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Train From Houston To Galveston?

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There isn't much to talk about yet, but there is a proposal to be released Thursday which will detail a plan to build a passenger train line from Houston to Galveston.

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What are your thoughts?

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I'm actually quite excited about this. I'm just curious exactly how it will work out. The thing I'm apprehensive about is how will this affect the freight traffic coming out of ship channel.

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Yes! Then people can have all they want to drink at Mardi Gras and not have to worry about driving back. Just take the train back to Houston and get a cab or have someone pick you up. Ah, the possibilities...

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This isn't really news, is it?

Not really, but damn it'd be great, eh? MARDI GRAS!!!!!!! (Sigh) perhaps I should remember that I'm not living at UH anymore. Still though...

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We'd be singin this all the way there:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=U9vZ_akgmXU

Yeah, it'd be awesome. It would be nice to save some money on gas by parking downtownish and head there on a lazy Saturday afternoon on the train.

Edited by lockmat

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I wonder where it would drop you off in G-Town... walking distance of a beach?

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Why not bring the RR Museum back to life? This was the original terminal. If you have not been it's pretty neat. They have the Houston Post covering the last train trip between Galveston in Houston. I think it was 1961.

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Is this the same project reported on in January?

I remember the Texas Limited venture in '89-'94, which is mentioned in the Chron article. They seemed to try various scheduling/pricing combinations over the course of the time they operated - but my recollection was that it was priced too high (and thus marketed for special occasions), and that the ride took longer than you would think it would. The railroad museum website says "track speed restrictions and liability insurance costs ended operations."

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Is this the same project reported on in January?

I remember the Texas Limited venture in '89-'94, which is mentioned in the Chron article. They seemed to try various scheduling/pricing combinations over the course of the time they operated - but my recollection was that it was priced too high (and thus marketed for special occasions), and that the ride took longer than you would think it would. The railroad museum website says "track speed restrictions and liability insurance costs ended operations."

They mention that the tracks will be updated to allow for higher speeds. Also, this will not be a private business, so it does not need to make a profit. They can justify the cost in other ways : less road maintenance/expansion, less pollution, increased tax revenue from station locations, ...

Hopefully Metro and the other regions can work together on a common payment system. So I can use my Qcard to get on the 290 Commuter train, then swipe it on the Galveston train, and then use it on the trolley/bus when I get to Galveston.

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They mention that the tracks will be updated to allow for higher speeds. Also, this will not be a private business, so it does not need to make a profit. They can justify the cost in other ways : less road maintenance/expansion, less pollution, increased tax revenue from station locations, ...

Hopefully Metro and the other regions can work together on a common payment system. So I can use my Qcard to get on the 290 Commuter train, then swipe it on the Galveston train, and then use it on the trolley/bus when I get to Galveston.

Unfortunately, those justifications for rail aren't as supportive as you might think. The tracks may allow for higher speeds, but if they put in many stops at all, then acceleration/deceleration and waiting at stations negates the time savings And it looks like they'll have to put in Clear Lake and Dickinson stations (at least) if they want ridership that is even remotely acceptable.

Road maintenance is only based in part on traffic volume, and then passenger vehicles aren't nearly as destructive to roadbeds as is truck traffic and time. Commuter rail also only makes vehicle trips shorter and does nearly nothing to eliminate their number, so local streets are still impacted just as much. In fact, streets around the stations may now require greater maintenance and expansion than would otherwise be the case to accomodate rerouted traffic patterns.

If the train is powered by a diesel engine, then there's still pollution with local impacts. And don't forget that the pollution emitted in the name of transit has to be thought of not only in terms of operation, but also for construction of the systems and vehicles. And as I stated earlier, people in cars still have to get to the rail station, so there's still output.

Increased tax revenues are hard to justify if you consider that people moving to new multifamily housing around the stations would likely have just moved to multifamily housing not around the stations if the stations weren't there. It changes the location of the tax base, and may have some slight effect on the value, but for the most part, it really isn't very supportive.

I'm not saying that these items won't produce public benefit, just that it's much smaller than most people expect because they are looking for total benefits associated with commuter rail rather than marginal benefit as compared with a no-build or other scenario. I look forward to completely and totally debunking this group's study.

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Road maintenance is only based in part on traffic volume, and then passenger vehicles aren't nearly as destructive to roadbeds as is truck traffic and time.

To back you up on this point, in pavement design, passenger car traffic is either ignored or has a minuscule input. Truck traffic governs pavement design.

On a slab of pavement designed to handle thousands of trucks a day for twenty years or more, passengers cars are like love bugs on a windshield.

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Unfortunately, those justifications for rail aren't as supportive as you might think. ...

I guess you are right. We should just "Katy Freeway" the rest of the highways into town.

My point was that the recent rail line was a private company and that as a commuter line it can succeed even if it does not make a profit. I think the biggest negative would be that it would encourage more people to move to an area that is vulnerable to Hurricanes.

And don't forget that the pollution emitted in the name of transit has to be thought of not only in terms of operation, but also for construction of the systems and vehicles.

If the trains are made in Germany then they get that pollution :unsure:

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If the trains are made in Germany then they get that pollution :unsure:

But if you have drunk the global warming koolaid, that shouldn't matter. ;)

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It is highly unlikely that replacing a single railroad track, and even adding a double track, even remotely approaches the energy consumed and pollution produced by ripping up an 8 lane freeway and attendant frontage roads, moving dirt around, and repaving an 18 to 22 lane freeway, such as is being done to the Katy Freeway. This is in addition to the pollution savings suggested in the study by train use over vehicle use by the passengers.

As for economic benefit, I do not think that these projects should even be touting those. It is likely true that houses built near stations are merely replacements for houses that would have been built elsewhere. This reduces congestion...a good thing...but economically, it is a wash. And, transit projects are about increasing transportation options, not economic growth.

As for diesel engines producing pollution, so what? Everyone knows that. The study shows a projected REDUCTION in pollutants, not an elimination of them. The fact that this proposal does not eliminate ALL pollution does not negate its value.

Trip times are important, but the convenience may overcome the possibility of a slower trip. The TRE in DFW gives us a rough comparison. The trip between downtown Fort Worth and downtown Dallas is 34 miles. There are 6 intermediate stops, or one every 6 miles. The trip takes 61 minutes. This includes a 5 to 7 minute wait on a side track in the middle of the trip, as most of the route is single tracked. The average speed is 34 mph with the wait, 38 mph if the route were double tracked.

The Houston-Galveston route would be about 49 miles. At 34 mph, this would be a 90 minute trip. At 38 mph, the trip time is 1 hour 18 minutes. If the train made 6 stops, the stations would be spaced at 8 miles apart, allowing for higher speeds between stops. This could reduce the trip time to 1 hour 15 minutes, or possibly less. Given the current rush hour drive time of well over an hour, coupled with the lower stress of riding the train, the trip time could be considered very acceptable.

I sold some lots I owned in Galveston 3 years ago, specifically because there was no transit of any kind to downtown. There was no way I would drive that commute each day. If the train was an option, I would definitely reconsider that option.

Edited by RedScare

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I guess you are right. We should just "Katy Freeway" the rest of the highways into town.

My point was that the recent rail line was a private company and that as a commuter line it can succeed even if it does not make a profit.

I didn't say anything about the Katy Freeway; that's a topic for another thread. I'm only talking about the pitfalls of the cost/benefit analysis as it pertains to this route.

Which recent rail line was a private company?

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Hopefully Metro and the other regions can work together on a common payment system. So I can use my Qcard to get on the 290 Commuter train, then swipe it on the Galveston train, and then use it on the trolley/bus when I get to Galveston.

Excellent idea. Perhaps the Woodlands Express could also be integrated into the system as well.

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Red, I think that we just concluded in essence the same thing, spun differently.

Sorry if I sounded like I was disagreeing with you. I was adding to your statements.

Perhaps the Woodlands Express could also be integrated into the system as well.

Given that the various toll road authorities have figured out how to make the EZ Tag work at various disparate toll roads around the state, there is no technological reason why the Q Card could not do the same for regional mass transit. In fact, I would be surprised if this is NOT already being studied.

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Which recent rail line was a private company?

I was replying to post #13, talking about the Texas Limited. I thought that was a private company (I could be wrong).

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Commuter rail also only makes vehicle trips shorter and does nearly nothing to eliminate their number, so local streets are still impacted just as much. In fact, streets around the stations may now require greater maintenance and expansion than would otherwise be the case to accomodate rerouted traffic patterns.

Commuter rail would terminate within easy walking distance of public transportation in Houston, and would spur other termini to follow suit. The automobile does not need to be factored into every equation.

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Trip times are important, but the convenience may overcome the possibility of a slower trip.

This is a point that a lot of people miss. I commute from Cypress to Uptown. Sometimes riding the bus may actually take longer than driving because I have to transfer (if they added diamond lanes on 290 it would not). But the fact that I can do work on the way ( or relax ) is the real reason I take transit. Now if you add WiFi access to the train, then that hour and 15 minutes becomes very productive.

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Commuter rail would terminate within easy walking distance of public transportation in Houston, and would spur other termini to follow suit. The automobile does not need to be factored into every equation.

Commuter rail is about suburb-to-city or inter-city transit. Not intra-city; that's what LRT is for.

Only a tiny percentage of commuter rail riders will be able to walk from home to a station; suburbs aren't bus-friendly enough to get people from their homes to the station; the vast majority will drive there. And if they're going to drive there, additional automobile-oriented infrastructure has to be built around those stations to handle them.

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Surprised nobody has commented on the fact that the Chron article claims that the commuter rail will be done by 2030!!!!

Why does this seem ludicrous? Even swapping out the track cannot take that long. Maybe I'm just impatient, but I will have lost interest by then.

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Surprised nobody has commented on the fact that the Chron article claims that the commuter rail will be done by 2030!!!!

Why does this seem ludicrous? Even swapping out the track cannot take that long. Maybe I'm just impatient, but I will have lost interest by then.

I agree, the article was very poorly written and probably contained factual errors. What's new? :closedeyes:

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I agree, the article was very poorly written and probably contained factual errors. What's new? :closedeyes:

I agree because It did state that the first operations would begin in 2012, so 18 years to get it running in Houston is a little far fetched IMO.

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I have a question. I hope that you guys (and/or gals) will forgive my obvious ignornace towards mass transit planning and just humor me for a moment. Why cant they just go ahead and build the system all at once and just get it over with. The longer they wait the more Houston will fall behind the curve in it's mass transit options...especially with the regions expected population growth in the coming years. Also, wouldn't it be cheaper to do it now while it will cost 1 billion (just a random number I picked for all phases to be done now) instead of waiting a few years and it costing 1.8 billion by then?

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Also, wouldn't it be cheaper to do it now while it will cost 1 billion (just a random number I picked for all phases to be done now) instead of waiting a few years and it costing 1.8 billion by then?

The same reason why your boss or some people you deal with on authority hem and haw on various plans. They don't want to make a decision they believe MIGHT be wrong.

I hope they do this, but i hope it's done RIGHT. The Galveston/Houston corridor is heavily used as it is with freight traffic, I hope they find some way to do it properly and I'm curious what the exact plan is.

With the variety of stops that are planned, I hope they buy cars with capacities that are appropriate for the projected numbers, and I have a feeling "commuter" cars won't exactly cut it if it's totally packed.

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I have a question. I hope that you guys (and/or gals) will forgive my obvious ignornace towards mass transit planning and just humor me for a moment. Why cant they just go ahead and build the system all at once and just get it over with. The longer they wait the more Houston will fall behind the curve in it's mass transit options...especially with the regions expected population growth in the coming years. Also, wouldn't it be cheaper to do it now while it will cost 1 billion (just a random number I picked for all phases to be done now) instead of waiting a few years and it costing 1.8 billion by then?

The most important reason is that federal funding won't take place all at once because we've got to compete each year with other cities for what limited amounts are budgeted by congress, and congress is on the whole interested in equitable distribution of funds back to their constituencies.

Another reason is that if you're expecting a region to grow steadily over the course of several decades, it is better to grow your infrastructure to match population growth, rather than expend resources all at once up front. This is supporting a concept of the time value of money. On a related note, the reason that cost increases over time usually don't matter is that they are inflationary. In the long term, inflation has zero economic impact.

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The fact we had a Galveston-Houston rail 100 years ago but not now just shows how the attitude of this country has shifted towards greed over time.

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The fact we had a Galveston-Houston rail 100 years ago but not now just shows how the attitude of this country has shifted towards greed over time.

 

Greed = capitalism and true capitalism is the most efficient way to increase overall prosperity. Since we no longer have true capitalism but crony capitalism, things have become distorted.

 

I think I'm missing your point as to how having a railroad 100 years ago to Galveston that is no longer in service has to do with greed. 

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Greed = capitalism and true capitalism is the most efficient way to increase overall prosperity. Since we no longer have true capitalism but crony capitalism, things have become distorted.

 

I think I'm missing your point as to how having a railroad 100 years ago to Galveston that is no longer in service has to do with greed. 

 

I don't think there is a point, other than his desire for rail transit causes him to say anything that comes to mind.

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The fact we had a Galveston-Houston rail 100 years ago but not now just shows how the attitude of this country has shifted towards greed over time.

Or it could have something to do with the decreasing economic importance of Galveston since that time?

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The line did hold it's own for a while but when faced with gov't competition in the form of roads and then airports, it never stood a chance to compete in the long run.

Edited by infinite_jim

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The line did hold it's own for a while but when faced with gov't competition in the form of roads and then airports, it never stood a chance to compete in the long run.

Not sure what impact government support of airports would have on a Houston - Galveston line and the line went out of business well before the start of the interstate highway system. I like railroads and have used the trains in Europe, but let's not glamorize what they are. Railroads are historically (and I would say inherently) monopolistic. Individual routes were almost exclusively controlled by a single company and created huge amounts of wealth in the hands of select individuals. When faced with competition, what occurred was what generally happens when a monopoly has to face competition.

The Galveston-Houston line went out of business in 1936, because it was a poorly run business that took on too much debt and wasn't able to adjust to the introduction of competition. A better run business could have survived.

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So, you could say that the demise of the Houston-Galveston railroad was due to greed. Interesting. I didn't think greed existed anywhere but in automobile factories and concrete plants.

Edited by RedScare
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What rail line were they planning to use?  In my five years of riding the 50 - Harrisburg to work I've only seen two trains on the Galveston Rd. track.  I seriously thought the line was abandoned.  Then one day I saw a crew working on it and the next day the first train I ever saw ran on the track.  

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What rail line were they planning to use?  In my five years of riding the 50 - Harrisburg to work I've only seen two trains on the Galveston Rd. track.  I seriously thought the line was abandoned.  Then one day I saw a crew working on it and the next day the first train I ever saw ran on the track.  

 

I've seen trains run on that track occasionally.  Not sure of what track they would have used though.  I recall a funky proposition to link them to the intermodal center north of downtown. 

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Not sure what impact government support of airports would have on a Houston - Galveston line and the line went out of business well before the start of the interstate highway system. I like railroads and have used the trains in Europe, but let's not glamorize what they are. Railroads are historically (and I would say inherently) monopolistic. Individual routes were almost exclusively controlled by a single company and created huge amounts of wealth in the hands of select individuals. When faced with competition, what occurred was what generally happens when a monopoly has to face competition.

The Galveston-Houston line went out of business in 1936, because it was a poorly run business that took on too much debt and wasn't able to adjust to the introduction of competition. A better run business could have survived.

 

However, the railroad would have surely failed when compared with the gulf freeway.

 

according to Google Maps, it takes just over 50 minutes to get from the front of Minute Maid park to Broadway at the seawall.

 

according to wikipedia, the railway took 75 minutes. if someone had a car, why would they want to drive downtown, find a parking spot, hop the train and be forced to come back on the train's schedule?

 

They'd just hop in their car and drive from wherever their driveway is at their house to Galveston. 

 

And translated to today? just doing the maths, no one would want to take the rail. 100 mile round trip (from MMP to Broadway/Seawall) if you get 20mpg, that's $20 for you and every passenger. I'd be shocked if a round trip rail ticket to/from would be less than $10-15/person. plus you have to hunt for free parking, or pay at least $5 to park downtown. Yeah, that doesn't make sense, if it were still here today. No one would take it, there would be niche market, I'm sure, but realistically? No way it could be done.

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However, the railroad would have surely failed when compared with the gulf freeway.

 

according to Google Maps, it takes just over 50 minutes to get from the front of Minute Maid park to Broadway at the seawall.

 

according to wikipedia, the railway took 75 minutes. if someone had a car, why would they want to drive downtown, find a parking spot, hop the train and be forced to come back on the train's schedule?

 

They'd just hop in their car and drive from wherever their driveway is at their house to Galveston. 

Totally agree with you. The fact that it couldn't survive to that point (the railroad went out of business more than 20 years before the Gulf Freeway was built) is very telling.

I do find it very amusing though that certain comments, on this and other threads, seem to imply that the government funding of the Gulf Freeway was bad. Is there really anyone out there that feels that the government shouldn't have funded the Interstate Highway System?

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Totally agree with you. The fact that it couldn't survive to that point (the railroad went out of business more than 20 years before the Gulf Freeway was built) is very telling.

I do find it very amusing though that certain comments, on this and other threads, seem to imply that the government funding of the Gulf Freeway was bad. Is there really anyone out there that feels that the government shouldn't have funded the Interstate Highway System?

 

Apparently there is one poster that thinks so. I wonder sometimes if he expects to be taken seriously.

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Here's my slightly different proposal for this line. Title:THE SOLUTION

 

I think this train should ride the existing heavy rail tracks as to get service as soon as possible and it will probably have delays like Amtrack in the Midwest. FYI The Canadian Railway treats Amtrak like a a read headed step child. This will take money but can be done, the estimates from Metro and the articles lay out a 10 year plan.. With a little money provided by a new cruise ship tax? Pay UP or whatever railroad and get permission to use the tracks and give them the ultimate right-of-way. I think this could be done in 4-5 years with the construction of side tracks to get out of the way.

 

All that being said I think weekend service and possibly once or twice daily service could catch on, be a benefit for both cities and maybe even make a little money.

 

The money to fund this would need to be slit between Houston/Galveston and any other cities that get a stop if not lets fly by them. This needs to be operated by a separate and possibly stand-alone operation i.e. Metra in Chicago ( which is not CTA or Amtrak) and can from time to time be reliable/ make a small profit.

 

Here's the idea...

 

Leave downtown - arrive close the seawall not at some transit center many miles away. The right branding and commercials all over town showing probably Padre or some other nice beach and reasonable fares, side by side with 45 jam packed with traffic where it backs up on the small hill close to Hobby. BAMMMM a profitable and niche service that I as a Midtown resident would use on the 2-3 times per summer I go to Galveston. No need for a DD and no need to sit on Hobby wasting away while everyone in the car wonders why did traffic stop short of the belt-way for no reason whatsoever.

 

Everyone must agree I am a genius!

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Pay UP or whatever railroad and get permission to use the tracks and give them the ultimate right-of-way.

The existing freight line has maximum authorized speeds of 20-35 mph according to TXDoT, completely ineffective for passenger transit, not to mention that you are asking UP to prioritize passenger rail over their core business. Freight rail is far more important than passenger rail in the United States and should be prioritized accordingly.

More than 100 million tons of freight is moved by rail through the Houston area annually. I don't understand the value of pushing some of that traffic back to trucks and the highways to provide passenger service.

http://www.dot.state.tx.us/project_information/projects/houston/railway/galvestonup.htm

http://www.gcfrd.org/docs/Freight%20Rail%20in%20the%20Houston%20Region%20Study.pdf

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