Monthly Archives

April 2007

Reports

New Schedule for the California Zephyr

A report from RailPAC Associate Director/InterMountainRail John Dornoff in Salt Lake City

To be effective June 13!

From the looks of it, most of the change is west of Salt Lake City.

Train 5 will depart Salt Lake City 20 minutes earlier at 11:35PM.

Depart Reno 12:03pm

Depart Sacramento 5:50PM

Arrive Emeryville 7:50PM

Train 6 will depart Emeryville 7:10AM

Depart Sacramento 9:09AM

Depart Reno 2:11PM

Arrive SLC 4:15AM

So much for a decent arrival in Salt Lake City.

Reports

RailPAC Alert: Capitol Corridor responds to highway collapse

from Executive Director Richard Silver

This Update is from Capitol Corridor Director Gene Skoropowski via our friends from the Capitol Corridor Riders Groups. Please spread the word. I have added my own notes below about extra ferry service, and BART service.

Gene reports: Just in case you missed it, a gasoline tanker truck lost control, crashed into an abutment on the connector ramp from I-80 to I-580 just south of Emeryville at about 3.45 am Sunday. The ensuing fire from the 8600 gallons of unleaded gasoline being hauled was so hot that the steel reinforcing of the overhead roadway connecting I-80 (from the Bay Bridge to I-580 and Route 24) that the structure collapsed, closing two major connector arteries.

The site is only a few hundred feet west of our mainline tracks (Union Pacific’s Martinez subdivision, used by Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin trains, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, and both UP and BNSF freight trains). After an initial closure for inspection purposes, Union Pacific reopened the line about 5.45 am Sunday, before the scheduled passage of any passenger trains.

There is no damage of disruption to railroad facilities in the area, and all Amtrak trains, including the Capitol Corridor trains and San Joaquin trains are operating normally. As of right now, there are also no delays or disruption to the Amtrak connecting bus service between Emeryville Station and downtown San Francisco, but this could change tomorrow if traffic becomes slowed or stopped worse than on a normal weekday, which is probable. The Amtrak California connecting buses use the carpool lanes to/from the Bay Bridge, and travel north on I-80 a short distance to Emeryville (near Powell Street), and there is no physical disruption to this bus route.

Passengers destined for downtown San Francisco are advised that they may want to consider making their ‘transfer’ to San Francisco at the Richmond BART Station to avoid the possibility of any bus disruption, perhaps for the first day or two until it can be observed how much delay the buses are incurring (if any) to and from San Francisco. The same is true for San Francisco passengers trying to use the Capitol Corridor for travel to Martinez, Davis or Sacramento: it is recommended to take BART to Richmond Station, and make a direct transfer there to the Amtrak trains as this might be your best, again, at least until we see how traffic does and how the connecting buses perform in weekday peak hour traffic.

Capitol Corridor trains are being stocked with additional discounted BART tickets for train passengers ($10 value BART ticket is sold for $8) to try to assist in accommodating passengers on as normal a trip as possible to/from San Francisco. Additionally, Amtrak mechanical personnel will be adding any available coaches to regularly scheduled trains to provide as much added capacity for people who may decide to use the Capitol Corridor as an alternate means of travel between Sacramento/Davis, Martinez, Richmond/Emeryville/San Francisco/Oakland, and Fremont/Santa Clara and San Jose. Unfortunately, almost every available coach is already assigned to regular trains, so this capacity increase will be limited.

Getting this word out to the media, information folks and passengers will help folks recognize that the Capitol Corridor and all Amtrak service is operating normally, including service to/from Oakland Coliseum Amtrak Station.

Gene Skoropowski

Comments from Ric Silver at RailPAC: As aways Gene and his staff are on top of the problem. For those of you that might be interested we have tried to contact both Vallejo and Oakland/Alameda ferries to see if they are adding service etc. No answer at either. So much for their public service.

As for BART we have been informed that additional trains and adding cars.

Hope this helps.

Rail Photos

Train PHOTOS of the Month

Three (3) For the month of May, 2007

The California Zephyr, the San Joaquin, and the Sunset Limited!

march-2007.jpg
1. The California Zephyr, Amtrak train #6, proudly waits to depart from the Sacramento train station on April 3, 2007. While timekeeping for the Zephyr (0% endpoint on time since October 1, 2006) has been a major problem, a new schedule has been announced (effective June 13), which is posted on this website above. (Photo by Russ Jackson)

amtk713athanfordca4-12-07.jpg
2. Amtrak California San Joaquin train #713 with a non-California locomotive in the lead, is at the Hanford station on April 12, 2007. This busy station will soon have a second platform, and several improvements are planned for other stations in the Central Valley. (Photo by RailPAC member Mike Palmer, who was a passenger on 713 that day.)

amtkebdsunsetlvontario4-13-07.jpg
3. Amtrak train #2, the Sunset Limited, is departing the Ontario, CA, station about 35 minutes late on April 15, 2007. Its next stop is Palm Springs. The train was held at LAUS waiting for a tour group that was stuck in traffic, and traveled to Ontario via the UP’s Alhambra line. (Photo by Mike Palmer, who rode #2 to Ontario, walked to Upland and rode back to LAUS on Metrolink.)

Commentary, Issues

Caltrain Electrification

Commentary by Richard Silver, RailPAC Executive Director
April 15, 2007
RailPAC Alert:Letter: Caltrain electrification will allow more small-town stops!

The letter below by Menlo Park Resident Clem Miller is right on point. We, RailPAC, have tried to raise these points to the member of the Coalition to Expand Transit Service (Certs) but they refuse to listen. In fact, many, but not all of the Certs leaders, are opposed to electrification of Caltrain.

Let’s me make it clear, experts and those in the know i.e. people who actually work in the rail field know that electrification is the next logical step in the expansion and improvement of Caltrain. It will lower cost (electricity is cheaper that Diesel) reduce pollution (again electricity over diesel) allow trains to run fast, stop faster and startup faster, cheaper to maintain (fewer moving parts) and would reduce noise pollution.

The fact is CERTS doesn’t really care about any of the issues they claim to support. By and large the driving force behind CERTS is a group of disgruntled city councilmembers form Burlingame and Atherton who are upset with the closing of their local Caltrain station.

While RailPAC was opposed to the closing of the Atherton station, it was hard to disagree with Caltrain that it made sense to close it because Atherton orginally refused to allow for outside boarding and allowing non-atherton residents from using the station parking lot. Besides restriction ridership Atherton prevented Caltrain from making the station safer and allowing trains to pass through the station.

In the case of the Broadway station, its ridership was never high, This was because along the entire line, the distance between the Millbrae – Broadway – Burlingame stations are so closely grouped together, there just wasn’t enough area or population for ridership to grow. Even now the distance between Millbrae and Burlingame stations is shorter that the average throughout the system.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, many of the users of the Broadway station had already move to the Millbrae station due the opening of the BART service.

As it turned out once the station did close many people who had used the Broadway station and lived between Boardway and the main Burlingame station started using the main Burlingame station thereby increasing ridership to/from that station and so that it became a baby bullet stop when additional trains were added.

On point that you might want to add to Mr Tillers letter, the new Caltrain Timetable has seen an increase in ridersip of almost 40% while the operating loss has been reduced by almost 2/3. ALL WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT AND ONLY A SMALL INCREASE IN STAFFING.

Please send us your comments or suggestions on this issue.

Richard Silver, Executive Director
Rail Passenger Association of California (RailPAC)

Letter: Caltrain electrification will allow more small-town stops
Sat Apr 14, 2007 11:03 pm (PST)
Published Friday, April 13, 2007, by the Palo Alto Daily News

Letters to the Editor

Electrify Caltrain

The Coalition to Expand Transit Service has the wrong idea on how
to get Caltrain to make more stops at small stations. Caltrain as
it exists today is hobbled by a trade-off between service speed
and frequency because its lumbering diesel trains add a whopping
2-1/2 minutes to the schedule every time they make a station stop.

Modern electric trains provide swift acceleration and braking along
with quicker boarding, and would no longer require the sacrifice of
so many stops at smaller stations in order to provide speedy service.
To secure more stops, the Coalition would do better in joining with
Caltrain to hasten the electrification of the trains.

Clem Tillier,
Menlo Park

Reports

Transportation Agency for Monterey County rail meeting report

April 2, 2007, reported by RailPAC Associate Director Chris Flescher.

A significant part of the meeting was on possible BRT lines in the area. There was a Monterey Bay Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) study performed, for Monterey Salinas Transit (MST) and SCRTD (the equivalent agency for Santa Cruz County). The study was started in Jan 2007, and will be used to prepare an application for a FTA very small starts grant. These are the preliminary findings:

A line on the Monterey Peninsula could be constructed in the near future, while one to Salinas will be considered in the more distant future. The study is still gathering data about what routes to take and what stops to make, in order to make connections between the Edgewater Transit Center (near Marina/Seaside border), CSUMB, and the Aquarium (on the Monterey/Pacific Grove border).

A future line would go along what may be called the Marina-Salinas multimodal corridor. The first plan was to have the corridor on 8th Street and Imjin, eventually joining with Blanco Road. Many problems with this route were discovered, such as habitat for endangered species, which would make it difficult to widen Blanco. The current plan puts the corridor on 9th Street, 5th Avenue, Intergarrison Road, Reservation Road, then Davis Road. It may go through CSUMB near the western end. The Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) says that when the route of the multimodal corridor is finalized, they will work to preserve the row for some kind of rapid transit. The FORA obligation is to create some space for two stations or transit centers, and to buy some buses for MST, but not to contribute any money towards the busway.

One possibility would bring the corridor through Watkins Gate (which is at the east end of the former Ford Ord base). That would avoid some of the section of Reservation road that is very narrow and sharply curving.

The BRT or LRT station on the Castroville to Monterey line would be at the interchange of 8th Street and Highway 1, so it would be less than a block from the end of the Marina to Salinas BRT line. The Marina-Salinas line could make use of some proposed highway improvement projects, such as widening Davis Road to 4 lanes, and constructing the Westside Bypass.

At the April meeting of a state agency (I think the one that awards funding for transportation projects), TAMC will request $125,000 from the STIP fund, to continue analysis of the Monterey to Castroville corridor, for the possibility of LRT or BRT.

The next study contract with Parsons will be to produce the environmental documents for these plans.

The Santa Cruz County Funding Task Force is considering recommending $10 million towards analysis of the Pajaro Station. This could be used as a local match for federal funds. The group has not made the final decision. A county transportation sales tax might go on the ballot in November 2008, and such a tax, if passed, could help fund the Pajaro station.

The city of Soledad is considering building a passenger boarding platform, which the future Coast Daylight would use. The platform would be next to an existing passing siding, where Amtrak trains commonly sit, waiting for freight trains to pass.

Commentary

RailPAC President’s Thoughts on the March 17 Meeting

By Paul Dyson, RailPAC President

I have to say that after many weeks of preparation I was very gratified to see an almost full room, nearly three hundred people with all three organizations well represented. We have a lot of dual members, which is great, as we need national and regional support groups.

Having set the program (only finalized less than a week before the event) it became obvious that we’d have to keep on “run eight” to get through the day and to give each speaker a reasonable amount of time. The sacrificial lamb therefore was questions and answers, and time for general debate about our objectives for the year, threats to services, opportunities for expansion and all the other topics we would have loved to spend more time on. For this I apologize. It broke my heart to have to keep cutting off the Q & A, as this is your meeting, not mine. I hope you agree that the quality of the speakers and presentations made up for the lack of audience participation. I’m glad that many of you were able to talk to Mr. Kummant and others during the break periods.

We’re aiming to do more members meetings in the fall that will feature a much smaller formal program with much more time for member input. Ideas for venues, speakers and topics, together with volunteers to help organize the events will be most welcome. I want to try and stage an event in the Central Valley, probably Fresno, as well as northern and southern California.

To those of you that supported the event, a big thank you. We have many challenges in the year ahead and we need more active members and more financial support so that we can step up our level of campaigning. The Board meets at the end of April to set our course for the year ahead. Please give us your support to build passenger rail service in California.

Reports

March CA Corridor statistics!

By Gene Skoropowski Managing Director, CCJPA

We have just received the March 2007 results, and for the Capitol Corridor it is yet another record high in both ridership and revenue, even with our still-lackluster 73% on-time performance (but that is getting better as well, April to date is 80%). Implementation of the Union Pacific’s test plan for limiting daylight freights to the ‘crack’ priority trains should further improve this on-time performance, as described by Mr. Tom Mulligan of UPRR at our last Board Meeting.

The rapid response by Union Pacific in rebuilding the fire-destroyed
trestle in Sacramento resulted in virtually no impact on Placer County
ridership in March (meaning that we did NOT lose riders, in spite of the
disruption, which was almost as a remarkable feat as the record 16 day
reconstruction of the trestle itself by UPRR!). In fact, you might say
that the Capitol Corridor service to/from Placer County received more
positive media publicity than we could have bought as a result of the fire
and record-reconstruction, thereby actually helping to stimulate Placer
ridership. TV coverage of the fire, its aftermath, the reconstruction and
the re-opening, and interviews with riders on the first day of restored
service all made many more people aware of our service. Amtrak Bus
Operations did yeoman work to take care of our Placer passengers during the
trestle rebuilding period.

The disparity between ridership growth at +10% and revenue growth at +24%
is a reflection of longer trips (more service to San Jose) and more
discretionary full fare travel.

This makes 6 months in a row (of the first 6 months of the current fiscal
year) with ridership growth of +10% or more (+12% YTD total) and record
high revenue over +20% YTD.

Summary of March ridership and ticket revenue results:

Capitol Corridor:
· 118,344 passengers +10.6% vs. FY06 and a record for the month.
· $1,433,105 ticket revenue +24.6% vs. FY06

Since we are ‘closing the gap’ on meeting our very aggressive
‘standards’ goal for FY2007-08, our revenue-to-cost ratio is still about
47% and will likely creep up to 50% over the next 6 months.

Pacific Surfliner:
· 227,350 passengers +5.2% vs. FY06 and a record for the month.
· $3,581,783 ticket revenue +12.6% vs. FY06

San Joaquins:
· 61,854 passengers +0.4% vs. FY06
· $1,890,088 ticket revenue +5.4% vs. FY06

Reports

RailPAC Videos on YouTube

From Noel Braymer

In just under a month the video highlights of the Kummant Speech in Los Angeles on March 17th has 1,010 views. The highlights of Andy Selden’s presentation at the same meeting is now at 301. The posting of the first half of Dr. Herzog’s presentation in 1985 about Matrix Theory is already at 153.The Second half of Dr. Herzog’s presentation is now available and has 12 views. There is also a short video on California’s Amtrak Trains of 1985 on http://www.youtube.com/noelnoelt which in just over 2 weeks has 242 view. This video ends with a short presentation from Byron Nordberg talking about the then new Oceanside Transportation Center which Byron spearheaded.

Commentary, Issues

Funding For Rail Expansion In California – Grade Separation Projects

RailPAC Policy Initiative

Grade Separation Funding – RailPAC’s view.

RailPAC is concerned that a disproportionate amount of passenger rail funds is spent on grade separation projects.  We believe that the State of California does not spend nearly enough on this important aspect of public safety.  However, we need a new funding formula and mechanism to ensure equity in the process.

Example: LOSSAN Projects, Los Angeles to Fullerton Third Main Track.

The LOSSAN project list includes the provision of a third main track between Hobart Yard and Fullerton to accommodate the growing number of commuter, intercity and freight trains on that route.  This is an excellent development with which we agree 100%.   In November of 2005 this project was estimated to cost $383 million.  But where exactly is this money going?  And who are the beneficiaries?  Of the total $383 millions, no less than $257 millions will be spent on 4 grade separation projects!  These are needed under today’s highway and traffic volumes, and will be essential when the third track is in place.  But the benefits are spread well beyond rail passengers.  The list includes:

  • Automobile Users.  Significant time savings for motorists at these crossing.  Fuel savings too.
  • Bus Users.  A number of bus routes use the crossings in question.  Delays will be eliminated, making the service more reliable and attractive to riders, and reducing operating costs and fuel consumption.
  • Public Safety:  Other than the Glendale criminal act (deliberate derailment of passenger train) the majority of fatalities and injuries at grade crossings are incurred by motorists and pedestrians.
  • Air Quality:  The whole community benefits from the elimination of idling of diesel and gasoline engines for long periods at grade crossings.
  • Rail Passengers:  Some improvement to safety and reduction of delays due to automobile or pedestrian accidents.
  • Freight Railroads:  Greater safety and fewer delays.

As you can see, the benefits of grade separations are widespread, and to some degree benefit all members of society. We should also be aware that rail critics use the total cost of “rail” projects as a propaganda weapon against us, citing what they believe is a poor rate of return.  By instituting a fairer system of funding for grade separations we end up with a truer cost of rail infrastructure improvements and a better understanding of the benefits of rail passenger expansion on a comparative cost basis.

It seems to me therefore that the funding should not come exclusively from rail budgets but also from highways, air quality and public safety funds.  What we need is an entirely new funding mechanism within the state that acknowledges the multiple benefits of grade separations and provides a consistent source of money to fund a rolling program that will remove a large percentage of the busiest crossings over the next ten years.  The “Grade Separation Trust Fund” would receive contributions from Highway, Rail, Air Quality, Homeland Security and local sources and be administered and distributed by Caltrans based on a risk assessment formula.  I’d suggest a 20% contribution from passenger rail.

In the case of the LOSSAN triple track project, if this formula existed, the “passenger rail” cost of this upgrade would be more like $125 million instead of $383 million.  That would leave us with an additional $257 million to invest in other projects.  Imagine the impact of this throughout the state.

Paul Dyson, President