Get from Melbourne to Sydney overland in one hour? Hyperloop pipedreamers to pitch to senate

Liam Mannix at The Melbourne Age reports: Get from Melbourne to Sydney overland in one hour? Hyperloop pipedreamers to pitch to senate.

My quote:

So… Does it work?

“No – I want to be very clear on that. They’ve never moved a single person a single metre on a hyperloop,” says University of Sydney transport expert Professor David Levinson.

He compared HyperloopTT’s plans to the Wright brothers trying to convince governments across the world to build airports – before they had invented a plane.

An artist's impression of what a hyperloop station could look like.
An artist’s impression of what a hyperloop station could look like. CREDIT:HYPERLOOP TRANSPORTATION TECHNOLOGIES

Inner Sydney Transit Grid – Fantasy Map

While we are doing fantasy transit maps, here is my indicative sketch of an Inner Sydney Transit Grid (i.e. these are new high-frequency transit lines, likely some mix of tram/LRT or arterial Bus Rapid Transit with mostly dedicated lanes, assuming the already existing Sydney Trains and planned LRT and Metro [Red] lines remain, plus something on Parramatta Road [Green]). These are, of course, doodles, I haven’t done any modeling of them yet, and they would certainly replace existing bus routes in places.

The problem I am trying to solve is that the network is too radial in orientation, and even simple lateral movements are difficult on public transport. A clearly defined, not circuitous, high-frequency system that serves Sydney outside the CBD (without having to transfer in the CBD) seems useful. The lines are designed to connect existing and planned stations conveniently, so the routes are run on-street from station to station.

Inner Sydney Grid
Inner Sydney Grid


The concept is to provide ring routes to complement the existing and under construction radial train lines

Starting along the Pacific there are 6 major lines (Ocean to River):

  • Bondi – Fish Market (via Paddington ) [Pine Green]
  • Bronte – Glebe (via Moore Park) [Pink]
  • Coogee – White Bay (via UNSW, University of Sydney) [Purple] [The Busful of Knowledge]
  • Maroubra – Balmain (via the Canal Zone) [Orange]
  • Little Bay – Drummoyne / Abbotsford (via the Airport* and Ashfield) [Brown]
  • Brighton Le-Sands – Mortlake (via Campsie and Burwood) [Silver]

There is also an interior branching route

  • Annandale – Alexandria [Avocado Green, Maroon]

There are some “new” thin radial lines shown, which track old tram lines, in particular around the University of Sydney and Newtown. And there are some new shuttle lines in Technology Park (and presumably on the Darlington side as well) (running along the rail lines) to better connect workers to the nearby stations, which are actually relatively far away given the large numbers of workers.

With most of these there is challenge finding right-of-way. I would take it from existing streets (these lines are mostly at-grade) so transit has priority. This assumes that transit service would carry more people than a laneful of cars, which likely will hold if the transit is designed to be effective. This is easier to do where there is on-street parking, harder where there is not.

* The Brown Line as shown, this assumes a rail line sharing tracks with existing rail service in airport tunnel. I am not certain the technical feasibility of this, otherwise it circumnavigates the airport somehow.



Rethinking the Minneapolis Transit Hub

Transit planners for the Minneapolis – St. Paul region are designing a hub and spoke rail system centered on Minneapolis. Primarily LRT based, the Blue Line (Hiawatha) is complete, the Green Line (Central Corridor) is largely complete. The Green Line extension (SWLRT) is having trouble, and the Blue Line extension (Bottineau) is a few years away.


This plan creates a strong east-west axis through downtown on LRT, and a lesser North-South bus axis on the Marquette/2nd (Marq-2) corridor. Nicollet, Hennepin, and other streets also have bus service.

The city is proposing a streetcar line from Central in NE down Nicollet to Lake Street. There are also other streetcar lines proposed subsequently (down Hennepin, in the Midtown Greenway, among others).

Mick Hicks in a recent Streets.MN post argued in favor of looking at higher-capacity (grade-separated) transit lines, in particular within the City of Minneapolis, and pointed out the LRT extensions are essentially commuter rail.

Can Minneapolis support higher-density transit lines, and if so where?

In the map above (link), I create a fantasy transit map of where I think the primary corridors to consider better transit serving the Minneapolis hub. I have not done a demand forecast or B/C analysis, but these I posit are likely to emerge as dominant corridors. Under certain overall transit demand patterns due e.g. to more expensive automobile travel because of higher gas prices, congestion pricing, high parking costs, lower incomes, etc. they might even be financially sustainable.

  1. On the map, the Blue line extension remains essentially unchanged, but everything else moves some. While I think Broadway in North is a better corridor for demand, it would also be much costlier to construct (unless someone was willing to get cars off Broadway, as has been done in Manhattan’s imitation Broadway).
  2. The Green Line extension follows the Blue Line extension down Olson Highway (55). This saves the Morass of the Kenilworth Corridor, lowers total distance needed to be constructed, and creates double-frequency service on Mn 55. I don’t think this is as good a corridor for Minneapolis or overall ridership as the next two lines, though.
  3. A new “Purple line” is created from Rosedale to Southdale, through the University of Minnesota St. Paul, along the under-used UMN transit-way, into the Dinkytown Trench, down (and perhaps under) Nicollet in a Seattle-like bus tunnel, down the Midtown Greenway, to Excelsior, France Avenue, past 50th and France, through Southdale, and then past I494 for a giant Park and Ride lot at its terminus. I envision this as a Busway on exclusive right-of-way, with electrically powered buses for the both the Midtown Greenway and the Nicollet Avenue corridor. Running under Nicollet is controversial, and expensive, but if any place in the Twin Cities requires a subway (besides the airport), it is Nicollet, with its line of skyscrapers feeding demand. Running buses in the trench is also controversial, but as I note elsewhere, electric buses can be just as nice as Streetcars, and far more flexible with routing. 
  4. A new “Pink line” running from Fridley to Saint Paul shares the Nicollet  “Bus Tunnel”. This follows the Minneapolis Streetcar starter line, running from Central Avenue in Fridley, just north of I-694 (again a giant park and ride lot), through Hilltop, Columbia Heights, East Hennepin, into the Bus Tunnel, emerging at the Midtown Greenway running east, crossing Hiawatha, into St. Paul along the railway tracks and Ayd Mill Road, to Grand Avenue, into downtown St. Paul on 7th. While this parallels the Green Line, it serves a largely different market south of I-94.  
  5. New Routing Opportunities. Transit operators could inter-lace the Pink and Purple lines, so every other train funs from Fridley to Southdale, or Rosedale to Saint Paul, or Fridley to Rosedale via NE, or Southdale to St. Paul via Uptown and Midtown. Since the Midtown Greenway would be an electric-busway, buses could run from the purple line and the Southwest lines to the Hiawatha, not requiring a transfer at the new Lake/Nicollet branching point.

Can Minneapolis support a higher level of transit than it has now? This is where “reference class forecasting” might be worthwhile. What level of transit use and service do comparably sized cities have. Minneapolis currently has about 400,000 people on 151 km^2 and 223,000 riders on Metro Transit bus

Seattle has 636,000 on 217 km^2 (of land) and 390,000 bus riders on King County Metro

San Francisco has 825,000 on 121 km^2 485,000 riders on MUNI buses (excluding BART and other services)

Washington DC has 634,000 on 177 km^2 and 440,000 riders on WMATA (Metrobus) (excluding Metrorail)

(This of course requires a more comprehensive analysis)

One key point is US cities with better transit services are more populous and  denser. Seattle is similar to Minneapolis, just larger, while Washington and especially San Francisco are denser.

On the other hand, when BART  and the Seattle Bus Tunnel were being planned, those cities were a bit less populous. Seattle had 493,000 in 1980. San Francisco had  740,000 people in 1960.  (In contrast, DC has depopulated from its peak,  In 1970 DC had 750,000 people.) So a larger population requires better transit to move around, but building better transit does not guarantee a larger population (transit is necessary but not sufficient for a large core city).

The plan sketched above does not solve Hennepin. In the end, I think that is a secondary corridor to Nicollet, and you probably can’t build both at high capacity (on-road streetcar  is not high-capacity). Unless there is a will to close Hennepin to traffic, there will need to be tunnels under tunnels to provide high capacity service there (which is just expensive, not impossible).

This does not include a completion of my proposed Circle Lines either (1, 2, 3, 4), which clearly won’t draw the level of traffic as radials serving the city center.

These lines are not entirely original of course, some bear resemblance to the transit plans for the region of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Minneapolis as it is now could not reasonably support large expenditures. A Minneapolis closer to its 1950 peak population of 521,000 (and a Twin Cities  metro closer 5 million, if not 10 million), would need a much larger transit system.

Cross-posted at Streets.MN

Accessibility Futures

Accessibility Futures Transit Network Scenario Maps
Accessibility Futures Transit Network Scenario Maps

Working paper:

  • Anderson, Paul, David Levinson, and Pavithra Parthasarathi (2011) Accessibility Futures. (working paper)

This study uses accessibility as a performance measure to evaluate a matrix of future land use and network scenarios for planning purposes. Previous research has established the coevolution of transportation and land use, demonstrated the dependence of accessibility on both, and made the case for the use of accessibility measures as a planning tool. This study builds off of these findings by demonstrating the use of accessibility-based performance measures on the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. This choice of performance measure also allows for transit and highway networks to be compared side-by-side. A zone to zone travel time matrix was computed using SUE assignment with travel time feedback to trip distribution. A database of schedules was used on the transit networks to assign transit routes. This travel time data was joined with the land use data from each scenario to obtain the employment, population, and labor accessibility from each TAZ within specified time ranges. Tables of person- weighed accessibility were computed for 20 minutes with zone population as the weight for employment accessibility and zone employment as the weight for population and labor accessibility. The person-weighted accessibility results were then used to evaluate the planning scenarios. The results show that centralized population and employment produce the highest accessibility across all networks.

Composite Twin Cities Future Urban Transit Network

Putting together the maps from four previous posts:
* Saint Paul Radial Lines
* Saint Paul Circle Line
* Minneapolis Orbital Line
* Minneapolis Circle Line
we have a composite Twin Cities urban transit network (excluding shared right-of-way buses and the largely non-urban commuter rail). Some stray lines have been cleaned up from previous maps, and alignments slightly more precisely drawn for the existing.
The color coding is as follows:
* Brown – Previously Planned or Already Built Light Rail Lines
* Purple – Proposed Minneapolis Streetcar Network
* Orange – Inner Circle
* Red – Outer Circle
* Green – Posited route alignment alternative
* Blue – Saint Paul Radial Lines

Saint Paul Radial Lines

Continuing a series on hypothetical future transit routes in the Twin Cities, it appears no one has drawn what such a dedicated right-of-way fixed route transit network would look like in Saint Paul. Individual lines have appeared in various documents, but I have yet to see anything assembled together. Hence a map of possible radial lines in Saint Paul. This network complements the Minneapolis Orbital and Saint Paul Circle Lines previously posited.
There are several radials. Clockwise from the SW we have the Fort Road/7th Street line, running from downtown to the airport (and continuing along the Hiawatha LRT line from there (sharing track also with the Minneapolis Orbital).

Next is the Grand Avenue line from downtown, up Summit Ave to Grand Ave out to St. Thomas University.

The Central Corridor remains (not shown)

There is a northwest line, following roughly a restored Como Avenue line from downtown to the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus in Falcon Heights. This would intersect the Snelling Avenue stretch of the Minneapolis Orbital.

A line runs north parallel to Rice Avenue and I-35E on existing Railroad RoW.

A line runs to the northeast along Arcade, switching to a railroad RoW (now the Bruce Vento Trail) to White Bear Lake. This passes St. Johns Hospital, but is a little off of Maplewood Mall (which is inconveniently located vis a vis existing RoW).

There is a line to the east toward Woodbury along Kellogg Boulevard and then 3rd Street, which passes through the 3M HQ campus and then along I-94 to Woodbury.

The Robert Street line runs south from downtown along Robert Street to I-494.
In downtown, the lines connect with the Saint Paul Inner Circle Service, and outside of downtown, all cross or share track with the Saint Paul Outer Circle Service.

Minneapolis Orbital Line

Continuing a series on circulatory transit routing, there is a difficulty providing services in the “suburb-to-suburb” market. The best markets will still be those with major attractions. This route connects a number of education, retail, and employment destinations, as well as connecting all of the radial transit routes emanating from Minneapolis (and some from St. Paul).

Starting on the east side, the line runs north to south from Rosedale Mall, down Snelling Avenue past HarMar, to the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus and State Fairgrounds, south to Energy Park, back to Snelling Avenue past Hamline University, intersecting the Central Corridor, down to Grand Avenue and Macalaster College, along Randolph to St. Kate’s, down Fairview through Highland Park, down Edgcombe Avenue to 7th Street (intersecting, and sharing right-of-way with a 7th Street/Fort Road line), over to Hiawatha LRT, where it shares Right of Way under the Airport. Crossing the River will remain a costly proposition given the narrowness of the existing bridge.
On the south side, it leaves the Hiawatha LRT at Mall of America, and runs along American Boulevard south of I-494 in Bloomington. (the choice of above or below I-494 is tricky, but there seems to be more activity south of the beltway, and it better serves potential park-and-ride).

The line turns North at Edinborough Way and moves over to France Avenue, where it passes Southdale Mall and Fairview Hospital, serving Edina. It runs through the 50th and France district, and then cuts across to the Excelsior and Grand area, following 36th Street until it intersects with Wooddale Avenue, intersecting the Southwest LRT. It proceeds north on railroad RoW to the Cedar Lake trail. It turns north at Park Place Boulevard, with a stop at the new West End development. The line follows Xenia Avenue north to another railroad RoW, and crosses Theordore Wirth park. It runs along Plymouth Avenue until Penn Avenue (where it intersects the Inner Circle), and turns north on Penn until Lowry Avenue.

The Orbital Line follows Lowry Avenue across the Mississippi River, turns south at RR RoW, and then east through Northeast Park and along Ridgway Parkway. It then follows frontage roads of I-35W until it reaches Rosedale Mall.

As with any hypothesized or “fantasy” transit line, all routings are first order approximations and many tens of millions of dollars in design will need to be spent to establish final alignments. There are an infinite number of possibilities (and a very large number of realistic possibilities), this seems from a cursory inspection to be some reasonable routes that have a shot at doing relatively well on an efficiency metric (benefits > costs), though I can make no guarantees of either absolute efficiency or optimality.

Saint Paul Circle Line

The Iron Law of the Twin Cities is that if Minneapolis has something, Saint Paul gets one too (and vice versa). The examples are numerous (arenas, campuses of the University of Minnesota, branches of I-35, chapters of the American Automobile Association, and so on).
In a previous post I posited a Minneapolis Circle Line . Of course Saint Paul would want to get in on the action.

I have drawn two possible fixed route, exclusive(ish) right-of-way transit lines (an Inner Circle and an Outer Circle), along with the already planned Central Corridor. I have not shown other possible lines, presumably radial, that would extend from Saint Paul (one imagines one on 7th Street/Fort Road to the southwest, a streetcar along Grand Avenue, something along Robert Street to the South, something to the west, northeast, and northwest.

The Inner Circle follows the Central Corridor line beginning at Marion Street but continues on University past the Capitol, past Regions Hospitalacross I-35E to Lafayette Road, goes south down Lafayette Road across I-94, and runs behind the proposed St. Paul Saints stadium through Lowertown, meets the Central Corridor again at Union Depot, and then jogs over to Kellogg Boulevard to run past RiverCentre, Xcel Energy Center, the Science Museum, the History Center, near the Cathedral, and up Marion Street back to University Avenue. It would serve re-developable areas near Lafayette road and Marion Street, and major attractions in the city.

The Outer Circle I have broken into two sections for convenience: North and South.
The Outer Circle (north) begins at the Dale Street station on the Central Corridor, runs north to the Pierce Butler route corridor, and goes east parallel the existing railroad tracks, behind the Minnesota Transportation Museum, across I-35E, and then south to University Avenue where it meets the Inner Circle alignment. It serves
The Outer Circle (south) also begins at the Dale Street station, runs south to Summit Avenue (I assume it would share right-of-way with the “Grand Avenue” streetcar should such a thing exist), proceed down Summit Avenue, to Ramsey Street, past United Hospital, serving the West Seventh area. It would turn south on Smith Avenue, cross the Mississippi River, to George Street, serving the West Side. It would proceed East on George Street to Cesar Chavez Street, and then Ada Street. It would cross the Lafayette Freeway and run along the edge of the St. Paul Airport. Here is the expensive part: a new river crossing would need to be constructed to get from the south to the north banks of the Mississippi River. The line would climb up Mounds Boulevard, serving Dayton’s Bluff and Metropolitan State University, and then run southeast along 7th Street/Fort Road, to the Inner Circle.

Rings make the most sense in the context of existing (or future) radials, allowing cross-traffic in cities and shortening travel times for those not going downtown. Given that St. Paul CBD has about 3% of the region’s employment (~40,000 jobs) (1990 statistics), new systems should not focus exclusively on such a small market, but should better help travelers reach diverse destinations across the city.

Minneapolis Circle Line

I have recently been thinking about the backbone transit network of the Twin Cities.

The existing and soon-to-be-built LRT lines (Hiawatha, Central Corridor, Southwest Corridor) all radiate from downtown Minneapolis. The same is true of the one Commuter Rail line.
Examining the proposed Minneapolis Streetcar System one again sees the downtown orientation (aside from the Midtown Greenway Streetcar line).
Most Minneapolitans, do not work downtown. Most do not take shop, entertain themselves, or do other things downtown very often.

Many other cities have adopted Railway loop lines , which circle around downtown at some radius. These cities include Berlin, London, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Glasgow, Madrid, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Osaka, Oslo, Seoul, Chicago, and Moscow. The advantage is that travelers do not need to go all the way into the center to go to a destination on another spoke.
Thinking about network topology in the Minneapolis case, I hypothesize a Minneapolis Circle Line service. There are several objectives in mind
(1) Maximize destinations served outside of downtown.
(2) Minimize construction costs, use existing (or to be built) alignments where possible
(3) Minimize interference from traffic, avoid on-street rights-of-way where possible.
(4) As a service, it can utilize existing tracks but go to different destinations. It separates the requirement that the line and services on the line be identical.
To that end, there are several major sections of the service:
(A) The south-side runs on the proposed Midtown Greenway Streetcar
(B) The west-side runs along the proposed SW LRT right-of-way from the intersection of the Midtown Greenway to Penn Avenue.
(C) The Penn Avenue section runs from the SW LRT Penn Station to Plymouth Avenue
(D) The north-side runs on Plymouth Avenue across the Mississippi River
(E) The northeast section runs through Boom Island park to Main Street/St. Anthony Main. If done as a “Heritage” Transit line, it could add to the qualitative attractions of this largely pedestrian zone.
(F) The southeast section follows from Main Street along the Granary Road right-of-way across the north side of the Gopher Stadium. Part of this is the Northern Alignment from the Central Corridor studies. However it would take advantage of its location and have stops at the new developments in the University Bio-technology corridor.
(G) The east section follows 25th Ave SE south to the railroad right-of-way paralleling and crossing I-94 to 27th Ave.
(H) The section passes through the five-way intersection at Franklin Avenue and East River Road to cross the Mississippi River on the Franklin Avenue Bridge.
(I) The route follows Franklin Avenue to 26th Avenue S, turns south, to meet the Midtown Greenway extended just past the Lake Street Station on the Hiawatha Line.
(*) Some alternative routings have been drawn as well.
The route thus connects Seward, Midtown, Phillips, Uptown, Lake Calhoun, Kenwood, Bassetts Creek, Harrison,Sumner-Glenwood, Near North, North Loop, East Hennepin, St. Anthony Main and Nicollet Island, Marcy-Holmes, Dinkytown,the University of Minnesota, Stadium Village, and Prospect Park, and Cedar- Riverside.

I have not tested this hypothesis in terms of potential travel demand. I do not have a perfect routing that inherently beats all others, it is a question of trade-offs and values. However the notion of non-radial services needs to be raised as the Twin Cities go forth on the biggest rail construction boom since the 19th century.