on a proposal to present to the government to do something? I feel that that corridor would make sense as the next route to add to the Via system. I do wonder if just getting something running on a stable schedule would be good enough. Yes, an HFR would be best, but if it is not possible at this time, something running on existing infrastructure, building the case for a new HFR. A good middle ground would be if Via bought the CP line between Calgary and Edmonton, and still allow some freight as needed.
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Originally Posted by roger1818 View Post
That is where I disagree with you. Something isn't always better than nothing. Without any upgrades, I wouldn't be surprised if it took as much as 6 hours. If so, no one would use it (for reference the Red Arrow, ranges from 3 to 4 hours to from Edmonton South, depending on the time of day). If it isn't being used, there will be no incentive to make it better, but instead, it will just be cancelled again.

Your plan would be the perfect way of killing all hope of ever having good rail service in the west.
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Originally Posted by swimmer_spe View Post
If there wasn't a finite amount of government money, I would agree with you. However, since there isn't that is why Via buying the line would be the best option. Then they can do as they need to.

Expropriating a corridor there would not go over well. So, starting with something might be better than nothing.
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  #44  
Old Posted Apr 6, 2020, 2:53 PM
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But yea, Johannes, can we put VIA trains on light rail tracks (in the case of Calgary and Edmonton)? Though in that case the frequency of the VIA may be compromised big time... I just thought it would be worth a try if we want a downtown-to-downtown connexion.
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  #45  
Old Posted Apr 7, 2020, 1:45 AM
Urban_Sky Urban_Sky is offline
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Originally Posted by Dengler Avenue View Post
But yea, Johannes, can we put VIA trains on light rail tracks (in the case of Calgary and Edmonton)? Though in that case the frequency of the VIA may be compromised big time... I just thought it would be worth a try if we want a downtown-to-downtown connexion.
There are many factors, which determine whether sharing tracks with light rail could work and which I try to group below:
  • Technical: infrastructure to be shared (e.g. vertical and horizontal clearance, minimum radius, gauge, power supply, platform length and height, train control systems, maximum slopes, maximum axle load supported), specifications of heavy rail rolling stock to be used (e.g. vertical and horizontal dimensions, boarding height, minimum radius, power supply and train control systems supported, acceleration and deceleration capabilities, maximum axle load)
  • Operational: Minimum headways and maximum frequencies
  • Contractual: Willingness of infrastructure owner or current operators to share facilities
  • Legal: laws provided by legislators and ability to obtain all necessary approvals, permits and waivers from the regulator

As you may be able to see from above non-exhaustive list, the question you are asking me is just a small piece of the puzzle...
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  #46  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2020, 5:46 AM
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Originally Posted by swimmer_spe View Post
I meant: When was the last time they proposed something between Edmonton-Calgary?
2008

A report on high-speed rail service between Calgary and Edmonton.
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  #47  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2020, 7:24 PM
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Just moving a few posts here, as this is the appropriate place to discuss these questions:

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Originally Posted by swimmer_spe View Post
So, getting back to a question I had:

When was the last time Via proposed anything along the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor. It does seem like a no brainer. The distance is short enough to make it viable. The population exists. There are even existing ROW that might be able to be used.

In this recession/depression with an expected 25% of Albertans out of work, upgrading an ROW or building a new one would be a great stimulus package.

My only concern would be the storage of the trains overnight as well as a maintenance facility. However, both of those would also be great stimulus projects too.
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Originally Posted by Truenorth00 View Post
To my knowledge VIA hasn't proposed Calgary-Edmonton and why would they? That proposal is absolutely guaranteed to have lower ROI/IRR than any investment in the Corridor. And certainly the case for all those decades where both cities were less than a million in population.

Your previous argument was that VIA Corporate wasn't innovative. In your world does innovative simply imply projects that tickle your feelings with no consideration of costs or returns at all?

Some of you still don't get it. Proposing projects which are not profitable is a recipe for more cuts as governments decide that VIA Corporate has their heads in the clouds. They can't run the Corridor profitably and with OTP in line with rail services elsewhere. And you want them to dig a deeper hole as a sign of "innovation"?
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Originally Posted by someone123 View Post
What is your the evidence that supports this claim of an absolute guarantee?

A Calgary-Edmonton route could be pretty good. The distance isn't long and both cities have LRT networks that a train could connect up with, making a train much more useful. There's no route like this along The Corridor©™ that does not already have service. Intermodal connections are an important aspect of this that is often overlooked. The current VIA trains are nearly useless for connecting with other services in most of Canada and so they are limited to being expensive tourism type services for rail enthusiasts.

I am also skeptical of the idea that the best strategy for VIA would be to leave all regions but 1 out of passenger rail investment so long as the other regions have a lower ROI, even if they might still have good potential routes. That's a recipe for many voters in the country to stop supporting VIA. I think the only thing saving VIA right now is that the rail corridors are so locked down by CN and CP and VIA is the only entity with exceptions already carved out. If they were run like the public infrastructure they are there would be other passenger rail services around the country.
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Originally Posted by esquire View Post
Calgary-Edmonton would make great sense if there was already a high quality route in place with adequate grade separations and that allowed for quick downtown to downtown connections. The problem is that such a thing doesn't exist... the existing lines between Calgary and Edmonton are not really main line quality, and there are tons of level crossings. Edmonton doesn't have tracks going downtown anymore... Whyte Avenue is as good as it gets right now. So you're basically forced to start almost from scratch when it comes to establishing the infrastructure. And I think that's where the case falls apart.
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  #48  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2020, 7:27 PM
Urban_Sky Urban_Sky is offline
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More posts which belong here rather than the "VIA Rail" main thread:

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Originally Posted by Truenorth00 View Post
Look at the Alberta government's own recent study on HSR. We're talking about two metros of say 1.5 million. That's not going to create enough traffic to be profitable unless they have access to cheap tracks already in existence. And they'd have to run at faster speeds than the bus to compete. Not happening without passenger rail priority.

I'm not opposed to building something in this corridor. And I've said before this has to be done after TOM HFR. But the economic model for doing something like that will be a tough sell. Especially with a provincial government that may not want to pitch in. I'm hoping that building TOM HFR will change how Canadians view intercity rail so that we can move to discussing HFR types of service in other corridors. I don't think a milk run would be profitable in AB. But HFR could steal lots of expensive fares from WestJet.
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Originally Posted by milomilo View Post
I agree with him that it is guaranteed the Toronto - Montreal Ottawa route would have a far better business case. Ottawa is about the same size as Edmonton or Calgary, whereas Montreal and Toronto are much bigger. So since both those cities are somewhat similar distances from Ottawa as from Calgary to Edmonton, each one of those lines (Ott-Tor and Ott-Mon) individually will have more demand than Calgary to Edmonton. And on top of that, you have the demand of Toronto - Montreal, plus the network effect of everything else in between and outside of the corridor.

If it was the case that Toronto - Montreal already had very well developed infrastructure, it might be the case that the point of diminishing returns was met and to improve service enough to generate more demand would cost too much money. But the corridor clearly is not at that point, the service is total bare bones and a world away from what even bad service between two major cities in Europe would look like.
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Originally Posted by someone123 View Post
Your posts aren't very consistent though, so it's hard to know what you're arguing. swimmer_spe pointed out that VIA hasn't built "anything" along this corridor, then you replied about any project has a guaranteed worse ROI than service improvements in Ontario or Quebec, and now you are talking about HSR studies. "Anything" and "HSR" are two different proposals.

There is 0 rail service between Calgary and Edmonton right now. I just think that there's probably some > 0 service level that's justifiable. And it's a red flag that in Canada it's considered a big deal and controversial to build a functional passenger rail line between two major metros with LRT systems that are under 300 km apart. We would never have been able to build any major infrastructure prior to 1970 with that attitude.

There seems to be a pattern on this thread that people talk about how much the focus should be on Ontario and Quebec without much nuance or acknowledgement of the huge disparity in service levels. I agree that high-speed rail isn't going to make sense in many places, or maybe anywhere in Canada. But there's a wide range of possibilities between that and the ~0 service or ~useless service that exists in several well-populated regions.

I think you could probably do a "talking to Ontarians" style interview series where you ask people on the street (outside of a pandemic) whether or not finally building an electrical grid in Alberta or Newfoundland would be a good idea and many would easily come up with reasons for why it can't be done.
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Originally Posted by milomilo View Post
I don't think that's the case. People just understand that the reality is that the government are total tightwads when it comes to investing in VIA, and also understand that implementing rail between Calgary - Edmonton that is worthwhile will cost a lot of money. While it would be desirable, and totally within the fiscal means of Canada to be able to build both HFR and a Calgary - Edmonton railway at the same time, the federal government has shown ambivalence to VIA. So I think that while people may not be totally happy about the state of affairs, they agree with VIA that HFR is the best, last shot at making at least one railway the type of railway Canadians deserve. And with that done, maybe the rest of the country can start being upgraded.

And TBH, there is nothing stopping Alberta building that line. Or at least there wasn't. Now our economy is totally screwed and I'm not overly confident our population will keep growing. And in that world, of stagnant economic and population growth, the business case for passenger rail looks pretty weak.
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Originally Posted by Truenorth00 View Post
A consequence of a certain poster taking all the oxygen out of the fucking room is that less of us want to participate.

You can scour my history. I've repeatedly said that Calgary-Edmonton should be next after TOM HFR. That said, I recognize that any current milk run service running on CP/CN tracks has zero chance at being competitive with the buses. As such I don't see how it would be anything but a huge money pit. Calgary-Edmonton can only succeed with something that is faster, more frequent and cost competitive with the buses. That requires something like HFR. And several billion dollars. That's an easier sell after VIA can show that the model works on the TOM corridor.
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Originally Posted by someone123 View Post
Maybe, but I don't see people articulating this very often. Such as a couple posts ago when one poster pointed out that maybe more than 0 Edmonton-Calgary service would be good and the first reply shot that down.

I would also argue that there's a world of difference between an opinion like (1) "it'll never work" and (2) "it could be a viable project but is held back due to VIA-related political factors that could or should be resolved". (1) reveals a stick-in-the-mud attitude.



I agree it's not going to happen right now. But rail lines are 30-50 year+ infrastructure projects. That's part of what's lacking in the assessment of these possibilities. Capital investments to expand rail ROWs and the like really increase the flexibility in our infrastructure, and their cost is amortized over a long period of time.

$1B for a 50-year project is not a significant portion of tax revenues in an AB-scale context for example, and it can't be compared directly to different types of expenses like spending $1B on transfers or wages this fiscal year.
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Last edited by Urban_Sky; Apr 9, 2020 at 7:43 PM.
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  #49  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2020, 7:48 PM
Truenorth00 Truenorth00 is online now
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Have any of you Western rail proponents read the Alberta report on HSR?
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  #50  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 4:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Truenorth00 View Post
Have any of you Western rail proponents read the Alberta report on HSR?
Probably not since they don't seem to want to read this thread.
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  #51  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by milomilo View Post
I'm honestly not sure, even though it's something I'd love. The amount of investment required is large but the payoff is relatively small. To build a worthwhile rail line between Calgary and Edmonton would be what, $5-10B? To gain maybe 20-30% of the market share of travel just between those two cities?

It won't be long before electric vehicles are just better all round, so that eliminates the climate change argument for rail, except when replacing planes. But as far as I can tell, in Canada, trying to achieve carbon reductions with rail will not achieve very much.

And in the timescale we are realistically talking about here (decades), we could well have established autonomous vehicles. If you put in dedicated lanes on our freeways, you could potentially run vehicles at higher speeds. If you could get an electric bus running uninterrupted at speeds higher than 110km/h between Calgary and Edmonton, that would be quite attractive and a lot cheaper to install and more flexible than rail.
I think it’s a safe bet to say the technology of the last century is not going to be the technology of the next century. These VIA threads should be re-titled, “Beating a Dead Iron Horse”. Western Canadian passenger rail isn’t coming back, it’s been obsolete for decades. Autonomous vehicles will obsolete most public transit systems in the next half century.
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  #52  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 1:36 PM
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Originally Posted by jawagord View Post
I think it’s a safe bet to say the technology of the last century is not going to be the technology of the next century. These VIA threads should be re-titled, “Beating a Dead Iron Horse”. Western Canadian passenger rail isn’t coming back, it’s been obsolete for decades. Autonomous vehicles will obsolete most public transit systems in the next half century.
Happy to see that you are capable of writing posts in which you don’t just copy and paste newspaper articles while making your quotes unreadable by obnoxiously applying formatting to almost every single word as if you had just graduated from Kindergarden!

As to your prediction, this is exactly what the automobile industry has been promising us for the past 80 years:

Quote:
In 1939, the concept of autonomous vehicles first gained mainstream exposure at GM’s Futurama exhibit. The exhibit was a vision for 20 years into the future that contained an automated highway system and illustrated how the United States could be connected in a widespread network of highways and freeways.
https://futurama.io/history-of-autonomous-driving/

I’ll gladly admit that making a prediction in the 2020 that this will happen by 2070 is certainly more realistic than making the same prediction in 1939 for 1959, but you are betting on a by then 180 year old transport mode to eclipse a 230 year old mode of transportation - what would this world do without innovators like yourself, which are willing to think outside the box...?
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Last edited by Urban_Sky; Apr 10, 2020 at 2:58 PM.
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  #53  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 2:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jawagord View Post
I think it’s a safe bet to say the technology of the last century is not going to be the technology of the next century. These VIA threads should be re-titled, “Beating a Dead Iron Horse”. Western Canadian passenger rail isn’t coming back, it’s been obsolete for decades. Autonomous vehicles will obsolete most public transit systems in the next half century.
I agree that the technology of the past may not be the technology of tomorrow. The thing is we won't know how well the new technologies of today will be accepted and how they will be affected by the technologies of tomorrow that we haven't even imagined.

It is possible the autonomous vehicles will help boost VIA Rail's ridership. If people end up not owning cars, the excuse of needing a car at your destination goes away, so taking the train (or bus) may make more sense, especially if it is faster, cheaper and more comfortable than having an autonomous vehicle drive you.

If I did have to make a prediction, I expect that the death of the petroleum industry will cause both Calgary and Edmonton to implode, and they will become the size of Regina and Saskatoon. If that happens, even they may not have the population to support intercity rail.
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  #54  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 2:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roger1818 View Post
I agree that the technology of the past may not be the technology of tomorrow. The thing is we won't know how well the new technologies of today will be accepted and how they will be affected by the technologies of tomorrow that we haven't even imagined.

It is possible the autonomous vehicles will help boost VIA Rail's ridership. If people end up not owning cars, the excuse of needing a car at your destination goes away, so taking the train (or bus) may make more sense, especially if it is faster, cheaper and more comfortable than having an autonomous vehicle drive you.

If I did have to make a prediction, I expect that the death of the petroleum industry will cause both Calgary and Edmonton to implode, and they will become the size of Regina and Saskatoon. If that happens, even they may not have the population to support intercity rail.
I don't think Calgary or Edmonton would ever shrink to the size of the Saskatoon cities which are 1/5 their size. No city (metro) of over 1 million in modern history has lost 80% of its population.

---

I think that frequent train service is definitely viable between the two cities, but I don't think it will be run by VIA rail. I think that a private operator, backed by the government, with the ability to redevelop station areas will probably be the ticket. It'll basically be a real estate development company masquerading as a rail service (which is fine).
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  #55  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 3:16 PM
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I don't think Calgary or Edmonton would ever shrink to the size of the Saskatoon cities which are 1/5 their size. No city (metro) of over 1 million in modern history has lost 80% of its population.
Maybe not 80%, but the decline of Detroit from 1.85 million in 1950 to 714k in 2010 (i.e. a 62% decline in 60 years) is quite possible.

Quote:
I think that frequent train service is definitely viable between the two cities, but I don't think it will be run by VIA rail. I think that a private operator, backed by the government, with the ability to redevelop station areas will probably be the ticket. It'll basically be a real estate development company masquerading as a rail service (which is fine).
That would be the Brightline model, just without the investor already owning the rights-of-way (including access to suitable sites to connect with existing transit systems) [u]and[/] downtown lands required for the project or any notable tourist flows between both cities...
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  #56  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 3:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Urban_Sky View Post
Maybe not 80%, but the decline of Detroit from 1.85 million in 1950 to 714k in 2010 (i.e. a 62% decline in 60 years) is quite possible.
The city of Detroit lost substantial population, but the Detroit metropolitan area did not. It grew, albeit not very much, from 3.2 million in 1950 to about 4.3 million today.


Quote:
That would be the Brightline model, just without the investor already owning the rights-of-way (including access to suitable sites to connect with existing transit systems) [u]and[/] downtown lands required for the project or any notable tourist flows between both cities...
Yes, I was thinking specifically about Brightline/FEC as an example. This would be harder in the Calgary-Edmonton case, since I don't think CP owns much land besides its right of way. Some crown corporation or PPP of the Alberta government charged with real estate development could possibly buy up vacant land in strategic places as well as the rail line itself and maybe make a go of it. It'll be harder than in Florida, that's for sure.
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  #57  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 3:49 PM
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Originally Posted by hipster duck View Post
Yes, I was thinking specifically about Brightline/FEC as an example. This would be harder in the Calgary-Edmonton case, since I don't think CP owns much land besides its right of way. Some crown corporation or PPP of the Alberta government charged with real estate development could possibly buy up vacant land in strategic places as well as the rail line itself and maybe make a go of it. It'll be harder than in Florida, that's for sure.
I'm not a huge fan of the private investor model, unless the public retains so much control that it would likely make the real estate model unviable.

If we are to have passenger rail, I want it to be built in the public interest, with station locations and service levels appropriate to demand, designed to reduce urban sprawl and the need for more roads. If the primary purpose of rail is to allow a developer to build a subdivision 20km outside the city border for people that will drive anywhere anyway, what is the point?

It would also complicate matters for someone like VIA should they want to run a service, now they have to negotiate with two railway operators.

One has to ask what the purpose of passenger rail is. I suspect in Alberta we will only consider it once Highway 2 is 3-4 lanes the whole way and packed. At that point, the question should be asked whether it is wiser to expand the highway, and make the problem worse, or put in a rail line and make the problem better. If our population starts declining or even stagnates, we'll never reach that point and the business case for intercity rail will be weak.
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  #58  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 3:52 PM
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At this point, I think the government of Alberta should set up a proper regional transit agency and lay out a system of minimal service levels, to provide the function previously filled by Greyhound, and contract out the routes and provide integrated ticketing. There should be no need to step on the toes of current bus operators, as they would be the natural choice for certain routes.

Having that in place would give the bare bones and information for potential heavy rail routes. And if there isn't demand for rail on a route, good that we don't waste money on it.
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  #59  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 4:10 PM
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Originally Posted by milomilo View Post
At this point, I think the government of Alberta should set up a proper regional transit agency and lay out a system of minimal service levels, to provide the function previously filled by Greyhound, and contract out the routes and provide integrated ticketing. There should be no need to step on the toes of current bus operators, as they would be the natural choice for certain routes.

Having that in place would give the bare bones and information for potential heavy rail routes. And if there isn't demand for rail on a route, good that we don't waste money on it.
Honestly, that's probably best. Intercity passenger rail is really cost prohibitive to set up from scratch. It looks like the CP line between Edmonton and Calgary is hardly ideal as it is, with very poor track, no direct connection to downtown Edmonton or Red Deer, and probably hundreds of unguarded level crossings.

If you ran a frequent bus, you could tie in so many other trip generators that are not on the line: U of A, downtown Red Deer, YYC, YEG.

I'm reminded of GO's Hamilton-Toronto bus service. It runs every 20 minutes, takes an hour, and runs express from Union station to downtown Hamilton with a convenient stop near McMaster university. If the QEW's jammed, it takes the 407. Even with a high-capacity rail corridor, GO would still have to make substantial upgrades to run a dedicated express train to Hamilton that would be time competitive with the bus - especially since the bus is a direct downtown-to-downtown service with the added bonus of servicing the McMaster area. Hamilton-Toronto will always have a lot more trips between them than Calgary-Edmonton.
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  #60  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 4:26 PM
milomilo milomilo is online now
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Join Date: Dec 2013
Location: Calgary
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hipster duck View Post
Honestly, that's probably best. Intercity passenger rail is really cost prohibitive to set up from scratch. It looks like the CP line between Edmonton and Calgary is hardly ideal as it is, with very poor track, no direct connection to downtown Edmonton or Red Deer, and probably hundreds of unguarded level crossings.

If you ran a frequent bus, you could tie in so many other trip generators that are not on the line: U of A, downtown Red Deer, YYC, YEG.

I'm reminded of GO's Hamilton-Toronto bus service. It runs every 20 minutes, takes an hour, and runs express from Union station to downtown Hamilton with a convenient stop near McMaster university. If the QEW's jammed, it takes the 407. Even with a high-capacity rail corridor, GO would still have to make substantial upgrades to run a dedicated express train to Hamilton that would be time competitive with the bus - especially since the bus is a direct downtown-to-downtown service with the added bonus of servicing the McMaster area. Hamilton-Toronto will always have a lot more trips between them than Calgary-Edmonton.
To be clear, there already is a bus (maybe multiple companies) between Calgary and Edmonton and even beyond (Red Arrow). It's, AFAIK, entirely private though so is only feasible on the highest demand routes and is more of a "premium" bus service. There's also a Calgary - Bow River valley regional transit system which is gradually being expanded, but the coming lost summer is really going to hurt that.

I'd like to see all this integrated and expanded. It could still have private companies running the routes, they would just have to be all on one map with integrated ticketing and scheduling.
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