Editorial by Noel T. Braymer
Editorial by Noel T. Braymer
Photos and Commentary by Russ Jackson
… Retirement and a milestone: We want to note the retirement of veteran Amtrak station agent John Murphy, who has held down the fort at the very busy Davis, CA, station for many years. John’s career included working for the Southern Pacific, and he worked for Amtrak at San Luis Obispo before moving to Davis. We always considered John to be one of the very best in the Amtrak system, and he will be missed. … On September 26 it was noted that it was exactly 15 years since Steve Grande’s first trip on Amtrak. He, of course, is the honcho for Trainweb.com, and has logged almost 300,000 rail miles since that first trip. Steve is today one of the best known of the rail advocacy community.
Reported by David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director, CCJPA
Capitol Corridor is continuing its eight-month streak of positive results. The first month of Fiscal Year 2011, October 2010, indicates increases in all performance indicators. October ridership was 141,350, up 3.1% versus October 2009 with revenue up a remarkable 7.2% compared to the same period last year; and of course, OTP for the Capitol Corridor continues to lead the nation with 96%, thanks to Union Pacific Railroad’s (UPRR) superior dispatching and a decrease in bridge-related delays. Most impressive was the projected System Operating Ratio in October 2010, which started the fiscal year at a stunning 51%.
Once again, these positive ridership results occurred despite midday track work along the Oakland Embarcadero near the Oakland Jack London Square Station during the last week of October and first week of November and the three furlough Fridays per month for all state employees, which were still in effect in October 2010.
In regards to state funding, on October 8, 2010, California legislators enacted the State Budget Act of 2010. This means funding for California’s three Intercity Passenger Rail (IPR) routes will remain the same as the levels from the prior fiscal year (FY 09-10) and will be provided through the Public Transportation Account (PTA). The Prop 1B Transit Safety/Security allocation will be the same as prior years at $100 million, which equates to $1.9 million for the CCJPA. In order to save additional funds in the FY 10-11 budget, the Governor reduced the proposed level of Prop 1A High Speed Train Connectivity Funds from $235 million to $101 million, leaving funding for projects that will implement Positive Train Control. This action eliminated the $4 million in FY 10-11 state matching funds for the CCJPA’s proposed FRA FY2010 HSIPR application for the Fremont reliability projects, which did not receive an award notification from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
As you are aware, in August the CCJPA submitted applications for two projects to the FRA as part of the FY2010 HSIPR capital grants program. Unfortunately, the FRA did not award FY2010 Capital Grant funding to any of the CCJPA-led projects. Subsequently, the FRA briefed CCJPA staff as to the reasons why the program and projects within were not selected. While the application materials were technically eligible, there was scarce funding available for FY2010 ($2.4 billion) and due to the intense competition for the available funding, the FRA felt that the benefits to the program/projects were not as worthwhile or as strong as other applications. To help make future applications more competitive, the FRA suggested that the CCJPA refine the benefits of the UPRR-partnership projects, such as expanding service to/from Auburn.
In closing, our continued high on-time performance combined with our commitment to superior customer service and our targeted marketing efforts have all helped to jump-start performance gains for FY2011. We are confident that Capitol Corridor service performance (ridership, revenue, OTP) will continue to show positive results as our economy slowly recovers.
(Download: October 2010 Performance Report)
Capitol Corridor (Oct. 2010) results:
Pacific Surfliners (Oct. 2010):
San Joaquin (Oct. 2010):
Opinion by Noel T. Braymer
Commentary and Photos by Russ Jackson, RailPAC
Every once in a while the rerouting Amtrak Trains 3 and 4, the Southwest Chief, off the traditional line from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Hutchinson, Kansas arises, because the line has almost no BNSF freight traffic in Colorado and New Mexico any longer. That is a true statement, the railroad no longer uses it and has diverted through freights to the soon-to-be fully double tracked “Transcon” line farther south which was the historic route of Santa Fe’s San Francisco Chief prior to Amtrak. In recent months Amtrak has been forced to add 40 minutes to the Chief’s schedule due to a BNSF lowering of the speed limit on the very rough trackage in western Kansas and Colorado. Train 4 now departs Los Angeles at 6:15 PM. The BNSF has offered to move the train to the Transcon line, which as we will see is more populated. The State of New Mexico now owns the line within its borders and runs the very successful Railrunner trains on the portion south of Santa Fe to Albuquerque. The BNSF still owns the rest.
November 4, 2010 Meeting in Madera
Reported by Michael Barnbaum, Associate Director
The San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee held its quarterly meeting one week later than normal to be as close to the schedule change date as possible for the grand opening of the new Madera Station.
The normal procedures opened the meeting after the arrival of Train #714 from Oakland to the new Madera Station, with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Introductions of Committee Members and members of the Audience. In the welcoming remarks by Committee Member Vern Moss of Madera County, he presented a plaque to Lee Goldenberg of the CalTrans Division of Rail based in Sacramento County.
The chair moved on to one critical action item that was a resolution supporting High Speed Rail. After some discussion, and recommendation by CalTrans Division of Rail Chief, Bill Bronte, of language to be added that was direct support from CalTrans Division of Rail, the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee approved the following resolution with a 100% unanimous vote:
WHEREAS, in 1996, the California State Legislature created the California High Speed Rail Authority to develop a plan for the construction, operation and financing of a statewide, intercity high speed passenger rail system; and
WHEREAS, California officials and citizens have been working together to plan for a high speed rail system for California and in November 2008 California voters approved $9.95 billion in bond funds to finance a high speed rail system that will run from Sacramento through the San Joaquin Valley to San Diego, with a segment of the system branching out to the Bay Area; and
WHEREAS, the California High Speed Rail Authority has designated a number of high speed rail train station stops in the San Joaquin Valley for the high speed rail system which include a station in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Merced, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties; and
WHEREAS, the San Joaquin Valley will be the “back bone” to the California High Speed Rail system as it will connect Northern California, the Bay Area, and Southern California all into one transportation system via the San Joaquin Valley; and
WHEREAS, the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee was formed for the purpose of discussing and formulating plans, suggestions and ideas for changes and improvements to passenger train service in the San Joaquin Rail Corridor; and
WHEREAS, the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee feels that High Speed Rail can be an effective tool in working with the San Joaquin Valley Corridor to provide for the transportation needs of the San Joaquin Valley and California; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee that the Committee supports the concept of a High Speed Rail system that will work effectively with the San Joaquin Valley Corridor service, in addition to other passenger train services in California.
After the High Speed Resolution getting approval, Chair Pedrozo asked for any Committee Member Information Items. There was one from Committee Member Michael Snyder. Michael Snyder asked the Committee and CalTrans Division of Rail to work with the California State Legislature to make ammends to the Perata Law. He mentioned there is no public transportation between Oroville & Sacramento except the Amtrak Bus known in the Amtrak California System as “Route 3.”
Reports went very quickly due to the time constarints to get the new Madera station grand opening underway. A few points came out of the quick reports.
Anthony Chapa of Amtrak reported that the San Joaquin was Number Two in overall Amtrak on time performance for the Federal Fiscal Year that ended on September 30th. The only route, which Anthony mentioned that surpassed the San Joaquin Route in terms of on-time performance was the Capitol Corridor. Their Board will hold its 2010 calendar ending meeting on November 17th in Suisun City, at which time their 2011 calendar of meetings will be available for all of 2011.
Jonathan Hutchison of Amtrak Government Affairs mentioned that following the November 2nd Election Results that “there are more questions than answers” at this time. As a side note to that, this writer wants to point out that a television station the the Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto market has as its slogan, “Asking Questions, Getting Answers – Only on the CBS 13 News.”
Rick Peterson of Amtrak Thruway Bus Operations mentioned the Fall 2010/Winter 2011 schedule changes that will take effect on Monday, November 8. The detailed changes will be mentioned here in this report thanks to a handout given at the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Meeting.
Train Schedule Changes:
The next Amtrak schedule change takes effect Monday, November 8, 2010. The San Joaquin Trains will operate on their present schedules. Most buses have no change.
Train 6 (The California Zephyr) will operate 40 minutes earlier from Emeryville eastbound. San Joaquin Train #711 connections via MotorCoach from Stockton will continue to be made at Sacramento Valley Station.
Thruway Bus Changes:
A number of bus stops with low ridership will be discontinued. These locations averaged fewer than half a passenger per bus. This speeds service slightly and reduces operational mileage cost.
Three new stops are expected before the end of November:
During much of Thanksgiving week, we will operate extra sections on key bus schedules.
Bill Bronte, Chief of the CalTrans Division of Rail reported that $171 Million in Federal Funding was announced the week prior to the November 4th Meeting. Of the total, $100 Million will be for equipment and $1.5 Million for the California Statewide Rail Plan, which was also matched by $500,000 in state money. An amount of $300,000 will be utilized for the San Joaquin Valley Service plan. Bronte also reported that with the passage of Proposition 22, the Public Transportation Account will likely be restored & that we will not be competing for General Fund Dollars like we used to prior to Proposition 22.
Just prior to the conclusion of the meeting, Supervisor Vern Moss of Madera County, and Supervisor Brad Aborn of Mariposa County announced that this is their last meeting.
After meeting adjournment, the opening ceremonies were held for the dedication of the new Madera Station. Service at the new Madera Station for the general public will take place in conjunction with the National Amtrak Timetable Change on Monday, November 8, 2010. Upon the arrival of Train #715 from Bakersfield, folks heading back to Oakland and Sacramento boarded the train around 4:00 P.M. immediately after the banner was broken which read, “MADERA, The Train Stops Here!!”
The 2011 San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Meetings will be held on the fourth Thursday in the months of January (27th), April (28th), July (28th), and October (27th). At the time of the writing of this report, the upcoming January Meeting does not have a location determined. CalTrans Staff will send communications as to the location sometime between mid-December and early January.
September 13, 2010 Meeting
Reported by Chris Flescher, Associate Director
According to the California Transportation Commission (CTC), TAMC needs to conduct an independent ridership review and economic analysis, for the Monterey Branch Line (MBL). The study will be very important when TAMC asks for money for engineering. TAMC will ask for $50,000 of Prop 116 funds. If the money is granted, the engineering may start in December and end in April. The ridership study will be very similar to the one performed by Parsons, but will be done by a different agency. TAMC does not know yet who it will be.
TAMC will release a Request For Proposals in October. TAMC presented a proposal to the Capitol Corridor operating agency (CCJPA) in June, and the CCJPA was supportive. They will meet again later in September, to discuss the 60% level of design, and scheduling options. Caltrain was considering ending all Gilroy service. However, their staff recommends continuing the service for at least one more year. TAMC is currently showing the plans for 60% design to cities, counties and other interested groups. TAMC will have plans for 90% design complete in December.
The Ad Hoc Station Committee went to the station sites recently. There was a meeting with TAMC with property owners near the Salinas Station and there will be a similar one for Castroville. There are special rules for right of way negotiations, which could cause TAMC to lose out on possible funding. TAMC will hire consultants to observe the process, in order to avoid such a loss of money. The FTA requires an independent review of station designs, to determine if there are other possible savings. TAMC has hired a group to perform that study. TAMC may have the so-called Final FTA environmental review ready for public comment at the end of the month.
One proposal made was to have another field trip on the Coast Starlight between San Jose and Salinas.
There may be questions about maintenance issues near Elkhorn Slough.
There will be a meeting next week at the El Estero Senior Center to discuss issues relating to Window on the Bay Park.
TAMC people attended another meeting for the Monterey Waterfront Plan. The public comments showed that people support the general idea of passenger rail to the City of Monterey. However, they are very concerned about Window on the Bay Park. There is some concern about moving the existing bike path, to make room for the rail line.
Report by Bill Kerby, RailPAC Treasurer
November 4, 2010 — Public commentary opened and closed the meeting of the California High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) held today in the State Capitol. In his opening remarks, San Mateo’s Assemblyman Jerry Hill announced that he will introduce legislation dealing with expenditures, transparency and disclosure by the HSRA. This proposed legislation will address possible conflict of interest matters which have arisen in a recent state audit. Details of his presentation can be found here.
Most of the other public commentary emphasized the broad support of high speed rail from Bakersfield to Merced, although only one of the two segments north and south of Fresno will be selected for the first construction phase of the HSR. Representatives from San Joaquin Valley chambers of commerce, the farm bureau, and elected representatives echoed broad support for the project. A recent public meeting in Fresno brought more than 800 people to hear Roelof van Ark, CEO of HSRA, and other officials present the case for High Speed Rail. The mayor of Fresno sent a message that Fresno is particularly happy with the revised high speed alignment through Fresno.
Van Ark’s thorough discussion of the corridor selection criteria made clear that of the four possible construction phases to be placed first in line, two were out. Only the San Joaquin Valley segments will be considered and that selection will be made at the next meeting, scheduled for December second. The agreement between the Federal Railroad Administration and the Authority must be signed by December 31, 2010.
While the CalTrain line is not connected to the two Central Valley projects receiving more than $900 million in funding authorization last month, CalTrain’s Bob Doty modified the CalTrain’s earlier position that trenches could not be used in critical areas along the Peninsula. With new found flexibility on the trench ban, driven by new information and reconsidered positions, engineers determined that a trench is possible at Redwood City due to a relaxed specification on maximum track grades. Planners and engineers also found that the Whipple Road crossing in Redwood City can be constructed at a lower cost by increasing the crossing grade height by a mere three feet. Other cities along the line, including Burlingame, expressed interest in the covered trench solution. Addition of the Redwood City covered trench option should speed both approval and construction progress. In an attempt to speed system-wide development, Mr. van Ark announced that a November 17th settlement meeting is scheduled with plaintiffs from the Peninsula who oppose the current four track right-of-way.
Mr. van Ark introduced Major General Hans Van Winkle (Retired), whose appointment as project manager was announced November 2nd by the HSRA. A graduate of West Point, Van Winkle comes from the consulting firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff where he was a vice president and replaces Tony Daniels at HSRA. CEO van Ark then explained the status of work in progress. Discussions with freight railroads including Union Pacific have led to a “clearing of the air” and positive changes. Community discussions have dramatically expanded; more than 84 technical and community group meetings were held over 30 days time. The Authority commissioned an audit report October 12th where the auditor made ten generally negative notations. After explanation by the Authority’s management, the auditor agreed that nine of the ten notations were properly executed, but that one was not. However, van Ark asserted that no money was lost by the state and, indeed, revised contracting procedures saved the state $2.6 million through contract renegotiations.
Concluding that the HSR is the backbone of California’s transportation infrastructure, van Ark stated that the system must connect San Diego to Sacramento when built out. The backbone is formed by connecting northern and southern California and its major cities. This position sounds very much like RailPAC’s stand on closing the Bakersfield Gap, but gap closure at this time was not discussed. It should be.
The IRS has approved our application to be recognized as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit charitable corporation!
RailPAC filed the application with the Internal Revenue Service early in 2010. IRS approval means membership dues and other donations can be deducted from the individual federal income tax returns of donors. Any donation you made to RailPAC on or after September 14, 2010 is deductible on your 2010 Federal income tax return. An application is pending with the California Franchise Tax Board for exemption of donations to RailPAC from California State taxes and we will advise you when it is granted.
Take advantage of this IRS ruling by prepaying your 2011 dues by December 31, 2010
and claim the federal deduction for 2011 dues in 2010.