Monthly Archives

February 2011

Commentary

RailPAC 2011 Annual Meeting

CITIZENS FOR RAIL CALIFORNIA, INC.
A California Non-Profit Corporation (#813820 4/26/1977)
d..b.a. The Rail Passenger Association of California & Nevada

NOTICE OF 2011 ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING

The annual membership meeting of CITIZENS FOR RAIL CALIFORNIA, INC. will take place on Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. at the board room at the headquarters building of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority located at 1 Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, California (adjacent to Los Angeles union Passenger Terminal). It will be immediately followed by a meeting of the corporation’s newly board of directors.

Agenda:

1. REVISION OF BY-LAW SECTION 5 “TERM:” It is proposed that by-law Section 5 “term” be revised. The section now reads as follows“Directors shall be elected to a term of one (1) year, by the members. The term of office of each newly elected director shall commence at the Annual Meeting.”

It is proposed that Section 5 be revised as follows: “With the exception of directors elected in 2011, all directors shall be elected to a term of three (3) years, by the members. The term of office of each newly elected director shall commence at the Annual Meeting. For the terms commencing at the 2011 Annual Meeting, five of the elected directors shall serve a term of one (1) year, five shall serve a term of two (2) years and five shall serve a term of three (3) years. The duration of each newly elected director’s term shall be determined by lot. The outgoing president/chairperson of the board of directors of the corporation shall serve as the presiding officer of the Annual Membership Meeting, the subsequent Board of Directors meeting until new officers are elected, and determine the method of lot or chance used to select the duration of the terms of the newly directors.”

2. ELECTION OF BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Pursuant to the corporation’s amended by-laws, each officer and director serves a one-year term.(amendment of 4/17/10) Elections are held by members attending the “Annual Meeting.” Individuals may hold any office for as many times as the board members chose. To be eligible to serve as a director, a candidate for the board of directors must be a member of the organization for at least six months.

The corporation’s amended bylaws provide that the members of the board of directors, shall be elected by the general membership at the annual meeting. There are currently fifteen (15) members of the board of directors, the maximum allowed. A board resolution authorizes the appointment of associate directors, who are essentially advisory in nature. They not corporate directors and serve two-year terms.

The official corporate address is 1017 “L” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814-3805. The group’s purpose is a civic organization operated for educational purposes, The number of members/non-members is less than 5,000. The mailing address is 1017 “L” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814-3805.

The terms of the following incumbent directors (with their home towns noted) are expiring. Additional candidates for director may be nominated or nominate themselves at the annual meeting.

  • Paul Dyson, Burbank
  • Bill Kirby, Sacramento
  • James Smith, Los Angeles
  • Arthur Lloyd, Portola Valley
  • Dick Spotswood, Mill Valley
  • Noel Braymer, Oceanside
  • Bruce Jenkins, Sunnyvale
  • Marcia Johnston, Sacramento
  • Robert Manning, Palm Springs
  • Vaughn Wolff, Livermore
  • Neil Bjornsen, Pasadena
  • Jarrod Della Chiesa, San Lorenzo
  • Chris Flescher, Salinas
  • Dennis Lytton, Los Angeles
  • Dennis Story, Santa Barbara

Once the annual membership meeting is concluded and adjourned, the newly elected directors will assemble and by majority vote elect officers for 2011-2012.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING, March 19, 2011,

4:30 p.m.

The following incumbent directors have expressed a willingness to serve an additional term as corporate officers.

  • CHAIRPERSON OF THE BOARD/PRESIDENT: Paul Dyson
  • TREASURER: Bill Kirby
  • VICE PRESIDENT SOUTH: James Smith
  • VICE PRESIDENT NORTH: Arthur Lloyd
  • SECRETARY: Dick Spotswood

The board of directors then will consider reappoint the following associate directors to a two-year term:

  • Bill Lindley (webmaster, Phoenix, Arizona)
  • James Clifton (North Hollywood)
  • John Dornoff (of InterRAIL, Salt Lake City, Utah)
  • Ken Rubin (Culver City)
  • Roger Beird (San Jose)
  • John Messier (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
  • Mike Barnbaum (Sacramento)
  • Jerry Martin (Sherman Oaks)

Note (3) Associated directors Anthony Lee (Florida & California) and Russ Jackson (Dallas, Texas) serve until 2012.

Editorials

Is HSR a Cargo Cult for California?

Editorial by Noel T. Braymer

During and shortly after World War II poor and isolated islanders in the South Pacific believed that with prayers and crude homemade airstrips they could attract planes to land and deliver “cargo”. These people were hoping to get some of the vast material wealth used to fight World War II to their poor little islands. Building a 45 plus billion dollar High Speed Rail service in California will require finding roughly 30 billion more dollars as yet unfunded to finish.
One of the potential sources of funding would be loans from state owned banks from countries that are interested in building and operating future HSR service in California. There is an ongoing game being played as delegations from China and Japan visit the state representing groups that want the contract for HSR in California. Other potential bidders could come from France, German and Korea with their state owned development banks.
In the news are stories that Denver billionaire and former owner of the Denver & Rio Grande and Southern Pacific railroads Philip Anschutz is willing to spend up to a billion dollars to build a new football stadium in downtown Los Angeles to lure a NFL team. He already owns the Los Angeles Kings Hockey team as well as other sport teams in other cities and is responsible for the Stables Center where the Kings, Clippers and Lakers play. The Staple Center would be next to this new stadium which will also be served by the Blue and Expo Light Rail Lines. Of course Mr. Anschultz has conditions to build this new stadium and his goal is to make money. This is just the latest of expensive proposed or new sports stadiums built in the last 20 years or so. What these projects have in common is sport teams are generally the plaything of very rich men. These new stadiums are very profitable for the team owners because of subsidies they win from local politicians eager to have a professional team in their city. In Los Angles the city would be expected to pay for the demolition of part of the Convention Center which is still unpaid for to make way for this new stadium.  In addition much of the revenue for sports comes from mostly tax deductible spending by large corporations for naming rights to stadiums, private boxes and season tickets. But the real money is the commercial development next to the stadium which is heavily subsidized by local government but the profits go to the team owners who pay little or no taxes.
So it remains to be seen what conditions the state owned banks will want to lend billions of dollars to finish HSR in California. Clearly a Chinese Bank will want Chinese businesses to build and run the new service; a Japanese bank will want Japanese businesses to do the same and so on. The operation of the future rail service will quite likely more than cover expenses but what about capital? For example many airlines cover their expenses and then some. But as an industry as a whole, airlines have never made money. Air service depends on government spending to keep running. Airports for example often don’t pay property taxes because they are publicly owned. The land taken off the tax rolls by publicly owned airports and the depressed value of the land around the airport costs billions of dollars of potential tax revenue. That would be just one example of a possible tax subsidy for air service. The counter argument is air service stimulates business activity and creates jobs and income. What is clear from the history of the railroads is the real money didn’t come from running trains. It came from the land development for land owned by the railroads that rail traffic opened up for development. Park Avenue in New York City was created and made money for the New York Central when it build Grand Central Terminal and put its tracks under Park Avenue and then redeveloped the land.
We are already seeing in the San Joaquin Valley cities fighting over the future maintenance facility for their town. This is not unlike sport team owners playing cities against each other to win the best deal for themselves before choosing to stay or move their team. No doubt we will see more of this as the HSR project is built. What could motivate a nation to lend money to build rail service in California? Even if the project loses money, it would create work for that nation’s local businesses and subsidizing those companies isn’t seen as a problem. This is often seen in poor countries where rich countries lend them money for expensive capital projects on the condition that companies of the lending county get the construction contracts. This is why poor counties often owe so much debt. There is also another motive in that having a country deeply in debt gives the county lending the money leverage over the debtor country. The reality that many people don’t want to face is that transportation is expensive but critical for society. Hard choices have to be made to build the most efficient and cost effective transportation system. Well designed High Speed Rail integrated with airports, and other rail services can cheaply carry large numbers of passenger in the State of California and make a major positive impact on the state’s economy. But the service must be good to get the ridership to make HSR service economical. But there is no such thing as free money.
Commentary

Why You Need to Attend Steel Wheels of California 2011

To say that the situation regarding passenger rail financing and policy making is fluid would be an understatement. Looking back over thirty years of advocacy I find it hard to recall a time when passenger trains were such an ideological issue. But I won’t get into a political discussion in this forum. Instead let’s think about knowledge and education. Let’s start with a question. Do those that are vehemently against funds for passenger trains know what they are talking about? Do they understand the economics of rail versus other modes? IF NOT, WHY NOT?

The answer? RailPAC, NARP, and all the other advocacy groups have not done enough. It’s plain to see that our small efforts, carried out by volunteers in their free time, are easily overshadowed by well oiled propaganda machines of the many lobbyists and factions that think differently to us. We haven’t had the time and resources to educate elected officials and other opinion formers about the benefits of a passenger rail network.

What is to be done? We have to grow. We have to recruit more members, we have to strengthen our list of industry sponsors, we have to MAKE MORE NOISE.

The first step is for you, our core group of members, to attend our annual meeting and learn from the experts we have gathered together. Where do we stand with state funding? What are Amtrak’s and Metrolink’s plans? How can NARP be more effective in Washington? What is really happening with the high speed rail program? How can RailPAC make a difference?

It’s up to you. If you really care about passenger rail services in California and throughout the country then stand up and be counted. Come to Los Angeles March 19th, support our event, help elect the new Board, raise some funds for our work, meet like minded folks and go away energized for what will be a tough year not just to advance our agenda but to hold on to the progress we have made these past two decades.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY!

See you there!

Paul Dyson
President, RailPAC

Commentary

January CA Intercity Passenger Rail Performance

Reported by David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director, CCJPA

(Download:  January 2011 Performance Report)

The Capitol Corridor achieved amazing performance results for January 2011.  Ridership in January soared a remarkable 11 percent compared to January 2010.  A record-breaking 130,863 passengers rode Capitol Corridor trains, making January 2011 ridership and revenue thresholds the highest January results in the history of the service.  Along with the double-digit spike in ridership, revenue rose 13 percent compared to the same period last year.  Finally, the Capitol Corridor’s on-time performance (OTP) was 97 percent—keeping us number one for OTP in the nation.

It’s notable that this was a month when the Capitol Corridor wasn’t offering any special deals or seasonal discounts.  It was simply a period when Northern Californians ditched their cars and rode our trains instead.  Our two-year hold on the national OTP top spot has helped to convince drivers that the Capitol Corridor is a reliable, convenient, cost-effective and stress-free way to travel between Auburn and San Jose and a viable, green alternative to driving alone.  Once we begin our strong advertising campaign and popular discount offers this spring and summer, ridership and revenue will continue to show favorable results this year.

We are certainly grateful to UPRR, our host railroad for its continued reliable dispatching.  We are also relieved that we began 2011 with a significant reduction of trespasser incidents along our corridor as well as reduced bridge and mechanical-related delays.

Also in January, the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) received good news from the California Transportation Commission (CTC).  After years of looking for funding the CCJPA is steps closer to securing wireless internet service on our system.  The CTC approved use of the $3.75 million in cost savings from CCJPA’s track upgrades in Emeryville towards installing a high-quality, wireless network on intercity passenger trains. This decision benefits both the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin services as both systems share rail fleets (locomotives and passenger coaches). The shared fleet will be equipped to provide free wifi service for passengers as well as secure a platform to transmit and receive wireless communications to support “e-Ticketing,” credit card authorization, on-board passenger information systems and security camera transmission.

Because free wireless is a top amenity requested by passengers, we expect even more customers once the service is launched, which will be rolled-out by the end of this calendar year.

Capitol Corridor (January 2011):

  • Ridership:  130,863 riders; +11% vs. January 2010; +7% vs. prior YTD
  • Revenue: $2,087,269 +13% vs. January 2010; +11% vs. prior YTD
  • On-Time Performance: 97%; YTD OTP of 96% (keeping the Capitol Corridor service #1 in the nation)
  • System Operating Ratio: 48% YTD vs. 45% in FY10; continued growth in ridership and revenue keep ratio at standard
  • The Capitol Corridor route continues to be third busiest route in the country, with ridership at 1.62 million for the last 12 months

Pacific Surfliners (January 2011):

  • Ridership: 208,134 passengers; +7% vs. January 2010, and +5% ahead of prior YTD
  • Ticket Revenue only: +12% vs. January 2010, and +9% vs. prior YTD
  • On-time performance for January 2011 80% (YTD FY 2011 on-time performance: 78%)

San Joaquin (January 2011):

  • Ridership: 72,395 passengers +2% vs. January 2010, and +3% vs. prior YTD
  • Ticket Revenue only: +10% vs. January 2010, and +12% vs. prior YTD
  • On-time performance for January 2011: 90% (YTD FY 2011 on-time performance: 91%).
Tracking Rail News

Tracking Rail News: February 2011

. . . Photos and Comments by Russ Jackson

Two Amtrak California trainsets at the Sacramento station powered by Amtrak P-42 locomotives.

. . . On January 10 Governor Brown introduced his proposed budget for FY 2010-11. While major reductions are in store for “everyone,” that does not apply to the state rail corridor intercity rail operations. $90,247,027 is exactly the same amount as the last three years. So, no growth in that allocation, but no cut in the funds the program receives from taxes on diesel sales. As one commentator said, “It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.” Other rail operations are not so lucky in their funding sources, however.

Caltrain is one and faces a huge cut that could leave a reduction from 86 to 48 daily trains, no weekend service, no service south of San Jose, no game-time trains to AT&T Park, and closing seven stations. Caltrain is subsidized solely by San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties. A “Save our Caltrain” group has organized, and RailPAC is supporting it. (See separate stories.) If ever there was a transportation system that works it is Caltrain, taking so many people off Highway 101 every day!

Continue Reading

Reports

Thank you from the Friends of Caltrain

The Friends of Caltrain attracted an overflow crowd of 200 grassroots community and business groups and residents to our Caltrain Summit a little over a week ago. Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Sierra Club national executive director Michael Brune came to keynote.

RailPAC donated a generous $500 towards its small budget: thank you so much. You really made it possible for us to offer a pizza lunch so people could stay for the break-out sessions until we adjourned at 2:30. We have worked closely with SVLG and Stanford who also organized a great policy leader summit the week before.

Since then, Caltrain as you know has scheduled hearings to potentially halve its service to peak-hour only, potentially cutting service to many stations as well as reduce early morning/late evening trains when many Silicon Valley workers commute in this 24/7 economy.

Many have been galvanized this last week: over 1000 residents have sent emails to their representatives on their county transit agency asking them to work together with MTC to work on short term and long term solutions.

Santa Clara VTA has quickly responded with a board memo last Thursday outlining some viable options for the coming year, the most promising of which are:

  • having the three counties unite to ask MTC to re-direct some or all of the $5.5 million allocated every year since 2008 for Dumbarton Rail operating costs (DB has been “postponed” as you may remember). There is no other Peninsula project benefitting from this operating budget although many Peninsula residents and workers pay bridge tolls.
  • VTA making its one-time $7.1 million payment to Samtrans who “saved Caltrain” in 1991 with the right of way acquisition, hopefully with Samtrans agreeing to spend it on Caltrain.

There are probably other short-term solutions that only MTC can help orchestrate, but it will take the political support of all the local elected officials, residents, and commuters to push for this one-year stopgap measure to avert Caltrain crisis for one more year, then to design and put some type of permanent and dedicated funding to the voters.

The Friends Summit is being cablecast this Sunday at 10:30 on Channel 27, I understand, and more information is on the website, friendsofcaltrain.com for people who want to take some action to “save our Caltrain!”

Thank you all for your support!

Yoriko Kishimoto
Former Mayor of Palo Alto
Friends of Caltrain

Commentary

Caltrain Summit Meetings: RailPAC was there

By Bruce Jenkins, RailPAC Director, Sunnyvale

Two very successful “summit meetings” were held on the San Francisco Peninsuls in January to address the fiscal crisis of Caltrain. Caltrain is the only transit system in the state of California that does not have a dedicated funding source for it’s operating costs. In all it’s operating years it has relied on the largess of the transit authorities of the three counties San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara. This year all three counties are unable to commit the operating funds that Caltrain requires. Although Caltrain has a 48% farebox return (one of the highest of all transit systems) it will still be $30 million shy to operate the present schedule after July , 2011.

The first summit meeting was held on the Stanford University Campus January 21st under the auspices of “The Silicon Valley Leadership Group” (SVLG). The SVLG is comprised of most of the high tech firms in the Silicon Valley The SVLG organized the effort to identify and implement solutions to Caltrain’s fiscal challenge. The meeting was very well attended by over 200 participants including mayors, state and assembly members, environmentalists, scholars, citizens and transit advocates. Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speire spoke via a video link.

The second summit was held on January 29th at the SAMTRANS auditorium in San Carlos under the auspices of the Grassroots Organization “Friends of Caltrain”. This group consists of citizens, riders, environmentalists, transit advocates (e.g. RailPAC, Bay Rail Alliance etc). Attendance was phenominal (standing room only). Congresswomen Jackie Speire was the keynote speaker. State Assemblyman Jerry Hill also spoke as did Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierrea Club, Saen Elsbernd, Chair of the Caltrain Joint Powers Board and RailPAC Vice President (North) Art Lloyd gave very enlightening talk on the history of the commuter rail on The Peninsula dating back to 1851. The event was well covered by the media e.g. The San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, KCBS TV and KQED (PBS). After the speeches and two panel sessions with questions and answers there was a break for lunch followed by breakout group sessions and brain storming for solutions.

These two meetings have been successful in making the public aware of the “treasure” of Caltrain and its importance to The Bay Area not only to the individual but to employers and to the dire need to save it. However, the work is not done yet. The Grassroots effort will continue with letter writing, buttonholing elected state and local officials and holding more meetings.

For more visit the blog: www.greencaltrain.com

Rail Photos

Eating at Los Angeles Union Station gets better

PHOTO report by Russ Jackson At the right is the Sunset Limited ready to depart LAUS on February 4, 2011, the date of all 7 photos in this report. In the background is the MTA tower, site of the RailPAC-NARP meeting on March 19. While visiting the train station for the meeting, be sure to check out the various new places to eat inside, as well as some old standbys and one not yet to be. To accommodate the new “eateries” the Hertz and Budget rental car stands have moved next to the Amtrak ticket windows.

Now let’s look at what is there.

Sees Candies has opened at the east end of the Waiting Room. RailPAC VP South James Smith took us on the tour of the new places. That candy sure looks good!

The Traxx restaurant and the nearby bar have served upscale meals for some time, located just inside the main entrance, across from longstanding newsstand and Union Bagels.

The arrival-departure board was working for departures, but out of order for arrivals.

Famima!! is a convenience store with many fresh food items, located behind the arrival-departure board.

Wetzels Pretzels has opened next to the Red Line entrance. Their giant size hotdogs wrapped in pretzel dough look great!

Subway Sandwiches has opened next to the baggage room entrance with their full menu of sandwiches, chips and drinks.

Sadly, the classic Fred Harvey restaurant which closed in 1967 has yet to be reopened, but is available for lease!