Monthly Archives

August 2013

Editorials

Why I am Thankful for California High Speed Rail

By Noel T. Braymer

I was never a big fan of the planning for the California High Speed Rail Project. I have long wanted State Wide High Speed Rail service in California. But what was originally planned by the California High Speed Rail Authority was often long on glitz but short on substance. Much of the planning by the consultants for the California High Speed Rail Authority ignored the need to connect with existing rail passenger services or to share stations and infrastructure. With their fixation on faster running times no attention was made to the trip times for many travel markets in the State. The Authority promised more than it could deliver with available funding. There was a good chance if the project went ahead as planned it would suck up money at the expense of the rest of the rail program in California.

When the Prop 1A Bond Issue measure went before the voters in 2008, I was with the majority that voted for it. I don’t regret my vote. I had no illusions that the High Speed Rail project would go smoothly or be built on schedule or according to plan. But I couldn’t pass up the nearly 10 billion dollars in new capital for rail passenger construction. I particularly liked the part that almost a billion of that would go for conventional passenger rail projects.

The revised California High Speed Rail Business plan of 2012 was a big improvement over what was originally proposed. What I liked most about it was the package of funding approved by the Legislature for more money to local projects that had in many cases have been waiting decades for funding. The plan to upgrade the San Joaquin Trains to use the new high speed tracks between Bakersfield and Madera insured that if there was a major delay or collapse of the High Speed Rail project there would still be improved and faster rail service in this decade.

There are several other projects that have been funded as part of the deal to go ahead building High Speed Rail and accepting $3 billion dollars in approved Federal Funding in 2012. The most important to me is for construction of run through tracks at Los Angeles Union Station. This has been proposed since at least 1980 and has finally been funded for completion by 2017. Why are run through tracks so important? Metrolink today carries no more than 50,000 passengers a day and not all of them come or go to Union Station. Union Station has a total of 13 passenger tracks which Metrolink shares with Amtrak. Los Angeles Union Station now has roughly 90 round trips trains most weekdays creating 180 train movements a day. This is more trains than the station handled during World War II when it had 16 passenger tracks. The result is congestion on the station’s tracks during peak periods.

Now compare this to Gare de Chatelet-Les Halles which is the busiest commuter rail station in Paris. With only 7 passenger tracks serving 4 platforms this underground station has almost a half million passengers a day during the work week. At peak travel this station handles 120 trains an hour. Needless to say Gare de Chatelet-Les Halles is a run-through station providing through service to and from either end of the lines; trains don’t terminate at this station like most trains at Los Angeles Union Station. With 8 out of the 13 passenger tracks at Los Angeles Union Station planned to be rebuilt for run-though service the station will have plenty of track capacity in the future as well as reducing running times for many trains coming and going through Los Angeles.

Another project being funded as part of the High Speed Rail project includes electrification of Caltrain between San Jose and San Francisco. This will reduce running times with improved acceleration, lower costs per passenger and of train operations while increasing passenger capacity of Caltrain. Electrification will also allow Caltrain to use the new Transbay Transit Center near Market Street and the Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco.

Also getting High Speed Rail related money will be the Altamont Corridor Express to expand and improve service. This includes track and equipment improvements for faster speeds and shorter running times. This will also include additional trains between Stockton and San Jose as well as connecting rail service to Modesto and Merced. As part of this there will also be better connections between ACE with the Capitol Corridor and BART.

The big question remains will there be State wide High Speed Rail service and how soon will it be running? I don’t have an answer to the question of when and I doubt anyone else honestly does either. But I’m sure it is only a matter of time we will see a High Speed Rail network in California connected to the other rail passenger and bus services. This will happen when we see constant ridership growth and support for more rail passenger service.

How do we get future rail ridership growth? It’s no secret. Run clean, frequent trains at average speeds near or over 50 miles per hour with good connections at stations to the local communities and to other cities. Run more trains on longer routes with run-through stations serving more markets and earning more revenues with higher value longer distance tickets. Keep ticket prices attractive and regularly offer specials and discounts to keep trains full. The more people ride trains and experience good service the more people will demand more passengers trains to more places and the sooner we will get the funding to run them.

 

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for August 26, 2013

NEC Upgrades: Andrew Selden responds to Progressive Railroading     Train traffic congestion in the NEC reflects mostly the overload of regional commuter trains taking advantage of the severely under-priced federal infrastructure of the NEC. (Amtrak’s capital subsidies include somewhere in the range of $200 million a year in direct subsidy to the regional agencies for facilities and capacity that are of no use to Amtrak.) Bring SEPTA’s and NJT’s track rents up to true market rates and the train congestion will abate in a big hurry. And to the extent that Amtrak itself contributes to train congestion, it is largely its own operating practices that are responsible. Amtrak does not need to send four or more short (5-6 car), more than half-empty, NEC trains up the corridor in peak hours when two longer (10-car) trains would suffice, and STILL have sub-50% load factors..

August 26, 2013 Part 1  August 26, 2013 Part 2  August 26, 2013 Part 3

The above copy of this enewletter is on a PDF file and you will not be able to click on to the links in blue. If you would like to subscribe to this enewsletter write to nbraymer@railpac.org

Editorials

Orange County Transportation Authority gets the LOSSAN Administration Contract

By Noel T. Braymer

I was able to attend the LOSSAN Board meeting on August 23rd in San Diego at the Board Room of SANDAG. The final selection of an agency to take care of the administration of the reorganized LOSSAN Joint Powers Authority was the main order of business and took up most of the time and caused the meeting to go later than scheduled with some work left unfinished.

IMG_20130823_131403A

The SANDAG Boardroom during the August 23rd LOSSAN Meeting.

One pleasant note at the start of the meeting was the appearance of Jacki Bacharach of Rolling Hills in Los Angeles County. Jacki Bacharach recently stepped down after over 30 years of service on the boards of different agencies concerned with rail service in California. She had served on the Board of LOSSAN from its beginning in the late 1980’s up until this year, The LOSSAN Board gave recognition of her work of many years at the start of the meeting. RailPAC President Paul Dyson on behalf of RailPAC also presented Jacki Bacharach with a plaque to express its appreciation of her years of service for Passenger Rail.

IMG_20130823_131306

Above is a picture in San Diego of RailPAC President Paul Dyson presenting Jacki Bacharach with a plaque from RailPAC thanking her for her many years of work for improve Rail Passenger service.

The three agencies competing for the contract were MTS, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System which operates the San Diego Trolley Light Rail service, many of the bus lines in San Diego  County and owns several miles of railroad in San Diego County. OCTA, or Orange County Transportation Authority controls almost all road construction, Toll Roads, transit bus service as well as ownership of non-BNSF LOSSAN trackage in Orange County. OCTA is also involved with funding, construction and promotion of LOSSAN service particularly Metrolink in Orange County.  The third agency was LA Metro which like OCTA controls both road and railroad construction in Los Angeles County and much of the bus transit as well as the large and growing rail transit service including construction of many miles of new service in Los Angeles County.

MTS had a proposed budget as part of the start up of $9,450,722 with a staff of 12. OCTA had a proposed budget of $13,384,839 with a staff of 8. LA Metro’s proposed budget was $20,001,983 with a staff of 13. Much of the difference between the budgets of the MTS and OCTA was the MTS had no money budgeted for marketing while the OCTA had assumed $2.7 million for marketing. OCTA has a smaller staff  proposed for day to day operations of LOSSAN but planned to use its more of its own staff on  an as needed  basis rather than hire more  employees just for LOSSAN.

I can only speculate, but I think the higher budget estimate of LA Metro was the primary reason LA Metro was knocked out of the running. I think the fact that MTS has no direct experience operating intercity rail service and limited contact with Amtrak and Metrolink worked against their bid. Orange County Transportation Authority’s proposed budget was in the ball park and had more experience dealing with the BNSF, Amtrak, Coaster and Metrolink.

Los Angeles County  put up a fight to try to win the contract for LA Metro. Many issues where gone over several times and there was a call to delay the vote for 2 weeks to spend more time studying the question before selecting the winner of the contract. The proposal to delay the selection was brought to a vote and rejected. When the final vote came it was mostly all the other counties voting against Los Angeles Metro.

The way LOSSAN Board votes under its new by-laws is odd because there are only 10 votes but more than 10 representatives of different local agencies voting so you can get fractional votes.  For example San Diego County has 2 votes but 3 voting agencies so each gets  a 2/3 vote.   It takes 6 votes to carry a motion. Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties  each get 2 votes a piece while San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Riverside Counties each get 1 vote a piece. Clearly to get an agreement for the new JPA the smaller counties didn’t want LA to dominate LOSSAN like it can the board for Metrolink which Los Angeles has more votes than the smaller counties.

In fairness to Los Angeles County they made some important points in their presentation that should be considered. All the presenters pointed out how great and experienced in administration they were. Most of what they presented as their best points had to do with administration or some would say bureaucratic skills and experience. Los Angeles County was the only one to bring up the issue of vision. Of insuring that the different services  serving the LOSSAN Corridor worked together.  Or of the importance to the LOSSAN Corridor of the run-through tracks at LAUS soon to start construction. In particular Los Angeles made the point that LOSSAN had be in a position to set standards and keep track of the quality of service of Amtrak on the Surfliners and be in a position to demand that Amtrak meets these standards. For that Los Angeles County insists that a new contract between Amtrak and LOSSAN be negotiated for operation of the Surfliners.

The impression I came away with from this meeting is that the most important job for LOSSAN is not which agency wins the contract for LOSSAN administration. Much more important will be the naming of a permanent executive director for LOSSAN. Much was said at this LOSSAN meeting about how the Capitol Corridor JPA was the model used in planning the new LOSSAN JPA. What was not mentioned was the leadership at the Capitol Corridor JPA in the form of its first Executive Director Eugene Skoropowski.

Skoropowski had the vision, energy and willingness to fight to improve rail passenger service and operational efficiency. For a short period after he stepped down at the Capitol Corridor Mr. Skoropowski worked for LOSSAN as a consultant. He organized tasks and goals, set deadlines and delegated work to LOSSAN agency member employees. More things got done in that short period of time when Mr. Skoropowski was under contract than at any other  period in LOSSAN history. But after his contract was over and he started a new job  in Florida where he had moved things have slowed down at LOSSAN. Much of this in recent time has been tied up organizing the new Joint Powers Authority for LOSSAN.

Now is the time to set the tone and start working on the railroad. LOSSAN has a great deal on its plate. We need trains of all services to connect with each other. We need joint seamless ticketing so passengers can easily transfer between trains which are near to each other at the stations for transfers. We need more direct rail service which won’t require as much transferring to take full advantage of the future run-through tracks an LAUS. We need all stations on the corridor to have plentiful, easy to understand information at the stations about the trains, how to catch the right train and station services as well as a pleasant atmosphere. We need to increase ridership and revenue while improving efficiency and keeping fares attractive. We need service that will get people around all of Southern California and the rest of the State quickly, frequently and pleasantly. Trains should be operated for the convenience of the passengers, not the operators.

 

Editorials

The Fallacy behind Hyperloop

By Noel T. Braymer

The problem with Hyperloop, like most attempts to “reinvent the wheel” is that the promoters of such ideas ignore the fundamentals of how transportation works. The fundamentals are feeders and distribution networks and the travel time from origin to destination.

When looking at any airport you will find lots of flat land and a major highway, usually a freeway nearby. Between an airport and the freeway will be an often congested connector road from the freeway to the airport. Most people get to and from the airport by road. Airports have large parking lots for personal cars while the biggest market for rental cars are at airports. Many people get rides in friend’s cars, or cabs, buses, shuttle vans or limousines to and from the airport. Most major cities outside the United States have passenger and transit rail service to the airport as well. An airport generally serves a metropolitan area and the road network is the feeder and distribution system for the passengers of that airport.

Where are all these people coming from and going too? A freeway has as its feeder and distribution system its on and off ramps. These freeway ramps in turn are attached to arterial roads which connect to secondary roads, streets, lanes and ultimately to people’s driveways at their home. Most people originate their trips from their home.

On a trip people have a final destination. There are almost as many trip destinations as origins. One thing airlines understand is most people are not coming or going to the same place. Airlines today have few non-stop flights. Even flights between major cities usually have connecting flights at both ends. Most airline trips today require a connection at a hub airport to get from your origin to your destination. Hub and Spoke connections at airports are part of the feeder and distribution system of the airlines. Airlines do this because this is the best way to fill up their planes with paying passengers. They need to offer the maximum number of destination using the least number of flights to economically fill up their planes.

By comparison, what is proposed for Hyperloop lacks a local feeder and distribution at the stations or to most of the State of California. With only 2 stations Hyperloop fails to serve the vast majority of California. Stations are the most important element for ridership for surface transportation. Location is everything for a successful station. A station needs to be close to major activities centers and at major junctions of transportation. This is particularly true for people who travel without a car.

The station proposed for Hyperloop in Southern California appears to be next to the I-5 Freeway in Sylmar which is a neighborhood of the City of Los Angeles. But Sylmar is 24 miles from downtown Los Angeles. There could be a connection to the nearby Metrolink’s Antelope Valley Line with joint stations for Hyperloop, but that is about it for connections. The planned San Francisco Hyperloop Station appears to be in Oakland. There might be a connection possible with BART to San Francisco for Hyperloop.

Why build stations next to freeways but not near major destinations? The reason is to save money is. But like much in life you get what you pay for. Much is made how Hyperloop costs a fraction High Speed Rail Service. But to extend Hyperloop to Los Angeles Union Station or to the future Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco would greatly increase the cost of Hyperloop. So would adding additional stations and lines in California for this project. But by not doing so Hyperloop serves a much smaller market and will have limited ridership.

What is important in travel for passengers is the time to travel between their origin to their destination, not the speed of the vehicle. Few people travel just between Sylmar and Oakland. The Hyperloop wouldn’t be competitive for most air travel in this State. For most people the time it would take to get to Sylmar and leave Oakland or visa versa to get to or from someplace else would eat up the time saved going over 700 miles an hour. It will take more time to get just from downtown Los Angeles to Sylmar than the time to get from there to Oakland on Hyperloop. For most people coming from or going to San Diego, Orange County, the Inland Empire or West Los Angeles to San Jose, Sacramento or San Francisco, they would get around faster going to and from local airports from their origin to their destination than taking the Hyperloop.

The advantage High Speed Rail has over air travel for trips under 500 miles is it can serve many more places directly than air travel. Getting to and from airports to destinations with waits for security checks, luggage, transportation and missed connections are all part of the total time to fly. Much of the time spent “flying” is spent waiting on the ground. High Speed Rail service with more local stations than there are airports has direct trains that can pick you up closer and drop you off closer from where you are coming from or going. With fewer delays from waiting the total trip time will be faster than by air or Hyperloop as proposed with a good High Speed Rail service. This is why many places around the world High Speed Rail has overtaken local air service. It also helps when rail fares are lower than air fares.

One thing the Hyperloop might do well is as a land ferry for personal cars and small trucks. There are plans to have such service with Hyperloop. This would avoid the need for large parking lots at the Hyperloop Stations or rental car agencies. The cars and trucks would act as their own feeders and distributors. But this would do nothing to reduce traffic congestion in urban areas, it would likely make it worse by adding more cars in congested major urban areas.

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for August 19, 2013

In a brilliant display of self-promotion, Mr. Musk gave on a slow news month a massive dose of sensational distraction the media was hungry for. However a high speed shuttle from kinda close to Los Angeles and somewhere in the Bay Area is not a State wide transportation system. As it is there isn’t a prototype let alone a working scale model of this proposal to see how well it will work or how much it will really cost. It will be considerably more complicated and expensive to build and run such a system serving the entire State than a single shuttle in between 2 cities. NB

August 19, 2013 Part 1  August 13, 2012 Part 2  August 13, 2012 Part 3

The above copy of this enewletter is on a PDF file and you will not be able to click on to the links in blue. If you would like to subscribe to this enewsletter write to nbraymer@railpac.org

 

Editorials

What’s the Good News for Rail Passenger Service in California?

By Noel T. Braymer

Over the last 35 years or so there have been many ups and downs to expanding Rail Passenger Service in California. While things may seem rocky now, the future is very promising. Just look at how far things have come in Los Angeles since 1990 when the first 22 miles of Light Rail opened. Los Angeles now has 87.8 miles with 6 lines of Light Rail and Subway service. By 2023 Los Angeles County has funding and plans to increase that with 31 miles of new service with extensions of the Purple, Gold and Expo lines, a new Crenshaw line between LAX and the Expo Line and a new subway in downtown Los Angeles connecting the Blue, Gold and Expo Lines and extending service from Union Station to Long Beach.

This won’t be a perfect system, but a major improvement over what Los Angeles has now for rail transit. Rail service is making an impact in Los Angeles. The trains are usually full. New housing is being built at all of the rail lines as more people seek to drive less or not at all to get to work, shop or play. Much of this new transit based Los Angeles is centered on Union Station. The county has bought it and is planning major development around Union Station to carry more people by rail on transit, regional and intercity trains.

San Diego is busy now spending hundreds of millions of dollars rebuilding much of its Trolley Light Rail System.This will include all new Trolley cars with low floor loading and easy wheelchair access. San Diego is also after years of planning getting ready to start construction of an extension of the Trolley from Old Town to the UCSD area with 11 miles of new tracks at $1.6 billion dollars by 2018. The Trolley has reshaped much of San Diego with major development around Trolley Stations and downtown San Diego.

Connecting San Diego and Los Angeles are the Surfliner trains. The LOSSAN Joint Powers Agency started out in the 1980’s as a network of city councils members along the train route between San Diego and Los Angeles who wanted better rail passenger service for their cities and the region. This has grown to include the area up to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. As service improved between Los Angeles and San Diego, this inspired more rail passenger service around Southern California in 1992 with the start up of Metrolink. Metrolink now has 512 miles of routes. This will be increased by 24 miles by 2015 with the extension of the 91 Line from Los Angeles to Riverside out to Perris with 4 additional stations.

LOSSAN is now being reorganized into a Joint Powers Authority. This will give it more power, a bigger budget and control over operations of the the trains between San Diego and San Luis Obispo. LOSSAN’s job will be to increase ridership, revenue and improve service on the Surfliner trains. But it will also need to create more connections and increased transfers between the Surfliners with Metrolink and Coaster trains in San Diego County. The key to ridership growth will be better connections between services, seamless one ticket ticketing between services and competitive fares with other forms of transportation. To do this will require the different services to work together and coordinate their services. Too often now Metrolink and Surfliner trains miss each other sometimes by just minutes. LOSSAN is needed to do that with Amtrak, Metrolink and Coaster services plus the connections to local transit.

Click on images to enlarge

LOSSAN LA County 2013

LOSSAN Orange Co 2013

LOSSAN San Diego 2013 A

There are many construction projects programmed on the LOSSAN Corridor. This includes several miles of double and triple tracking by 2018 in San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles Counties. Track and platform improvements for more trains are planned at Oceanside, Poinsettia Carlsbad and Van Nuys. There is a new station under construction now at Anaheim. The biggest news is the plan by 2017 for run-through tracks to be built at Los Angeles Union Station. More parking is also planned at many stations.

Oside 3rd track

Recent Construction of the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodel Center

Recent Construction of the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodel Center

There is $6 billion dollars to be spent in the San Joaquin Valley by 2018 to build 130 miles of high speed tracks between Madera and Bakersfield. This will be used first by the San Joaquin trains with new bi-level passenger cars and new locomotives going 125 miles per hour by 2018 or so. This will mean additional and faster trains between Bakersfield, the Bay Area and Sacramento. As part of this improved connections for future High Speed Rail are planned by 2023 with the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) Trains. The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC) operates ACE and is now the administrative agency for the new San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. This is similar to the new JPA for LOSSAN.

ACE Goals 2022

ACE has many plans for expanded and improved service between San Jose and the northern San Joaquin Valley. There is planning to expand the current 4 round trips a day between Stockton and San Jose to 6 by 2018 and 10 by 2022. This would include service expansion with trains extended also to Modesto by 2018 and Merced by 2022. The passenger service from Merced past Manteca is planned to be run on the UP which ACE already runs on to San Jose. This will serve the downtown areas of these cites and more of the local population than the BNSF route of the San Joaquins. ACE is also planning improved connections with future High Speed Rail, the San Joaquin Trains, BART and the Capitiol Corridor Trains. This will include connections to Oakland and Oakland International Airport.

ACE Track work A

ACE also has plans for track improvements on the UP for faster service and more track capacity. Many of these plans are not yet funded. But there is local support for many of these projects. Much more so than for High Speed Rail in many parts of the San Joaquin Valley. But much of this planning is rooted on funding from the High Speed Rail project and traffic from connections with High Speed Rail. Also more local funding will have to be approved by the local voters to fund some of these improvements.

ACE Track works B

The Capitol Corridor was the first California rail passenger service to be managed by a Joint Powers Authority. The Capitol Corridor is the model for the new JPA’s for LOSSAN and the San Joaquin Valley. It would like to run more service northeast of Sacramento towards Reno. But for now it has one commuter round trip on this segment to Auburn. The UP has shown no interest in allowing anymore passenger trains going towards the Sierras. What the Capitol Corridor is working on is extending trains south of San Jose to Gilroy and Salinas. In the works will also be better connections with ACE and with BART.

There is also Caltrain. It has funding and soon will electrify its line between San Jose and San Francisco.This will reduce operating costs per passenger. reduce running times for local commuter trains and increase passenger capacity. Caltrain will also be getting a new station and terminal extended into downtown San Francisco at the Transbay Transportation Center which it is planned will also be shared latter with High Speed Rail as well as Caltrain’s right of way between San Jose and San Francisco.

The big unknown is what will happen after 2022 in California? Funding is the big unknown, particularly Federal Funding. Even in the best of times projects take longer to get built than planned due to waiting for funding. For example planning for the run-through tracks at Union Station goes back to at least 1980. But in time the good projects finally get built and many other projects either become more modest or wither and die. This will particularly affect the rate and extent of High Speed Rail construction in California. One thing is certain, we will be seeing more and faster train passenger trains in the future in California. Critical for the future for inter-California Rail Passenger service is a new fast connection between Bakersfield and San Fernando Valley. When will this happen? Perhaps the best advice is from the 20th Century Physicist Niels Bohr who said ” Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for August 12, 2013

Amtrak has finished its management reorganization which means laying off many competent and highly experienced employees. Standing out in this group leaving Amtrak is Brian Rosenwald best known for his introduction of the Pacific Parlor Car among many upgrades on the Coast Starlight. Despite Amtrak’s PR and misleading accounting, it has been in a slow downwards spiral since the 1990’s. Amtrak had to be bailed out with a massive increase of its subsidy after a near shutdown in 2002 which the taxpayers are still paying. Behind this downwards spiral is Amtrak’s fixation on the Northeast Corridor and High Speed Trains both of which are very expensive to operate. Amtrak neglects its long distance service and does so at its peril. Amtrak need broad political support from most of country to survive which is only served by Long Distance Trains. Amtrak ignores the fact that long distance service is the most productive revenue producers for all transportation services, not only passenger rail service. NB

 

August 12, 2013 Part 1  August 12, 2013 Part 2  August 12, 2013 Part 3   August 12, 2013 Part 4

The above copy of this enewletter is on a PDF file and you will not be able to click on to the links in blue. If you would like to subscribe to this enewsletter write to nbraymer@railpac.org

 

CA Rail Statistics

Capitol and other CA Corridor Statistics (July, 2013)

Reported by David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director,
Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

Capitol Corridor Service Performance
For the first time in FY2013, the monthly Capitol Corridor ridership experienced an increase above the prior year month. A total of 140,533 passengers rode the Capitol Corridor trains in July 2013, an increase of 2.3% compared to July 2012. Year to Date (YTD) ridership is now 2.9% below last year. Revenue for July 2013 was just below last July 2012 by 0.1% with YTD revenue 0.8% under last year’s revenues. YTD system operating ratio is 53% thanks to continued lower diesel fuel prices. The Capitol Corridor has moved back into the #1 spot for on-time performance (OTP) in the Amtrak system with a July OTP of 94% and YTD OTP of 95%.

While detailed data is not yet available for June or July 2013, daily conductor counts transmitted from the e-Ticket readers showed:

  • a spike in ridership [10% to 15%] during the 4.5 day BART strike that
    occurred in the first week of July;
  • flat ridership on weekend trains compared to July 2012;
  • continued growth in the San Jose/Silicon Valley travel market and
    reverse peak direction trains (to Sacramento in the morning, to the
    Bay Area/San Jose in the afternoon); and
  • sustained ridership declines in the Placer County and midday, weekday
    trains.
  • pic28464

    Also without the detailed ridership data for June and July 2013, I am unable to determine if city pairs associated with Sacramento Station are continuing to have ridership losses.

    Service Reliability: Improvements and Challenges
    As mentioned, the Capitol Corridor has moved back into first place for OTP in the Amtrak system; however, the elevation was not an improvement in reliability as much as it was a decline in the performance of other trains in the Amtrak system. Third party delays (such as police activities, trespasser incidents and bridge lifts for ships) were down for July 2013.

    The same cannot be said for the delay-minutes incurred by Capitol Corridor trains from host railroad/Union Pacific Railroad (primarily signal outages and unscheduled maintenance activities) and Amtrak mechanical malfunctions. These types of delay incidents have increased over June and July 2013. Staff has meet with UPRR and Amtrak to address the few incidents that have caused significant delays (30 minutes or more) to the Capitol Corridor passengers. All parties are committed to keeping the service performance and reliability at the superior levels that the CCJPA and the passengers have become accustomed to.

    CA Intercity Passenger Rail Advocacy Strategies
    Since the California Passenger Rail Advocacy Forum was held in Sacramento in April 2013, the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the various intercity passenger rail agencies and their staff are continuing discussions to advance the initiatives that were developed at the advocacy forum. Most notably, efforts are underway to (1) work with legislative leaders to develop a state passenger rail caucus and (2) prepare a report on the future needs for the state’s intercity passenger rail program, which
    includes the integration with transit, and commuter and high speed rail services.

    Summary
    While the ridership increase for July 2013 can be considered a positive step forward, we will see if this ridership increase can be sustained. Concurrently, staff will continue to monitor and oversee other service performance measures (budget, reliability/delay-minutes and customer satisfaction) to keep the Capitol Corridor as the one of the best performing intercity passenger rail services in the nation. Currently YTD revenues are slightly below last year, yet the Capitol Corridor is on the positive with system operating ratio at 53% (vs. the 52% FY13 standard) and OTP in the top spot at 95%. Key projects and initiatives include implementing additional safety fence projects in the Richmond area, advancing pre-development work for the service expansion projects (involving San Jose/Salinas, Placer County) and implementing customer enhancement initiatives (station signage and e-Ticketing upgrades).

    Capitol Corridor July 2013
    – Ridership: 140,533 riders; +2.3% vs. July 2012; -2.9% vs. prior YTD
    – Revenue: $2,421,246; -0.1% vs. July 2012; -0.8% vs. prior YTD
    – On-Time Performance: 94%, YTD OTP of 95% (#1 in the nation).
    – System Operating Ratio: 53% YTD vs. 50% in FY12
    __________________________________________________
    Pacific Surfliners July 2013:
    – Ridership: 271,517 passengers; +2.1% vs. July 2012; +2.5% vs. prior YTD
    – Ticket Revenue: +7.2% vs. July 2012; +7.2% vs. prior YTD
    – On-time performance: 78% (YTD FY13 on-time performance: 86%)
    __________________________________________________
    San Joaquin July 2013:
    – Ridership: 117,348 passengers +12.0% vs. July 2012; +6.7% vs. prior YTD
    – Ticket Revenue only: +7.0% vs. July 2012; +2.1% vs. prior YTD
    – On-time performance: 78% (YTD FY13 on-time performance: 77%)

    Editorials

    Lessons for California from Spain about Trains

    By Noel T. Braymer

    There has been some hysteria from the media about the future of High Speed Rail in California after the recent Train crash in Spain. There is a great deal California can learn from Spain about rail passenger service and High Speed Rail. Spain is slightly larger in size, its population is also slightly larger while its economy is smaller than California’s. Spain has over 1,800 miles of High Speed Rail Lines. What most of the headline writers don’t realize is the Spanish train crash didn’t happen on a High Speed Rail Line. This crash was on an old rail line and happened after the train had just left a faster rail route. No one puts a 50 mile an hour curve in the middle of a High Speed Rail Line.

    Spain's current High Speed Rail trackage. A Wikimedia Commons Graphic by HrAd

    Spain’s current High Speed Rail trackage. A Wikimedia Commons Graphic by HrAd

    The train crash appears to be the fault of the operator. He was not paying attention to what he should have been doing. The signal system on this old railroad gave the operator 3 warning alarms that he was going too fast, all of which he ignored. On this older section of track the signalling system could only give warnings.The Alvia S-730, the train involved in this accident also had a more advanced signalling system that if the operator ignored a warning the train would automatically brake to a stop. Had this more advanced signalling system been installed on this older railroad this train would have come to a halt and this accident prevented.

    When will American Passenger Trains have such an advanced rail signalling system? In parts of California next year in 2014. For most of the rest of California and the Country by the end of 2015 and onto 2016. This is Positive Trains Control or PTC which is a wireless, GPS based system than keeps track of trains, their speed and the tracks they are on.This signalling system was mandated by Congress after an accident much like the one in Spain. In 2008 an operator for Metrolink wasn’t paying attention to what he was suppose to be doing and ran a red light and into a freight train in Chatsworth. The crash killed 25 people including the negligent operator. This incident has been ignored by the reporting of the Spanish tragedy when talking about the “lessons” of High Speed Rail in California.

    There is much to learn from the Spanish experience of Rail Passenger service. Spain has several levels of passenger service to serve different markets. Spain has over 1,800 miles of High Speed Rail routes as well as over 7,600 miles of older slower railroad. Much of this older railroad is in a broader gauge than the traditional 4 foot 8 and a half inch standard gauge used by most High Speed Trains including those in Spain. California has less than 7,000 miles of railroad including short lines. Spain has several different levels of just High Speed Rail service for international, major cities, long and short distance travel. This is true in many places around the world, particularly in Europe.

    Current and planned High  Speed Rail Lies in Spain.  Graphic from Wikimedia Commons by HrAd

    Current and planned High Speed Rail Lines in Spain.
    A Wikimedia Commons Graphic by HrAd

    The Alvia S-730 trains are not used on the most glamorous routes. But they are able to connect smaller cities with the rest of Spain. The train that crashed last July was in Galicia, a region in the northwest corner or Spain which is one of the less prosperous areas of Spain. The terminus of this train from Madrid was Ferrol. Ferrol is a port town on the Atlantic with a population of about 78,000 in a metropolitan area population of about 242,000. This town is smaller than Escondido in San Diego County. To serve cities like Ferrol and connect them to the major cities of Spain, RENFE, the Spanish State Railroad uses the Alvia S-730 trainsets. The Alvia S-730 is able to run on High Speed Tracks, the Spanish Board Gauge Tracks and under catenary as an electric train. The S-730 is also has diesel generator cars for both locomotives so the train can be run on non-electrified railroads.

    Direct service always has higher ridership than rail service requiring transfers. In Spain High Speed Rail is being built in increments to as much of the country as possible. But until that is possible, RENFE is providing as much direct, faster rail passenger service now using a mix of the old and new railroads. Spain is not the only country doing this. France which is the European leader for High Speed Rail Passenger services has been doing this from the start. French TGV trains usually use older rights of way to serve smaller cities that branch off of the High Speed Mainlines. Compare this to what is planned by 2023 if all goes well and California will have High Speed Rail service between Burbank and Merced for a distance of about 300 miles. For passengers from Southern California going to Northern California this means taking a train to Burbank, catching at train to Merced and then transferring to a train to Sacramento, Oakland or San Jose over the Altamont Pass.

    CalTRVcomparison

    A Spanish solution for the first phase of High Speed Rail in California would likely be trains from San Diego and Orange Country as well as trains from the Inland Empire arriving under diesel power at Burbank. From there these trains would go very fast under catenary to Merced. From Merced these trains would go over the Altamont Pass with diesel power where from Fremont trains could go to San Jose or Emeryville. Other trains from the south going through Burbank could junction at Stockton with some trains going to Sacramento and Redding while others go to Oakland. Doing so would open much more of California to High Speed Rail service sooner and to more markets with higher ridership.

    Editorials

    Metrolink’s Shrinking Ridership

    By Noel T. Braymer

     

    Dropping Metrolink Ridership
    Graphic from LOSSAN

     

    Why is ridership declining on Metrolink? There are many reasons. Much of the rise in ridership recently in public transportation is directly the result of spikes in the price of gasoline and cost of driving a car. Since last year the price of gasoline has more or less stabilized and even dropped a little. People are also buying new more economical cars to replace their gas guzzlers.The recent fare increase by Metrolink hasn’t helped either. Most of this decline in ridership is for commuters headed to Union Station. One factor that hasn’t helped were the problems of trying to transfer to LA Metro trains with new turnstiles that would require a TAP card. The use of Metrolink paper tickets with TAP chips embedded in them has solved that problem. Part of the problem is lack of job growth in downtown Los Angeles, government jobs in particular are shrinking.

     

    Here are excerpts from  the Corridor Trends information item in the LOSSAN TAC agenda  for Aug 8, 2013

     

    Metrolink Service Performance

    Average weekday ridership on Metrolink trains in June 2013 recorded a 4.1 percent decrease from a year earlier. This decline is part of a trend that started last year when ridership growth began to decelerate in November 2012, and turned negative beginning in January 2013 (Figure 1). Since January, Metrolink has been experiencing a decline in average weekday ridership every month. Losses reached 4.1 percent in June, but could be limited to less than 1 percent in July 2013. Ridership losses are systemic and are impacting all lines, with the exception only of the Inland Empire Orange County (IEOC) Line (Figure 2.). Weekend ridership continues to be strong. Although weekend ridership has been growing by 30 percent annually, it has not translated into new weekday commuters…

    Downtown Los Angeles lags the region in job growth, in part, because of the high concentration of the government sector, which has been shedding jobs.Downtown Los Angeles also experiences increasing office vacancy rates. “Negative absorption rates will likely continue, meaning the vacancy rate is not likely to drop any time soon.”(Los Angeles Business Journal, July 22, 2013).

     

    Where ridership is growing on Metrolink is during the weekends and service between Orange County and the Inland Empire. In other words on the trains where most ridership doesn’t get off at Los Angeles Union Station. A major factor for ridership growth on the weekends is the $10 dollar pass. The fact that ridership is growing where there is no service to downtown Los Angeles says that there is a market for rail travel to and from other places besides downtown Los Angeles.Yet management at Metrolink seems to see this as a problem, instead of an opportunity.

     

    There is good news, Metrolink is expanding service starting August 18th on Sundays from 3 to 6 round trip trains on the Antelope Valley Line. This will be the same number of trains for Sunday as on Saturdays between Los Angeles and Lancaster. Did Metrolink planners suggest this? No, this was the idea of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Member Michael Antonovich who represents the Antelope Valley. Supervisor Antonovich is also on the Boards of LA Metro and the SCRRA which oversees Metrolink. Increased frequencies usually increases ridership on any rail passenger service on all trains of that line. With the ability of the Weekend Pass to attract riders this should help too. Supervisor Antonovich as part of his request for this service also asked that connections be improved on the Antelope Valley Line to other Metrolink trains and Amtrak.

     

    What is the best way to jump start Metrolink’s ridership? Certainly it isn’t with fare increases and slowing boardings by inspecting every passenger’s ticket at the platform. Metrolink should create a Weekday Day Pass for all of Metrolink. I would suggest a $35 dollar Pass good all day on all Metrolink lines. Will someone use this pass to ride all of Metrolink’s 512 route miles in a day. A few maybe but not many people would. I suggest $35 dollars because this is slightly higher than the highest round trip fare on Metrolink for a single line. There is no need to discount trips like from Oceanside to Los Angeles. But this will open up major new markets for longer trips transferring at Union Station. People are always looking for a good deal. At this price many more people will travel on Metrolink between San Bernardino and Oxnard, Lancaster and Riverside or Oceanside and Pomona plus all other stations in between.

     

    Who would discount travel by train on a day pass? Well how about the Coaster Trains in San Diego County. They have a $12 all day pass good on the Coaster as well as the Sprinter Trains, the Trolley and all bus connections in San Diego County. This day pass wasn’t always $12 dollars. Originally it was $14 dollars but North County lowered the price to increase ridership and revenue. They also recently lowered their regular trains fares as well. The Coaster often has special prices for seasonal services. Now during the Del Mar Horse Racing season the Coaster has an $11 dollar pass called the Pony Express for rail and connecting bus service to Del Mar. Coaster Ridership by the way isn’t declining.

     

    Now one objection to this idea is what about the crowding on Metrolink during rush hour? Well if you are losing ridership doesn’t sound like crowding is the problem. A Weekday Day Pass on Metrolink will increase ridership and revenues. This should lead to more promotion of existing  connections and to better connections where there is the most demand. Schedules can be improved for better connections and service in some cases can be expanded with more frequencies. So if during rush hours some trains get crowded what can be done? Run trains with more cars and fill them up. Metrolink has plenty of surplus cars now so lack of equipment should be the least of their worries.