Monthly Archives

February 2014

Editorials

Time is On the Side of Rail Passenger Service

By Noel T. Braymer

Progress for improved Rail Passenger service in California is often uneven. But through the years progress continues to be made. Track work and plans for expanding service are ongoing for the Surflners, Metrolink, Coaster, San Joaquins, ACE, Capitol Corridor and Caltrain. Rail transit service throughout the State is also improving and feeding more passengers to transportation centers served by regional and intercity passenger rail.

What is holding up faster progress for passenger rail service is, as always money: actually the lack of money. But the need for alternatives to driving is growing as the cost of driving keeps going up and traffic congestion continues to get worse. People are moving to major urban areas in California. This is for sound economic reasons since transportation costs are lower plus travel distances and travel times are shorter in urban areas with good rail service.

Recently the Federal Government granted Los Angeles $670 million dollars for the Regional Connector project. This is a $1.4 billion dollars subway tunnel under downtown Los Angeles which can now start construction and should be finished by 2020. This new tunnel will make it possible for riders on the Blue, Gold and Expo Lines to travel faster and with fewer transfers through downtown Los Angeles to and from all points of the compass. Currently for riders on the Blue, Gold or Expo Lines to transfer  between these lines requires a connection on the Red or Purple Lines between 7th and Flower to Union Station.This often requires 2 transfers and riding 3 trains. For many trips the Regional Connector will cut that to no transfers and just one train trip. It is estimated this will save 20 minutes for many riders.

This same level of direct connection is needed for rail service in California throughout the State. We have 2 big “gaps” in California for rail passenger service. One of these is along the Coast with only 1 daily train between Los Angeles and San Jose. The other is between Los Angeles and Bakersfield. For now rail passengers must transfer to buses to travel north or south of these two cities.

People travel  all throughout the State, not just in one local region or between major cities. We have seen major progress over the last 35 years for rail passenger service in Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley and Bay Area. But what is missing are good connections between these regions for rail passenger ridership to really take off.

This is where we again run into the problem of lack of money. To build just the railroad, without electrification, rolling stock and so on between Bakersfield and Palmdale is estimated to cost $10 billion dollars by the California High Speed Rail Authority. To get the UP’s cooperation to run more and faster service along the Coast will easily cost hundreds of millions of dollars. On the LOSSAN Corridor between San Diego and San Luis Obispo over the years about $2 billion dollars has already been spent and more is still needed.

To get some prospective, Los Angeles County along with the $1.4 billion for the Regional Connector is also spending $2 billion for 8.5 miles of Light Rail on their Crenshaw Line, the 6.6 mile extension of the Expo Line to Santa Monica will cost $1.5 billion and 11 miles of light from Pasadena to Azusa on the Gold Line is nearly $800 million. In addition they are also going to build 9 miles of subway to extend the Purple Line from Western Ave to Westwood at $6.3 billion dollars in the future.

That is just over 30 miles currently planned of new rail service in Los Angeles County at over $11 billion dollars. Los Angeles has plans for even more rail service. How is Los Angeles County doing this? They  get some Federal and State monies. But the majority of this funding is from local sales tax money. If Los Angeles alone can afford to build these, why can’t the State with an annual budget of over $100 billion dollars a year and an economy of over 2 trillion dollars spend more to invest in rail services and future economic growth?

What is behind the growth of rail passenger service? The secret is nothing succeeds like success. As rail passenger service improves and expands, more people demand more and better rail service.The projects now under construction are testimony of the success of past projects to improve rail service, draw more riders and grow the economy. A major project also underway in Los Angeles is the Southern California Regional Interconnector Project. This will create run-through tracks at Los Angeles Union Station (which will also undergo major improvements). These run-through tracks will increase track capacity at Union Station, reduce running times for trains to and from the station and make it possible to extend direct service through Los Angeles to more places. It will do for regional rail what the Regional Connector will do for rail transit in Los Angeles.

Expanded service on the Coast Line between Los Angeles and San Jose will lead to better connections between the Coast, Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley. This will lead to connections to Caltrain at San Jose as well as on the Capitol Corridor and ACE and the future extension of BART to San Jose. In the future we should see better connections planned as well at Union City to BART with a joint station for Capitol Corridor and ACE for faster service to Oakland and Market Street in San Francisco. As each piece fits into place, the demand for building the needed projects will grow.

 

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for February 24, 2014

Cities on the Southwest Chief line want state support Dodge City Daily Globe-Feb 20, 2014 The loss of the Southwest Chief passenger rail line would cause a substantial disruption and loss of jobs, said representatives from cities facing an end-of-year deadline to secure a plan to improve or lose the line…About 5,000 passengers per year use the depot in Dodge City despite the eastbound train arriving just after midnight and the westbound at 5 a.m. Another 7,000 use the line from Garden City. About 250,000 people ride the line each year.

February 24, 2014

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 drops amenities on long distance trains, and there’s bad news for the Southwest Chief

Commentary by Russ Jackson, RailPAC Associate Director

On February 1, 2014, Amtrak’s General Manager Long Distance Services, Mark Murphy, spoke to the RailPAC-NARP meeting in Los Angeles. While this writer was unable to attend the meeting I have viewed the video of his presentation. In it, Mr. Murphy spoke of the future of the long distance trains, and that subject is important to California because four of them serve the state, providing mobility options for those who want to travel beyond the state’s borders by train. Accompanying him were Mike Dwyer, the route director for the Coast Starlight and the Southwest Chief, and Joy Smith, Business Liaison Director of Service Excellence, long distance services. Mr. Dwyer’s contribution was the good news that the Pacific Parlour car will be continued on the Coast Starlight. Ms Smith was not heard from and that is unfortunate, as her presentation to a TXARP meeting when she was General Manaager in Texas was excellent and very well received. Mr. Murphy spoke of Amtrak’s need for more revenue and that they are “going after every dime we can get; we can’t cut our way to success.” Rail advocates in attendance loudly applauded this and the fact he stated that Amtrak earns 89-90 cents for each operating cost dollar. He proudly spoke of the “new equipment” on order, while not mentioning that those cars are the new low-levels that will be used only on the eastern trains. As for new equipment for the western trains, he only said “nothing today, but if we can show value…” meaning that the western trains still have to show their worth to the company? He wants to add capacity to “grow our revenue,” but did not say how that would be accomplished. We all know that the way to do that is to add Superliner cars as well as the new Viewliners to current consists.

As for the Food & Beverage discussion, he said he has a 5-year plan in the works to “eliminate the loss that these services generate,” is seeking “an innovative way to handle it,” and “will reach out to ‘us’!” Four days after his talk Amtrak unilaterally announced that there would be cutbacks to the amenities offered to passengers on (only) the long distance trains. Whether Mr. Murphy knew of this announcement or was left out of the loop, and whether or not the cuts are a big deal, is still to be decided, but in any case it left rail advocates looking at a black eye. Mr. Murphy confirmed the announcement in a message to RailPAC President, Paul Dyson, saying, “It was issued internally earlier this week as one piece of the overall 5 year strategy to address the food and beverage issues we briefly discussed on Saturday.” The announcement said, “The following amenity items are being eliminated and removed from long distance services.” That meant all trains, east and west. Included were the end of wine and cheese receptions on the Empire Builder, Coast Starlight (in the Pacific Parlour car) and Lake Shore Limited, no more complimentary cranberry juice and newspapers in all sleeping cars, no more amenity kits or chocolate squares on the Builder or Starlight, and no more flowers and vases on dining car tables (this had already been done on some trains). A subsequent announcement on February 26 did the same type cutting to the Auto Train. Not a big deal you say? Perhaps not, but RailPAC’s Marcus Jung noticed that it is the high revenue-yielding first class passengers that are hit with these cuts, and notice Murphy said the cuts are “one piece of the overall 5-year plan.”

So they would not be cutting their way to prosperity, and then the first thing they do is cut? Are they so afraid of certain Congressmen that all they can see is cutting, while telling everyone that they want more revenue? It doesn’t look now that there are any revenue enhancement plans. Will we be asked in advance or just expected to endorse whatever they do “in order to preserve the continuance of the trains?” It’s time all rail advocates spoke up for the riders who all deserve a clean, safe, reliable and enjoyable experience on board the Amtrak long distance trains and not let the eastern and corridor thinking at Amtrak be exclusive. If Mark Murphy means what he says it is time for “us” to hear that we have an advocate at Amtrak, not just as RailPAC’s James Smith told him at the meeting, a “marching orders” taker from the higher ups. Mr. Murphy, don’t make us long for the return of Brian Rosenwald. You told the meeting that Rosenwald’s initiatives are “still on the table.” Would Brian have approved of these cuts or seen them as the next round of what could be the end of the quality traveling experience? As RailPAC Director Bill Kerby said, “What disappoints is not the huge boulders that knock down the traveler’s anticipation for a good trip, but the small grains of sand that grind away the expectation for an excellent travel experience as the journey continues.” Paul Dyson called it “the crumbling edge of quality.”

Believe it or not, Amtrak also threw out the idea that cuts in luxuries could save the Southwest Chief. That outrageous notion gave hope to the folks along the line of that important train, which serves small communities as their primary source of travel. The discontinuance of the historic route of the Super Chief and El Capitan between Chicago and Los Angeles is reaching an almost certain bitter end and there is only a year left to save it. Colorado has been leading the way to generate support for continuing service to its southeast corner, and is calling for RailPAC’s idea of moving its route to also serve Pueblo and Walsenburg while not eliminating service to any communities in any of the three affected states. Amtrak’s CEO Joe Boardman told Pueblo Rep. Leroy Garcia that cost-cutting measures, including eliminating the amenities discussed above could “help rescue the line.” Garcia is sponsoring state legislation to create a state financing authority to “explore ways to pay for the track upgrades” necessary to preserve the line. U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) said “losing the Southwest Chief stops could be a major economic loss in southeastern Colorado.” That means the Colorado people have moved the discussion up to the Federal level and are to be congratulated. The issue has also resulted in a major national article in the New York Times. What about Kansas? Don’t expect miracles for financial support from there. New Mexico? Well, the latest report was a support funding bill had passed the lower house of the legislature, but got stuck on the last day of the session in the state Senate so is dead for now, but a bill for a $50,000 “legal study” passed and the Governor may sign that one thereby getting everyone off the hook. A big NM grass roots organization along the route was actively supporting the funding plan. The NM legislature does not meet again until next January, so the ball is back in the court of Amtrak and the host railroad, the BNSF. NM user of the train Bob Snow commented, “This is typical of NM, a chess game to avoid being the one putting in more resources than the others. Ultimately this ends up costing more money, but that’s the way they do things here. I’d bet they will come through at the eleventh hour.”

It is unbelievable that Mr. Boardman would really mean cutting amenities would raise the $100 million the BNSF has demanded for preservation of that route. It is and always has been a national system responsibility, and it is up to Amtrak to settle the issue with the railroad using Amtrak money, and the states should only pay a very small amount. Otherwise, Amtrak will have the precedent it can use to blackmail the states along all its long distance routes by having them face the elimination of their trains, just as they are doing with the corridor trains. In Trains magazine Fred Frailey revealed that the cost to Amtrak of moving to the BNSF’s “Transcon” line would be as much as preserving the old route. Does Amtrak want to serve new higher populated markets that have not had train service since 1971 or keep the loyal riders along the present Southwest Chief route? Has anyone offered the BNSF the quid pro quo of abandoning the present route between LaJunta and Trinidad in exchange for reaching the large Pueblo market which would draw Colorado riders from up to Denver? That increase in high revenue ridership alone could in the long run pay for the incremental track maintenance. This writer hates to write cranky articles. Amtrak, Mr. Boardman, and Mr. Murphy: actions speak louder than words.

CA Rail Statistics

Capitol Corridor Monthly Report (January, 2014)

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

Service Performance Overview
The service performance results in January 2014 for the Capitol Corridor were mixed. Ridership for January 2014 slightly increased 0.6% compared
with prior year-month results, while revenue was 3.8% below January 2013. On-time performance (OTP) was once again a spectacular 97%, moving year to-date (YTD) OTP up to 97%. Capitol Corridor continues to be the most reliable train service in the Amtrak system. These ridership and OTP results are even more remarkable as Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) began a night-time tie replacement project [mid-January through February 2014] that resulted in two late night trains being replaced by buses.

Initial analyses have identified ridership losses at specific stations and trains and staff has been working with our partners to address these
deficiencies:
· Sacramento Station: Meetings with the City of Sacramento have begun to determine near-term projects that can improve access; in addition, within the next 3 years, Sacramento Regional Transit anticipates its light rail platform will be relocated to the tunnel portal, which could reduce travel time between Capitol Corridor and Sac RT light rail trains by up to 50%.
· Davis Station: Discussions with the City of Davis are continuing to determine near-term efforts to increase parking at satellite locations as the current Depot lot is filled by 7am on weekdays.
· Trains serving Placer County stations (one in each direction): Meetings have begun with local transit bus agencies in Placer County to review the feasibility of coordinated schedules and fares with the one Capitol Corridor train to/from Sacramento.
· Midday weekday and weekend trains: Targeted promotions have been initiated, and staff is awaiting results from Amtrak.

FY 14-15 Draft State Budget
The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) formed a work group to establish priorities for transportation expenditures and evaluate how state government can best direct and assist in the development of high priority investments that will meet the state’s infrastructure needs. To that end, the CalSTA Secretary and this stakeholder group developed a plan titled “California Transportation Investment Priorities” (CTIP). The Governor’s
Draft FY 14-15 Budget (released on January 9, 2014), using input from the CTIP team, recommends focusing on three areas: maintaining existing
transportation infrastructure, modernizing rail, and supporting local governments as they implement sustainable community’s plans pursuant to SB 375.

· CA Intercity Passenger Rail Operating Budget – The Governor’s Draft FY 14-15 Budget provides funding of $108.9 million to support the operation on the three intercity passenger rail routes (San Joaquin, Pacific Surfliner and Capitol Corridor), which is equal to last year’s FY 13-14 budget. The Governor’s draft budget may be updated as part of the May Revise based on Amtrak’s submittal of final FY 14-15 operating (and ridership and revenue) estimates which are expected from Amtrak in late March 2014.

· Cap and Trade Auction Proceeds – The Governor’s Draft FY 14-15 Budget also includes $400 million in revenues from Cap and Trade auction proceeds:
– $300 million for Rail Modernization: $250 million for the California High Speed Rail Authority to start construction of high speed train system in the Central Valley plus $50 million for Caltrans’ allocation of competitive grants for existing rail transit agencies to integrate rail systems and provide connectivity to HST.
– $100 million for Sustainable Communities Strategies: Strategic Growth Council will allocate these funds to support investments towards the implementation of SB 375 sustainable communities strategies (i.e., transit and transit?oriented development, active transportation).

Select Committee on Passenger Rail (Senate and Assembly)
On January 22, 2014, the State Senate Rules Committee approved the formation of the Senate Select Committee on Passenger Rail. State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has been appointed as Chair of the Select Committee with Senator Mark DeSaulnier, serving as Vice-Chair. Other committee members include Senator Marty Block, Senator Anthony Cannella, Senator Cathleen Galgiani, Senator Jerry Hill, Senator Carol Liu, and Senator Alex Padilla. The first hearing of the select committee is planned in Spring 2014. The Guiding Principles adopted by the CCJPA Board were used to help formulate the mission of the select committee, which will examine investment (from state and federal and local funds) to (1) continue the success of the state’s IPR services and (2) ensure investment also supports an integrated passenger rail network of intercity, commuter and high speed trains.

Customer Service Program Upgrades
· February 17, 2014 Timetable/Schedule Change: The CCPA implemented a timetable change on February 17, 2014 to coincide with UPPR’s completion of its tie renewal program (between Richmond and Martinez). Highlights of this timetable change are later start times for the last night train (weekday and weekend) out of the Bay Area to Sacramento in order to provide travel home options for Capitol Corridor passengers attending weekday Oakland A’s and Raiders night games as well as weekend evening events in San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland.
· CCJPA Bicycle Access Program: Retrofitting of cab cars in the Northern California fleet for additional bike storage has been completed, but before the Bicycle Access Program can be launched, each of these cab cars must have Positive Train Control hardware installed, which is scheduled for completion in May 2014. This will allow each Capitol Corridor train to have a cab/bike car (the 8300-series or 6400-series) and a coach/bike car (the 8200 series) in position #1 of each weekday train consist, therefore nearly doubling the storage capacity for bikes on each train (from 15 to 29 spaces). For at-station bicycle amenities, the CCJPA is completing the funding request materials, specifically the environmental documentation, to obtain $556,000 from the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to install the eLockers and folding bicycle rental systems. CTC action is anticipated no later than May 2014.
· eTicketing Upgrades: At the CCJPA’s request, in January 2014 Amtrak has launched conductor wireless printers for seat-checks and sales receipts as well as software upgrades to allow for print-at-home multi-ride tickets, which can be stored on mobile devices.
· Improvements to CCJPA Website and Automated Interactive Voice Response System. Staff has begun the procurement process to update the CCJPA website and improve the CCJPA train status web/mobile device application. Once a vendor is selected, it is anticipated that these updates will be done in 6 to 8 weeks (late Spring 2014).

Safety Initiatives
· Safety Fences: With the approval of Phase 2 of the 2013 Fencing and Security Enhancements project, a total of 15,802 feet of fencing will be constructed along the Capitol Corridor in 2014.
· Positive Train Control. Installation of the PTC equipment on the state-owned equipment is currently proceeding with all locomotives equipped and installation on cab cars underway (~80% complete). Completion is expected by April 2014.

Project Updates
· Sacramento to Roseville 3rd Track Environmental Review/Preliminary Engineering: A variety of design options along the existing route between Sacramento and the Roseville area have been considered which mainly involve on which side of UPRR’s track right-of-way would accommodate the planned 3rd track with the optimal location for the Roseville Station at its current location. Within the vicinity of the station, the project team is evaluating the potential locations for layover facility/yard that does not jeopardize the operation of the UPRR’s Roseville Yard. The CCJPA anticipates that a Notice of Preparation (NOP), which launches the environmental documentation, will be initiated in approximately April 2014. An extensive public participation will be launched along with the NOP. This public participation process includes hosted meetings in the Roseville and Sacramento areas plus an extensive online presence with other tools and public participation opportunities for people to interact with the project on their own time.
· Oakland-San Jose Phase 2 Track Project. CCJPA staff is currently in negotiations at this time with BART staff assisting with the normal audit of the top team’s compensation rates. A signed contract between CCJPA and the selected vendor is expected by mid-February 2014. The team will be responsible, on a task order issued basis, for leading the design and environmental effort for a series of sub-projects that will be part of the overall Oakland to San Jose Phase 2 track improvements.

Marketing Update:

Outlook – Closing: Ridership for the Capitol Corridor for the first third of the FY2014 (October 2013-January 2014) is slightly below FY2013 YTD and revenue has dropped 3%, which in turn has reduced the system operating ratio to 49%. Yet other service performance sectors — on-time performance and customer satisfaction — are increasing. UPRR has been able to maintain its commitment to superior OTP for the Capitol Corridor, which has resulted in the lowest amount of delay minutes in the Amtrak system. Staff will continue to analyze and implement feasible scheduling options to improve system performance [increased ridership/revenues, reduced operating costs] while ensuring that the Capitol Corridor remains a safe, customer-focused, reliable, premier intercity passenger rail service.

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for February 18, 2014

As things stand there is $9.95 Billion dollars in Bonds for High Speed Rail as well as $3.4 Billion from the Federal Government. From the Bond money $1.9 billion is for projects outside of the San Joaquin Valley including transit projects, positive train control and track upgrades to existing rail services. The Cap and Trade funding the Governor is talking about for High Speed Rail would go towards the $10 billion needed to extend track construction south of Bakersfield to Palmdale and “bridge the gap” between Northern and Southern California by passenger rail. There is $4 billion left for this in the Bond money which leaves $6 billion that might come from Cap and Trade. So what would happen if we cancel the High Speed Rail Project tomorrow? We would throw away the Federal Funding for starters. The Bond money would be gone too. NB

February 18, 2014

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

Capitol Corridor’s Expansion Plans

By Noel T. Braymer

After years of planning, the Capitol Corridor hopes to soon start construction needed to extend service 68 miles south of San Jose to Salinas. It is hoped by 2018 to start with 2 round trips a day with expansion in the future to 6 round trips. As part of this extension of the Capitol Corridor, track improvements will also be needed between Oakland and San Jose. This will include double tracking of the line, new connections with BART and ACE as well as increasing the daily number of round trip trains between San Jose to Oakland from 7 round trips up to 11.

In addition to a new terminal at Salinas, there will stops at Gilroy and new stations at Castroville and Pajaro/Watsonville. Engineering and land acquisition are now underway with plans for construction to start in 2015. This extension will besides relieving some of the traffic on Highway 101 will also stimulate development in the area and improve the cost recovery for the Capitol Corridor.

Cap Cor 2014 Salinas A

 

Click on graphics for an enlarged view.

Cap Cor 2014 Salinas B

 

Graphics prepared by the Transportation Authority for Monterey County (TAMA)

Even more complicated than extended service to Salinas will be the double tracking needed between Oakland and San Jose. The following is a chart from the current Capitol Corridor Business Planned released in March 2013

Cap Cor 2014 Bz Plan for 2013

The current total capital budget for the Capitol Corridor is $118.71 million dollars. The money for the construction in this budget for double tracking between San Jose and Oakland is $50.85 million dollars.This money is expected to come out of the Prop 1A money which is also for construction of High Speed Rail. But this is not enough to fully double track between San Jose and Oakland.

Cap Cor 2014 Capital plans

This graphic is of the unfunded projects for the Capitol Corridor as of March 2013. It is for over $900 million dollars of unfunded projects.Of this $313.60 million is for full double tracking between San Jose and Oakland in addition to the $50.85 million depending on Prop 1A Bond money. To build a new station on tracks next to the Union City BART Station and connection to BART with the Capitol Corridor and ACE, will cost an additional $221 million dollars out of the over $900 million of unfunded projects.

Cap Cor Reroute

This graphic shows what is proposed to connect both Capitol Corridor and ACE corridor trains to BART at Union City. The yellow line is the BART Line. The Blue Line is the current route of the Capitol Corridor between Oakland and Fremont. The Red line is the new alignment for both the Capitol Corridor and ACE for a joint station at the existing BART Union City Station and transfer point. The Shin Connection is a proposed new track connection to the existing line from the proposed rerouted alignment next to BART. The Green Line is the route used to get to San Jose now south of Fremont now by the Capitol Corridor. One alternative was studied to use this line for double tracking and reducing running times between Oakland and San Jose. This would have bypassed Fremont and Hayward.

All of these projects are exciting and will greatly increase ridership on these trains. But an ongoing battle for funding new projects has seen reduced funding in the last few years, not more. This is part of a longer range trend which has cut back spending on infrastructure as the existing infrastructure continues to age and fall apart while transportation demands continue to grow with congestion. Economic growth needed to provide jobs in the future is also stunted by lack of funding as is efforts to transition from an oil based economy.

 

Editorials

Passenger Trains are Good for Business

By Noel T. Braymer

All cities are economic centers. As such they are also major hubs of transportation. Cities are always found at ports, major rivers, rail and road junctions as well near mountain passes: anyplace where there is transportation by water, surface or air. In the 19th century, towns fought to have railroads built in their towns so” grass wouldn’t grow in their streets”. We are again seeing towns and cities fighting to get rail passenger service and stations. They understand what a difference rail service can make to their local economy.

The towns of Grand Forks, Devils Lake and Rugby in North Dakota have been affected by the recent problems the Empire Builder has been having running on time due to track congestion from increased oil train traffic. Recently these 3 towns have temporarily lost rail service as the Builder has been rerouted due to track congestion. This has been bad for business. Just one example for 19 years in Devils Lake, Woodland Resorts has had a Perch Express fishing package with travel on the Empire Builder. With trains often running up to 18 hours late, anglers are being told to drive.

This may be a small example of the impact of rail service. But it is a big deal to the economies of these small towns. Now multiply that by hundreds of these towns across the country and these add up. Many small towns in remote areas are losing jobs and population around the country.

The City of Pueblo, Colorado is doing something about this. They are seeking to have rail passenger service extended to their city by rerouting the Southwest Chief. For this to even happen, Pueblo is supporting efforts to keep the Chief in Colorado. That means money needs to be found to bring the tracks in New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas back up to passenger rail standards or service will end in these States after 2015. Rerouting the Chief to Pueblo and fixing the existing tracks to there will cost extra: is this worth it?

Pueblo County commissioned an economic study of the economic impact of the Southwest Chief to the region by 2 Professors of Business at Colorado State University-Pueblo. Their findings based on the current annual ridership of 6,300 visitors on the Chief to southern Colorado is it now creates $5.7 million dollars a year in spending. Over a 10 years period that’s $57 million dollars. This is based on the multiplier effect when spending stimulates additional spending. Current estimates of the costs per state to repair the Chief’s route spread across 5 states is $40 million dollars each which would include Colorado. Adding Pueblo as a stop to the Chief is estimated to cost $31 million dollars but would increase ridership in Colorado. This should return more in revenue than the cost of the reroute.

To see what the effect is of adding and improving rail passenger service one need only look the many transportation centers built with rail service since 1984. It was in 1984 that the first intermodal transportation center was opened in Oceanside. RailPAC’s Byron Nordberg was the “Father” of the Oceanside Transportation Center. He first proposed this in 1969, two years before the start up of Amtrak.

Oceanside had the first facility in California built around rail passenger service also with intercity bus and local transit bus service. It has since grown to include commuter and transit rail. Doing this makes transfers between modes much easier and increases ridership on all travel modes. There was more to this project than just improving rail and bus service around downtown Oceanside.

In 1969 the area around downtown Oceanside was seedy. It was run down with a freight rail yard at the train station. Much of the area was zoned for light industry which were run down and didn’t pay much in local taxes. Downtown Oceanside was mostly known for numerous bars, prostitutes and crime. But the area around the train station was near the beach and the city pier which were major assets if the city could transform itself into a beach resort.

Oceanside in late 1983 at the old train station just before the opening of the Transportation Center

Oceanside in late 1983 at the old train station just before the opening of the Transportation Center

Byron was a member of the local chamber of commerce. He pitched his idea for a transportation center to the chamber, which then presented it to the city. The city’s transportation center was made the keystone of the redevelopment plan to turn Oceanside into a seaside resort which would bring in more business and money than the status quo in 1969.

To accomplish this the rail yard had to be relocated. The area rezoned and slowly the run down industrial buildings and vacant lots were replaced with new housing. Prostitution and crime has since been greatly reduced and new stores and attractions added. A major part of the plan was the building of resort hotels near the transportation center to bring in more visitors. Not all of this was accomplished by 1984. But though the years this masterplan has been achieved. Here are quotes from the Seaside Courier for February 9, 2014 from an article titled “Transformation of downtown Oceanside moves into high gear: …The next piece in downtown Oceanside’s transformation from a backwater into a regional tourist destination is set to open Feb. 11…The 149-room Springhill Suites by Marriott hotel, at 110 N. Myers St., will include meeting space, a rooftop pool with sweeping ocean views, a new entry into Oceanside’s culinary scene with the Hello Betty Fish House, and interior spaces decorated with the works of local artists….The hotel was built on a formerly vacant lot just a couple of blocks from the beach. …One block – adjacent to the pier – was developed several years ago with a Wyndham resort, which includes two restaurants. Plans are in the works for additional development, including a beachfront resort on two blocks bounded by North Pacific and North Myers streets, Pier View Way and Seagaze Drive. …The hotel’s proximity to the Oceanside Transit Center allows visitors from Orange County or Los Angeles to take the train south for a “carless vacation,” Maola said.”

A recent view of Oceanside with the 2 resort hotels in the backgrownd

A recent view of Oceanside with the 2 resort hotels in the background

Is it any wonder that just in California there are major upgrades to stations in the big cities. Los Angeles County recently bought Los Angeles Union Station. Not only are there plans to expand rail and bus service at the station, but also major commercial redevelopment in and around the station which preserving the historic buildings. San Francisco is building the Transbay Center as its downtown transportation center which will be the new terminal for Caltrain and High Speed Rail. In Anaheim that city will open later this year it’s Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center or ARTIC. It will serve Disneyland area, Anaheim Stadium, the Honda Center and a local population of almost a million people.

A drawing of current planning for new tracks and possible new building around Los Angles Union Station

A drawing of current planning for new tracks and possible new building around Los Angeles Union Station

Rail passenger service isn’t just good for the ecology, it is good for business plus creating jobs and wealth.

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for February 10, 2014

RailPAC for the record is non-partisan. Before 2009, High Speed Rail and transportation in general were also non-partisan issues. The bill creating the California High Speed Rail Authority was signed by Republican Governor Pete Wilson. Prop 1A with the bond money for the High Speed Rail Project was put on the 2008 ballot by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Federal Program for funding High Speed Rail nationally had been around long before 2009 and most of the planning for it was done during the administration of  Republican President George W. Bush. Strong supporters in 2008 for High Speed Rail projects in their States were the then Republican Governors of Wisconsin and Florida.

February 10, 2014

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 up with California High Speed Rail?

Analysis by Noel T. Braymer

In almost a matter of hours this January there were 2 news stories about the California High Speed Rail Authority. First that they would soon order High Speed trainsets with Amtrak. The second that the Authority and the Governor were seeking an appeal to the California Supreme Court to overturn the lower court ruling which is currently blocking bond sales for the State’s funding of construction of High Speed Rail.

It seems odd that the California High Speed Rail Authority would start ordering equipment now when it could be another 8 or more years before they would be needed. The trainset order could have been as part of a larger order to be given to a consortium of contractors. It would be expected that such a consortium would come from major contractors from the same country. So if say a consortium of Chinese Companies with American partners won the contract, it would also be for electrification, signalling, maintenance yards and the contract for the operation of the service. This could also include the consortium helping to finance the project.

A major reason for ordering equipment now is by law High Speed Trainsets must be built in this country in order to qualify for Federal funds for constructions of a High Speed Railroad. Amtrak is also in the market for equipment for speeds over 125 miles per hour.The California High Speed Rail Authority is the only other potential customer for such High Speed Rail equipment in this country. To improve the chances of having an order big enough to interest a car builder for this contract Amtrak and the Authority are combining their orders now.

The issue of buying American was the main reason given by the Department of Transportation for not granting a loan to XpressWest for construction of High Speed Rail on Interstate 15 from Las Vegas to Southern California. Perhaps if XpressWest were to join in this High Speed Rail car order with Amtrak and the California High Speed Rail Authority they might be able to qualify for a Federal Loan.

Amtrak and the California High Speed Rail Authority needs for High Speed equipment requirements are different. Amtrak needs a tilt-train with high level platform loading for a top speed of 160 miles per hour. Amtrak has admitted that 160 miles per hour is the fastest they can economically operate service on the NEC with the existing railroad. Amtrak has long range plans to build new alignments on the NEC for higher speeds, but there is nothing definite. Previous estimates by Amtrak were in the 100 billion dollars plus range for a rebuilt NEC.

Tilt train cars are not as wide as a standard rail car because of clearance issues. This reduces passenger capacity on tilt cars. There is no word if the California High Speed Rail Authority is planning to use tilt trains. The Authority was planning to run up to 220 miles per hour and planned to test equipment up to 250 miles per hour. The top speed for the cars of this order may be 200 miles per hour. If the Authority buys cars with high level platform loading this will make it difficult for these trains to share stations or tracks with the rest of the California Rail Passenger system. With car orders, car builders can modify cars to some degree for buyers needs with the same basic rail car.

The decision to appeal directly to the California Supreme Court on the state bonds for High Speed Rail ruling seemed sudden. But perhaps it shouldn’t have been unexpected. The San Joaquin Valley farm owners behind these lawsuits are willing to drag out this issue as long as they can. By getting a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court overruling the lower Court, this would cut short future attempts by the farm owners to continue appealing to try to further delay this project. The California Supreme Court has given the Court of Appeals the job to rule on this issue this month.

In the roughly last 3 years of the Brown Administration, politics in Sacramento have been fairly boring. State Budgets are being passed on time and are balanced. There is even a budget surplus now. The economy is slowly but surely growing and unemployment is slowly going down. Governor Brown is aware that the support he has doesn’t run very deep with the general public. Because of this he has been very cautious not to upset swing voters with controversial programs, even when this has upset elected officials in his own party.

This has been bad news for the media. The 2014 State elections are coming up soon. The Media thrives on an exciting and contentious election race. Also their advertising income increases during an elections with political ads. These ad revenues particularly go way up if an election race is close and both side buy more political ads to try to win the election.

Even though the Governor hasn’t announce if he is running in 2014, he does have campaign funds in the bank. There are no strong candidate in either party to run against him. In most elections the incumbent usually win re-elections. About the only issue that the media can find to try to use against the Brown Administration is High Speed Rail to try to create a contentious election campaign..

Despite years of constant negative stories against the High Speed Rail Project, support for the project is still fairly strong with the voters. Even the polls which have been run which were biased against the project shows almost a major of possible voters supporting still supporting it. Most transportation ballot measures in California get a majority vote of approval. When these measures lose, it is usually by barely failing to get a two-thirds majority needed for a tax increase. When these measures lose it is often within one percent of the two-thirds needed to win. Once construction can get underway the chances of stopping this project by its opponents will greatly diminish.

For the farm owners of the San Joaquin Valley, the biggest issue now and always is water, not trains. San Joaquin Valley farms are by far the greatest users of water in the State and are not prepared for the drought the State is in. Critical for the farm owners to getting water is their continued dominance of local politics in the San Joaquin Valley. The biggest threat to the farm owners by high speed rail service comes from potential loss of their political power. This is because with high speed rail service will come economic growth unrelated to farming in the Valley. This will also mean population growth in the cities with stations from people with jobs unrelated to farming.

The legal argument for releasing the bonds for High Speed Rail construction by the Brown Administration is that once the legislature approves the bonds their decision is final. Their argument is this has years of legal precedent, since the legislature represent the voters they express the will of the voters. The administration is saying that for a court to continue to block release of these bonds will create a precedent which could cause any minority to be able to block government activity and create a constant state of legal gridlock. We will soon see how these legal arguments play out.

eNewsletter

eNewsletter for February 3, 2014

There are many places that would benefit from extended rail service. The limiting factor as always is funding. The 8.5 mile Crenshaw Line is costing 2 Billion dollars. What would greatly improve this line as a service would be to extend it south of Imperial Highway on the existing Green Line. In the future this could be extended to Torrance. To the north if the Crenshaw Line were extended west on the Expo Line it could serve more of the Westside for travel to LAX and reduce traffic on the I-405 freeway. This won’t be easy now to do since the Crenshaw Line will go under the Expo Line. Instead passenger are expected to transfer at the joint station at different levels. NB

February 3, 2014

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