Colorado Begins Planning Front Range High Speed Rail

Nov 19th, 2013 | Posted by

The Colorado Department of Transportation is beginning to plan a high speed rail network that would connect Fort Collins to Colorado Springs and Pueblo, as well as an east-west route along Interstate 70 to Eagle, serving nearby ski resorts. Their plan is to start with a shorter route from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs via Denver International Airport:

A proposed high-speed rail system from Fort Collins to DIA and then south to Colorado Springs would cost about $9.8 billion and carry roughly 13 million passengers a year, according to planners Tuesday night….

Planners said any rail corridor would have to avoid cutting through the city of Denver to scale back costs. Still, a 340-mile system that would go from Fort Collins south to DIA and south to Pueblo and include I-70 to Eagle would cost over $30 billion.

Which is why CDOT planners say phasing the project makes sense. The preferred 132-mile route from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs omits, for the time being, the I-70 west portion.

It seems to me that a better route would be one that includes a stop in downtown Denver, perhaps following Interstate 25 closely. I’m open to discussion on the merits of a DIA stop. The FasTracks program is currently building a rail line from downtown Denver to DIA that will provide a 35 minute travel time. Not ideal, but perhaps workable. I dunno. I’d be interested to see some studies.

Overall though, a Front Range HSR project from Fort Collins to Denver to Colorado Springs is a damn fine place to start the larger network. Most of the Front Range population lives in a narrow north-south corridor that the HSR route would serve, with stations likely being close to population centers (and hopefully smack in the middle of them). Once a line is built there it would help build support for tackling the engineering challenge that would be HSR westward from Denver into the mountains to serve the ski resorts.

Colorado is doing good work building a passenger rail network within the Denver metropolitan area. The obvious next step is to build an HSR network to knit together the state’s other metropolitan regions and its popular destinations. As the United States continues to move beyond fossil fuel consumption and reduce carbon emissions, projects like this will have to remain a priority.

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  1. Back in the Saddle
    Nov 19th, 2013 at 22:25
    #1

    Robert–Your comments about running HSR through Denver is right on the mark. Planners need to find a way to push it through Union Station. There is no sense in running it out in the prairie next to DIA. That is a non-starter for engaging ridership. Also, it will be interesting to see the costs of boring through the front range to run the line to the Vail area. During the ski season, Eisenhower Tunnel and I-70 are choked with travelers especially if the Interstate is icy. Folks further west in Aspen will probably cry foul since their major competitor will get the HSR service…..

    Donk Reply:

    HSR tunnel to Vail? Seriously?

    Travis D Reply:

    Would it be possible to build an interchange with the new fastracks rail line? So that EMU’s on the Front Range line can use it to get downtown to Union Station?

    Andre L. Reply:

    Building a junction wouldn’t be the problem. Operating a long-distance train on a light-rail corridor built to other specs, expecting to get much more traffic that stops at all stations, is a non-starter.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Why is it a non-starter? It would both save the transfer time (which is typically counted double for elasticity of transport demand with respect to travel time), and could cut eight to ten minutes off of the seven stop DUS/DIA service operating time. And for trips completed on on of the rail lines connecting to DUS but not DIA, would turn a two-transfer trip into a one-transfer trip.

  2. Alon Levy
    Nov 19th, 2013 at 23:15
    #2

    I do not know of any HSR line whose primary city is not served by a downtown station or by traditional near-downtown stations such as the Parisian terminals. Shanghai comes close since most HSR trains serve Hongqiao, but a) Hongqiao is 15 km from central Shanghai whereas DIA is 30 km from Denver, b) some HSR trains serve the much closer in Shanghai Railway Station, and c) China considers Beijing to be its system’s primary city rather than Shanghai.

    Recall that passengers are especially averse to destination-end transfers (link). That’s why people in the US drive miles to the commuter rail station with the cheaper parking lot but refuse to transfer to a 10-minute bus ride at the downtown end. The sort of compromise that’s acceptable for a secondary city like Bakersfield is completely unacceptable for a primary one like Denver.

    The 35-minute egress time is especially bad considering how short the HSR line would be. Denver-Colorado Springs is 110 km. HSR would do the trip in less than 35 minutes, which means that an airport station more than doubles the effective travel time, independently of any transfer penalty. Such a line could not possibly compete with cars, which would take about the same amount of time door-to-door and not have to deal with the transfer.

    Donk Reply:

    Agreed. DIA is probably the worst major airport in the country to connect a HSR to.

    When will the obsession with connecting HSR to airports end?

    swing hanger Reply:

    Quite. Aren’t they building an electrified line from Union Station to DIA using modified Silverliners? Just have a cross platform transfer at Union Station from HSR to the airport train.

    Eric Reply:

    Why so bad? The only practical way to get to the Denver area from outside Colorado is by plane (not by car or future HSR) so DIA is a natural transfer point. The Denver area is mostly suburban and suburbanites will be willing to drive to DIA as much as to downtown. Of course losing downtown Denver is a blow, but relative to other cities it’s a smaller blow.

    Anyway, this line is so damn short that I don’t know why conventional rail to downtown won’t work.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    1. People coming from out of state are visiting Denver or the ski resorts, not Colorado Springs or Fort Collins. The line is going to live or die on the strength of intra-state O&D travel.

    2. DIA is outside the built-up area of Denver. Many suburbs are actually west of Denver, and for them the airport is a problem because they couldn’t make use of the suburban rail lines Denver’s building to reach the station easily. Few suburbs are equidistant; almost none are closer to DIA than to Union Station.

    3. People from Fort Collins and Colorado Springs aren’t going to take a train to the airport, rent a car, and drive to Aurora. It’s faster to just drive straight to Aurora. The only travel market that HSR could serve is to the central areas of Denver, where Denver’s developing more densely and walkably.

    Joe Reply:

    I agree. This is not a HSR system for travelers or airport an shuttle service on roids.

    It’s for residents. That means service should go where they reside.

    They can run a fancy bus shuttle to/from the HSR staton to their DEN airport. I am sure there are buses from Boulder and Ft Collins to DEN if the parking is too steep.

    Come to think of it, that’s how I got to/from the Inchon airport to Seoul Korea. A fancy bus.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They’ve built an express train line from the airport to Seoul since. It gets about an order of magnitude less ridership than predicted.

    Airports really are overrated as transit centers.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Alon, you left out a large travel market; people from out of state ARE visiting Boulder.

    And for what it’s worth, I visited the state in order to go to Fort Collins, because of family.

    The thing is that DIA still makes no sense. It’s in the middle of freaking nowhere.

    The regional rail route which has been proposed repeatedly was Ft. Collins – Loveland – Longmont – Boulder – Broomfield – Denver – Centennial – Colorado Springs. DIA is on the wrong side; the population clusters up towards the foothills of the mountains.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I agree, FWIW, that the line has to depend primarily on local “within-state” demand.

    The thing is, if you cater to the local travel patterns, *you will also cater to the visitors*, who are most likely being dragged around by friends or business associates who are local. (Most intercity travellers don’t just blindly go as tourists-who-know-nobody; this is the stereotype, but it’s not true.)

    Andre L. Reply:

    Terrain is quite favorable on the foothills of the Rockies. So the marginal costs of building HSR instead of “conventional rail” are not big. Conversely, the costs of tunneling a N-S alignment through Denver, or boring something to Vail, would be expensive regardless of profile.

    The existing rail alignments are bad, and even commuter rail cannot be accommodated as both lines north of Denver are some of the busiest in the country with long freight trains. The tab for upgrades to allow commuter rail to Boulder alone were on the $ 1,3 billion alone (more expensive than a new light-rail line, though they went for crap BRT).

    Eric Reply:

    HSR needs grade separation. Conventional rail can use existing tracks. Big cost differences.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Recall that passengers are especially averse to destination-end transfers

    They do when the destination end transfers suck. They aren’t as bothered when they don’t.

    … Change at Jamaica for….
    .. PATH is just across the platform…

    The 8 million passengers Amtrak serves at Penn Station aren’t all New Yorkers and the outta towners aren’t all staying at the Statler. And all of the commuters that use Penn Station don’t all work in the Empire State building. I seem to remember that the MTA is spending a few bucks to make it easier for a few of them to get to Grand Central. And they all don’t work in the Chrysler Building.
    The stereotypical suburban Wall Streeter changes trains far from his destination.

    Or the suburbanites in the Chicago terminals.

    When did they move 69th Street into downtown Philadelphia?

    I haven’t been in downtown Newark at the right time since NJTransit made your monthly train pass good on the bus for an equal number of zones. The bus runs up and down Market Street every cycle of the light 14 hours a weekday.

    The transfer from the train to their car is predictable. A transfer to a bus that runs 5 times an hour and may or may not show up on schedule isn’t.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    69th Street? You mean 30th Street? That’s not in Center City but is one subway stop outside it. And it’s a compromise location, like Shin-Osaka, in a city that’s not the line’s primary city and never has been. (Of course originally the trains stopped in Jersey City rather than in New York, but as soon as Pennsy had the technology to tunnel to Manhattan, it did.)

    The downtown-end bus transfer repels riders even when it’s timed, as in Austin, or when it’s reasonably frequent, as in San Francisco. Even a subway transfer repels riders with options in Toronto, so people only take GO to destinations within walking distance of Union Station. In New York people do transfer to the subway but only because driving into Manhattan is for masochists.

    The stereotypical Wall Streeter more likely works in Midtown than in Lower Manhattan. At IRUM, when they proposed a diagonal tunnel from Hoboken to Penn and I asked why not build Hoboken-Fulton-Flatbush, one of the answers I got was “not as many people go to Lower Manhattan” (the other was “the scope of ARC is Penn Station,” which seemed like a dodge given how much they were straying from the original alternatives).

    Yes, people change at Jamaica. And if Secaucus didn’t have internal faregates and didn’t require two level changes to change trains, people would change at Secaucus. That’s because the total travel time by train is still much lower than by car on the world’s longest parking lot. Colorado doesn’t have that privilege.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Wellll I guess 69th Street is downtown. But then it’s not even in Philadephia much less downtown. Downtown Upper Darby. Where lots of people who live in suburbs farther out change trains for Philadelphia. Enough of them that SEPTA, which loathes to run express service, runs express service on the Norristown High Speed Line.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/69th_Street_Transportation_Center

    http://www.septa.org/schedules/transit/w/NHSL_1.htm

    53 percent of traditional suburban train riders in the US use the LIRR, Metro North or NJTransit. They don’t all work in the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building. Throw in Metra, SEPTA and the MBTA it’s 86 percent. Lots of those people transfer at the urban end. The daily ridership in Austin is one 12 car train that’s fully packed in metro New York.

    The people out in the suburbs, if they can’t walk to the station, have to make a transfer out in the ‘burbs. Not transferring out in the burbs means not going.

    One of the times you brought up GOTransit a Torontonian explained that it’s faster and cheaper to take the bus to the subway than it is to take the bus to a GO station, go to Union Station and then transfer to the subway. It isn’t avoidance of a downtown transfer. It’s that they aren’t going to Union Station. One of the features of downtown in big cities, they are bigger than a block square. Flushing Main Street has managed to make it onto the list of ten busiest subway stations. Using the subway and the bus is faster than using the LIRR and a bus because they are going someplace other than Penn Station.

    People who work on Wall Street, by definition don’t work in Midtown. There’s lots and lots of people who don’t work in finance who work on Wall Street. And lots and lots of people who work in finance who work in Midtown. The country’s largest employment center is Midtown Manhattan. The second is the Loop and the third is Wall Street. The people slinging burgers at McDonald’s on Broadway between Liberty and Cortlandt work on Wall Street. Though someone who works at that McDonalds, if they transfer at all, probably does it someplace obscure in the outer boroughs. People who work down there and live outside of New York City transferred somewhere not Wall Street and not the suburb they live in or close to it.

    Secaucus isn’t supposed to be a just a transfer station. The transfer is there for people on the lines on the lower level. People on the lines on the upper level have better alternatives. There’s supposed to be 40,000 cubicles hovering over it and someday people who wanted to get to Penn Station would either have a one seat ride or they would make their cross platform transfer farther out in the suburbs. That’s been put off an additional decade. They’d be transferring like they do at Broad Street Newark today. Or Valley Stream. Or Upper Darby. Or the other places on the LIRR, Metro North and NJTransit where people change trains. Last I heard 17,000 people a day use Secaucus all of them transferring from something to something because the only thing out there besides the station and ramps from the Turnpike is swamp. It’s NJTransit’s fourth busiest train station. 17.000 people a day is 8 weekdays worth of what goes on in Austin.

    …Lehman Brothers was at 7th and 49th. Yes you can walk to Penn Station from there. I suspect that the people who lived on Long Island or in New Jersey and worked for Lehman took the subway. Whatever is in there now, the people from Long Island or New Jersey take the subway. Grand Central would be an easier walk but I suspect there were people who used Metro North that regularly took the subway which involves a transfer not at the suburban terminal and not at their destination… if you ignore all the places people make not near home not near work transfers it’s gonna look like people don’t make those kind of transfers.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The MBTA riders actually don’t transfer at the urban end much. They walk from South Station to their jobs. At North Station they have to transfer, which may have to do with why it has less commuter rail ridership than South Station (e.g. the MBTA runs additional buses to Haymarket, and even then the transit mode share is lower than on the Providence Line). SEPTA riders probably don’t have to transfer either, since SEPTA trains usually serve a bunch of different stops in and near Center City.

    In Toronto, I forget whether that comment about bus-subway transfer was before or after I found ridership data by station. Within the city, GO gets practically no ridership. GO gets its highest ridership in suburbs along the two Lakeshore lines, like Mississauga, and those are too far for bus-subway transfers to be time-competitive with GO-subway transfers – buses are slow, and the Bloor-Danforth Line has dense stop spacing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It would take some powerful stupid to get off the train at Market East and take the subway to 30th Street,. People who live along the lines that terminate in Upper Darby do it.

    Wall Street it the country’s third biggest employment center. It’s probably the country’s third biggest employment center for people who commute using suburban trains too. It’s a two seat ride, not that they get a seat but it’s a two seat ride.

    Why is such a revelation that in Toronto people go to wherever it is that they are going the fastest way instead of the way that sends chills up and down foamers’ spines? Or in Kew Gardens Queens?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The revelation is that people in the Toronto suburbs take GO Transit in large numbers to jobs near Union Station, but not to jobs that are a few subway stops away.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It seems that people like to limit their commute to an hour or less. Is the distaste for transfers evenly spread along the lines or does it increase as the time it takes to get to Union Station goes up?
    Purely anecdotal but reading the stories about people who buy cheap real estate in Pennsylvania thinking that the two hour commute to Manhattan will be easy regret it, even though they have a one seat ride. Again anecdotal but some of them move back closer to work, some of them find work closer to their new home and some of them decide that a monthly on Amtrak between Cornwells Heights and Manhattan is worth it.
    http://www.thegreatwhitewhale.com/Commuting_NYC.html

    Eric Reply:

    I know of somebody who has a 1.5hr train ride to work every day, but is allowed to work remotely from their computer on the train, so 3 hours a day of commuting counts as work time. If you can get that arrangement, I doubt you’ll regret it. :)

    Nathanael Reply:

    Alon: Toronto’s a special case because the subway is severely overcrowded to the point where it’s driving away riders. People transferring from GO Transit are contra-peak, but until the current station project is finished, they’re fighting against a mass of subway riders on a single island platform.

    Andrew Reply:

    On the scale of Shanghai, I would say Shanghai Sta qualifies as ‘near downtown’ as much as the Paris stations do. It’s just a few stops from the heart of town.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yep. It is near-downtown in the same way the Parisian stations are. It’s just that most CRH trains serve Hongqiao (although some do serve Shanghai Station).

  3. swing hanger
    Nov 19th, 2013 at 23:28
    #3

    Mile-high Dogleg.

  4. Zmapper
    Nov 20th, 2013 at 01:34
    #4

    Fort Collins resident, FWIW…

    The CDOT consultant said that according to their models, Denver International Airport had (IIRC) 2 times the ridership of Downtown Denver. Additionally, plans were included for a North Suburban and South Suburban station, with a rail connection to the North Metro and Southeast lines, respectively. The NM line will take slightly over 30 minutes to reach CO-7, and the HSR will take (IIRC) ~30 minutes to reach the Fort Collins station. Seeing as Fort Collins to Denver is only about a 60-75 minute drive, when station access and transfer times are included, it isn’t exceptionally time competitive.

    Their presentation felt incredibly unpolished. From the borderline racist comment about referring to the diagrams of different alignment options as “Chinese symbols”, to using jargon such as CAPEX and OPEX on public display boards, to even basic typographical errors such as stating the cost of a specific alignment is “$.5″, the impression it left on me was that CDOT wasn’t actually interested in selling the project. Rather, I feel it is a way to spend FRA High-speed rail cash and leave a “feel-good” impression on the public that CDOT is doing something.

    Currently, from Fort Collins, there isn’t a true stellar transit option for reaching the airport, and it is doubtful that any HSR proposal will fix that. Green Ride and Super Shuttle (which actually operates on a fixed schedule on this route) both run from a no-cost parking lot on the southeast side of Fort Collins combined twice an hour, but at nearly $60 round trip it quickly becomes unaffordable for groups or families. HSR would be slightly less (according to their proposal), but my guess is based on the I-25 station location and relative inaccessibility of transit, they will charge for overnight parking.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I could believe that a fair number of people would ride to DIA from Ft. Collins — people from Ft. Collins who are trying to escape. However, Fort Collins to DIA is a stupid route for a rail line, because *there’s nothing in between*, meaning that *all* the ridership would have to come from Fort Collins.

    A good rail route has things along the way, which is why most Front Range Rail proposals have been Ft. Collins-Loveland-Longmont-Boulder-Broomfield-Denver.

    Nathanael Reply:

    ” the impression it left on me was that CDOT wasn’t actually interested in selling the project. ”
    Given that CDOT has sunk three or four previous, better-designed HSR proposals through total disinterest, I have to believe that you are correct.

  5. David St. Amour
    Nov 20th, 2013 at 06:48
    #5

    I totally support all forms of mass transit planned for Colorado! Not only will it reduce congestion on the roads, but year-round safety will be improved as well as air quality. Residential developements will baturally gravitate towards the rail lines & associated stops.
    In order to preserve our beautiful state & adhere to our previous referendum concerning “urban-sprawl” we must utilize the latest in transportation technology to deliver the best available choice for the our future rather than the cheapest (widen I-25…pave, pave, pave!).
    This sentiment MUST be brought to CDOT’s table when relieving the traffic woes of I-70 into the mountians! Common sense & physics clearly indicate that there is a finite amount of space in which to channel traffic. Widening I-70 is NOT the best nor the appropriate resolution to this issue.
    Again, a rail line (elevated would be best for winter snow safety) from Union Station into the Rockies & atleast to Aspen would prove to be popular, safer (year-round), self supporting financially, a boon to tourism & an important factor in securing an Olympic bid (if we so choose).

    Andre L. Reply:

    I-70 is not year-round congested. It suffers from directional congestion around 12-15 weekends per year. The rest of the time it has a good traffic flow weather allowing.

    Widening I-70 to Vail would be a rather expensive project, including a new tunnel and several new or widened viaducts.

  6. TomW
    Nov 20th, 2013 at 06:54
    #6

    What’s not clear is whether “[the] rail corridor would have to avoid cutting through the city of Denver” means the *high-speed* corridor, or the rail servcie generally. The former would make sense – high-speed alignment to the edge of Denver, then using the existing rail corridor to reach downtown.

    Joe Reply:

    Why? It’s a relatively short line that would do better servicing Denver.

    Pueblo to ft Collins travel times will suffer. So what?

    EJ Reply:

    That’s what I don’t get, they’re already building commuter lines to Denver Union Station from the North and from DIA in the east, why not just use these to get HSR downtown. Is there not enough capacity?

    And if ultimately there is too much of a time penalty for folks who aren’t denver bound, they can always build a line bypassing denver to the east at some point.

  7. TomA
    Nov 20th, 2013 at 07:29
    #7

    Alon is exactly correct.

    This plan would be like having an HSR line from Richmond to Philly that stops at BWI or Dulles and calls it the DC stop. Or from Ventura to San Diego and calls a stop at Ontario Airport the LA Stop.

  8. Reedman
    Nov 20th, 2013 at 09:21
    #8

    FYI.

    http://frontrangeontrack.org/faqs.html

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Why does the train stop at Hoboken and not go to Penn Station?”
    “Because more people travel within New Jersey than from New Jersey to New York.”

    Sigh.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Frontrangeontrack has a better proposal than CDOT does. :-P

    Notice that Frontrangeontrack actually proposes a route which gets to Denver Union Station with no doglegs, although it requires a change of train.

    Judge Moonbox Reply:

    This makes the Front Range project resemble Seattle’s Sounder more than Amtrak’s Cascades service. I would have liked to see then build something from Cheyenne via Albuquerque to El Paso, but that’s outside the scope of this project.

  9. Joey
    Nov 20th, 2013 at 09:27
    #9

    It seems to me that a better route would be one that includes a stop in downtown Denver

    Nice that the design of DUS precludes any though running then isn’t it? Thanks to that particular design feature, getting this to work is probably going to require deep tunneling and a new station cavern.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It only needs a short strategic tunnel. The tracks at DUS point toward undeveloped parcels, so trains could stop there at-grade, go underground on a ramp to the southwest of DUS, and have a sub-kilometer tunnel to connect to the tracks pointing south.

    Alternatively, there are locations near DUS where a through-station can be built, e.g. along the light rail alignment.

    Joey Reply:

    Isn’t the parcel immediately southwest of DUS slated for development? It could probably be stopped if planning was aggressive now but I don’t know if that’s likely. Wouldn’t the ramps also require closing 16th street or raising it far above or below grade (definitely preferable to deep tunneling but still).

    As for the light rail alignment, it looks pretty tight between 16th Street and Cherry Creek. There might be room for two more tracks if you don’t mind close proximity to the freight tracks — this will probably be allowed under new FRA regulations but I don’t remember who owns that ROW.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Cherry Creek makes your proposal impractical; you can’t get under it in the distance available.

    RTD has repeatedly said that there’s room for a pair of north-south tracks and platforms next to the light rail line and the “Consolidated Main Line” freight line. I don’t know whether that’s actually true.

    The other proposal is to bridge over Cherry Creek and run elevated over the parking lots to get to the south-heading line.

    But let’s think about this another way: is it strictly necessary to through-run a Colorado Springs – Denver line with a Denver-Fort Collins line? I suspect not.

    Jon Reply:

    Entering and exiting the city on a north-south alignment along Hwy 85, with a short tunnel through downtown, shouldn’t be a huge issue.

    Another option would be to have one HSR route into the city from the east along I-70, with a wye to the north-south mainline line out by the airport. Trains from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs would have to reverse direction at Union Station. With this alignment you could add a stop at the airport, or (more cheaply) a stop at the Airport Blvd/40th Ave station currently under construction.

  10. synonymouse
    Nov 20th, 2013 at 10:43
    #10

    But they cannot afford Raton.

  11. Pat
    Nov 20th, 2013 at 15:00
    #11

    Going east to DIA is a good decision:

    1. Provides direct feeder service to DIA for non downtown Denver residents
    2. Denver Fast Tracks (http://www.rtd-fastracks.com/systemmap.php ) is building like mad especially around DUS. Especially from the North.
    3. Big chunks of FastTracks project involve Commuter Rail to Boulder ( Northwest Rail line ), North Rail line (parallels I-25) and East Rail line to DIA.
    4. There are lots of new LRT lines heading to the south that could easily be hooked into a HSR line to the east.
    5. For HSR to get to downtown Denver there are lots of options to use the North, East or Northwest rail corridors: no reason for the HSR project to take on the effort.
    6. The route to the east is mostly vacant: therefore cheap!

    More than most places in the U.S., Denver has gotten into a rabid rail building mode.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sorry, but no.

    1. HSR is a deeply overrated airport feeder. Compare how many use the TGV to get to Charles de Gaulle with overall system ridership. Fort Collins and Colorado Springs do not really need a faster airport connector, since their residents are much likelier to visit Denver itself than to visit other states.
    2-5. So? You’re still forcing everyone traveling to Denver to add another half hour to the trip. At the Denver-Colorado Springs distance it eliminates all time benefit of HSR over cars, independently of the transfer penalty. Besides, the center of all this rail network is downtown Denver rather than DIA.
    6. The cheapest HSR route is one serving flat land where nobody lives. It will also get zero ridership, since nobody lives there.

    Pat Reply:

    Not quite. I visit Denver regularly (via train). One of the major, major problems in Denver area especially between Parker and Colorado Springs is that I-25 is closed when there is bad weather. Hell, Pena Blvd ( the airport road ) gets closed even when the airport is open.

    DIA is the major airport for all of Colorado and the west part of Nebraska and Kansas. HSR could easily pull in Wyoming traffic to feed to DIA.

    Now “HSR is a deeply overrated airport feeder” : whatever, when I have flown into Europe I have transferred at the airport to HSR. So HSR works for me as an airport feeder.

    Go ahead and dismiss my points. I have seen Denver up close and personal. Maybe you have too, but routing HSR through DIA would allow areas around Denver to get to the airport.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    DIA is the major airport for all of Colorado and the west part of Nebraska and Kansas. HSR could easily pull in Wyoming traffic to feed to DIA.

    The HSR line isn’t going to western Nebraska, western Kansas, or Wyoming. Nor should it – those areas have counties with the population of a city block each. The only area you’ve listed that can at all hook into the system is Cheyenne; Laramie County has 90,000 people, about one third as many as unserved Boulder County.

    Now “HSR is a deeply overrated airport feeder” : whatever, when I have flown into Europe I have transferred at the airport to HSR. So HSR works for me as an airport feeder.

    Yes, and tourists like you are outnumbered about 20 to 1 by locals who don’t travel to the airport at all.

    That’s the pitfall of overrelying on your experiences as a tourist. Some transit systems are terrible for tourists. For example, go figure how to get a smartcard in Paris or Shanghai; the TVMs at the stations don’t sell them, so you have to either buy single tickets ten at a time in Paris or stand in long TVM lines in Shanghai. Of course what’s a major annoyance for me as a tourist is a minor one for a resident who speaks the language and knows where to buy a Navigo or a Shanghai Public Transportation Card.

    Pat Reply:

    So. Yawn. Ok. Whatever.

    Denver is going great guns building out an awesome rail system that is well used and interconnected. Amtrak is connected to a multiple Light Rail lines and soon will be connected with the airport. With the I-225 rail line, LRT passengers don’t have to go downtown to get to non-downtown areas.

    Considering how bad the snow storms can be, the rail lines will save lives by letting people get to and from work without driving.

    A bunch of the rail lines go to areas that you no doubt think are lousy low density areas.

    Downtown is pretty happening. The historic train station is being renovated, beautiful and still being used as a rail station and a hub.

    This blog will have zero influence on Denver. Go ahead and be superior. You know what? Denver is busy proving you wrong. Bet it hurts.

    Pat Reply:

    Oh and every one of these new rail lines will be up and running by 2017. Have a great day!

    Nathanael Reply:

    No, actually they won’t all be up and running by 2017 — unfortunately, the Boulder/Longmont line keeps being delayed. The north end of North Metro will also be delayed.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So downtown is where things are happening, but HSR should swerve around it and serve the airport?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Nothing that you say here responds to any of the critiques of a HSR to DIA and transfer undermining Denver-destination demand for the service. Even partway along the East Rail line to Peoria would be better.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I lived in Colorado from birth to 22 years old. The reason I-25 closes is because of Monument Pass. It’s the same pass any HSR is going to have to use, and guess what, it will also close in bad weather (on average 2-4 times a year in my experience)

    HSR is not going to solve that problem

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Railroads generally stay open with heavier snow than roads. In Switzerland and Norway, they get extra ridership by being able to maintain their summer schedule in winter. In Japan, the Shinkansen runs punctually through very snowy areas; it used to have (rare) delays in some of the passes on Tokaido, but I don’t think it does anymore.

    How much snow does Monument Pass get?

    swing hanger Reply:

    I can attest living in Hokkaido that the railways stay open even in conditions where the adjacent roads are closed due to blizzards, though speeds are reduced. Punctuality is one of the pillars of shinkansen services, so numerous countermeasures have been developed to combat heavy snow, including warm water sprinklers on the right of way.

    I reckon Monument Hill gets some snow, but not as much as the western slopes of the Front Range, being in the rain shadow.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    On the other hand in England and France when they get snow that barely covers the grass the railroads come to a screeching halt. Wrong kind of snow etc.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In Britain and France trains don’t run on time even when there’s no snow. Like in the US.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Powder snow wreaks havoc on electrical systems-it’s so fine and dry that it gets through cracks without proper sealing or venting. They custom-build the rolling stock here in Japan for winter regions to keep the powder out.

    Andre L. Reply:

    The issue at hand is how much cost-effective is winterization of railways (infrastructure and rolling stock).

    UK doesn’t get frequent snow, so they made a decision not to prepare their railways to operate under medium or heavy snowfall. Situation is different in Sweden or Norway, where the costs of winterization do pay off.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    As Swing Hanger states, fine powdery snow is really bad with electric systems; it gets anywhere, and melts…

    About France: Alsthom locomotives have a design flaw when it comes to ventilation; they suck in the cooling air from the side, and in many cases, not even through proper grilles (German term “Düsenlüftungsgitter”). The carbody is not under higher pressure. The sides can be reached by smow blown up by vehicle itself, and that gets the snow everywhere. (older) TGV (and Eurostar) power cars have the same design.

    On the other hand, ASEA, SLM, Krauss-Maffei (all what somehow ended up in Bombardier), and Siemens suck the air in as high up as possible, and lead it through filters directly to the places where it is needed. The carbody is under higher pressure, making it more difficult for fine snow to get in.

    I think “British” design is using autoventilated motors, which means that all kind of dirt, snow, whatever can get into the armatures…

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    It’s not just the snow in Monument , it’s the blizzard conditions that usually shut down the road. Many semi tractors have been tipped over by the winds during storms and they are usually whiteout conditions. Also, it is a very very steep section of road so traction is a problem beyond normal sections. If you lose traction 1/2 way up you are done.

    There is a parallel freight train ROW that is used daily to haul mostly coal from Wyoming south. When they shut the pass the trains stop also.

    It is in the shadow of the Rockies, but that is why it is rare. In my town we call it the Albuquerque low. When a low pressure sits over Albuquerque New Mexico it pulls moisture out of the Gulf of Mexico and throws it against the eastern, not western side of the mountain. It rises, cools, and dumps snow like a mofo. When it’s dead over Albuquerque it hits Pueblo. 30 miles north hits Colorado Springs and the pass. Closer to Raton and it hits Denver. Trust me,nothing is going over Momument Hill when a low hits

    Nathanael Reply:

    I’m actually not sure why I-25 takes the route it does through Monument. It would be entirely rational to run an HSR line down state highway 83 and avoid the steep bits.

  12. Andrew
    Nov 20th, 2013 at 17:25
    #12

    If they’re going to build a spur up I-70 to the Rockies, then why not build two lines that intersect at Union Station, with timed transfers?
    https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=205242278980764848338.0004e061008cabf32554c&msa=0&ll=39.423464,-104.430542&spn=2.567063,4.938354

    I can’t imagine how they could exclude downtown Denver and Boulder. The endpoint folks must be going to central Denver at least as frequently as they go to DIA, no? Union Station is near the venues for the Avalanche, Nuggets, and Rockies, and not that far from Mile High.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Andrew, you’re making too much sense. This is America, where rail service planning comes up with the most convoluted and compromised solutions.

    Andrew Reply:

    Have two central Denver stations: the main one at Union Station/Coors Field, and an ultra-barebones auxiliary Pepsi Center/Mile High stop open only for arena/stadium events?

    Andrew Reply:

    OK I’m starting to catch on looking at the maps; DUS is in a deserted area and doesn’t even connect directly with light rail (which in any case does a long U in order to reach downtown). The real action is well south of DUS near the convention center and arts venues. So the downtown station should go closer to Speer Blvd and the Pepsi Center, and be along the light rail line. Or even put it all the way down near Colfax, where the light rail lines intersect, since down there you’re actually closer to downtown in light rail terms (no U turn).

    Andrew Reply:

    and therefore just one station, not two.

    Pat Reply:

    Actually you are wrong. Denver Station is temporary relocated as part of the FastTrack projects. DUS is right on top of the LRT hub. The permanent DUS is on Wykoop ( https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Denver+Union+Station&hl=en&ll=39.752948,-104.999202&spn=0.004017,0.00868&sll=39.828445,-104.692326&sspn=0.064201,0.138874&oq=denv&t=h&hq=Denver+Union+Station&z=17 )

    DUS (permanent location) is very, very well connected to C, E, W LRT lines.

    Andrew Reply:

    Oh that’s much better!

    Pat Reply:

    Boulder is being connected to DUS via the FastTrack, Northwest Rail line which will be opened in 2016.

    Andrew Reply:

    Awesome. Keep it up Colorado!

    Nathanael Reply:

    Except it won’t be opened in 2016. That’s the one which is delayed. :-(

  13. ColoZ
    Nov 20th, 2013 at 19:39
    #13

    Skipping Boulder makes some sense (sadly, because I live there and would love functional rail!), since it’s a fairly small city in a dead-end valley and pretty far out of the way. Putting the northern parts of the line along I-25 is dicey, since the centers of Fort Collins, Loveland, and Longmont are many miles west of the highway. But skipping Denver? That’s insane. That has “failure” written all over it.

    Andrew Reply:

    Great to have a knowledgeable local in on the discussion here! Boulder is out of the way if one is thinking of trips to/from Ft Collins, but that would not be the case if you thought in terms of a Boulder-Pueblo corridor. I would expect that Boulder would be much more of a destination than Ft Collins for folks in Central Denver, Colo Sprs, and Pueblo. It would also be a rich ridership source, with its highly educated population. Including Boulder would also connect all the premier CO universities with each other. Direct connection between UC and Colo St.

    https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=205242278980764848338.0004e061008cabf32554c&msa=0&ll=40.151588,-104.647522&spn=1.270065,2.469177

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    How many people a year do you think travel from Pueblo (100,000) to Boulder (100,000).

    Hint…it not nearly enough to support a HSR line even if you include Colorado Springs on the way.

    This whole discussion of pushing HSR into the mountains is hilarious. What’s the cost per mile?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Aww come now, metro Boulder is almost 300,000 and metro Pueblo is 150,000. I’m sure there’s dozens if not scores of people who want to travel between the two every day. Since Denver is along the way I’m sure they could scare up hundreds a day that would use the train.
    Neither of them are in the mountains. a little hilly maybe but they are East of the mountainous parts of Colorado. Cost per mile probably isn’t going to be that bad. Cost per passenger on the other hand…

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I bet you could get a 1000 total on days the University of Colorado plays football. So you have 6 days a year covered.

    As for the geography, I assume you were kidding. It sits just a few miles from the continental divide.

    joe Reply:

    Just 1,000. Sounds pretty remote and desolate.
    Do you think they’ll shut down the highways for lack of use or just let the weeds go over them?

    Funny thing about the Rocky Mountain Front. You can literally sit on a ledge of a butte and stare out at the great plains. I’ve done it MT. BTW I’ve been to Boulder to visit NCAR and see family.

    Boulder is not Gondolin. It is not surrounded by mountains.
    http://goo.gl/maps/oSX2a

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I lived in Colorado for 22 years. The views are awesome. Its neither remote or desolate, but there is no reason to travel from Pueblo and Colorado Springs to Boulder unless you are going to school at CU nod going hometown parents in those cities. It’s not a ski town and Denver has all the nightlife.

    As for the mountains

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulder,_Colorado

    Boulder lies in a wide basin beneath Flagstaff Mountain just a few miles east of the continental divide and about 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Denver. Arapahoe Glacier provides water for the city, along with Boulder Creek, which flows through the center of the city.[16]

    Also see Flatirons

    It is not Leadville, but it’s not the Great Plains either. Building a train ROW would be harder than normal

    joe Reply:

    Harder than in France or Italy or CA?

    The link shows the Terrain. Looks doable if placed on the East of the city.

    Possibly you think I mean the west.

    swing hanger Reply:

    I get the feeling that though the talk is of (the sexy-sounding) HSR, the reality, if this project gets off the ground at all, will be more of the “higher speed rail variety”- i.e. 125mph passenger cars push/pulled by diesel locomotives, like the AAF project or the Lincoln corridor in Ill. I don’t think the market with no huge population centers anchoring each end justifies the expense of full-blown electrified HSR.

    Eric Reply:

    That’s fine, as long as the costs are in line with 125mph not 220mph rail.

    Andre L. Reply:

    Here is where things get tricky: on the flatter areas east of the foothills, the difference in cost per mile is not that great. Tunneling through Denver or towards Vail will be very expensive regardless of the profile: only a base tunnel will do the job. There is no feasible alignment for a 125pmh rail, or even a 75mph rail, through the Rockies without massive tunneling and once you go that route, better do it properly.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    That seems likely ~ the question is whether the services will be able to use the East Line to run through to and terminate at DUS. With 15 minute frequencies, a timed entry leading an East Line service and running non-stop or one-stop to DUS ought to be 20 minutes from DUS. Leading out an East Line train would make DIA a transfer point for East Line service stations, but DUS the transfer point to most other stations as well as downtown Denver destinations. If non-stop to DUS is constrained by the East Line train it is chasing, as seems likely, an intermediate stop could be placed at the most appealing transfer station for one of the lines that the East Line crosses before DUS.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    In nice round numbers there’s 5 million people in all of Colorado. Half of them live in metro Denver. There aren’t enough people out there for every 15 minutes service.

    JB in PA Reply:

    Starting to sound like Denver needs to develop more local transit before jumping into HSR.
    Transit that takes people where they need to go between homes, jobs, and shopping to relieve some of the growing highway traffic.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_T-REX_Project_%28TRansportation_EXpansion%29

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I presume you are “explaining” that Front Range HSR can’t sustain a fifteen minute frequency, ignoring that I didn’t say anything regarding the frequency of Front Range HSR.

    If an HSR service were to run through to DUS between the East Line services, which are planned to operate at a 15 minute frequency 6am-8pm, then it would be running primarily between East Line services that are 15minutes apart. An HSR running into DUS on the East Line has to fit in between East Line services at a fifteen minute frequency whether the the HSR to DUS is three times a day or once an hour.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Boulder gets a lot of visitors, even international visitors. It punches above its weight due to the university, and its reputation.

    It’s worth connecting it to Denver.

  14. John Nachtigall
    Nov 20th, 2013 at 21:56
    #14

    Only Amtrak could get lost on train tracks

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/20/amtrak-lost-philadelphia-septa-new-york-fiasco_n_4312239.html

    Oh yeah, they just inches from profitability and efficiency. Good to see they are going to provide more training, as opposed to firing someone who GOT A TRAIN LOST!!!

    WOW. Can’t make this up

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Luckily there were no SEPTA trains on that track at that time.” In English: “our train protection system would totally have let the trains crash if there had been a train on the track.”

    They’re probably right when they’re saying they’re close to profitability. Having fired the CEO who prioritized proper maintenance, they’re probably deferring maintenance like crazy to make the numbers look better.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Deferred maintenance?- sounds like JR Hokkaido…

    synonymouse Reply:

    What do you think is going to obtain on a double track mountain crossing that only is used by a handful of half empty passenger trains a day?

    JB in PA Reply:

    The Darjeeling Limited.

  15. Paul Dyson
    Nov 21st, 2013 at 09:15
    #15

    Likely question from CO taxpayer re HSR: Well, how are those chaps in CA doing with their project? $600M plus spent (not counting all the staff and consultant time of other agencies) and no trains yet, not even any track yet? Got to get me some of that, pardner….

    Bill Reply:

    They can pay for it through the newfound tax revenues from marijuana sales plus nobody will care because they’re too busy getting stoned and being outdoorsy.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    However, since its likely the Rapid Rail or “Emerging HSR”, the comparison would rather be how are those chaps in Illinois doing with their project.

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