January California Intercity Passenger Rail Performance

Reported by David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director, CCJPA

The Capitol Corridor January 2010 ridership showed a decline compared to January 2009 and 2008. Ridership for January 2010 was down by 8.4% primarily due to the first phase of the “tie renewal program” (January 18 - February 14, 2010) between Suisun/Fairfield and Sacramento stations.  Some late-morning and mid-day trains Capitol Corridor operated on a modified schedule and a bus bridge from Sacramento to Suisun to accommodate UPRR work crews (two daily midday trains are not operating).  Another reason for the lower ridership is the impact of Friday Furloughs on State Government employees for three (3) Fridays a month, which contributes to an approximate overall reduction of 5%, representing well over half of our YTD ridership decline.

Revenues for January were below projection, although YTD revenues are 2.5% above last year.  With discretionary travel being diminished due to the difficult economic conditions, we are about to embark on marketing campaigns once the tie renewal program is complete.  These campaigns will target mid-day travel (discounts for school groups and seniors) and restart of the Kids Ride Free on Weekends.

In January UPRR demonstrated its strong commitment to on-time performance (OTP) for the Capitol Corridor.  For most of the month, OTP was stellar even with the tie renewal program until the last two days of the month when
we had two signal outages over the weekend and two trespasser fatalities on one day which dropped the OTP to 90%.  Even with this OTP for the month, YTD OTP is still 92%, making the Capitol Corridor the most reliable multi-frequency service in the Amtrak national system.

The Senate has prepared a proposal in response to the Governor’s gas tax swap in the proposed FY 2010-11 State Budget (which would eliminate the Public Transportation Account (PTA) and starting FY 2012-13 place the funding for the Capitol Corridor and other CA Intercity Passenger Rail (IPR) trains in the underfunded General Fund).  The Senate’s gas tax swap proposal would retain sales tax revenues on diesel ($300M-$400M/yr) to fund local transit at 75% and IPR and other State transit obligations at 25%. Similar to the Governor’s plan, for the next two years (FY 2010-11 and FY 2011-12) the Senate would fully fund the CA IPR Program through a draw down on the accumulated PTA balance.  However, starting in FY 2012-13, under the Senate’s proposal, the CA IPR Program would receive through its 25%
allocation of the diesel sales tax revenues approximately $80M/year, which represents a 40% REDUCTION IN FUNDING.  This would obviously be a severe impact to the nation’s most successful State-supported IPR Program.  In
fact the CA IPR Program (with its $3 billion in prior state investment) is held up as the national model.  The CA IPR Program has nowhere to turn as these trains are only supported with state transit funds – no local, or regional, or federal funds support the operation of the IPR trains.  With this funding potential shortfall, there would be massive service cuts /reductions as well as lost opportunities to seek FRA capital grant funds to implement service expansion projects, thereby prohibiting job creation and economic growth along the communities served by the IPR trains.

However, recent developments in the CA Assembly are encouraging.  Transit-supportive Assemblymembers are proposing an increased sales tax on diesel that would still allow a revenue-neutral solution for this special legislative session.  This Assembly proposal plus other limited funds that will continue to flow into the PTA will fully-fund the annual CA IPR Program (operations, staffing, marketing, and equipment renovations), allowing the CA IPR Program to survive and expand plus provide the ability to apply for the FRA capital grants.

To supplement this report, attached is a pdf file highlighting some of the key activities that have occurred since the previous monthly performance report.
(Download: January 2010 Performance Report)

CAPITOL CORRIDOR (January 2010):

  • Ridership: 117,860 riders; -8.4% vs. Jan 2009; -8.9% vs. prior YTD;
  • 6.2% vs. FY10 Plan; +5% annual growth compared to 2 years ago
  • Revenue: -1.6% vs. Jan 2009; 2.5% vs. prior YTD; -1.6% vs. FY10 Plan
  • On-Time Performance: #6 in the Amtrak system at 90% (YTD = 92%);  even with Phase 1 of the tie-renewal, UPRR was able to meet the standard
  • System Operating Ratio: 47% YTD vs. 47% in FY09; expenses are under control, revenue are slightly below plan
  • The Capitol Corridor route still continues to be third busiest route in the country, with ridership at 1.55 million for the last 12 months

PACIFIC SURFLINER (January 2010):

  • Ridership: 194,340 passengers; -0.4% vs. Jan 2009, and -3.1% vs. prior YTD; but still the second busiest route in the nation, by a wide margin.
  • Ticket Revenue only: +5.5% vs. Jan 2009, and +1.8% vs. prior YTD
  • On-time performance for Jan 2010:  81% (YTD FY 2010 on-time performance: 80%)

SAN JOAQUIN (January 2010):

  • Ridership: 71,077 passengers  +8.4% vs. Jan 2009, and +1.9% v.s prior YTD; one of the few routes in the Amtrak system continuing to have positive results
  • Ticket Revenue only: +1.0%  vs. Jan 2009, and +3.5% vs. prior YTD
  • On-time performance for Jan 2010:  89%, (YTD FY 2010 on-time performance: 91%)

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