Yearly Archives

2012

Editorials, Reports

Planning for Rail Service up to 2030 in the San Joaquin Valley

Here are some excerpts from a report from October 26, 2012 by Stacey Mortensen and Dan Leavitt of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. This report makes very clear that the San Joaquin Trains will continue to run on the BNSF with possible additional stops after 2020  with express trains using the new HSR tracks. It is unclear if there will be joint stations between services at Bakersfield, Hanford, Fresno and Merced after 2020. There is planning  for expanded connecting ACE service and improved direct service to Sacramento  after 2020. Nothing was  said about future improvements for  the feeder bus services to the Valley or faster bus service to connect with express trains. With the updating for the State Rail Plan by Caltrans now underway it is critical to know what is in the works and to insure good connections are planned.

Cover for the report

Service in San Joaquin Valley by 2020 with existing San Joaquin Trains and additional faster express service on new Right of Way

 

Rail Passenger service in the San Joaquin Valley planned for by 2025

 

 

Editorials, Rail Photos

Riding the Train the Day the World was suppose to End

Report and Photos by Noel T. Braymer

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them

I woke up early on December 21st and noticed that the world hadn’t ended so I decided that it was good day to go for a train ride. I arrived at my local station in Oceanside for the 7:35 AM departure of Metrolink 850 to Riverside. I like this train because I can sleep later than the trains going directly to Los Angeles for the morning commute and I can also use it to go to Riverside or make a connection to San Bernardino. The 850 is never crowded and I think that is because few know about the connections with this train. Metrolink doesn’t recognize the connections on its web site or when buying tickets. I’d like to see all  Metrolink trains from Oceanside connect with Coaster Trains and in Orange County connect to Inland Empire Metrolink trains.  This would boost ridership and increase the places you can go by train at little extra cost.

The Surfliner Express train 599 with Surfliner equipment leaving Irvine being pushed by a long distance train locomotive instead of the F59’s built for the Surfliners

I got off at Irvine to make my connection to Los Angles on Metrolink 687. I also wanted to see the Surfliner Express the 599. This train for most of the year has been late and usually this forced the holding of 687 so it could pass. Not today because the 599 was on time and so was the 687. For the last few months the 599 has been run with Surfliner equipment instead of older conventional cars. Amtrak has admitted that many of the on time problems with the Surfliners can be traced to trains with conventional equipment which take more time to load and unload. The 599 now has Surfliner equipment and good on time performance. There hasn’t been ridership growth though with better on time service and at Irvine more people got off than on. There still is one trainset of convention equipment on the Surfliners. As for the 599 this day it was using a locomotive for long distance trains instead of the F-59 locomotives which are geared for faster acceleration for corridor service for the LOSSAN Corridor. Speaking of on time the 687 without much effort arrived 9 minutes early into Los Angeles. We would have been in earlier but had to wait for a long train of several trainsets of morning Metrolink arrivals on their way to Taylor Yard.

Construction starting for the new station at Anaheim near the current one due to open in 2014

Once in Los Angeles I took Christmas related pictures of Union Station and headed out first to Sierra Madre. This is the end of the line now for the Gold Line. I was unable to see or shoot pictures of construction of the extension to Azusa on the Gold Line from the station. I made a note of bus service from this station to Claremont which should be close to the construction. I returned to LAUS to ride the Expo Line. I was riding Metrorail this day with a Tap card. I can transfer to Metrorail using my Metrolink ticket but I was planning to ride the Santa Monica Bus from Culver City to Santa Monica to get pictures of construction of the extension of the Expo Line. I got a Tap card which cost a dollar to ride LA Buses and is good for 3 years. I  could have loaded a 5 dollar Day Pass on the Tap card but instead bought prepaid cash fares. I read on line that Santa Monica Bus was or is going to accept Tap cards but I wasn’t sure if it would accept the Metro Day Pass. Connections to transit from trains is still confusing and poorly organized for people going to towns they don’t live or work in.

Christmas Tree at LAUS 2012

An ad in a Gold Line Train for housing being built near a future Gold Line Station for the extension to Azusa opening in 2015.

When I got off the Expo Line at Culver City my disappointments started. I could find no information at the station for local transit connections. Neither was there a central bus transfer station between buses or from Light Rail. The parking lot looked unfinished and poorly paved plus didn’t have bus stops near the station. I ended up walking around the perimeter of the station and even saw a Santa Monica Bus on nearby Venice Blvd. Finally at least a 100 yards from the platforms I found a lonely Santa Monica Bus stop sign with a bus schedule on it for Line 5 to Santa Monica by way of Century City. I waited for the next bus but the schedule wasn’t being followed so I gave up and got on the next train. While waiting to leave I could see in the distance a bus stopping at the stop. At this point I just wanted to leave. Since Culver City is the current termius for the Expo Line I expected better bus connections and on site information. Short of driving I would be better off bringing a bicycle with me to follow the construction for pictures. Both Metrolink and Metrorail allow bikes on board.

View from the Culver City Expo Line Station of the right of way for the extension to Santa Monica

The hard to find bus stop for the Santa Monica Bus for the Culver City Expo Station

After I got back to Union Station and had a late lunch I decided to check out Megabus. The Megabus stop is at the end nearest the freeway and next to the LAX Flyaway stop. When I got there, there was a crowd of people, most with luggage waiting for a bus. The wait went on for some time which might be because the bus was late. I don’t know since no schedule was posted at the stop and you need to go online to see one. Finally a bus arrived and it said Grey Line not Megabus which now owns Grey Line. It wasn’t a double deck bus either which is what I wanted to check out. By now I was ready to head out to catch Metrolink 602 leaving LAUS at 3:20 PM. Even this early there were people all over the station and Metrolink Platforms. Getting there early I had a good choice of seats. Since Amtrak and Coaster have WiFi I assumed that Metrolink did too. But I couldn’t get a signal and later checking the website there was nothing about WiFi.  The ride was uneventful with no delays until we left San Juan Capistrano and entered Serra Siding. We then received an announcement the the train was going to stop and wait for at least 10 minutes for another train. The train we waited for was Metrolink 808 leaving Oceanside at 4:27 for San Bernardino and due in San Clemente at 4:50 and San Juan Capistranto by 5:03PM. The 808 was late and past us at Serra by 5:04 PM. We had sat at Serra for almost 15 minutes. The happens often between the 602 and the 808 which reflects the bottleneck between Serra and San Onofre sidings. But the irony of this is my train still got into Oceanside just about on time. It will be nice once we get more track work finished and can take 10 to 15 minutes out the running times of most trains between Los Angeles and San Diego.

The Grey-Line “Megabus” arriving at the LAUS Bus Station.

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for December 24, 2012

There are 3 potential LAX Light Rail Station sites being considered. One is a possible subway station at the airport terminal area, the second at Lot C on the east side of Sepulveda Blvd as part of a larger transportation center and the third along the old Santa Fe Harbor Right of Way (seen as the green dotted line) near Century Blvd which is the road into the airport. All three station sites would be connected to an airport people mover to get passengers to all terminals.The red line shows the route of the people mover the airport authority is planning to build.

December 24, 2012 Part 1  December 24, 2012 Part 2

The above copy of this enewletter is on a PDF file and you will not be able to click on to the links in blue. If you would like to subscribe to this enewsletter  write to  nbraymer@railpac.org

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for December 17, 2012

Buying 40 ACELA cars as a small stand alone order was uneconomical from the start and that plan should never had gotten this far. If the ACELA is “profitable” as Amtrak claims, then shouldn’t those “profits” finance the purchase of these new cars? Again Amtrak is ignoring the most crowded trains on its system with the highest fares which are the Long Distance Trains particularly on the Sleepers. With the Bi-level car order in place for regional corridor service, Amtrak could still get a good deal on new cars to add sleepers and coaches with this order on the Long Distance Superliner Trains. Adding 1 or 2 sleepers and coaches to existing trains would greatly increase the revenue from the Superliner Trains. The added revenues can be used to finance leasing for the new cars. This is how most commercial transportation finance new equipment. NB

December 17, 2012 Part 1  December 17, 2012 Part 2

The above copy of this enewletter is on a PDF file and you will not be able to click on to the links in blue. If you would like to subscribe to this enewsletter  write to  nbraymer@railpac.org

 

Rail Photos

2012: A look Back in Pictures

Edited by Noel T. Braymer

Much happened with rail service in California and the best way to show it is to look back with photos. To enlarge a picture place cursor over the picture and left click with mouse.

This year saw the introduction of Bicycle Cars with lower level seats removed for more bike racks on Metrolink.

April 2012 saw the start up of the Expo Line from downtown Los Angeles going west eventually to Santa Monica

Another view of the Expo Line in Los Angeles on Flower St.

Construction this year for more double tracking in San Diego at Sorrento Valley. Just over half of the railroad in San Diego County is double tracked. In the coming years almost all of rail in San Diego will be double tracked.

The View of construction to extend the Expo Line to Santa Monica from the current terminus in Culver City.. The Expo Line was extended to Culver City this summer and service to Santa Monica is planned by 2015

Construction during the weekend of September 8th and 9th shut down rail service in San Diego County for the construction of a pedestrian tunnel in Encinitas. This is the first of 4 planned in this town.

Improvements this September of the platforms in Stockton. Long term a new station with connections to intercity and commuter service is needed.

A San Diego Trolley Station being overhauled. San Diego is overhauling most of its Trolley system. This includes new raised platform to allow use of low level cars which will greatly improve loading all passenger and speed up service

San Diego extended the Green Line from Old town to downtown along the bay shore line. This allows transfer to the entire system with only one stop and is faster bypassing the slow street running downtown.

The New Platforms and tracks in Sacramento this September. The tight curve has been taken out at the Sacramento Station. This is part of a long term project to upgrade the Station and redevelop the property around it and the old SP Shops.

The new Platform 7 at LAUS bringing back tracks 13 and 14 which was finished this October. This is phase 1 to building run-through tracks at LAUS which was part of the deal for High Speed Rail securing funding to build them by 2018.

The Passons Blvd grade separation in Pico Rivera is nearing completion which came in December 2012. This leaves only a few more grade crossings left on the busy BNSF mainline between Fullerton and Los Angeles.

Construction underway for the new Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center or ARTIC. This will be the new Anaheim Station near the present one serving both Anaheim Stadium and the Honda Center seen in the background.

Recent improvements by Metrolink of Lang Siding between Palmdale and Santa Clarita. This is the start of many improvements which will lead to High Speed Rail Service between Los Angeles and Bakersfield.

Editorials

Why Not Lease the Coast Line?

Opinion and Photos by Noel T. Braymer

Amtrak is leasing for at least the next 25 years 95 miles of railroad from the CSX of the Empire Corridor in upstate New York. The reasons for doing this are so Amtrak can dispatch their train to improve their on-time performance and have a free hand in installing up to 191 million dollars in track improvements mostly from Federal Grant monies. Why can’t California get a deal like this? Where such an arrangement is most needed in California is on the roughly 360 miles of the Coast Line between Ventura County and San Jose. There is a large potential market along the coast of California for more Rail Passenger service but progress expanding service has been very slow. The root of the problem stems from resistance from the owner; the Union Pacific Railroad which has made it clear its management isn’t interested in Rail Passenger service.

Why would leasing the Coast Line be in the best interest of the UP? Clearly the UP has no interest to sell the Coast Line or any part of its system. Railroads use their rights of way for more than running trains. Rail rights of way are also used for fiber optic cables, pipelines and other utilities. Ownership of land next to the railroad generates revenue for the railroads. Also holding on to rights of way which are irreplaceable gives the railroads potential capacity for future growth. By leasing, not selling the Coast Line the UP would hold on to the long term value of their asset. Also by leasing the railroads can let the government deal the headaches of maintenance, legal liability, emergency repairs from disasters etc. Also getting a check every month from the government for lease payments wouldn’t hurt either.

Much of the Coast Line like this view is next to the Oceans. It is also open to flooding from storms and high tides.

The Coast Line is a secondary freight carrier, it always has been. It has always been primarily a passenger carrier with the San Joaquin Line the primary freight hauler. It is available to relieve the San Joaquin Line when needed due to congestion, but most of the time the UP doesn’t have much traffic on it. The Coast Line is in much better shape under the UP than it was under the SP 30 years ago. Still it is an expensive line to maintain. Much of it is wedged between the ocean and cliffs. Erosion is a constant problem with the ocean undermining the tracks and there is the threat of landslides from nearby cliffs and hillsides. Recent history has seen an increase in violent storms which creates much damage to infrastructure, particularly in low lying areas near water such as in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties where the Coast Line runs.

Even where you don’t see the Ocean the Coast Line is near sea level such as this Station at Goleta at 35 feet above sea level.

So why should government want to lease the Coast Line: because it is much cheaper to lease and fix up an existing railroad than to build a new one or a new freeway. Government is responsible for most infrastructure and emergency services. The primary transportation corridors in the state are the I-5/99 corridor and the 101 corridor. Both are already busy and demand for future transportation continues to grow. In a major emergency either or both corridors could shut downs for days or longer. A major problem in an emergency is when transportation is shut down in the affected area help can’t be brought in and or people evacuated to get out. Creating a viable alternative to the 101 Highway along the Coast is needed and doable using the Coast Line. But the Coast Line will have to be upgraded and improved to be less vulnerable to floods and landslides.

Here at the Station at Carpinteria the elevation above sea level is only 7 feet and the beach is near by.

What kind of service should we have on the Coast Line? The Coast Line is considered a future High Speed Rail Corridor by the Federal Railroad Administration. No one would go 200 miles per hour on it, but speeds up to 125 miles per hour are viable on much of the route. With extensive double tracking and improved signaling regular local and express service would provide a high capacity passenger rail service with enough capacity still available for freight service. In addition to almost hourly service and the current Coast Starlight an overnight train to the Bay Area could either be an extension of the California Zephyr or a new train that transfers cars to the Zephyr. As part of the lease deal we should also get a second frequency of the Starlight leaving Los Angeles in the afternoon and arriving in the day. Leasing would also improve local service including commuter service in the Santa Barbara region and expanded service between Ventura County and Los Angeles.

Is there a market for more rail service on the Coast? This s a picture at Santa Barbara of people waiting for the first morning train south. Many of these people rode the connecting overnight bus from the Bay Area.

So who should lease the Coast Line from the UP? It could be Amtrak, or the State of California with Caltrans or a new body to administer it. What is important is not so much who runs it but how it is run. Even leasing and operating a railroad is expensive. With any successful capital intensive enterprise the key to success is getting as much use out of your capital as possible. That means running as many trains as the line is capable of that produce revenue. By leasing the Coast Line there is an incentive to run more service with connections to increase revenue passenger miles to pay the bills. This would encourage expanding all services including more Caltrain and Capitol Corridor trains south of San Jose to Gilroy and Salinas with connections to Monterey.

Salinas is just one of the town along the Coast Line that wants and would use additional rail passenger service if it had it.

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for December 10, 2012

Rumor has it? Back in 2011 Amtrak announced its intentions to buy 40 additional ACELA cars to add capacity to the ACELA Trains on the NEC. There was no discussion of “off the shelf” cars or a larger car order with economies of scale for cars to be used on other services besides ACELA. Since the ACELA cars were a one of a kind order and no longer in production start up of such a small order would be expensive. There are now unconfirmed reports on the Web that plans for more ACELA cars has been cancelled.

December 10, 2012 Part 1  December 10, 2012 Part 2

The above copy of this enewletter is on a PDF file and you will not be able to click on to the links in blue. If you would like to subscribe to this enewsletter  write to  nbraymer@railpac.org

Commentary, Editorials

LA Busy Building over 35 Miles of New Rail Transit over the Next 10 Years.

Report by Noel T. Braymer with illustrations from LA METRO

Los Angeles County has two major Light Rail extensions under construction now that are planned to be finished by 2015 which will be added to its existing 87.8 miles of rail transit. There is the 6.6 mile extension of the Expo Line using an old PE ROW which will connect Santa Monica at Culver City to downtown Los Angeles at a cost of $1.5 Billion Dollars. This will connect with the existing 8.6 miles Expo Line which opened in April 2012. The other project now under construction is a $735 million dollar, 11 mile extension of the Gold Line from eastern Pasadena further east in the San Gabriel Valley to Azusa on the old Santa Fe Line between Pasadena and San Bernardino. This is the first of 3 segment with the next planned to continue past Azusa to Montclair at the Los Angeles/San Bernardino Counties Border. Ultimate plans are to extend the Gold Line to Ontario Airport in San Bernardino County.

Gold line extension from Pasadena to Azusa

The extensions of both the Expo line to Santa Monica and the Purple line to Westwood

The biggest project is extending the Purple Line subway from LA Union Station now ending at Western Avenue 9.4 miles west to Westwood. This is estimated to be a $6.3 billion dollar project. Current plans are to build it in three segments. This November ground breaking was held on the start of the first segment with utility work. Major tunneling isn’t expected until 2014. The first segment is 3.9 miles long and will end at Wilshire and La Cienega with an expected completion by 2023. If Federal Loans are available the plan is to accelerate construction to have all 3 segments finished by 2023 with future sales taxes funds used to pay off bonds and loans. With the narrow loss of Measure J to extend the transportation sales tax past 2039, this has become more difficult which could mean completion to Westwood by 2036. However L A Mayor Villaraigosa has pledged to keep working to find funding to finish construction by 2023.

The route for the LA Streetcar in downtown

Just this December voters in a special election in downtown Los Angeles approved a special tax district to help pay for a downtown Streetcar. This local money is expected to pay half of the estimated cost of this $125 million dollar project. The other half is planned to come mostly from Federal grant money. The hope is construction can start by 2014 with service running by 2016. The Streetcar will be a 4 mile single track loop in central downtown Los Angeles starting on Broadway and 1st Street. At 11th Street the line will turn right and turn right again up Figueroa Street to 7th Street turning right again until it gets to Hill Street where it will turn left back up to 1st before turning right back to Broadway. The Streetcar will connect with many local bus routes as well as the Red and Purple Subway Lines and the proposed Regional Connector, The Regional Connector is a planned 1.9 mile subway in downtown Los Angeles that would extend the Blue and Expo Lines now terminating at 7th St and Flower to Little Tokyo to connect with the Gold Line. In the future will could see through Light Rail service from Santa Monica to East Los Angeles and from Long Beach through LA Union Station to Pasadena on to Azusa and Ontario Airport. Construction began in late 2012 on this $1.3 billion dollar project and is planned for completion in 2019.

The green line shows the route of the Regional Connector in downtown Los Angeles between 7th and Flower and Little Tokyo

What ties much of this together will be construction at Los Angeles Union Station. The single biggest project at Union Station will be the new Run-Through Tracks which will reduce running times for trains coming and going at Union Station and greatly increase track capacity and reduce congestion at the station. A master plan for development for Union Station is also being developed. Much early planning is centered on improving pedestrian and cyclist access to Union Station and surrounding area. Transportation drives development and happens when there is good access to transportation. This includes housing and commercial development. Much of the planning for train stations tend to be for office buildings and arenas. But housing is often ignored as is services for travelers including hotels, restaurants and stores and services like dry cleaning, florists etc. Most people know that Park Avenue is some of the most expensive housing in America if not the world. Most people don’t realize that it is next to Grand Central Station in New York. Park Avenue as an upscale place to live wouldn’t exist without Grand Central. As it is Park Avenue is on top of the old New York Central railroad mainline which was put underground and became Park Avenue when Grand Central was built.

Track Layout of LAUS with new Run-Through Tracks

Luxury Condos built right next to the San Diego Train Station. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

The next major rail projects are a pair that will both connect near LAX. The new Crenshaw Line which is 8.5 miles long starting next to the Crenshaw Station of the Expo Line will end at the Green Line Station at Imperial Highway and Aviation Blvd. This $1.75 Billion Dollar project which is expected to be built by 2018 will not go into the Airport. The plan for the Green Line is to extend a branch up Aviation Blvd to Century at a joint Crenshaw/Green Line Station. From there it would follow Century Blvd towards the Airport. What hasn’t been resolved is how Green and Crenshaw Line passengers will get into LAX. The problem is LAX hasn’t made up its mind for the next round of improvements to the Airport. Many people want Light Rail service directly into LAX. LAX is still studying expanded bus service, people movers and other technologies. Because of this it is hard to set a date when the Green Line will be extended and a connecting service to the Airport built. Many airports have automated people mover systems to carry transit riders to the terminals along with people renting cars and drivers parked in lots outside of the terminals. This is the most likely solution for LAX. The problem with the current planning is it could force Crewshaw Line riders to transfer twice to the Green Line and then a people mover to get to the Airport. The Crenshaw Line is a stand alone operation only 8.5 miles long making it the shortest line of Los Angles Metrorail. There are no plans to run Crenshaw Line Trains on the Expo Line because it is thought this would congest the Expo Line.This means there are no plans for direct rail service from downtown Los Angeles, let alone LA Union Station to LAX. The options will be Blue Line, with a transfer to the Green Line and a likely transfer to a people mover to get to LAX. Or travel on the Expo Line to the Crenshaw Line to the Green Line and or to a likely transfer to a people mover.

The Crenshaw line between the Expo and Green Lines

Plans for a future Green Line extension towards but maybe not quite into LAX

These are the projects most likely to be built in the next 10 years or so. There are plans in the future after 2023 to extend the Gold Line from Azusa as far as Ontario Airport. There also plans to extend the Gold Line further east in East Los Angeles. There are two routes being looked so this project is still in the study stage. There are long range plans to extend the Green Line further south into Torrance. Another project that was approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008 is what is called the West Santa Ana Corridor. This is 20 miles of old Pacific Electric Right of way which is now publicly owned between Santa Ana in Orange County and Paramount near the Century Freeway and the junction of the old UP Harbor Line which is also now publicly owned, So far no decisions on what technology will be used on the route be it Mag Lev, Bus Rapid Transit or Light Rail. The one thing that hasn’t been studied it seems is using this for Metrolink Trains which would be the least expensive alternative. What has happened is there is interest in expanding this project to go into downtown Santa Ana and ending at the Santa Ana Transportation Center and train station. There is also interest in running this service up the old UP Harbor Line towards downtown Los Angeles and Union Station. Extending this service to Union Station and the Santa Ana Transportation Center would bring it to 34 miles long. This would make more sense as light rail since it would be able to share the trackage for a planned Streetcar service from Santa Ana to Garden Grove that is already being planned. As Light Rail it would sense to run a branch on the Green Line to LAX.

To recap; in the next 10 year Los Angels County should see at least 6.6 miles of Light Rail to Santa Monica and 11 miles of Light Rail to Azusa by 2015. By 2016 the plan is to have 4 miles of Streetcar service for Downtown Los Angeles. By 2018 the plan is to build 8.5 miles of the Crenshaw Light Rail Line between the Green Line and the Expo Line. Also by 2018 the Run-Through Tracks should be in service at LA Union Station. By 2019 the plan is to build the Regional Connector which is 1.9 miles of subway to connect the Gold Line with the Blue and Expo Lines,. And by 2023 depending on funding we would have 3.9 miles of subway extend to Wilshire and La Cienega on the Purple Line or all the way to Westwood for a total of 9.4 miles. If all of these projects are funded that is over 12 billion dollars new transit rail service in Los Angeles County by 2023.

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for December 3, 2012

The following is from the 276 page Environmental Report from Caltrans NB San Joaquin Corridor Programmatic Environmental Impact Report – 2035 Vision – Project Description — Page 26 Attachment 1 Caltrans envisions that the intercity system, including the bus feeder system, will serve as a feeder system to the high-speed rail system, much like the feeder buses serve the intercity rail passenger system. Pass… Because the High Speed Rail system has not yet been clearly defined, the exact manner and location of specific connections has not yet been determined,… In other words no one has planned on joint stations NB

December 3, 2012 Part 1  December 3, 2012 Part 2

The above copy of this enewletter is on a PDF file and you will not be able to click on to the links in blue. If you would like to subscribe to this enewsletter  write to  nbraymer@railpac.org

Editorials

The Mission of LOSSAN

Analysis and Photos by Noel T. Braymer

LOSSAN started out as a loose coalition, a network really of local elected officials, mostly city council members and mayors along the route of the San Diegans in the early 1980’s. Most of these elected officials were from cities that had or were planning to build or improve stations in their towns served by the San Diegans. Two issues which drove the networking were plans by Amtrak to turn an existing train into an express which meant a loss of service for several cities. The other issue was a proposed “Bullet Train” that would have been built between San Diego, Los Angeles and LAX. This scheme was also done without consulting local officials or thought given to how this “Bullet Train” would serve places it went through but didn’t stop at. The express San Diegan was a flop and the Bullet Train scheme died for lack of support.

The old Oceanside Station in 1983 with the then new Amfleet equipment on the San Diegans

Evolving from this beginning, legislation was passed in 1989 creating LOSSAN as an agency for the rail corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego. This created a forum for people representing the cities and counties served by the San Diegans as well as Caltrans and Amtrak to meet and work together in planning for future of local rail service. By 1995 service had been expanded to Santa Barbara and Metrolink and Coaster service had been added to the corridor. Planning for service and track improvements from the early days of LOSSAN is finally getting funding for construction. This includes run-through tracks at LAUS and double and triple tracking for much of the corridor.

The Santa Ana Station under Amtrak before 1985

The new Santa Ana Transportation Center  just after it opened in 1985

With the growth of services such as Metrolink, Coaster and improved rail transit services in much of Southern California, it is more important to plan how these other services with work together with Pacific Surfliners to make it easier for passengers to travel. In many cases Metrolink Trains miss by minutes connections to Amtrak, Coaster and other Metrolink Trains. Much of this is caused by lack of joint planning by the different agencies. A major effort by LOSSAN to overcome this was the recent creation of a common timetable for all the services showing the connections between the different trains. Having the different agencies work on a common timetable encourages the different agencies to jointly adjust their schedules to improve connections. It is a slow process changing schedules since track improvements some years in the future will be needed to make many changes to improve connections.LOSSAN has set up working groups to inspect and rate the many stations on the Corridor for user friendliness, station information such as signage, station services and station condition to find ways to improve the stations. Another issue LOSSAN has been working on is creating joint ticketing. Metrolink’s ticketing machines have been selling Amtrak Surfliner Tickets now for years. Plans to extend Metrolink service in a few years to San Diego and Coaster service to Fullerton will require joint ticketing between these two services. A growing problem is the introduction of transit debit cards. Transit agencies are now turning to plastic cards with a electronic memory chip to store information on the card holder’s transit pass and ticket information.This will become more complicated as use of these cards increases. In Los Angeles County many rail transit stations now have gates which can only by opened with a valid “TAP” card. This is a problem for Metrolink riders who transfer to rail transit since Metrolink doesn’t issue “TAP” cards or have Ticket Machines to do so. Increasingly as rail service expands a person should be able to travel anywhere in California by rail with connections with a single ticket. A person shouldn’t have to buy several “TAP” like cards to travel around the State.

Metrolink and Coaster meeting In Oceanside

With the growth of Metrolink and Coaster service ridership has been stagnant on the Pacific Surfliners which is the name for local Southern California Amtrak service since 2000. A major factor for this stagnation is expanded commuter service in the corridor. Ridership on the Surfliners now include passengers from the Rail 2 Rail Program which Amtrak honors commuter passengers passes for trips where Surfliner and commuter trains share stations. Despite stagnant ridership Surfliner revenues have continued to increase. Some of this is the result of higher fares. But much of this is the longer average trips now on the Surfliners. Much of this is the result of improved bus connections to both the San Joaquin and Capitol Corridor Trains as well as more passengers traveling beyond Los Angeles on the Surfliners. There has long been plans to run additional frequencies over the 11 round trips on the Surfliners between San Diego and Los Angeles. But justification for this is hard to find given the lack ridership growth of the Surflners. The other problem is the shortage of equipment to operate the Surfliners now at 11 round trips. The Surfliner equipment introduced in 2000 was designed for fast acceleration and braking with short station stops while handling large volumes of passengers. However the schedules for the trains have had to be compatible with non-Surfliner equipment which is needed to run the current schedule which adds running times for all trains. The Surfliner service has had time keeping problems in large part due to the use of older single level equipment, the use of substitute locomotives which didn’t have the acceleration of Surfliner locomotives and because of mechanical breakdowns caused by lack of preventive maintenance.

Surfliner at Irvine

Surfliner in Chatsworth north of  downtown Los Angeles

With the passage of SB 1225, LOSSAN can be reorganized as an authority instead of an agency. This is modeled after the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority. This would give LOSSAN a large independent budget so it can take control of administration of the Surfliners from Caltrans. The problem now is many issues such as which government body would administer this new JPA should have been settled before the legislature passed SB1225. Both Los Angeles and Orange Counties want to be the lead agency for the new LOSSAN. San Diego County which has administered the LOSSAN agency since it was created in 1989 wants to hold on to the job and the North County Transportation District which operates the Coaster Trains has voted against creation of a new LOSSAN Authority. Clearly some compromises are in order. My personal opinion is that Metrolink which both controls much of the railroad on the corridor and represents most of the counties of LOSSAN would be a good neutral body to be in charge of the new Authority. San Diego County should be encouraged to have a greater role in Metrolink.

A Surfliner at San Luis Obispo that needs to be extended to San Francisco

The biggest issue facing a new LOSSAN other than first getting organized, is what to do about the Surfliners? There have been long range plans to run Surfliners at 110 miles per hour and cut running times to under 2 hours between Los Angeles and San Diego.To do this will cost billions of dollars for tunnels under San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente, Del Mar and through the University Towne Centre in San Diego. Without these tunnels it will still be possible to reduce running times to 2 hours and 10 minutes in the foreseeable future. But to do this will require more equipment designed for corridor service and kept in good shape. The new LOSSAN JPA will have the power to contract operation of the Surfliners with a service provider. That means a new LOSSAN Authority could contract with an operator other than Amtrak. This would require LOSSAN to either buy the Surfliner equipment from Amtrak or buy new equipment someplace else and handle equipment servicing and maintenance. Clearly none of this is going to happen overnight. But the future of the Surfliner Trains is one of faster, longer distance service. This means faster trains with fewer stops and shorter station stops. This will require good connections with commuter trains to serve all stations and the right equipment to deboard and board passenger quickly at stations and to accelerate and brake quickly. Service needs to be increased and extended past Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo to San Francisco. Connections by Surfliners to improved service coming to the San Joaquin Valley by 2018 and future High Speed Train service needs to be planned now so Californians and visitors to the State can travel about without being dependent on the auto.The best market for the Surfliners is longer distance service not between Los Angeles and San Diego but beyond Los Angeles. This produces more revenue passenger miles than high passenger counts on short distances. Reduced running times is needed for the Surfliners to improve productivity and increase ridership. Commuter service is critical for local regional travel and for connections to Surfliner and future High Speed Rail service. What is needed is a system with all these services working together and feeding passengers to each other. Making this happen is the Mission of LOSSAN.