Monthly Archives

June 2013

Editorials

How to Have More Rail Passengers

By Noel T. Braymer

Simple: run more passenger trains faster, more often to more places. While you are at it also offer travel deals and discounts for rail service to fill up trains that have extra room. This sounds simple but it is proven to work. An example of this is New York’s Metro North. It has had steady ridership growth despite its main commuter market to Manhattan showing no growth. Metro North over the last few years has been expanding services including reverse commute travel and off peak as well as discretionary travel. This has included more frequent services all day long and the weekends.

How people travel is based on what they consider is their best travel value. Travel value is made up of a combination of cost, safety and convenience. Cost and safety are fairly straight forward, although maintenance and cleanliness are also important for making passengers feel safe. Convenience boils down to the ease, comfort and total time it takes to get where someone wants to go. For a person taking a train that includes time for ticketing, walking to and from the train, waiting at the station and waiting for connections to get to their final destination.

Even if the train is faster than traveling by car, that means nothing to a person waiting 2 to 6 hours for a train. More frequent rail service attracts more passengers because it makes rail travel more convenient. A traditional commuter may take the same trains to work and home for years because their schedule never changes. But increasingly people don’t have rigid schedules or destinations.

Many times in the past passenger railroads have cut service in an attempt to save money from trains that didn’t carry many passengers. When this happened ridership often fell on the busier trains too. The reason for this is passengers want the option to being able to get home early or late even if they rarely need these trains. The fear of being stranded in the middle of the day during a family emergency or missing the last train of the night keeps people from riding the trains and stuck in traffic.

Should an operator run trains with light ridership just to get people to keep riding the busier trains? These less busy trains can be filled up with a combination of discounted fares and improved connections to more destination. Airlines and Intercity bus companies price their tickets on travel demand. They regularly discount tickets to ensure that their planes and buses are not empty. Most of the cost of rail passenger service comes from the overhead not the operation of the trains. It is better to keep trains running as long as you get additional riders and revenue.

While many trains don’t have reserved seating like airlines, there are ways to discount travel for trains that have room to spare. On Google the most clicked on ads have words like free, cheap, discount and save. Most routes have times of the day or week as well as individual trains that could benefit with discounted tickets. Unique ticket stock might be used for discounted trains to make it easier when inspecting tickets to discourage cheating on non-discounted trains. For many potential riders lower prices can draw them to ride trains outside of rush hours or to draw riders to a service in need of a boost.

More frequent rail service greatly improves the convenience of trains travel for passengers. So does a greater range of destination. No one will ride a train if it doesn’t go where they want to go. This can be done with dedicated connections with through ticketing with other trains and buses as an inexpensive way to serve more destinations. This has been very successfully done on Amtrak trains supported by the State of California. Half of the passengers on the San Joaquin Trains ride a bus for connections to San Francisco, Reno, Redding, Los Angeles and the Pacific Surfliner trains. Surfliner trains have bus connections to the Capitol Corridor trains, Palm Springs and to Surfliner stations north of Los Angeles for trains that don’t go north of Union Station.

Long overdue and promised in the future are more and better connections between Coaster and Metrolink trains with schedule changes and joint ticketing. Also needed are improved connections like this between Metrolink and Pacific Surfliner trains. Up north better connections are still possible between Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin trains with ACE, Caltrain and BART.

California is a huge travel market and people are looking for economical, safe and convenient travel options like train travel. In order to have service that truly covers this state we need more rail service. For this to happen we need growing ridership. Strong ridership and revenue numbers are the best way to convince the public and politicians to spend the money for the next round of improvements. This is how we were able to get where we are today with minor improvements to service spurring major ridership growth.True there are some crowded trains in California. But not all trains are crowded, some are rather empty at time. We can start by adding cars and locomotives to existing trains to allow for more growth. The point is to get more trains in the future we need even more riders now.

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for June 24, 2013

Re: Rising Train Fares. With Metrolink’s board voting to increase the fares to ride on Metrolink Trains do you ever think we will see Metrolink’s fares being at or even higher then Amtrak’s fares? With all the increases we have with Metrolink fares it seems like the fares will match Amtrak’s fares. Jerry Martin. My concern about raising train fares is in the long run it is self-defeating. Both Metrolink and Amtrak have empty seats on many of their trains, particularly the shorter distance trains on Amtrak. Higher fares discourages ridership growth and plans to expand service. More should be done to discount tickets to fill up trains when there are plenty of seats available.This is what the airlines and bus companies do. The emphasis should be on increasing revenue with increased ridership. As Metro North in New York learned expanding service increases ridership and revenue. The same thing happened in the 70’s when service was expanded between Los Angeles and San Diego on Amtrak with State support. NB

 

June 24, 2013 Part 1  June 24, 2013 Part 2  June 24, 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

2013 Steel Wheels
Events

2013 Steel Wheels Conference, October 5th

2013 Steel Wheels

Joint RailPAC-NARP members meeting,

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Port of San Francisco Community Room

Pier 40 • Embarcadero, San Francisco

10:30 am-3:00 pm with a break for lunch (not provided)
Doors Open 10:00 am
RailPAC members business meeting 3:00 pm
Registration: Register on line here:



Member or Non-Member?




OR Complete the form below and mail your check to:
RAILPAC, 1017 L Street, PMB-217, Sacramento, CA 95814-3805

2013registration-preview
Steel Wheels Conference Registration, 2013

CA Rail Statistics

Capitol and other CA Corridor Statistics (May, 2013)

From David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority
May 2013 results signal that the decline in ridership has tapered off for the Capitol Corridor–156,521 passengers rode Capitol Corridor trains in May 2013. Ridership was 1.5% below May 2012, yet it represents the third highest total for May and the sixth highest in the history of the service. Revenue in May 2013 was slightly below May 2012, with year-to-date (YTD)revenues even with last year’s totals. On-time performance (OTP) remained at exceptional levels [96% in May and YTD at 95%] keeping the Capitol Corridor as the second most reliable trains in the Amtrak system.

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Detailed May 2013 ridership data is not yet available; however, review of the daily e-ticketing conductor reports indicate improvements in the later weekday morning trains that had been underperforming earlier this year I attribute these increases to a large number of school group bookings which tend to peak during the end of the school year. The weekday peak travel trains and weekend trains are performing at the same level (if not better) as last year. Based on the April 2013 data, station boardings continue to be underperforming at the Roseville, Sacramento, Davis, Richmond and Fremont stations. The San Jose/Silicon Valley market stations are showing sustained growth.

Superb Service Reliability
The on-time performance for the trains still continue to be on track for a record year for service reliability in FY2013. Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) and Caltrain maintain their commitment to keeping the trains on-time along the Capitol Corridor which includes a mix of freight, Amtrak long-distance and commuter trains; and continues 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).

PRIIA Section 209 Amtrak Pricing Policy for State Supported IPR Services Amtrak submitted its forecasts for the FY14 operating budgets to the state IPR agencies on April 19, 2013 that are required to conform with the pricing policy developed pursuant to Section 209 of the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act of 2008 (PRIIA). The policy, developed in partnership with the states and Amtrak, will now require any Amtrak-operated passenger rail route under 750 miles to be financially supported entirely by the state(s) which these routes operate. For the three California IPR routes, the state has always provided 100% of the operating support for the San Joaquin and Capitol Corridor; the Pacific Surfliner has received 70% support from the state and 30% by Amtrak through its annual federal appropriation. For FY14, California will now be required to support 100% of the Pacific Surfliner in addition to the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin services. The primary outcome of the policy, which was adopted by Amtrak and 18 of the 19 affected states in 2011, is to allow states to have a better opportunity to control and manage the costs and operation of these IPR corridor services in their respective states. On May 21, I provided testimony (oral and written) to the Railroad, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee regarding “Understanding the Cost Drivers of Passenger Rail,” of which the PRIIA Section 209 pricing policy will be an important factor in helping state IPR agencies understand and control their IPR operating costs.

FY 13-14 Draft State Budget May Revise
Governor Brown released his May Revise of the FY 13-14 Budget on May 10, 2013, which updates his draft budget released in January 2013. The May Revise proposes an additional $18.6 million to the initial $90.3 million for the three CA IPR services in order to meet cost increases that are incurred with the implementation of the PRIIA Section 209 pricing policy affecting the nation’s 27 Amtrak-operated, state supported IPR services. This supplemental funding, which will primarily be used to increase the state support for the Pacific Surfliner from 70% to 100%, has passed out of the state legislative budget subcommittees of the Assembly and Senate. The legislature passed the FY14 budget which includes $90.3 million plus the additional $18.6 million to support the operations of the three CA IPR services in FY14.

Surface Transportation and Rail Safety Reauthorizations
CCJPA staff has been working with APTA, AASHTO and other interested agencies in the preparation of principles that will lay out the development of a multi-year federal capital grants program (using new revenue sources). This program will distribute grants to state-supported IPR and HST services in conjunction with the pending expiration of MAP-21 in October 2014 and PRIIA (the current railroad safety and Amtrak reauthorization, which expires in October 2013). Various APTA committees have adopted these principles at the June 1-5, 2013 APTA Rail Conference which will now be forwarded to APTA for formal adoption. The intent is then to circulate
these principles to generate discussions towards developing a federally-funded Rail Title for the reauthorization of either PRIIA or MAP-21. The principles will also be presented to transportation leaders in the House and Senate as well as to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Customer Service Program Upgrades

  • CCJPA Bike Access Program. In February the CCJPA Board adopted the
    CCJPA Bicycle Access Plan. We delayed launching this program due to
    the installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) equipment on the cab
    cars to be done after we upgrade these cab cars with enhanced
    bicycle storage. In short, there will not be enough converted
    cab/bike cars available until the PTC upgrades are completed in fall
    2013. The other at-station elements of the Bicycle Access Plan are
    moving forward with funding agreements and in the summer and fall of
    2013 the CCJPA will secure the remaining state funding, which will
    support the eLocker and folding bicycle rental programs.
  • Amtrak eTicketing program: Amtrak, at the CCJPA’s request, is
    advancing next phases of the program – conductor printers for
    seat-checks and sales receipts and software upgrades to allow for
    print-at-home multi-ride tickets—which should be complete in fall
    2013.
  • NASCAR Express: The CCJPA in partnership with the Sonoma Raceway
    hosted the first-ever Capitol Corridor NASCAR Express train on
    Sunday, June 23, 2013. This special train served the Sacramento,
    Davis and Suisun-Fairfield stations and then proceeded directly to
    the Sonoma Raceway via the Cal Northern and SMART railroads through
    the scenic wine country that can only be viewed through this rail
    route. Response to this promotion had been overwhelming with over
    350 ticket packages sold. These special packages included train
    tickets, admission to the NASCAR Toyota/Save Mart 350 event, shirts
    and other memorabilia.
  • Safety Initiatives

  • Safety Fences: Staff and UPRR have completed the surveys for the next
    phase of fence projects. Locations include south San Leandro, Union
    City and south Hayward.
  • Transportation of Law Enforcement Officers: This program is now fully
    implemented with over 50 law enforcement officers enrolled from
    various law enforcement agencies within the corridor route.
  • Passenger Injuries: The Capitol Corridor continues its superb
    commitment to passenger safety with a 72% reduction in passenger
    injury ratio compared to the prior year reporting period.
  • Project Updates

  • Yolo Causeway West Crossover Project. On April 14, 2013, 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).
  • Sacramento to Roseville 3rd Track Environmental Review/Preliminary
    Engineering. This project is about to begin the environmental process
    with the advancement of selected alignment alternatives. The CCJPA
    will develop a public participation plan and move more formally into
    the environmental documentation phase of the project which will
    include the analysis of project alternatives for public review.
  • Oakland-San Jose Phase 2 Project Environmental Review/Preliminary
    Engineering. In March 2013, the CCJPA was allocated $3.5 million to
    fund preliminary engineering (30% design) and project environmental
    documents for the track infrastructure upgrades for the Oakland-San
    Jose Phase 2 Project. This completion of these improvements will
    permit an increase of up to 11 round trips in the Oakland to San Jose
    corridor. CCJPA expects to secure the services of a design and
    environmental consultant in the late summer or early fall period.
    Additional discussions and analysis with UPRR and Caltrain, the
    respective host railroads, are required to ensure sufficient
    resources are allocated to the various subprojects.
  • Summary
    Monthly ridership totals for FY13 are still below last year’s recordship results; however, the ridership for April and May 2013 are closer to the prior year month records. Year-to-date, ridership is 3.3% below last year, while other performance measures continue to be steady or improving: YTD revenues are even with last year, system operating ratio has improved to 55% due to lower fuel costs, and OTP remains at an impressive 95%, allowing the Capitol Corridor trains to hold steady on the number two spot for reliability in the Amtrak system. The CCJPA team is working with
    our service partners to reduce service delays, maintain high customer satisfaction, invest in safety initiatives along the route, and advance pre-development work for the service expansion projects (involving San Jose/Salinas, Placer County) and introducing customer enhancement initiatives (bike access/storage, e-Ticketing upgrades).

    Capitol Corridor May 2013
    – Ridership: 158,521 riders; -1.5% vs. May 2012; -3.3% vs. prior YTD
    – Revenue: $2,570,166; -0.8% vs. May 2012; +0.0% vs. prior YTD
    – On-Time Performance: 96% , YTD OTP of 95% (#2 in the nation).
    – System Operating Ratio: 55% YTD vs. 50% in FY12
    __________________________________________________
    Pacific Surfliners May 2013:
    – Ridership: 240,848 passengers; +1.9% vs. May 2012; +3.0% vs. prior YTD
    – Ticket Revenue: +3.3% vs. May 2012; +7.8% vs. prior YTD
    – On-time performance: 89% (YTD FY13 on-time performance: 87%)
    __________________________________________________
    San Joaquin May 2013:
    – Ridership: 109,365 passengers +8.3% vs. May 2012; +6.5% vs. prior YTD
    – Ticket Revenue only: -0.4% vs. May 2012; +2.3% vs. prior YTD
    – On-time performance: 68% [lower OTP due to track maintenance projects] (YTD FY13 on-time performance: 79%)

    Editorials

    LAX and West LA needs Rail Passenger Service

    By Noel T. Braymer

    The 405 and 10 freeways in Los Angeles County are among the busiest and most congested in the United States. The 405/10 intersection is in the heart of West LA. LAX is served by both the 405 and 105 Century freeways. Both of these freeways are often congested around LAX most of the day. Yet there are no plans to directly connect this region by rail to downtown Los Angeles or the rest of California.

    The Expo Light Rail Line now ends at the edge of Culver City just inside of West LA. At barely 8 miles and one year in service ridership already exceeds expectations. When extended to Santa Monica ridership can be expected to explode with new riders wanting an alternative to the always congested Santa Monica 10 freeway to downtown Los Angeles. The only plans for rail service to LAX is an extension of the Green Line from El Segundo in the south and with shared tracks for the now under construction Crenshaw Line running between the Green and Expo Lines. However there are no plans to run direct service from LAX to Santa Monica or downtown Los Angeles from the Crenshaw Line on the Expo Line; passenger will have to transfer between trains on separate levels.To get to Union Station from LAX on the Green Line will require a transfer to the Blue Line also at separate levels which will run to Union Station when the Regional Connector is opened by 2019. For passengers on the Expo Line to Union Station they will need to transfer to the Blue Line when the Regional connector is opened in Little Tokyo.

    Map of Green and Crenshaw Lines at LAX next to old Santa Fe Harbor Line

    Map of Green and Crenshaw Lines at LAX next to old Santa Fe Harbor Line . Click on images to enlarge.

    There was a railroad that connected LAX to downtown Los Angeles and the rest of the rail network. This was the old Santa Fe Harbor Line. This right of way is now publicly owned and is being used for construction of the Crenshaw line along LAX and through Inglewood. With this construction and by placing this line out of service during construction the chances of reviving this line for regional rail service are dim. What other alternatives are there then?

    The old Pacific Electric may be the answer. From Watts Junction off of the old 4 track mainline is a branch of the old PE still in use which heads west to El Segundo just south of LAX. This line mostly serves an oil refinery in El Segundo. This line also crosses the old Santa Fe Harbor line in El Segundo. With a track connection trains could head north on the old Harbor Line to a future People Mover connection near LAX. The Light Rail tracks will be in a trench between Century Blvd and Imperial Highway on the old Santa Fe right of way.

    Between Imperial Highway and the crossing of the old PE and Santa Fe in El Segundo there are no plans to use the right of way of the Harbor line for Light Rail construction. If passenger trains can be extended to Century Blvd or the People Mover extended to Imperial Highway then an LAX connection would be possible. Just as important will be connections to rail transit. Connections to the Green and Crenshaw Lines to passenger train service would be possible with a station at either Imperial Highway or Century Blvd.

    From here where could passenger trains go? Half of the old PE Line used by the Blue Line between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach is still owned and used by the UP for freight. Much of the freight traffic in this area now runs on the Alameda Corridor. Much of the traffic on the old PE Line north of Watts is local switching movements and equipment storage. Using this line for passenger service from Watts Junction north can use existing track connections to downtown Los Angeles and Union Station. One of the problems with the Santa Fe Harbor Line is it lost its connection to Union Station some years ago due to rail construction. From Union Station rail lines radiate to the east, north and northwest.

    Just south of Slauson Ave off of the old 4 track mainline is another old PE branch line still in service heading east to La Habra.Using this old PE Line will allow connections from trains on the BNSF mainline at Santa Fe Springs out to Orange and San Diego Counties as well as Riverside County to the east. A station at Slauson would allow connections to the Blue Line as well.

    this 1981 rail map shows the rail line in LA. The lines marked in Orange would be the PE from LAX to Union Station. The yellow marked line is the old Santa Fe Harbor line. In Gold is the BNSF and in Lavender is the PE Line to La Harbra

    This 1981 Caltrans rail map shows the rail lines in LA. The lines marked in Orange are the PE Lines from LAX to Union Station. The yellow marked line is the old Santa Fe Harbor line. In Gold is the BNSF and in Lavender is the PE Line to La Habra

    LAX rail passenger service would not only serve passengers to and from LAX. But would also serve residents in Westchester, Culver City, Marina Del Rey, Inglewood, El Segundo, Hawthrone and Torrance along with other near by neighborhoods. The population around LAX is over half a million people. That’s the population of Fresno which is California’s 5th largest city. There is no passenger rail service in West LA closer than Union Station which is 15 to 20 or more miles away in this densely populated and affluent area. With such a service there would be connections to future high speed rail service to most of California and Las Vegas.  Such service would give alternatives to the badly congested traffic in the entire West LA area.

    To do this won’t be cheap. First an agreement with the UP to use their railroads will have to be reached to their satisfaction. These lines will have to be rebuilt to passenger service standards and so passenger trains don’t conflict with freight traffic. This route isn’t the fastest or the most direct either. The cheapest but least acceptable solution to connecting the PE Line to the Harbor line would be to create a track connection where the lines cross heading south. Then the trains would have to back up the roughly 2 miles north to LAX. The most acceptable and expensive solution would be a tunnel curving from east of the 405 freeway with a portal to the Harbor Line. But other alternative routes are much more expensive in this densely populated area for rail passenger service which would require all new rights of way and much tunneling.

    This is a recent view of the Green Line Station at Aviation Blvd. This shows construction from the 1990's that will be used to extend Light Rail to LAX. Also you can the tracks of the Santa Fe Harbor Line.

    This is a recent view of the Green Line Station at Aviation Blvd. This shows construction from the 1990’s that will be used to extend Light Rail to LAX. Also you can see the tracks of the Santa Fe Harbor Line  heading to Century Blvd to the right.

    By rail transit it will take over an hour to get from Union Station to LAX and require transfers between lines. Even today it often takes up to an hour to travel non-stop to LAX from Union Station on the Flyaway Buses for a distance of only 19 miles. Running times by direct bus will not get any faster as traffic will continue to get worse in West LA. Most major cities have rail passenger service to their major airports. These project often require major tunneling and are expensive. What does most of the rest of the world know that we don’t?

    eNewsletter

    eNewsletter for June 17, 2013

    These comments from Rep. Denham like much that comes out of Washington are nonsense but perfect for making headlines. There is little chance that the current money for California High Speed Rail will be diverted. To do this would require the cooperation of the administration which is unlikely. To do this through legislation would have to pass in the Senate which is also unlikely as would overcoming a likely veto. The greater issue is will money be forth coming in the future for rail service improvements for California and the rest of the county. With congressmen who  play partisan political budget games over emergency relief, funding for rail projects will continue to be a fight. NB

    June 17, 2013 Part 1  June 17, 2013 Part 2  June 17, 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

    Pinching Penny’s while Blowing Bucks

    By Noel T. Braymer

    I went to the Metrolink Board meeting in Los Angeles on June 14th largely because I had the day off. I expected the Board to approve the 5% Fare increase on the agenda. Still, going to this meeting was an educational experience.

    I caught Metrolink 607 at 6:36 AM with a round trip ticket that included a TAP chip for a LA County EZ pass. We got held up at San Onofre by Metrolink 803 from San Bernardino and never recovered. We got held up again outside of Fullerton by an Amtrak train. Because of construction around Valley View Ave for the latest grade separation project in Los Angeles County there were slow orders. So even with padding we arrived about 5 minutes late off the scheduled arrival. That still gave me an hour and 15 minutes before the 10 AM start of the Metrolink Board meeting in the Metro Boardroom at the LA Metro Headquarters by Union Station. The 6 car train had decent ridership but still plenty of empty seats. Fridays generally seem to be the lightest day of the work week on Metrolink.

    Because of the proposed fare increases the public was invited to this meeting. In preparation for this meeting Metrolink’s staff had been collecting comments from the public and allowing people at the meeting to address the board on a single topic at a time for a maximum of 3 minutes although this time rule was not strictly enforced. Several of the same people spoke on different topics. The meeting agenda included the results of the community outreach to get public input about the fare increase. Before the meeting Metrolink had received 79 replies, including internet comments, public meetings (which had few attendees) phone calls and letters. Of these only one person supported the fare hike, 2 were neutral and the rest opposed different parts of the plan.

    The board meeting was lightly attended. Most in the audience appeared to be staff members of government agencies or businesses related to transportation. Many of the people who spoke to the board during the meeting might be called gadflies. I didn’t speak since what is said by the “public” at meetings like this rarely has any impact on the final vote. I was pleased to discover that in the 125 page agenda for this meeting was a full 2 page copy of my May 23rd post on the RailPAC website about the fare hike “Metrolink: Raise Ridership Not Fares for More Revenue”. At least someone on the staff level was aware of what I had written.

    There were 3 major actions before the board to vote on about raising fares. The first was a 5 percent general fare increase. This is expected to bring in $3.18 million towards closing what is now a $10.2 million dollar budget shortfall this year. Another proposed change was to the $10 Weekend Pass program to make it a $10 Weekend Day Pass. Most people who use this pass are only using it for one day and staff claims that Metrolink is losing money from people selling or giving away their passes to other people. Staff expects to gain $605,000 dollars this fiscal year with this change.

    The area of most contention was the proposed changes to the Free Fare for Personal Care Attendants (PCA). Currently if a disabled person is medically deemed to need help to travel the helper can travel for free on Metrolink. There were proposals to charge the helpers either at full fare, a discounted fare or pay $25 dollars a year for a Metrolink ID card to register as a PCA. Staff’s contention was this policy was being abused to let people travel for free. The Board discussed this at length and put off a final decision until staff returned with a refined motion for the next board meeting. The money raised by charging PCA’s for ID badges was expected to bring in no more than $200,000. This reminded me of Parkinson’s Law of Triviality by C. Northcote Parkinson “The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved.”

    In addition to this staff believes that Metrolink is losing $1.8 million dollars due to fare evasion. Starting by July 1st with the fare increase, Metrolink will aim to check every passenger’s ticket at least once including “Streetcarring passengers” which is checking passengers for tickets before they can enter the trains at Union Station. Doing this won’t cost any extra since Metrolink will use existing staff to step up ticket inspections. I can’t remember the last time my ticket was inspected on Metrolink. But if the fare evasion was so bad why has it taken so long to control it?  Staff hopes to reduce the $1.8 million dollars in revenue loss by half with stepped up ticket inspection.

    These actions go against the purpose of self service or proof of purchase ticketing. By eliminating barriers on trains and buses they can be loaded faster saving time and increasing productivity. By making regular random ticket inspections fare evasion is controlled. In fact with proper fines catching fare evaders increases revenue above what it is if everyone was honest. This has worked all over the world. Any problem Metrolink or LA Metro claims they are having with fare evaders is not with self service ticketing but from their failure to properly enforce ticket inspections. By stopping almost everyone for their tickets like in the old days will reduce the productivity of their service and customer satisfaction.

    So far these steps appear to reduce what was in April a $14.5 million shortfall but after belt tightening is now $10.2 million by no more than $5 million dollars. The member agencies controlling Metrolink will have to make up the difference. The problem with raising fares alone is that while it increases revenues, ridership goes down or ridership growth slows. Increased ridership can raise revenue while also increasing public support for rail service and increasing the value of having rail service.

    Only raising fares and cutting service to balance budgets for rail service creates a slow death spiral. The best time to raise prices is when something is in short supply. Prices normally fall when there is too much of something. If the rush hour trains are crowded then raising fares make sense. But many of the trains are not crowded so these are most likely to lose ridership and could lose revenue even with the fare increase. The fact that few people responded for comments on the fare increase doesn’t show that people don’t care about spending more money. It suggests passenger are not attached to Metrolink service and will look for other alternatives rather than fight to keep Metrolink.

    The $10 dollar weekend pass worked because it brought in passengers to fill up otherwise lightly used trains on the weekends. Ten dollars is 10 dollars more than nothing. It was a basic form of yield management which is used by airlines by discounting fares to fill up empty seats on airplanes. Until Metrolink has occupancy rates on their trains over 70 percent, they have room to sell more tickets at discount. What would be a good start is to extend Antelope Valley service trains to at least Orange County by combining existing trains. The cost of doing this is minimal. But the new markets created by this will bring in money and more passengers.

    It seems that operational factors dominate the attention of rail service providers and that includes most other operators besides Metrolink. Most of the board meeting dealt with the boring nitty-gritty of contracts and insurance necessary to operate a rail service. But rail passenger service is a service. To attract fare paying riders a service provider needs to understand and respond to the needs of their market. To prosper services need more business to increase revenue with growth, not by squeezing more money from a small and shrinking market.

    After the meeting I had lunch then tried out my Metrolink paper  TAP ticket on Metrorail . It seemed to work on the turnstiles  although tapping when transferring between rail lines  without turnstiles was a hassle. I wasn’t sure if the reader read my ticket sometimes and I didn’t want to wait and miss my train to find out. Coming home again on the train leaving at 3:20 PM had a decent load but wasn’t full by any means. We got held up as usual by Metrolink 808 out of Oceanside for San Bernardino at Sierra Siding. We can’t get more double track between Oceanside and San Juan Capistrano soon enough.

     

    eNewsletter

    eNewsletter for June 10, 2013

    This contract may not be the bargain the bid for it would lead you to believe. But this doesn’t mean High Speed Rail service will be unsafe. …Rail structures are built to much higher standards than most construction. While buildings and freeways collapsed both during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and the Northridge Earthquake of 1994 NO railroad structures failed during either earthquake. The most common cause of death in transportation is from fire and smoke inhalation. … Passenger trains cars rarely catch fire because if there is any fuel it is isolated at the locomotive. By 2015 passenger rail lines in California will have Positive Train Control (PTC) which will stop trains to prevent most accidents, particularly those between trains which are the most serious. Grade Crossing accidents are also a problem on the railroads, but won’t be on this line since it will be fully grade separated. NB

    June 10, 2013 Part 1  June 10, 2013 Part 2  June 10, 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

    What is the True Value of Passenger Trains?

    Story and Photos by Noel T. Braymer

    In London, England they are spending 15 billion pounds which is 23 billion dollars to connect 2 existing commuter rail lines in central London with 13 miles of tunneling. This out of 24 miles total for tunneling which also includes a tunnel for a branch to Heathrow Airport for this project called Crossrail. In total this project includes 73 route miles. Crossrail which is currently the biggest engineering project in Europe is expected to open in 2018. The British are paying for the construction of Crossrail with a combination of general tax funds, local tax assessments of London Businesses and with borrowed money. The loans will be paid from the operating profits of the passenger trains. When operational 24 trains an hour during rush hours will run with 10 car trains carrying up to 1,500 passenger.

    With this level of traffic there is expectation that the trains will produce an operating profit. But there is no expectation that the money for these trains will be able to pay the entire capital costs of this project. So why go to all this trouble and expense if these trains can’t pay for the full capital costs? The reason according to local calculations is that 15 billion pounds spent on this project will benefit the British economy by 42 billion Pounds or over 64 billion dollars.

    It is time that we talk about the value of passenger trains in terms of their economic value beyond the question of whether passenger trains are “profitable” or not. That is not to say that train operations shouldn’t be profitable or at least have a high cost recovery of their operating costs. High cost recovery is a good indication of an efficient and popular passenger train. The question of capital investment for passenger trains should be seen in terms of the greater economic return such as the British find with Crossrail rather than a train’s profitability to fully recover capital costs.

    Transportation is at the heart of any growing economy. Major airports are busy activity and job centers. Travelers brings in money to cities both in the form of tourist and business travel. Major hotels flourish around airports. Companies often locate near major airports for the travel convenience of their managers, employees and customers.

    However airlines are often not profitable, many go bankrupt and even go completely out of business. Airports don’t make money in this county. Most airports are publicly owned. Basically they are non-profit organizations. But airports are recognized as a major asset in their region. A city can’t make money with an airport in this country. In 1993 then Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan tried to transfer 30 million dollars from LAX to pay for expanding the police department. To get this money he raised the landing fees at LAX which were among the lowest in the country. A major reason for this was LAX wasn’t intended to be profitable. LAX had raised parking fees at the airport to reduce traffic congestion which brought in so much money they lowered the landing fees to prevent a cash surplus.

    The reaction of the airlines to this landing fee increase was as a group to sue LAX and to lobby Washington. In the end the airlines prevailed. Federal law for federal funding for airport improvement forbids airports using airport income for non airport purposes. By 1999 the 30 million dollars from LAX for the police department had cost the airport 73.4 million dollars in lost federal funds. By 2001 after Mayor Riordan had left office the landing fees were lowered, the airlines got their money refunded and LAX was rewarded with federal funds.

    No one expects airports to make money any more than they expect the sewage, police or harbor departments to make money. But these and other public services are what make business and the local economies thrive. So it should be with passenger train service. Passenger trains should be economical, efficient and popular. It should be seen as a public asset and a stimulus to the regional economy. But it doesn’t have to profitable to stockholders. It is not easy to make money building infrastructure. Local governments are earning extra money charging tolls on HOV lanes to drivers who travel alone and are willing to pay to save time. But in California several attempts to build private toll roads for profit have all been economic failures which in the end have required government to bail these companies out and buy the toll roads from the investors. We need to put passenger trains infrastructure on an economic level playing field with roads, air and water transport.

    We can see the benefits of rail service in many parts of California. BART was not an overnight success. But today downtown San Francisco functions with few major freeways. The skyscrapers along the Embarcadero and Market Street couldn’t exist without BART. Roughly half of the people who travel from Oakland to San Francisco do so by BART about as many who drive across the Bay Bridge. The baseball stadiums in San Francisco and San Diego were major local redevelopment projects to attract other construction centered on using local light rail and commuter trains to bring people to the ballpark area while avoiding traffic problems. Over the last 30 years new train stations throughout the State have been built or historic stations renovated. In the past many train stations were in the rundown rust-belt side of town. Today trains stations are in the center of redevelopment and economic growth. What makes this happen, and is needed to continue is more passenger train service and track improvements to run more and faster trains.

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    This is the view from the old Oceanside, California train station of the new Transportation Center under construction in late 1983. This was the first new train station in California since World War 2. The planning for this went back to 1970 and a major goal of the project was to redevelop downtown and get more visitors to the nearby beach. Two aims of the project was to relocate the train yard out of town seen next to the station in 1983 and eliminate the utility poles used for the railroad signalling  seen on the left with underground cables.

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    This is the view of the Oceanside Station in 1983 looking north on the east side of the tracks.

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    This is roughly the same view looking north in 1990. The old station from 1943 is gone but an old fuel tank on the site required years to clean up.

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    This is the current view at Oceanside looking north near where the old station was. On the right is a parking structure to handle both the many drivers riding the trains  as commuters and for weekend beach traffic. The large building under construction will be a Marriott Springhill Suites resort hotel.  Not far from the Transportation Center by the beach is the Wyndham  Oceanside Pier Resort. A major goal of the the original planning for the Transportation Center was to attract resort hotels , increase property taxes for the city and tourist spending in Oceanside.

    The critics we will always have with us. This is nothing new. Back in the 1810’s when the Eire Canal was being planned the critics panned it because you guessed it, it was too expensive and was going to be an economic disaster. It was called Clinton’s folly and Clinton’s ditch after the then New York Governor De Witt Clinton who was a major booster for the 364 mile canal. Not only were the critics wrong, but the Eire Canal was central to bringing trade and people from the Great Lakes and Midwest to New York. That it was a major reason New York became the wealthiest State in the 19th century and is still the dominate region on the East Coast.

    eNewsletter

    eNewsletter for June 3, 2013

    Here is a quote from the motion LA Metro Chair Supervisor Antonovich made on this issue of expanding Metrolink service. Since Los Angeles County has 40 percent of the votes on the Metrolink board and Supervisor Antonovich is also on the Metrolink (SCRRA) Board, it sounds like he means business. NB “Furthermore, in contrast to our regional goal of coordinating and synchronizing transit transfer schedules, weekend train trips on the Antelope Valley Line are uncoordinated with Amtrak trains and other Metrolink trains at Union Station, creating major service gaps for Los Angeles County residents connecting to destinations between Los Angeles and Orange County, San Diego and San Bernardino.”

    June 3, 2013 Part 1  June 3, 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