Here are this month’s photos by RailPAC photographers. Click on each photo to see it full size! Contributions to this page are welcome. Send your jpeg rail photos to Russ Jackson, RailPAC Photo Editor, at email@example.com.
Work is underway at the Sacramento Valley Station, as experts begin to restore the historic mural. Small portions of the mural itself have been cleaned away, revealing an unexpectedly bright piece of historic artwork. (City of Sacramento caption and photo, courtesy Chuck Robuck.)
This is the main waiting room at Los Angeles Union Station on March 21, 2014. They have removed some of the seats, which will be restored. On the back wall can be seen the new arrival/departure display monitors, which will replace the large board in the tunnel entrance-way. This photo was taken standing next to the newsstand. (Photo and caption by Noel Braymer.)
The men in the red blazers and yellow ties aare “Information Ambassadors”, but are really security guards at Los Angeles Union Station, standing in the “east portal.” These “uniforms” are supposed to make them look more friendly. (Photo by Noel Braymer.)
RailPAC Associate Director Anthony Lee visited the Dallas area in mid-March, and rode the DART light rail system. Here he is waiting for a Green Line train to arrive at the Trinity Mills station. DART will open its Orange Line extension to DFW Airport in August, four months early, with that station at Terminal A, providing direct service to downtown Dallas. (Russ Jackson photo.)
Story and Photos By Noel T. Braymer
Most modern train stations are little more than parking lots with platforms far away from someplace people want to go to. Your busier stations are transportation centers with good connections to other trains and other travel modes like bus and rail transit. Few train stations today are destinations. People often travel for fun to go to places that are interesting with things to see and do; not because they have to go there. More people will ride the train when it is the best way to go to popular destinations.
Great rail destinations are places that developed around their train stations. In Southern California I can name towns such at San Juan Capistrano, Clairemont, Fullerton and the City of Orange where their old train stations are near or in the heart of the historic part of town. Another city like this is Pasadena.
A typical street in Old Pasadena
Pasadena today has light rail service on the Gold Line which runs every 6 to 12 minutes most of the day from Los Angeles Union Station between Pasadena and East Los Angeles. The right of way of the Gold Line between Pasadena and Union Station was the old route of the Santa Fe Railroad for the Super Chief to Chicago between Los Angeles and San Bernardino. With connections at Union Station from Amtrak, Metrolink plus the Red and Purple Metrorail lines, there are many places to get to Pasadena by rail.
This was the route of the Santa Fe Railroad in old Pasadena. The Gold Line in downtown Pasadena was built under the right of way.
For most of the first half of the 20th Century, Pasadena was an affluent and pleasant place to live and visit. It was well served by the Santa Fe Railroad where many passengers from the east stayed at the nearby luxury Hotel Green. Pasadena was also a major market for the Pacific Electric Interurban Railroad. Henry Huntington, founder of the Pacific Electric built his mansion near Pasadena in San Marino.
After World War II Pasadena went downhill. Even though the first freeway in California was built between Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles, cars were not kind to Pasadena. Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley in general became known for high smog levels trapped by the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. This plus new housing and buildings near the freeways lead to many people moving away. The old turn of the 20th Century brick buildings in downtown Pasadena lost tenants and in the 60’s and 70’s were rundown and underused.
Something new in Old Pasadena is this diagonal crosswalk where all the cars stop and people cross in any direction.
In recent years this has turned around. Downtown Pasadena is now called Old Pasadena. Old Pasadena has now become a hip place to hang out. Air quality has improved greatly since the 60’s and 70’s. Younger people are moving to urban areas to drive less as traffic becomes more congested and driving more expensive. The opening of the Gold Line makes it easier to get to Old Pasadena. With limited and often expensive parking and congested freeways the trains is often the best way to get to Old Pasadena.
A recent photo of the restored former Santa Fe Station in Old Pasadena
There are 2 Gold Line Stations that serve Old Pasadena. The Del Mar Station is south of Colorado Blvd which is the main street of Pasadena and site of the Rose Parade. At the Del Mar Station is the old Santa Fe Station which has been rebuilt and is today a restaurant. Come hungry when you go to Old Pasadena because there are many places there to eat and drink. The area around the Del Mar Station has also seen much recent redevelopment with the opening of the Gold Line. Also near the Del Mar Station is the Castle Green a surviving piece of the old Hotel Green which has been restored as condos. It is often used now by Hollywood for filming and for wedding receptions.
The view of the old Santa Fe Station in Pasadena from the Del Mar Gold Line Station.
The Memorial Park Gold Line Station in Old Pasadena.
Memorial Park Station is the next station just north of Colorado Blvd and is in the heart of Old Pasadena. On one side is Memorial Park which is a major city park in Pasadena. Just down the way from the Station is the impressive City Hall of Pasadena. At the station is a major housing complex built as part of the Memorial Park Station.Walking in almost any direction from the Memorial Park Station are old restored buildings along tree line streets with over 200 specialty shops and over 100 restaurants of every style of cuisine.
This is the northern part of a map of Old Pasadena from the Old Pasadena Website. Click on image to enlarge
This is the southern part of the map of Old Pasadena
Squirrel Blamed for San Jose Power Outage NBC Bay Area – Mar 19, 2014
One of the customers affected was Caltrain’s San Jose dispatching center, according to Tell. The outage caused the dispatching center to fail and led trains to stop, causing major system-wide delays.
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Reported by David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director
Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority
Service Performance Overview
Capitol Corridor ridership and revenue for February 2014 were slightly below last February’s results: -1.6% and -2.7%, respectively. A total of 104,308 trips were made on the Capitol Corridor in February 2014 vs. 105,964 in February 2013. I attribute this decline in ridership to night-time track work performed by Union Pacific Railroad between Richmond and Martinez, which resulted in substituting the two last weekday trains (#548 and #551) with buses between Oakland and Sacramento. We greatly appreciate UPRR performing this much needed state-of-good repair at night instead of midday, which would have meant running fewer trains, resulting in larger ridership losses. This track work is expected to be completed in mid-March.
On-Time Performance (OTP) slipped to 92%, primarily due to Amtrak mechanical delays in the first week of February and delays to evening trains passing through the UPRR track work area. Reliability significantly increased from 87% in the first half of the month to 92% in the latter part of February. The operating ratio was 53% in February 2014 keeping the year-to-date (YTD) ratio at 50%, below plan of 53% due to YTD revenues being below projection.
Work continues to address ridership losses at specific stations and trains as follows:
FY 14-15 Draft State Budget
The Governor’s Draft FY 14-15 Budget was released on January 9, 2014, which included the California State Transportation agency’s (CalSTA) recommendations to focus this year’s budget on three areas: maintaining existing transportation nfrastructure, modernizing rail, and supporting local governments as they implement sustainable communities’ plans pursuant to SB 375.
Select Committee on Passenger Rail (Senate and Assembly)
The Select Committee had its first hearing on March 19, 2014. Initial comments from committee members and others indicated that the first hearing was a success. A more detailed summary will be provided next month. A second hearing is planned later in spring (perhaps May). Two documents were developed and prepared by the California Intercity Passenger Rail (CIPR) leadership (Chairs, Vice Chairs, senior staff of the CCJPA, LOSSAN JPA, San Joaquin JPA, and emerging IPR corridor agencies) and distributed at the hearing [California Intercity Passenger Rail 2014 Report and List of Supporters]. Efforts continue to develop a similar committee in the Assembly.
Customer Service Program Upgrades
Outlook – Closing: Ridership for the Capitol Corridor for the first four months of FY2014 (October 2013-February 2014) is slightly below [-0.6%] FY2013 YTD and revenue is 3% below. Fuel expenses are slightly under budget; however, revenues are under projections, leading the system operating ratio to be at 50% rather than the forecasted 53%. Other key service performance sectors — on-time performance and customer satisfaction — are exceptional. UPRR has been able to meet its goal for OTP on the Capitol Corridor and monthly customer ratings of the service remain in the top five of the Amtrak system. Staff continues to work with Amtrak to develop scheduling options that will improve system performance for the Capitol Corridor [increased ridership/revenues, reduced operating costs] while keeping the operation of the trains safe, reliable and customer-focused.
By Noel T. Braymer
Most of the attention now in the San Joaquin Valley is focused on High Speed Rail Construction. This would build 130 miles of new railroad between Madrea and Bakersfield in the next few years. This railroad would be first used for up to 11 express San Joaquin round trip trains a day with new equipment capable of speed up to 125 miles per hour and running before 2020. But there are also longer range plans to expand San Joaquin service and increase speeds of the trains on the current route up to 90 miles per hour from the current 79 miles per hour. In the future the plan is to increase Bakersfield to Oakland frequencies from 4 to between 6 to 10 round trips a day. There are also long term plans to increase the current 2 round trips from Bakersfield to Sacramento up to 6 round trips a day. But for any of this to happen will require track improvements. Here is what is planned and is available in the San Joaquin Valley.
In an article published in the Fresno Bee on March 4, 2013, it was reported that in the 2013 Draft of the California State Rail Plan that $560 million dollars was proposed to be spend on the San Joaquin Train route independent of High Speed Rail. Overall $2.7 billion dollars was being proposed over the next 20 years. The following is what is planned up to 2020 as it effects both the San Joaquin Trains as well as ACE which are the two passenger rail services in the San Joaquin Valley.
Currently work is ongoing for $24.5 million dollars towards Positive Train Control between Bakersfield and Port Chicago. There are also plans to build a layover facility to terminate and turnaround trains at Fresno to Oakland for $14.6 million dollars. Also under construction now is double tracking between Port Chicago in the upper San Francisco Bay southwest to Oakley on the BNSF. This is a $55 million dollar project.
In the last year administration of the San Joaquin trains has begun to be turned over to the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission from Caltrans. The Rail Commission also manages the Altamont Corridor Express or ACE trains between Stockton and San Jose. Many of the plans for the San Joaquin trains are being carried over from planning by Caltrans over the years. The same basic problem Caltrans had is also being carried over to the Rail Commission: limited funding for the track improvements needed to expand service.
Notice that many of these projects as of 2013 had not been funded.
Among the projects proposed by the Rail Commission are trains terminating in Fresno. This would allow earlier arrivals and latter departures from Oakland and the Bay Area for passengers from Fresno north. Also being looked at in the short term are additional stations. This could include extending service to the Oakland Coliseum Capitol Corridor Station with connections to BART and the Oakland Airport. Also stations are being considered in Hercules, Berkeley, 65th St. Sacramento, Elk Grove, North Fresno and Northwest Bakersfield.
In the near term (before 2020) there is planning for a 7th and then an 8th daily train. These will need track improvements before they can be run. There is discussion of more frequent and improved service to Sacramento. As of 2013 many of these projects needed to expand service had yet to be funded. It is hard to predict when such funding will be available.
This us current plan for ACE for track improvements and service extensions.
In the future ACE plans to connect more with San Joaquin trains and future High Speed Rail service.This will also require additional funding for these improvements which ACE is hoping will be funded as part of the High Speed Rail project. The plan for ACE over roughly the next ten years is to increase the current frequencies of 4 up first to 6 and then 10 round trips between Stockton and San Jose. In addition there are plans to extend service first to Modesto on the UP and then to Merced to connect in the future with the first operating segment of High Speed Rail. ACE had long term plans to run up to Sacramento. It even has an agreement with the UP for service between Stockton and Sacramento. For the present it looks like that will be handled in the future by the San Joaquins.
This is much of the proposed spending for ACE needed for future expansion.
One of the changes coming to Union Station will be the end of Gates E and F at the mouth of the tunnel to the platforms.Amtrak passengers now wait in line behind these gates for their trains. Amtrak passengers will be encouraged to sit in the waiting room until their train is called. This will reduce congestion in the tunnel. Also large electronic signs displaying train arrivals and departures will be placed in the waiting room, so passenger won’t need to use the ones at the mouth of the tunnel which also makes congestion worse. NB
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Report and Commentary by Russ Jackson and Andrew C. Selden, URPA
Amtrak published its budget request for the year beginning October, 2014, on March 18. To read the full document, go to this site: http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/412/537/Amtrak-FY2015-Federal-Budget-Request-ATK-14-028,0.pdf In summary, here is what Amtrak has in store for the western Long Distance Business Line, which includes the Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, and Sunset Limited that all serve the west coast.
In the words of Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman, “Amtrak’s fifteen long distance routes are the backbone of our system. Their principal mission is connectivity, and it is an increasingly important one to communities that have been losing their bus and air connections at a steady pace over the last decade. Our trains connect rural communities with major metropolitan areas, and afford our passengers a wide range of destinations – a service that has become increasingly important as air and bus options have contracted in many states. Since 1998, long distance ridership has grown by roughly 20%, without the introduction of any new services, frequencies, or equipment; FY 2013 ridership reached its highest point in twenty years.”
We certainly agree with that. Mr. Boardman recognizes, at least on paper, that the long distance trains are important. But then he goes on to totally change the picture for their future. “Long Distance service costs have been offset in recent years by revenues from our Northeast Corridor services, Amtrak is proposing in FY 2015 that the Federal Government provide for the totality of their operating need, $618 million, as part of our FY2015 operating need. Like the Northeast Corridor, these trains will require significant capital investment, with a total identified FY 2015 need of $295 million. Our Superliner cars, which are used in long distance service, are probably the hardest-run passenger equipment in North America, with the average car traveling an annual distance equal to seven trips around the world.”
Where are the proposals for growth of the Long Distance trains to help offset the “costs” he describes? All he wants is more Government money! And, he is not likely to get it from a frugal Congress. So, where are the growth plans for new cars for the western trains? All we have seen is the order for new low-level cars that will only be run on the eastern Long Distance trains. Where are the plans for increasing revenues by adding additional cars to already sold out trains? Where are the plans for protection of the Southwest Chief? All he does in this document is state that problem and welcome the states’ participation. What are the plans for making the Cardinal daily, and the Sunset Limited daily and extended back to Florida? This document, which will never be adopted by the Congress in its entirety, does propose some interesting ideas, but there is no doubt that adoption of those ideas will further put the Long Distance trains at risk by being beholden to the actions of future Congresses, while the NEC is not!
As for the Northeast Corridor (NEC), Mr. Boardman is wrong about his analysis. Here is what Andrew C. Selden says is the real picture: “Joe Boardman should star in The Music Man–he’s that good a “salesman.” Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor is its smallest, weakest and most heavily subsidized segment, according to Amtrak’s own numbers, when ranked by transportation output rather than mere transaction volume; and if one adds all of the NEC’s costs not just its direct, variable, costs, the NEC has no “profits”–it is a net consumer of federal subsidy totalling more than $600 million a year. The long distance trains are Amtrak’s largest, strongest and least-subsidized division, by the same yardsticks. The long distance group produced 1.55 times the output of the entire NEC in FY’13, and any two of the western long distance routes outperformed the entire Acela operation. Mr. Boardman apparently doesn’t want anyone to know that. The NEC doesn’t even have much social value, either, as it suffers a 52% load factor, and a market share for intercity transport of less than 2%. The long distance trains run statistically nearly sold out, and in many cases have market shares (in their respective travelsheds) of as much as 5%.”
For further analysis of these factors, see Mr. Selden’s complete analysis of the 2013 year at Amtrak on: http://www.unitedrail.org/2014/02/04/amtrak2013results/
Unfortunately, many rail advocacy groups and particularly the Congress are too lazy to want to look beyond what Amtrak tells them and will instead concentrate on mundane things like the Food & Beverage service “losses,” or having pets on board the trains. The high revenue-generating western Long Distance trains are therefore doomed to mediocracy while the NEC will flourish and whatever Amtrak says is their “profit” will go back to the NEC. If the western Long Distance and the Short Distance state-supported trains are isolated financially and dependent upon the yearly largess of the Congress they might as well be sold off so Mr. Boardman won’t have to worry about them anymore. You think he might have thought of that?
By Noel T. Braymer
In effect since 2013, California’s Cap and Trade program uses market forces to reduce Greenhouse Gases (GHG) by having those who release too much buy “credits” which are sold by those who come under their “carbon budget”. Cap and Trade is on track to meet its 2020 goals of cutting back GHG’s to 1990 levels in California. But a recent study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that meeting California’s Cap and Trade goals for 2050 which are 80 percent lower than the 1990 levels will be difficult to achieve. One reason for this is the State’s population now of roughly 38 million is expected to top 50 million by 2050. To achieve the 2050 goals of reduced GHG’s will require major changes in transportation and energy production. Rail service, both passenger and freight can be a major part of this. But even rail will need to make major changes to reduce its emission of GHG’s .
The 2 biggest GHG’s are carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. The most common is CO2 which is mostly created by burning fossil fuels. In the United States in 2011 according to the Department of Energy 42% of CO2 emissions came from burning Petroleum, 34% came from Coal and 24% from Natural Gas. Natural Gas is methane. Unburnt methane is a more potent GHG than CO2 by volume. As more Natural Gas is used, this increases the amount leaked unburnt into the air. Natural Gas (methane) is viewed by many as not viable as an alternative for reducing GHG’s.
The largest producers of CO2 in California are oil refineries, electrical power plants and cement plants. These and other industrial sources produce 43% of the State’s CO2 emissions. Transportation produces 36 percent of the State’s CO2 emissions. This is according to the California State Air Resources Board. To make major reductions in the State’s GHG emissions will require major changes in transportation and the energy used for transportation. No wonder some owners of oil refineries in the State funded Prop 23 to try to get the voters to overturn Cap and Trade in 2010. The voters turned down Prop 23 in the 2010 election.
To meet the Cap and Trade targets for 2050 which is only 36 years away, will require most of the energy in the State to be renewable and transportation to have near zero emissions. This will include rail service for both passenger and freight. This would most likely require biofuel and electrification. The electricity for rail and everyone else would need to be mostly renewable: from solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and so on.The biggest problem with this is most renewable energy fluctuates: in other words the sun doesn’t always shine or the wind blows when you need it. The solution to this problem is energy storage.
Mr. Elon Musk of Telsa Motors has been in the news again. He is planning to build a megafactory to build batteries for his electric cars. He wants to build a model affordable for the general public. The problem Mr. Musk has is the most expensive part of electric cars are the batteries. The best way to reduce the cost of batteries is to increase production and achieve economies of scale. This is why he is investing billions into a new battery factory. The cost of electrical energy storage in general and batteries in particular are coming down as is the cost of renewable energy. This will have a major impact in the future on rail service.
Rail service providers will find themselves getting into the electrical energy business. More rail lines will be electrified and as batteries improve we will see more locomotives run with batteries either as hybrids or having multiple places to recharge on their routes. We will see more solar panels on rights of way as well as on station property, over parking lots and yards. On electrified rail services we will see more batteries or other forms of energy storage to use energy from regenerative breaking. As part of the future “smart grid” needed for renewable energy, battery charging will work both to store energy and to provide it to the grid when it needs more power. The owner of the battery would be credited for use of their electricity. As rail service providers, particularly in California get into the electrical energy business, they will have a great impact providing a reserve to keep the grid balanced from their energy storage.
Cap and Trade was fought by the fossil fuel industry when it was proposed on the Federal level back in 2009 and it was defeated. This was only one battle in an ongoing war. California is not alone in North America working to reduce its GHG’s. California is working with the States of Washington and Oregon as well as the Province of British Columbia to reduce GHG’s. Washington State is planning to implement a Cap and Trade program of its own. British Colombia has a carbon tax instead of Cap and Trade which is what Oregon is proposing to pass. On January 1st of this year California entered into an agreement with the Province of Quebec to link their Cap and Trade programs. There will be more such linkages with other States and Countries as more adopt Cap and Trade programs which are proven to provide income for government without hurting local economies. China is planning to set up regional Cap and Trade markets which together will be the largest in the world. Cap and Trade programs are already common in much of the rest of the world for reducing GHG.
Cap and Trade can be a major plus for rail service. Cap and Trade revenues should be used for expanded rail service. But also rail service providers should be able to sell credits to Cap and Trade exchanges for having a low “carbon budget”. The fossil fuel industry has long opposed rail passenger service in order to monopolize the energy needed for transportation. We are now in a transitional period away from fossil fuels. It won’t be a smooth transition and the fossil fuel industry will fight to keep their near monopoly on energy use. But in the life time of many today, the gasoline engine will seem as quaint as horse drawn carriages and reciprocating steam engines.