Monthly Archives

March 2013

Editorials

March Trip report with video to Riverside, Los Angeles and Santa Monica

Report by Noel T. Braymer 

What a way to celebrate my 61st birthday, but I’m still too young for a Metrolink senior discount. I got to the Oceanside Station in time to get my ticket to Riverside for Metrolink train 850 and get on board before the 7:35 AM departure.  I still had the same old problems of trying to read the screen on the ticket machine with sunlight reflecting off it when buying a ticket in the morning. I noticed the older car I was on had some worn seat cushions, spots on the carpets and even the windows were dirtier than the new cars. My biggest concern though was the light ridership on the 850. There are millions of people between San Diego and Riverside yet there were few people on this train. Looks to me to be a marketing problem that more people were not on this train, not a problem with this market. Even with half price tickets if ridership more than doubled Metrolink would come out ahead. Video Link to new bridge over Santa Margarita River    Arrival and departure at Orange, California

The trip from Oceanside went smoothly. We arrived in Riverside about 13 minutes early at 9:32 AM and we were not rushing to get to Riverside. Train 850 then was parked at the Riverside Station with diesel engines idling until it left at 10:40 as the 851 to return to Oceanside. The Riverside Station has two platforms with one for 2 stub tracks for trains terminating in Riverside at the west end. In the center are the 2 tracks shared by the BNSF and UP. On the east end there are 2 run through tracks that connect at both ends with the BNSF/UP tracks. It was at the east platform that I waited for train 800 headed for San Bernardino. But before I crossed the bridge to the east platform I found the Megabus Stop at Riverside by the station entrance which is at the smoking area of the station. Megabus keeps it overhead low with just one small sign but takes advantage of the facilities at the public transportation center.

I shot video of train 800 arriving on time at Riverside by 10:24.Video link  I now had a ticket from Riverside to Los Angeles. Train 800 was due in at San Bernardino at 10:50 AM and would depart at 11AM as train 321 to Los Angeles. On the way I took video as the train came to Colton Crossing to record construction of the Colton flyover so the UP tracks can soon go over the tracks of the BNSF.Video link  I couldn’t find the flyover at first until I saw the existing UP tracks and I realized that what I thought was the nearby 10 freeway was the new flyover next to the old tracks. It looks almost finished and is scheduled to be in service by the end of the year. I know the UP will still fight to keep passenger trains off their tracks, but at least it will make possible for some more Metrolink trains to run between Riverside and San Bernardino. This $202 million project paid largely with taxpayer money will reduce rail and road congestion in much of Southern California.

I also shot video of the Metrolink yards in Colton just south of the San Bernardino station. Video link  I was surprised to see construction to enlarge this new yard. Train 800 arrived 10 minutes early into San Bernardino which gave me a 20 minute instead of a 10 minute layover. I was able to read an electronic message sign at the platform from the train saying the train might be up to 15 minutes late into Los Angeles because of meet problems. I thought little more about it and didn’t remember the conductor saying anything about it on the PA. With time on my hands I started counting the number of cars on a passing BNSF double stack container train. I counted about 115 cars on a train with 6 locomotives. That was a train over a mile and a half long carrying almost the load of 230 trucks that were not on the freeway in the LA basin. That would be roughly 4 or 5 miles of trucks on one lane of freeway almost bumper to bumper.That was just one train of many crossing in the area around Colton.

This train now the 321 to LA had a good load of passengers. Things went smoothly. My favorite part of the trip was taking videos as the 321 went sailing past traffic in the middle of the 10 freeway west of El Monte.  Video link  This was free flowing traffic and the time was just past noon not stop and go traffic rush hour traffic. How I wish all train trips were like this flying past traffic! But as we approached the Cal State LA Station the train slowed down. The rest of the trip was slower and got even slower as we got closer to Union Station. Then we stopped near the banks of the L.A. River. After looking like we might arrive early we had to wait for train 310 which was late and suppose to leave LA at 12:20 PM for San Bernardino while we arrived at 12:30 PM. The train crew seemed unsure if they would hold the 310 for us or not. Then the 310 came over with 2 locomotives in front and 5 cars and passed us. We were only a few minutes late but early is always better. Video link

You find out just how many people are on a train when you are all on the platform together trying to get through the tunnel in a huddled mass from the platform to the main station tunnel. I wasn’t taking pictures at LAUS this day. I ran out to have lunch at my favorite place near LAUS for Mexican food just inside of Chinatown. It was about a quarter after 1 when I got on the subway which was busy and transferred to the Expo Line to Culver City. There was a train waiting when I got to the platform but no signs on the side of the train said if it was Blue Line or Expo. I asked a Metro employee at the platform what it was. He looked between two cars,said Expo and I jumped in before the doors closed.

The street running on Flower street wasn’t too bad. It is much better since they fixed the junction for the Blue and Expo Lines at Flower and Washington. It took months to fix the problem which turned out the tracks at the frog were a half inch out of gauge. The area around 23rd street and Flower is always congested which is next to a ramp for the nearby Harbor Freeway. I don’t know what will be needed to fix that but I doubt it will be cheap. Near the 23rd street Station there is a lot of new and under construction expensive apartments. Once trains get to USC the they go at a good clip all the way to Culver City. Ridership on the Expo Line is very strong and growing.

What hasn’t changed is the lack of information or signage at the Culver City Station. But at least the parking lot is now paved. I was planning to take a number 5 Santa Monica Bus to Santa Monica. Just as I got out of the train I saw my bus leaving and knew I would miss it. I crossed Venice Blvd and found a stop for Metro 733 which I had also just missed which is an express bus from downtown LA on Venice Blvd which ends up in downtown Santa Monica. Well this bus was a good back up plan and it ran about every 15 minutes. A few minutes later I see another 5 bus at a light nearby at Robinson and Venice. I ran over there and after some confusion with the bus driver I got on the bus. I soon discover the 5 bus had a stop right in front of the Culver Expo Station.

The 5 bus went roughly due north and turned west on Pico. This is just south of Beverly Hills and I don’t think in all the years I lived in LA I had been on this part of Pico. Not many neighborhoods have restaurants advertise they serve both Kosher Gyro and Chinese Food. That wasn’t as colorful as the man who got on the bus earlier wearing a dark suit, light gray shoes, a red fez hat with gold trim and a white tassel and a scarf instead of a tie that looked like a American Flag . As I got closer to areas near where I had once worked and knew well in West LA and Santa Monica nothing looked familiar. So many new buildings and new taller office buildings. The Expo Line will be seeing a great deal of reverse commuting with many people living east and going west away from downtown Los Angeles to commute to work. My problem with all these new taller buildings was even though I was a block away from the Expo Line right of way, I couldn’t see much with the buildings in my way.

I got off the bus in downtown Santa Monica and walked to Colorado Street and 4th and found the construction site for the downtown Santa Monica Expo Station. I had seen construction from the 5 bus of a grade separation at Cloverfield Blvd a mile or 2 from 4th street. It was about 4 PM by this time and I had to head home. Not far from the Expo station site I found a Metro 733 bus loading passengers. I had enough time to run to get on board. I was back on the Expo Line around 4:30 PM and at the transfer station at 7th and Flower in LA around 5 PM.The 7th and Flower Metro Station now is crowded most of the time but even more so during rush hour. But in the middle of this crush on the platform was a guy in a dark suit, shaved head and a light colored hat selling pies. I had a flashback to the 1960’s when the Black Muslims would stand well dressed on urban street corners shouting “pecan pies” while holding boxes of pies in their hands. Like the 1960’s this guy only paid attention to “Brothers”.

Well I got to Union Station by 5:15 PM with plenty of time to make the Metrolink 606 at 5:40 PM.  Video link As I left for home I was feeling tired. I noticed on the BNSF mainline signs of new grading for what looked like a third track in several places. That will be the key to faster service in the future. Passenger trains will be able to pass freight trains without either train stopping. The trip home went smoothly and I was hoping to get to Oceanside before the scheduled time of 7:46 PM. I was also looking forward to dinner. Around 7:30 PM the train slowed to a halt at San Onofre and on the PA we learned we had to wait for a northbound Surfliner. We got into Oceanside only a few minutes late, but early would have been better.

 

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for March 25, 2013

Corbett reaches deal to pay to maintain Amtrak route to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review-Mar 21, 2013 Tom Corbett said the state will pay $3.8 million a year to subsidize Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian route, a daily round-trip that provides the only …California is already paying over $30 million to run each of their existing State services and each produce much more revenue than the Pennsylvanian which should be extended to Cleveland increase revenue. NB

March 25, 2013 Part 1  March 25, 2013 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.orgThe 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

CA Rail Statistics

Capitol Corridor Monthly Report (February, 2013)

By David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director, CCJPA

For February 2013, once again we find Capitol Corridor’s monthly
performance report to be a mixed bag of results.
Ridership in the month of
February was 8.2% below February 2011 and revenue was down 2.7%. On a
positive note, on-time performance (OTP) was 97%, the best in the Amtrak
system for February, and the system operating ratio for the fiscal year is
52%.

Half of the ridership loss [-4%] was primarily due to February 2013 having
one less day than the 29 days in February 2012 which was a leap
year. Further evaluation of the ridership decline shows that nearly 70% of
the loss can be attributed to three stations — Sacramento [-12%], Davis
[-11%], and Richmond [-15%].

In addition, we found that some midday trains are under performing against
prior year levels and we are looking at some targeted marketing to increase
ridership on these trains as well as working with Amtrak to reallocate some
of the poorer performing trains to other more attractive times that will
optimize revenues and maintain/reduce operating costs. Weekend trains, in
general, are performing better than last year which is a testament to the
success of the 50% online discount for weekend travel.

Reductions in Service Delays – Mechanical Rolling Stock and Third-Party
Incidents

Since the beginning of January, CCJPA staff have been actively engaged with
Amtrak and other agencies/parties to reduce delays from rail vehicles
(primarily locomotives) and bridge lifts at the Suisun-Martinez crossing
over the Carquinez Strait. I am pleased to inform you that in February
there were no train cancellations/annulments. Mechanical delay minutes
dropped 67% in February compared to December 2012 when service disruptions
were at a pinnacle. There also has been a significant drop in bridge
delays. For the period of December 2012-January 2013 versus the same
two-month period last year, the bridge delay minutes have dramatically
reduced by 46% thanks in large part to the commitment of the bridge lift
and marine vessel operators to be aware of the “operating windows” of the
Capitol Corridor trains as they pass through the Suisun/Martinez
drawbridge. An improved and upgraded communications plan/protocol has been
developed to assist all parties in their decisions when to open the
drawbridge and it appears to be working as intended.

Host Railroad/Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) Delays Decreasing
It goes without saying but bears repeating that host railroad-related
delays continue to decline. In fact, Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) delay
minutes per 10,000 train-miles were 460 for the January 2013 (the latest
month for which we have results), which was the third lowest since October
2009 when the Federal Railroad Administration required this delay
reporting. Please note that the January and previous monthly results for
the Capitol Corridor are well below the established FRA standard of 900
delay minutes per month.

In addition, the previously implemented Richmond Fence Project jointly
financed with UPRR has begun to have significant positive safety benefits
for the trains as well as the community. In the two years since the
installation of the fence, there has been an 85% reduction in the incidents
along the tracks.

CCJPA FY 13/14 – FY 14/15 Business Plan Update

The final Business Plan Update for the Capitol Corridor intercity passenger
train service for FY14 and FY15 was submitted on March 22, 2013 to the
Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (BT&H) in
accordance with the Interagency Transfer Agreement between the CCJPA and
the State of California. The CCJPA Board of Directors formally adopted
(Resolution 13-01) this Business Plan Update at its February 20, 2013
meeting. The document was modified based on the recent submittal of initial
operating costs from Amtrak, which were used to further develop the FY14
and FY15 operating costs to be consistent with the implementation of PRIIA
Section 209 Amtrak pricing policy, which goes into effect in FY14. This
update results in an increase of $1.996 million in FY14 state operating
support for the current service plan compared to the FY13 operating budget,
primarily due to a request of $0.35 million for Minor Capital Project
support and $1.5 million for the Section 209 Equipment Capital Charge (use
of Amtrak-owned locomotives and rail cars in the service).

Amtrak is expected to provide final operating cost estimates for FY14 in
early April 2013.
We will continue to work with the Legislature and the
Governor’s Office to incorporate these FY14 final operating costs for the
Capitol Corridor into the May Revise of the FY14 State Budget. The final
operating budget will be submitted for approval to the CCJPA Board at its
September 18, 2013 meeting. It will be based on: (1) final estimates from
Amtrak (due in early April); (2) adoption of the FY14 State Budget by the
Legislature/Governor; and (3) the FY14 allocation letter provided to the
CCJPA by the BT&H Secretary.

California Passenger Rail Advocacy Event – Sacramento City Hall April 11
[9am – 3pm]
As requested by CCJPA Chair Spering, staff is working with other California passenger rail agencies on a workshop that will seek to develop advocacy initiatives needed to secure the funding and community support for the
California passenger rail network. The program will include state legislators and congressional representatives as well as passenger rail leaders and communities along the various train routes who have implemented or are planning developments at/near train stations. You are invited to be a part of this very important strategy session. Please send your RSVP to Cheryl Grady [cherylg@capitolcorridor.org] at your earliest convenience.

Summary

Ridership for FY13 is 3.7% below last year’s levels, yet is above FY11
ridership levels, while revenue, OTP and system operating ratios are
outperforming last year’s results. Most importantly, the Capitol Corridor
safety measurements continue to be excellent from employee and passenger
injuries to safety incidents along the tracks. Also, actions taken by the
CCJPA and Amtrak have begun to have immediate reductions in service delays
that will allow the Capitol Corridor to maintain its superior OTP, which
translates into high customer satisfaction scores that in turn help to
retain and grow ridership. The CCJPA team has set the bar high for the
performance of the Capitol Corridor trains and has the commitment of UPRR
and Amtrak as its service partners to minimize and limit service delays,
improve OTP, advance safety and service expansion projects, and improve
customer satisfaction.

Capitol Corridor February 2013
– Ridership: 127,165 riders; -8.2% vs. February 2012; -3.7% vs. prior YTD
– Revenue: $2,194,429; -2.7% vs. February 2012; +0.9% vs. prior YTD
– On-Time Performance: 97%, YTD OTP of 94% (#3 in the nation).
– System Operating Ratio: 52% YTD vs. 50% in FY12
__________________________________________________
Pacific Surfliners February 2013:
– Ridership: 189,709 passengers; +4.8% vs. February 2012; +6.3% vs. prior
YTD
– Ticket Revenue: +11.7% vs. February 2012; +13.3% vs. prior YTD
– On-time performance: 91% (YTD FY13 on-time performance: 88%)
__________________________________________________
San Joaquin February 2013:
– Ridership: 88,507 passengers +2.2% vs. February 2012; +9.2% vs. prior
YTD
– Ticket Revenue only: +5.4% vs. February 2012; +6.7% vs. prior YTD
– On-time performance: 92% (YTD FY13 on-time performance: 89%)

Reports

Report of the First Ever San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority


Report by Mike Barnbaum, Associate Director of the Rail Passenger Association of California & Nevada, on Sunday 24 March 2013

The New San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, created by legislation from Cathleen Galgiani (AB 1779) and signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Jerry Brown on September 29, 2012, held its first meeting on March 22, 2013 in the City Council Chambers of the City of Merced. The meeting was called to order shortly after 1:30 P.M. After new member introductions and the pledge of allegiance, the historic Swearing In of New Members took place and the election of officers. A discussion took place regarding geographic region the three top officers are from so that to ensure that along the San Joaquin Valley Rail Corridor (Bakersfield to Sacramento/Oakland) had one member covering the Southern Portion of the Corridor, Central Portion of the Corridor, and Northern Portion of the Corridor. After the discussion took place, the new SJJPA Board Members agreed that they have accomplished that goal. With that being said, the new S.J.J.P.A. Officers are as follows:

  • Chair – Supervisor John Pedrozo of Merced County (Central)
  • 1st Vice Chair – Supervisor Henry Perea of Fresno County (South)
  • 2nd Vice Chair – Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Cohn and appointed to the S.J.J.P.A. by the Sacramento Regional Transit District Board

The legislation that created the S.J.J.P.A. and the coming together of the first meeting ever was work done behind the scenes by eleven astute people that made up Ad Hoc Staff Working Group including but not limited to Mike Wiley and Jeffrey Damon of the Sacramento Regional Transit District. All eleven of these people were publicly recognized during the first meeting.

Following the recognition of the eleven Ad Hoc Staff Working Group Members, the SJJPA took public comments. This writer was last, out of courtesy of other in attendance. Many public comments came from students of the new U.C. Merced as well as transportation professionals. Tom Richards, Vice-Chair of the California High Speed Rail Authority testified to the new members as to how the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority served as a great model over the years as to why the new S.J.J.P.A. was needed and ultimately created through state legislation. This writer talked about goal setting, particularly setting one critical goal of “Closing The Gap” that has been much talked about at the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee by the Treasurer of the Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC) Bill Kerby. The “Closing the Gap” refers to eliminating bus service in favor of providing rail service between Bakersfield and California’s Busiest Rail Station, Los Angeles Union Station. Los Angeles County is the largest County in the United States of America in terms of population and is the second busiest Amtrak Station in the United States of America in terms of passengers. The last this writer, from Sacramento, had checked, Sacramento is the second busiest Amtrak Station in California and the seventh busiest Amtrak Station in the United States of America.

Following public comments was the adoption of the consent calendar. The consent calendar was adopted unanimously, including the meeting schedule for the remainder of Calendar Year 2013 and the location of the next regularly scheduled meeting of the S.J.J.P.A. This writer addressed the group in regards to the date of the next meeting proposed for the Friday that comes on the heels of a major three day weekend. After brief conversation, the board decided to proceed with that date and the remaining dates on the 2013 meeting calendar. The next meeting of the S.J.J.P.A. will occur on Friday 24 May 2013 at New Sacramento City Hall Council Chambers from 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. so that new Board Members in the San Joaquin Valley will have the ability to ride Train 701 directly to Sacramento arriving at 12:25 P.M. and back on Train 704 directly from Sacramento departing at 4:55 P.M. This is the only way for San Joaquin County Board Members and participants to attend a S.J.J.P.A. Meeting in Sacramento so as to not have a run-in with Peratta’s Law. This was a law writted and signed into law year’s ago by former State Senate President Pro-Tem Don Peratta which prohibits exclusive Amtrak Bus travel when using Amtrak to do a roundtrip in their itinerary. The law, in plain English states that when using Amtrak on an itinerary, a segment traveled by train must be included somewhere in that passenger’s itinerary or the travel can not be sold by Amtrak under any circumstance.

With that being said, the following will be the meeting schedule for the remainder of 2013 set for the Fourth Friday of Each Month as Follows:

  • May 24, 2013 at New Sacramento City Hall from 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. (Train 701 to Sacramento & Train 704 to San Joaquin Valley)
  • July 26, 2013
  • September 27, 2013
  • November 22, 2013 (This is the Friday “Before” Thanksgiving Day)

Members are also being polled by the Ad Hoc Staff Working Group for a special meeting for June 28th and/or another date in June, not yet known, to come to agreement on final selection of managing agency. The Managing Agency currently in place for the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority is the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, headquartered in Oakland, California.

As the meeting proceeded a presentation was made about Intercity Passenger Rail Lobby Days in Sacramento that will be held over a 2-Day period on April 10 & 11. Caution was made into who would go from the new SJJPA Board so as to not hve a “quorum” present in the halls of the Capitol. If this occurred, a meeting would have to be noticed under California’s Open Meetings Act known as the Brown Act.

An Oral presentation was made regarding the selection process and criteria for selection of a Managing Agency and their Criteria. Staff of Agencies that have expressed interest in being the Managing Agency exempted themselves from speaking or presenting on this item. The item did allow for public comment of which this writer took full advantage as as transit rider, of promoting why the Sacramento Regional Transit District needs to be the Managing Agency of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. Among other things, the Sacramento Regional Transit District has completed a quarter of a century of operating Light Rail Service to the people of the Sacramento Region in 2012 and that on Monday 1 April 2013, the Sacramento Regional Transit District will turn 40. The comments made by this writer was to demonstarte to the Board Members and the independent presenter of the item that the Sacramento Regional Transit District is not new, and that the Sacramento Regional Transit District has a “track” record – no pun intended – of rail operations that is well established in the marketplace of the San Joaquin Valley for those Counties between Kern and Sacramento.

Editorials

Should High Speed Rail Share the Tehachapis?

Analysis by Noel T. Braymer

The most expensive part of running any railroad is not above the rails but below the rails on the right of way. With any capital intensive investment the way to recoup the cost is to use it as much and generate the most income as possible. This is particularly true of High Speed Rail which will need very expensive civil engineering with long tunnels and viaducts. The key to building a High Speed Rail Passenger system in California is to connect Northern and Southern California. The most expensive and difficult part of doing this is through the mountains south of Bakersfield.

It is no secret that rail freight is more profitable than passenger service. California is going to need all the financial help it can get to build this most expensive but critical segment and we should look for all the help we can get. One way to raise funding for building in the mountains and paying to run a new high speed railroad there is to share use of it with other rail carriers. This can be done with both other passenger carriers and freight trains. The most obvious objections to doing this would be the incompatibility of High Speed Passenger trains with slower passenger trains and slower and much heavier freight trains.

But this is not unprecedented even in California. Light rail passenger service and freight service share tracks in San Diego County. Light rail and freight don’t share the tracks however at the same time since a collision between the two would be disastrous. Freight traffic happens only at night when there are no light rail trains on the tracks. Shared use of High Speed Trains, slower passenger trains and freight trains happens in Europe. The best known example of this is the Chunnel, the 31 mile English Channel rail tunnel between France and Britain. Besides high speed passenger service the Chunnel also has auto/truck ferries with passenger cars for the vehicle occupants as well as freight trains.

The Chunnel was built with private funding. It is being paid for from tolls by the different rail services using it. It hasn’t been easy making payments and a few times the loans for the Chunnel have had to be renegotiated to avoid bankruptcy. But the investors are still being paid. Something similar to this has been done between the Harbors of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the rail yards near downtown Los Angeles with the Alameda Corridor. The Alameda Corridor is a fully grade separated high capacity publicly owned railroad built to meet growing harbor traffic while eliminating traffic conflicts at grade crossings in this region. The construction of the Alameda Corridor is being paid for by tolls from the trains using it.

A division of German Railways, DB Schenker is involved with freight traffic all over the world. One part of DB Schenker is the primary rail freight hauler in Britain. As such it has rights to carry freight to over much of Europe from Britain under the English Channel through the Chunnel. Not only does DB Schenker use HSR tracks through the Chunnel but also on High Speed 1. High Speed 1 is the 67 mile high speed bypass rail line to London from the portal for the Chunnel in southern England. Not only is German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) running freight trains in Britain but it is planning to extend passenger service by 2015 to London from Frankfurt, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Brussels. Other rail operators are also looking at more direct rail service from other European cities to connect to London though the Chunnel and High Speed 1.

The State of California as the owner of an expensive railroad could use this as a model for the future HSR Line. More than one operator should be able to use the HSR line in California. One example would be future service to Las Vegas. At the very least Las Vegas trains will need to share tracks from Palmdale to Los Angeles. But direct service also to Sacramento and San Jose/San Francisco could also be seen in the future to Las Vegas.

A question that needs to be answered is will this double tracked, grade separated high speed line have the capacity to run both HSR passenger trains and other services? By 2040 the expectation is there will be 64 trains a day between Los Angeles and San Francisco. In a 16 hour service day that is 4 trains an hour in one direction assuming these are 64 round trips. Earlier planning by the California High Speed Rail Authority expected up to 84 trains a day which in a 16 hour service day is 5.25 trains an hour. Four trains an hour is a train every 15 minutes in each direction. At 6 trains an hour that is a train every 10 minutes.

The Chunnel is designed to run 20 trains an hour in each direction which is a train every 3 minutes. In theory that would be 480 trains a day 24 hours a day in each direction. Currently rail traffic in the Chunnel is running at half of potential capacity which is why there is planning for additional trains particularly passenger trains to more destinations. The Chunnel has a top speed of 100 miles per hour for high speed passenger trains and 60 miles an hour for freight trains.

A maximum of say 6 High Speed Rail Trains an hour in one direction with no more than 2 slower passenger trains at 125 miles per hour is within the capacity of a railroad that should handle up to 20 trains an hour. Even when you take in the issue of faster trains overtaking slower trains these trains will only need to share segments on the new right of way. These segments that could have joint use or “blending” would likely include from Sylmar to Palmdale and Hanford to Madera for some shared segments with local Metrolink or Amtrak trains. It will be better to have one station in Fresno than two a mile apart. Faster local service to Palmdale is also desirable. Even on these segments some additional third tracks built at grade and not in a tunnel or viaduct would provide passing tracks to prevent traffic conflicts.

As for freight traffic assuming reduced capacity for maintenance purposes at night might mean 3 trains an hour in each direction. In an 8 hour window say between 10 PM and 6 AM that is still 24 trains in each direction a night. Considering that freight trains are much longer than passenger trains those 24 trains can carry a lot of business and revenue.

The biggest challenge for future High Speed Rail service in California is not between Bakersfield and Mojave, but between Palmdale and Sylmar. Building a high speed alignment will require major tunneling and will be very expensive in Los Angeles County. Most of the freight traffic by rail in the Tehachapis is headed east of Mojave and north of Bakersfield. The current freight line in the Tehachapis is very congested. Construction of some additional double tracking on this line will add capacity but future traffic growth is expected to use up that capacity soon after it is built.

On the I-5 and Highway 99 in the San Joaquin Valley both roads have a great deal of truck traffic. Rail freight now is not a viable option to relieve future congestion for truck traffic in the San Joaquin Valley. Creating a new fast freight service in the I-5 Corridor would be possible using new High Speed Rail tracks between Sylmar and Bakersfield. If we compare the distance between the Chunnel and High Speed 1 at 98 miles to the 138 miles between Sylmar and Bakersfield we see using the former as a model for the later isn’t unreasonable. In California there is more room for passing tracks and less need for tunneling in the mountains compared with a tunnel under the English Channel.

So what kind of track alignment are we talking about? If we tried to run all freight traffic in this area on High Speed Tracks this would likely require a long straight fairly flat tunnel over 20 miles long to move freight quickly between Bakersfield and Mojave to meet the future demand in a limited time during the night. To run freight all day may require a third tunnel. This would be very expensive.

If we limit freight to comparatively light fast trains such as Trailer on Flat Car (TOFC) and container trains, then such trains could run on higher grades with electric locomotives at speeds up to 70 miles per hour. This would be competitive with truck traffic and give this line a high level of capacity. The faster you can run trains, the more trains can get through the tunnels. This could include trains from Sylmar and trains bypassing the existing railroad at Mojave to Bakersfield. These trains would use existing freight lines from Bakersfield, Mojave and Sylmar. During the day there is nothing to stop the use of modified High Speed Passenger equipment to be used for express package service along with High Speed Passenger trains serving most of California and parts of Nevada on High Speed Rail lines.

The biggest challenge to building a profitable High Speed Rail service is not operating the trains, but paying the cost to build and maintain the new railroad after it is running. As with any capital intensive investment the best way to to this is keep it in revenue service as much as possible, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Freight by truck is a major market and the major north/south freeways along the spine of California are congested already and often subject to closure due to major accidents and foul weather. Service flexibility will be needed to get the funding for future High Speed Rail. The more interests that have a stake in building High Speed Rail means there will be more support for it and less opposition to it

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for March 13, 2013

Excerpt from the March 7, 2013 LOSSAN TAC Meeting Agenda. The Coast Starlight has maintained positive ridership growth since September 2011 including a significant increase of 19.3 percent in January due to a combination of improved reliability, fare actions, and maintaining the summer consist with more cars .

March 18, 2013 Part 1  March 18, 2013 Part 2  March 18, 2013 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 to subscribe to this enewsletter write to nbraymer@railpac.orgThe 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

Passenger Trains Make Money

Report by Noel T. Braymer

To often we hear in this county about how passenger trains lose money. The fact is many passengers trains cover their costs for trains crews, fuel and direct operations of the trains. It is the passenger railroads that are losing money. To draw an analogy compare a passenger railroad to a shopping center, an old, run down shopping center with many empty stores. This shopping center is losing money. But the stores that are still open in this shopping center are making money. In this analogy the stores are the passenger trains.

When people say that we should get rid of the passenger trains that lose money, this would be the same as evicting some of the few rent paying profitable stores in this shopping center. This shopping center could raise its rents to make money from the last few stores it has. But this would likely shut down these remaining stores because they are not making enough money at this shopping center to afford a rent hike. Or these stores could move out of this old shopping center because they can get a better deal at another shopping center. The obvious solution if this failing shopping center wants to make money is to attract more stores to bring in enough rent to pay the shopping center’s overhead.

So what are the best ways to have more money making trains? Commuter rail service is generally a very expensive operation.The commuter train operator often owns the railroad they run on which is expensive overhead. Commuter trains often carry large numbers of people but only during the rush hours. For most of the day very expensive equipment sits idle. Transportation experts like cab drivers know that they don’t make money sitting idle. Cab drivers favorite fares are trips to the airport. Cab drivers get paid by the mile and the airport is generally the longest trip they can make. Just as important to cabbies is they can usually pick up a fare at the airport and are making money going back into town. The best time to add more service on commuter trains is between rush hours and on the weekends when equipment is idle. There is a great deal of travel during non-rush hour times which commuter trains are missing.

Another problem with commuter trains is even when they carry lots of passengers they don’t bring in much money because the fares are low and the distances traveled short. It helps to extend the route of the trains to increase passenger miles which is what cabbies do when they go to the airport. We will see some of this by 2014 on the Coaster and Metrolink between Los Angeles and San Diego. There is a great deal of travel between San Diego and Orange County which current rail service doesn’t serve. To change this Metrolink will be extending some trains from Los Angeles that end at Oceanside to San Diego and some Coaster trains will be extended to Fullerton. In the case of Metrolink not only could they run more trains in the off hours, but they could run service through Los Angeles and serve longer and new markets. Like say Palmdale to Anaheim or Chatsworth to San Bernardino and all the towns in-between for example. Since Los Angeles Union Station is a natural hub more trains can also be scheduled to make it easier for passengers to transfer between trains. These changes may not make all commuter railroads profitable but will increase ridership, fairbox recovery and increase its value to the community.

So can I prove that Amtrak has profitable trains? Going back to 1979 there were political demands that Amtrak save money and eliminate the trains that were losing the most money. Amtrak charges its trains what are called avoidable costs which implies that if a train were eliminated Amtrak would save money by avoiding these avoidable costs. In the fall of 1979 Amtrak eliminated 5 long distance trains. As a result Amtrak’s losses increased 150 million dollars from 1978 to 1981 after the October 1979 service cutbacks: Amtrak didn’t save money it lost more money cutting these trains.

Shortly after this happened Dr. Ronald C. Sheck an Associate Professor of Geography and Planning at New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1982 wrote a reports called Amtrak 90:A Route to Success. What Dr. Scheck found was” In FY 1980 Amtrak incurred total expenses of $1.1 billion, yet the actual cost of direct operating expenses (moving the trains over the tracks-labor, fuel, expendables, etc.) was only $272 million, or about 25 percent of the total. Indirect expenses (stations, yards, shops, maintenance of locomotives, cars, and the small amount of track owned by the corporation) totaled $644 million, or 56 percent of expenses. Revenues generated from ticket sales, food and beverage sales, and the movement of mail and express in the year ending September 30, 1980, totaled just over $410 million. On a direct-cost basis Amtrak’s trains earned more than the cost to operate them by some $127 million.(emphasis added) The high infrastructure costs are clearly a major problem and reflect serious diseconomies of scale.”

What Dr. Sheck found was that Amtrak had very high overhead costs. While Amtrak’s trains earned $127 million dollars, overhead’s costs of $644 million dollars caused Amtrak to lose $417 million. Dr Sheck’s solutions to this problem was simple, run more trains than can earn more money than their direct costs. Amtrak was like an old run down shopping center with lots of surplus capacity and not enough income. Adding trains wouldn’t just increase ridership but would if enough trains were run would cover Amtrak’s overhead costs and even produce a PROFIT.

How could this be done? Back in the fall of 1976 California was the first state to give money to Amtrak to improve and add rail service for local trains. The trains California first subsidized were the San Diegans which then ran only between Los Angeles and San Diego. In fiscal year 1975-76 Amtrak ran 3 round trips a day between Los Angeles and San Diego that carried 376,900 passengers. The next year California through Caltrans helped pay for a fourth train, extra advertising and Amtrak introduced new cars and locomotives on these trains. In 1976-77 these four San Diegans carried 608,000 passenger and according to Amtrak recovered 36% of direct costs.

By 1988 after years of court battles against the Southern Pacific railroad paid in part by the State, Amtrak was allowed to extend one San Diegan train north of Los Angeles to Santa Barbara.This same fiscal year the State supported a fourth train in this corridor which brought up to 8 trains between Los Angeles and San Diego. Amtrak on its own had earlier added a 7th train. This same fiscal year 1987-88 the State paid Amtrak a little more than the year before, just over a million dollars while Amtrak reported the direct cost recovery that year at almost 105%.

For the next 6 years until fiscal year 1992-93 the San Diegans continued to recover 99% or better of its direct costs according to Amtrak. During this same time the subsidy needs of Amtrak from the Federal Government continued to decline. This happened as rail service was expanding on Amtrak and new equipment was bought to handle growing ridership . When then Amtrak President Claytor retired in 1993 Amtrak’s cost recovery had improved to almost 80% of costs up from 42% in 1980. As he retired he predicted that by 2000 Amtrak would recover 100% of costs if his policies were continued.

After 1993 Amtrak had new management. Most of the resources of the company went into the ACELA project which was for building faster rail service between Boston, New York and Washington. Track work, additional electrification and all new equipment for this project was very expensive and for much of it Amtrak borrowed money which increased their costs expecting the ACELA trains would be very profitable. After 1994 Amtrak was having cash problems and looked for ways to save money. They cut 2 long distance trains as well as other service cut-backs to save money. By 2002 Amtrak almost shut down because of cash shortages and needed a bail out from the government to keep running.

Let’s go back to Amtrak’s charges to the San Diegans/Surfliners. On a direct cost basis the San Diegans were for clearly doing well for several years between 1987 and 1993. Then things started to change. Amtrak found new costs to charge the State for what are now the Pacific Surfliners and the 2 other California supported trains. The cost of running the San Diegans trains according to Amtrak in 1992-93 was $13,254,709. By 1997-98 the cost of running the trains was now $44,769,723. In 2011-12 fiscal year Amtrak said the Surfliners now cost $74,494,532 and lost $31,610,112.

Lets go back to 1979. Amtrak claimed that cutting 5 trains would save money due to their avoidable costs. Instead of saving money Amtrak lost over a $100 million dollars more. The reason for this was Amtrak’s high fixed overhead costs which Amtrak’s accounting often claims as an avoidable cost. Amtrak charges their fixed costs to their trains in an arbitrary way. No consideration is made of how increased revenues from expanding service will cover more of Amtrak’s overhead or how eliminating service will reduce income to cover overhead. The avoidable costs charged by Amtrak to a train always go up if service expands, even when there is little increase in fixed costs such as running more miles with existing equipment on an existing route.

This makes most service improvements look very expensive and makes it hard to get profitable service improvements at Amtrak. Amtrak tries to save money by running trains with fewer cars on their long distance trains than they did in some cases before 1993. This despite the fact the long distance trains are often sold out and have the fewest empty seats of Amtrak trains. Adding one or two cars would greatly increase the revenue from these trains. Because avoidable costs are in part allocated by route miles, long distance trains are hit with the highest avoidable costs which is why Amtrak claim they lose $500 million a year on the long distance trains. But the reality shown by what happened in 1979-80 when trains are cut is that these fixed cost would remain if you eliminated these trains but the revenue would disappear. Then Amtrak would be forced to apply these fixed costs to fewer trains.

Recently the Brooking Institute a Washington based Think Tank with cooperation from Amtrak released a study that claimed that Amtrak’s most profitable trains were its short distance trains while the long distance trains were the most unprofitable. If this is true this would be unique since all other transportation services make most of their money with long distance service and finds running short distance service hard to make money.

Beside taxi drivers who dislike short trips the freight railroads handle mostly interstate freight and much of it is international container traffic. The railroads have abandoned most of their short haul branch line services. What is left is contracted out to small operators with much less overhead than the Class 1 railroads for connecting service to interstate travel. The airlines are much the same way with many short distance flights with their name flown by contractors with much lower costs and the airlines main interest in this traffic is for transfers to their long distance flights not for short trips. Southwest Airlines known for flying shuttle services is expanding with national and even international service. The first year Southwest flew with just local fights in Texas it lost money. Instead of trying to save money with cut-backs it kept its employees and the same number of flights but with faster plane turn arounds on the ground reduced it overhead by getting rid of 1 of the 4 planes it had. The next year Southwest was profitable

So how can Amtrak make money on short distance trains when it claims it lost over $31 million last year just on the Surfliners; certainly one of Amtrak’s most productive short distance trains? Perhaps Amtrak doesn’t make money with short distance trains from passenger revenue but from the subsidy paid for by the states to run them? Amtrak has been losing contracts to private operators for running commuter trains in many places because Amtrak’s operating costs are higher than the competition. This is because these other services don’t have the high overhead costs of Amtrak.

There is political pressure to have all Amtrak trains run by private operators.This is behind the Federal Law forcing Amtrak to charge States 100% of the avoidable costs of state subsidized trains. The downside of this could make it difficult to have connecting ticketing and train schedules for passenger to transfer between services. Also without the economy of scale of a single service it will be harder for a passenger railroad to generate enough revenue to cover all its cost’s. Contacting short distance to private operators will save the states money compared to the current system with Amtrak but it will not lead to self-supporting passenger train service. Contracting service also will do nothing to pay for Amtrak’s overhead which will still remain.

What government is good at as seen in the past is building and paying for transportation infrastructure. In California, State and local governments have spent billions of dollars improving railroads and building new rail transit which connect to Transportation Centers also built by government which are also train stations. There is a great deal of government infrastructure  for rail service which Amtrak uses in California it doesn’t have to pay the majority of the costs. This is unlike parts of the East Coast and Midwest where Amtrak owns tracks and stations which accounts for much of Amtrak’s overhead.

The difference between railroads and most other forms of transportation is railroads owns the railroads and all of its fixed costs. But airlines don’t own airports, shipping companies don’t own harbors and trucking companies don’t own freeways. To put passenger rail service on a level playing field with other transportation services government spending should be going mostly towards improving rail infrastructure not subsidizing operations. Intercity rail passenger service in much of the world runs at a profit. Not just the direct costs but all costs and most countries have much denser passenger service than the skeletal service we have now in most of this country. What rail service in many countries is subsidized is commuter service, rural services and in some cases freight. Many counties are too small for profitable rail freight service. A good rail passenger service is an efficient service and will be well patronized and require little or no subsidy. To make this happen we need more rail infrastructure spending.

 

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for March 11, 2013

SPRINTER Rail Service To Shut Down Due To Bad Brake Rotors KPBS- Mar 8, 2013 North County Transit District’s SPRINTER rail line, which runs between Escondido and Oceanside carrying 7,800 passengers a day, will be taken off the tracks at midnight Friday for 60 to 120 days to replace worn brake rotors. The NCTD said it is developing bus replacement services…Tucker says the companies under contract failed to report the issue of the non-compliant brake rotors to North County staff when it was first discovered, and added that the California Public Utilities Commission had no other major findings during the recent inspection.

March 11, 2013 Parrt 1  March 11, 2013 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.orgThe 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

Speed and Ridership

Report by Noel T. Braymer

In 1913 the airplane had only been invented ten years earlier. Few planes in 1913 could fly faster than 100 miles per hour. Race cars and trains attempting to set speed records in 1913 could travel just over 100 miles per hour as well. The Ford Model T car by comparison had a top speed of 45 miles per hour which was adequate for the roads and most travel 100 years ago . By 1963, a mere 50 years from 1913 which was in the life time of many saw Freeways with speed limits of 65 miles per hour which most cars then could drive even faster. There were military planes by 1963 that flew at speeds of 1,200 miles per hour and airliners flew at speeds near 600 miles per hour. The cruising speed of passenger jet planes in 1963 was over 100 miles per hour faster than the top speed of fighter planes in 1943.

In this atmosphere planning was going ahead for the next generation of passenger planes going faster than the speed of sound. In the 1960’s Britain and France were working together and shared the costs to build a commercial airliner that could go as fast as 1,200 miles per hour or twice the speed of sound. A person flying from Europe to New York would arrive at a earlier time than when they departed because of the time zone differences. In the United States there were calls to compete with a larger plane paid for with taxpayers money that would go 3 times the speed of sound. Experts in the 1960’s were predicting that in the 21st Century passenger planes would be flying at up to 5,000 miles per hour. At such speed passengers could fly from London to Los Angeles in 90 minutes. The reality today in the 21st Century is you have to be at the airport at either city at least 2 hours before the planes leaves for international flights.

So what happened? Economics! Air travel in the United States and most major countries was highly subsidized by governments from the 1920’s onto the 1970’s. The reason for this was to sustain an aircraft industry and a pool of people trained to design, build, fly, repair and operate facilities for airplanes. Justifying this subsidy was National Defense which would require building large numbers of new modern airplanes and training crews to fly and maintain these new planes in a time of war. The United States and many other countries also regulated air service to protect the airline industry.

By the 1960’s it was very difficult to get permission from government regulators to start a new airline. The number of flights on a route was also regulated. Airlines were often given monopoly rights over some routes and even on routes with more than one carrier regulations kept fares fairly high and uniform between airlines on the same routes so there was no price competition.These regulations made it possible for airlines to make money even with moderate passenger loads and prevented excess seats coming on the market. Because fares were fairly high, passengers were usually affluent or flying on business at corporate expense. Business travel could be largely written off corporate taxes as a business expense which was a form of government subsidy. The entertainment industry were good customers of air travel and a reason comedians who often flew made air travel the butt of their jokes. But a major part of the business travel was related to business with the government which often included defense contracts. Much air travel was also by government officials and government employees. For the general public air travel was often for a once in a life time vacation or emergencies.

By the late 1960’s before the Concord (the English spelling) or Concorde (French Spelling) was ready for commercial service the Jumbo Jets were introduced. The combination of larger size and new more efficient sub-sonic fan jet engines greatly reduced the costs per passenger of flying with Jumbo Jets over that of the first generation of passenger jets.The Concord was designed to compete economically with the jetliners of the 1960’s but not for the new Jumbo Jets. But Jumbo Jets gave the airlines a new problem: filling up the seats of these new planes and handling the crowds of new passenger at the airports. This started bringing down the price of airplane tickets and brought in more middle class passengers flying for pleasure. By 1977 the Carter Administration introduced deregulation to the airline industry which brought in competition, more discount fares and upheaval for the the airline industry which brought about the end of many established airlines.

One of the first changes after deregulation was that many non-stop flights were dropped which are the least economical to fly. Many cities lost air service or direct service to other cities that had existed before 1977. This resulted in slower flying times because of the need to transfer. Also as the price of fuel went up after 1974 airlines flew slower to save money. Because air traffic grew faster than airports could be expanded or built there was more congestion in the air and on the ground so flight times got even longer then they were in 1963. Airlines that survived deregulation discovered they needed to have hub and spoke service. Having passenger transfer at a hub airport allowed airlines to serve the maximum number of markets with the least number of flights. For example with four long distance flights each making one stop instead of flying non-stop between 2 cities would give each flight 3 instead of 1 market-pair of cities for a total of 12 market-pairs instead of 4. Connecting all four flights together at the same hub gave these 4 flights 36 market-pairs.

In 1964 Japan introduced the first modern High Speed Trains during the Tokyo Olympics, This roughly 250 mile route between Tokyo and Osaka had a top speed of 130 miles per hour which by 1965 was run in 3 hours 10 minutes. The technology of these trains themselves was fairly conventional, most of it was built under license with American patents. What made these new Japanese Shinkansen High Speed Trains novel was the amount of civil engineering used to build a new railroad with many tunnels and bridges to create a fairly straight and level right of way in a crowded and often mountainous country.

This allowed these trains to have high average speeds for most of the trip. Also this new right of way was used exclusively by the Shinkansen trains which simplified operations since the line was double tracked there was no need for sidings for train meets and because the trains traveled at the same speed there was no need for passing tracks for faster trains to pass slower trains. There was a great need in Japan for more travel capacity between its two largest cities by 1964 and the Shinkansen was able to fulfill it.

The reaction in the United States to the Shinkansen was a demand by some in the Northeast for a even faster new train between New York and Washington. The Federal Government approved funding in the mid-1960’s to build the “Metroliners” as an electric multiple unit train (meaning it ran like a transit train without a locomotive) for speeds up to 160 miles per hour. The Pennsylvania Railroad which owned the electrified railroad between Washington and New York agreed to run this new equipment.

Rail Passenger service was in serious decline in the United States at this time and the railroads in general where in bad shape and many were losing money including the Pennsylvania Railroad. The hope was that the Metroliners with their greater speed would jump start both passenger service and the fortunes of the railroads. The problem was the Metroliners were run on the existing tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad which for years had been deferring maintenance. Also this line was very busy with several major commuter railroads between Washington and New York. The problem was akin to trying to run a Grand Prix race in city streets with potholes and without closing the streets to regular traffic.Congestion from mixed traffic and long stretches of track not capable of high speed prevented the Metroliners from running at its designed speed. The new trains did increase passenger traffic on this route, but didn’t set record ridership or fulfill the high expectations of its supporters.

Shortly after the end of World War II in 1945 American Railroads found themselves struggling to stay in business. Most of the press coverage at this time about the railroads centered around attempts by the railroads to reduce or abandon rail passenger service. For most people their only contact with the railroads were as passengers. With the constructions of new roads and improved airline service the conventional wisdom was that the railroad’s problem were largely the result of losing money because of declining passenger traffic. This ignorance by the general public about the American Railroad industry continues to this day.

Passenger service was never a major source of income for the railroads. Passenger rail service generally turned a modest profit before 1950, although government regulations often forced railroads to operate passenger service at a loss if such service was considered necessary for the “Public Good”. Historically the railroads made most of their money through land development and carrying freight.

Railroads in the past were often given land grants by local, state and federal governments to build railroads. The land for these grants was cheap and undeveloped. Building a railroad was central to developing land in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Carrying passengers was necessary to bring people to this open land to buy land for new farms from the railroad and to buy houses on railroad land and land for businesses from the railroad . Selling land gave the railroads the money to pay for building the railroad. As farms, towns and business took root in what had been sparsely populated areas this developed freight traffic for the railroads which was more profitable than passengers.

It was during this time that railroads built many miles of new railroad and often railroads built duplicate lines next to other railroads. Many of these railroads were never very profitable even in the best of times. Even in populated areas such as the East Coast the railroads were in the land business. The railroads built the first suburbs with homes for people with jobs in the city. Commuter trains were run not so much to make money, but to sell houses owned by the railroad. Railroads often did this without railroads. Southern Pacific developed much of Oakland and the East Bay as suburbs of San Francisco. Instead of commuter trains Southern Pacific ran many of the ferry boats years ago in the Bay Area to sell houses. In 1962 my Father bought a new tract house under construction in Orange County, California. After some research he discovered that the parent company of the developer we bought the house from was the Pennsylvania Railroad.

By the 1950’s the railroads were no longer selling land for new houses or farms near their rail lines. The railroads were losing much of their freight traffic which provided most of the money to run the railroad. Many of the large factories which by the 1970’s were created the “rust belt” in the Mid-West and East Coast had been dependent on the railroads for shipping and deliveries of coal to power these factories. After 1950 many new factories were built away from rail heads and that used new pipelines of Natural Gas instead of the much dirtier coal to replace the old factories. Railroads also lost a great deal of business carrying oil to new oil pipelines. Truck traffic also grew at this time using new government built highways which was often faster, cheaper and more flexible than shipping by rail.

The central problem that the railroads had at this time was they had much more railroad than they needed. The overhead cost of money losing branch lines and underused mainlines was what was killing the railroads, not passenger service Per Se. Railroad route mileage in the United States peaked by 1916 at 254,000 miles. Between 1950 to 2000 the railroads abandoned 79,300 miles of railroad while railroad employment went from a peak of 2.1 million in 1920 to 94,000 by 2006, Today the United States has roughly 140,490 route miles of railroad which is as much as it had in the 1880’s.The main problem the railroads had with passenger trains was mostly with government regulations which if a rail line had passenger service it was harder to get permission to abandon that line. On secondary and even mainlines with passenger trains, it was harder to be allowed to remove double tracking and reduce the number of sidings as well as reduce the level of track maintenance to save money if they had passenger service.

The simple truth in the post World War II era was the railroads were not making enough money carrying freight to maintain railroads to standards for decent rail passenger service. This wasn’t as big a problem for the Western Railroads as it was in the Mid-West and East Coast. The railroads hit hardest were the ones in the “rust belt” and with commuter railroads they couldn’t get rid of because ridership remained high enough that these services were still considered necessary for the Public Good. The most troubled railroads were the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads.

If we look at how people travel in the United States on a passenger miles basis we find that air travel is responsible over the years for about 10 percent of all travel in this county. This isn’t total trips but miles traveled. If we add up all the rail travel in this county today, that is intercity, corridor, commuter and even transit rail traveled, this makes up less than 1 percent of all miles traveled. But when we look at travel by private road vehicles, including cars, pickup trucks, SUV, and RV’S they make up at least 82 percent of all the miles traveled in this Country. Again this isn’t just trips many of which are short by cars but total passenger miles traveled. Many long trips are taken with private vehicles. For proof of this just count the number of motels just in your home town or along a major highway on you next trip.

Proposing a High Speed Rail Service with limited stops or few connecting services even between major cities is similar to air travel in the 1950s and 60s. Such High Speed Rail service would require premium fares to cover expenses which would depend on a small market of affluent or expense account travelers. But to attract even the type of ridership seen with air travel since the 1980’s will need greater volume of travel from lower fares and connections to more markets than between a few major cities. Many people who live in major metropolitan areas rarely or never travel to the central city near where they live where a High Speed Rail Stations will be.

Comparing the TGV to what is proposed for California notice the many branches on this TGV Mainline

Comparing the TGV to what is proposed for California notice the many branches on this TGV Mainline

The experience of the airlines since the introduction of Jumbo Jets and hub and spoke operations shows that price and service to the maximum number of markets is more important to attract ridership than travel times which are slower today than 50 years ago by Air. Rail service can’t match the door to door connections to almost anyplace in this county by private vehicle.There is still a large travel market in this Country and plenty of room for growth of travel by rail. As part of a system of transportation services that connect with other rail passenger and bus services, intercity rail passenger service can greatly expand the number of places people can travel to and be competitive with the auto for travel time and price .

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for March 4, 2013

The report by the Brooking Institute that this story is based on concludes that Amtrak can make “money” by running corridor trains and having the States subsidize operations instead of the Federal Government. So where is this State Money suppose to come from and what will keep the States from running these services themselves and saving money? NB

March 4, 2013 Part 1  March 4, 2013 Part 2  March 4, 2013 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 to subscribe to this enewsletter write to nbraymer@railpac.org