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VIA Rail

Frank_Lee

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Yes, Brightline is very much a real estate development rail corridor but the primary question is .........who cares?

Already Brightline has passed Amtrac ridership along its corridor and the damn thing isn't even open to Orlando yet. The travelling public doesn't give a damn about it being built by developers. All they care about is having a fast, reliable, comfortable, and frequent rail service which Brightline certainly offers and Amtrac certainly doesn't.

The Brightline trains are much faster and new as opposed to the WW2 surplus tanks that Amtrac runs. The stations are new and exceptionally well maintained and pleasant as opposed to the glorified bus shelters Amtrac has to offer. Brightline also has a fleet of bike-shares, Uber vehicles, and its own micro-buses to get people to and from the station within a 5 mile radius............free of charge! Can you imagine in your wildest dreams Amtrac {or VIA} ever offering such a service?

People want a great transportation service and if they are offered one then they will happily take it and they couldn't care less who owns the land around it.
The point is that paying for passenger railroad infrastructure is a lot easier when the positive externalities on station area real estate values are internalized by the rail operator through things like station area developments.
 

Willybru21

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Before you start making elaborate analyses across multiple timetable periods, I have a spreadsheet which can do most of what would manually take hours in a matter of seconds. Are there any VIA routes or services of which you are particularly interested in their operational history?
I was actually just interested in the commuter trains from Kingston, did VIA have any other commuter trains besides that one?
 

roger1818

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Yes, Brightline is very much a real estate development rail corridor but the primary question is .........who cares?

Already Brightline has passed Amtrac ridership along its corridor and the damn thing isn't even open to Orlando yet. The travelling public doesn't give a damn about it being built by developers. All they care about is having a fast, reliable, comfortable, and frequent rail service which Brightline certainly offers and Amtrac certainly doesn't.

The Brightline trains are much faster and new as opposed to the WW2 surplus tanks that Amtrac runs. The stations are new and exceptionally well maintained and pleasant as opposed to the glorified bus shelters Amtrac has to offer. Brightline also has a fleet of bike-shares, Uber vehicles, and its own micro-buses to get people to and from the station within a 5 mile radius............free of charge! Can you imagine in your wildest dreams Amtrac {or VIA} ever offering such a service?

People want a great transportation service and if they are offered one then they will happily take it and they couldn't care less who owns the land around it.

First of all, with its current route, Brightline competes more with Tri-Rail, than it does with Amtrack. In 2019, Tri-Rail had 4.5 million riders. In the same time period, Brightline had 885 thousand riders.

Secondly, while Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) is willing to subsidize Brightline while they are making money on real-estate, once that revenue dries up, will they let it die?

Thirdly, bringing it back to Canada, what corridor is there here that a developer (like FECI) would be willing to subsidize a new rail service to boost their own real-estate development? They need an underutilized rail corridor in the urban area at a minimum. The proposed Calgary-Banff train might be under this model (not sure), but even that is far from being a done deal. IIRC, they only want to operate it for 30 years and then have the province take over operations, which certainly smells of developer wanting to build it to make money in the short term without the long-term responsibility.
 

LNahid2000

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First of all, with its current route, Brightline competes more with Tri-Rail, than it does with Amtrack. In 2019, Tri-Rail had 4.5 million riders. In the same time period, Brightline had 885 thousand riders.

Secondly, while Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) is willing to subsidize Brightline while they are making money on real-estate, once that revenue dries up, will they let it die?

Thirdly, bringing it back to Canada, what corridor is there here that a developer (like FECI) would be willing to subsidize a new rail service to boost their own real-estate development? They need an underutilized rail corridor in the urban area at a minimum. The proposed Calgary-Banff train might be under this model (not sure), but even that is far from being a done deal. IIRC, they only want to operate it for 30 years and then have the province take over operations, which certainly smells of developer wanting to build it to make money in the short term without the long-term responsibility.
Yep, no one is using Amtrak in this corridor in the first place because Miami Amtrak station is in the middle of nowhere.

Also, Brightline ridership was so low that they shut it down for almost 20 months during the pandemic.
 
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Frank_Lee

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First of all, with its current route, Brightline competes more with Tri-Rail, than it does with Amtrack. In 2019, Tri-Rail had 4.5 million riders. In the same time period, Brightline had 885 thousand riders.

Secondly, while Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) is willing to subsidize Brightline while they are making money on real-estate, once that revenue dries up, will they let it die?

Thirdly, bringing it back to Canada, what corridor is there here that a developer (like FECI) would be willing to subsidize a new rail service to boost their own real-estate development? They need an underutilized rail corridor in the urban area at a minimum. The proposed Calgary-Banff train might be under this model (not sure), but even that is far from being a done deal. IIRC, they only want to operate it for 30 years and then have the province take over operations, which certainly smells of developer wanting to build it to make money in the short term without the long-term responsibility.
The major cost is in initial infrastructure and that's where real estate makes the difference. Any seriously viable rail corridor should be able to cover maintenance and operations from passenger revenues.

At the same time, if passenger service stops, property values and rents will decline, so if rentals constitute part of the development, the landlord has an incentive to support its operations. Even if they don't actually take the train, we have vast evidence that people value the option to take the train.

One additional conclusion from this literature is that it's sometimes better to build excessively high quality infrastructure (e.g. street car tracks instead of bus lanes) because they make it harder for the transport operator to back out of its commitment. In this case, that might mean overhead wires for pantographs.
 

Urban Sky

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I was actually just interested in the commuter trains from Kingston, did VIA have any other commuter trains besides that one?
As long as dedicated night trains ran, there were morning arrivals into Toronto, but these were too early for most commuters. A real offer for 9-5 commuters was only introduced with train 651 in September 1996 (which was operated as the Montreal-Toronto Enterprise night train from 2000 to 2005), as this overview over the CN/VIA service patterns since 1960 shows:
1670263815161.png

Note: above table only shows services which stop at Kingston, Belleville, Cobourg and Toronto.
 

junctionist

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France is banning short-haul domestic flights for journeys that can be done in 2.5 hours or less by train. This sort of policy, combined with a tolled 401 (perhaps with exceptions for local trips to make it politically viable), would likely result in a successful implementation of high-speed rail in Canada. It would ideally have both city centre stations like Union and suburban stations in major cities that are more car-accessible.

You have to make rail as quick as driving and to cost a similar price for it to be successful in today's environment. I suspect, though, that only the federal Liberals would ever make high-speed a reality. The problem with them, though, is that Montreal's corporate elite, which includes Air Canada's executive management, is well connected with the party. Without their buy in, it's unlikely to ever happen.
 

drum118

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France is banning short-haul domestic flights for journeys that can be done in 2.5 hours or less by train. This sort of policy, combined with a tolled 401 (perhaps with exceptions for local trips to make it politically viable), would likely result in a successful implementation of high-speed rail in Canada. It would ideally have both city centre stations like Union and suburban stations in major cities that are more car-accessible.

You have to make rail as quick as driving and to cost a similar price for it to be successful in today's environment. I suspect, though, that only the federal Liberals would ever make high-speed a reality. The problem with them, though, is that Montreal's corporate elite, which includes Air Canada's executive management, is well connected with the party. Without their buy in, it's unlikely to ever happen.
A lot of Europe is moving to eliminate short haul 2-4 hours fights and replacing it with rail.

All intercity trains we rode this year ran hourly with up to 20 coaches on the train as 2 set trains or 3 set. You have various types of service from local to express in that hour window that service can be every 15 minutes and up to 30 extra minutes of travel time. This direct routes between X and Y. If you can't get a direct line at the time you want, you can go different routes that require you to transfer from one train to another that still can get you to X in the same amount of time as direct or up to 30 extra minutes. This happen to us twice and was a bit of a pain than waiting an extra day or 2 to get a train period.

Europe is investing in more HS lines as well more mainline tracks and saw a lot of this.

In Canada, we can't do this nor offer low fare like Europe nor the ability to catch a train at X to get you to your final stop.

To go from Toronto to Montreal or Ottawa by rail is not on my radar nor will it be as it doesn't meet my goal nor the timeframe. Then there is the cost. Having good transit at both ends is a must for any place if you want more people to use trains.

Rail speed is a must with most systems offering 200-350 km on HS lines, but a lot have to use lines that only offer 160 as they haven't been upgraded yet or the terrain calls for it. Some lines only get up to 140 that are not HS.

In NA, we will be lucky to see anything over 200 unless it on band new lines costing Billions of dollars as well hourly service.

With VIA moving to a new fleet is only the tip of the ice berg to have good rail service in Canada. The US is making greater changes than Canada by investing in Amtrak with a new fleet as well expanding service and reinstating service cut decades ago.
 

roger1818

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The major cost is in initial infrastructure and that's where real estate makes the difference. Any seriously viable rail corridor should be able to cover maintenance and operations from passenger revenues.

While it is true that the initial infrastructure is a very significant cost and a real estate deal can help pay for that, very few corridors in the world can cover the ongoing variable, semi-variable and fixed costs in the long term. Maybe while everything is new and there are few maintenance costs (though demand likely won't have ramped up), but as the system is older, the costs will rise. Eventually the fleet will need to be replaced, and by then the there will no longer be any real estate development to fund this.

At the same time, if passenger service stops, property values and rents will decline, so if rentals constitute part of the development, the landlord has an incentive to support its operations. Even if they don't actually take the train, we have vast evidence that people value the option to take the train.

Getting all property owners on board (no pun intended) to fund a private railway (regardless of any potential effect on property values or rent), especially when you consider that they aren't the only ones benefiting from the service would be a challenge. By then, the original investor will almost certainly have divested themselves of all assets to cash out on their investment to maximize their returns.

One additional conclusion from this literature is that it's sometimes better to build excessively high quality infrastructure (e.g. street car tracks instead of bus lanes) because they make it harder for the transport operator to back out of its commitment. In this case, that might mean overhead wires for pantographs.

This literature? I'm not sure I would call forum posts literature.

I do tend to agree that infrastructure investments are often short sighted and take a pennywise, pound foolish approach. This is true in both private industry (where executives are more concerned about the quarter's balance sheet than the long term benefits) and public investments (where politicians are only concerned about the next election, and paying back their supporters). Cynical I know, but it is true more often than not.
 

robmausser

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"The rail project would be built along a new transportation corridor 1,000 kilometres in length, linking Windsor, London, Toronto and Ottawa in Ontario and Montreal, Trois-Rivieres and Quebec City in Quebec."

First im hearing HFR involving Windsor and London... is there a misunderstanding here or do they know something I don't
 

Frank_Lee

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While it is true that the initial infrastructure is a very significant cost and a real estate deal can help pay for that, very few corridors in the world can cover the ongoing variable, semi-variable and fixed costs in the long term. Maybe while everything is new and there are few maintenance costs (though demand likely won't have ramped up), but as the system is older, the costs will rise. Eventually the fleet will need to be replaced, and by then the there will no longer be any real estate development to fund this.



Getting all property owners on board (no pun intended) to fund a private railway (regardless of any potential effect on property values or rent), especially when you consider that they aren't the only ones benefiting from the service would be a challenge. By then, the original investor will almost certainly have divested themselves of all assets to cash out on their investment to maximize their returns.



This literature? I'm not sure I would call forum posts literature.

I do tend to agree that infrastructure investments are often short sighted and take a pennywise, pound foolish approach. This is true in both private industry (where executives are more concerned about the quarter's balance sheet than the long term benefits) and public investments (where politicians are only concerned about the next election, and paying back their supporters). Cynical I know, but it is true more often than not.
Sorry academic-speak: the hold up problem (and closely related incomplete contract problems) are a big topic in economics research. If one party can't count on the other reneging on an agreement ex post in some way, or extract appropriate damages, collectively valuable investment projects won't take place. One solution is to make "specific" investments, which essentially means investments that aren't transferable to other uses. I can't easily move streetcar tracks after the fact, but I can easily reroute buses.
 

crs1026

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"The rail project would be built along a new transportation corridor 1,000 kilometres in length, linking Windsor, London, Toronto and Ottawa in Ontario and Montreal, Trois-Rivieres and Quebec City in Quebec."

First im hearing HFR involving Windsor and London... is there a misunderstanding here or do they know something I don't

The Minister recently added a study for HFR west of Toronto. It only just started so we don’t know any specifics.

So yes, the study-but-do-nothing zone now extends from Quebec City to Windsor.

- Paul
 

rbt

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"The rail project would be built along a new transportation corridor 1,000 kilometres in length, linking Windsor, London, Toronto and Ottawa in Ontario and Montreal, Trois-Rivieres and Quebec City in Quebec."

First im hearing HFR involving Windsor and London... is there a misunderstanding here or do they know something I don't

Makes sense. Even if they make zero track changes between Toronto and Windsor, there's still a large benefit to a combined maintenance, timetable, and operations. So that portion might be part of the package, but not necessarily high speed or more frequent.

Having separate groups operating trains in the corridor meeting at Union would be challenging and eliminate any through-runs that occurs today.
 

crs1026

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Makes sense. Even if they make zero track changes between Toronto and Windsor, there's still a large benefit to a combined maintenance, timetable, and operations. So that portion might be part of the package, but not necessarily high speed or more frequent.

Having separate groups operating trains in the corridor meeting at Union would be challenging and eliminate any through-runs that occurs today.

And the HFR proponent already was to be responsible for “local” services east of Toronto.

Clearly, a single fleet with a single maintenance, ticketing, and marketing arm and an integrated operating plan is the most efficient model.

- Paul
 

rbt

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And the HFR proponent already was to be responsible for “local” services east of Toronto.

I wasn't aware that had already been decided, but makes this assumption consistent.

Deutsche Bahn, Alstom, Aecon seem the obvious winners for this contract. If they can manage the head-count, then there are non-trivial savings and coordination simplifications to operating both VIA's Corridor and GO Transit.
 

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