Monthly Archives

December 2013

Editorials

What’s Needed for Great Rail Passenger Service

By Noel T. Braymer

When  rail service is good, people will take the train in droves. When there is great rail service, many traffic congestion problems can be solved or reduced. The problems today with depending on cars for transportation are: they take up lots of space, we can’t build enough roads or parking lots in urban areas for more cars, cars waste a great deal of energy while creating pollution and they are becoming increasingly more expensive to own and operate. Plus there are many people who can’t or shouldn’t drive. As America’s population ages the number of people who can’t drive will increase.

So what’s needed for not just good, but great rail passenger service? There are the obvious: convenience, fast running times, safety,comfort and economy. But the three most important factors of successful rail passenger service are location, location and location of the stations. Station location is central to great rail passenger service.

Rail stations need to be close and easy to get to from where people live to where they are going. Since at least the 1960’s rail service has depended on large parking lots for ridership in suburban areas. Whether anyone will take the train someplace depends on how close their final destination is to the train station where they going to or how good the connections are to get there. The problem with this is there is a finite number of parking lots or parking structures we can build at trains stations.

No one wants traffic congestion in their neighborhood. In recent years many towns have passed “slow growth” ordinances to try to stop growing traffic congestion. Slow growth limited the size of developments, particularly construction of high density housing to prevent too many people from living and driving in their towns. However “slow growth” only made congestion worse. Slow growth makes people even more dependent on their cars. It also pushed out housing, jobs and shopping further out from where people lived. This led to people driving even more, creating more congestion in or through the towns with “slow growth”.

If we look at older parts of a town developed before the 1950’s there’s less traffic. The worst traffic is in new communities build around freeways. In the past in older cities housing, jobs and services where built near to each other, often walking distances. We need more housing that is near, that is walking or bike riding distance to trains stations. We don’t need dense housing everywhere, but we need it near trains stations. Also near stations we need services such as stores, clinics, car repair, day care and so on. Instead of driving all over the county, people would be able to do errands on their way to work or without a lot of driving. This would also reduce the need for “mom cabs” since children would be able to get around without needing a ride everywhere.

More development is  also needed  at major downtown train stations. Major stations should be destinations. In many places around the world train stations are also major shopping malls. Revenues from the stores are used to support the cost of operating the station and stores brings in more passengers. Major office buildings should be located near train stations in order to handle large number of commuter who work in those offices.

The beauty of rail passenger service is since it can carry many more people than cars in a small area quickly; it reduces traffic congestion. If you are a fan of open undeveloped space and easy travel then you want areas near rail service with fairly dense development. This is why “slow growth” and low density development doesn’t work and creates traffic congestion.

Developers are discovering that rail service brings in more people which means more money from their projects while reducing the costs needed for parking. A good example of this is around new sports arenas and stadiums which have more to do with property development than sports. More and more good rail service is central to these projects. A good example of this is the new 49er’s football stadium being built now in Santa Clara. It is next to the theme park Great America and both are next too major freeways and will also share the train station. The “Great America” station has Capitol Corridor and ACE service as well as light rail service from VTA. Most likely there will also be shuttle bus connections to the nearest Caltrain Station as well.

There are already several professional sports teams with rail connections in California. The Angeles Baseball team have with their stadium in Anaheim rail service with both Metrolink and Amtrak. The San Francico Giants have both Muni Light Rail and Caltrain service. The San Diego Padres stadium has Light Rail service with connections to Coaster Commuter rail service. Both the Oakland A’s and Raiders have BART service and Capitol Corridor service. The Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers and Kings all have light rail service in downtown LA. Sacramento is proposing a new basketball arena with light rail connections central to their plans.

Airports which have major congestion problems are also interested in more rail service. A major roadblock to growth at airports is local traffic congestion. Airports can carry more passenger using larger planes for the same number of landing slots. But they can’t expand their roads to handle more passengers. In Los Angeles residents and politicians  are demanding light rail service to LAX. Bob Hope Airport in Burbank has long term plans to become a major transportation center, not just an airport. They are seeking to greatly expand Metrolink/Amtrak rail service at their airport including a high speed rail station.

San Diego has given up hope of building a new airport. They are planning to get as much as they can out of their existing airport. Part of this plan is to have passengers in the future park and enter the airport at the east end nearer the freeway and railroad tracks and take a people mover to the terminals. This eastern location will also have a joint light rail, passenger train station and future high speed rail station. San Francisco will also have a high speed rail station next to the BART airport connection at Milbrae with Caltrain. Both Palmdale and Ontario want high speed rail stations to develop and bring more passengers to their airport.

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for December 23, 2013

Expo Line leads to drop in driving USC News-Dec 16, 2013    Los Angeles residents who live near a Metro Expo Line station on Exposition Boulevard reduced the number of miles they drove and tripled their rail ridership since the rail line opened last year, according to a new USC study.

December 23, 2013

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

November 2013 Capitol Corridor Service Performance

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

The performance results for both ridership and revenue continued to decline in November 2013 when compared to November 2012.

For November 2013, a total of 117,891 passengers rode the Capitol Corridor trains, representing a 6.8% drop in ridership and an 8.2% decline in revenues versus November 2012. Specifically, ridership for the Thanksgiving week (November 25 – December 1, 2013) was 4.8% below the 2012 results. These 2013 holiday results were equal to the Thanksgiving 2010 report. A minor portion of these ridership losses can be attributed to having the last day of the Thanksgiving week fall on Sunday, December 1, 2013.

On-time performance (OTP), however, continues to maintain a superior level of 96%, keeping the Capitol Corridor as the most reliable service in the Amtrak network. The year-to-date system operating ratio is 51%, below the 53% standard due to decreased ridership/revenues.

As stated in earlier reports, our an initial analysis of our downward ridership trend has revealed that the largest sustained customer losses are occurring at the Placer County, Sacramento and Davis stations, and on the midday trains. Efforts are underway now to reverse these trends. Some immediate actions include the reinstitution of the Seniors 50% discount on midday trains and the 50% on-line fare discount for weekend travel.

Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR), our host railroad, continues to maintain the railroad in a good state of repair thanks in part due to the annual CCJPA/UPRR Capitalized Maintenance Program and disciplined dispatching. The delay minutes that can be attributed to UPRR are the lowest in the Amtrak system and have been trending even further downward since August 2013.

After concerted efforts with our service partners and local communities, third party associated delays (such as trespasser incidents and bridge lifts) and mechanical delays due to Amtrak maintenance have also declined and have pushed the OTP to continuously be above 95%.

Funding Outlook, State/California

Draft FY 14-15 State Budget: In January 2014, the Governor will release his draft State Budget for FY 14-15. The State Budget Act of 2013 for FY 13-14 included $108.9 million to support the operation of the three CA IPR services (San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor and Pacific Surfliner), an increase of $18.6 million to conform with the implementation of the PRIIA Section 209 pricing policy for the nation’s twenty-seven (27) Amtrak-operated, state supported IPR services. It is anticipated that the Governor’s Draft FY 14-15 State Budget will continue with this conformance to PRIIA Section 209 for the three CA IPR services.

It is unclear what the Governor’s draft budget will include for Cap and Trade Auction revenues. If such revenues are included in the draft budget, eligible projects are expected to include: rail modernization and system integration (including intercity and high speed rail); expanded transit and ridership programs; infrastructure; livable communities; transit-oriented development; and active transportation.

Select Committee on Passenger Rail (Senate and Assembly): CCJPA and other California IPR agency staff have been working with State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson’s office to develop a Select Committee in the Senate that will pursue growth in investment for the state’s passenger rail system. Concurrently efforts are underway to develop a similar select committee in the Assembly.

Federal Surface Transportation Reauthorization

Recently, there has been some movement to produce federal legislation to reauthorize the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act of 2008, which expired on October 16, 2013. This act covers Amtrak authorization and the current railroad safety programs, including Positive Train Control (PTC). APTA has recently adopted a program for the federal investment in a national intercity passenger rail network that includes state-sponsored IPR routes, the Amtrak system and planned high/higher speed train services. This program presents principles that will then be referenced into APTA’s documents supporting the upcoming surface transportation authorization efforts of MAP-21, thereby helping to establish a federally-funded Rail Title. CCJPA staff also continues to work with AASHTO and other interested agencies to prepare and advance principles similar to those adopted by APTA.

Customer Service Program Upgrades
Bicycle Access Plan: A launch of the on-board element of the Plan is set for Spring 2014 once the all the cab cars have been modified for added bike storage and the PTC equipment has been installed in these cars. Concurrently, on some of the trains with heavy bike utilization, the CCJPA is working to replace one regular coach car with a coach/baggage car which has expanded lower level bike space (similar to modified cab cars).

In concert, at-station elements of Plan are moving forward over the next year (2014) to deploy the eLocker and folding bicycle rental programs once all funding and related agreements are completed by late January 2014.

Safety Initiatives
On-Board Installation of Positive Train Control Equipment:

  • Installation of the PTC equipment on the state-owned equipment is proceeding. All California owned locomotives have been equipped and installation on cab cars is underway (~60% complete).
  • Safety Fences: Continued investment to secure the right-of-way and deter trespassers via fence projects in North Richmond and the Suisun/Fairfield Station.
  • Grade Crossing Upgrades: Outreach has begun with local communities to assist the CCJPA in addressing delays and safety concerns associated with a recent spike in cars getting stuck on the tracks. These incidents are occurring at or near the Oakland Jack London Station/Embarcadero roadway, causing delays of 30 minutes or more.

Marketing Updates While the 50% train fare discount for weekend travel and popular Seniors ride for 50% off on selected weekday midday trains are currently underway to fill the weekend and midday weekday ridership gaps, the CCJPA is working with Amtrak to address other underperforming markets: Placer County, Davis and Sacramento stations.

Outlook: While the ridership and revenues for the first two months of FY 2014 are 5% and 6% below FY 2013, respectively, the Capitol Corridor remains the third busiest service in the Amtrak system and the most reliable with a 96% OTP. The Capitol Corridor has a solid foundation of loyal, frequent riders supported by the commitment from our service partners to safety, reliability and high quality customer service. Targeted marketing programs are underway and being developed to address ridership losses with the intent to push ridership levels into positive results. The CCJPA team working with operating and funding partners continue to complete pre-development work for the service expansion projects (involving San Jose/Salinas, Placer County), as well as developing advocacy strategies to secure capital grant funds to construct these service expansion projects.

Reports

Amtrak opens the Los Angeles Metropolitan Lounge

Report by Paul J. Dyson, RailPAC President
Los Angeles, December 19, 2013

Today I attended the opening ceremony of the new Amtrak lounge for sleeping car and Business class passengers. In spite of being Amtrak’s 5th busiest, Los Angeles Union Station has never had a facility of this kind and it is much to be welcomed.

SONY DSC
View of the new Metropolitan Lounge on dedication day. Pictured on the right are Mike Dwyer, Route Director for the Coast Starlight and Southwest Chief, left, and Jack Rich from Amtrak Planning in Washington DC. (Photo by RailPAC member Alex Gillman)

The project was managed by Marcos Gonzalez, assistant Superintendent, and Peter Zavala, project manager, engineering. Passengers can enjoy Internet access, newspapers, a conference room, and comfortable seating in a quiet setting. In addition, ticketing assistance is available and priority boarding via Red Cap service. The lounge offers complimentary beverages.

Original train-themed art work is displayed, including a number of pieces by Assistant Superintendent Road Operations, Eric Smith. Eric’s work is on the cover of the 2014 Amtrak timetable. Amtrak VP Operations D.J. Stadtler performed the ribbon cutting together with L.A. City Council member Tom LaBonge. Also in attendance was Art Leahy, CEO of Metro, owner of LAUS. The lounge will be open from 5.00am to 10.00pm daily.

Commentary

Getting Derailed on the Crescent for Thanksgiving!

Story and Photos by RailPAC member Alexander Friedman

I love traveling cross-country by train and I have done so every year for over a decade. For this Thanksgiving holidays I decided to take, for the first time the Sunset Limited. Then after visiting New Orleans for a day, I planned to transfer onto the Crescent for a trip straight to Washington D.C. I was also going to visit my father who lives just west of our nation’s capital, for a nice Thanksgiving celebration. I was truly excited about riding these two routes, the few that I haven’t traveled yet.

On the evening of November 20th at Los Angeles Union Station I boarded the Sunset Limited. The train left a half an hour late, then stopped on a bridge over the LA River, just outside of Downtown LA. After losing nearly an hour, the Sunset Limited left our beloved City of the Angeles, heading east at full steam! Overall, the trip aboard Sunset Limited was uneventful; a smooth train ride with decent service and boring scenery. This allowed me to take care of lots of business on the way and to get some much needed rest after a stressful year.

Two days later our train pulled into New Orleans. I was at the hotel in no time. New Orleans truly impressed me! I loved the beautiful architecture, safe walkable environment, pedestrian-oriented overall infrastructure, and of course – the famous French Quarter was the most magnificent part. I was sad to leave this amazing city, rich in its history and architecture.

Early the next morning I boarded Amtrak’s “Crescent” for the second and final leg of my cross-country journey. The train departed on schedule, at exactly 7:00 a.m. I was in a Viewliner sleeping car roomette; our car was the first passenger car at the front right behind the baggage car. Unlike many U.S. long-distance trains with double-decker Superliners, the Crescent carries single-level cars, including antiquated 40 year-old coaches and a bit newer 20 year-old Viewliner sleepers. Our car attendant David was very friendly and professional. We had many interesting conversations with him and Steve (attendant from the next sleeping car) throughout the whole trip.

Train #20 the Crescent,  in Atlanta

Train #20 the Crescent, in Atlanta

The first long day aboard the Crescent went well; the scenery was exciting compared to the Sunset Limited route. Landscapes of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia were more interesting than Texas, Arizona, and Southern California combined. Indeed, dense forests, plenty of lakes and creeks, as well as dramatic mountains were far more interesting than the naked sandy plains of the Southwest. I truly enjoyed my trip on the Crescent.

The peculiar thing I noticed on the Crescent at high speeds was the train rocking; it almost felt like riding a horse. The rough up-and-down rocking was very unusual. But at the time I didn’t pay much attention to this minor (?) factor. Overall, I was happy with the journey; and just past 10:00 p.m. I started getting ready for a good night’s sleep with no idea what was about to happen in just a couple of hours.

At first, it was impossible to fall asleep due to our locomotive’s horn which was blowing constantly. I know the engineer is obliged by law to sound the horn before every intersection, even late at night! But since our car was at the very front the horn sounded even louder!

Eventually, I did fall asleep but not for long. At 12:10 a.m. there was a sudden, violent jolt. It was not strong enough to throw me out of bed but it sure woke me up! It felt like the train had dived into the ground with a loud grinding, “bang” sound. All my life I’ve ridden many trains, in different countries, on all types of tracks, switches, crossings, and joints. But this particular jolt didn’t feel like an expanded joint on rough track. This bump was sudden and strong. Immediately following the jolt our car softly jumped up thanks to the suspension and then “landed”. But the ride suddenly became bumpy, though it did not feel like we landed on railroad ties. Then the train came to a sudden halt! The train’s brakes had gone into emergency, something bad must have happened!

Without knowing exactly what had happened, passengers realized something was terribly wrong. There was a very unpleasant moment of silence at first to say the least. Everyone was awake and opened their sleeper doors, with only one question in mind: “What the heck just happen?” Our car attendant David was the first one in the hallway, calming everybody down. Passengers and our car attendant at first did not realize the train had derailed. Only after getting out of our car and jumping onto the ground, in the middle of a cold night, in freezing temperatures, did the car attendants learn first-hand that practically all the cars had jumped the track! Indeed, our train #20 “The Crescent” has derailed, on a cold wintry night of November 24th, near Spartanburg, South Carolina.

The first shock that everyone experienced was soon replaced by a euphoric feeling, “We are Ok!” Miraculously every derailed car remained upright, without overturning or even barely tilting. Only the last coach or two tilted slightly, but that was it. As our car attendant eloquently put it, “This was the best case scenario of a derailment!” We were planted firmly on the ground with no smoke, fires or explosion. The electricity which at first shut-off automatically was quickly restored. All 218 passengers were fine except for four folks who were treated for minor injuries.

What was interesting was our car, first passenger car on the train, just behind the baggage car was derailed only by its rear truck while our front truck remained on the track. That’s when I recalled our rough ride when reaching certain speeds. I figured it’s possible that our car had a defective wheel and/or suspension, causing the roughness of the ride, and contributing to the derailment. Further investigation will of course, determine the true cause.

Luckily for everyone, both locomotives and the baggage car also remained on the track. We couldn’t imagine how much worse it would have been if the locomotives were to derail, pulling the whole train with it. Our train #20 had “dodged the bullet”. We were thankful to be alive and well. Now all that was left was to relax and wait until Amtrak provided alternative transportation.

The morning at the accident scene

The morning at the accident scene

It took over 8 and half hours, well into the morning before Amtrak finally put us on buses. This unexplainable delay was only an inconvenience compared to the derailment. Still Amtrak demonstrated its ultimate bureaucratic self with poor communications (too long to describe every detail) which left a dark spot in our memories. The derailment happened in a suburban area near several highways: it was definitely not in the middle of nowhere. Delay after delay with little-to-no information from Amtrak and lack of coordination left most passengers frustrated and exhausted by the end of the day.

The Crescent "Baggage Car Train

The Crescent “Baggage Car Train”

By about 8:15 a.m. we were all placed first in the baggage car, the only car remaining on the tracks, which we rode for about 300 yards to a temporary “passenger unloading” zone. This way people, many of whom were elderly as well as families with kids would not have to jump from the train onto the ground, and then walk on railroad ballast for some distance. The brief ride in the baggage car was quite an experience. Not that we felt any differently than if we were in a cattle car.

Inside the "Cattle Car"

Inside the “Cattle Car”

By 8:45 a.m. our bus finally left the accident scene. We arrived in Washington, D.C. 10 hours later. If Amtrak had coordinated their efforts a little better we could have arrived hours earlier. Amtrak did not even provide food (despite what the media reported). But all in all I am thankful that our train stayed on the ground and did not overturn. I’m also very thankful for our car attendants David and Steve who were very professional and supportive throughout the entire ordeal. They alone deserve a five-star rating of customer service and for helping so many passengers, in all respects.

At the “passenger unloading” zone

At the “passenger unloading” zone

Even though a train derailment and Amtrak’s mismanagement leaves bad memories and robs me of my desire to travel by train for a while, I still prefer rail travel, as opposed to flying or driving. I also have faith in our rail system, hoping that one day we will all witness dramatic improvements in service. Not only in its infrastructure and fleet, but more importantly in new safety features, track maintenance, and launching Positive Train Control. It’s time to embrace 21st century rail travel! I have faith that with the hard work of advocacy groups our wonderful country will finally invest in our rail infrastructure, giving people a reliable, safe, and great way to travel!

 

Editorials

I Hate Driving in LA!

By Noel T. Braymer

I Love LA, and I love going to LA. But most people, particularly those who live in LA know that its traffic is a mess. I and others would love rail alternatives to driving to get around to more of LA. But the worst traffic in LA is where there are the fewest alternatives available to driving. This area can be called the Westside or the 405 Corridor. Just about every other freeway which junctions with the 405 such as the 5, Ventura, 10, or Century are where much of the traffic congestion is.

There are 6 alternatives under study now for transit improvements on the 405 in Los Angeles County between LAX and the San Fernando Valley. Four of these plans are based on Bus Rapid Transit and 2 are with rail.The plan getting the most attention calls for 2 tunnels. One is a large tunnel (58 feet in diameter) under the 405 for a toll road. The other smaller tunnel would be for rail service. This proposal is estimated at between $10-13 billion dollars with $1 Billion currently set aside for construction by LA Metro. This project would be built as a Public-Private-Partnership with mostly private financing which would be paid for from vehicle tolls and rail fares. One could expect premium fares for this rail service. The rail segment would have stations at LAX, Expo Line, Purple Line, Orange Line Busway and terminate at the Van Nuys Metrolink/Amtrak Station. There is hope to have this project fast tracked in about 10 years. Otherwise no project on this corridor is expected before 2039.

LA Westside 2

Click on graphics for larger view.

Much effort in Los Angeles is now centered on building Light Rail connections to LAX for the Green and future Crenshaw Lines. But there is no planning to extend direct LAX/Light Rail service to downtown LA, Union Station or the rest of Southern California. For example for a person traveling west of North Hollywood by rail to LAX would mean a bus ride on the Orange Line, a transfer to the Red Line Subway at North Hollywod to Union Station, a transfer to a future extension of the Blue Line then either a transfer to the Green Line to LAX or a transfer to the Expo Line then to the Crenshaw Line to LAX. It is estimated that every time there is a transfer you lose half of your potential ridership.

There are some simple things that could be done to provide better connections by rail to more places to the Westside of LA. One would be to extend the Green Line to the Metrolink Station in Norwalk, a distance of 2.5 miles.This could be combined with the future Crenshaw Line as well for direct service to more of Los Angeles . Like most things in life this is easier said than done. In the 1990’s there were plans to extend the Green Line to the Metrolink Station. After local objections to surface or elevated construction the plan was to build this extension in a tunnel. This greatly increased the cost of this project. In 1998 because of budget shortfalls and cost overruns of other projects this Green Line extension was canceled. Currently there are no plans to bring it back.

There are or were existing rail rights of way that could be used to extend Metrolink to the LAX area with connections to the Westside. But for most of Metrolink’s history there has been an unwritten rule that it can’t be extended south or west of Union Station. By using an upgraded existing old Pacific Electric rail line it would have been possible for Metrolink trains to branch off of the BNSF Mainline near Los Netos to Slauson Juction where a connections could be made to the old Santa Fe Harbor Line to the edge of LAX where the Green and Crenshaw Lines will run and use parts of this old Santa Fe right of way. There are plans now to turn this rail line along Slauson Ave into a Linear Park.

It is still possible to use existing rights of way to extend Metrolink to LAX. Using the junction at Los Netos on the old Pacific Electric Metrolink trains could go to the Slauson Ave Blue Line Station. At Slauson there are tracks and connections now used by freights next to the Blue Line south to Watts Junction and another Pacific Electric branch to El Segundo. A connection would be needed at El Segundo to the Santa Fe Harbor Line but Metrolink Trains could be run up from there to LAX and connections to the Green and Crenshaw Lines. Trains from Union Stations and other points north of Slauson can also make connections to the tracks next to the Blue Line and also run to LAX. There are no plans let alone funding to do this.

LA old rail Map

What is being planned by 2024 is a service either by bus, light rail or mag lev on the old Pacific Electric West Santa Ana Branch from Paramount through Bellflower down to Orange County. This would likely end at the Santa Ana Transportation Center and train station. At Paramount this service could be extended north to downtown Los Angeles on the old UP Harbor Line. In Paramount by the old UP Harbor Line the old PE line points like an arrow to the Century Freeway and the Green Line which runs in it. In fact the Century Freeway was built up to this point using part of the old West Santa Ana Branch right of way. By running Light Rail on the West Santa Ana Branch it would be possible to build a connection to the Green Line and Crenshaw Line north of LAX from Orange County. But there are no plans to to anything like this at this time.

In the town of Stanton in northwest Orange County is an old rail junction. From this junction it would be possible to extend Light Rail trains not only to Santa Ana but also to Huntington Beach and Anaheim to the edge of Disneyland.

LA Transit Plan

What is being planned in Los Angeles County for the Westside is an extension of the Expo Line from Culver City west to Santa Monica by 2016. There are also plans to extend the Purple Line Subway west along Wilshire Blvd. from Western about 4 miles to La Cienega by 2023. When it will get to Westwood by the 405 is uncertain as is future funding for this project.

The Green Line will be extended about 1 mile north of Imperial Highway to a Century Blvd station to serve LAX via a people mover. The Crenshaw Line will share the Green Line from Imperial to Century then run north and northeast up Crenshaw Blvd ending up under the Expo Line at Crenshaw and Exposition Blvds. Because the Crenshaw Line will be in a tunnel under the Expo Line, passenger, will have to transfer between lines. There are no plans for the Crenshaw Line to run on the Expo Line to either Santa Monica or to downtown Los Angeles. At 8 miles the Crenshaw Line will be the shortest LA Metrorail line in the system. The longest Metrorail Line will be the extended Blue Line which by 2020 will run from Long Beach through Union Station to Pasadena and out to Azusa for a distance of just over 55 miles. Crenshaw Line

It might be possible to extend the Crenshaw Line in the future to the Purple Line. This isn’t now in the plans and would likely require tunneling and a future joint station at Wilshire and La Brea since there are no plans for a Crenshaw Blvd Purple Line Station. Considering the competition for funding for other rail projects this won’t be likely in the lifetime of most adults.

The main complaints about the planning of rail service in Los Angeles County is the lack of connections and direct service between major transportation centers. This includes lack of junctions and shared use of lines. This also includes no connections to Amtrak or Metrolink outside of Union Station. The logic by Los Angeles Planners in doing this seems to be it would make the Metrorail Trains too crowded and overload track capacity on routes like the Expo, Gold and Blue Lines . These lines have bottlenecks on their street level operations.LAMetro transit plan

The best hope now to connect the 405 corridor to more of Southern California would be to build light rail on the West Santa Ana Branch from the Santa Ana Transportation Center and connect with the Green Line on the Century Freeway. From there trains (possibly express trains) could run up to LAX. These trains could even be extended on the Crenshaw Line to serve more of West LA. The Green and Crenshaw Lines will be highly grade separated and should have plenty of track capacity. This could be done in the next 10 to 12 years. The hard part will be building the track connection to the Green Line.

Just as needed will be a rail line from LAX to the San Fernando Valley. It remains to be seen if the toll road/subway combo will go ahead. This is the only proposal that will link up the east-west rail lines with a north-south service to allow passengers  to connect between the San Fernando Valley to the Westside. To make this a commercially viable project to fund construction privately for rail, it would likely have to include major new commercial and housing development around the stations which only rail service could feed enough passengers to work.

What would be cheaper and faster to do would be to run Metrolink trains using mostly existing railroads (greatly improved) to connect future Light Rail service at LAX for transfers to much of the rest of the Westside of Los Angeles County. But this is the least likely to happen soon since there are no plans, or funding for such a project.

 

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for December 16, 2013

To try to reduce the number of homeless at LAUS, LA Metro now only allows ticketed passengers to sit in the station for 2 hours max with separate sections for Amtrak and Metrolink passengers. Transit passengers can’t sit in the main station.

December 16, 2013

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

Commentary

Amtrak Monthly Performance Report

Reported by Anthony Lee, RailPAC Associate Director
Each month Amtrak compiles a Performance Report, covering many financial and financial items. Their full (unaudited) report can be found on www.amtrak.com by going to the list of items at the bottom of the home page and selecting “News & Media” then select “Reports & Documents” and then look at the items at the bottom of the page. In this report we have selected certain items that highlight what is on that 61 page report for the month of October, 2013.

System Performance

Cost Recovery: 103%
Ridership: 2.6 million
Passenger miles: 543,488 miles
Train miles: 3.2m miles
Avg. Load Factor: 50.1%
On Time Performance: 78.5%
Fleet Availability:
locomotive: 86.3%
passenger: 89,6%

Ridership Highlights:
Acela – 18% increase in Ridership covering from Sandy

State Support-Trains: -4% decrease mainly due to Megabus and Bolt competition, track work, and the federal government shutdown

California Zephyr -9% decrease in ridership due to Colorado flooding
Southwest Chief -5.2% increase
City of New Orleans -1.8% increase
Capitol Limited -9.6% increase
Crescent -13.5% increase
Palmetto -3,7% increase
Auto Train -2.3% increase
Ethan Allen -4% increase
Vermonter – 25.2%increase
Albany-Toronto -7.7% increase
Sunset Limited – 3.5% increase

California Corridor Trains:
Capitol Corridor -18% decrease
San Joaquins -5.2%
Pacific Surfliner -4.7%

Best Sleeper Ridership:

Cardinal- +10.4%
Lake Shore Limited- +14.2%
Capitol Limited- +0.5%
Silver Star- +4.6%
Silver Meteor- +9.1%
Auto train +4.3
Sunset Limited- +6.5%

October OTP Highlights:
Best Short Distance OTP:
Acela Express- 82.8%
Northeast Regional Lynchburg service-91.9%
Capitol Corridor -95.6%
Cascades -89.1%
Empire Corridor -82.1%
Hiawatha -89.2%
Missouri-River Runner -93.5%
Pennsylvanian -88.7%

Best Long distance OTP:
Auto Train -85.5%
City of New Orleans -95.2%

Western Long Distance Trains OTP:
Southwest Chief – 72.6%
Sunset Limited -61.5%
Coast Starlight – 77.4%
California Zephyr – 58.1%
Empire Builder -41.1%
Texas Eagle -62.9%

California Corridor Trains OTP:
Capitol Corridor – 95.6%
San Joaquin -83.8%
Pacific Surfliner -73.5%

Editorials

Filling Up Passenger Trains with On-Line Ticketing

By Noel T. Braymer

Even the busiest passenger train lines don’t have full trains all of the time. More passengers on trains translates into more support for improved rail passenger service. It also brings in more money which is always needed for passenger rail service. So how can rail passenger providers fill up trains that would otherwise have empty seats? The same way that airlines and now bus companies fill up their empty seats: with online discount reserved ticketing.

Behind most modern transportation ticketing is what is called eTicketing or paperless ticketing. Most if not all airlines tickets today are “paperless”. What you get today is a Bar Code with a link to access your reservation or “ticket” on your carrier’s computer. Your Bar Code can be printed at home on a computer printer or saved on a your “smart phone”. These Bar Codes are scanned before you board your plane or bus.

On-line reservations and ticketing allows for very flexible fares. On-Line ticketing is used around the world for train travel. But here it is largely unknown. The point of online ticketing is to fill up seats that would otherwise go empty by discounting tickets on specific trains, planes or buses for a specific day, route or time while getting top dollar when demand is high and seating scarce.

Intercity Bus service ticketing in this country is now largely sold online. This reduces overhead by eliminating many staffed bus station with modest bus stops. Megabus is best known for this and their advertised $1 dollar seats. Rarely is there more than one, $1 dollar seat on a given bus and these go very quickly. But the prices for Megabus tickets (and Greyhound) vary depending on the time of day of the trip and time of the year. This is also true of most airlines when ordering tickets. Also ordering early usually saves passengers money over ordering at the last minute. This also improves the cash flow for the carriers. Since bus companies have introduced online ticketing their ridership and revenues have jumped up after years of decline.

This year Amtrak changed over to eTicketing. As routes changed over to eTicketing conductors received a smart phone with a bar code scanner. This simplified the on-board “paperwork” on the trains. The North County Transit District (NCTD) of San Diego County offers online ticketing for round trip tickets now on their Coaster Trains. However so far NCTD doesn’t offer discounted tickets online. They have sold day passes on-line for special events such as trip for baseball games. Amtrak has had a few “sales” on line but doesn’t regularly offer online discounts. For years Amtrak has raised prices on sleeping cars which are always in high demand.

In California on-line ticketing can increase ridership and revenues on local Amtrak, Metrolink, Coaster, ACE and Caltrain trains. What is particularly exciting is this can be used to attract more first time and occasional riders. It will also reduce the lines and confusion for first time or occasional riders trying to use station ticket machines which can be confusing and stressful for novices, particularly if your train is almost ready to leave.

Just as exciting is online ticketing will make it easier to sell tickets with transfers between carriers. Connecting trips could be ticketed on-line between Amtrak to ACE or Metrolink. Online ticketing would be useful for trips between Coaster, Metrolink and Amtrak. Ticketing online could provide easy connections to almost anyplace by rail and connecting buses in California.The airlines have done this now for years to gain passengers.

The biggest impact from on-line discount ticketing will be on trains that have the lowest ridership. Discounts make no sense on crowded or sold out trains. But by increasing ridership on the trains that have empty seats this can lead to increasing frequencies which will encourage more people to ride the trains to more places. Increased frequencies will mean better equipment and personal utilization and lower costs per passenger as revenues increase.

No wonder such ticketing is used by Airlines, Buses and most passenger Trains around the world, except here.

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for December 9, 2013

A 220-mph NEC? A contrarian weighs in RailwayAge Magazine (blog)-Dec 3, 2013 But as a contrarian points out, the infrastructure improvement costs of upping maximum Northeast Corridor speeds to 220 mph is equivalent to almost $1 billion per minute saved, and when one arrives a half-hour earlier at origin to await boarding, and then stands in a cab line at destination for 10 minutes, much of the train-time savings value evaporates…. The contrarian suggests Amtrak scrap its $117 billion, 220-mph vision for the Northeast Corridor and redirect scarce dollars to eliminating corridor deferred maintenance, expanding its car and locomotive fleet to accommodate growing passenger demand, and rehabilitate and improve track and signaling for long-distance trains—such as in western Kansas

December 9, 2013

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