Monthly Archives

January 2010


Sacramento Rails: Presentation Files

As promised, we are providing the PowerPoint presentations presented on January 16th.

PDF Files of the Presentations:

These files are being hosted by the Coast Starlight Communities Network.

For more on the meeting, you should read these great reports:

Commentary, Reports

Increase Your Community’s Awareness of Local Stations

Reported by Jarrod DellaChiesa, RailPAC Director
In 2009, 29,976 passengers traveled to and from the Hayward station.  It is always surprising how few people even know Hayward has an Amtrak station or that a passenger train passes through our town. 

With plans for up to 22 round trips in 2012-2015 and 32 in 2015-2020, increased community awareness of our station will be key.  Amtrak’s Sales Promotion website has free trailblazer signs available for cities to install to direct potential passengers to their stations.


I have been working with the city to install trailblazer signs throughout Hayward on city streets and highways since 2008.  The City of Hayward has now approved the proposed signs and is preparing to install them.

Google Map of sign locations:
Installation of the signs is scheduled to happen in three phases.

  • Phase 1:  Replace Current Signs on City Streets
  • Phase 2:  New Signs on City Streets
  • Phase 3:  Signs on Freeways

Phases 1 and 2 have been approved by the City of Hayward.  I am currently procuring the signs and the City of Hayward will install them when they arrive.

Phase 3 has not yet been approved by Caltrans.


  • Determine where signs could be installed to do the most good
  • Create a map of proposed sign locations and send it to your community’s street department
  • Work with officials to refine sign locations and determine responsibility for their installation.  Most communities are not able to do work on freeways or highways.
  • Once officials involved have approved the sign locations, they can order the trailblazer signs from Western Folder.  They will need to provide Amtrak with a list of addresses where the signs will be installed while placing the order.
  • Responsible parties/agencies install the signs upon arrival
  • Now more people know about the station in your community!

Are you going to implement this in your community?  I would love to know!


Response to White House HSR Awards

Commentary by Paul Dyson

  • $2.25 Billion for California High Speed Rail. Too little to make even the smallest impact, and relies on California matching funds. Did anyone tell USDOT that California is broke and can’t even issue passenger rolling stock bonds approved three years ago?Beneficiaries: Consultants and engineering firms.
    Blue collar jobs created this year or next? Minimal.
  • $94 million for California Corridors. The Board identified $1 billion for LOSSAN alone. Money spent here could have had a real impact on job creation and on improving mobility over the next ten years.
  • On top of this the Governor is once again raiding operating funds for transit and intercity putting the whole state rail program in jeopardy. I find it hard to imagine a worse outcome in this whole process. It has almost nothing to do with a sensible transportation policy and is entirely driven by short term political considerations.

    We’ll be taking a closer look at these issues in the March Review, and debating how to proceed from here at our April 17 Los Angeles meeting. I promise that we’ll allow a lot more time for member participation at this event.

    Paul Dyson, President. 01/28/09
    Your opinions welcome,


    High Speed and Commuter Rail Electrification: Is Catenary Height an Issue?

    Commentary by Paul Dyson
    As we contemplate construction of High Speed Rail and electrification of existing routes we need to ask if catenary height an issue. This may seem arcane, almost academic, but it has real implications for the type of railroad network that we want to see here in California. Indeed it raises issues for the whole country.

    I’ve had a vision for a long time of two electrified regional networks, northern and southern California, with a High Speed trunk route linking them with each other and with the San Joaquin Valley communities. Some routes of these regional networks will use tracks shared with freight traffic including double stack container trains and automobile carriers. Furthermore, these regional routes can also be used by High Speed Trains (“HST”) extending their routes beyond the High Speed Trunk Line (“HSTL”) to provide single seat service to more patrons. Imagine then an HST starting a trip in say Irvine on the LOSSAN corridor, via Los Angeles and the HSTL to San Jose and then on the northern network to Emeryville or even Sacramento. In my opinion this is the sort of service we need to get people out of their cars.

    Unfortunately this cannot be done based on the current plans of the California High Speed Rail Authority (“CHSRA”). In the interest of being able to purchase off the shelf European or Asian High Speed and Commuter trains, the CHSRA has apparently adopted a European standard for the height of the catenary above rail level of 18 – 19 feet. This standard will not accommodate North American freight traffic, which will require a catenary height of 22 feet or more. While this may not seem to be an issue for the HSTL, it severely limits the possibilities of service expansion to other important markets which cannot justify a dedicated High Speed right of way.

    There are indeed both statewide and national ramifications to the adoption of such a low catenary height, both for freight and passenger operations in the future. In California, it will be desirable to electrify both the Capitol Corridor and parts if not all of the LOSSAN Corridor and the Metrolink commuter system. LOSSAN is the second busiest passenger line in the country and the Capitol Corridor is catching up fast. These routes will soon have the traffic density and passenger numbers to justify electrification. However, both corridors are also busy freight routes whose traffic includes double stack containers and tri-level automobile carriers. What will this mean? These are the options that will be left for these corridors:

    No electrification, continued use of diesel powered trains.

    Elimination of efficient double stack container and high level auto carriers from these routes. In California this will put the Ports of San Francisco, Hueneme and San Diego, Benicia and others permanently out of the automobile and container business.

    Introduction of a second “standard” of electrification which is compatible with full freight access, but will not allow through operation of high speed trains or standardization of passenger rail equipment.

    Each of these has significant cost implications as well as limiting the types of passenger service that can be provided. In Europe it is common practice for High Speed Trains to serve major cities that do not have dedicated high speed lines. The trains reach these cities from the High Speed routes over existing lines that also carry local passenger and freight services. Passengers always prefer a through service to their destination over making a connection, even if part of the journey is relatively slow compared to HSR operation. Thus it makes commercial sense for High Speed Trains from Southern California eventually to operate over an electrified Capitol Corridor to Oakland and Richmond, even Sacramento, as well as over shared Caltrain tracks to San Francisco. In the southern part of the state HSR trains could serve southern Orange County and down the Coast route to San Diego if the catenary is compatible.

    There are similar circumstances on almost all of the proposed High Speed Routes around the country and it is quite likely that the standard adopted by California will be copied by those projects. I believe it would be a serious mistake to adopt a low catenary height for California. The unique feature of North American railroads is the high clearance profile which exists on most main lines. European and Asian rail operators envy the efficiencies of double stack container shipping and the ability to move large dimensional cargoes across North American. On the passenger side the high level passenger cars such as the long distance Superliners and the bi-level cars on the California Corridor services permit a degree of passenger comfort and ability to enjoy the scenery that are unique. Why should we design down to International dimensions when we could and should be using our advantages to build a High Speed system to a better North American standard?

    Given that we are some years away from ordering rolling stock, and engineering is still at a preliminary stage, it is not too late to call for a review of this policy. As I well address in a separate commentary, there are other serious flaws in the CAHSRA plans. Given that barely 10% of the needed funds will likely be available in the near future, we need to make sure that we don’t commit ourselves to a technological standard that severely limits our service options. We are after all building for the next 100 years. Let’s get it right from the outset.
    Paul Dyson


    RailPAC-NARP “Sacramento Rails” Meeting Report and Photos

    Reported by Russ Jackson, editor, with photos by the author.
    The 60 people who attended the January 16 meeting at the Rail Museum were not disappointed, even on a foggy Saturday in Sacramento. The survival and expansion of rail passenger service was on everyone’s mind, and the speakers were very qualified to discuss the current situation.

    As RailPAC President Paul Dyson said at the end of the meeting, and is quoted by Noel Braymer in his meeting report which gives additional details, we “got the level of information that professionals regularly pay up to $500 to learn at industry symposiums.” Here are the headlines this reporter came away with from each speaker. The success of this meeting in Northern California should whet the appetite for the April 17 meeting in Los Angeles.

    Roger Dickinson, Sacramento County Supervisor and former Chairman of the Capitol Corridor JPA. In his welcome to Sacramento he emphasized the need for expansion of the rail programs including high speed, and urged there be effort to better coordinate interconnectivity between all rail and transit programs state-wide, likewise a RailPAC objective. Mr. Dickinson introduced David Kutrosky to his new position:

    David Kutrosky, CCJPA Managing Director, making his first speech as the new Managing Director, presented his energetic ten year program of improvements, which includes more technology, more new cars, and with more cars that means there needs to be a new maintenance facility which would be built in Sacramento. Positive Train Controls will lead to faster running speeds on the Corridor, he said, up to 90 mph!

    Bill Bronte, Chief of the Caltrans Rail Program, had good news, but the bad news was there will be no bond money to spend for a while. Mr. Bronte had arrived back from Washington DC the night before, and his good news was the “Fed” will be announcing how the $8B passenger rail money will be spent, in early February. He believes California will get 2B, the Midwest 2B, Florida 2B, and the Northeast Corridor will get a big chunk even though they were excluded from this fund, with the rest for everyone else. As for state rail operations, “We’re in for a bumpy road.”

    Stacey Mortensen, ACE Executive Director, discussed future plans for ACE, and her need to work to drive operating costs down. She is also working to speed up schedules for the 3 ACE trains, as they run slower on that route today than trains did 50 years ago. One plan was to purchase the line from the Union Pacific, but the UP was “not looking to sell no matter how hard we tried.” So, they are looking to build a new corridor to the Valley with direct connection to BART and the HSR program.

    Hinda Chandler, Senior Architect, Sacramento City Transportation Department, discussed development at the Sacramento train station and is showing an aerial view of the property in this photo, which will become a transportation hub in three phases: 1) track relocation, 2) station improvements, 3) intermodal expansion. The best news, though, was there no longer is a plan to move the station building closer to the relocated tracks. Construction of Phase 1 will start this Spring.

    < Paul Hammond, Executive Director of the California State Rail Museum, welcomed the group to the Museum. He emphasized that the CSRM is “not just the past,” but through partnerships with agencies they work to get people to ride trains to the Museum, and they are excited about the future of passenger rail.

    Armin Kick, Director of High Speed Rail Development, Siemens Corp., Sacramento, discussed the operations of the large assembly plant located in this city, and made clear that Siemens is not only in the light rail business, but is planning its expansion into high speed rail in this country. They already have equipped the Velaro HSR system in Spain, and plan to bid on the California High Speed Rail equipment which would be assembled in a new facility at their plant.

    NOTE: We hope you enjoyed the mid-afternoon break with the Amtrak Station Hosts organization.

    Meeting participants had an opportunity to win gifts in the end-of-meeting drawing, shown here being conducted by RailPAC Treasurer Bill Kerby and Director Marcia Johnston which included gift certificates to the Rail Museum, and daily planners from ACE (this writer was lucky to win one of these!). Thank you all! Look for a full trip report of how we traveled to Sacramento posted on!


    RailPAC writes Senator Boxer re Amtrak Board

    Senator Barbara Boxer
    Washington DC
    Via Fax
    22nd January, 2010
    Dear Senator Boxer:
    California needs and deserves a representative on the Amtrak Board of Directors. At present there is no Amtrak Board member domiciled west of Illinois.

    Consider that:

    The State of California pays Amtrak almost $100 million per year for the state rail program.

    3 of the 5 busiest routes in the country are in California.

    4 of the 7 western long distance trains operate to and from California.

    Amtrak’s investments (95% of capital expenditure) and management focus are centered on the Northeast Corridor. While this is an important service, Amtrak is supposed to operate a National system.

    There is still one vacancy on the Amtrak Board. It’s time for California to have the representation it deserves. There are many well qualified candidates on the state rail boards and transportation commissions.

    RailPAC is an all volunteer advocacy group with 1,000 members and 3,500 affiliates. We have been campaigning for environmentally friendly passenger rail service since 1977.

    Yours faithfully,
    Paul J. Dyson, President.


    CA Corridors December statistics

    Reported by DAVID B. KUTROSKY, Managing Director, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority
    NOTE: This article contains important future state financial information that Mr. Kutrosky discussed at the RailPAC-NARP Sacramento meeting, which will have impact on the state operated trains.

    The Capitol Corridor December 2009 results are mixed with a continued ridership decline compared to December 2008, but for the second month in a row revenue was above the prior year with a strong on-time performance (OTP) result as well. With monthly ridership declines beginning to subside and positive revenue results, these indicators are pointing towards a recovery in service performance for the Capitol Corridor. As stated previously, the Capitol Corridor is being negatively impacted by the poor economic conditions in Northern California region (primarily high unemployment) as well as the continuing “Friday Furloughs”, in which state Government offices are closed three (3) Fridays per month (reducing Capitol Corridor ridership by 3% – 5%).

    Of significant concern is the Governor’s gas tax swap in the proposed FY010-11 State Budget. This swap would eliminate the Public Transportation Account (PTA) and replace it with increased excise gas tax. In this proposal, operating funds would be available to support the state’s 3 intercity train services with remaining PTA funds for two years through FY 2011-12; however, starting in FY 2012-13 the financing for the operation of the these trains would have to compete with services in the General Fund.
    Since this proposal would basically eliminate the only dedicated funding source for the state’s intercity passenger rail program, it could thereby jeopardize the State’s current and future FRA High Speed/Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program capital grant applications as one of the key requirements to receive grant funds is to identify long-term dedicated operating funds for the Capitol Corridor and the other intercity passenger rail services. Staff is working with transit agencies and other affected parties to defeat this proposal.

    Capitol Corridor (December 2009):

  • Ridership: 122,649 riders; -5.8% vs. Dec 2008; -9.1% vs. prior YTD; -5.6% vs. FY10 Plan; +6% annual growth compared to 2 years ago
  • Revenue: +0.9%vs. Dec 2008; -1.0% vs. prior YTD; -4.1% vs. FY10 Plan
  • On-Time Performance: #1 in the Amtrak system at 93% (YTD = 93%); even with a poor start to the month, UPRR did an outstanding job to close out the month on top
  • System Operating Ratio: 47% YTD vs. 48% in FY09; expenses are stable, increased revenue has improved the ratio
  • The Capitol Corridor route still continues to be third busiest route in the country, with ridership at 1.56 million for the last 12 months
  • _______________________________________________

    Pacific Surfliners (December 2009):

  • Ridership: 188,831 passengers; -3.6% vs. Dec 2008, and -3.9% vs. prior YTD; but still the second busiest route in the nation, by a wide margin.
  • – Ticket Revenue only: +4.2% vs. Dec 2008, and +0.8% vs. prior YTD
  • On-time performance for December 2009: 82% (YTD FY 2010 on-time performance: 80%)
  • __________________________________________________

    San Joaquins (December 2009):

  • Ridership: 82,934 passengers +2.5% vs. Dec 2008, and +0.1% v.s prior YTD; one of the few routes in the Amtrak system continuing to have positive results
  • – Ticket Revenue only: +2.8% vs. Dec 2008, and +4.3% vs. prior YTD
  • On-time performance for December 2009: 93%, tied with Capitol Corridor top monthly OTP (YTD FY 2010 on-time performance: 92%)
  • Commentary, Issues

    Great Meeting in Sacramento on January 16, 2010

    Report by Noel T. Braymer
    Full House in Sacramento A Full House in Sacramento
    The underlying theme of most of the speakers at the RailPAC/NARP meeting was on the challenges ahead for the State’s Rail Passenger services with future ridership growth in the mist of the current economic problems.

    Compounding this will be the need to expand service to handle ridership growth feeding riders to the future High Speed Rail service. As RailPAC President Paul Dyson reflected attendees at the meeting on January 16th got the level of information that professionals regularly pay up to $500 to learn at industry symposiums. Continue Reading


    RailPAC-NARP Sacramento meeting UPDATE

    March 2008-2“SACRAMENTO RAILS”
    In the California State Rail Museum meeting room
    where the 2008 annual meeting was held, 111 I Street, just west of the CSRM main building. Minimum Donation: $15, payable in advance: YOU MUST RESERVE BY JANUARY 13! SPACE IS LIMITED to 50, so E-mail, or call 916-833-4218 to reserve your space NOW. The PayPal option is at the end of this message!
    WE ARE PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE Armin Kick of Siemens Sacramento will participate. His expertise completes the picture of integrated rail from his task experience from high speed rail rolling stock to light rail.
    PROGRAM: Other Speakers include, RailPAC-NARP’s Paul Dyson; Sacrmento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson; Capitol Corridor’s new Managing Director David Kutrosky; Caltrans Rail Program Chief Bill Bronte; ACE Excecutive Director Stacey Mortensen; Sacramento City DOT’s Hinda Chandler on the Railyards development; Paul Hammond from the CSRM with RailPAC’s Art Lloyd; and an end of meeting DRAWING!

    Click the logo above for your payment of $ 15.00 for: Sacramento Meeting Registration