The Coast Rail Coordinating Council September meeting

Meeting Report September 19, 2008
Reported by Bruce Jenkins, RailPAC Director, Sunnyvale

The Coast Rail Coordinating Council met September. 19, ’08 in Soledad, CA, at the Paraiso Winery.

Track and Access for the future Coast Daylight train:
A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for track access and project negotiation has bounced back and forth between Caltrans Division of Rail and UPRR for nearly a year. The MOA is now being reviewed by UP. The selection of projects (track and signal improvements) and engineering will not advance until the agreement is finalized. DoR staff attended to provide update on the MOA including status of negotiations for a new train slot. The CRCC will continue to encourage execution of the MOA and expeditious selection of capital projects.

Equipment Procurement:
DoR has been authorized to issue an RFP for 27 of the 36 requested new rolling stock. If the RFP can be released later this year, the first of the new cars are expected to arrive in early 2012. However, there is some good news in that DoR recently announced it will be getting 7 refurbished cars (Comet* version of Horizon) plus 13 Horizon cars from Amtrak. These will help alleviate the statewide shortage. The large number of standees on existing trains is a safety concern and a high priority for these cars. There is also a large number of cars out of service needing minor repair (windows etc). Whether these cars can be put on line in a timely manner to provide enough capacity to start the Coast Daylight service is the major concern at this time. At least 4 of the twenty cars would be needed to make up the consist for the Coast Daylight. The CRCC will investigate options to start Coast Daylight with new equipment pool.

Operating Funds:
If the above issues are resolved, obtaining operating funds will most likely be the last step. Unfortunately with the delay in new equipment caused by the Department of Finance Audit, arrival of the new equipment is now expected in early 2012.

Schedule Update:
The final schedule of the Coast Daylight service will be negotiated by DoR, Amtrak, Metrolink, Caltrain and UP. A great deal of pressure is building from the south and north terminus agencies (Metrolink/Caltrain) for very early northbound departure times. Ventura and Santa Barbara counties continue to push for an early morning northbound to reach Santa Barbara near 0800. In the north, Caltrain has noted preference for the train to operate either before or after their peak commute times (4 & 7pm) and conversely departing southbound from SF before 6am or after 9am. Advantages of early morning departures are better separation from the Coast Starlight service and better arrival times in LA and SF. However RailPAC VP North Art Lloyd (retired Amtrak) has always maintained that departures prior to 7am are NOT conducive to good ridership numbers. There is also a policy question: “Should a state-sponsored train operate on a schedule so clearly outside of the traditional discretionary intercity traveler time frame?” .

LOSSAN Corridor:
Half of the agencies along the Coast Corridor (SLO, SB, Ventura, & LA) are participating (thru LOSSAN) with DoR & OCTA on an assessment for commuter and intercity rail improvements primarily between LA & SD. A recent study was completed that identified items that theoretically could be completed in the next year or two. A more comprehensive study will visit some controversial issues in the corridor e.g:

  • Is the current management structure (state) the most effective way to deliver services? Or should a regional model replace it?
  • Should the entire corridor timetable be redone from scratch?
  • Should there be more mid-day stops on some trains (and less on others)?
  • Wilbur Smith & Associates has been selected as the consultant for this study. CRCC staff will provide periodic updates.

    Passenger Info Delivery System:
    LOSSAN has formed a technical sub-committee to investigate the status of passenger information delivery systems. The LOSSAN Board is interested in better info dissemination:
    1. before arriving at the station
    2. while waiting at the station
    3. on board announcements
    LOSSAN staff is expected to provide a full report in December to it’s Bd.
    Unfortunately, info for the Coast Starlight is not transmitted thru the system because the GPS units are not yet installed on those Amtrak cars. As the Daylight service comes closer to reality the Passenger Display Signs (and on-board) GPS units should be integrated into service.

    Item of note:
    The city of Soledad has been working with UP on a station site.

    * Comet Cars are commuter configuration of the Horizon Car.

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