RailPAC/NARP March Conference report 5: Dukakis and PM panels

This report covers the afternoon session, which began with the inspiring talk by Gov. Michael Dukakis, who was an Amtrak board member and Vice Chairman, followed by panels discussing Regional and Commuter Rail, Southern California, and Urban Rail transit projects in Southern California, followed by a High Speed Rail report.

Gov. Michael Dukakis

Gov. Dukakis, in the PHOTO waiting to be introduced, began by introducing his wife, Kitty, talking about how they spend the winter quarter in Southern California where he teaches a course at UCLA, and ride the transit available to them including taking it to come to this meeting.
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“We cannot diminish the importance of the Northeast corridor,” when considering the transportation picture of the country, he said, citing how he worked to improve the NEC when he was Governor of Massachusetts.

“California must invest in a first class transportation system and High Speed Rail,” he said. “It takes passion to accomplish our goals! You can have impact on the next Presidential candidates by contacting them and expressing your views.”

Paul Dyson and Mike McGinley

Moderator Dennis Lytton, a NARP director, introduced this panel to discuss “Southern California Regional Rail, A Sleeping Giant?” Paul Dyson of RailPAC and Mike McGinley, (PHOTO) a retired Southern Pacific railroad and Metrolink Director of Engineering spoke. Mr. Dyson comes from his experience with British Rail, the Southern Pacific, and GATX Rail and currently serves on the Burbank Transportation Commission.
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Mr. McGinley talked about how Metrolink should not get “carried away with too many projects. We cannot go where we are not invited.” Currently the largest project is the Redlands extension which will be run with DMU vehicles rather than the existing trainsets.

Mr. Dyson compared Southern California to Switzerland, saying the area size is about the same, but they have 3000 miles of rail and 10% of the population regularly ride the trains. Their whole philosophy is “everything connects: ferries, buses, trains, which are designed to connect, with ONE ticket, with service on time within two minutes!” Mr. Dyson advocated that “everything in Southern California, the Coasters and Surfliners should be held to the same factors with single tickets available and connecting schedules.”

Melvin Clark, Jared Wright, Bart Reed

Moderator James Smith, RailPAC VP South, (PHOTO) introduced the next panel on “Urban Rail Transit, Vital Projects to create a Unified System.” The speakers were Melvin Clark, the Deputy Executive Officer for Metro Rail, then Jerard Wright, VP of the Transit Coalition and Bart Reed, a RailPAC director and Executive Director of the Transit Coalition.
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Mr. Clark spoke of the expansion plans for Metro Rail, including the extension of the Gold Line service run-through project which will carry it across the 101 freeway south of Union Station and turn east. Because of this expansion, a fleet of new compatible cars have been purchased from Breda, and they are currently on the property and can be seen in the yard from the Gold Line trains, which are proving more successful every day.

Mr. Wright spoke of the benefits of crosstown connector services, which should have the highest priorities. One of the Transit Coalition’s position papers advocates how airports are poorly service by transit, including Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, which is located next to a Metrolink (and Amtrak) station, but that service is too infrequent for much of potential customer base. A solution is to concentrate resources on affordable solutions, develop the regional rail and BRT network, and start with local connections from the Orange line and connection to Bob Hope Airport. Copies of most of the TC’s papers were available to participants.

Mr. Reed (PHOTO) discussed other TC project proposals, including enhanced Metrolink service to the San Fernando Valley on 30-minute headways all day similar to what Orange County has funded for its line, with through service from additional points and, using the MTA’s Harbor Subdivision for new service from LA Union Station to Los Angeles Airport (LAX) and the South Bay. This latter idea has been advocated by RailPAC for many years.
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Mr. Reed made several other TC recommendations, emphasizing the need to build one integrated system in Los Angeles. For LAX service the Green Line must be extended to the Lincoln/Sepulveda parking structure, a People Mover segment be constructed to serve the Central Terminal area, a Crenshaw extension, and an extension to Marina del Rey.

Dan Leavitt

Dan Leavitt is the Deputy Director for the California High Speed Rail Authority. He has served there since 1998. He played a colorful animated video showing the proposed high speed trains running through the vast Central Valley of California hitting 220 mph (on the screen in the PHOTO).
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Mr. Leavitt reported that the current plans call for all in-town running, such as in Los Angeles and San Francisco, would be at 110 mph or less on existing, upgraded grade separated rights of way. It would be an incremental approach to construction. He then took many questions from the audience who showed great interest in this program.

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