RailPAC October 7 General Meeting Report October 7th, 2006
Meeting notes by Noel Braymer
Over 30 people, including many old friends attended the October 7th meeting at the Rail Restaurant in Fullerton by the train station. The impressive line of speakers no doubt was a major attraction in bringing in such a crowd. Some trains were running late that day; In Santa Ana one station track was out of service for rebuilding and to remove the old center platform after the recent opening of the new field side platform.
PHOTO: Jonathan Hutchison from Amtrak speaks at the RailPAC meeting.
The first speaker was Jonathan Hutchison, the new Government Affairs official for Amtrak, stationed in Oakland (photo). The basic Amtrak message remains the same; tell Congress to give Amtrak more money. Amtrak continues to talk about the need to trim “low performing” long distance trains in the same breath when talking about the Sunset Limited. There were many comments from the audience about the importance of decent food service to maintain ridership on the long distance trains.
he second speaker at the RailPAC Fullerton meeting was Dennis Lytton, NARP Director at Large from Los Angeles. Dennis Lytton gave a short friendly greeting with a call for unity among rail groups while accepting differences of opinion on some issues.
At the meeting there was a short discussion about the Lawsuit against RailPAC brought on by TRAC, led by RailPAC President Paul Dyson. Go to the RailPAC web page for more information at http://railpac.org/issues/current/index.html.
Our last speaker was Mayor Art Brown of Buena Park, (shown being introduced by RailPAC President Paul Dyson in the photo) which is next to Fullerton. He is also Chair of SCRRA (Metrolink); OCTA Representative on the LOSSAN Committee; and Member of the Executive Committee of the Southern California Association of Governments. The Mayor gave a background of the collapse of the Centerline Light Rail project which led to the expansion of Orange County Metrolink service, which will be completed by 2009. Orange County had to have replacement projects or lose Federal Funding because of failure to meet air quality requirements. In addition to expanded Metrolink service to meet these air quality requirements Orange County will add Carpool Lanes (HOV) on the 22 Garden Grove Freeway and establish Bus Rapid Transit service on Harbor Blvd.
Mayor Brown talked about many of the projects involving the upgrading of Metrolink. A major aspect was adding more parking at the stations. The cities will also work on projects to bring people to and from the station since, as Mayor Brown put it, “you’d have to build ten story parking structures” to meet the demand just with more parking.
The most exciting announcement from Mayor Brown was that several of the County agencies dealing with Rail in Southern California are exploring the creation of a Joint Powers Agency (JPA) to coordinate Commuter and Amtrak SurfLiner services. The inspiration for this idea came from the highly successful Capitol Corridor JPA in Northern California.
The issue of Grade Separation of the railroads came up. Mayor Brown pointed out that the City of Orange has something like 16 grade crossing alone. Grade separations clearly improve road safety and reduce traffic congestion. But as Mayor Brown pointed out, the railroad doesn’t really need grade separation, but most funding for grade separation comes out of transit and not highway funding. Additional money will be needed for getting more rail crossing grade separated. Mayor Brown also spoke of “his” station under construction in Buena Park. The Mayor pointed out that construction of the Buena Park Station was tied to additional triple-tracking of the BNSF Mainline also underway in Buena Park.
Many questions were asked about possible new services for Metrolink. Mayor Brown made the point that the Counties which are responsible for funding services in their county have the final say what Metrolink services are run in their county.