B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

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Trademark
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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby Trademark » February 28th, 2021, 12:26 am

Sorry to sidetrack here but in a nutshell was there a reason to keep this on Marshall as opposed to turning at Cretin and running through St. Paul on Grand? Is there a different plan for Grand? Or just trying to keep the route as simple as possible?
In a perfect world I agree with you on summit. But including parking lanes grand has 5 lanes in most areas. That's definitely doable for trains on it. And much better then Selby, Randolph, St Clair etc. That commercial strip on Grand, the apartments on their too, the college's, Longfellow, and connecting with Riverview into downtown

That's where I think Greenway rail should extend to. Grand as a street has such potential and decent right of way for tracks.
Agreed--I always found it odd that the LRT segment was so short. In one sense I get it--the Greenway is dedicated, grade-separated ROW, and as soon as you switch to Lake St. you lose that--but the value of the line would seem to be so much higher if it got an extension to destinations like St. Thomas, Macalester, Summit Hill, and Downtown STP. It's one of the reasons I've always been skeptical of the "dual alternative." I feel like rail is a great mode choice for the corridor, but what's proposed is only ~4 miles, and with no clear plans for extending it or otherwise integrating it into the network, it always felt kinda like the deck was stacked in favor of building the B Line and then putting the rest of the plan way on the backburner.

Also in my head it always ran down Summit instead of Grand, because Summit has an enormous ROW where a turfed track could be quite charming. But I think proposing a line affecting both the Greenway and Summit would create some kind of singularity for local opposition that would swallow us all alive :lol:

But that's rail--in the current reality where we're mostly only building buses in the core urban neighborhoods, I do think the more direct route down Marshall/Selby makes sense--it's more legible, faster, and wouldn't seem to preclude an additional route down Grand.
In a perfect world summit would be beautiful. But I agree the opposition would be huge. Plus with 5 lanes on Grand (including parking) there's the right of way needed and it would benefit business to see the area from the train. 4 lanes on cretin would be a tight fit but it could work on there too and St Paul east of Hiawatha could easily lose a lane.

Trademark
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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby Trademark » February 28th, 2021, 12:34 am

I might've said this already on here, but in my (potentially unpopular) opinion the Greenway should be BRT. There is no way to interline a Greenway LRT with the Green Line Extension at West Lake due to the tunnel, and on the east end the only alignment being considered (that I know of) are trains going up and interlining with the Blue Line at Lake Street-Midtown. With BRT it's much more easy to extend the route beyond West Lake and/or Lake Street-Midtown.
The complexity is there but I trust the experts to be able to make it work. Worst case the train could swing off onto lake street in-between Dean and bde Maka ska Pkwy and end with a station on the bridge. But I think there's other possibilities too.

The main reason tho why this should be a train is the future capacity limitations that will arise from this project. This is the most dense area of the city outside of downtown's. And it will get even more so in the next 50 years. If we are serious about battling climate change then we need the capacity too support larger buildings and the development potential from light rail.

I don't want to be here in 30 years still talking about how we need a permanent fix here. This isn't the rush line, many areas on this line could have high rises on it in 20 years. Buses will not solve everything.

twincitizen
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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby twincitizen » February 28th, 2021, 1:33 pm

No fantasy train talk in this thread, please.

DanPatchToget
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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby DanPatchToget » February 28th, 2021, 1:48 pm

Where is the line drawn between fantasy and reality? I don't agree with Trademark's idea but it's within the realm of possibility. However, considering the "experts" ignored designing the Green Line Extension in a way to easily allow interlining with Midtown LRT at West Lake, then it leads me to believe the "experts" assumed if/when Midtown LRT happens it'll be a streetcar in name only running on mostly single-track with turf between West Lake and Lake Street-Midtown to appease the Midtown Greenway Coalition and current and future developers along that stretch.

tmart
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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby tmart » February 28th, 2021, 2:48 pm

Yeah, respectfully, this is a corridor designated for rail in the LPA, so if it's a fantasy, it's one shared (at least on paper) by the city and Metro Transit.

FWIW I do think that's the case, and the reasoning is all the surrounding context: the choice to build incompatible infrastructure at West Lake doesn't point to confidence in this line getting built or being useful; the choice of a terminus at West Lake shuts down the logical options for an extension to the east; planning on the St. Paul side of the river has been entirely limited to the bus mode (and anything more ambitious is perceived as challenging for local politics). Because of those constraints, once the B Line is up and running, it's gonna be a very hard sell to suggest building a streetcar that costs much more, serves mostly the same destinations but for only 1/4 of the length, and doesn't have any prospects for future expansion to be more competitive.

And that's a shame--the streetcar planning documents, for all their flaws, were right to identify the need for more capacity and speed than buses alone in one of the state's very densest, highest-ridership corridors. They just didn't set it up for success. I'd love to see this reevaluated to come up with a workable LRT plan that addresses this broader context, but if that's not in the cards then let's admit that failure and use it as even more justification for giving the B Line buses every conceivable priority (dedicated lanes, signal preemption, etc), to accommodate more capacity than the LPA anticipated.

Trademark
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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby Trademark » February 28th, 2021, 10:22 pm

Where is the line drawn between fantasy and reality? I don't agree with Trademark's idea but it's within the realm of possibility. However, considering the "experts" ignored designing the Green Line Extension in a way to easily allow interlining with Midtown LRT at West Lake, then it leads me to believe the "experts" assumed if/when Midtown LRT happens it'll be a streetcar in name only running on mostly single-track with turf between West Lake and Lake Street-Midtown to appease the Midtown Greenway Coalition and current and future developers along that stretch.
In fairness to the mod, I was discussing my idea but like you said too it's in the realm of plausibility. I feel like if we don't share our ideas and opinions who else will? In the same way as we had like a week long discussion of getting rid of I-94. Technically possible if the plan is right and the politics work but its still probably at the same level of fantasy as this.

DanPatch raises great points. Would it be limited to single track by right of way or the coalition? Does the coalition even own all of the land there? Honestly I'd be fascinated with looking at some of the design and being shown why it won't technically work. This is knowledge as to why certain decisions have to be made.

The more people talking about it and also attending meetings and putting pressure on the right people is how we get things done. What could we do if we debate different projects and come with something that can be added to a city councils platform a mayor's platform.

I'm not saying this to start an argument if you think this is a bad place for it so be it but I love hearing everyone's ideas.

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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby DanPatchToget » February 28th, 2021, 10:39 pm

Where is the line drawn between fantasy and reality? I don't agree with Trademark's idea but it's within the realm of possibility. However, considering the "experts" ignored designing the Green Line Extension in a way to easily allow interlining with Midtown LRT at West Lake, then it leads me to believe the "experts" assumed if/when Midtown LRT happens it'll be a streetcar in name only running on mostly single-track with turf between West Lake and Lake Street-Midtown to appease the Midtown Greenway Coalition and current and future developers along that stretch.
DanPatch raises great points. Would it be limited to single track by right of way or the coalition? Does the coalition even own all of the land there? Honestly I'd be fascinated with looking at some of the design and being shown why it won't technically work. This is knowledge as to why certain decisions have to be made.
As far as I'm aware the right-of-way the Midtown Greenway sits on is entirely owned by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority. When the right-of-way was used by freight trains (and passenger trains prior to the creation of Amtrak in 1971) there were two mainline tracks plus various spur tracks for industries. You can get a good view of what it was like with aerial images from this website: https://apps.lib.umn.edu/mhapo/

Trademark
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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby Trademark » February 28th, 2021, 10:47 pm

Where is the line drawn between fantasy and reality? I don't agree with Trademark's idea but it's within the realm of possibility. However, considering the "experts" ignored designing the Green Line Extension in a way to easily allow interlining with Midtown LRT at West Lake, then it leads me to believe the "experts" assumed if/when Midtown LRT happens it'll be a streetcar in name only running on mostly single-track with turf between West Lake and Lake Street-Midtown to appease the Midtown Greenway Coalition and current and future developers along that stretch.
DanPatch raises great points. Would it be limited to single track by right of way or the coalition? Does the coalition even own all of the land there? Honestly I'd be fascinated with looking at some of the design and being shown why it won't technically work. This is knowledge as to why certain decisions have to be made.
As far as I'm aware the right-of-way the Midtown Greenway sits on is entirely owned by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority. When the right-of-way was used by freight trains (and passenger trains prior to the creation of Amtrak in 1971) there were two mainline tracks plus various spur tracks for industries. You can get a good view of what it was like with aerial images from this website: https://apps.lib.umn.edu/mhapo/
So what I'm wondering is how important is the midtown Greenway coalition. The trail will still exist. I think some compromise is reasonable.

tmart
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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby tmart » March 1st, 2021, 7:21 am

DanPatch raises great points. Would it be limited to single track by right of way or the coalition? Does the coalition even own all of the land there? Honestly I'd be fascinated with looking at some of the design and being shown why it won't technically work. This is knowledge as to why certain decisions have to be made.
The Coalition have no formal role; they're a nonprofit made up of people who use and care about the trail. To their credit they are actually a significant supporter of rail in the Greenway, but their position has generally been that they want to reduce the impact on the aesthetics of the trail as much as possible, which in turn means limiting the transit potential. I don't think they'd kill the project, but they could certainly mobilize opposition to making it a great transit project. Some excerpts from their website:
The Midtown Greenway Coalition advocates for the use of turf tracks for the Midtown Greenway Streetcar. This track style would preserve the “Green” in the Midtown Greenway through the beauty, water management, sound buffering, and heat-reflecting capabilities of plants and soil as compared to a ballasted track.

We also support a single-track in places where the Greenway trench is too narrow. A single track -- like the tram at the airport -- would be easily to coordinate, given that the Greenway has very few street cossings and no car traffic.

...

The Midtown Greenway Coalition believes that it is important that the streetcar be built in a way that respects the historic nature of the trench it will lie within. Using sections of single track alignment, the streetcar line would be able to fit in the trench without the destruction of the sloped edges.

...

The Greenway’s trench and the original bridges were built between 1912 and 1916. Today there are over 25 original bridges still standing, and most of the trench’s edge slope remains intact. The trench, original bridges, and other features from that era are part of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St Paul Grade Separation Historic District:
Though I think turfed tracks are a great idea, I think single-tracked segments would limit capacity, speeds, reliability, and expansion potential. Likewise, I don't think we should categorically reject any plans that would require modifying a bridge or removing a segment of sloped walls; we need options (other than single-tracking...) to deal with those choke points. But admittedly I tend to take a more holistic approach to historical preservation than many.

Also, though it's not written here, I suspect, if the project proceeded to engineering, there would be a lot of disagreement over train size and length. Although it's vague, I think the use of the term "streetcar" in their advocacy (and in the public planning) rather than LRT might imply the use of smaller vehicles and shorter platforms than we have elsewhere in the system; I think that would be a mistake.

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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby DanPatchToget » March 1st, 2021, 8:38 am

Renderings I've seen of a Midtown "streetcar" show a single small LRV similar to ones in Seattle and Portland. The coalition definitely has a fashion over function philosophy, whereas I have the opposite thinking. Doesn't mean the trench has to be significantly modified, but I don't see the necessity of preserving all slopes and bridges.

Tcmetro
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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby Tcmetro » March 1st, 2021, 8:54 am

Siemens has a "streetcar" which is the same as the new light rail vehicles, but it's 10 feet shorter. I believe San Diego and Salt Lake City use this model.

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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby Silophant » March 1st, 2021, 9:19 am

Atlanta might use that for their streetcar too? I rode it while visiting a few years ago, and it was obviously the same vehicle as the Metro Transit Type II LRVs, but felt off in a way I couldn't quite place. Could have been that.

uptownbro
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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby uptownbro » March 1st, 2021, 9:39 am

My view is we would find a good balance. I think we can and should preserve the greenway but not at the cost of a needed transit improvement. Im fine with slightly shorter cars but no if it impacts planform size and having it be single lane.
This would connect lake st to both of its north/south rail lines that both ignore large population areas in south Minneapolis

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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby DanPatchToget » March 1st, 2021, 9:53 am

Atlanta might use that for their streetcar too? I rode it while visiting a few years ago, and it was obviously the same vehicle as the Metro Transit Type II LRVs, but felt off in a way I couldn't quite place. Could have been that.
Yes, Atlanta uses the Siemens S70. Not sure if theirs are shorter than ours, but they only operate as a single car instead of coupled into 2- or 3-car trains like ours.

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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby talindsay » March 1st, 2021, 9:56 am

I think it's a realistic expectation that a single LRV, identical to the ones used on the Green and Blue Lines but not in train, would serve as the "streetcar" for this line. Same goes for the Riverview line. Our LRVs are what's called a "tram" in Europe, and the distinction between "light rail" and "streetcar" is entirely philosophical, not functional. Heck, our LRVs are even low floor so platforms wouldn't strictly be necessary except for ADA rules (which I fully support, to be clear).

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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby tmart » March 1st, 2021, 10:23 am

My view is we would find a good balance. I think we can and should preserve the greenway but not at the cost of a needed transit improvement. Im fine with slightly shorter cars but no if it impacts planform size and having it be single lane.
This would connect lake st to both of its north/south rail lines that both ignore large population areas in south Minneapolis
I think we should prioritize making sure we can use the same equipment anywhere in the system, rather than having slightly different vehicles for different lines. (Same goes for Riverview and any other "streetcars" we might be evaluating.) I don't see it as a justifiable long-term cost to maintain essentially two separate but mostly redundant fleets just for aesthetic reasons. I also imagine in cases where platforms are shared it could create platform design constraints (e.g., possible issues maintaining level boarding if the heights are different, makes it harder to install automatic platform doors if we want them later, etc).

(Granted I'm not a transit operations engineer or anything, so I'm happy to be corrected by someone more knowledgeable if the tradeoffs aren't as big as I imagine.)

I think I've probably posted on the subject before so I won't drone on too much :D, but the historical nature of the Greenway relates to its former use as a piece of rail infrastructure, so being so insistent on protecting specific bridges/walls that we prevent rail from operating effectively in the trench would be to miss the forest for the trees. The right concessions are things like promising that if we have to adjust (or even completely replace) a bridge, that we choose a design/materials/etc that are consistent with the existing conditions; absolutely covering new surfaces (including tracks) in greenery (turf, ivy, bushes, trees); funding more amenities for the trail (better connections to street level, lighting, bollards, etc); etc.

uptownbro
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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby uptownbro » March 1st, 2021, 10:27 am

I guess thats a fair point.
Im by no means an expert on this but why is it that an old train trench is historical in nature?
I get all of the bridges which should be saved but why the trench itself? It like calling the I94 trench in downtown st paul as historical

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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby Trademark » March 1st, 2021, 11:13 am

I think the length of single track sections also matter. Like for example if single track was just required for a quarter mile that doesn't require much coordination to work around and if it saves significant money then that would be worth it. I think as long as this can still support 8-10 trains per hour with at least 2 cars per train I'm in support of it.

Yes community organizations are good and we should listen to them on asthethic things they shouldn't be able to NIMBY a project away or the usefulness of a project

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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby DanPatchToget » March 1st, 2021, 11:21 am

I wonder if the Midtown Greenway Coalition and/or other neighborhood groups would demand trains run on batteries instead of overhead wires. Since they really want to preserve the character of the corridor wouldn't overhead wires impact that?

Trademark
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Re: B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Postby Trademark » March 1st, 2021, 11:31 am

I wonder if the Midtown Greenway Coalition and/or other neighborhood groups would demand trains run on batteries instead of overhead wires. Since they really want to preserve the character of the corridor wouldn't overhead wires impact that?
Especially as the Greenway is extended into st Paul I hope the coalition has a bigger picture view of the whole 12 or so mile trail and recognizes that this small section of colocation with the train with a few necessary adjustments to the trench doesn't make the trail worse. I think the hardest fight will be by the lakes and how much the rail infrastructure will affect things.


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