Issues

RailPAC to CHSRA: Provide Value from 1st Investments

2nd February, 2010

Hon. Curt Pringle and Board Members

CALIFORNIA HIGH SPEED RAIL AUTHORITY

925 L Street Suite 1425
Sacramento, CA 95814
Via fax: 916 322 0827

PROVIDING VALUE FROM THE FIRST INVESTMENTS

Dear Chairman Pringle and Board members:

The Rail Passenger Association of California (RailPAC) has been campaigning for over thirty years for improved passenger rail service in California.  Progress has been slow but at least today we have the basic framework of commuter and inter city rail in most of the important corridors.  We supported Proposition 1A and welcome the recently announced small down payment for High Speed Rail (“HSR”) from the federal government.  We are, however, greatly concerned by the growing clamor of criticism from some key politicians as well as the public and even some rail advocacy groups. 

It is extremely important that these first funds are judiciously spent so that they provide some immediate, tangible benefit to the traveling public as well as being a building block for the system as a whole.

Although Orange County will be a key market for HSR when the system is built, one presumes that your consultants have told the Board that a stand alone Los Angeles – Anaheim shuttle service is of no great utility, and would require considerable operating subsidy.  It would also abstract revenue and add to the deficits of the current Metrolink and Amtrak services. Even with a twenty minute running time between these stations, a door to door journey of about an hour is not markedly better than today’s one hour and twenty minutes by Metrolink train.  (40 minutes station to station).  There is a very real danger here that, until the Los Angeles to San Francisco trunk line is built, this short section will be viewed as a monument, and will be a lightning rod for those that say the whole project is a waste of money and will not attract riders.

We propose an alternative use for these initial funds that, while still laying the foundation for HSR to Anaheim, provides significant improvement for today’s travelers on Metrolink and Amtrak.  We call for the building of combined HSR and Amtrak/Metrolink run through tracks at Los Angeles Union Station, and the completion of grade separation and triple tracking between Los Angeles and Fullerton.  This will reduce journey times on 28 Metrolink and 26 Amtrak trains by at least 10 minutes, reduce emissions and fuel consumption, and provide a better service throughout the LOSSAN intercity corridor and the Metrolink system.  It will be perceived as a significant benefit of the High Speed Rail program and can be delivered within a couple of years.  The route can be electrified later when the High Speed system is extended north of Los Angeles.

We believe that it is very important to maintain public support for High Speed Rail as it will no doubt be necessary to keep going back to the taxpayer for additional funds for many years to come.  With careful planning it should be possible to deliver short term benefits stemming from this expenditure so that the public does not become disillusioned with the process.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Dyson, President

CC. Passenger Rail stakeholders and interested parties.

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