New Amtrak Cars, But (sigh) Not For The West November 21st, 2013
Commentary by Russ Jackson, URPA/RailPAC
On October 24, 2013, Amtrak rolled out the new low-level Viewliner cars at the manufacturer CAF’s plant in Elmira, New York. The order is for 130 cars: 25 sleeper cars, 25 dining cars, 25 baggage/dormitory cars and 55 baggage cars, and Amtrak is excited. They should be. This is the first order for the passenger fleet since the Superliner II cars were purchased in the 1990s. That’s a long time. In a blog report, Amtrak was enthusiastic about “how cool” these new cars are. They will all be painted in “Phase III” red and blue stripes, which was Amtrak’s most popular design, and will have the heritage “pointless arrow” on the first cars to be released. See http://blog.amtrak.com/2013/10/coming-soon-new-long-distance-cars for pictures of the exterior and interior of these new cars. Will they increase capacity for the routes where they will run? Not much, because current plans call for all the older Viewliners to be withdrawn from service for upgrade to Viewliner II standards, and there is no funding for that yet. Remember, too, Amtrak is also buying new electric locomotives for use on the Northeast Corridor. It’s nice they are being built in Sacramento, though.
Re: Ralph James Auburn-Bakersfield Trip (a discussion) August 2nd, 2013
NOTE: The following letter was published in the July 29, 2013 RailPAC e-newsletter as a “letter to the editor” after Ralph James’ article on the subject in the July-August issue of the “Steel Wheels” newsletter. Ralph James has now replied to Mr. Heywood, and those comments are published here.
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief; a future still in doubt August 1st, 2013
Commentary by Russ Jackson, RailPAC
It’s time we took another look at the continuing saga of the future of the Southwest Chief, which requires action as to whether 1) It will continue on its historic route from Albuquerque to Kansas via the Raton Pass route, or, 2) It will be moved to the BNSF “Transcon” route from Belen, NM to Kansas via Amarillo and Wichita, or, 3) It will be discontinued altogether. The decision deadline is the end of 2014.
Comet Car Access problem? A RailPAC solution July 1st, 2013
RailPAC Opinion with PHOTOS, by Paul Dyson, RailPAC President
As RailPAC’s e-mail newsletter Editor Noel Braymer has previously reported there is some discontent on the part of the San Joaquin rail board at being allocated two consists of the refurbished “Comet” cars.
Sacramento to Tucson, on Amtrak and in the Dining Car June 4th, 2013
Trip Report and Comments by Mike Barnbaum, RailPAC Associate Director
Six months ago, I reserved with 11,000 Guest Rewards points, a round trip from Sacramento to Tucson. I have already traveled one-way, and will be returning on Sunday 26 May from Tucson, arriving into Sacramento on Monday 27 May. This was a sad trip in the wake of what just recently happened in Sacramento. Sacramento put up a good fight in an effort that turned out successful with all involved (Mayor, City Council, Fans, Grassroots, Local Investors, Major Equity Investors, bipartisan state legislature support and more) to save the Sacramento Kings for present and future generations to come. While that was a success in Sacramento, it was no the case in Tucson, Arizona, where the community’s only professional sports franchise, the Tucson Padres, will not be the Tucson Padres in 2014. The franchise is packing their bags and moving to El Paso, where we have found out through Twitter that their new ballpark will be located in a location in Downtown El Paso that require the demolition of both a Natural Science History Museum and El Paso City Hall. City offices are being housed in a building there in El Paso, Texas, where an old newspaper printing factory used to be, according to sources on social media giant, Twitter.
RailPAC President writes CPUC re Sprinter April 11th, 2013
Mr. Michael R. Peevey 8th April, 2013
California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco CA 94102
SAFE OPERATION OF “SPRINTER” RAIL PASSENGER SERVICE
Dear President Peevey:
NOTE: This letter from Paul Dyson and Noel Braymer’s article below express the RailPAC opinions on this subject.
8th April, 2013
Mr. William D. Bronte,
Chief, Division of Rail
Department of Transportation
1120 N Street MS 74
Sacramento, CA 95814
Surfliner: Degrading Intercity Schedules to cover gaps in Commuter Service a bad policy and contrary to State Rail Plan
Dear Mr. Bronte:
Amtrak plans to stop Surfliners at Coaster stations too April 9th, 2013
The Coast Starlight and the Coast Line are Just Coasting March 1st, 2013
Report and Commentary by Russ Jackson
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight still travels daily between Los Angeles and Seattle. Should we take it for granted? Well, let’s look at its performance lately. From Amtrak’s December 2012 Performance Report, now posted on Amtrak.com, we know the train’s end-point “on time performance” (OTP) for the fiscal year since October 1, 2012, has deteriorated compared to the same period in 2011, from 85.9% to 73.9%. That’s down 12%. The good news is that on February 11, 2013, train 11 arrived at Los Angeles Union Station (LAUS) 3 minutes early having not been later than 51 minutes enroute, which was at Santa Barbara, so the early LA arrival was due largely to using up schedule padding. Train 14 on the same day arrived in Seattle 38 minutes early, not having been late more than 19 minutes at any station enroute.
A Business Analysis of the San Diego Metroliners January 24th, 2013
By Andrew C. Selden
NOTE: This article appeared as the first article in the first issue of the “RailPAC Quarterly Review,” in September, 1984. What Mr. Selden said then bears close resemblance to the situation facing the Amtrak “experiment” with a morning limited stop train on the same corridor in 2013. Mr. Selden is President of the Minnesota Rail Passenger Association, a frequent contributor to RailPAC publications and has spoken at RailPAC Conferences. Particular note should be taken of his suggestions at the end of the article.