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May 2013

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for May 28, 2013

Metrolink: Raise Ridership Not Fares for More Revenue
There is no mystery how to increase rail passenger revenue. Train revenue increases with longer routes serving as many markets as possible by selling more of the highest priced and longest distance tickets. The next best thing are good connections with other trains and connecting buses to increase the number of markets for each train. Lastly it is important to keep trains in revenue service as much as possible.

May 28, 2013 Part 1 May 28, 2013 Part 2  May 28, 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

Reports

Comet Cars not seen in a glowing light by newly formed San Joaquin Joint Powers Board

Report by Bill Kerby, RailPAC Treasurer

The author of the May 24th meeting of a newly formed joint powers board wishes to submit a revised version of that meeting. The presentation made by Dan Leavitt was mischaracterized in the report. Agency names were not fully provided and this oversight is corrected in the following revision. The author regrets any inconvenience that may have been caused by these errors.

The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (SJJPA)… met in the City of Sacramento’s old city hall May 24th. New members of the recently formed JPA governing board were sworn in, Sacramento Assemblyman Roger Dickinson received an award for supporting intercity passenger rail through the JPA process, and several action items were voted for and approved. Fred Strong, representing the Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency (LOSSAN), expressed satisfaction with the prospect of coordinating service with the San Joaquin corridor. The SJJPA bound itself to a short time line to choose a managing agency for the new SJJPA. Process for the selection of the Managing Agency on behalf of the Authority requires the winning bidder to be responsible for management, administration, financial and legal matters coming before the SJJPA for three years. Final selection is slated for the next meeting of the SJJPA on July 26th in Fresno.

When the new management agency starts negotiation with Caltrans on an Interagency Transfer Agreement, the negotiators could find that the task “may prove somewhat challenging immediately as the SJJPA has no independent source of funding at the present time.” The Managing Agency and a Managing Director will be hired and located within the region served by the San Joaquin Corridor. Assuming that the Managing Agency takes shape during mid-year 2013, the JPA intends to harmonize the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s (CAHSRA) Business Plan with the SJJPA’s business plan. The staff report on this issue states”…it remains a possibility that the CHSRA may not need to do, or desire to run conventional intercity rail services on their first construction segment.” To demonstrate that the high-speed rail project from Madera to Bakersfield is operational at some level before full build out of the initial operating segment (between Merced and Southern California) of the California High Speed Rail project, Stacey Mortensen stated that the CHSRA could ask manufacturers in countries like China, Japan, Switzerland, Germany or France to demonstrate high-speed train sets running on the 130 mile test section.

At present, California has no electrified railroad line in passenger or freight service. In accord with Mortesen, RailPAC would prefer to see electrification continue beyond the Caltrain project. Once completed, experience gained on the San Francisco Peninsula could be employed in the 130 mile Central Valley project and thereby gain economies of scale.

If readers agree with electrification of the test track, let RailPAC and the SJJPA know of your agreement. Send comments to
info@railpac.org or http://www.acerail.com/ContactACE.aspx

A heated debate erupted among the board members on the matter of accepting the refurbished Comet cars, originally built as electric multiple unit cars for New Jersey Transit. The question is should the rebuilt cars be substituted for Superliner cars with two of the four train sets currently in service on the corridor. Mortensen estimated a net gain of approximately 175-200 seats with the substitution, leading to potential revenue increases if the seats are filled. The downside of the swap attracted the most intense discussion. Vice Chair Perea questioned whether the SJJPA was legally required to accept the 14 cars, which are part of a $20 million contract. Worry about reimbursing the State of California for the Comet car share of $20 million through fare box recovery was also expressed by the Board. Other members focused on how ADA compliance would be achieved if less abled passengers had to climb up three steps into the Comets from station platforms. None of the Comet cars feature remote controlled doors, so some doors would remain closed at many stations and an extra car attendant might be needed to operate usable doors. Stanislaus County member Vito Chiesa offered a brief history of the Comet order. The lack of any used inventory of Amtrak certified cars and the inability of current manufacturers to fill small orders prompted Caltrans to select the Comets to gain needed seats. He noted further, this equipment order for purchase and refurbishment of cars nearly 40 years old should not be a surprise since Division of Rail’s Director briefed the San Joaquin Rail Committee numerous times over the last four years. As an advocate for strengthening rail service to the state’s capitol city, Sacramento Councilman Steve Cohn opined that he’d like to see obtain more equipment to add to Sacramento’s two daily trains between Stockton and Sacramento; however, he was not necessarily in favor of using Comet cars. Among the benefits of the Comet Cars is a good riding experience. Once a passenger is seated in the car, the rider will see a bright interior equipped with comfortable intercity seats and enjoy a smoother ride with the air suspension on the new trucks. Find the agenda document with Comet Car details at
http://www.acerail.com/Home/AboutUs/SJJPA.aspx

RailPAC hopes the optimism shown by the pledge to work with the San Joaquin JPA by Fred Strong, LOSSAN corridor board member, and Roger Dickinson’s affirmation of support from the state, counties, and other support groups could unify a diverse group of interests meeting on the common ground of building a connected rail passenger system.

Editorials

Metrolink:Raise Ridership Not Fares for More Revenue

By Noel T. Braymer

With about 18 million potential passengers in Metrolink’s market, it is barely scratching the surface with about 50,000 passengers on a good day. There is no mystery how to increase rail passenger revenue. Train revenue increases with longer routes  serving as many markets as possible by selling more of the highest priced and longest distance tickets. The next best thing are good connections with other trains and connecting buses to increase the number of markets for each train. Lastly it is important to keep trains in revenue service as much as possible. Transportation services sells time on seats, that is its inventory. When a train sits idle during the day or runs with empty seats that is the same as a supermarket throwing out rotten food. Markets discount food prices to sell it before throwing it out. Businesses when they need cash have a sale. They need to clear out inventory and get cash for it. Commuter train service is inefficient because outside of weekday rush hours the seats are usually empty. Trains cost money standing still, so it is better to have trains running earning revenue. Before raising fares Metrolink needs a business plan to increase revenue with increased ridership.

To show what happens when there are not enough trains stations  on a route we can look at the experience of Amtrak which has tried several times to increase ridership with faster trains by skipping stations. They all failed  losing ridership with fewer stations and market combinations. This has happened 3 times on the Surfliners since the 1980’s. We see the same thing happening now on the Orange County Metrolink Line with some trains that only run between Fullerton and Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo carrying small loads by bus standards. These trains only stop at 7 stations, so these trains miss 6 stations between Los Angeles and Oceanside. It is not possible now due to track capacity problems to extend these trains to Los Angeles or Oceanside. But adding bus connections to these trains will help by increasing the number of markets for these trains.

Metrolink has plenty of room to add passengers on their non-rush hour trains. This can be done with improved marketing and connections both by train and bus. For example there are now 8 round trips between Riverside and Orange County with 4 round trips extended to San Bernardino and 2 to Oceanside. With bus connections service can be economically expanded to 8 round trips between Oceanside and San Bernardino. Increased train frequency increases ridership. Ridership on some of these trains is often low. Increasing ridership with discounted tickets would increase income. Few people know about these trains and improved rail connections are needed  on them to San Diego and to Anaheim and Los Angeles .

What will greatly increase ridership and revenues will be by combining rail lines into longer routes. A good example of this would be for non-rush hour and weekend service between Lancaster to Oceanside through Los Angeles. Until run-through tracks are built at Los Angeles Union Station train traffic is too congested at Los Angeles during rush hours for through trains. Running trains through Los Angeles is done now in non-rush hour times by Surfliner push-pull trains from San Diego to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Extended service has been very successful on the Surfliners and will also work for Metrolink which also have push-pull trains. A good name for this new train might be the FUN TRAIN. With such a service passengers from the Antelope and Santa Clarita Valleys could ride the train to the beaches of southern Orange County and Oceanside. This has been proven successful for trains from the Inland Empire to Oceanside. For passengers at either end bus connections would be possible to take the train to connect to Magic Mountain, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland. In addition there are Angels games and other events at the Anaheim Stadium. These trains would also serve the many attractions of downtown Los Angeles and access by subway to Hollywood. More marketing can attract more passengers for such trips.

Train service could also be extended from San Bernardino through downtown Los Angeles to Chatsworth with some trains to Ventura County. There could be bus connections to Ventura County for trains stopping at Chatsworth. To extend more trains past Chatsworth than which run now will require more track work. This will make it easier for people in the San Gabriel Valley to travel to Bob Hope Airport , for business or just to visit friends and family in the San Fernando Valley. Most important these trains going north, south, east or west from Los Angeles Union Station can meet at and share a common platform for easy transfers. This will allow easy transfers for people between trains traveling from Orange County, or Palmdale to the San Gabriel Valley or the San Fernando Valley to places in Orange County with Metrolink stations. Burbank would be the best transfer point for trains between the Antelope and San Fernando Valleys. This is pretty much what airlines do with hubs at airports. This has economically expanded their markets at low cost for the airlines and is a good reason that this should be done too with Metrolink. With this not only would ridership and passenger revenue greatly increase, but Metrolink would then become a truly regional rail passenger service and not just a commuter railroad.

So who has done this, combine existing rail services into one long line through a major city? How about London, England. Back in 1988 London opened Thameslink which runs 140 miles from the north to the south of London. By 1998 it was overcrowded. To relieve congestion on this line it is being upgraded to the tune of 8.6 billion dollars. This will allow 10 car trains on Thameslink running roughly every 3 minutes in each direction. Thameslink directly serves Luton Airport in the north of London and Gatwick Airport to the South. This construction will be finished by 2018. Also opening in 2018 is Crossrail in London. This combines 2 existing lines into one 73 mile line from west to east through central London. This project will cost just over 24 billion dollars and requires 13 miles of tunneling. This will include a tunnel to connect Heathrow Airport to Crossrail. Both Thameslink and Crossrail will meet in London at Farringdon Station so passengers can transfer between lines. The population of the greater London area is about that of Los Angeles and Orange Counties combined. Metrolink already serves a larger population than that and can accomplishes what London is doing for far less money.

If you would like to contact Metrolink about what you think should be done to improve its cash balance, here’s how from the Metrolink website.

As a recipient of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding, Metrolink is required to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and to carry out the United States Department of Transportation’s Title VI regulations. Comments and suggestions on the proposed fare increase, fare policy changes and Title VI policies may be submitted orally or in writing at a public hearing to be held on June 14, 2013 at a meeting of the Metrolink Board of Directors or submitted in advance (by June 12, 2013 at noon) of the public hearing by clicking on the “eComment” option at www.metrolinktrains.com/ecomments. Comments can also be submitted by mail in advance of the public hearing by sending feedback to the attention of “Metrolink Fares” at the SCRRA headquarters located at One Gateway Plaza, Floor 12, Los Angeles, CA or faxed to the attention of “Metrolink Fares” at (213) 452-0429 . No public comments will be considered after the public hearing scheduled for June 14, 2013 begins.

Metrolink will also hold public workshops across its five-county service area to provide information to the public and solicit additional input from the public. The workshops, all beginning at 6 p.m., will be held in advance of the public hearing. The workshops will be:

– June 3, at the Oxnard Public Library in Meeting Room B (251 South A Street in Oxnard, CA)

– June 4, at the Santa Ana Metrolink Station on the fifth floor (1000 E. Santa Ana Blvd in Santa Ana, CA)

– June 5, at the City of San Bernardino Council Chambers (300 North D Street in San Bernardino, CA)

– June 6, at the Larry Chimbole Cultural Center in the Joshua Room (38350 Sierra Highway in Palmdale, CA)

– June 7, at The Gateway Center’s Union Station Conference Room (One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA)

Editorials

Why California,Nevada and Arizona are the best places for High Speed Rail

By Noel T. Braymer

This isn’t just my opinion. The Brooking Institute, a Washington based “Think Tank” came to this conclusion in a paper it released in October 2009. This paper is titled“Expect Delays: An Analysis of Air Travel Trends in the United States” by Adie Tomer and Robert Puentes. Looking at air corridors under 500 miles that carried the most people that could be handled by High Speed Trains as quickly as by air, the Brooking Institute found the top three air corridors for High Speed Rail were Los Angeles to San Francisco, Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Los Angeles to Phoenix. This didn’t count air travel from Los Angeles to San Jose or Sacramento or air travel from San Diego to San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Las Vegas or Phoenix which would add millions more passengers.

Brookings Short Haul top 10                  All graphics from Brookings Institute. Click to enlarge image

This report from the Brooking Institute looked at air traffic around the country and showed that it was concentrated at a few major metropolitan areas. It also noted that air traffic between major cities less than 500 miles apart was particularly heavy with almost half of all take offs and landings limited to just the top 26 major metropolitan areas. This report looked at total air traffic between regions not just between airports. JFK Airport in New York is only the 6th busiest airport in the country. But when combining traffic at all of the airports in the New York City Metro area, 6 of the 10 air corridors with the greatest passenger loads in the US are to and from the New York City region.

Brookings Study short trips

The busiest air corridor overall in the US as of 2009 carrying the most passengers was New York to Miami. The fourth busiest was New York-Chicago. Also busy in the top 10 were New York to Atlanta, Los Angeles, Orlando, and London. But the second busiest air corridor was from the Los Angeles region to the San Francisco Bay Area. Ninth was Los Angeles to Las Vegas and 10th was Los Angeles to Phoenix. Neither New York to Boston or to Washington DC were in the top 10 busiest air corridors in 2009. New York-Boston was 16th busiest with less air traffic than between Dallas-Houston while New York to Washington was 25th.

Brookings top 10

Currently the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak are planning a 220 mile per hour rail service between Washington, New York and Boston. The price tag for this project now is $150 billion dollars. This is a reasonable estimate because construction of High Speed Rail in an urban area is very expensive. A mostly new railroad and alignment would be needed requiring much tunneling and elevated structures to travel at high speeds in a densely populated area like the Northeast. The existing railroad on the Northeast Corridor would still be needed for heavy commuter rail traffic which is much greater than current intercity rail passenger service. Is this the best use of limited funding for rail passenger service in this country?

If we look at the proposed Los Angeles area to Las Vegas High Speed Rail service we can see the construction costs are much lower. Estimates now are for roughly $7 billion dollars for 185 miles of high speed track built on I-15 between Las Vegas and Victorville. A significant reason for the lower cost for the Las Vegas project is the plan to use an existing publicly owned right of way on the I-15 freeway. There are almost no new environmental impacts nor is private land needed to be condemned by using an existing public right of way. There are plans to use the right of way of a planned freeway between Victorville and Palmdale. From Palmdale, Las Vegas High Speed Trains would used improved tracks also being planned for California High Speed Trains to get to the Los Angeles basin.

Could much the same thing be done between Los Angeles and Phoenix? Getting as far as San Bernardino on existing tracks isn’t much of a problem. If we are able to to use the I-10 freeway for a High Speed Rail right of way east of San Bernardino we can also have service to the Palm Springs area, Phoenix and Tuscon which is also a major market. High Speed Trains have higher horsepower to take steeper grades than conventional rail such as those on freeways. In many cases countries build High Speed Rail and highways together sharing the right of way.

Construction soon will be underway on the first leg of High Speed Rail in the San Joaquin Valley. It is too soon to predict what the next phase will look like or what funding will be available. The Los Angeles Times reported last summer that the French National Railroad, the SNCF, creators of the TGV High Speed Trains proposed building and operating a High Speed Rail service between Los Angeles and the Bay Area on I-5 back in 2009. The SNCF considered this the fastest and most economical route for High Speed Rail in this region. Since their proposal was turned down by the California High Speed Rail Authority the SNCF has expressed no further interest in being involved with the California High Speed Rail project

The basic difference between West Coast and East Coast High Speed Rail is passenger miles and construction costs. As a system connecting Southern California to the Bay Area, Las Vegas and Phoenix/Tuscon is a much larger market than Washington-New York- Boston in terms of passenger miles. Washington to Boston is 407 air miles. Los Angeles to San Francisco is 347 air miles, Las Vegas is 229 air miles and Phoenix is 358 air miles. That is 933 air miles versus 407 or over twice as many on the West Coast versus the Northeast. Plus using Los Angeles as a rail hub opens up many more travel markets by rail with markets like Phoenix to Fresno and San Jose to Las Vegas and so on. Since revenue for all passenger services is based on passenger miles, High Speed Rail service hubbing out of Los Angeles will by nature have more markets and longer average distances, lower construction costs and better revenue potential than the Northeast.

What are the strongest under served markets on the East Coast for passenger rail? Using current air travel as a guide they would be New York to Florida and Chicago. Historically New York to Chicago was a major rail passenger corridor. Amtrak currently has only 2 daily trains today to Miami. New York to Miami is the largest air market in the country as of 2009 and New York to Orlando is 7th. Much of the appeal of busy air corridors is economy. The air corridors like New York to Florida and from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Las Vegas and Phoenix took off largely because of low fares. Speed has a value, but passengers are looking for the best value which is a combination of price, speed and comfort. Rail service can go faster than now, but at less than High Speed Rail speeds and compete on price and comfort in many travel markets, particularly on the East Coast and to the Midwest. Expending rail passenger service from the Northeast to the South and Midwest will expand passenger miles which will have a greater impact on revenues than appealing to the same customers to travel more often on the Northeast with faster trains.

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for May 20, 2013

Your experience confirms what I had heard that what was behind the fee and reservations on bikes on the Surfliners were because of problems running on-time with the low-level equipment and problems loading and unloading bikes on the Cab/Baggage Car. The Surfliners only have one low-level trainset but it is a major cause of Surfliners being late and is preventing running times being reduced on the the Surfliners. There is a simple solution to this problem. Metrolink is now storing many of its older cars that have been replaced by newer cars. These can be leased and added to low-level equipment trainsets. One or two to theses bi-level cars added to low level train sets will speed up loading and unloading of these train sets at stations. Metrolink has already converted some of these cars as bike cars by pulling out some seats on the lower level. Not only bikes but luggage could be stored on such cars reducing the hassle of using the Cab/Baggage Cars. Also these bi-level cars are easier to use for people with disabilities and have handicap toilets. They also allow groups to sit together facing each other with tables which is very popular with passengers and not available on the low-level equipment. NB

May 20, 2013 Part 1  May 20, 2013 Part 2  May 20, 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

 

CA Rail Statistics

Capitol Corridor Monthly Report (April, 2013)

And statistics for the other California Corridors
By David B. Kutrosky,
Managing Director, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

Ridership continues to decline for the Capitol Corridor in FY2013; however, the drop in ridership for April 2013 was not as significant as prior FY2013
results. For April 2013, 151,080 passengers used the Capitol Corridor, representing a 1.8% drop compared to April 2012. While initial revenue estimates for April 2013 indicate a 5.3% decrease, year-to-date (YTD)revenues are up 0.5% compared to last year. On a positive note, a record was set for on-time performance (OTP) — 98% of all Capitol Corridor trains arrived on-time, which improved YTD OTP to 95% and moved the Capitol Corridor into the #2 spot as the most reliable service in the Amtrak
system. YTD system operating ratio is at 52%, which meets business plan projections.

While detailed statistics are not yet available for April 2013 ridership, I do have the details on ridership for March 2013. Compared to prior FY2013 monthly results, the ridership losses on substandard weekday trains are lessening (weekend trains continue to perform better than last year) and the five stations – Sacramento, Davis, Roseville, Fremont, and Richmond – that had experienced significant declines in ridership earlier this FY [-10% or worse] showed increased boardings last month.

Capitol Corridor photo 5-2013

Record Service Reliability

Service reliability reached its apex in April 2013 when only 14 trains were
late out of the 836 operated, representing an OTP of 98%. In fact, for
the 30 days in April the Capitol Corridor passengers experienced twenty-one
(21) days of “100% on time” days. UPRR continues its superb dispatching of
freight and passenger train on this busy shared use corridor. Only three
late trains were attributable to mechanical malfunctions – an enormous
improvement compared to Fall 2012. Delays due to bridge lifts of the
Suisun-Martinez rail drawbridge continue to decrease thanks to the improved
protocol developed and implemented by the UPRR, Coast Guard, Amtrak, CCJPA
and the Bar Pilots (tugboat operators).

California Passenger Rail Advocacy Forum – April 11, 2013, Sacramento

At the request of CCJPA Chair Jim Spering, a passenger rail advocacy event
hosted by the City of Sacramento, was held on April 11 in the Sacramento
City Council. Speakers at the event included state legislators
(Assemblymember Roger Dickinson and Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson) and
leaders of the various California passenger rail agencies. Special guests
included California transportation funding experts Josh Shaw (California
Transit Association) and Mark Watts (Transportation California). One key
highlight of the forum was the call to develop a Passenger Rail Caucus
within the State Legislature that would form around guiding principles that
include: continued appropriation of state funds to support the operation of
California’s three (3) intercity passenger rail services as well as any
emerging IPR routes; developing of stable sources of capital funds for
safety initiatives and service expansion; consistent planning and
coordination among all rail systems and users within the California
railroad network [including passenger high speed, intercity and commuter
rail as well as freight systems]; and maximizing partnerships with federal,
state, regional and local governments and agencies.

Project Updates

  • Yolo Causeway West Crossover Project. On April 14, 2013, the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) completed the final work in activating the signal system for the new universal crossover located west of the Yolo Causeway bridge. The completion of this project marks the conclusion of the third and final
    project along the Capitol Corridor using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
  • The other ARRA-funded projects that have been completed on the Capitol Corridor are the San Jose-Diridon South Terminal (February 2012) and the Sacramento Valley Station Track Relocation Project (August 2012).
  • Summary

    Monthly ridership results for the Capitol Corridor in FY2013 continue to
    decline compared to last year’s all-time ridership records. Year-to-date,
    ridership is down 3.6% versus last year, yet the recent monthly losses
    appear to be lessening. Despite this ridership decline, other performance
    measures continue to be steady: YTD revenues are up 0.5%, system operating
    ratio is meeting business plan standard of 52%, and OTP is at a stellar 95%
    and improving, keeping the Capitol Corridor trains as one of the most
    reliable services in the Amtrak system. The CCJPA continues to work with
    Amtrak to develop a revised weekday train schedule that will reallocate
    some of the poorer performing late morning trains to other more attractive
    times that will increase ridership, optimize revenues and maintain/reduce
    operating costs. The CCJPA team working with our service partners, has
    achieved progress in improving service reliability and continue to reinvest
    in safety initiatives along the route while also moving ahead on completing
    the pre-development work for the service expansion projects (San
    Jose/Salinas, Placer County) and introducing customer enhancement
    initiatives (bike access/storage, e-Ticketing upgrades).

    Capitol Corridor April 2013
    – Ridership: 151,080 riders; -1.8% vs. April 2012; -3.6% vs. prior YTD
    – Revenue: $2,409,627; -5.3% vs. April 2012; +0.5% vs. prior YTD
    – On-Time Performance: 98% [historical record for the service], YTD OTP of
    95% (#2 in the nation).
    – System Operating Ratio: 52% YTD vs. 52% in FY12
    __________________________________________________
    Pacific Surfliners April 2013:
    – Ridership: 221,376 passengers; -2.4% vs. April 2012; +3.2% vs. prior YTD
    – Ticket Revenue: -6.9% vs. April 2012; +8.6% vs. prior YTD
    – On-time performance: 86% (YTD FY13 on-time performance: 87%)
    __________________________________________________
    San Joaquin April 2013:
    – Ridership: 94,561 passengers -8.0% vs. April 2012; +6.2% vs. prior YTD
    – Ticket Revenue only: -14.7% vs. April 2012; +2.7% vs. prior YTD
    – On-time performance: 56% [lower OTP due to track maintenance projects] (YTD FY13 on-time performance: 80%)

    Editorials

    The Many Places Where You Can’t Go by Passenger Trains

    By Noel T. Braymer

    There are several major cities in this Country without intercity rail passenger service. There are many more major cities that are not connected to each other by rail passenger service. The largest city without rail service is Phoenix with a regional population of 4.3 million. That is close to the population of the Seattle area. Las Vegas with a regional population of 2.5 million, is one of the most visited city in America and has no rail service currently. Boise is the State Capitol of  Idaho with a metro population of 638,000 but has no rail passenger service. Albuquerque is in danger of losing its rail passenger service and has a regional population of 1.6 million, almost the same as Albany New York.

    Kentucky has service only to a few towns on the edge of the State. But Louisville the largest city in Kentucky with a Metro area population of 1.2 million has no service. The Richmond, Virginia and New Orleans areas which both have slightly fewer people than Louisville have rail passenger service. The Cincinnati metro area which covers parts of Kentucky and Indiana has a populations of 2.1 million and has rail passenger service service three times a week. Tennessee has rail passenger service at Memphis with a metro populations of 1.3 million. But Knoxville, Tennessee at 848,000 doesn’t have rail passenger service. Neither does Nashville the State’s Capital with a metro population of 1.7 million .

    The State of Ohio has several large cities. The Cleveland area with a population of 2 million and Toledo with 608,000 have rail passenger service as well as Cincinnati. Ohio also has Columbus with 1.9 million, Dayton with 800,000 and Akron with 700,000 persons in their metropolitan areas but no rail passenger service. On top of that you can’t go from Cincinnati to Cleveland by train let alone to Columbus, Dayton or Akron by passenger trains from either Cleveland or Cincinnati.

    When we look at the top ten most populated metro areas there are a few suprises. New York City area is number 1, then Los Angeles and Chicago. Fourth is the combined Washington-Baltimore Area at 9.3 million. At Fifth is the combined San Francisco-San Jose area which is 8.4 million. Greater Boston is sixth and Philadelphia is 7th. At 8th is the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Houston at 10th. Dallas-Fort Worth has 2 daily trains while Houston has one tri-weekly and there in no train service between these two major urban areas. Number 9 is the Miami area which has 2 round trip trains to New York. For years this has been the busiest air corridor in the Nation. At 11th is greater Atlanta with one daily train but no connections to Miami or Chicago, both major travel corridors from Atlanta.

    There are many reasons for the disparity between major population areas and rail passenger services.  Some of it is the condition of the railroads in a region, the existing smaller markets to major markets on major mainlines  with passenger service and sometimes it boils down to politics. These problems can’t be solved overnight. The bigger problem is no progress is being made, in fact the situation has gotten worse in the last 35 years with elimination of service to many of these cities.

    Things could be greatly improved if we just put back services that were eliminated in the mistaken belief that this would save money.  Several trains were eliminated in 1979 by Amtrak and the result was their deficit grew. A new Floridian train could be routed from Chicago to Louisville, Nashville to Atlanta and Miami. Bringing back a modified National Limited could give connections to both New York City and Washington to Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Kansas City. The Lone Star or Texas Chief as it was called by the ATSF could be brought back to replace the Heartland Flyer and expand service. This could extend service to Houston from Dallas-Fort Worth and provide connections to the Southwest Chief. Service could be extended to Kansas City for connections to the new National Limited and the Lone Star then continuing on to Omaha for connections to the Zephyr then go across Iowa to Chicago.

    The return of the Pioneer and Desert Wind as sections of the California Zephyr would give service from the Pacific Northwest and Boise to Salt Lake City, Denver, and Omaha. The same is true of Southern California and Las Vegas with the the Desert Wind. The Three Rivers can be brought back as an extension of the Pennsylvanian to Youngstown and Chicago. A section of the Lake Shore Limited could branch out at Cleveland to Columbus, Cincinnati on to St. Louis. A section of the Crescent at Meridian can serve Shreveport and Dallas. The City of New Orleans can be extend along the Gulf Coast to Orlando. Sooner or later we should have daily service on the Cardinal and the Sunset Limited. With a daily Sunset connections to Phoenix should also be rebuilt.

    This is just a short list of what would be needed to create a truly National Rail Passenger services. It will cost money to do, hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. In Washington a billion dollar is a rounding error in a budget in the Trillions. This will however require action and funding approved by Congress. Tracks will have to be added and improved to allow more passenger trains on the railroad tracks. The passenger trains will need to meet decent service standards to attract passengers . There needs to be agreements with the railroads to insure they are paid enough to profit from passenger trains and these trains don’t disrupt freight traffic. To make this happen however will need broad political support. That is why to get a local project in one State, other States have to form a broad alliance to also get what they also want. That’s politics.

    eNewsletter

    eNewsletter for May 13, 2013

    Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner Adopts Wildly Anti-Bicycle Policy Streetsblog Los Angeles (blog)-May 7, 2013 Starting on June 1, the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service connecting San Luis Obispo to San Diego by way of Los Angeles is adopting a new policy that will make life harder for anyone planning on biking to or from the train. The policy is so onerous for bicycle commuters, one has to assume it’s intentional. This policy of requiring reservations and charging for bikes on the Surfliners could prove a public relations nightmare for LOSSAN and Amtrak.  NB

    May 13, 2013 Part 1  May 13, 2013 Part 2  May 13, 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

    eNewsletter

    eNewsletter for May 6, 2013

    Draft alternatives released for Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan
    The Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan team is releasing its draft alternatives today for improving the venerable station as a transit center. Among some of the proposals  are replacing the parking lots in front of the station with open space, building a new bus terminal to handle most of the considerable bus traffic at the station and possibly replacing the current transit plaza at the rear of the station with other structures and/or green space.

    May 6, 2013 Part 1  May 6, 2013 Part 2  May 6, 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

    LA doesn’t have Regional Rail with Airport Connections, but needs it

    Story and Photos by Noel T. Braymer

    A recent international survey of air travelers by Skytrax rated the airports of the world. No American airport rated higher than 25th. LAX rated 109th out of 395 airports world wide. According to a story in the May 5, 2013 Los Angeles Times “What’s Wrong with Los Angeles International Airport? “ this article reports “Seating at the airport is limited, security staff are rude, signage is poor, bathrooms are in poor condition and travel between terminals is difficult and confusing”, according to Donna McSherry, who operates The Budget Travelers’ Guide to Sleeping in Airports website, which rates LAX among the world’s 10 worst.” This Times article also reports “LAX could climb the ranking, she said, by improving its signage, cleanliness, ambience and connections to mass transit. “International travelers really value having that direct connection with rail or bus service,” said Cheryl Marcell, a spokeswoman for ACI World, the trade group for the world’s airports.”

    This sounds like good advice for any transportation service.

    Recently I was in Los Angeles taking pictures of some the many rail transit projects that are under construction. While near LAX to check out part of the the route of the future Crenshaw Light Rail Line I went to visit my old neighborhood where I had lived for over 10 years. When I got there it was gone. Almost the entire block was now a large vacant lot all owned by LAX. It isn’t just my old block but many blocks around LAX are being steadily bought by the airport and the housing removed.

    My old apartment near LAX

    My old apartment near LAX in 1987. It was modest but comfortable, convenient and affordable . Click on any photos to enlarge view.

    This is the view of where my old apartment use to be today.The only landmark left is the power pole in the back.

    This is the view of where my old apartment use to be today. The only landmark left is the power pole in the back.

    I lived in or near the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles from 1970 to 1988. Like many areas of California it saw rapid population growth and housing construction after World War II through the 1960’s. In the 1950’s the terminals of LAX where a mile further south than today on Imperial Highway and the Airport only had 2 runways south of Century Blvd. This changed in the 1960’s when new terminals were built a mile further north at Century Blvd and then 2 additional runways built north of Century Blvd. With the new runways the process of tearing up Westchester began.

    Map of proposed Crenshaw Light Rail LIne showing the old ATSF Harbor Line

    Map of proposed Crenshaw Light Rail Line showing the old ATSF Harbor Line

    The main reason for my visit to Westchester was to check out early construction of the Crenshaw Light Rail Line near LAX. Utility relocation work has started on the project which will run 8.5 miles south/north from a joint Green Line Station at Imperial Highway to the Crenshaw Blvd Expo Line Station. At Century and Aviation Blvds the Crenshaw and Green Lines will share a station next to LAX which will likely have a connection by People Mover to the LAX Terminals a mile away. The Crenshaw Line will use the old ATSF Harbor Line from Imperial Highway to Crenshaw Blvd at the northeast edge of Inglewood.

    Early construction for utility relocation for Crenshaw Line on the old Harbor Line

    Early construction for utility relocation for Crenshaw Line on the old Harbor Line

    The ATSF Harbor Line is out of service. All the grade crossing like this one are now decommissioned

    The ATSF Harbor Line is out of service. All the grade crossing like this one are now decommissioned

    The old ATSF Harbor Line is now out of service.  Along the east edge of the south runways the light rail tracks will be put in a covered trench on the Harbor Line Right of Way. At Century Blvd there is a viaduct for the Harbor Line. The  new light rail station at Century will be elevated where the People Mover will connect with light rail at that site. It is likely that the People Mover will be all elevated. At the Imperial Highway Station a mile away the trains will come out of their trench and climb back up to the elevated level of that existing station.

    The current view of where a Light Rail Station will be built near LAX at Century Blvd

    The current view of where a Light Rail Station will be built near LAX at Century Blvd

    LAX is now in the middle of a $4.76 Billion Dollar overhaul. Part of this project is to enlarge terminals and rebuild runways to allow larger planes to use the airport. This is also being done to reduce the chance of collision on the ground and with planes landing or taking off. Much of this construction for LAX is opposed by the residents of Westchester and the cities around LAX. They want a cap on future growth at LAX and reduction of air and road traffic congestion in the local area.

    Towards this end the Mayor of Los Angeles with broad public support has ordered LAWA, the city agency in control of LAX to transfer some air traffic to other regional airports from LAX. Since this order LAX has seen slow growth while the other regional airports have seen major declines in air traffic. The cost of air travel is directly connected to the cost of of fuel. The slow economy and rising fuel costs are why people are flying less. There is plenty of unused capacity at the other airports at communities which want more airport business. Ontario has seen traffic drop during the time LAX was suppose to shift traffic to other airports. The airport at Palmdale doesn’t have any airlines at the moment. These two airports are owned and controlled by LAWA, the same LA City Department that owns and operates LAX.

    The planned Crenshaw/Green Lines rail services won’t attract many airline passengers. Transit Rail is not the best way to travel with luggage. Light Rail will be great for the many people who work at or near the airport. But neither the Green or Crenshaw Lines serve downtown Los Angeles or LAUS. For people who fly out of LAX from all over Southern California or traveling to areas outside of Los Angeles few will be able to take Light Rail without several transfers to and from where the are going. As for Ontario Airport there are long range plans to extend the Gold Line from LAUS to that airport. That will be a long 37 mile ride on Light Rail and won’t connect to many places in Southern California where people fly to or from. Bob Hope Airport in Burbank will have 2 train stations on different rail lines for future High Speed Rail, Metrolink and Amtrak. There are plans to serve Palmdale Airport in the future with both Metrolink and High Speed Rail. But there are no plans to create a unified rail passenger network to connect the entire region and serve the airports with fast, comfortable passenger trains. With the loss of the old Harbor Line by LAX for just Light Rail, connecting LAX by regional rail to the rest of Southern California will now be very expensive.

    How expensive? London, England is now spending 15 billion Pounds (23.36 billion dollars) to connect 2 rail lines in central London as a continuous 73 mile service west to east from Maidenhead to Shenfield. What makes this project called Crossrail so expensive is 13 miles of tunneling mostly in central London. This will also include a tunnel to connect Heathrow Airport to Crossrail. Heathrow already has transit rail connections on the London Underground. When finished by 2018, 24 trains an hour in both directions with 10 car trains for up to 1,500 passengers each will run on Crossrail.

     

    The official map of the Crossrail project now under construction in London

    The official map of the Crossrail project now under construction in London The lines in red shows new tunneling. Click on  drawing to enlarge.

    At the Farringdon Station in central London the Crossrail Line will connect with Thameslink. Thameslink is much like Crossrail only it runs 140 miles north-south of London from Bedford to Brighton. It too runs underground in London to provide direct service north and south of the city. It first opened in 1988 and by 1998 was overcrowded. In the north Thameslinks serves London Luton Airport and in the south of London, London Gatwick Airport. There is now a 5.5 billion Pound ($8.56 billion dollar) upgrade to Thameslink scheduled to be completed also by 2018 to add more stations and increase the line’s capacity to handle current and future growth.

    With the ability to transfer between Crossrail and Thameslink to 3 major London area airports and at major central London trains stations with Underground connections travelers to or from the London area can travel by rail to most of greater London. There is also a fourth airport, London Stansted which has rail service which will connect to Crossrail at Liverpool Street Station in central London. But London is a big city. The greater London area beyond the city has 13.7 million people. By comparison the population of greater Los Angeles is 18 million. With future run-through tracks at Union Station and upgrades to existing rail rights of way for direct service to LAX and Ontario combined with connecting existing rail lines on Metrolink we can accomplish what London is doing now at a fraction of the cost. But for want of foresight the costs of doing this will continue to grow as will traffic congestion.