San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Report for the Meeting of April 26, 2012   May 9th, 2012

Meeting date: April 26, 2012 in Fresno, California; Reported by Mike Barnbaum, RailPAC Associate Director, Sacramento
Late April was a busy time for the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee. The Fresno meeting kept members busy with legislation pending in Sacramento that would allow for the possible formation of a Joint Powers Authority for the Amtrak San Joaquins.

The notion of a JPA is similar to that of the Auburn – Sacramento – Oakland – San Jose Capitol Corridor Service. The bill in Sacramento on this subject matter to watch is AB 1779 by Kathleen Galgiani. The members of the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee have felt one key point that motivates their need for such legislation. Members have been monitoring what has been going on at the Capitol Corridor for years and have also recognized that the LOS-SAN (Los Angeles – San Luis Obispo – San Diego) Rail Advisory Committee have legislation in Sacramento known as SB 1225 by Alex Padilla. If SB 1225 is ultimately signed by Governor Edmund G. Jerry Brown, then the San Joaquins will be the only service in California not governed by a Joint Powers Authority. Many speakers came up mostly with a neutral position on the bill, but needed some key matters addressed no matter what direction the legislation goes, including, but not limited to: Every Joint Powers Authority has participation for a Statewide Timetable; Through Ticketing must remain and exist; A State Agency must remain and exist that has pull and power, and… Steps need to be taken to ultimately reject and repeal the Perata Bill while respecting the territory & obligations of private transportation operators.
The matter on AB 1779 (Galgiani) & SB 1225 (Padilla) have been requested to be on the agenda from now until there is a final decision on these critical pieces of legislation. The San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee will next have these on their Sacramento Meeting Agenda – August 30th inside the Stanford Gallery of the California State Railroad Museum.

Service Changes
Monday, 7 May 2012, will mark the start of Amtrak’s Spring/Summer 2012 Travel Portion of the year. The travel will return to Fall/Winter sometime in October 2012. The San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee will be notified of the October Date at its Sacramento Meeting on August 30th. The Spring/Summer Timetable is now available at stations across the United States including the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station. In the new National Timetable, the San Joaquin bus service linking from the Bakersfield Station to San Bernardino, Indio, and Hemet will have a Downtown Palm Springs Stop added with connections from Train #702 and #714. Return trips from the new Downtown Palm Springs Station to locations throughout the San Joaquin Valley will be connections in Bakersfield to Train #715 and #703. In late July/early August additional connection time will be added to all motorcoach runs at the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station to accommodate the new track location. According to the Amtrak California Operating Timetable shown at the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee by Statewide Bus & Schedule Coordinator, Will Schilling, the date listed for the changes at Sacramento Valley Station is August 6th. The Amtrak California Operating Timetable is also accessible via the Internet. Using the Google Search Engine, type in “CalTrans Division of Rail” and search the documents listed on their page. Once you find the Operating Timetable #45, this is the one that shows the Spring/Summer 2012 Service and the August 6th date of the changes at the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station. If the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station date changes, and is mentioned by Staff of the City of Sacramento, we will send interested parties an Email alert on this matter.

The most significant change to Amtrak in California will be in Los Angeles where Train #2 (Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle) will depart Los Angeles three days a week (Wednesdays Fridays and Sundays) at 10:00 P.M. rather than the current 3:00 P.M. This change will virtually open up many available schedule opportunities for Californian’s in Central and Northern California and eliminate the existing “tight” connection from Train #702 and Bus Run #5802 that gets to Los Angeles at 2:30 P.M. for a 3:00 P.M. departure.

On a personal note, based on a careful schedule analysis, this writer recommends that for anyone connecting in Los Angeles to either the Southwest Chief or the Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle, that they purchase tickets that will guarantee them a seat on Train #712 in the Southbound direction and Train #715 in the Northbound direction. Riders doing this at the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station will need to be at the station by 7:35 A.M. when traveling in the Southbound direction, and will arrive back at the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station from Southern California by 6:35 P.M. In Oakland, the #712 Train Departure is at 7:30 A.M., while the #715 Train Arrival is at 7:25 P.M.

State Update
There have been no changes to the Governor’s January Budget Proposal as was reported at the last San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Meeting. This still means that many CalTrans Division of Rail Positions could be eliminated and the status of staffing in the marketing, food service and San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Positions could be gone and not back filled. We will keep close eye on this matter and send any alerts necessary when writing the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority Report after the conclusion of their June 2012 Meeting on the 20th in Oakland, California.

Work is progressing along on the ability to acquire 130 additional rail cars of which 90 will be delivered to the Midwest and 40 in California. A Request For Proposal (RFP) has been completed with the potential Notice To Proceed (NTP) expected this October. In or around Thanksgiving 2012 California is set to receive a set of seven “Comet Cars” from New Jersey. These cars are not sponsored by the green cleaner Comet, in retail stores. – LOL

Amtrak Government Affairs Update
Alex Khalfin of Amtrak Government Affairs gave an update at the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee. The written report covered San Joaquin Corridor Performance, the FFY13 Amtrak Legislative Request, and Amtrak Governance.

For the months of January, February, and March 2012 – San Joaquin ridership and revenue was higher then over the same time period in 2011. Endpoint on time performance ranged from a low of 85.8% to a high of 91.1%. So far to date Amtrak has made a budget request to the White House and to Congress that is for less operating money than allowed by the Passenger Rail Investment Improvement Act (PRIIA). We should know by the August 30th San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Meeting what the House, Senate, and the Obama Administration will submit on their own for Amtrak for the FFY 2013 Year, which takes effect on Monday 1 October 2012.

What’s Up for the Next San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee

Besides the pending legislation, which will be a topic of lengthy discussion, the City of Sacramento needs to be on alert. Not only will the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee be meeting in Sacramento, but the Committee will be hearing from representatives throughout the Sacramento Region on the prize infill project known as the Sacramento Railyards. The tracks, proposed Entertainment Sports Complex, and Infrastructure layout will all be topics of discussion and deliberation with much, much more to come on the Sacramento Railyards as time gets closer to August 30th.

Conclusion

Mark your calendars, take the day off from work, or whatever else you might have to do to be in Sacramento on both Wednesday 30 August 2012 as well as Saturday 15 September 2012. Both dates will be busy inside the Stanford Gallery Room behind the main California State Railroad Museum as they will be the meeting and conference locations for the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee (August 30th) and the Rail Passenger Association of California & Nevada (September 15th).

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 at 9:17 AM and is filed under Reports.