Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Board meeting
September 19, 2007
Suisun City Hall
A PHOTO report by Russ Jackson
As Capitol Corridor JPB Managing Director, Gene Skoropowski, said in the meeting, “Good news is always easy to report,” and that seems to be the theme of all of the CCJPB meetings to the delight of the board members as well as the staff.
A discussion of safety-related projects began with the introduction of Amtrak Police officer, Jake Mumford, who outlined his program.
Officer Mumford is now assigned to the Corridor, and a second officer will soon join him. He worked on other Amtrak lines, and said he is “very impressed with the way the Capitol Corridor operates, it is a safe system compared to other agencies, and I want to keep it that way.” From a law enforcement perspective, “As soon as passengers feel unsafe it takes only one incident and they go back to driving.” He interacts with passengers as often as possible, and wants “to be seen by riders.” He’s impressed with the CC Riders group of dedicated riders. He’s found that there is frequently a problem with local agencies that will delay movement of trains at accident scenes to the detriment of passengers on the trains, so he’s meeting with local agencies to interact with their police departments to keep “our transportation system working,” and he is looking forward to safe growth.
A followup discussion with board members brought a question from Vice Chair Mary Ann Courville from Dixon, who represents Solano County, wondering if a “train watch” group similar to “Neighborhood Watch” could be developed. Mr. Skoropowski reviewed the existence of Operation Lifesaver. He went on to discuss the new proposal for a limited number of security cameras to be installed on trains, and a proposal being worked on with the Union Pacific for placing cameras 1 to 3 miles apart in the right-of-way which will trigger knowledge of problems ahead for engineers who may be in a blind area. Director Steve Cohn, who represents Sacramento County, said “Safety on trains is important, but it’s also important at stations.” Mr. Cohn told Officer Mumford he was pleased about him meeting with local agencies. The Corridor has been plagued with too many accidents and fatalities resulting from car drivers thinking they can beat trains to crossings.
(l-r) CCJPB members Mary Ann Courville, Chairman Forrest Williams, Steve Cohn, Tom Blalock
Several “routine” items were discussed and funding approved, including an updated plan for the Oakland-San Jose Track Improvement Project which requires cost overruns on three projects bringing the total cost for this project to $61,840,345 from the Capitol Corridor and $485,000 from Caltrain. The 2007-08 Budget was likewise adopted, based on continuance of the current schedule of buses and trains, which amounts to $26,729,416 including $2,959,062 for Administration and $1.174,000 for Marketing. It should be noted the latter figure is the same as last year, as the second year of a two-year agreement with Glass McClure Advertising is entered which takes care of advertising @$540,000 per year. The FY 2007-08 Operating Agreement with Amtrak was also adopted. Working with Amtrak, the CCJPA has secured additional operating funds through Caltrans Division of Rail, with Caltrans Director Will Kempton’s support, for increased fuel/labor costs and improved yield (revenues per passenger mile traveled) so that the service expansion (to 32 trips weekdays/22 on weekends) can be continued and financed. This amount had been frozen for 6 straight years. The amount to Amtrak is $22,596,354. This agreement also “Maintains the modified UPRR railroad performance payment program of higher incentives for improved dispatching of Capitol Corridor trains,” which are “separate from Amtrak’s national payment to UPRR for systemwide performance.”
Capitol train 535 is at the Suisun-Fairfield station on September 19, and will take some CCJPB members back to the Bay Area. In the background is the Solano County Administration Center, and the train station is in the trees to the right. Highway 12 crosses over the tracks here.
On Legislative matters, it was noted that State SB 684 (Cox), which the CCJPB supports, passed the Legislature and is enroute to the Governor for signature. This bill would make changes to the current state code regarding restrictions on bus service. Currently, those citizens paying state sales taxes on fuel are not able to use the intercity buses without a train ticket. That is modified now, with limited access in certain locations. On the “Watch List” are SB 717 (Perata) which could result in reduced funding for the state’s intercity rail program, and various bills regarding allocation of Proposition 1B bond funds. Amtrak’s 2008 Budget request (in the Transportation Department Appropriation) has passed both houses of Congress, but differing points must be resolved in Conference, which should happen soon. Meanwhile, S 294 (Lautenberg/Lott) which the CCJPA supports, and is a six-year reauthorization for Amtrak containing a rail capital match (80%-20%) program, is still pending in the U.S. Congress.
Mr. Skoropowski’s “Managing Director’s Report” contained more good news, with ridership up 18.7% in August, and revenues are on their way to a 50% recovery ratio by the end of the year. Sacramento’s train station now is #7 on the list of busiest stations in the Amtrak system, just behind Boston at #6!
The corridor’s “Quik Trak” ticket vending machine project will be completed “by Friday,” with each station, staffed and unstaffed, having at least two of the new machines. They are working on software simplification.
The Corridor received APTA’s first place “AdWheel Award” this year for its 15th Anniversary poster.
A full display of Corridor marketing activities was made available, showing not only advertising items but other promotions which all have the objective of growing ridership and revenue.
The next CCJPB meeting will be November 14 in Suisun City Hall unless changed before then.