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  #581  
Old Posted Sep 19, 2017, 6:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Nexis4Jersey View Post
Do you think the UTA will order some Stadlers for the Front Runner?
The could, and not necessarily EMUs. Stadler also makes DMUs which could run on Front Runner tracks with little problems. The DMUs could slot in between rush hours and late evenings, when UTA could run the smaller capacity cars/trains more economically. UTA does have plenty of large locomotives, Comets, and Bombardier BiLevels cars on hand, so I don't think they will.
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  #582  
Old Posted Sep 19, 2017, 7:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Nexis4Jersey View Post
Oh wow, never thought they consider electrification... What about an Expansion via a New Tunnel to Logan?
Electrification is definitely in the long-term plans. This planing PDF mentions it several times, and even goes so far as to say that it would cost $12 million per track mile to construct. Strangely, the cost of adding a second track is estimated to cost $10 million per mile. I don't know how electric canary can be more expensive than building a second track, but that's what they're working with.

FrontRunner is really at a crossroads at this point. The trains at rush-hour are at capacity - I often have a difficult time finding any standing room. It is currently the 10th (or thereabouts) busiest commuter rail line in the country, with just over 17k daily boardings. They need capacity.
The easiest thing would be to add more cars onto the trains, but 1) they don't have enough cars and 2)the platforms are not currently long enough to handle longer trains (All the tracks and sidings are long enough to handle 10-car trains, only the platforms are too short). The other way to increase the capacity would be to increase the frequency, which UTA cannot do either since they run a single-track system and don't have enough trains sets to run 15-minute frequencies.
So pretty soon some serious choices need to be made: Do they go the short-term route and buy more coaches and lengthen platforms without increasing frequency, or do they build the second track, electrify the line, and run short but more frequent trains? Compounding their decisions is the increasing population growth of every city along the line, which suggests that capacity is going to be a much larger problem in the immediate future.
Every indication I've been hearing from people 'in-the'know' is that within the next 5-10 years state and federal money will become available to 'upgrade' FrontRunner, and everyone seems to be leaning in favor of the double-track/electrification/EMU route. Due to politics, these people feel it would be unwise to make incremental upgrades to FrontRunner now, so that people will be more in favor of a large overhaul later. So we'll see.


As for Logan, they have a different transit agency and so it will be harder to get rail service to Logan. A tunnel will probably never be considered; rather, a shared alignment with State Road 30 is much more feasible, as shown in this google map. State Route 30, by the way, follows the old Right-of-Way of the old Utah-Idaho Central interurban railway, which ran from Ogden, to Preston, Idaho; Google Map. I wouldn't expect any serious talk of an extension that far anytime soon though. UTA has cooled on its talk about extending FrontRunner or any of its service areas, and is instead working on improving the operations and user experiences (hence the FrontRunner upgrade in the works). In any case, expect for there to be a bus route first, like the Salt Lake City/Park City Connect bus, which is similar to what will need to be done with Logan since Park City also has its own transit agency that would need to coordinate with UTA and state planners.

Exciting stuff to think about.
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  #583  
Old Posted Sep 19, 2017, 8:35 PM
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Interesting Table from the UTA Frontrunner Improvement link....
Table 8: Commuter Rail Improvement Tests 2040 Daily Boardings
Baseline (January 2013 conditions) 19,800
Headway Test (frequency doubled over January 2013 conditions) 33,000 (+67%)
Speed Test (5% improvements over January 2013 conditions) 20,700 (+4%)
Combined Test (headway and speed improvements) 34,100 (+71%)
It's obvious increasing the number of trains running scored better than running faster trains. You can do that by double tracking more if the corridor without having to double track the entire corridor by strategically placing the double tracks and maintaining a rigid schedule. Electrification isn't needed to do that. Electrification requires doing so to every inch of track in the corridor, and at $12 million / mile over 88 miles it would cost $1.056 bllion to do, and that's before purchasing new electric powered locomotives.
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  #584  
Old Posted Sep 20, 2017, 3:36 PM
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Yes, double-tracking is the key to an increased frequency, and this doesn't require electrifying the line at all. But from a cost-saving perspective, electrifying the line makes economical sense.

The Reason & Rail blog a while back did a calculation for what it would take to electrify the Surfliner corridor between LA and San Diego. This corridor uses diesel locomotives pushing/pulling bilevel cars, just like the FrontRunner does, so I feel the comparison is valid. In the post, he calculated the fuel and maintenance costs of the Surfliner line and compared that to hypothetical construction, energy, and maintenance costs for an electrified Surfliner line. He concluded that it would take between 22-29 bidirection frequencies to for a commuter line to break even.

At this very moment in time, FrontRunner has about 27 bidirectional frequencies, as measured using departures from the Provo station on this schedule. This means that UTA is very close to the 'break-even' point; if they were to get a loan from, say, the FRA and use the money to pay for electrifying the line and buying new equipment, they would be able to pay the FRA back eventually just by using the money saved in operations and maintenance. Essentially UTA would keep budgeting the same amount of money it does now for the diesel locomotives, but would split that budget between the lower cost for the EMU operations and the loan payback.

(Sidenote: This is how Amtrak paid for the new ACS-64 locomotives. They got a $560 million dollar loan from the FRA, and are paying it back using the energy savings from the new locomotives to pay back the loan. The old electric locomotives apparently didn't even have regenerative braking, which saves quite a bit of energy and maintenance costs. So if Amtrak can pull this off with energy savings between electric locomotives, I think it will be extremely likely UTA can also do it by switching between diesel locomotives and EMU's.)

Now, if UTA decides to double-track the route and double the frequencies - which what prospective riders really want - that means UTA would be running approximately 54 bi-directional trips per day, or roughly double the 'break even' point for economical electrification. At that point it would be an absolute no-brainer. So when UTA does decide to double-track the line and double their fleet size, it would be extremely foolish for them to buy more diesel units and coaches. Instead, they ought to completely swap out their fleet with electric units from the start, and save themselves the trouble.

So from my point of view, the only reason UTA isn't electrifying already is that they may need to shift the existing track around a bit in order to accommodate a second track. It makes sense to wait and electrify a line only when you're absolutely sure you know your tracks won't need to be adjusted. It also makes sense to do two upgrades at once and reduce the amount of delays to customers during construction.

I will be extremely disappointing and perplexed if UTA decides not to electrify the FrontRunner when the next round of improvements comes. It makes too much sense economically not to do it, and then there are the other factors as well, such as air quality, speed/acceleration improvements, passenger comforts, noise disturbance to local communities, etc. As I said before, it really is a no-brainer.
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  #585  
Old Posted Sep 20, 2017, 6:27 PM
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It’s only a no brainer if they can raise the $Billion to fund it. How many years will it take to repay that $Billion? Will the USDOT choose to fund this much money for this electrification project over other new construction projects across the country? Adding two, three, or four additional passing sidings to double the frequency of these trains isn’t going to cost a tenth as much.
I’ll agree that higher frequency trains make electrification more economically feasible. But you still have to raise the money upfront in a competitive political process. Good luck!
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