Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority   November 15th, 2006

at Suisun City Hall

Reported by Russ Jackson, RailPAC Secretary

Capitol Corridor westbound train 729 arrives on time at the Martinez station on October 28. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving day, the Capitol Corridor carried “a whopping 6,248 passengers,” according to CCJPA Managing Director Gene Skoropowski in a note to RailPAC. “That’s the single highest day for ridership in our history, by a wide margin.” The Capitols will celebrate their 15th Anniversary on December 12 at 12:30PM at the Sacramento train station. (Photo by Russ Jackson)

The best news for the Capitol Corridor, as well as the other California corridors, was the passage of Proposition 1B on November 7. CCJPB Chairman, Roger Dickinson, opened the meeting with a short comment on the positive aspects of the passage, and said that new cars will soon be on order for expansion and capacity improvements, as well as ensuring the reliability of the service. He also welcomed the presence of three representatives from the Union Pacific. New officers for the group were elected: Forrest Williams, San Jose, will be the Chairman starting with the February meeting, and Mary Ann Courville, Dixon, will be the incoming Vice Chair. Sue Greenwald, the Mayor of Davis, was welcomed as the representative from Yolo County. (Notice that the BNSF sent four representatives to the SJVRC meeting on November 9.)

  1. In keeping with the passage of Prop 1B, Managing Director Gene Skoropowski reported on the Capitol Corridor’s funding requests, totaling $252.25 million for state bond money. They will require local matching funds of approximately $800 million, much of which is already identified. The projects are not prioritized, but many of them are in various stages of preparation, so the first priority will be the first project that is ready for funding. The State, through the California Transportation Commission, has said “get us the projects quickly.” The Capitol Corridor will do so. The Projects are:
    1. Bahia Crossover,
    2. Emeryville station and track improvements,
    3. Support for the Dumbarton Rail/Union City station that will allow connection with BART,
    4. Yolo Causeway #24 crossovers at the west end of the causeway,
    5. CP Coast-Great America double track project,
    6. Sacramento-Placer County 3rd main track project planning and design

      The UP wants a passenger train-only third track between Sacramento and Roseville for additional trains. This 3rd track will be needed to meet the CCJPA goal of 10 round trips a day to Roseville. Additional sidings will also be needed past Roseville for 4 round trips to Auburn.

    7. Sacramento Station new platform and grade separation access, done with UP partnership and a private developer as part of UPRR’s track relocation plans,
    8. Wireless Internet service for the Capitol/San Joaquin fleet of cars,
    9. Martinez to Sacramento operational improvements, including adding additional crossovers as well as adding sidings and new trackage,
    10. Martinez Ozol Yard trackage to improve access to Martinez station, and
    11. In conjunction with the Port of Oakland, extend third and fourth trackage from Emeryville to Richmond and beyond, to facilitate movement of additional freight trains from the Port. In the latter case, the CCJPA is a member of the APTA and the States for Passenger Rail Coalition that are working to ensure that any freight financing has a passenger benefit element included.
  2. The CCJPA heard a report on Security and Safety, reported by its Deputy Director, Finance and Planning, David Kutrosky. Several improvements have been made at stations where trains layover at night. Lighting, video cameras, and a public address/speaker system have already been installed as part of this on-going program. The Sacramento station has a security guard patrolling the site and now has a security desk inside. All law enforcement agencies patrol all the local stations daily, and in case of security alarms have officers stationed there. Amtrak Police now have a dedicated officer riding the trains at random, inspecting the route and stations. The Auburn station now has fencing/ a locking gate, lighting and cameras connected to the Security Desk in Sacramento, which has helped eliminate most of the vandalism/graffiti to the cars there. At San Jose, Caltrain is moving forward with more improvements. The Oakland Maintenance Facility has a program of security upgrades, with over $3 million in state funds provided for fencing, lighting and cameras, to be completed in late 2007. Mr. Kutrosky also spoke of one of his pet projects, the Automated Ticketing Validation Pilot program, which will allow on board Conductors to sell tickets with hand-held units that can accept credit cards as well as cash, with the sale being instantly transmitted back to headquarters for revenue collection reports. Not only is Caltrans interested in this program, but Amtrak is likewise interested. A request for proposal has been prepared, and a vendor could be selected as early as January. A further discussion ensued with board members contributing suggestions regarding the increasing incidents of trespassing, some of which result in fatalities. A recent incident near Richmond had the Coroner’s office halting all traffic for 3 ½ hours, far too long for the circumstances. It was agreed that legislation is needed to prevent unnecessary delays to train traffic, and board member Williams said it should include light rail in the issue. Member Courville said the whole issue includes badly needed grade separations. Her city, Dixon, has had applications in for two of these for some time. RailPAC VP North, Art Lloyd, pointed out that Caltrain has had several fatalities lately, and that their Counties do not hold trains for longer than an hour. He also concurred with the board that more grade separations are desirable, and should be paid for through more highway contributions. The UP’s Tom Mulligan pointed out that these fatality delays affect their trains, too, with the Richmond incident tying up traffic until the next day.
  3. Mr. Skoropowski presented his Manager’s Report, proudly emphasizing what everyone knew, that ridership continues to grow. In October it was 120,074, a 9% increase over last year. He attributed some of that to the increased reliability that the UP has provided, particularly in the peak hours. Revenue is up 6% ($1 million) over FY 05, a new record high. The Revenue-to-Cost ratio is now a record high 46%. All that comes with the addition of the new trains that started in August. On Time Performance is at 77%, but many trains are in the 90% range. However, the UP reported it will have a major maintenance-of-way track project going between Martinez and Richmond in January which will impact performance of trains. While Amtrak itself is operating on a “continuing resolution” basis, with the coming of the new Congress there is optimism that many stalled items related to Amtrak will be resolved. Amtrak President, Alex Kummant, came to California in late October, and spent time reviewing CCJPA operations, and rode Capitol Corridor train 532 (as well as the Coast Starlight). Mr. Skorpowski pointed out that all current construction projects that have funding have now been completed, and they are eagerly awaiting Prop 1B money so “we can continue to advance our capital investment program.”

On other matters, it was announced that the Corridor will celebrate its 15th Anniversary with an event on December 12 at the Sacramento station at 12:30 PM. The Sacramento RT will dedicate the new light rail extension into that station with a celebration on December 8 at 10:00. The next CCJPA meeting will be on February 21, at 10:00 at Suisun City Hall.

On the same day, November 15, the Sonoma-Marin project board (SMART) met, and RailPAC Executive Director, Richard Silver, attended. That project’s combined county proposal for a sales tax was defeated on November 7, with it receiving 66% of the vote when 66.7% was needed, or 200 more votes. Marin County approved it by 55%. Mr. Silver urged the members to not give up on this project, telling them that any politician that knows a project has 66% approval must carry on.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 15th, 2006 at 10:34 AM and is filed under Reports.