High-speed train from Duluth to Twin Cities

The Federal Railroad Administration awarded $1.1 million for an environmental study into the Northern Lights Express high-speed rail line from Duluth to Minneapolis, according to an announcement today from U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar.

Another $1.1 million will be covered by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Engineering work for the rail line is scheduled to be done next year, with the train running in 2012.

Oberstar believes the 150-mile route will have minimal environmental impact because it will run along existing Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail lines.

“I expect this study to demonstrate a positive impact on the environment,” Oberstar said in a news release. “It will take cars off the road, and reduce air pollution and fuel consumption.”

See the full story: Northern Lights Express train receives $1 million for study

66 Comments

baci

about 11 years ago

today's buzz word ....multimodal

scotth

about 11 years ago

He's trying to kill me! I asked for the salted nuts. He brought me the unsalted nuts. The unsalted nuts make me choke!

mevdev

about 11 years ago

This is great news. Now we just need to convince them that it should be as fast as possible!

calk

about 11 years ago

I am jazzed! This train is going to change my life. No more sitting, crammed next to my fellow passengers, on the Skyline Shuttle, unable to even think, hoping I don't have to pee before we get to Hinckley. No more having to turn down party invitations, b/c it's a pain in the ass driving down and from the Cities, and it costs to stay overnight. I think this train is coming at the right time, and will do good things for Duluth.

adEm

about 11 years ago

Yes!

I have minor concern about becoming a TC suburb, but really, I've been waiting for this since the robotic uprising of the mid-nineties.

Calk

about 11 years ago

Duluth is too far from the TC to become a suburb. What I see happening, actually, is more people like myself, continuing to telecommute from Duluth, and traveling back and forth as needed. This will just make it easier on us telecommuters. It'll be interesting to see if NWA posts more reasonable fares from DLH, if it's easier for people to simply fly out of MSP. That'd be great.

flateric

about 11 years ago

As a former Twin Ports resident and current Twin Cities resident... I love this idea... especially if they allow for band equipment to be hauled on said train =)

brian

about 11 years ago

Ken Beuhler said it would be like this.
Oh, wait, wrong weatherman.

Sean

about 11 years ago

This is lucky (that we have J.O., as well as others).  And really awesome.  It's going to be great.  I'm a little disappointed that they disabled comments on the DNT site, though.  I feel like they would've been gems.

Chester Dark

about 11 years ago

I would've loved this around Christmas when I had to go to La Crosse and a lot of snow was predicted. Count me in as a frequent rider. Also, you wouldn't believe how many U of M people travel back and forth between the campuses every day. The train would be fantastic for that!

edgeways

about 11 years ago

Duluth to MSP... no more arranging for the car to be parked somewhere for days on end, hell if they had a late night return train it'd be sweet to go down for concerts and stagger home in the small wee ones.

vicarious

about 11 years ago

I'm curious what people would be willing to pay to ride a high-speed train between Duluth and the Cities. 

A one-way car trip costs $20 - $40 in fuel, depending on your MPG, plus another $46 in wear and tear at the current-standard of .29/mile. So, that's $66 to $86 one-way.

I would think the train would have to be in $60-$70 range one-way to be viable for most people.

Nettles

about 11 years ago

I love rail transport, but I think this needs some serious research into commercial viability rather than environmental impact.

Danny

about 11 years ago

vicarious:

Using your viability logic with the ticket costs you are assuming just one passenger in the car driving to the twin cities, correct?

baci

about 11 years ago

CAll me a commie but Cars do not equal trains!

Taken as an entire system, the automotive lie which was forced on the American way of life by petro-automotive conglomerates have tethered us to the past and made us junkies to the oil pushers...even Darth Bush said so...in that light stop thinking about your wallet and start thinking about the earth your grand kids will have to live in ... We're woefully behind the rest of the world in our acceptance of rail as a people mover. I'll pay good money to let someone else drive while I watch the scenery go by.

Barrett

about 11 years ago

I think I'm going to start citing "environmental concerns" as the reason I rarely leave my house.

Chester Dark

about 11 years ago

Nettles....good one! I think we should then also look at the commercial viability of roads. I don't know of too many roads that are "commercially viable".

Calk

about 11 years ago

You know, think of it this way. Riding in a train instead of driving a car could save your life. How many times have you driven to the Cities in the winter, and been terrified for your life, that you might slide off the slick road? I know I have, just this past December, when we drove down to MSP to save several hundred dollars on airfare. Look at Sharla Gardner. I heard her story of her recent car accident, and she is damned lucky to be alive. It's not just the environmental factor, the commercial factor -- it's also the safety factor people should be considering.

vicarious

about 11 years ago

Danny: yep. Good point...

samh

about 11 years ago

> ...stop thinking about your wallet and start thinking about the earth your grand kids will have to live in

Hear hear!

Sjixxxy

about 11 years ago

I say $10 round trips for any Duluth resident that lives on Hillside.

I do like the idea of being able to skip on down to the cities without the constant fear of dying that I have when I use my own car.

Patsy

about 11 years ago

The train will change our world!  Being able to get back and forth from the TC will be a boon to Duluthians, but even better for the poor folks stuck in the metro.  Imagine being able to hop on a train after work on Friday and be on the shore of our lake in just a couple of hours.  They'll flock here, spend money and be able to get home without sitting in traffic on Sunday afternoon.  Plus, in the summer, the tourist train will connect them to the North Shore, so they won't need a car to get around to the top sites in the area.

Chester Dark

about 11 years ago

We need to realize that this train gets us far beyond the Twin Cities. I'm thinking of the easy ride to/from Chicago.

edgeways

about 11 years ago

As Chester says, this has a lot of potential for expanded access. A few weeks back I saw a map of the likely hi-speed routes originating from the stimulus bill from MN eastwards, and there would seem to be all sorts of possibilities. It was similar to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:High-Speed_Rail_Corridor_Designations.png  only with a bit more connectivity, can anyone say Duluth to Montreal? Not as fast as airplane, but hopefully cheaper.

Nate

about 11 years ago

Vicarious, that's a bit of a stretch... How much is it for a round trip ticket to the cities on a Greyhound? Like thirty or forty bucks? It's been a while since I've had to take it, but that seems abour right...

Ryan H

about 11 years ago

The only way this thing will be commercially viable is if it 
1) Is cheaper than driving an average car
and 
2) Is faster than driving a car

Chester Dark

about 11 years ago

Nate - I think the Skyline Shuttle is around $60 or $70 round trip. That would be your comparison. And as for commercially viable, since when are roads commercially viable? We're paying for more than the tank of gas, parking, and wear and tear. Somehow it's okay to pay through the ass for roads.

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

Yes, we pay a lot for roads, but there's no disputing that many, many people drive on them every day.

There's nothing wrong with paying a lot for a rail system, as long as many, many people ride it. Will they? Perhaps we'll find out.

edgeways

about 11 years ago

FWIW, the existing Amtrack routs run pretty much near capacity, so I suspect there is demand for increased infrastructure and service in general. 

The rail is suppose to be about the same time from Duluth to the Twinkies, but that includes a few stops. As to price, that's hard to know... it may be more than a tank of gas, but less than the .29 a mile allowed for vehicle mileage. Add to that the possibility of increased productivity, or just the decrease in stress level of those traveling (no driving) and it may well be worth a few bucks more than a tank of gas.

Tim K

about 11 years ago

With a train, I could stop using my laptop while I drive.

Calk

about 11 years ago

I'd rather get some reading or writing done during that 2-1/2 hours than have to stare at the road and avoid Tim K weaving all over the place, as he plays computer games while driving his car. BTW, the shuttle is $42 OW, $69 RT. I'd gladly pay that to take the train, that shuttle is becoming like the Grehound bus, it's always packed when I take it!

Danny

about 11 years ago

Didnt we have Amtrack out of Duluth at one point?

adEm

about 11 years ago

Amtrak, yes at some point we did...

See also:
http://www.skylineshuttle.com/

zra.

about 11 years ago

it was Reagan who slashed funding for public mass transit and passenger rail. at the time, i think detroit was getting pummeled by the japanese auto makers and ron was always a friend to the big three, even going as far as to toss out a lot of pesky auto safety regulations set up during carter so's his big auto buddies would get to put millions into their pockets instead of into the quality and safety of their increasingly shoddy product.

Tang!

about 11 years ago

It's the future! 

...And way sexier than chugging away in our guzzlers with the masses. 

More enviro-friendly than a 25 min flight in to msp - but with a stop at the airport, probably not much more hassle.

I LOVE it!  2012 can't come soon enough! :D

I do wonder what it would do to the local job market... so many things to consider.  With such easy access, many more people would be find it reasonable to work in the cities.  This could mean mean more money in the local economy (higher pay, lower cost of living).   But local employers could suffer.  Are our local businesses able to compete with such a larger market?

Calk

about 11 years ago

Tang, I doubt everyone would want to rush down and work in the Cities. As it is now, there are just too many underemployed and unemployed people living here b/c they're willing to make that sacrifice. God knows how many people who've told me their kids would love to live here after college, but can't, because there are no jobs for them here. This train is going to be so advantageous to people like that. It's also going to be great for people like me, with a spouse who works here in the Twin Ports, while I tele-commute. It's going to make life a lot easier -- and a lot safer, b/c I *really* hate to drive.

zra.

about 11 years ago

calk: think bedroom community.

all that is wonderful about living in duluth, with the cities a short commute away.

on the commute: telecommuting, vid conferencing, lots of business going down. my guess is the well thought out crowd will be employing the train between their townhome here and the office on 5th and Hennepin.

Danny

about 11 years ago

Not to be an a-hole, but doesnt the idea of a train that would take people into metro areas to work and out to the outskirts to live encourage urban sprawl?

Rob

about 11 years ago

Well if you understood what sprawl is AND if you could think of something as systemic AND you didn't live in a basement so far detached from how society functions and how people interact, then you may possibly understand that sprawl happened because of the car, and trains might be the only way to reverse sprawl.  ah, never-mind, none of those precedents are likely.  

Separately  the train will have many positives; the development boom seen in other regions where trains once existed, then were abandoned, and now returned, is very encouraging.  The development factor is something that many anti train people can't or refuse to see.  Those anti train people get stuck on wanting to prove that the train will pay for itself based on ridership, then they input such absurd ticket prices and say, see, it will never work.  (the car / road / oil system is a very difficult subsidy to calculate, but we know we don't directly pay the costs) Those people should go to a different city, ride on a new train, get off the train and see what gets built around the stops, then they should talk to the communities near the stop and see what has happened to property values.  

The train is a win win win for MN right now.  The casualties will be only for those who had their simplistic world view proven wrong again, and the NWA profits at DLH.

Calk

about 11 years ago

This article in today's NY Times is pretty interesting, it's a report by a guy who traveled cross-country on AMTRAK.
http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/travel/08amtrak.html?ref=travel

Baci

about 11 years ago

To those who see the train as somehow un-american.

It wasn't until uber-mega-corp and it's lackeys the profitpublicans decided that a car in every garage was the way to create and then enslave the middle class that we lost the thing that literally united the country. The railroad. How many rail workers do you know? I know a few and except for Randy J. they are/were as American as you can get (jk radny). All of them hard working, safety minded, blue collar, get-r-done types who didn't need a huge ass H3 to prove they had cahones. Here's hoping that a neo-rail culture emerges as an edifice of the true American spirit. Wow, maybe I should start doing and AM radio talk show.

zra.

about 11 years ago

NYC...

probably a poor example, but the ratio of driver to public tramsportation in new york city is astronomical. same thing for cities like chicago and seattle. seattle, IMO based on having used thier system for many years, is tops in the realm of mass transit...

i'm beginning to think that this whole anti-rail thing's got some sort of neocon conspiracy/phobia tinge to it along the trains = socialism.

in our quest to be better than the rest of the world we've kinda shot ourselves in the foot. our current rail infrastructure is decades out of whack. oddly, this country was built on the rails. you'd think that type of mentality would still prevail...

mavis

about 11 years ago

yet another reason to move back to Duluth.

Calk

about 11 years ago

Duluth is just too far from the TC for us to worry that a train would bring urban/suburban sprawl. I just can't see it happening.

ironic1

about 11 years ago

Duluth gets the lead in today's Washington Post article about high speed rail.

Baci

about 11 years ago

Again, the word is multimodal. Seriously, the face of Downtown is about to change...for the better. The question is not if...

-Berv

about 11 years ago

I can't wait to plop my ass into a train seat, like a raisinette in a toi-toi, and go watch a Twins game in their new stadium.

The Big E

about 11 years ago

Given the state of things, perhaps we'll be able to go skip back to using boxcars for passenger travel.

PartsGuy

about 11 years ago

I'm all for the idea myself. 

But how do you get around once you're down there? Buses, cabs? Some people might not like that idea. 

Unless the rail stations are going to be right by the main attractions, or close to them, might be a tough sell.

Tim K

about 11 years ago

They've got light rail in the Cities. Most of the main attractions have or are going to have light rail platforms near by.

Shane

about 11 years ago

The problem is POPULATION DENSITY.  Every place with succesful train systems has a higher POPULATION DENSITY than Minnesota currently has.  Japan, Europe and the Eastern USA have higher POPULATION DENSITY than Minnesota.  What do you do once you get to Duluth or the Twin Cities?  Public transportation in both places SUCKS and the average person is not going to want to put up with the BS that trying to us it entails.
That said, I am for the idea, but I can see that I will probably not us it as, I will not want to rent a car when I go to the 'cities.

Shane

about 11 years ago

Crap, I cannot type.  I meant use not us...

Shane

about 11 years ago

The IRS allows 55 cent per mile as a tax write off, for business purposes. 

http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=200505,00.html

zra.

about 11 years ago

don't like the idea of taking a cab. or a bus? hard cheese. plan ahead. have a car rented. have a buddy pick you up. people that give a crap about wether or not they'll have a car or have to take a bus at the other end of the connection aren't the ones you'll typically see riding mass transit.

though one could conceivably have a rental waiting at the other end of things, sure...if you need four doors to help you feel more secure, that is. happens all the time at airports, right? take a plane to L.A., rent a car.

the bosses have passcards when they're in NYC for cars located in garages around the city. in this instance, there's really no need to actually OWN a car, when they can pick one up as they need it and return it when they're done.

Calk

about 11 years ago

I love to explore new cities, and find that the best way to really learn your way around a strange place is to take public transportation -- like the locals. It's fun, it's cheap, and it always gives me a sense of satisfaction when I successfully navigate myself around town on buses or subways. The Cities has a great transportation network, I've taken buses from downtown Mlps to downtown St. Paul without a hitch. Often, I've taken the Skyline Shuttle to MSP, then jumped on the high-speed rail into downtown Mlps -- a lot cheaper than renting a car and driving down. Zra, surprised "the bosses" use cars when in NYC -- the public transportation there is *awesome,* I'd rather take it than drive around, having to deal with clogged streets. I know people who live in NYC and don't know how to drive, b/c they've never had to.

Baci

about 11 years ago

Check this Mpls. thing out.

hourcar.
"Car-sharing gives you access to cars on a per-trip basis. HOURCAR gives you the freedom to use a car when you need it, and you only pay for what you use. Car-sharing works for people and businesses."

When I was living there, I found Mpls to be one of the most bike friendly cities I've ever been in. How about packing your ride (bike, scooter, motorcycle, even car) ON THE TRAIN WITH YOU? Like a ferry. Let's think BIG here people.

jpwildgoose

about 11 years ago

Was avoiding a post thinking this might be all played out but ... guess it is not.

I took one of the last train rides down to the Twin Cities in probably 1981 or 82.  It was awesome.  I was just a little kid but I loved every second of it.  You could get up and take a stroll if you got bored.  The seats were comfy and you could chat with someone nearby if you wanted.  And there was even a little snack bar with treats, etc.  

It got me hooked on trains as an awesome means of travel and I have used them traveling all over Europe and Asia.  But why not the Americas?  Because we STUPIDLY gutted our passenger rail infrastructure.  

Incidentally my longest trip was THE longest, the trans siberian which at the time was like a major source of commerce and culture in the former soviet union after it collapsed a great adventure and I spent most of the trip completely trashed on really good really cheap vodka.  Try that in your car folks.  

Really hoping this baby goes through.  I don't CARE how much it costs.  It's the right thing to do.

zra.

about 11 years ago

i should have prequalified my mention of *the bosses* as they only use the hourcar when they're travelling outside manhattan for reasons other than coming back to duluth...when in the city, they walk or use the subways or busses.

Nettles

about 11 years ago

I believe Tim K. hits the point I'm worried about.  I've lived in several cities where I have had no need for a car and did not own one, however neither Duluth nor MPLS was one of them.  Both cities will have to ramp up their intra-city transportation before large numbers of people will start using this train as a serious commuter line.

samh

about 11 years ago

> love to explore new cities, and find that the best way to really learn your way around a strange place is to take public transportation -- like the locals. It's fun, it's cheap, and it always gives me a sense of satisfaction when I successfully navigate myself around town on buses or subways.

Agreed.  The weekend trip my family took to Chicago (via Amtrak) was far more rewarding because we used the public transportation to get around.  My folks still talk about it to this day how cool they thought that was.

planetxan

about 11 years ago

>But how do you get around once you're down there? Buses, cabs? Some people might not like that idea.

What do people come to the TC for? Theatre, sports, concerts?  All DT, along the LRT. The airport? LRT. Shopping at the übermall or IKEA, LRT. Events at the U? Very short bus trip and soon, LRT. The State Fair? Special bus service and someday commuter rail. Anything I'm missing? Is there some reason to go to Burnsville? I haven't thought of it yet.

I go up to Duluth just to get away from the cities. I have some friends there. They can pick me. Or if I'm just there for myself, everything is dt. I don't need to get out to the Walmart or anything.

planetxan

about 11 years ago

> I'd rather get some reading or writing done during that 2-1/2 hours than have to stare at the road and avoid Tim K weaving all over the place, as he plays computer games while driving his car. BTW, the shuttle is $42 OW, $69 RT. I'd gladly pay that to take the train, that shuttle is becoming like the Grehound bus, it's always packed when I take it!

A similar length trip in the UK (London to Sheffield) goes for £13 one way, which is less than $20 ($18.04 to be exact). It takes 2 1/2 hours but makes many stops and is limited in its speed. A train to/from TC to Duluth at an average of 90mph (service over 120mph) would take 1hr 40min. Many highspeed trians these days have internet, so you can play games with your friend. The Skyline shuttle is really expensive. Even the Greyhound fares are more than typical Greyhound fares for that distance.

For a frightening read, check out the comments here on the same topic: http://www.topix.com/forum/city/minneapolis-mn/TFK1FLCLKMQVLJ0C5#comments

Katie N

about 11 years ago

Praise the hammer of Thor for this site. I was reading the comments on the latest DNT drivelings of this project and nearly wet myself because of all the naysayers and mentions of the hideously old fashioned word, "boondoggle." (To witness the shortsightedness yourself, go ahead and subject yourself to the comments @ http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/119917/  although let it be known that I am not trying to increase their site hits!!!)
So I thought, good Christ, have I lost my mind? Then I realized I had for spending any time reading the comments that people make on the DNT website.
Oh, forgive me, lords of PDD. May I see the error of my ways and falter no more to the evil incompetence of DNT reader comments.
Seriously though, all of your perspectives and opinions on this matter were a much needed breath of fresh air. For that I thank you all PDD commentators. 
This is probably a pretty dead thread but thank goodness for its existence!

baci

about 11 years ago

we need to constantly bring this up and support it!!

Jeff

about 10 years ago

Our great great grandparents built a rail system covering the US. Their grandchildren ripped them out. 

Here we are trying to build it again.

Our grandchildren will rip it out for the new version of whatever transportation is next.

And their grandchildren will again rebuild it.

A round and round we go

edgeways

about 10 years ago

Katie N the comment sections of nearly all TM (traditional media) outlets are near universally bad. Anonymity + free time + big name sites + ? = a bunch of wankers jerking off rather than actually doing anything constructive.

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