Capitol Corridor Monthly Report (April, 2014)

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

Service Performance Overview

For April 2014, both ridership and revenue for the Capitol Corridor were above last year’s April results, with 3.2% and 1.5% growth respectively. Capitol Corridor trains carried a total of 126,831 passengers in April, 2014, with revenues of $2.44 million. The primary reason for the ridership increase was that the Easter holiday fell in mid-April, versus late March in 2013. Comparing ridership for the combined months of March and April 2014 to the same period in 2013 shows a slight increase of 1%. This is a positive indicator, but it’s still too early to determine if this trend will continue.

On-Time Performance (OTP) was again a stand out at 96%, which equates to a year-to-date (YTD) OTP of 96%. This excellent OTP maintains the Capitol Corridor’s distinction as the most reliable intercity passenger rail (IPR) service in the Amtrak system. The night-time tie renewal and replacement program that occurred from late January to early March 2014 was a success, with the lowest Host Railroad delay minutes among all IPR services. This commitment from the host railroads (UPRR and Caltrain) was matched only by Amtrak’s mechanical team that reduced mechanical delay minutes by 16% over the past 12 months for the Capitol Corridor train equipment.

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) greatly appreciates the work of our service partners. Their support and commitment helps keep the trains running on-time and maintains passenger (and employee) safety and satisfaction as the number one priority.

The operating ratio was 53% in April 2014; however, the YTD ratio is at 51%, below the expected 53% due to YTD revenues being below projection.

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While ridership (and revenues) has increased slightly over the last two months, the CCJPA is continuing its efforts to improve performance at specific stations and on specific trains:

· Trains serving Placer County stations (one in each direction): Staff
is currently working with Amtrak on various fare plans to address
ridership losses on these trains.

· Sacramento station: Based on the latest update from the City of
Sacramento, construction of 40 parking spaces at the west end of the
station parking lot is set to begin in late May. Construction should
be complete by early fall. Efforts to identify additional parking
closer to the station platform/tunnel entry continue as well.

· Weekend trains: Using data from the daily conductor e-Ticketing
reports, weekend ridership was up approximately 4% in April 2014
versus March 2013. This increase was due to Easter holiday travel,
plus the 50% off advance-purchase internet ticket discount for
weekend travel. This promotion expired at the end of April 2014.

FY2015 Amtrak Operating Forecast Budget

The CCJPA received the FY2015 budget forecasts from Amtrak for the Capitol Corridor trains on March 31, 2014. The total budget, which includes an equipment capital charge for the use of Amtrak locomotives used on the corridor, is $32.264 million versus $29.331 million in the FY2014 operating contract, an increase of $2.933 million.

$2.745 million of this budget increase is due to Amtrak’s lowered revenue forecast that uses FY2014 ridership figures from actual conductor e-Ticketing lifts, compared to previous years when ridership reports overestimated the number of multi-ride ticket users. While actual FY2014 ridership and revenue figures are equal to or slightly below estimated ridership allocations from FY 2013 e-Ticketing conductor reports, Amtrak overestimated ridership and revenues for the CCJPA’s FY2014 operating budget. In an effort to provide a more reliable revenue forecast for FY2015, Amtrak used the FY2014 actual e-Ticketing ridership reports, which better represent near-term ridership levels, and thus resulted in a revenue forecast for FY 2015 that is $2.745 million lower than the FY 2014 revenue forecast.

There was a new cost included in the FY2015 budget — $0.275 million for the use of three Amtrak locomotives in the Northern California IPR fleet (Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin). These funds represent the CCJPA’s 50% share (evenly split with the San Joaquin IPR service) for 1.5 locomotives. The funds will be used to (1) have Amtrak perform Life Cycle Preventative Maintenance (LCPM) in order to keep the locomotives in a state of good repair [$200,000] and (2) implement PTC equipment on these units [$75,000].

Overall, operating expenses remain relatively flat for FY2015 compared to FY2014 budgeted expenses, except for insurance, which increased $400,000, or 33%, due to a national increase in premiums for all railroad services (passenger and freight).

The CCJPA has begun coordinating with Caltrans, which manages the other two California Intercity Passenger Rail (CIPR) services, and Amtrak to identify possible changes to operating service plans (e.g. consist sizing, revised train schedules) to increase revenues and/or reduce operating costs.

These efforts will also involve the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), which will be allocating the state FY2015 funds to the CCJPA for the operation, marketing, and administration of the Capitol Corridor IPR service. From the submittal of the Amtrak FY2015 budget forecasts, the state financial operating support for the three California Intercity Passenger Rail (CIPR) services will need to increase from the FY2014 budget baseline of $108.9 million by approximately $10 to $13 million. This additional state financial support is the subject of current legislative hearings for the state FY2015 budget process and hopefully will be included in the Governor’s May Revise of the FY2015 budget.

Cap and Trade Revenue Proposals: Investment in the CIPR Services
There are currently two proposals for the investment of Cap and Trade Revenues into the State’s transportation network and CIPR program in particular:

– The Governor’s Draft FY2014-15 budget proposes that 70% of Cap and
Trade go toward transportation improvements, with $300 million in
revenues from Cap and Trade auction proceeds for the Rail Modernization
Program. The $300 million would be split – $250 million for the
California High Speed Rail Authority to start construction of a high
speed train system in the Central Valley, and $50 million for Caltrans’
allocation of competitive grants for existing rail transit agencies to
integrate rail systems and provide connectivity to high speed rail. The
CIPR program is identified as an eligible applicant for these funds.

The CCJPA appreciates the inclusion of the CIPR services in the Cap and
Trade-funded Rail Modernization Program and has sent a letter of
support for the Program. Nevertheless, the CCJPA believes the account
for this Cap and Trade program should be increased tenfold, to $500
million. The increased account could be distributed using a
programmatic formula that is fair and equitable and that would provide
enough funds to allow the State’s passenger rail network and rail
transit services to expand service levels to meet growing passenger
demand, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector,
and support sustainability programs in our communities.

– Senator Steinberg’s Investment Strategy for Cap and Trade Revenues: On
April 11, 2014, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg
announced a proposed plan to create a permanent spending strategy for
Cap and Trade revenue that prioritizes investments in affordable
transit-oriented housing, transit expansion, and the State’s High Speed
Train (HST) system. The proposal is established in Senate Bill (SB)
1156 and differs from the Governor’s Cap and Trade investment plan.
Senator Steinberg’s plan focuses his Cap and Trade investment strategy
on implementing sustainable communities’ strategies identified in SB
375 and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions pursuant to AB 32,
California’s Global Warming Solutions Act. While Senator Steinberg does
identify local and regional transit and HST as eligible recipients in
his proposal, the CIPR services are noticeably absent. To that end,
discussions have been ongoing with the CIPR agencies, legislative
officials, and other interested parties to include the CIPR services in
Senator Steinberg’s proposal since CIPR services are included in
Governor Brown’s Cap and Trade investment strategy.

Safety Initiatives

· 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 (~90% complete). The
completion date has slipped from April to early June 2014.

· Station Access Safety Improvements. Based on a station-by-station
site analysis conducted by CCJPA and Amtrak staff, the scheduled
program of upgrades is planned to improve passenger access to
platforms at various stations. Davis will be the first station to
receive these upgrades. Work is scheduled to begin on May 12 and be
complete by May 17. The initial project start date in April was
pushed out to May due to rainstorms in early April and subsequent
delays in securing railroad safety workers to provide protection for
workers within the railroad right-of-way and at the station
platforms.

Project Updates

· CCJPA Bicycle Access Program: Starting May 1, 2014, the CCJPA has
been working with Amtrak and Caltrans to begin implementation of a
key element of CCJPA’s Bicycle Access Plan – the addition of a
second, enhanced bike storage car on select trainsets assigned to the
Capitol Corridor. This will double the capacity of bike storage on
these trains due to (1) the completion of the retrofitted cab cars in
the Northern California IPR fleet; (2) the assignment of the six (6)
coach/bike cars (the 8200 series) to the Capitol Corridor (in turn,
the CCJPA released six coach cars to be assigned to the San Joaquin
service); and (3) the introduction of the Comet Car trainsets to the
San Joaquin service, which frees up extra cab/bike cars that can be
used as bike/coach cars on the Capitol Corridor to supplement the
8200-series coach/bike cars.

Work continues on the implementation of the at-station bicycle
amenities, which are also part of the Bicycle Access Plan. Funding
applications are being developed in concert with Caltrans/Local
Assistance to obtain an allocation of $556,000 from the California
Transportation Commission (CTC) to install e-Lockers and folding
bicycle rental systems. CTC action is anticipated no later than
summer 2014.

Outlook – Closing: The ridership increase in April 2014 for the Capitol Corridor is a movement in the right direction and has reduced the YTD ridership decline to -0.2%, compared to ridership during the same period last fiscal year. Revenue still trails by -2.4%. With fuel expenses and other operating costs even with budget projections, the revenue declines have resulted in a system operating ratio of 51% that is below the forecasted 53%. Other key service performance metrics – OTP and customer satisfaction – are performing at or above standard, and UPRR is on track to receive its maximum incentive payments for FY2014.

CIPR leaders will continue to work with Senator Jackson and other legislators, as well as the Governor’s agencies, to ensure that the Capitol Corridor and other successful CIPR services receive their fair share of the proposed Cap and Trade revenues to be used for investment in projects that expand and improve the safety and efficiency of these services, while also helping to meet the State’s clean air goals and implementation of sustainable community strategies.

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