May 6, 2010 — The Coast Starlight is one of Amtrak’s 15 long-distance passenger rail routes, serving 27 cities between Los Angeles and Seattle. The route has been described as “one of the most fascinating journeys on the West Coast. It will take your breath away.” The route offers unparalleled experiences of the western states as well as incredible untapped potential as a tool for improved mobility. The Coast Starlight has been a proud West Coast asset for nearly thirty-nine years and, as it prepares to enter its fourth decade of service, still has much potential for growth. Like Amtrak’s other long-distance rail routes, the Coast Starlight suffers from chronic underfunding and under-investment.
The Coast Starlight Communities Network has released a document entitled “The Coast Starlight: Improving America’s Premier Long-Distance Train”. The document, funded by RailPAC, outlines various improvements for the Coast Starlight that would make the service more useful and enjoyable for the traveling public. The report offers a detailed analysis and plan for capital improvements and operational improvements.
Long-term improvements, such as increased service frequency and expanded capacity, are proposed alongside with low-cost short-term improvements, such as timetable holders and improved signage. Some of the improvements detailed in the report are now being rushed to implementation, including on-board WiFi internet access and flat-screen televisions offering video content and relevant, location-based information.
Emphasis is placed on interconnectivity and the concept of mutual benefit. If efforts were made to seamlessly integrate the Coast Starlight with other transportation facilities and communities, all involved parties would stand to gain. Better integration could come from through ticketing and coordinated schedules with connecting rail services, including Metrolink and Caltrain.
The report also recommends that Coast Starlight stops be reevaluated to enhance connections with transit lines and airports. The Coast Starlight could become even more useful if station stops are added or moved to serve Bob Hope Airport, the future Metro Orange Line station in Chatsworth, and the Richmond BART station.
Also recommended are over 80 track improvement projects identified by rail agencies and the Coast Starlight Communities Network. The Coast Starlight has benefited from significant public investment in portions of the corridor also used by commuter and short-distance Amtrak trains. Yet, the majority of its route is not shared with other agencies and much of it has not received infrastructure improvements since the 1940s. These portions of the corridor, given longstanding federal funding priorities, have received few track improvements. The Coast Starlight Communities Network calls for investment in these track segments.
Members of the Coast Starlight Communities Network will be present on May 8 at National Train Day festivities in Los Angeles, Salinas, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Portland, and on the Coast Starlight itself between Martinez and Paso Robles. Copies of the document will be distributed at each event.
For more information or to view the document, visit www.coaststarlight.net/projects/whitepaper.
About the Coast Starlight Communities Network (CSCN):
The Coast Starlight Communities Network, created in 2007, is a coalition of various interests with the goal of protecting and improving rail service between Washington, Oregon, and California. They have assumed an educational and advocacy role dedicated to improving rail services along the Coast Starlight corridor. With the assistance of partner organizations thousands of campaign fliers have been distributed to educate travelers, advocates, and community leaders of the importance of the Coast Starlight.
Their website, www.coaststarlight.net, provides personalized travel information and details simple ways Americans can show their support for passenger rail service. Their Facebook page (www.coaststarlight.net/facebook/) and Twitter account (www.coaststarlight.net/twitter/) features current news, quick and simple ways you can support the Coast Starlight, and communicate with potential travelers and passengers while they are onboard.