Monthly Archives

March 2008

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Interesting news, FOOD CARTS, and a new menu for the San Joaquins

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY RAIL COMMITTEE
March 27, 2008, Fresno
Meeting Report by Russ Jackson
and Bruce Jenkins

Photos by Russ Jackson
What a day it was! The trip to SJVRC meetings on a San Joaquin train is always a treat, and today was no exception. Train 712 was on time to Fresno, which always is a bonus, but what was really exciting was finding a rolling snack cart going through the train with an attendant selling drinks and snacks.

march-2008-003.jpg Attendant Matthew King with cart in the rebuilt Superliner Coach on 712
What a great throwback to the days of the City of Los Angeles, the City of San Francisco, and other great trains of yesteryear! The success of this experiment, part of an Amtrak/Caltrans “Collaborative Approach to Route Level Service Improvements” undertaken by Amtrak’s Marketing and Product Management Department, is bringing new initiatives to services on board the San Joaquin trains. After Amtrak’s project manager Martin Yurth’s presentation to the SJVRC RailPAC rushed to invite him to speak to our April 19 meeting in Sacramento. The Committee sat in rapt attention. Take our word for it, this initiative is important news for all rail travelers and advocates. Note: A full report of his presentation by Bill Kerby follows this report as the next post on this site. Also on the train we found colorful new menus with new items. A copy of both sides of that menu is at the end of this report.

Other news we learned today: Unfortunately the Merced to Monterey Thruway bus route has not been doing well and will be discontinued in May. The Coast Starlight’s new upgraded service may have to be delayed until the full route can be utilized and there is no date for resuming service, but the RailPAC supported plan to run the train to Klamath Falls with a bus bridge to Eugene is under active consideration. New fares will be effective starting April 15 (meaning increases), but as part of the “initiative” above new variable fare “buckets” are in effect on the San Joaquins. A new advertising campaign in both English and Spanish will run starting this Spring on radio and television in the Valley. Caltrans has a team working on redesign of timetables. A new integrated timetable (Surfliner/San Joaquin) will be out May 12.

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When the meeting began before a large Fresno crowd the passing of the “gavel” from Committee Chairman Harvey Hall, Mayor of Bakersfield, (second from left, next to RailPAC VP North Art Lloyd,) to Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo took place. The very popular Mayor Hall was thanked for his two year service as Chairman and presented with a model train plaque in appreciation. Mariposa County Supervisor Dianne Fritz will be the Vice Chair.

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RailPAC President, Paul Dyson, spoke to the Committee, saying the six RailPAC board members present represented over 200 years of railroad and rail advocacy experience. Mr. Dyson spoke of the importance of incremental improvements in growing the San Joaquin train service and the need to concentrate on those improvements before starting something new, as desirable as those ideas might be. He ended with an invitation for members to attend our Annual Meeting in Sacramento April 19.

The next order of business was a Resolution for high speed/intercity/commuter connections offered by Fresno County’s Larry Miller. This resolution contains three parts: 1) support for California’s High Speed Rail Project, 2) a recommendation that Amtrak and HSR share a maximal integration of services, infrastructure, management and planning and that it be extended to other passenger rail services, 3) a recommendation that the current San Joaquin train service be moved from the BNSF corridor to the UP corridor between Bakersfield and Merced, while HSR occupies the BNSF corridor, because of the greater under-served population base on the UP in cities like Tulare and Visalia. A spirited discussion, including noting the lack of a cost estimate for the resolution, resulted in the motion being tabled for further study.

The 25 Year San Joaquin Corridor Strategic Business Plan which has been under preparation for some time was presented by Caltrans’ Robin Owen. The Plan, “Looks at cost effectiveness and concentrates on immediate needs first.” The objective is to “develop a set of strategies for meeting the needs of the San Joaquin Corridor while laying out a plan to guide improvements in the corridor over time.” Included are such ideas as fostering better communication and understanding among stakeholders at all levels, develop a menu of options that can be deployed to enhance safety and reduce delays to trains as a result of accidents, evaluate the potential market and operational feasibility for scheduling additional train frequencies (7 round trips by 2012, 10 by 2032) The big one: “Compare alternatives for possible extensions of train service to Wheeler Ridge (near the Grapevine) and/or overnight trains across Tehachapi Pass. It points out that today the San Joaquin Corridor “boasts the fifth highest ridership of any Amtrak service.

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Fresno Council of Governments spokesman, Clark Thompson, commented on the Strategic Plan, endorsing the provision of direct train service to Los Angeles and said the proposed service on the UP Corridor from Bakersfield to Merced is not in the current plan. Mr. Thompson said, “Why wait, we know the Valley is going to experience dramatic population growth,” and facing that, the possibility of High Speed Rail, and the increases in gas prices and the science of global warning need to be addressed. “They aren’t in the Plan.”

A major concern of the SJVRC continues to be the availability of information to the large Spanish speaking population, now almost 50% of the Valley. The Committee heard from Yolanda Mentz, Amtrak’s Director of the Reservation Call Center in Riverside, who emphasized the responsiveness to bilingual concerns has a high priority there. There are 600 employees now at the Riverside Center, and two shifts each day have eleven Spanish speakers on duty and each must be qualified to speak “perfect Spanish.” The “Julie” automated voice recognition center was upgraded in 2007, and now includes a “prompt” for Spanish speakers. The Committee had complained that the “prompt” was too far down in the initial message, which would discourage callers, and Amtrak will run a “pilot project” starting April 17 in San Joaquin Valley area codes moving it “up front.” Amtrak.com is also available in Spanish.

Caltrans Rail Chief Bill Bronte reported their budget will be the same as last year, $16.6M + 3.3M for overhaul car maintenance. “On the operation side all is OK, on the capital side we’re in trouble,” Bronte said. “The Department of Finance says no new $$ for transit, however, there is $$ for current programs. DoF’s attitude that we don’t require any new rolling stock is very disturbing to all.” Amtrak’s Jonathan Hutchison reported Amtrak’s fuel costs are up 10.8%. For the San Joaquins revenue is up 11.4% and ridership up 4% in Feb ’08. Once again both the BNSF and the UP were represented at the meeting. The BNSF’s Rick Depler had news: “We have a new chief of engineering. There will be no more “blitz” projects on the right-of-way. All maintenance-of-way will be done at night on an on-going basis. No more service interruptions to Amtrak and to BNSF. Depler’s report was SO positive that it drew spontaneous applause. The UP’s Tom Mulligan talked about tie replacement near Martinez, etc. and work they’re doing which will improve On Time Performance. Does this mean an improvement in the UP’s attitude too?
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Taking Initiative on San Joaquin Service

A Report from Fresno on “Collaboration”
By Bill Kerby, RailPAC Treasurer

In a five step plan, AMTRAK and Caltrans on March 27th presented results to the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee (SJVRC) of a performance enhancement initiative that began in mid-2007.

The first of these steps elevated service delivery, fare structure and marketing changes for the most extensive discussion. Step two which improved access to AMTRAK reservations for Spanish-speaking passengers incorporated SJVRC suggestions as described in the meeting report by Russ Jackson. Step three addressed the need for more and improved verbal and visual communications at stations and on trains that will provide information about delays. Next, the federal and state partners targeted polling passengers and reporting their ranking of the adequacy and satisfaction with their train-service experiences. Feedback to all operations levels will drive changes in service delivery. Finally, sharper focus will be given to maintenance of motive power and rolling stock and thereby improve on-time results.

To explain progress made with these five steps, Martin Yurth, AMTRAK’s director of product management for the northwest region, enthusiastically presented his information, aided by charts and graphs. Mr. Yurth left a vivid impression on the audience, including RailPAC’s President Paul Dyson, Vice President Arthur Lloyd and RailPAC directors Jackson, Jenkins, and Kerby. Elected officials who sit on the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee (SJVRC) listened intently to the fresh thinking that permeated the hearing room. Outgoing SJVRC chair, Mayor Harvey Hall congratulated Mr. Yurth on the impressive set of answers that he provided for questions that the committee had raised in previous meetings.

Mr. Yurth posed again the central question of how ridership and revenue could be increased. From a series of spirited meetings set in Washington, D.C. and on the West Coast, AMTRAK and Caltrans Division of Rail looked at rider demographics of the route and metrics of the corridor trains. Yurth in conjunction with staff from the national and state offices sought to correct the fare structure, offer ways to connect all employees with a common vision of service objectives and delivery of higher quality service. Acknowledging serious problems with the cleanliness of trains and their restrooms, leaders found ways to increase cleaning frequencies by adding restroom maintenance mid-journey in both directions from Bakersfield to Oakland/San Jose. Maintenance of cars and locomotives will also receive additional attention to boost reliability for on-time performance.

Fare structure occupied five days of discussions in the Washington, D.C. AMTRAK headquarters. As reported by Mr. Yurth, analysts found that four different fare groups were spaced too closely together to have a significant effect on ridership. A proposal to increase the differences among the four price groups was developed with the Division of Rail. Division of Rail’s Director, Bill Bronte, gave his approval to a structure where the lowest fare was 25 percent below the highest peak fare. The intended effect of these revised fares is to shift discretionary travel from the weekend peak periods where trains are crowded to Monday through Thursday, where filled seats dip to 40% of capacity on several trains. Lower fares will boost the number of riders and modestly increase fare box revenue when they are coupled with a TV and radio advertising campaign, in English and Spanish, starting in April.

Although customer satisfaction of San Joaquin service is up, questionnaires and interviews revealed that customers wanted some meals with lower prices. Lower priced entrees now appear on redesigned eye-catching menu cards. (See copy of the menu at the end of the Meeting report on railpac.org) A twelve-week trial program began on March 14th on peak period trains where cold drinks and snack food items arrive seat-side from food carts that roll down the aisles several times a journey.

Mr. Yurth also addressed better bus-train connections, especially at Stockton; better information about those connections from signs and announcements at stations and consistent information in timetables will also retain existing passengers and attract new people. Measurable standards are a part of the program, a concern of all, with passenger and revenue counts, but the inclusion of a customer service manager on board six to ten trains a week, qualitative matters can be described and improved. Progress from the first 180 days of the San Joaquin route performance initiative moved service quality in the desired direction.

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Coast Starlight News from Amtrak’s Richard Phelps

Official letter received March 21, sent by e-mail to RailPAC President Paul Dyson.

Dear Mr. Dyson:

Thank you for your email (not posted here) that I received yesterday. At the direction of our President and CEO, Alex Kummant, Amtrak is already in the process of reviewing our current operation of the Coast Starlight as we are rapidly nearing the time when ridership and revenue start to ramp up significantly. We have started the process of re-calling our On Board Service crews in anticipation of an April 21st or April 22nd track restoration date by the Union Pacific. We also are evaluating the possibility of restoring service to Klamath Falls with a full service train, a bus bridge to Eugene, and a stub train between Eugene and Seattle. The economics of this option are under review as we have to have mechanical personnel at both Klamath Falls and Eugene, and we have to secure a bus vendor and place management personnel in Klamath Falls to help handle the bus/train transfer of passengers.

If we are able to start service via the Klamath Falls option, it will allow us to get back into this critical market and retain the booking curve for the summer season. It will also allow our employees time to prepare for the re-launch of the Coast Starlight on May 10, 2008. We should have a decision on this option by sometime next week.

Amtrak has always appreciated the support of RAILPAC over the years and we look forward to continued growth of passenger rail along the route of the Coast Starlight.

Richard H. Phelps
Amtrak
Vice President – Transportation
60 Massachusetts Ave N.E
Washington, DC 20002

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Auburn Amtrak station dedicated to the late Bob Conheim

Report and photos by Marcia Johnston, RailPAC Sacramento Director
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Ceremonial cake created by Toni Tidman, CC Rider, in honor of Bob.

I attended the Robert F. Conheim, aka “Lord Mayor,” Auburn Station Dedication on Friday, March 14, 2006.

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I boarded Capitol Corridor train 536 at the Sacramento station with the CC Riders Group to participate in their annual St. Patty’s Day Celebration. That afternoon both the California Zephyr and an outbound Capitol train to the Bay Area were in the station at the same time as train 536 due to some problems with the I Street bridge. Trainsets were all over the place.

The St. Patty’s Day party on the train was a favorite of Mr. Conheim’s, so the 536’s café car was decorated with shamrocks and wreaths and crepe paper, along with a band playing Irish tunes. Many of the CC Riders were decked out with the “wearing of the green,” that included wearing a photo pin of Lord Mayor at one of their former parties.

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Under the direction of CC Riders leader, Chuck Robuck, monies were raised to honor Bob with a plaque at the newly named Auburn-Conheim Station.

Bob was known as a passionate passenger-rail advocate who first started taking the Capitol Corridor from Auburn to Sacramento in 1991. He was fond of giving the statistics on his vehicle usage once he became a committed “CC Rider.” Both Bob and Chuck designed a lapel pin along with a special ceremony to induct the rider into “CC Riderland as follows:

Our Philosophy
Life is not just a journey To the end of the trip
With the Expectation of Arriving Safely and Securely
Better to skid in broadside,
Thoroughly used up,
Totally worn out,
And loudly proclaiming-
“Wow! What a Ride!”

The Oath of a “CC Rider”
I (state your name)
solemnly swear
To uphold the traditions Of the CC Riders,
To party hard,
to party often,
As long as I shall live.
So help me

Bob Conheim passed away from cancer in July 2007, and the Placer County CC Riders raised the money to place a plaque at the station in his honor. The Auburn City Council voted a month after Bob’s passing to rename the Station the Robert F. Conheim Train Station.

The program was held after the arrival of Train 536 with the following speakers:

mvc-906s.JPGEugene Skoropowski, Managing Director, Capitol Corridor JPA, known as “St. Gene, Patron Saint of the CC Riders,”
mvc-903s.JPGKevin Hanley, Auburn City Council Member,
mvc-905s.JPGJim Holmes, Chair, Placer County Transportation Agency Board and Chair, Placer County Board of Supervisors,
mvc-907s.JPGChuck Robuck, CC Rider aka the “CC Riders’ Fearless Leader.”

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Mrs. Conheim thanked attendees for the plaque honoring her late husband.

Here is the plaque:

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February Capitol Corridor statistics

From the CCJPA. For a full report of each train’s on time performance, go to www.capitolcorridor.org
The February 2008 statistics show a continued upward trend in the growth of Capitol Corridor’s ridership and revenue.

— even factoring in that there was an extra day in the month, and in comparison to low ridership and poor on-time performance in February 2007 that was due to track and tie maintenance projects between Richmond and Martinez.

The growth can be possibly attributed to improved on-time performance (February 2008 was 89% compared with 51% in February 2007). However, increasing gas prices and focused customer service delivery seem to have an impact as well.

Monthly Performance Report
February 2008
Capitol Corridor
Stats at-a-glance

Ridership:
124,086 passengers
+19.7% vs. FEB. 07
Ticket Revenue:
$1,639,196
+28.2% vs. FEB. 07
On-time Performance:
88.9%
vs. 50.9% in FEB. 07

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Amtrak and Metrolink maintenance work north of Oceanside will delay weekend trains until May

Special report from Ed von Nordeck

Starting April 12, each Saturday and Sunday through May 4, Bridge work, north of Oceanside, along with replacement of street crossings will see cut back of Amtrak and Metrolink service.

Metrolink will operate between Laguna Niguel and Los Angeles. Bus service provided for points south of Laguna Niguel.

Amtrak will operate a reduced schedule Irvine north. Buses provided for points south of Irvine.
Also on Friday evening trains 595 and 796, will be buses all the way between San Diego and Los Angeles.

Hopefully if work gets done earlier then May 4, full weekend service can resume earlier.

Info at present is that Coaster will operate normal Oceanside-San Diego.

Effective March 28, coaster has a new schedule, adding two round trips Friday Evenings and one round trip on Saturday evenings, plus a Sunday train for Padre Games.

Compiled from Coaster/Metrolink web site and Amtrak operations.

Ed Von Nordeck
reprinted with permission

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Letter from Senator Feinstein re Amtrak and the Coast Starlight

This letter was received by RailPAC Sacramento Director, Marcia Johnston, in reply to her inquiry of the Senator about needs for Amtrak survival. It is apparent that the Senator needs educating on the subject, and the principal reason is her statement we have highlighted in bold.

From: senator@feinstein.senate.gov [mailto:senator@feinstein.senate.gov] Sent: Wednesday, March 12, 2008 4:25 PM
To: Johnston, Marcia
Subject: U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein responding to your message

Dear Ms. Johnston:

Thank you for writing me to share your concerns about the recent delays with the Amtrak Coast Starlight. I appreciate hearing from you on this important transportation issue and welcome the opportunity to respond.

As I am sure you are aware, the Coast Starlight train connects Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California along a scenic coastal route. Unfortunately, ridership on this particular route has been on the decline over the past few years. According to Amtrak, ridership on the Coast Starlight has decreased 26 percent between 1999 and 2005. Even more disturbing, the Coast Starlight has delivered only 2 percent of its passengers to their destination on time since October of 2005.

According to the Union Pacific, the railroad that owns the portion of the tracks between Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California, the majority of the delays on the track are caused by congestion and maintenance problems. The United States rail system differs from the system found in Japan and many European countries; there is not a separate system of tracks dedicated solely to passenger rail service, but rather passenger trains must share the tracks with freight trains. As a result, many Amtrak passenger trains must allow freight trains priority on the tracks.

I understand the concerns you mention in your letter. I recognize the tremendous service that Amtrak provides to many Californians like yourself. I also recognize that Amtrak passengers rely on trains departing and arriving in a timely fashion. I agree with your sentiments that if these trains do not run on time, passengers will be forced to look for alternative means of travel.

Please know that I will keep your comments in mind as my staff and I continue to monitor the Coast Starlight over the coming months. Again, thank you for contacting me. If you have any additional comments or questions, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C. staff at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

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RailPAC followup letter to Amtrak about Coast Starlight resumption

RAIL PASSENGER ASSOCIATION OF CALIFORNIA
1017 L Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

March 10, 2008

Mr. Alex Kummant
President and CEO
National Railroad Passenger Corporation
60 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E.
Washington, DC 20002

COAST STARLIGHT CONTINUED TRUNCATION

Dear Mr. Kummant:

I have reviewed Amtrak’s statements about the suspension and truncation of the Coast Starlight and the lack of first class accommodation on any part of the route. I’m gratified that you came round to our point of view and decided that it was sensible, both politically and commercially, to reinstate the train, albeit coach class only and one of the longest bus bridges on record. I remain concerned about the fact that you originally decided that service throughout was expendable. The first thing that comes to mind is your company’s claim that bookings were light, and that was part of the reason for having few qualms about suspending the service. We have been unhappy for many years with Amtrak’s marketing of its services, and are very concerned that so much of the very limited capacity on the Coast Starlight was not sold.

We have always advocated a greater degree of low cost route specific advertising which has been proven to be successful at intermediate stations. Print media space is cheaper than it has been for a long time, and tends to be read by the train riding demographic. In addition the tourist trade, both domestic and international, continues to grow. January and February are great months to visit California. Even though nominally it’s our rainy season we have plenty of good weather. The cruise ship business is burgeoning in San Diego, San Pedro and San Francisco. The Coast Starlight route would be a natural for combined sea and land cruises. As far as international tourists are concerned, the sharp decline of the dollar must surely present opportunities to work with European, South American and Asian tour operators to make Amtrak a part of the United States experience for these overseas visitors.

Given the limited capacity of the long-distance trains, you should be sold out year round. Indeed, the dilemma in January when the landslide occurred should have been, “what are we to do with all these pre-booked passengers?”, not “how quickly can we stop running the train?”

In your most recent letter you stated that you would keep passengers informed as the landslide situation develops and news becomes available. I am astounded to find, on looking at Amtrak.com today, that there is still no general announcement of the ongoing reduced Coast Starlight service on the opening page. You can only find out what is happening when you try to buy a ticket.

Finally, the day after limited service was resumed, February 2, the train suffered a two hour late start because of mechanical problems. This after Amtrak had nearly two weeks to work on getting the equipment in shape. Locomotive failures on California Corridor services are frequent and unacceptable. I hope that when full Coast Starlight service resumes the sleepers and dining cars will be in pristine condition. You’ve had plenty of time to “detail” them.

Yours faithfully,
SIGNED
Paul J. Dyson
President

Commentary

What’s the Holdup on the Sprinter?

By Noel T. Braymer

The PUC gave approval to start service for the Sprinter two days before the March 9th start up

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The DMU Light Rail Service between Escondido and Oceanside is now scheduled to start service on March 9th.

The North County Transit District last year had hoped to start service on December 16; then the 30th; then by January 13, 2008; until they finally said March. Going back to the beginning, RailPAC’s Byron Nordberg in the early 1980’s had proposed an inexpensive and easy to build DMU service by rebuilding an existing railroad that could be running by 1988. As part of the half cent sales tax for transportation passed in San Diego County in 1987 the Oceanside-Escondido rail service was budgeted for 60 million dollars and projected to be running by 2000.

Well, things happened in the interim. With the development of Cal State San Marcos, a connecting 1.7 mile, mostly elevated loop was added to the project. This new construction was a major factor in bringing the budget up to 350 million dollars. As projects become more complicated and expensive, it takes longer to raise funding. By 2004 construction for the Sprinter began with the goal of service by the end of 2005. The expectation was construction would be speeded up by suspending freight service on this branch line and having shippers truck shipment currently brought in by rail. After the freight customers objected to this plan, the startup date was pushed back to the end of 2007 so freight service could continue while the Sprinter was under construction. The Sprinter vehicles were ordered in 2004 for delivery in 2005. There was some controversy at the time because the final price for the cars went over budget. This was because the cars were built in Germany and as the dollar was beginning to lose value the cost of importing the cars rose. Given what has happened to the dollar since, the NCTD was lucky to get these cars for the price they did by ordering early.

By January 2007, the track work was on schedule for the December start up. This was despite problems from mistakes on the surveys of the rail line. Because of this, portions of the line had to be resurveyed, and some blueprints redrawn – which delayed progress and increased the project’s costs. This, and inflation caused by increasing cost of energy, steel and concrete, brought the final cost of the project to 478 million dollars. By January of 2007, the Sprinter Project was running two months behind schedule because of slow progress on signaling work. The NCTD was confident at that time they would catch up. But because of delays from the signaling, test trains were months behind schedule for making test runs along the entire line. For the start up of any new service, testing is needed because there is a lot of old fashioned trouble-shooting and fine tuning which takes time to work out.

Another problem with the Sprinter has been the use of high level platforms and getting the approval of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to accept their use. Because of clearance problems when mixing freight trains with high level platforms, the platforms were set back, and drawbridges used to get passengers to the trains. The drawbridges can be raised when there is freight traffic. But the drawbridges only cover the areas by the doors, so the trains have to stop exactly to match the doors to the bridges. There have been problems getting all the bridges to line up properly with the trains.

Escondido St. Station in Vista for the sprinter

One platform at the Escondido Blvd. Station in Vista is on a curve, and has a large gap at the bridge to the train. This station may not be ready by March 9th. Current plans are to add an adjustable metal plate to span the gap between bridge and train.

If there is a lesson to this it would be to try to keep projects simple. The Sprinter was approved because it was a proposed as a simple, low cost project. Expensive projects take forever to be approved because it takes time to find the money to build them. Many light rail systems have low level platforms. Simple raised platforms are available for passengers with mobility problems near the operator cab. Simple bridges can be dropped manually by the operator when needed. There are advantages to having platform level loading at every door. But it also complicates operations and gives you more things that can go wrong.

Issues

RailPAC Participates! Dyson and Dukakis in Santa Barbara

“COAST,” the COALITION FOR SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION
Meeting Report for March 1, 2008, in Santa Barbara
dukeanddenniscrop.jpgCOAST is a Santa Barbara County regional organization promoting environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable transportation and reduced dependency on automobiles. The following report is from the COAST newsletter. RailPAC Director, Dennis Story, (shown with Gov. Dukakis) is a COAST member

The Steel Interstate By Grant House

Why the folks inside the beltway don’t get it is beyond me, said the former Governor of Massachusetts, 1988 Democratic Presidential candidate, recent Amtrak board member and current UCLA professor, Michael Dukakis. He was speaking to a packed Faulkner Gallery gathered to consider the future of tyransportation on the Central Coast. The event was sponsored by ASERT, Alliance for Sustainable and Equitable Regional Transportation, a McCune Foundation-funded joint project of Santa Barbara- based COAST and Ventura-based CAUSE.

Making a case for telling Washington to end the war and build a viable passenger and commuter rail network, Dukakis decried the current administration’s lack of support for rail and proclaimed it’s time to get started on the “Steel Interstate.”

ASERT project director, Carmen Ramirez, welcomed the crowd assembled in Faulkner Gallery and urged people to take action at the local level. Rail Passenger Association of California (www.railpac.org) president, Paul Dyson, began the session with a vivid description
of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead on the way to beginning a commuter rail system.

Ventura County Supervisor, Linda Parks spoke for a renewed commitment to transit and rail in a time when reliance on the single occupant vehicle is breaking the family bank. Citing the pitfalls of continuing the status quo, Parks launched into a passionate and well-informed pitch for Maglev trains to revolutionize interregional transportation in the longer run.

On-TRAC, the Transit and Rail Action for Commuters program initiated by the City of Santa Barbara was next on the agenda. Councilmember Grant House outlined the widely endorsed plan. On-TRAC begins with Amtrak trains between Oxnard and Goleta rescheduled for commuter-friendly service during the morning and evening peak periods. The service will grow to include three dedicated commuter trains, Surfliners, Vista buses,feeder service in Ventura and Oxnard, and distribution service by MTD and private
employers.

A fully integrated transit/rail system benefiting Ventura County residents working in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, and Goleta could provide an alternative to many years of construction-related congestion. House urged those in attendance to support the extension of Santa Barbara County’s ½ cent transportation sales tax. Measure A (formerly Measure D) is set to
include $25 million for commuter rail and dedicated funding for MTD.

Governor Dukakis acknowledged COAST, CAUSE, and ASERT for taking their commitment to alternative transportation, the environment, and social equity into action. Later, over refreshments at Stateside, Kitty Dukakis revealed that she often brings a book to read while Michael lectures. Today, she exclaimed with a smile, the program was so interesting, she left the book in her bag.