RailPAC Meeting Report, Reported by Noel Braymer — Over 60 people filled the Mizell Senior Center on June 3rd. Guest Speakers included Mayor Ron Oden of Palm Springs, Robert Parkins, former City Manager of Palms Springs, Jack Wilson, Assistant Superintendent of Road Operation for Amtrak, Lea Simpson of Caltrans Division of Rail, and Sheldon Peterson of the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC). Joining in the discussion was Mayor C. Robin Resser Lowe of Hemet who is a former chair of the RCTC. Also at the meeting was John Chlebnik, Mayor Pro Tem of Calimesa and RCTC Representative, as well as Lorena Marie Da Costa from the office of Representative Mary Bono of the 45th District which includes the Palm Springs area. There was media coverage with cameras from Channels 2 (CBS) and 6 (NBC) in Palm Springs. RailPAC President, Paul Dyson, was the host.
The consensus of the meeting was that the main issue is the need for an extra track for passenger service. Even as the Union Pacific expands double tracking on its Mainline, freight traffic is growing quickly and the railroad has problems expanding capacity fast enough. Such a major investment as additional trackage can only be justified with a plan for significant expansion of service, not just for 0ne or two trains.
There was a realization at the meeting that it will take time and effort to build support for the track improvements to provide decent passenger service. Just as important is the need to develop a working relationship with the Union Pacific. While not easy, both the Capitol Corridor and Metrolink have shown that it is possible to work with the Union Pacific. Union Pacific has to be contacted at the right level, see that this is a serious effort and these improvements are in the best interests of the Union Pacific.
In the short run expanded bus connection to both Amtrak and Metrolink at Riverside and Los Angeles are strong possibilities. These can be done quickly and demonstrate a market for future rail service. The big question after the meeting was “What’s next? What needs to be done to make this a reality?” The answer in a word is NETWORK. Building support at the local level and having the different communities talking with each other and coordinating their efforts is how things get done. One way to do this is to encourage city councils to pass resolutions in support of expanded rail service. This give more leverage when contacting State and Federal elected officials for their support. Once a city or region has a stake in passenger service with a station and train service, or a connecting bus they have far more clout and resources than a group of citizen activists working alone.
See also RailPAC Policy paper ” Passenger Train Service To The Coachella Valley“