Sunday, April 8, 2012

April 8, 2012 weekly rail news

Fun stuff:

Despite the brutalist design, I have a slight soft spot for the Riverside Plaza towers because of the half- quarter-realized utopian vision behind it. There was a Minnesota Public Radio segment on them this past week. The article page also included this 2008 video tour of the site from MinnPost, which is worth checking out if you know anything about the complex:

Minnesota news:

If you didn't read my Friday article about the current state of intercity rail projects in Minnesota, you should check it out.

The Let There Be Light Rail blog noted that fresh curbs have started appearing along the Central Corridor line at Hamline Avenue—that's basically two months sooner than when curbs appeared last year.

In something that should help alleviate lines at stations during big events, Metro Transit is allowing Northstar train tickets (round-trip passes and family passes) to be purchased online and printed out.

We've known for a while that Canadian Pacific is moving out of the Soo Line Building and into the neighboring building, but it turns out they're also going to rename One Financial Plaza to Canadian Pacific Plaza.

Nice Ride Minnesota seems to have had a good start to the bike-sharing season. They reported 2,979 rentals in the first 4 days (~100 hours), though the pace will have to keep ramping up in order to beat last year's ridership. They've dropped the old $50 preauthorization hold this year, so there shouldn't be unexpected ghost charges racking up on your credit or debit card. In a comment to Minnesota Public Radio, Nice Ride's executive director said that 2/3 of operating costs are paid for with user fees (compare that with a little less than 1/3 of operations being paid by fares for Metro Transit). I'm a little skeptical, but hopefully that means the organization can eventually reach break-even on the operational side and hopefully even fund a little expansion itself.

I recently talked about the new Northstar station beginning construction in Ramsey. A developer who had been waiting for the station to go ahead is now going to hold their own groundbreaking for "The Residence at The COR"—230 units right by the tracks.

National news:

Talgo is planning to start laying off workers from their Wisconsin plant on June 3rd.

The Associated Press had a story about how the train station in Williston, North Dakota has booming ridership due to the oil rush in the western part of the state. Included in the article is the assertion that ridership there exceeds that of St. Paul, which is false 2011 ridership in Williston: 29,920. In St. Paul it was 116,785. Midway station handled more passengers than all of the stops in North Dakota put together. It does appear to be true that Williston is the busiest station in the state, however. (Fargo is not helped by the fact that trains are scheduled to pass through between roughly 2 AM and 4 AM).

Norfolk Southern is planning to do track work in Michigan between Kalamazoo and Jackson later this month along tracks which had been recently downgraded to 25-mph operation—a move which embarrassed Amtrak, which had just upgraded their own section of track to 110-mph speeds along the same route, and the Michigan Department of Transportation, which is negotiating to purchase the NS-owned tracks. No word on who is paying for the repairs.

Michigan state police have been cracking down on vehicles running through activated grade crossing signals. A good idea, since it seems like Amtrak trains have been running into cars and trucks with alarming regularity lately. (Hmm. WZZM's graphics look exactly like KARE's....)

It was interesting to see Ray Lahood write about a meeting held by the Northern Flyer Alliance, a group of transportation planners from several states in the south-central and southwestern U.S. who want to make a bunch of new passenger rail connections. Sounds like a good idea, if only it can garner enough support.

The Detroit News put together a profile on the guy who wants to start a private bus company in that city. I guess I've become significantly more skeptical now that I see he's just trying to use some school buses. School buses seem to be less well-regulated than transit buses do (publicly-funded ones, anyway), so I wonder if he'll run into some entanglements with that.

The 99% Invisible podcast had a good episode about "The arsenal of exclusion", some of the various methods our society has used in order to quietly keep populations segregated.

The Reason & Rail blog put together a table of estimated Amtrak costs on a per train-mile basis, which I found interesting.

1 comment:

  1. FYI George Sherman will be giving a talk on Riverside Plaza at CURA on 4/20:

    Regarding NiceRide, I'm pretty sure Bill Dossett asserted in an interview in the DT Journal after the first year of operations that it broke even. If that was true, maybe the St Paul or Northside expansions drove up the cost due to the greater range of operational needs?