Opinion by Noel T. Braymer

Transportation is a very political issue since it usually depends on public monies. But rarely is it a partisan issue. This is because everyone needs  good transportation. In a disaster if transportation is cut off most stores will run out of inventory in a week or less. Most gas station have less than a 2 days supply of fuel. The growing demand for transportation is so great that there a general consensus that building more roads and airports  won’t meet our future needs. There is growing acceptance that more rail passenger service is needed. Despite this the California High Speed Rail Project has run into heavy opposition. The problem isn’t that people don’t want more, faster and better rail passenger service. It is that the planning for this project has succeeded in making enemies of land owners and local communities because of the level of land condemnation and impacts from the proposed construction for a project  many people feel they won’t use.

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Posted in Editorials

eNewsletter for March 26, 2012   March 30th, 2012

STOCKTON, Calif. (KCRA) — A spokesman with the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, which runs the Altamont Commuter Express, said legislation is in the works to take over the San Joaquin’s Amtrak line…The Joint Powers Authority would be the governing board, made up of 11 members from the counties where the Amtrak line currently runs. This would include officials from Kern County to San Joaquin Valley to Sacramento and parts of the East Bay….

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Report and Comments by Russ Jackson, RailPAC, Dallas. PHOTOS by Richard Strandberg, Mike Palmer, Russ Jackson. Maps from the Amtrak timetable.

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eNewsletter for March 12, 2012   March 16th, 2012

At the end of February and start of March there were confusing headlines about the California High Speed Rail Project. Based on a memo by the chief counsel of the California High Speed Rail Authority Thomas Fellenz, there were headlines saying start of construction was being delayed from this Summer until Spring 2013 in the San Joaquin Valley. But construction would still be finished by 2017 to qualify for Federal Funding. Then the Authority’s chief executive Roelof van Ark announced the opening of bidding for start of construction this year.

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Analysis and Commentary by Russ Jackson, RailPAC

From out of the blue, so to speak, on March 13 came an Amtrak News Release from New Orleans, not Washington DC, saying a new schedule for the Sunset Limited would take effect on May 7, 2012. This new schedule will have major impacts all along its route, affecting the travel plans for riders. Those who already have summer reservations are in for a surprise, but will be notified of the changes. Amtrak says these changes “are expected to increase ridership and revenue, and reduce crew layover costs.” We shall see. Oh, daily service? Forget that. It’s still tri-weekly, just as it has been since the Southern Pacific converted it from daily in the 1960′s, and Amtrak has continued it since 1971. Does this new schedule look familiar? It should, it’s basically the same one that existed before 2005 with the departure of #2 from Los Angeles at 10 PM, and #1 from New Orleans moved back to 9 AM.

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Posted in Commentary, Issues

Commentary by Ralph James, RailPAC

My wife left on the morning of March 15 for a flight out of Sacramento to Tucson AZ for several days to visit our daughter. The Sunset Limited schedule was something we had discussed in passing during the planning since she prefers rail travel to flying as long as it is reasonably convenient. Because of the 3 PM Los Angeles departure eastbound we knew the only reasonable connection from Sacramento was via San Joaquin 702 and the bus trip over the Grapevine. Before going any further, this option was vetoed because, short of national emergency, she refuses to travel via the Bakersfield bus connections any longer. Although the Amtrak buses are fairly nice as buses go and we have used them from time to time in the past, she has just had enough of the extra luggage transfers, the long walk at LAUS and 2-3 hours in an uncomfortable bus seat, especially when traveling alone. We did not get to the point of even checking fares or the specific days of operation.

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Posted in Commentary

eNewsletter for March 5, 2012   March 10th, 2012

Express train 599 is suppose to run from San Diego to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 28 minutes with 4 intermediate stops. The first Amtrak train out of San Diego the 763 is scheduled to get to Los Angeles in 2 hours 40 minutes with 7 intermediate stops. What is really pathetic is that back in 1978 the Amtrak schedule between San Diego and Los Angeles was 2 hours and 35 minutes with 5 intermediate stops. That was without push-pull equipment, well over a billion dollars in track improvements since 1978 or Surfliner cars with low-level loading and wide power operated doors for fast loading and unloading.

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Opinion by Noel T. Braymer

At the end of February and start of March there were confusing headlines about the California High Speed Rail Project. Based on a memo by the chief counsel of the California High Speed Rail Authority Thomas Fellenz, there were headlines saying start of construction was being delayed from this Summer until Spring 2013 in the San Joaquin Valley. But construction would still be finished by 2017 to qualify for Federal Funding. Then the Authority’s chief executive Roelof van Ark announced the opening of bidding for start of construction this year.

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Posted in Editorials

Opinion by Noel T. Braymer

When the Capitol Corridor service began in 1991 it was with 3 round trips between San Jose and Sacramento. On time performance then for the trains was typical of Amtrak corridor service in the plus or minus 70 to 80 percent range. Today there are 16 round trips and these trains have an on-time performance of 95 percent, the highest of any Amtrak trains in the country. When the service started it was under the management of Caltrans until 1999 when the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority was formed. This organization is made up of transportation agencies in the Capitol Corridor service area with BART providing much of the administrative support. Most State supported trains like the Surfliners were expansions of existing Amtrak trains thus Amtrak paid a portion of the subsidy. For the Capitol Corridor trains the State was responsible for the full subsidy from day one because this was a start up service not an expansion of existing Amtrak service. With this came more control of the operation by the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority. In effect the Capitol Corridor trains “belong” to the JPA with Amtrak operating the trains under contract. The JPA has more control over the Capitol Corridor than Caltrans has over the San Joaquins or Pacific Surfliners plus it can lobby for funding and get involved in the politics of operating the service which Caltrans can not. By law all State Supported trains run by Amtrak will have the States picking up the entire subsidy starting next year.

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Posted in Editorials

An engine died in Kansas. So what else is new? Southwest Chief train #3 that departed Chicago on February 20, 2012, arrived in Fullerton 8 hours 10 minutes late, and because of the end-of-run padding it arrived at Los Angeles Union Station 6 hours 58 minutes late..

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