Monthly Archives

September 2010

Editorials

What AB 32 and Rail Service have in Common

Editorial by Noel T. Braymer

AB 32 is a law passed and signed into law in California back in September 27, 2006. Its goal is to reduce the state’s emission of carbon back to 1990 levels by 2020. This law has broad bi-partisan support. Environmentalists support the law because it would clean the air and they believe by lowering carbon levels it would prevent climate change. Other people support the law because it would reduce California’s and the Nation’s dependence on oil, particularly foreign oil. Supporting AB 32 is George Shultz. George Shultz was in the Cabinet of both Presidents Nixon and Reagan. He was Secretary of State under Reagan. Before that he was a Marine Corps Officer during World War II and a Professor of Economics. Mr. Shultz believes reducing oil dependence is critical to American Security. Shell Oil with headquarters in Europe supports AB 32. Such legislation is common in Europe and many other countries around the world. The other major oil companies: Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP and ExxonMobil are neutral about AB 32.

AB 32 is in the news because Prop 23 which is on the ballot if passed would derail AB 32. Supporters of Prop 23 claim that AB 32 would increase unemployment and they want to delay implementation of it until the State’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or lower for an entire year. The chance of unemployment holding steady under 5.5% any time soon, let alone for a year is unlikely. No hard evidence is being given how this law would affect employment based on experience from other countries with similar laws. California’s Silicon Valley is a supporter of AB 32 and expects a major increase of Green Jobs and business because of AB 32.

Almost all of the money and support for Prop 23 is coming from the out of state oil companies. The majority of the funding for it comes from Valero Energy, Tesoro Corporation of Texas and Koch Industries of Kansas. These companies own oil refineries in California. Their reason for promoting Prop 23 is simple; AB 32 will cost them money. Part of the law will require that oil refineries change the way they make gasoline and reduce by 10% the amount of carbon in it. Refineries are also major air polluters and they would need to reduce the pollution they are emitting under AB 32. California is the largest market in this country for oil. What is also in the bill is a Cap and Trade provision which the fossil fuel industry fear most. This is why AB 32 has been ignored until now since the Cap and Trade provision will be implemented next year.  The Cap is the limit or goal an industry is suppose to not exceed in carbon emissions. An industry that exceeds the Cap must pay to mitigate for any overage. The Trade part come when other industries which are below their allowed carbon emission are able to trade (sell) their carbon credits to those companies that go over. Cap and Trade is run mostly by the financial industry (i.e. Wall Street) which loves the idea.

What types of industries might have credit to sell their low levels of carbon use? Well one would be solar energy. Another would be rail service. Rail is already energy efficient and should have “carbon credits” just doing business as is. Increased freight traffic, passenger use, railroads switching to biodiesel or electrifying could mean more money from selling their increased carbon credits. Cap and Trade has been around a long time. It was used successfully in the Clean Air Act of 1990 to reduce sulfur dioxide emission which causes Acid Rain. Cap and Trade has been used in several countries for several years. There have been some mistakes and problems. But what it did do well is reduce the amount of fossil fuel used before Cap and Trade. This has happened without economic collapse or increased unemployment in those counties with Cap and Trade.


A trip planned from Seattle to Los Angeles using Google Transit
Reports

Coast Starlight on Google Transit

Report by Jarrod DellaChiesa, RailPAC Director and Coast Starlight Communities Network Project Coordinator

It is with great pleasure that I announce that the Coast Starlight is now live on Google Transit!

In early 2008, the Coast Starlight Communities Network first suggested that Amtrak share their routes on Google Transit.  CSCN began working with Amtrak and Google directly to add data on the Coast Starlight route in late 2008.  In July 2009, Amtrak launched the 3 Amtrak California routes on Google Transit with CSCN testing those routes.  I’ve been testing the Coast Starlight route on Google Transit over the last few months and this morning the route officially went live.

Try planning a trip anywhere on the West Coast, and if you are traveling between cities served by the Coast Starlight, you’ll see the option show up.  I planned a mock trip between Seattle and Los Angeles so that you can see the overview of the entire route.

A trip planned from Seattle to Los Angeles using Google Transit

Continue Reading

Pictured is Airport Executive Director Dan Feger pointing to the location of the center on the aerial photo in his office.  Dan commutes on Metrolink daily from his home in Oxnard.
Commentary

Burbank Airport Authority Presentation

On Monday September 20th, 2010, RailPAC President Paul Dyson attended the regular meeting of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, the JPA that operates Burbank Bob Hope Airport.

On behalf of RailPAC Paul presented Authority President Frank Quintero with a plaque marking the occasion of the authorization by Burbank City Council to proceed with construction of the Regional Intermodal Transportation Center.

The new center will be built on existing parking spaces and will include a bus terminal, rental car facility, overbridge to connect to the Amtrak/Metrolink station, parking spaces for train passengers, and a moving walkway to the Terminals.  The facility will be funded by a fee on rental cars plus a $900,000 federal grant.  Target for completion is December 2012.

Pictured is Airport Executive Director Dan Feger pointing to the location of the center on the aerial photo in his office. Dan commutes on Metrolink daily from his home in Oxnard.

Reports

Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Board Meeting Report

September 15, 2010 Meeting in Suisun City

Reported by Michael Barnbaum, Associate Director

Nine out of a total sixteen directors were present, barely constituting a majority of Directors for this meeting. After Roll Call and the Pledge of Allegiance, Chair Holmes (Placer County) addressed the audience in his “Report of the Chair” time on the microphone. Some of his remarks highlighted the lack of a State Budget, the end of the existing Amtrak Agreement on September 30th, the Amtrak Pricing Policy for corridor services, as well as the gaining popularity of Capitol Corridor’s website.

On the first action item of CCJPA FY 11 Budget, staff presented a highlight of the overall budget.  Director Bob Franklin (BART) requested that next time staff breakdown the items, including adding a line item for fuel cost.   Director Gail Murray (BART) asked whether Amtrak has enough funding to support Capitol Corridor.  The question came down to the matter on the next agenda item pertaining to CCJPA/Amtrak FY 11 Fixed Price Operating Agreement. Director Tom Blalock (BART/SJVRC) asked out of concern whether adopting the staff recommendation of the CCJPA FY11 Budget required a “super” majority vote, which would be eleven out of sixteen directors present to adopt those measures. Legal Counsel of BART mentioned that only the Business Plan is the sole CCJPA matter that ever comes before the Board to require eleven directors or more present to adopt such a measure. With Director Blalock having peace of mind settled on that question, the meeting continued with one question from Director Roger Dickinson (SRTD).

The question that was raised was how much was being allocated in the budget towards Union Pacific Incentive Payments.  While the amounts have grown and seem astonishing, David Kutrosky mentioned “these are checks that I love to write.”

  • Year 1: $0
  • Year 2: $2.0 Million
  • Year 3: $2.4 Million
  • Year 4: $2.7 Million Budgeted for CCJPA FY 11 Budget

The CCJPA voted nine to nothing to adopt the CCJPA FY 11 Budget.

The item that perhaps highlighted the meeting, in terms of CCJPA service changes are concerned was the CCJPA item titled “FY2010 FRA High Speed/Intercity Passenger Rail Capital Grant Applications”.  Staff referred to a PowerPoint Presentation that detailed costs and application requirements.  Below are statistics from the presentation:

HSIPR Funding Costs

  • Project A – 1 additional train to/from Auburn
  • Project B – 2 reliability projects (subset of a larger project set to get up to 11 trains to/from San Jose)
  • Projects A+B: $72.70 Million total project costs
  • HSIPR Request: $58.14 Million
  • Matching Funds: $14.56 Million
  • Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR): $10.3 Million
  • Prop 1A: $4.26 Million

HSIPR Application Requirements

  • Service Development Plan
  • Financial Plan
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Documentation
  • Safety Plan
  • Sponsor and Railroad Agreements
  • Engineering/Design Plans
  • Letters of Support

Weekday Service Development Plan (Once CCJPA Receives FRA Award Notice)

  • Eliminate #518 (4:30 A.M. Oakland to Sacramento [Carries Approx. 20 Riders])
  • Extend #538 (3:00 P.M. San Jose to Sacramento) to Auburn arriving at 7:18 P.M.
  • Begin #527 (7:00 A.M. Sacramento to San Jose) in Auburn departing at 5:55 A.M.
  • Consolidate Existing #549 & #551 (6:40 P.M. & 7:40 P.M.) to leave at 7:10 P.M.
  • Note that #549 & #551 are Sacramento to Oakland and would become one train.
  • A 7:10 P.M. departure would allow connections to MotorCoach #4768 in Oakland.
  • #4768 (Oakland to Santa Barbara) connects with #768 which originates in Goleta.

Service Changes Forecasted Results

  • 2% Operating Cost Savings going from 16 to 15 weekday overall roundtrips.
  • 3% Increase in Ridership and Revenue

This writer pointed out that the Fall/Winter timetable change falls on November 8, 2010 and that the Spring/Summer timetable change will likely occur on May 9, 2011 (two days after the next National Train Day).  David Kutrosky mentioned that the proposed service changes will occur on a date uncertain at this time because CCJPA must wait to receive the award from the FRA.

Priscilla Kalugdan spoke on the overall Marketing Program for the CCJPA.   A presentation was made showing a video through BART-TV of how easy it is to use the Richmond Station to transfer from Capitol Corridor to BART.   Another presentation showed the Automated Ticket Validation for the Capitol Corridor trains.   CCJPA expects full ATV deployment in October 2010.  It will then be expanded to the Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquins.

The next meeting CCJPB will be at 10:00 AM on November 17, 2010 at City Council Chambers, Suisun City.

Commentary

August California Intercity Passenger Rail Performance

Reported by David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director, CCJPA


Performance continues to improve on the Capitol Corridor compared to monthly results from 2009.  In fact, ridership has increased each of the last 6 months, closing the gap on decreases earlier in the fiscal year.  August 2010 ridership was 138,739, a 5% increase over August 2009.  Revenue mirrored the ridership results with a 3% increase over August 2009.

On-time performance (OTP) remains superior with Capitol Corridor trains arriving at their endpoint stations on-time 96%, continuing to keep the Capitol Corridor as the nation’s OTP leader in the Amtrak system.  The Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) continues its commitment to keeping the Capitol Corridor trains on schedule while managing the increased levels of rail freight traffic as the economy begins its slow recovery.

These positive ridership results occurred even though the Governor reinstated the three furlough Fridays per month in August. A primary reason for the ridership increase can be seen in the gains associated with the two running promotions on the Capitol Corridor – Seniors Ride Half-Off during the midday/mid-weekday trains and Kids Ride Free on Weekends (including Fridays).  We are starting to see increases among the diverse users of the Capitol Corridor trains – students, leisure trippers, business travelers, and youth/school groups. Another key element in retaining and gaining new riders is having the Capitol Corridor be the most reliable Amtrak route in the country.

The superior OTP continues for the Capitol Corridor primarily due to UPRR’s completion of the multi-year tie/track renewal program between San Jose and Auburn in March 2010.   Amtrak mechanical delays are decreasing as well which limits disruptions to the passengers and keeps the OTP above the 90% standard.  CCJPA transportation staff have reconvened a working group with the Coast Guard, UPRR, and Amtrak to better understand the delays associated with Benicia-Martinez drawbridge lifts.

While the deadline of June 30, 2010 for a state budget has passed and there appears to be no date set for adoption or enactment of a state budget for FY 10-11, the current contract for Amtrak’s operation of the Capitol Corridor service expires on September 30, 2010.  The CCJPA has reached agreement with Amtrak on the budget for the FY 10-11 operating contract, which is effective October 1, 2010 through September 30, 2011.   While the budget and contract are nearly complete, the FY 11 operating contract cannot be executed without an adopted state budget.

FY2010 FRA HSIPR Capital Grants
The CCJPA prepared and submitted grant applications to FRA on August 5, 2010 through Caltrans Rail.  The due date for applications was August 6, 2010. These FY2010 capital applications were due August 6 and required at least a 20% non-federal match.  The applications prepared by the CCJPA were:

  1. Donner Pass Phase 2 Project ($51.3 million with $10.3 million match from UPRR) that will allow an increase of service frequency between Sacramento and Auburn of one additional round trip
  2. Reliability improvements in Fremont and Newark ($20 million with $4 million in matching Prop 1A High Speed Train Connectivity funds).  These Fremont-Newark upgrades are part of an incremental program of improvements so that when all projects are complete, service can expand to 11 round trip trains to/from San Jose. FRA anticipates at the moment providing award announcements on these grant applications in late September or October.

In closing, with the economy showing sporadic signs of a slow recovery in Northern California, it is anticipated that Capitol Corridor service performance (ridership, revenue, OTP) should continue its positive results for the remainder of the fiscal year (ending September 30, 2010), which should close the gap between business plan projections and actual results.  The CCJPA will continue to work with our service partners to improve passenger safety, provide superior customer service and finish the fiscal year with strong results in service performance.

(Download:  August 2010 Performance Report)
Capitol Corridor (August 2010):

  • Ridership: 138,789 riders; +5.0% vs. Aug. 2009; -1.6% vs. prior YTD; -1.2% vs. FY10 YTD Plan
  • Revenue: +3.2% vs. Aug. 2009; +3.2% vs. prior YTD; -4.6% vs. FY10 YTD Plan
  • On-Time Performance: 96%, YTD OTP of 93% keeping the service #1 in the nation.
  • System Operating Ratio: 47% YTD vs. 47% in FY09; expenses stabilizing with revenue growing in concert with ridership increases.
  • The Capitol Corridor route still continues to be third busiest route in the country, with ridership at 1.58 million for the last 12 months


Pacific Surfliners (August 2010):

  • Ridership: 261,590 passengers; -0.7% vs. Aug. 2009, and +1.1% ahead of prior YTD; ridership exceeded Amtrak’s premier Acela service in Aug. 2010.
  • Ticket Revenue only: +4.6% vs. Aug. 2009, and +6.8% vs. prior YTD
  • On-time performance for Aug. 2010: 68% (YTD FY 2010 on-time performance: 77%)

San Joaquin (August 2010):

  • Ridership: 82,992 passengers -1.7% vs. Aug. 2009, and +5.4% vs. prior YTD; solidifying the San Joaquin as the fifth busiest corridor in Amtrak system.
  • Ticket Revenue only: +10.7% vs. Aug. 2009, and +12.3% vs. prior YTD
  • On-time performance for July 2010: 91% (YTD FY 2010 on-time performance: 91%); right behind Capitol Corridor as 2nd most reliable service in Amtrak system.
Editorials

Who will build this train?

Interesting Quote from the June issue of Railway Age Magazine article “Who will build this train?”

…Realistically, observers and supporters say, at least $50 billion in guaranteed federal HSR funding is needed to attract state dollars and private investment. The Obama Administration’s financial commitment is, again, a start, and there’s momentum in Congress to expand it….

Seeing opportunity, offshore railways are knocking on America’s door, with investment capital in hand.{emphasis added} The Chinese Ministry of Railways, for example, has joined forces with General Electric and is offering the California High Speed Rail Authority a 30-year DBOM (design-build-operate-maintain) deal. Central Japan Railway, its sights set on Florida, is prepared to offer financing through JBIC (Japan Bank for International Cooperation), as is East Japan Railway in California. SNCF (French National Railways), Deutsche Bahn (German Rail), and RENFE (Spanish National Railways) have similar proposals. Working with key suppliers—Alstom, Siemens, Talgo, Bombardier, Kawasaki, Mitsubishi, CAF—these established HSR operators are prepared to meet rather stringent “Buy America” requirements that some say are unrealistic…

Contracts for the California HSR projects should be signed by 2011 and construction needs to start by 2012. It could boil down to which country offers the best financing package to win the project for its nation’s businesses. This is more than a contract for rail cars, there is the construction, electrification, operating and maintenance contracts as well. Such a financing deal will make it easier to start construction without having 40 odd billion dollars up front by the CHSRA. Since the winner of this contract will have “skin in the game” hopefully there will be incentive to run a popular and efficient passenger service if they expect a return on their investment. NB

Editorials

How About a High Speed San Joaquin?

Editorial by Noel T. Braymer

No doubt the call by RailPAC to build HSR between Bakersfield and Los Angeles first at the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee meeting on July 29, 2010 and extend the San Joaquin trains on it to Southern California didn’t go over well with the California High Speed Rail Authority. No doubt the first thing they said was “you can’t mix slow passenger trains with fast trains on a high speed corridor!”
What you can do, and is done all the time in Europe is run HSR trains on the old conventional tracks where it isn’t economical to upgrade to high speed. Most of the high speed trackage in Europe is out in the open country where construction costs are lower and where long stretches of non-stop running will get the maximum time savings at high speed. When you go from 60 to 120 miles per hour you save 30 seconds on average every mile you go. If you double that to 240 miles per hour your savings are only 15 seconds per mile on average. In most urban areas the time saved going over 110 miles per hour is only a few minutes because the distances are fairly short.

When we extend the San Joaquins to Southern California we are going to need new equipment. There is not enough now to meet current growth and extending the San Joaquins will see an explosion of ridership. You might as well get equipment that will feel right at home on a fast railroad. What about FRA regulations? Well Talgo already has a High Speed Trainset that meets FRA strength requirements, though this may not be a major issue. The FRA waiver on those requirements on Caltrain for new lightweight electrified commuter trains was based on the adoption of Positive Train Control (PTC). Prevention of train to train collisions with better signaling is a more rational approach to safety than building trains like tanks. By 2015 all passenger rail lines should have PTC. As for low platform loading this is possible with most HSR equipment. In France the busiest TGV rail lines use bilevel trains with low platforms. As for electrification, you could put pantographs on diesel-electric locomotives or you can tow electric trains with a diesel locomotive in non-electrified territory or you can run diesel locomotives on electrified railroads.

Why run the San Joaquins extended to Los Angeles and even San Diego first? This would serve the largest area of California over the longest distance in the shortest time. From day one San Diego, southern Orange County, the entire San Joaquin Valley, the East Bay and Sacramento would have faster service. Also longer average trips mean better economic performance for a service. In order to have access to Oakland and Sacramento it will be necessary to keep Amtrak as operator of the San Joaquins since Amtrak has operating rights over the UP. That shouldn’t mean Amtrak would have to be responsible for equipment maintenance or that they would be the operator of HSR service to San Jose and San Francisco. For San Diego service a maintenance base would be needed in San Diego. Long overdue track improvements should also be done to reduce the running time between San Diego and Los Angeles. If we build the HSR segment between Sylmar and Bakersfield first we could see state wide service by 2016 or so, not 2030 if ever. There are many obstacles to building the HSR service as planned. It mostly will require many more changes before it can be built and there is no telling how long it will take to be fully built.

The HSR station in Fresno will be about a mile from the Amtrak station. The easiest route for this would be the UP ROW but this isn’t an option. North of Fresno the only alternatives other than the UP would be Highway 99 or the BNSF as far as Stockton. For the San Joaquins to connect with future HSR service in Fresno will require track connections to the HSR Fresno station and connections back to the BNSF. Extending the San Joaquins and running them faster would reduce the need to move it from the Amtrak Station in Fresno or build connecting tracks for Amtrak service back to the BNSF. With the CAHSRA concentrating on building the core HSR service between Sylmar to San Jose while controlling costs is the surest way to success. In urban areas the CAHSRA trains can share tracks with Caltrain and Metrolink such as its cousins in Europe do with local commuter trains.