Skip to main content

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

The Iowa Department of Transport has just completed the Chicago to Omaha Regional Passenger Rail System Planning Study, to select its preferred alignment for a detailed Environmental Impact Report.

There were five alignments in the study, based on the five historical passenger rail services between Chicago and Omaha. From north to south, these are: the Illinois Central; the Chicago & Northwestern; the Milwaukee Road; the Rock Island Line; and the Burlington Line. The study also included one combined alignment, based on where the Burlington Line and the Rock Island Line cross in Wyanet in western Illinois.

The combined alignment is the one selected, taking the Burlington alignment out of Chicago, and then taking the Rock Island line to Moline in the Quad Cities on the Illinois / Iowa border and through Iowa City and Des Moines to Omaha (probably via Council Bluffs, but that has yet to be determined).

Online Forum Now Open

There is an Online Open House. Any Iowans who were not able to get to the live open house sessions this past week can go to that link and get an online briefing, presented with video clips, information on the web page, and links through to additional resources.

Additional resources are at the Iowa Department of Transport online site, including flyers and fact sheets that citizen advocates are free to print up and pass around.

The Advantages of the Rock Island Line

The fastest alignment is the Cedar Rapids route (red line), the Chicago and Northwestern line through Dekalb, Cedar Rapids, and Ames. Excluding the Chicago and Omaha metro areas common to all routes, this route has an intermediate service population of 524,000. This alternative would require new third main track the entire distance, and a new Mississippi River bridge.

The cheapest alignment would be the Burlington line all the way to Omaha (green line). That is the route that the California Zephyr presently takes, running through Galesburg, Burlington, and Osceola, for an intermediate service population of 167,000. Upgrading capacity to allow five (5) Rapid Passenger Rail services per day or more requires a third main rail, with space in the existing corridor except a stretch along the Mississippi River, and a new Mississippi River Bridge. This alignment would be about 18 minutes slower than the Cedar Rapids route at 79mph, and 13 minutes slower at 110mph.

The Rock Island Line (blue line) through Moline, Iowa City, and Des Moines serves the greatest intermediate population, with an intermediate service population of 1,034,000. This alternative is expected to be able to use the existing Mississippi River bridge between Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa, and would require new second main track for half of its length, and new third track for a tenth of its length. It would be 17 minutes slower than the Cedar Rapids route at 79mph, and 25 minutes slower at 110mph.

The Milwaukee Road alignment was filtered out at the first stage of route selection, as much of its right of way was abandoned, and so it would require the most extensive works for the purpose. The Illinois Central line was carried forward to the second stage, but preliminary travel time analysis showed it to be slower than automobile and commercial bus service at 79mph and 90mph, and so it does not meet a main criterion of the study.

Piecing Together a Winning Combination

While the Rock Island line has the wildcard advantage of the best song of the five route alternates, it does have a glaring weakness: while the Cedar Rapid route and the Burlington route both connect directly to Chicago Union Station, the Rock Island Line terminates at La Salle Street station, several blocks from Union Station. Making a junction to track with a direct connection to Chicago Union Station would require additional work, and would have to be fitted into the CREATE plan to remove passenger and freight rail bottlenecks in the greater Chicago area.

However, the Burlington Line and Rock Island Line cross in western Illinois, and it turns out that the route formed from the Burlington line on the eastern side to Chicago and the Rock Island Line on the western side through Iowa to Omaha (yellow highlight along green and blue lines) is first or second on most things we would want from a route.

The combined Rock Island Line / Burlington Line route has the same intermediate population as the Rock Island Line, so it is equal first in intermediate population. It is the second fastest route, 4 minutes slower than the Cedar Rapids route at 79mph and 14 minutes slower at 110mph. It is the second lowest cost alternative, after the Burlington line. And with its direct connection of the Burlington line into Chicago's Union Station and superior speed to the Rock Island line all the way, it has the highest projected ridership and revenue.

Now, this is an Iowa Department of Transport study, and the preferred alignment includes the old main Rock Island corridor through Iowa, picking up freight at Omaha from Union Pacific and heading on through to Denver to pick up freight from . And its the rail corridor that actually goes take the Mississippi River bridge between Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa. So I'm going to go ahead and call it the Rock Island alignment, and claim the song. But as far as the train, the Rock Island tradition was to call their fastest passenger trains "Rockets", and this train would be, in effect, the New Cornhusker Rocket.

To be clear, however, the Rock Island Line itself ~ the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railways ~ is long gone, having been, according to the Wikipedia machine, "one railroad too many" between Chicago and the Omaha terminus of the Union Pacific, and the specific corridor in question is primarily owned by the Iowa Interstate Railway. During an unsuccessful merger with the Union Pacific that dragged on for over a decade, the Rock allowed its track and rolling stock to run down. By the time that the merger was approved in the 70's, it was no longer the appealing merger prospect for Union Pacific that it had been in the 50's, and UP decline to proceed with the merger. After struggling to survive, the Rock was finally ordered liquidated in the early 1980's, with Union Pacific ending up with more of the railroad than it would have done under the terms of the approved merger ... but not with the star of today's show, the actual Rock Island Line from Chicago to Omaha over the Mississippi River bridge between Rock Island Illinois and Davenport, Iowa.

Wait a Minute, Didn't They Already Fund This Work?

Now, for someone who has been following Midwestern HSR, there is a lot of deja vu to this news, since the news back in October 2010 was:

The major success for the Midwest in the Obama administration's second round of rail funding was a $230 million federal grant to Iowa and Illinois to establish the new Amtrak service between Chicago and Iowa City, with travel times of less than five hours projected end to end. The train would also stop in Moline.

The line is scheduled for completion in 2015, assuming a steady continuation of funding, officials said.

Two daily round trips are planned for the Chicago-Quad Cities-Iowa City route. Initial top speeds will be 79 mph, which is Amtrak's current limit. Longer-term plans call for additional daily round trips and increasing speeds to 90 mph and perhaps to 110 mph, officials said.

The plan hit a roadblock in Iowa when Governor Bransted balked at the $3m in operating subsidy that would be required for the initial service to Iowa City. As described by demoisnedem at Bleeding Heartland in September of last year:
During this year's legislative session, Republican lawmakers balked at allocating matching funds to support the Chicago to Iowa City rail project. Some Republicans objected to the principle of subsidizing passenger rail service, period. Since the plan didn't extend west of Iowa City and involved maximum train speeds of 79 miles per hour, the potential benefits were limited to a relatively small percentage of Iowans.

Funding for passenger rail was one of the last budget disagreements House Republicans and Senate Democrats resolved before the session ended. The final deal left state matching funds for the project hanging by a thread.

Iowa DOT officials are now looking at a plan that would support higher-speed trains and serve a larger population. Funding for a $2 million study has already been allocated by the Federal Railroad Administration and the Iowa legislature.

This selection of the preferred route alternative is part of that planning.

In the end, Iowa and Illinois applied to have the Federal funding separated, and Illinois came through with its matching funds commitment, so the funding of the Chicago to the Quad Cities portion of the line was announced on 12 December, 2011:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Dec. 12 announced more than $177 million for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for a passenger rail project that will operate twice-daily round-trip service between Chicago and the Quad Cities and put nearly 2,000 Americans back to work this spring.

"With America’s population set to grow by 100 million over the next 40 years, passenger rail will play a vital role in meeting America’s long-term transportation challenges," LaHood said in a written statement. "This project, and the others like it, will reduce congestion for the region, create jobs and make the Midwest a better place to start a business."

The start of twice-daily round-trip service between Chicago and the Quad Cities, with intermediate stops at Geneseo, Princeton, Mendota, and Plano, Ill., will be made possible by infrastructure improvements including, a new station at Geneseo, a layover facility in the Quad Cities area, communication and signaling improvements and the purchase of new passenger rail equipment.

So preliminary work on the Illinois section of this route is already underway. The alternatives analysis started as if from a clean sheet, and seem to have included all credible alignments set forward ~ but the serious options were to extend the Rockford route through to Iowa, extend the Quad Cities route through to Iowa, and upgrade the current Amtrak long-distance route through Iowa. And between those three, extending the Quad Cities route is clearly the strongest option.

Especially important is the revenue potential of the Quad Cities / Iowa City / Des Moines / Omaha route. With a state legislature that balked at a rail operating subsidy, ridership potential is important in two ways. First, no-subsidy systems have a higher capital cost, to offer the trip speed and service frequencies that attract break-even ridership. The stronger the ridership potential, the lower the capital cost required to hit break-even ridership. And, second, the greater the potential ridership, the more Iowans who can imagine taking the train, and the more local businesses who can imagine a direct benefit from having the service available. That makes for a better chance to swing the political support that the system requires.

What comes next is the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Its in the EIR that the alternatives of 79mph operation, 90mph operation and 110mph operation will be examined in detail. Having the EIR completed is the critical step in having a plan on the shelf ready to apply for Federal funding.

The New Cornhusker Rocket and Our Emerging Intercity Rail Network

If we are reversing the rollback of Rapid Passenger Rail service ~ and taking trips speeds up a notch to take advantage of technological progress elsewhere in the world since World War II ~ then in the decline of the Rock Island, the Denver Rocket became the Cornhusker Rocket, which became the Rock City Rocket. Then, as the Rock Island declined and the Rock City Rocket declined from a 2 hr 15 minute service in the 50's to a 4+ hour service in the 70's, ridership declined until the State of Illinois declined to continue subsidizing the service and it was shut down.

Now that the State of Illinois is restoring Quad City service, then if the service is upgraded to 90mph or 110mph and extended to Omaha, the next obvious step from Omaha is Denver. However, as discussed previously in the Sunday Train, the compelling Rapid Rail alignment through Denver is North/South along the Front Range. Barring investment in a Rapid Freight Rail alignment through the Rockies (as is proposed in the Steel Interstate National Line), service beyond Denver would be by an Amtrak sleeper train.

As far as long-distance Amtrak routes, the California Zephyr only benefits from the Burlington Line portion of the work on the Quad Cities line. However, if the Quad Cities line is upgraded to at least 90mph, and a 79mph or faster passenger rail corridor is available from the Quad Cities through to Omaha, the California Zephyr would be likely to shift its alignment to the shorter, faster route serving larger population centers.

So as soon as the Quad Cities to Omaha line is completed, the line is likely to offer daily service to Denver, Salt Lake City, and points west, via the already existing Chicago / Oakland service. While this is not time-competitive with driving by any means, the current service leaves Omaha at 11pm and arrives in Denver a bit after 7am, so you can sleep on the way, which is dangerous to attempt while driving and tends to result in trip times that are themselves uncompetitive with train travel.

To the east, the immediate benefit of connections at Chicago Union Station is access to connecting services through Greater Chicago and to much of Illinois.

Multiple connections per day to Chicago also gives access to Amtrak corridor service to Milwaukee and Detroit, as well as Amtrak sleeper services to New Orleans, to Boston and New York via Cleveland; to New York and Washington via Cleveland and Pittsburgh; and to Indianapolis, Cincinnati and West Virginia, more or less, via the Cardinal. Upgrades to the Detroit service are already underway, as are improvements in New York State along the Lakeshore route to NYC and Boston.

However, with the current skeleton Amtrak system, someone who does not have a couple of days to kill would likely be flying if they are going as far as the east coast. Its with the full Midwest Hub Rapid Rail system (red lines in the map) that connections to interstate services to Chicago Union Station really gain leverage, with trips faster than driving opening up throughout the Great Lakes states.

Of course, the same is true in the opposite direction. Given the present state of the intercity rail network, O'Hare and Midway are as likely to yield inbound Cornhusker Rocket passengers as the intercity rail network outside of Illinois. However, the Midwest Hub opens the option to skip a long road trip and arrive both more quickly and better rested.


Well, you've probably guessed by now that I like the route alternative picked by the Iowa DOT, but as always the Conclusion section of the Sunday Train is not the final word, but opening the floor up for discussion. So, waddya think?

Also, as always, its on-topic in the Sunday Train to launch a new comment thread on any topic in sustainable transport.

Midnight Oil ~ Blue Sky Mining

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Sun May 06, 2012 at 04:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks, Systems Thinking, DKOMA, and Headwaters.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  A journey of 500 miles ... (13+ / 0-)

    ... can be more pleasant sitting in a good seat using the WiFi.

    Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

    by BruceMcF on Sun May 06, 2012 at 04:02:15 PM PDT

  •  As many times as I've made that trip (8+ / 0-)

    from Chicago to the QC, this would have been the way to do it.  BTW, Little Richard was right, that version was absolutely hotter than a steam engine running at full throttle.    Here's a little more traditional take on it from another American Master:

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun May 06, 2012 at 05:00:01 PM PDT

  •  You have been doing this terrific work for (10+ / 0-)

    Several years and still are.  I learn a lot from your diaries.  Thank you.  Hope we get a train in NC from Wilmington to Raleigh and beyond.

    Andy's two-timin' tail run off wiff mah sig line!

    by nannyboz on Sun May 06, 2012 at 05:00:19 PM PDT

    •  I reckon if you get a train from ... (5+ / 0-)

      ... Wilmington to Raleigh, it'll be "and beyond" for sure, since the alignment heading inland crosses the Fayetteville / Columbia SC branch of the Southeast HSR Corridor at Pembroke ~ that alignment looks straight as an arrow (it gets curvier west of Pembroke, of course), so it would likely be faster to head on an upgraded line to the HSR corridor and run up the HSR correct than to meander up to Goldsboro and then meander from there to Raleigh ~ and cheaper, too.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun May 06, 2012 at 06:43:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Would beyond be Richmond and Washington DC? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bronte17, nannyboz

        Since railways, like telephone systems function best as networks, would it make more sense to build a small dense fast network and expand out or to build a larger slower network and then upgrade it for greater speeds?  

        I know that one of the next logical expansions of the NEC is to Richmond VA and then east to Hampton Roads (Norfolk/Virgina Beach) while pushing south into North Carolina.  

        There are two regulatory changes that would do a lot of good.  Firstly end the 79mph rule on lines that do not have automatic train stop and allow freight railways to in liu of paying taxes, pay Amtrak to maintain their lines for higher speed operation.

        I am posting this on the train back to Washington DC.  I did not know there is free WiFi on the trains.  

        Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism the roles are reversed.

        by DavidMS on Mon May 07, 2012 at 05:39:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, ... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bronte17, nannyboz

          ... the main corridor will be from DC to Richmond first, while North Caroline improves Raleigh / Charlotte, both already in progress ... and then Richmond / Raleigh is likely before Raleigh / Columbia, SC. So Richmond / DC / NYC would likely be in place already by the time the straight shot from Wilmington to the Raleigh / Columbia SC has opened up as an opportunity. And the Richmond to points north would likely be Regional HSR of 110mph ~ 125mph or faster.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon May 07, 2012 at 06:10:26 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Took the train 50 years ago. (6+ / 0-)

    When my uncle got married the first time, my mother took us kids out to Iowa City, including the Rock Island train from Chicago. It was a lot better than what was available east of Chicago. (I wasn't privy to any discussion, but we wound up taking Greyhound.)

    I have a cousin (by mu uncle's second wife) who went to college in Omaha for a year. A couple of times, she took the Zephyr to Ottumwa for a weekend home a couple of times. It sure would have been easier if the Rock Island line had been rebuilt before she went off here.

    Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? -Paul Krugman

    by Judge Moonbox on Sun May 06, 2012 at 05:51:38 PM PDT

  •  I'm from the Quad Cities so.... (7+ / 0-)

    As you can immagine, I'm thrilled that the Quad Cities route has been chosen.  The QC is in the Chicago media market, almost everyone is a fan of Chicago sports teams.  The number of people who could go directly from the QC to downtown Chicago for tourism is huge.

    Iowa City has the University of Iowa, and so thousands of college students will be able to use and love the train each year.  Business travel between the major cities should also be a large number of riders.

    I'm looking forward to being able to ride the Great Illinois Bike Trail.  I'm going to ride to the QC and take the train home, and then take the train to QC and ride home, to break the trail up into manageable sections.  

    This is great news.  As soon as the Illinois portion was announced, I was sure the Iowa side would follow suit. Very good!

  •  This is GREAT! (5+ / 0-)

    I have never understood why passenger rail was all diverted to Galesburg.  It's a wonderful little town, but people from the QC (metro area of around 300,000) had to drive 45 minutes to Galesburg (pop. 32,195) to get on a train.  The hassle of having someone drive you down and then pick you up on return was just too much for most people.  That, and the fact that it totally skipped places like Iowa City and Des Moines, seemed crazy to me.

    As the name would indicate, the Rock Island Line was a Quad-Cities entity, yet it hasn't served us with passenger rail for eons.  My grandparents used to take the RI Rocket to Des Moines all the time.  I got to ride it once when I was very small, but it was at night.  I hardly remember it.  If this gets finished before I die, I may have to ride it (in the daytime) just for kicks.  :-)

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sun May 06, 2012 at 08:16:13 PM PDT

    •  don't know when it'll be finished ... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, luckylizard, RunawayRose, bronte17

      ... but the first stage of two 79mph trains per day should be running in 2014 or 2015. Could be 110mph in another two yeats, but that would depend on funding.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun May 06, 2012 at 09:48:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I love two-fers (4+ / 0-)

      Improving the right of way from Chicago on the Burlington line is MORE than a two-fer.

      The route already carries the California Zephyr long distance train as well as the Southwest Chief (Chicago-Kansas City-Albuquerque-L.A.). Illinois pays a small subsidy for two daily trains to Galesburg-Quincy that run much of the way on these tracks. Four Amtrak trains each direction.

      Add two trains a day to the Quad Cities, and then another one, two, or three frequencies to Omaha. Say four more Amtrak trains each way, doubling the frequencies on this ROW.

      (Not to mention that commuter trains run on some of this track.)

      Upgrading the tracks on this stretch of the Burlington line is already a four-fer, or more, and it will get better.

      The more trains and more passengers use this segment of right of way, the more benefit received for additional investments. So we could easily see more investments and more time savings on these trains in a few more years.

      •  That's part of why I was talking in terms of ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bronte17, marykk

        ... a hypothetical 110mph Chicago / Quad Cities, 90mph Quad Cities / Omaha: the improvements through Illinois have more leverage, and with the Iowa state legislature having idealogues that are against operating subsidies, the more ridership gain that the Omaha / Chicago run can get from cutting the transit from the Quad Cities to Chicago leg of the Omaha-Des Moines-Iowa City / Chicago trips, the more likely the Quad Cities to Omaha corridor will be built at all.

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Mon May 07, 2012 at 09:29:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hopeful Signs? (5+ / 0-)

    spent 4 hrs working around Everett, WA. today.  Saw 4 trains passing through. One was a standard wall train, loaded up with lots of containers, another one was the usual coal train that stopped in front of the daycare for a few hours.  Earlier on that line there was a standard issue consist, loaded with lots of covered hoppers, box cars and the like, most noticeable was the the first 6-8-10 cars were loaded with stacks of drywall.  If you're not building you don't need all that drywall.

    The most fun one was a short consist moving thru Everett station with 2 Boeing 737 fuselages aboard.  I'm not sure where they're coming from, I know they're headed about 50 miles south to the plant down in Renton.

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Sun May 06, 2012 at 09:03:02 PM PDT

  •  Big results likely (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, RunawayRose, bronte17

    Even small improvements to the existing Amtrak routes could yield big improvements to the current services.

    If a new-and-improved route thru Iowa via Des Moines can cut a little time off the Chicago-Omaha schedule, it would be a different kind of trip. The winter timetable gave Westbound departures out of Union Station at 2 p.m., arriving in Omaha at 11 p.m. and in Lincoln, Nebraska, at midnight.

    NOBODY wants to arrive at any train station in any city, big or small, at 11 p.m., much less midnight. Nevermind the fear of crime, the total inconvenience of being met at the train well after the usual bedtime for your family or friends, the iffy taxi service, etc. ...

    So shaving just an hour or two off the schedule to provide arrivals in Omaha at 9 or 10 p.m. would be huge for passengers boarding at Des Moines, Iowa City, the Quad Cities, or Chicago. (Keep the convenient 7 a.m. arrival in Denver by simply going-slow-on-purpose thru Nebraska.)

    These smallish projects on the various Amtrak lines will have nothing like the bang from true High Speed Rail in California or the NEC. But we could see the public impression of standard-issue Amtrak start to change. That could mean a different political climate for HSR as well.

    •  There's no way a long distance ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, bronte17, marykk

      ... sleeper train can avoid passing through someplace after midnight, since it runs a schedule that is longer 18 hours.

      However, a corridor service, that's another matter. You still have early and late trains, but once you get the corridor down to 7hrs, you can leave early and return late and avoid returning after 10pm. With two trains:

      CHI/OMA 6:30am ~ 1:30pm OMA/CHI
      CHI/OMA 2pm ~ 9pm OMA/CHI

      But get it down to 5hrs, with a 15min "turn", and if you have a 2hr trip to the major center from a mid-point like the Quad cities, two trains can be designed to:
      CHI/OMA 6:45am ~ 11:45am OMA/CHI
      CHI/OMA 12pm ~ 5pm OMA/CHI
      CHI/OMA 5:15pm ~ 10:15pm OMA/CHI

      And then a third train can be designed to :

      QC 6:45am ~ 8:45am CHI
      CHI 9am ~ 11am QC ~ 2pm OMA
      OMA 2:15pm ~ 5:15pm QC ~ 7:15pm CHI
      CHI 7:30pm ~ 9:30pm QC

      And run the Zephyr as a day train to Denver and a night train through to SLC:

      CHI 7:30am ~ 12:30pm OMA ~ 8:30pm DEN

      ... and you have five services a day between Chicago and Omaha, six between the Quad cities and Chicago.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon May 07, 2012 at 05:16:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  OK, but the opportunities are closer to Chicago (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, bronte17, marykk

        No way the Zephyr becomes a night train between Denver and Salt Lake City. That scenic passage thru the Rocky Mountains sells out weeks and months in advance during the high season.

        Indeed, this segment may have the best operating result of any long distance train in the system.

        The Zephyr's losses pile up in the long thin section from Chicago to Denver, and in the other one thru the big empty between Salt Lake City and Reno.

        It will be easier to improve the results Chicago-Denver than in the desert of northern Nevada. Adding the Quad Cities, Iowa City, and Des Moines to the route will create several overlapping and very popular city pairs to fill the trains in Iowa. And as I said, speeding up the train and tweaking the schedule to allow an evening arrival in Omaha instead of a near-midnight stop will attract many more passengers as well.

        So there's nothing wrong with the Zephyr continuing with an afternoon departure from Chicago, evening service to Des Moines and Omaha, and an early morning arrival in Denver, with a nighttime passage across the Great Plains.

        Then in the future, if my misty memory serves, one plan hoped for eight trains a day Chicago to Quad Cities, six trains going on to Des Moines, four a day to Omaha, and then two trains a day continuing to Denver. I believe the intention for that level of regional service was to overlay the current Amtrak trains, but the Zephyr would surely benefit from the complementary frequencies as well as the investments to improve the tracks.

        •  Trim two hours ... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bronte17, marykk

          ... and if there is also a corridor service, then it could well be a 4pm departure and the same arrival in Omaha. That makes it an after business hours service from the Quad Cities west which, on a seven hour corridor, is just going to get into its last station in the corridor pretty damn late.

          And with corridor service Chicago/Omaha, that late arrival is not longer the only arrival from Chicago in Omaha, its one of three services, even on a seven hour Chicago / Omaha, because you can have two corridor services each way from two corridor trains.

          And its a good thing to have the last night train to Omaha be a long distance sleeper service, since its not relying on the corridor patronage entirely, but having it there shores up demand for the last corridor service to Omaha, since there is a fallback between the Quad Cities and Omaha in case of missing the last corridor train.

          On a five hour Chicago/Omaha, its one of five or more services. And if its possible to trim Chicago / Omaha down to 5 hours, the Zephyr can leave Chicago at 6pm and arrive in Denver at 7am, and now you've regained the classic Denver Rocket sleeper market from Chicago to Denver. The eastbound coming through Omaha at 5:15am is, again, no longer the only train to Chicago, but combines the rail cruise market through the rockies, the Denver sleeper market and the red eye from Omaha to Chicago, with later trains from Omaha to Chicago to follow. And instead of arriving at 2pm, it arrives at 10am, so there is 10am to 6pm to service the train and the train turns the same day it arrives in Chicago.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon May 07, 2012 at 09:17:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I grew up in Davenport (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and have been following this with interest.  It never made any sense to me why Amtrak bypassed the Quad-Cities, Iowa City and Des Moines all these years.  I mean...hello???  

    Knowing that all along, the tracks have been the issue makes sense.  Hopefully they will pick the Rock Island alignment with the crossover to the Burlington Line in central IL.  

    Shirley Chisholm was right. Our Republic is in deep trouble.

    by Big River Bandido on Tue May 08, 2012 at 05:02:27 AM PDT

    •  Yeah, its kind of hard to run a long haul ... (0+ / 0-)

      passenger train on a single track from Western Illinois through to Omaha, even if the crossover was put in place between the Burlington and the former Rock Island road to Omaha ~ a slow freight train coming the out east of Council Bluffs, and the California Zephyr would have to wait until it cleared through to east of the junction with the Burlington road.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Tue May 08, 2012 at 11:47:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site