Monthly Archives

April 2009


National TRAIN DAY


  • SAN LUIS OBISPO Noon to 4 PM at the Amtrak San Luis Obispo Train Station, 1011 Railroad Avenue at Santa Rosa St.
    Your train has arrived…and all of San Luis County is invited down to the San Luis Obispo train station on Saturday, May 9th, to celebrate the second annual National Train Day. The date commemorates the 140th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike that linked the east and west coats of the United States, and celebrates our railroad history and future. It’s free and open to the public, with plenty of free parking at the station. There will be refreshments, as well as paper engineer caps for kids of all ages, a scale model railroad exhibit from the San Luis Obispo Model Railroad Association, a railroad photography display by local Rich Hansen, whose photography at the SLO station won second place in Amtrak’s national competition, and musical entertainment by the youth band of the Basin Street Regulars—with some jazzy railroad themed tunes!
  • LOS ANGELES UNION STATION with celebrities, entertainment, exhibits and more.
  • SANTA BARBARA COAST, CoastalRail and ASERT are hosting National Train Day at the Santa Barbara Train Station which includes a train ride from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria. Train leaves Santa Barbara at 9:20AM and returns at 10:15. More information at
  • There are more events at the DUNSMUIR train station, PASO ROBLES train station, FRESNO train station, SALINAS at the REA building next to the Amtrak station, and SAN BERNARDINO at the historic Santa Fe Depot!
  • CALIFORNIA STATE RAILROAD MUSEUM in Sacramento, where RailPAC VP North Art Lloyd will receive the “Golden Star” award.
  • TRAVEL TOWN in Griffith Park in Los Angeles.
  • For more information on National Train Day go to



    Letter to Members from Paul Dyson
    With passenger rail on the national agenda as never before, and a flow of federal funds coming in the next few months such as we have never seen before, we have an unparalleled opportunity to achieve some of our long time goals.

    We have put together a program of speakers for our May 2 meeting in Los Angeles which includes some of the most influential decision makers in passenger rail. We need you to support this meeting. We need a show of strength which will send a clear message to Mr. Boardman and the other officials: California is under served and under invested. Amtrak has neglected California for too long and relied too heavily on state support. We need:

  • The Coast Daylight train to start immediately.
  • A Daily Sunset Limited.
  • An immediate order of passenger rolling stock for the overnight and California corridor trains.
  • If you care about passenger rail, make your reservation today for our May 2 meeting in Los Angeles. Go to the meeting announcement and reservation form below and send in your check or use Paypal today. I happen to think this is the most important meeting we have ever staged and every RailPAC and NARP member or supporter should do their utmost to attend.

    Paul Dyson


    RailPAC Annual Meeting and NARP Membership Meeting: “STEEL WHEELS IN CALIFORNIA”

    Saturday, May 2, 2009
    9:15 Registration, Coffee; 10:15 Meeting starts in the MTA Board Room at Gateway Center, Los Angeles, located behind Union Station. laus-mta-building2
    Confirmed Speakers:
    Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman, (left), VP Brian Rosenwald, and VP Richard Phelps


    Don Phillips, (right) long time rail writer and special columnist for TRAINS Magazine! (Photo © 2008 TRAINS Magazine. Reprinted with permission of Kalmbach Publishing. All rights reserved)

    William “Bill” Bronte, (left) Chief, Caltrans Rail Program, will update us on the complexities of funding the state’s rail programs.

    Rod Diridon, (right) member, California High Speed Rail Authority board, and Bruce Armistead, Parsons Brinkerhoff, will update us on the big HSR project.

  • Art Leahy, LAMTA CEO, and Art Brown of LOSSAN will discuss regional rail and transit connections. Dan Feger, Bob Hope Airport executive director , will present their plan for a rail and transit center.
  • Walter Smith, BNSF, General Director Commuter Contracts
  • Brian Rosenwald, Amtrak: Plans for the Sunset Limited
  • Erin Steva, Calpirg
  • Bruce Armistead, Parsons Brinckerhoff
  • Others to be announced!
  • Co-chairs: Paul Dyson, RailPAC President, and George Chilson, NARP Chairman. Registration Chairman: Richard Silver.

    depotinn2 The Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata, Missouri is proud to sponsor the RailPAC and NARP joint meeting. The Depot Inn & Suites, home of the Exhibition of Amtrak History, offers unparalleled value and amenities for train travelers. Visit us at or call 888-814-3669 to learn more about our NARP and Amtrak specials.

  • The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) will again hold its Region XII Meeting in conjunction with RailPAC at the same time in the same place.
  • Cost for RailPAC or NARP members is $50 in advance, $60 for non-members, and includes morning coffee and pastries and a box lunch.
  • Updated details of the program will be available on or call 916-833-4218.
  • Copy and print the following form, enclose your check, and mail it to reserve your place! A PAYPAL option link is below the form for on-line registration!
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    ____ Yes! I will be attending the Joint RailPAC/NARP Annual meeting May 2 in Los Angeles!
    ____ I am a RailPAC and/or NARP member.
    Enclosed is my check for ________ persons at $50 each. (Add $10 per person for each person who is NOT a member of RailPAC or NARP).
    ____ Sorry, Cannot make it, but enclosed is my donation to help with the cost of the meeting.
    Checks MUST be made payable to “RailPAC”
    Send to: RAILPAC/NARP MEETING, 1017 L St-217, Sacramento, CA 95814

    NAME (S): ________________________________________

    ADDRESS: ________________________________________

    CITY: _________________________ ZIP: ______________

    PHONE: _________________ E-MAIL: ________________

    Or through Paypal:

    • Click the logo above for your payment of $ 50.00 for: Annual Meeting Reservation, members

    • Click the logo above for your payment of $ 60.00 for: Annual Meeting Reservation, non-members


    CA Corridors March 2009 Stats

    By Eugene K. Skoropowski, Managing Director, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority
    March numbers were a disappointment in virtually every place in the country. I am not certain if the placement of Easter week in April this year is part of the cause, but we will have to wait for April numbers to make that determination.

    While the Capitol Corridor has some excuse due to the first 15 days of the month being impacted by the Union Pacific track renewal project (and modified-reduced mid-day service and bus operation for 8 hours in mid-day), the other routes were not impacted by this project. All services were impacted, regardless of whether they are business-oriented corridor services (Pacific Surfliners, Capitol Corridor,
    Northeast Corridor, Cascades, Hiawathas, Downeaster, etc.) or more discretionary services (San Joaquins, Adirondack, Pennsylvanian, Carolinian, etc.). The more discretionary market on the San Joaquins, on
    the other hand, appears to be doing well in the down business market. The Pacific Surfliners are still showing the largest percentage losses, predating the decline of other services.

    The major Capitol Corridor tie-renewal track-upgrade project started February 16 and was completed on schedule on March 15. Regular Capitol Corridor service resumed on March 16, and both ridership and on-time performance began to rebound. The coming months will determine if what we have seen in the last 3 months is a continuing overall slowdown, or if the coming months will pick up, as they usually do, starting April and May.

    Capitol Corridor ridership was down -8.4% compared to March 2008, (126,646 for the month of March 2009), and revenue was also down -8.3%. The San Joaquins ridership followed a similar pattern, with ridership down -9.3% and revenue was down -8.9% compared to March 2008. The Pacific Surfliner continues to be the service really ‘taking it on the chin’, with a decline of -18.6% in riders and -16.6% in revenue compared to March 2008. Again, this decline in riders and revenue in March is a nationwide trend (overall Amtrak ridership was down -10.0% and revenue -11.1% in March 2009 compared to March 2008, and the placement of Easter in April this year does have some impact.

    Capitol Corridor on-time performance for March improved to 89.1%, even with the trackwork. From March 16 through March 31, on-time performance averaged 94.1%, which was an immediate return to the high level of reliability that existed before the trackwork started. The San Joaquins March 2009 improved to 91.4% on-time, and the Pacific Surfliners improved significantly from February to 87.3% on-time in March.

    Capitol Corridor (March 2009):

  • 126,646 passengers -8.4% vs. March 2008. This is the second negative ridership number in 30 months on the Capitol Corridor, but the route is still the third busiest route in the country, by a wide margin. Passengers for the last 12 months: 1,711,857, and we still hope to make that 1.8 million mark by September 30.
  • $1,748,983 March 2009 ticket revenue -8.3% vs. March 2008. The farebox recovery revenue-to-cost ratio for January is 41.4%, reflecting the increased Amtrak cost base due to labor contracts and fuel adjustments (FY to date: 44.4%, still a bit lower than the 50% target). We are hoping that our upcoming Kids-Ride-Free-on-Weekends/Holidays will help improve our farebox recovery rate. This promotion will continue through the summer. YTD revenue is running +5.4% ahead of last year.
  • On-time performance for February ‘delivered to the customer’ was: 89.1% (and 94.1% from March 16-31). Union Pacific performance rebounded to 93%
    ontime. The proportion of delays Amtrak mechanical performance has begun to creep up, and we are working with Amtrak to address these concerns. (FFY to date: 91.2% on time) Even with the trackwork delays, this is our best-ever 6 month year-to-date on-time performance. These first 6 month stats, even with the trackwork delays, keep the Capitol Corridor on-time performance (91.2%) the best in the country, topped only by the once-a-day Pennsylvanian (Philadelphia-Pittsburgh) and still well above the premier Acela Express service on the Northeast Corridor (85.6%).
  • __________________________________________________

    Pacific Surfliners (March 2009):

  • 202,408 passengers -18.6% vs. March 2008, but still the second busiest
    route in the nation, by a wide margin.
  • $3,472,996 March 2009 revenue: -16.6% vs. March 2008
  • On-time performance for March 2009: 87.3% (FFY to date: 82.6%)
  • __________________________________________________

    San Joaquins (March 2009):

  • 71,043 passengers -9.3% vs. March 2008
  • $2,069,019 March 2009 revenue: -8.9% vs. March 2008
  • On-time performance for March: 91.4% (FFY to date: 88.4%)
  • __________________________________________________________

    Total California 3 Intercity Corridors Ridership for March 2009: 400,098
    Total Northeast Corridor ‘Spine’ ridership for March 2009: 812,665
    For March 2009, the 3 California Corridors are 49.2% of Northeast Corridor ‘Spine’
    Boston-Washington ridership.

    Total Northeast Corridor ridership for March 2009 with branches to Springfield, MA; Albany, NY and Harrisburg, PA: 1,016,830
    For March 2009, the 3 California Corridors are 39.4% of the total Northeast Corridor
    ridership. Overall NEC Spine ridership declined by -12.8%, but the Keystone service (Philadelphia-Harrisburg) grew by +4.6%.

    YTD 3 California corridors ridership is 2,443,648
    YTD NEC Spine ridership is 4,873,256
    YTD NEC Spine + branches ridership is 6,086,236

    Tracking Rail News


    . . . PHOTOS and Commentary by Russ Jackson

    Let’s start with good news. On Time Performance of some Western long distance trains. For the two weeks, March 8 to 20:

    California Zephyr #6 into Denver. Early 4 days, On Time or within 10 minutes of scheduled arrival 5 days, but late 92 minutes on St. Patrick’s Day.
    California Zephyr #5 into Emeryville. EARLY 12 days! (one as much as 70 minutes), only one day late. It’s time to cut that schedule time again!
    Sunset Limited #1 into Los Angeles. EARLY or On Time within 5 minutes 5 days, late only one day.
    Sunset Limited #2 into Palm Springs. On Time by 16 minutes or less three days, but LATE 316 minutes (from Los Angeles) on 3/20 because of a bad ordered sleeping car that had to be replaced before departure from LAUS due to all toilets not working. RailPAC’s Bob Manning was a rider.
    Coast Starlight #11 into Los Angeles. On Time or early 12 days, late only one day. (Photo: Coast Starlight #11 at Vacaville, CA, 11/07.
    Coast Starlight #14 into Portland. On Time or early 11 days, late twice, neither more than 90 minutes. This is consistency for the Starlight, as in February its OTP was 91.1%!

    Railfan photographers take note. In March Amtak released its “Corporate Guidelines on Photography and Video Recording.” In Section 1, Policy, it states, “The taking of photographs and/or videos is permitted within public access areas on Amtrak property and as otherwise stated in Section III.” In the section of “definitions” “Restricted Areas” includes Platforms (ticketed passengers are exempt), Crew and Employee Work Areas, etc. Amtrak Police and Security personnel “may approach photographers and videographers upon a complaint from a member of the public or Amtrak personnel that the activity is suspicious”…etc. It ends with, “but the taking of photographs and/or video may not in and of itself rise to the level of reasonable suspicion or probable cause.” On March 12, TRAINS magazine Walter Zullig of the NRHS is quoted as saying, “I think it’s really a poor way to treat your best friends.” Zullig said his group will push to get Amtrak to change the policy. So, before taking photos on Amtrak property from now on, weigh the risk or get permission in advance (from the Station Manager).

    Around the West. seattle-king-st-stationVery busy King Street Station, Seattle, where the Starlight, Empire Builder, Cascades, and Sounders all arrive and depart. In a disappointing move, the Washington DOT eliminated the passenger rail section of its rail program, lumping passenger and freight into one group. That meant Ken Uznanski, the operator of passenger trains (which included the Cascades) at WSDOT, lost his job along with several other key positions. The state legislators were not informed of this and now what will happen up there is anyone’s guess. A California rail official said, “(he) was one who toiled in the vineyards for many years to promote matching funds for intercity passenger rail funding. Now that it’s time for all of us to enjoy the vintage, his glass is filled with what must be a most sour vinegar.” In 2008 the Cascades carried 774,421 people, up 14.4% over 2007, the most in its 10 year history. In Oregon the rail division has only 3 employees, and is for freight and passenger, but cannot compare to the Washington program in complexity.
    salem-oregon-bus-photo Portland-Eugene bus loads at Salem, Oregon station 10/02 The Portland-Eugene buses have more than paid for themselves. Apparently the Cascade funding is ok until June 1, but the drama up there continues. In Montana yearly ridership is up at most of Amtrak’s 12 stops, climbing 34,000 in the past 5 years as people along the northern route use it for medical appointments in Seattle and Minneapolis, and students at Montana State University-Northern in Havre travel to/from home. Arizona’s use of the new Metro light rail is up, so much so that merchants along its route who objected to its construction are now lobbying the transit agency to make sure that their shops would sit near a future expanded route. Close to 35,300 riders rode each weekday in February on the 20-mile line that opened in late December from West Phoenix to Mesa. Valley Metro had projected 26,000 daily riders in the first year!

    Around California. What will be the effect of all the new money coming from the Stimulus package, the newly passed 2008-2009 regular funding, etc.? That will be clearer as we move up to the date of the RailPAC/NARP Conference in May. With no “Operating” money increases permitted from those funds, such needed items as additional staffing at very busy stations like on the Capitol Corridor are not likely. An Amtrak agent who tried to get additional staffing told this writer that back East they must think we just sit and sell tickets like they do there, where at western stations there is the need for employees to multi-task (tickets, reservations, meet and assist, deal with unaccompanied children, handle express and baggage, parking permits, cleaning, ordering supplies, and assisting with the buses).


    Current version of 798/799 Coast Daylight trainset at San Luis Obispo station 9/08.
    The Coast Rail Coordinating Council is still waiting anxiously to start the Coast Daylight train between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Conflicts over funding, of course, and scheduling are on-going. The CRCC has been told by Caltrain they don’t want a SF departure earlier than 9 am, and Metrolink has said they don’t want an arrival at LAUS before 7 pm. Plans now center on the train running on the current schedule of 798/799 at San Luis Obispo, keeping the current train “window.” The train now has a scheduled implementation of April, 2011 if funds can be allocated and all other problems solved.


    What Should We Expect For Rail In The Near Future?

    Editorial by Noel T. Braymer

    With record amounts of funding being authorized for passenger rail service improvement by the Federal Government, we should expect major service improvements in the near future. The question is given the way things usually work; can we expect real improvements in the near future?

    In California the project with the highest priority is the long awaited Coast Daylight service between Los Angeles and San Francisco. What is needed now to make this train a reality is one additional trainset in California. Amtrak has the funding now to rehab equipment to start this train. The big hold up is California is expected to pay more money to Amtrak to extend service from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco. However the budget problems in Sacramento will delay this projects a few more years to 2011.

    It is in Amtrak’s interest to run the train and give California a break on operation charges for the Daylight. The Coast Daylight will be a very successful train if done right. One thing that will be needed is better connections to the Daylight. Amtrak train 799 is the morning departure out of Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo. It leaves Los Angeles at 7:30 AM and doesn’t have a connection with a Surfliner train from San Diego. Ridership on the 799 could be better. It makes better sense to run the Daylight from Los Angles at 9 AM. The 763 is the first Surfliner to arrive in Los Angeles from San Diego at 8:50AM. The 763 now continues to Santa Barbara. It would make sense to run service all the way from San Diego to San Francisco. The problem is neither city has a maintenance base to service the train. There have been plans to build an Amtrak maintenance facility just south of San Diego for some time. It would be nice to give this project priority so it can be used for the Daylight. By changing the 799 into a Santa Barbara train and having it leave earlier it can serve the commuter market for Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara County has funding available for such service.

    The Daylight should depart both Los Angeles and San Francisco around 9AM. This avoids the commuter train traffic congestion for both Caltrain and Metrolink and improves connections with other services. Another good reason for 9AM departures is this allows the Daylight to be used as a “sweeper train” for the Coast Starlight. The Daylight leaving Los Angels before the Starlight and making more stops than the Starlight can collect passengers which can transfer at San Jose to the Starlight for points north. Southbound the Starlight should arrive at San Jose before the Daylight and passenger can transfer to get home on the Daylight. The Daylight used this way will free up space on the Starlight for the more profitable longer distance passengers and collect long distance passengers at more stations and feed them to the Starlight. This is in Amtrak’s best interest.

    Another high priority service is a daily Sunset. Simply running the Sunset daily to San Antonio and marketing the connection with the Eagle will make a substantial improvement to Amtrak’s cash flow. A joint daily Sunset/Eagle serves major cities like Los Angeles, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Dallas, St. Louis and Chicago. Daily Sunset service will explode ridership for both trains. Amtrak has 39 Superliner cars that can be repaired and brought back into service. A daily Sunset to New Orleans will require two additional trainsets or at least 18 or more Superliner cars. More equipment will be needed to extend the Sunset back to Orlando as a daily trains. Those 39 Superliner cars will go fast. The train the City of New Orleans spends over 20 hours between runs in New Orleans. Modest adjustments to the schedule would allow the City to meet with the Sunset and continue on to Florida. This would provide a connection to Florida for the Sunset, improve the train’s utilization and create a Chicago-Florida service. Ideally the Sunset should have through cars on an extended City of New Orleans to Florida. Again is Amtrak up to the challenge or have the equipment to do this?

    The question of equipment keeps coming up as the limiting factor in expanding service. In California there are plans to run service from Sacramento to Redding, to Reno/Sparks, from Los Angeles to Palm Springs and additional trains on the Coast Line from Southern California to San Francisco. Currently more equipment is needed to just to meet growth on existing services. With more equipment there could be service extended from Palm Springs to Arizona as far as Tucson, but also to Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. With rail traffic down, this would be a perfect time to push for extending the San Joaquin south of Bakersfield to Southern California and running a section of the Southwest Chief from the Bay Area down the San Joaquin Valley to Barstow. These are just some of the projects we should be expecting soon which would improve Amtrak’s bottom line. The question is can we expect them any time soon?


    Updates on High Speed Rail Projects

    By Noel T. Braymer

    Since 8 billion dollars was included in the Stimulus Bill for High Speed Rail, there has been more interest about High Speed Rail in this country.

    The California High Speed Rail Authority is talking about starting construction by 2011 with the first segment from Bakersfield to Merced running by 2015. Between 2018 and 2020 the CHSRA plans to have service running between Anaheim and San Francisco. Running times of 2 hour 38 minutes from San Francisco to Los Angeles are planned. CHSRA’s legislation calls for a minimum of 2 hours 40 minute service. The next route would be service to San Diego via Riverside with the last route to Sacramento running by 2030. Virgin Airlines is also a major passenger rail carrier in Britain and is interested in getting the operating contract for the California High Speed Rail service. Controversy has arisen over complaints by the CHSRA that current plans for Caltrain’s extension to the San Francisco Transbay Terminal will not be able to also to handle CHSRA’s expected 12 trains an hour service into San Francisco. These last minute objections have upset years of planning for the Transbay Terminal extension. Union Pacific Railroad is objecting to any High Speed Passenger service on rights of ways used by its freight trains. And some local neighborhoods are starting protest against HSR service in their back yard.

    On March 9th New York Governor Patterson with Senator Schumer of New York announced a 10 Billion Dollar project to develop High Speed Rail for New York State. Most of the effort will be on the “Empire Corridor” which is from New York City to Albany and then off to Buffalo. This is the old New York Central Mainline which followed the old Erie Canal. Governor Patterson talked about raising speed in 3 to 5 years to 110 miles an hour and up to 150 mph within three years after that. Planning for intercity rail upgrades has been ongoing for years in New York State. New York had paid to rebuild old Amtrak Turbotrains over 10 years ago for use on the Empire Corridor for running speeds of 125 mph. Amtrak cancelled the project. There is no information at this time what equipment New York plans to use to run at 150 mph.

    Also on March 9th, Senator Durbin of Illinois and Illinois Governor Paige at Chicago Union Station made a pitch for stimulus funding to upgrade the Chicago-St. Louis corridor to 110 mile per hour operations. Chicago will be at the center for several Mid-West rail corridors eligible for High Speed Rail upgrade funding including Minneapolis-Milwaukee-Chicago, Chicago-Detroit, Chicago-Indianapolis,-Louisville, Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland, Chicago-Cincinnati-Cleveland and Kansas City to St. Louis to Chicago. The good news is the Eagle uses the railroad between St. Louis and Chicago. It is also true that the Lake Shore Limited uses the railroad from Chicago-Toledo- Cleveland as well as from Buffalo to New York City. These trains as well as the Sunset, Crescent, Coast Starlight and the Florida trains could benefit from track upgrades as well as corridor trains on the designated high speed rail corridors.

    In the bad news department, the State of Washington recently eliminated its entire 6 person Passenger Rail branch to “save money”. This small group oversaw state supported Amtrak corridor trains between Eugene-Portland-Seattle-Vancouver. This action could jeopardize the future of these trains and prevent the Pacific Northwest from qualifying for federal funds to upgrade trackage for these trains.

    Amtrak is working on plans to upgrade the Northeast Corridor and cutting the running time of the Acela trains from New York to Washington from the current 2 hours 45 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes with track and catenary upgrades. Amtrak is also looking to extend the electrification of the Northeast Corridor to Richmond and further south. Amtrak is also planning to overhaul the Acela equipment. It is ironic that this is happening at a time when ridership and revenue for the Acela is down and ridership and revenues for the Long Distance trains continue to grow.

    There is a fascination by most people with speed, but it is a mistake to believe ridership is driven only by speed. If speed was the principle factor then airlines would all be flying supersonic planes non-stop to every destination. But of course this isn’t true. Airlines are flying slower today than they did 40 years ago with fewer direct flights. Costs are important to carriers, speed and direct service is very expensive for all transportation modes. The most important factor in ridership is service to as many markets as possible using the least amount of capital. That is why most airlines have hubs for connections and anything shipped on Fed Ex goes through their hub in Memphis.

    To increase the size of a train’s travel market, one can add more stations, extend the route of a service and improve connections to other trains. Expanding the market of corridor trains will do more for ridership than raising speeds. On the Northeast Corridor there are several ways to expand NEC train’s market. Extending NEC rail service to Virginia is a start. Improving connections at Philadelphia to Harrisburg and Pittsburg to NEC trains is another way to expand markets. Running some NEC trains past New York to Albany, Buffalo even Toronto would create a whole new market for the NEC. Also untapped is Long Island. Even thought Amtrak has a major yard on Long Island, it has no stations on Long Island. Amtrak could share a commuter station to make connections on Long Island. This would be easier for passengers than making connections at Penn Station. Amtrak could also extend Empire Corridor trains to Long Island and use those for connections to Long Island from the NEC. This is true of all rail passenger services. Chicago is a natural for connections to other corridor trains. But trains could also be extended from Detroit-Chicago to St. Louis-Kansas City as well as Minneapolis-Milwaukee-Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati, among others.


    Salinas revelopment includes Amtrak station

    and the TAMC March Meeting Report
    By Chris Flescher, RailPAC Associate Director

    Planners, working for the city of Salinas, are currently creating a plan that would significantly redevelop the downtown area.
    I attended a public meeting that described many aspects of the plan. The plan may be finalized in about two years from now, and the actual redevelopment could start soon after. Some of the plan involves making the downtown more pedestrian friendly and safer, and some includes mixed use development. salinas-amtrak-station-exterior-with-bus One part of the plan involves working with TAMC, when TAMC rebuilds the Amtrak train station into an intermodal center (with the MST bus center next to it, and the Greyhound bus station next to it).

    The plan would increase the visibility of the train station from the core downtown area, along with making it easier to walk between the two locations. At this time, the train station is very close to the core downtown area, but it is not really visible from there. Also, walking from one to the other requires the crossing of a wide, busy, and pedestrian-unfriendly street.

    Here is the TAMC meeting info:

    TAMC Rail Policy Committee meeting March 2, 2009

    For the Monterey Branch Line (MBL) alternatives analysis, the Rail Policy Committee (RPC) wants to receive all comments by the end of April. At this time, finding money for both capital (infrastructure) and operations will be difficult.

    The timeline for this year has changed. The alternatives analysis will take place in April. From May to August, phasing alternatives will be analyzed. One favored alternative will be selected in September, and creating the environmental reports will also begin at that time. The phasing alternatives means that in order to save some money, the RPC would like to consider building some stations after the system is already running.

    There is a regional model of travel, created by the government agency Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG). It provides estimates of total travel between cities, now and in future years. There was a Monterey Salinas Transit (MST) ridership survey, which showed where people were going on transit, and it has been altered for expected seasonal variation. When using the current AMBAG model, it came very close to replicating the actual MST ridership.

    For future ridership, the model considers changes in population, employment, and land use. It also takes into account the fact that BRT and LRT are faster than regular bus service, and they make fewer stops than regular bus service.

    The prediction is that by 2015, there will not be a lot of new development (near the MBL). For example, some shopping centers are under construction or are being considered. In the year 2015, the construction might not be complete, and all the spaces might not be occupied with stores. The Marina Station development and The Dunes development could be partly open in 2015. If or when these developments (and some others) open (and when they are completed), that should increase ridership on the MBL.

    The expected timeline for the MBL is now the following:

    Engineering and Design 2010-2012

    Construction 2013-2014

    Start Service 2014-2015

    As mentioned above, one way to reduce costs at first would be to have some stations open later than the time the service begins.

    In April, TAMC will be conducting another transit tour. This will be similar to the one which happened last year, and took participants on some BRT and rail lines in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. The purpose is to allow people who missed the first tour to take part in the second one.

    (Russ Jackson photo)