September CA Corridor stats and comments

September 2007 Results- and FY 2006-07 Capitol Corridor and California stats (our best year yet)
By Gene Skoropowski
Progress continues on the Capitol Corridor. We have just received the September 2007 stats from Amtrak, and the end-of-fiscal year stats as well. For California, they are very good. For the Capitol Corridor, the numbers continue to go ‘off the chart’. Amtrak reports for :

Capitol Corridor (September 2007):

116,088 passengers +11.0% vs. FY06 and another record for the month
$1,676,304 +22.6% vs. FY 06

Fiscal Year (October 2006-September 2007)
1,450,069 passengers +14.8% vs. FY06, a new record high, and the ninth consecutive year of increased ridership
$18,059,715 +20.9% vs. FY06, and a record high for revenue

Fiscal Year 2007 averaged +14.8% ridership growth for the 12 month period, and +21% revenue growth. On time service regained an improved trend in September, with 86% on-time trains delivered to the passengers. The on-time performance for the year is 75%, a few percentage points better than FY06, but still far from our goal of 90% or better. The period from May through September showed a clear upward trend for on time operation, with August the only month with a decline in time period. Mechanical failures are continuing to be addressed with Amtrak, and there has been some improvement. Union Pacific performance continues at its improved pace about 90%), enabling us to reach 86% in September. However, a series of on-railroad controlled incidents has escalated, causing catastrophic delays to many trains and many passengers. People placing themselves on the tracks, in front of trains, or trying to beat trains when crossing the tracks on foot or in vehicles, has just created havoc with our operations. Getting a county coroner to the site in a timely manner in fatal incidents is one challenge, but vehicles (cars and trucks) trying to drive across tracks where there is no road crossing is becoming a major headache, and a major cause of delay. A recent incident between Suisun City and Davis found a semi-tractor-trailer straddling the tracks, wheels unable to touch the ground, and live PG&E high voltage wires ripped down and spanning the tracks, halting all train traffic. Of course, this happened just before 6 am, on a weekday, ensuring that train service would be disrupted for a couple of ours.

In spite of these delays, people continue to ride the trains. I guess compared to disruptions on the highways, we are better looking option. I guess that says something about the highway conditions. In any case, the revenue-to-cost ratio is now at 48% for the year, a bit lower than the 49% we had hoped to reach, but a full 2 percentage points better than last year’s 46%. We are almost at the state-targeted goal of 50%, and if on-time performance can improve in the coming year, we should be able to reach or exceed the 50% goal.

These statistics underscore the importance of the capital program for intercity rail. The final project for which we had capital funding was completed in early August 2006. WE implemented the 32 weekday train schedule (and 22 on weekend days) shortly thereafter, and starting in October virtually every month thereafter was a 10% or better increase in
ridership. We have the frequency of service now that meets most people’s schedules and needs. What we need now are four or five modest capital projects that will provide our trains with a greater level of reliability (crossovers, double track segments, and improved flow of trains through Emeryville. For capacity, our growth needs are in longer trains during peak travel times, as this is the most cost effective way for us to accommodate a greater number of passengers. Caltrans standards had the foresight to call for station platforms that are adequate for 7 or 8 car trains, so longer trains are the most cost-effective way to increase capacity right now.

With 44 passenger trains on the line every weekday, 32 of them Capitol Corridor trains, conflicts are now less with freight trains than they are with other passenger trains, hence the need for the selected capital projects to improve flexibility of dispatching and flow of trains. This is so important I feel obligated to repeat the list I included in last month’s report.

For the Capitol Corridor, the key to improved reliability lies in the provision of four capital projects:

  • West Causeway universal crossovers (ability to pass/run around trainson the 16 mile run between Davis and Sacramento)
  • Benicia crossover (cuts the distance in half between Vista (Martinez) and Cordelia (Suisun) and the delay time in half when Main Track #2, the lower-level track at Bahia, is blocked by freight trains working the yards)
  • Emeryville Station tracks and the ‘Wimmer’ crossover (reverses one crossover at the north end of the station to permits parallel moves into and out of the Emeryville Station, greatly reducing congestion and extends the station-side track about a mile farther south, allowing between passing opportunities for passenger trains, and reducing the number of times passenger trains block freight trains into-and-out of the Port)
  • Double track extension in Santa Clara County (extends double track north from ‘CP-Expressway’ to Great America Station area (or perhaps beyond), and provides and added crossover from the new main track north of CP- Coast to Main Track #1, permitting freights to occupy and pass other trains on the controlled siding between CP-Stockton and CP-Coast. This crossover will also be essential when the new downtown Santa Clara Station is completed with a platform directly serving UPRR Main Track #2.
  • Additional coach cars are increasingly required, and they are the key to the Capitol Corridor’s ability to both increase capacity (longer trains) and improve our cost recovery from fares ratio. The two rebuilt/leased Amtrak Superliner Cars arranged by Caltrans are helping bridge the gap during the overhaul process, and hopefully will get us through the ‘crunch period’ until the planned new cars are delivered 4 years or so hence.
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    Pacific Surfliners (September 2007):

    211,926 passengers +4.5% vs. 2006
    $3,699,601 +8.8% vs. 2006

    Fiscal Year (October 2006-September 2007)
    2,707,188 passengers +1.9% vs. 2006
    $46,788,081 +8.6% vs. 2006
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    San Joaquins: (September 2007)
    65,812 passengers +13.6% vs. 2006
    $1,592,753 -15.4% vs. 2006

    Fiscal Year (October 2006-September 2007)
    804,785 passengers +0.6% vs. 2006
    $24,544,160 +0.2% vs. 2006

    Eugene K. Skoropowski
    Managing Director
    Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

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