On September 28th, 2019, over 50 rail transportation advocates from around the state gathered for the annual 2019 Steel Wheels Conference of the Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC) at the Fullerton Old Spaghetti Factory (the former Union Pacific depot).
RailPAC promotes the development of a modern, sustainable, environmentally friendly passenger rail system through education of the public and government officials. Fullerton city council member Ahmad Zahra, whose district includes the train station, welcomed the attendees and described the role of Santa Fe Railway in the establishment of Fullerton. Zahra said “we are trying to improve public transportation, and part of it is looking at our trains, and our train station… We want to encourage people to ride trains more”. He emphasized the role of local government in improving the passenger’s experience at the train station with adequate pedestrian infrastructure and connecting bus service.
Carrie Schindler. Director of Transit and Rail at San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, gave a presentation on the ‘Arrow’, a 9-mile passenger rail line under construction between Redlands and San Bernardino, scheduled to start running in 2022. The Arrow will start with three new diesel-powered small ‘multiple-unit’ trains, along with one experimental hydrogen-powered train, made by Swiss manufacturer Stadler Rail.
Rick Meade, Senior Executive Officer – Program Management at the LA Metropolitan Transportation Authority, presented on the 13 large-scale rail transit projects in Los Angeles County planned to be completed before the 2028 Olympics. Cleve Cleveland, Department Manager for Orange County Streetcar Operations for OCTA, spoke about the construction of the OC Streetcar project, which is now under construction between Santa Ana and Garden Grove. Expected to begin operations in 2022, the OC Streetcar will be the first electric rail transit system to run in Orange County since the last Pacific Electric “Red Car” to Santa Ana ran in 1950.
RailPAC president Steve Roberts described efforts by rail passenger advocates in different states collaborating on saving the nation’s long distance trains, such as the Southwest Chief which stops in Fullerton, from cancellation by Amtrak management. Congress continues to provide funding for Amtrak long-distance trains, despite opposition from the Trump administration. Roberts and former RailPAC president Paul Dyson also gave updates on the LOSSAN (or Pacific Surfliner) corridor rail Los Angeles-San Diego services which serve Fullerton. Over the next year, the number of daily Amtrak Surfliner trains which stop in Fullerton will soon increase to 13, up from 12 currently, and several more Fullerton-LA daily trains on Metrolink will be added.