Monthly Archives

August 2012

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for August 27, 2012

Train Stations make a major impact on a town’s development and economy. …This is the view by 2007. … The freight yard had been replaced with station/beach parking. On the right hand side a station parking structure had replaced the old World War II temporary station. On the left in the background is a new time-share resort hotel near the beach and Transportation Center. The Transportation Center is a major factor in the redevelopment of downtown Oceanside.

August 27, 2012 Part 1  August 27, 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 an emailed copy of this enewsletter or to subscribe to it email nbraymer@railpac.org

 

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for August 20, 2012

By extending the Green Line from Old Town past the Santa Fe Depot to the 12th and Imperial Transfer Station it be possible to travel anywhere on the Trolley with just one transfer. For many riders this is a much faster ride bypassing the slow street running on 12th and on C Street. The Blue Line is being pulled back from Old Town to the station next to the Santa Fe Depot with the Orange Line stopping at the Depot and no longer heading south of Seaport Village to terminate at 12th and Imperial.

August 20, 2012 Part 1   August 20. 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 an emailed copy of this enewsletter or to subscribe to it email nbraymer@railpac.org

 

Editorials

The Good News about Passenger Trains

Opinion and photos  by Noel T. Braymer

The Good News is that more towns across America are discovering the economic value of rail service and of having a train station in their communities. In the news are stories of towns along the Gulf Coast banding together to work towards restarting rail passenger service between New Orleans and Florida which was “temporarily” suspended in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. You have towns along the route of the Southwest Chief from New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas raising money to lobby and find funding to insure the the Chief can continue to run through the Raton Pass at passenger train speeds. Between Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas there are ongoing efforts to get the Heartland Flyer extended into Kansas with possible service to Kansas City, Mo and possible connections to more passenger trains. Can these efforts pay off? One need only look at the Empire Builder. The Empire Builder is already a major transportation artery in the upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Business and traffic along the Empire Builder route has been growing just in the last few years. Local weather has not been kind to to the Builder and flooding last year cast doubts if the historic route could be saved through Devils Lake and Minot in North Dakota. But local efforts of the towns on the existing route and the State of North Dakota lobbying the Federal Government has secured funding to raise the tracks and keep the Empire Builder on the existing route and less likely to be washed out by future flooding.

Long Distance Trains are able to carry many people and can serve many towns across the county. This is the Coast Starlight at San Luis Obispo. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

Development follows transportation. Here is the area around the San Diego Station spawning construction. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

Where did this movement to upgrade the local rail station to energize local economies get its start? In Oceanside, California. Back around 1970, before the creation of Amtrak, Byron Nordberg convinced fellow members of the local Chamber of Commerce that building a Transportation Center at the old train station site which would serve Greyhound Buses, Santa Fe passenger trains and local transit buses would increase ridership for all these services and boost the local economy. A major part of this plan was the new Transportation Center along with moving the rail freight yard out of downtown Oceanside to encourage tourism at the local beach in Oceanside and construct future resort hotels as well as shops and attractions. This didn’t happen overnight. The Oceanside Transportation Center opened in 1984 which was the first new train station at least in California since the end of World War II. Starting in the 1970’s increased rail service between San Diego and Los Angeles with funding from the State of California greatly increase ridership along the stations along the route. This increased the interest of the local towns in their stations. Santa Ana was the next city to build a Transportation Center not long after Oceanside, while Fullerton improved their historic station and added local transit service. The City of Irvine lobbied hard and was able to build a brand new Transportation Center/Train Station and Amtrak during the 1980’s opened a station in Anaheim.

Train Stations make a major impact on a town’s development and economy. This is a view of Oceanside in late 1983 shortly before the opening of the new Transportation Center. This area was also a freight rail yard in 1983 as well as having aging industrial plants and near the Ocean. Downtown Oceanside beach real estate was undervalued. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

This is the view by 2007 looking in the opposite direction. The freight yard had been replaced with station/beach parking. On the right hand side a station parking structure had replaced the old World War II temporary station. On the left in the background is a new time-share resort hotel near the beach and Transportation Center. The Transportation Center is a major factor in the redevelopment of downtown Oceanside. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

It was also during this time that there was an effort to build a “bullet train” between Los Angeles Union Station/LAX and San Diego. At roughly the same time in the 1980’s Amtrak experimented with the San Diegan Metroliner which skipped several of the towns along the route between Los Angeles and San Diego to reduce running times. During this time then Oceanside City Councilman Walt Gilbert started networking with citycouncil members of other cities with stations between Los Angeles and San Diego. There were concerns about losing rail service among these towns with the proposed bullet trains and anger with Amtrak by imposing the Metroliner without input from effected towns on the route. To help with technical advice about trains Councilman Gilbert relied on a then Oceanside Transportation Commissioner Byron Nordberg. The bullet train died a natural death from lack of funding and the San Diegan Metroliner proved to be a flop which RailPAC had predicted. Out of this networking of city officials was created the Joint Powers Agency known as LOSSAN which originally stood for Los Angeles-San Diego Rail Corridor. One the first achievements of LOSSAN was the creation of a first class passenger car for all the San Diegan trains then called Custom Class.

Memorial to Byron Nordberg at the Oceanside Transportation Center which was his brainchild as well as the Coaster Commuter train and Sprinter Light Rail DMU among others

Getting organized and working together is a proven way to get things done. It has worked in California and is showing promise around the country. When towns have and own the train station they have a vested interest in keeping and improving rail passenger service. To make this work the cities need to have a realistic business plan for the rail service at their station. For a station to attract riders it needs a good location, security, adequate parking and connections to other forms of transportation. Also the station needs to be clean and attractive with services such as places to eat, shopping for sundries, lodging and so on. The secret for ridership is rail service which serves the maximum number of markets. A problem with express and corridor trains are by themselves they serve a rather limited number of stations. Extending trains and adding stations on the route increases markets and ridership. These has been demonstrated by extending trains from San Diego past Los Angeles first to Santa Barbara and now even to San Luis Obsipo. Just as important is connecting trains together at a station. The primary purpose of the original Santa Fe San Diegans was to connect to the Long Distance Santa Fe Trains at Los Angeles. Even today the Surfliners feed many riders to the long distance trains in Los Angeles like the Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief and Sunset trains. As rail service has grown in California since 1971 many new stations and local services has been created.

Good connections between services are important at a Transportation Center. This is the San Diego Trolley stopping next to the Platforms for Amtrak and the Coast Commuter trains . Photo by Noel T. Braymer

Looking at the developments around the country, what kind of services are promoted is even more important than asking for service. For example along the Gulf Coast simply asking to bring back the Sunset to Orlando is not enough. The new schedule of the Sunset not longer has the equipment sitting idle that was used to run to Florida 3 days a week. An additional trainset would be needed now to extend the Sunset to Florida. What would be better is to extend the City of New Orleans with an additional trainset to Florida daily. Including a scheduled connection with the Sunset at New Orleans as well would be like having your cake and eating it too. Not only would this serve markets in the Southwest and West Coast but also the entire Midwest. Extending the Homeland Flyer north of Oklahoma City is a step in the right direction. Extending it to connect in both directions with the Southwest Chief is even better. The towns in Texas, Okalhoma and Kansas should work together with the towns working to keep the Chief on the Raton Pass in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. The more friends the better. Such a connection between the Chief and the Flyer will help both trains and the towns in all of those states wanting rail service. It will be important for local communities to push for more cars to run longer trains to carry more passengers and more markets for their trains. Having a section of the Southwest Chief to Denver serving passengers from both the east and west will benefit the states trying to keep the Chief where it is and states wanting to extend the Flyer. In the long run adding a section of the Chief to the San Joaquin Valley and Bay Area will add many markets to stations all over the country if they all connect.

Connections mean more passengers. This includes buses dedicated to trains. This is one of the buses connecting at Stockton, California. By State these buses have to be self-supporting. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for August 13, 2012

I can’t comment on Amtrak’s Food Service but I recommend the link to the article in this issue Amtrak food and beverage service; real facts and figures . The problem with the cost of food service is we don’t know what costs are being charged by Amtrak for it. This is a quote from The High Cost of Amtrak Accounting by Andrew C. Selden and E. P. Hamilton III printed by Passenger Train Journal, 1984. As early as 1975, the late Joseph V. McDonald, an Amtrak board member, discovered Amtrak’s route accounting was arbitrarily charging train (not service) crew costs to the Montrealer at a rate sufficient to pay for 26 enginemen and trainmen per crew, rather than the actual complement of five men. He concluded that Amtrak route accounting was arbitrary and misleading.

August 13, 2012 Part 1  April 16, 2012 Part 2  April 16, 2012 Part 3

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 an emailed copy of this enewsletter or to subscribe to it email nbraymer@railpac.org

 

 

Commentary

Amtrak’s Food & Beverage service is under fire; what can they do? How about 24 hour service, “When You’re Hungry, You’re Hungry”!

Commentary by Russ Jackson, RailPAC-URPA, Dallas, Texas

Premise

Food and Beverage availability on long distance trains is essential and its existence is not negotiable; only the “how it is done” is.

Problem stated

“On Amtrak’s western long distance trains, the average trip spans three to four meal periods. People may want to go fast, but not to have to ‘fast.’ No food means no customers. But, the economic problem can and must be solved in a way that both radically increases the efficiency of any existing dining car service, and allows for growth in business from adding passenger cars to existing trains, all within the existing structure of the dining cars that Amtrak has.” — Andrew C. Selden

Analysis

On August 2, 2012, The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing to discuss this topic. The Chairman, John Mica, R-FL, is known to oppose almost everything about Amtrak except the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak CEO, Joseph Boardman was on the panel that testified, and his task was to defend the company’s service to its on board customers, many of whom are traveling long distances and have traditionally and rightly had food and beverage service available. Unfortunately, what resulted from this hearing, as has happened too many times before, were statistics that made the F & B service and Amtrak look bad: Amtrak “lost” $833 million on F & B services in the past ten years. Mica pointed out that it “costs taxpayers $3.40 for each can of soda” sold on trains, that there are huge losses per employee, and in a later event called a “stunt,” he went to a McDonalds with TV and reporters tagging along where he bought a drink and a hamburger for a dollar each, “but if you buy it on Amtrak it would cost taxpayers $6.65.” Politically, this is what Amtrak is up against for the foreseeable future although John Mica will not return as Chairman. No matter that the Amtrak cheeseburger is table-served in a sit-down facility that is in motion, that it is a real luncheon meal including lettuce, tomato, condiments, chips, and a drink, and is one of the best items on Amtrak’s dining car menu while McDonald’s is just a hamburger without any extras.

Was there anything positive to come out of that hearing? Well, yes, Amtrak’s IG testified that beginning October 1, 2012, as part of a company-wide reorganization all Amtrak food management functions will be transferred solely to Operations instead of being divided with Marketing. He has also recommended they try a pilot program to experiment with a cashless payment system, which is designed to stop employee theft but will inconvenience many riders and cause further lost sales. While theft has been a problem, it has been addressed and that effort appears to be paying off. Items like these are a re-stacking of the deck chairs with limited impact. There was nothing said in that hearing or in subsequent reporting that indicated a “growth” attitude at Amtrak, which would add revenue without sacrificing service to passengers.

For decades rail advocacy organizations like RailPAC and URPA have put forth pleas and evidence that revenue growth is basic to the future success of Amtrak and passenger rail. For example, the simple idea of adding an additional car to a train when reservations show the train on a specific date is sold out well in advance. In a letter to RailPAC a recently a retired Amtrak official cited the “company line” in reply to Dick Spotswood’s article about splitting the company into two entities which is posted on www.railpac.org and has been published in the Steel Wheels newsletter. The writer cited Mr. Spotswood’s list of costs of adding a car, but adding it also requires “A 10% revenue transfer to the train’s dining car. Sleeper revenue transfer and coach passenger car cash sales fall far short of offsetting the large cost of the dining car. Add another revenue car and you not only need an attendant but an Assistant Conductor.” So? There is no mention of the additional revenue obtained if one car is added to an already sold-out train on a spot basis. Sure, adding an additional car to all trains would add expenses, but has anyone figured out the enhanced revenue potential from doing so? Where is the “let’s try it” mentality?

Solution

There are positive, simple things that Amtrak could be doing to not only improve its financial results but also improve service to more customers, and, if implemented would result in Amtrak seeing F & B service as a “revenue center,” not a cost center. (These items are in the When You’re Hungry Plan below):

“Bring in higher-quality, distinctive, regional “premium” products that carry a higher margin. This was done in the Pacific Northwest, but mostly due to prodding by state partners; make sure the lounge cars and dining cars are open longer hours to bring in cash customers, not just the first-class passengers, who have already paid for meals in their ticket price. Every cash customer that comes through the door is gravy for the company, and a source of tips for the employees; eliminate the ridiculous early closings because employees want to go off duty the instant the train arrives in a terminal; eliminate the herd mentality of “reservations” for half-empty dining cars and rigidly fixed seating times that mostly exist to make things easier for employees; and eliminate the practice of “forced” seating of strangers together at the same table. This is a time-honored “railroad” practice that many riders like because they meet interesting people, but making it optional would remove a barrier for others.” — Paul Wilson

Some have proposed “privatizing” the F & B service on Amtrak. RailPAC’s Anthony Lee points out “In Europe privatized service exists on some overnight trains, and meal and catering services in daytime trains of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and on Eurostar services operating under Newrest wagon-lits.” The likelihood of that being accomplished here is very low. URPA’s Andrew C. Selden writes that “Private contractors won’t come near Amtrak business as long as they have to deal with Amtrak’s union labor–costs, work rules (productivity), and intimidation. Remember the (failed) Subway Sandwich experiment to put food on the Empire Corridor trains?” That is an unnecessary fight that Amtrak need not get into. It isn’t the labor or food costs that are the problem it’s that the dining cars are open and serving only 10 hours a day, and the rest of the time are not generating a dime of revenue!

The “When You’re Hungry, You’re Hungry” 24-Hour Plan

Train Day dining car meal display

One of those “simpler things” was actually accomplished on Amtrak’s Sunset Limited trains at the end of the 1990’s by URPA’s Bruce Richardson when he worked as a marketing consultant for Amtrak. At that time Trains 1 and 2 ran across the continent, from Florida to California, which they should be doing today, and were Tri-weekly, while they should be daily. This was an experiment that worked to prove the concept!:

“Back at the end of the 1990s on the Sunset Limited a number of tests of running a 24-hour dining car were successfully completed. The passengers liked it, the employees liked it, the unions agreed to the tests. Revenues were up, employees were less stressed because passengers came into the dining car in a natural progression instead of a rigid reservations system, and employee tips were up because of passenger satisfaction. After management changes, the experiments died simply because of the new managers saying, ‘not invented here.’ ” — Bruce Richardson’s 2012 updated commentary on www.unitedrail.org

Employees like the 24-hour concept because there was the virtual elimination of peak times in the dining car. Employees are always on duty and one shift assumes responsibility from the other, (so that) no fatigue-enducing overtime is necessary.
Guests like the concept because they are allowed to eat when they want to, especially during breakfast and dinner meal times. Many guests will skip lunch and just eat two meals per day, and this makes possible a bedtime snack. The Sunset Limited serves major markets during nocturnal hours, so having the dining car open for boarding and detraining guests during these stop times makes it possible for those passengers to have a meal. In addition, safety and security were enhanced by providing all guests with a central location on the train where a member of the OBS crew can be found in time of need 24 hours a day.
The company benefits from the concept because both guests and employees have already embraced the concept as a result of testing the ideas, guests have more options with an open dining car, virtually all overtime is eliminated, costs are cut while providing a higher level of service, and employees offer better performance because of more sleep and rest. There are more opportunities for more services to be offered.

Meal times under this plan are Breakfast from 6 to 11 a.m., Daytime dining 11 to 5 p.m., Casual dining 5 to 6 p.m., Dining at “Sunset” 6 to 9:30, and Dining Before Sunrise 9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. (The most popular item overnight in the experiment was a fresh bacon-fried egg-cheese sandwich on toast ‘with a hint of mayo’!) Sleeping car service would be 24 hours a day, with one attendant always on duty monitoring all cars. Work hours for the crew are staggered, giving employees down time at night on a staggered basis.

Already the objections can be heard, that this plan must increase costs. And it does add the requirement for two additional employees per trip to work the overnight hours, but the enhanced revenue pays for itself and more: In 1999 dollars, the projected revenue increase on the tri-weekly trains over the previous year was over $2 million, Labor expenses were nearly static, cost of food and supplies increased slightly, but the loss per meal or item was reduced from $9 to $.66. That’s 66 cents! How’s that, you cost cutters! Growth!!

Comment

Add two things and it is perfect: Have the cheeseburger meal available 24 hours a day, not just at lunch, and for safety sake sell alcoholic beverages only when food items from the menu are ordered. This plan is so simple and so logical in its concept it is amazing that it died such a bureaucratic death. The expensive failed “Diner Lite” and Cafe Car plans that followed did nothing to improve the problem and we are now facing the likely continuing hostility of the Congress. Many thanks to all our contributors from RailPAC and URPA, and we urge resurrection of this simple plan that adds no food service cars, requires nothing except a reorganization of the existing Food & Beverage service concept, and results in such a dramatic improvement in the financial picture for this service it should be enthusiastically embraced.

Photos by Russ Jackson and Alexander Friedman

Editorials

Four Small Projects that would Rejuvenate the Long Distance Trains.

Opinion by Noel T. Braymer

In Washington the Long Distance Trains get very little love or respect. There has been no service expansion of Long Distance Rail service since W. Graham Claytor retired as Amtrak President in 1992. In fact there is less Long Distance Rail service now than in 1992. There are no lack of worthwhile projects. These include among others a Daily Sunset, Daily Cardinal with a section to St Louis and Kansas City, the California Zephyr extended to Los Angeles overnight on the Coast, a section of the Southwest Chief to the San Joaquin Valley and San Jose, a combined new Pioneer and Desert Wind from LA to Salt Lake City and Seattle, a connection at Denver from the Zephyr to the Southwest Chief at Raton and extending rail passenger service from St. Louis- Kansas City to Omaha.

Any progress that can be made for now will be in simple incremental steps. Major problems for any improvements are lack of money, equipment and cooperation from the Class I railroads. What is most needed now are not new Long Distance Routes but connections to or extensions of existing services to increase ridership and revenues while taking advantage of existing overhead and equipment. As revenues increase faster than costs Rail Passenger service is less vulnerable to attacks. These four projects can also take advantage of existing efforts and local support to expand rail service.

The first project has been on the table for some time; extending the Heartland Flyer north of Oklahoma City to connect with the Southwest Chief. Studies of the project have found the most economical alternative would be to connect directly with the Chief in Kansas. There are proposals to run the Flyer all the way to Kansas City with daytime arrival and departure. This would be better for regional travel, but a connection to the Chief would cost less to do, produce more revenue and serve markets from Coast to Coast. This could be done with the existing Heartland Flyer equipment.

Service along the Gulf Coast of Florida with the Sunset east of New Orleans has been in limbo since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The damage to the tracks and stations have long been repaired and demand to bring back service along the Gulf Coast is growing along the towns on the route. What would make a great deal of sense would be to extend the City of New Orleans on this route to Florida with daily service. The City has poor equipment utilization with the train laying over in New Orleans for over 20 hours. With one additional trainset it would be able to go as far as Orlando maybe even Miami. Overnight this would create connections from the entire Mid-West to the Gulf Coast and Florida and north up the Atlantic seaboard. As with any new connection several trains will see increased ridership and revenue.

One modest proposal is to extend the Coast Starlight 157 miles to Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver is a major city with the surrounding metropolitan area having a populations of 2.3 million people and a connection with VIA Rail.

There is interest in running local service from Shreveport, Louisiana to the Dallas/ Fort Worth area. Such local services require high levels of subsidy and produce low levels of revenue. A simple old fashion solution would be to do this with a section of the Crescent spliting off at Meridian, Mississippi to Shreveport and on to Dallas and Fort Worth. This would open new markets for the Crescent to the these cities and well as possible connections to the Heartland Flyer, Texas Eagle/Sunset and the  City of New Orleans .

To get these projects done will need the support of local groups and old fashion political pressure. The last 20 years have shown that most of the management at Amtrak has no interest in Long Distance Train service other than a political wedge used to get funding to keep the majority of Amtrak running on the very expensive operation of the North East Corridor. Yet expansion of Long Distance service would provide greatly improved revenue and broader political support leading to economic security for Rail Passenger service in this country. For the sake of the future of a national rail passenger service such improvements will have to be made. To continue as we have for the last 20 years will insure the slow death of Long Distance Rail Passenger service in this country.

 

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for August 6, 2012

Amtrak’s Food Lost Taxpayers $834 Million in 10 Years, Mica Says   Bloomberg – Aug 2, 2012 Amtrak lost $84.5 million selling food and beverages last year and $833.8 million over 10 years, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica said, calling for a “better way” to run those operations. It costs taxpayers $3.40 for each can of soda …        This is why we should never take Amtrak’s Accounting at face value and why it gives ammunition for its critics. The Long Distance Trains are the primary users of food service and are regularly overcharged by Amtrak’s Accounting. Since Amtrak arbitrarily applies charges to trains and services it is impossible to know what is the real cost of something like food service or what it cost to run trains. The problem is Amtrak’s overhead costs and how Amtrak’s Accounting charges those costs to the trains and passenger services. NB

August 6, 2012 Part 1  August 6, 2012 Part 2  August 6, 2012 Part 3

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 an emailed copy of this enewsletter or to subscribe to it email nbraymer@railpac.org

Editorials

How Fast can the Surfliners go?

Opinion by Noel T. Braymer

For over 30 years the goal has been to run rail passenger service the 128 miles between Los Angeles and San Diego through Orange County in under 2 hours. To do this will require speeds of 110 miles per hour with PTC signalling as well as  run-through tracks at Los Angeles Union Station, 4 tracks to separate passenger and freight trains between Los Angeles and Fullerton plus full double tracking everywhere else with tunnels costing billions under San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente and Del Mar. Back in 2000 shortly after the introduction of the then new Surfliner equipment Amtrak said 34 minutes could be pulled out of the running time between Los Angeles and San Diego which would be a running time of about 2 hours and 11 minutes by 2005. A major factor in this potential time savings was the Surfliner equipment which was built for faster loading and unloading at stations the the low level equipment it was to replace. This also assumed that by 2005 there would be run through tracks at LAUS, triple tracking from LA to Fullerton and double tracking for most of Orange and San Diego Counties. In a few years we will finally have this trackage projected in 2000 to be built by 2005. Will we then see 34 minutes pulled from the Surfliners between LA and San Diego?

What is needed to reduce running time on a train schedule? Running trains faster with better acceleration is one way. Just as important is not stopping any more or longer than necessary. Double tracking eliminates the need for a train to stop at sidings. This becomes more critical when a train has to wait at a siding for a late train. Another reason trains may not move is equipment problems with the train, tracks or signaling. There is also the time spent at the stations. The less time spent at the station is time that a trains can be moving. Compared to the railroad between LA and San Diego of 1988 when most of the line was bolted rail over 40 years old and mostly single tracked, we have come a long way. So what is holding us back? A common problem with the Surfliners is equipment failures, often with the locomotives. The problem isn’t there’s not enough locomotives, but that there aren’t enough that run. Locomotives often sit idle for days waiting to be repaired . What is missing is basic preventive maintenance . Currently 9 trainsets are used to run the Surfliners. There are 49 Surfliner Cars which in theory would be enough for 10 trainsets of 5 car each (with one additional Superliner Car). That would give 9 working trainsets with one spare to be out for maintenance. However most Surfliners run now with 6 cars with each set having at least one Superliner Coach. The morning departure and evening arrival trains to and from San Luis Obispo often run with up to 10 cars. Currently of the 9 trainsets are used on the Surfliner trains; 7 trainsets have  Surfliner and Superliner cars and the other 2 are low level car trainsets.

It takes one trainset a day just to run the morning train out of Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo and then for it to return to LA and end the night in San Diego. The second low level trainset is the one left in San Diego the night before and used for the morning “Express” train. It returns to San Diego in the  early afternoon then turns around and ends the day in the late afternoon in Los Angeles for servicing to be ready to go to San Luis Obispo in the morning. Given the availability of equipment this is a good rotation. The good news is the more productive trains, the trains to Santa Barbara and the other San Luis Obispo trains usually have Surfliner equipment. The morning “Express” train on time performance is below that of other Surfliner trains. A factor for that is likely the use of low level equipment which take more time to load and unload than the Surfliners. Among many regular riders of the Surfliners there is dread whenever low level equipment arrives because of problems with running on time. LOSSAN is not happy that the experiment with running a faster train as an express is often late. But eliminating stops to run faster rarely works to increase ridership or revenues. What increases ridership is extending trains and serving more stations. The more markets you serve the more passengers you will have. Running longer distance trains in less time both increased the productivity of trains as well as improve demand to ride them.

Let’s  compare passenger trains here to those of Hokkaido, Japan a story about which was written by Scott Lothes and published in the August issue of Trains. Hokkaido is the northern most large Japanese Island as well as the most rural and least densely populated. It is the only major Island not yet served by High Speed Shinkansen trains which are scheduled to begin service by 2016. All of the Island is served by narrow gauge, mostly single track railroads and much of the terrain is mountainous with many curves. Rail service is very popular with the larger cities stations combining transit, local and express rail services connecting to other cities with a hub and spoke arrangement. Station stops are short with 30 seconds the norm even for intercity trains headed to Tokyo. There is a system of express trains which are DMU powered tilt trains with a top speed of 80 miles per hour. Tilting makes it possible raise speeds on 56 miles per hour curves up to 76 miles per hour. For service between Sapporo and Obihiro the trains makes 10 intermediate stops over 215 miles in less than 4 hours. Compare this to the 232 miles between San Diego and Santa Barbara now scheduled in 5 hours and 35 minutes or the 222 miles between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo in 5 hours and 30 minutes. While the Japanese equipment at Hokkaido wouldn’t be what is needed here it does show what can be done even with limited resources with the right equipment and a well run service.

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for July 30, 2012

Construction is almost finished for the return of Platform 7 and Tracks 13 and 14 at LAUS. These and Track 15 will be needed for the construction of run-through tracks which will take Tracks 3,4,5 and 6 out of service because they will have to be raised for the run-through project.

July 30,2012 Part 1   July 30, 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 an emailed copy of this enewsletter or to subscribe to it email nbraymer@railpac.org