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RailPAC member rides the Silver Star

Trip Report and PHOTOS by Anthony Lee, RailPAC Associate Director

After spending a couple of days at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center at Disney World as well as Universal Studios Florida in Orlando, I decided to take the Amtrak’s Sliver Service Silver Star instead of driving home. This is my first time riding the Silver Star; I have ridden the Silver Meteor several times. Before proceeding to the Amtrak/Sun Rail Station in Orlando I had breakfast at the world largest McDonald’s Restaurant which has a bowling alley.


While waiting at the Amtrak/ Sunrail Station for the Silver Star# 91 to arrive from New York, which was now 38 minutes late due to other train interference from other trains( …ie Sunrail, other Amtrak trains and freight trains), the 1054 am Sunrail train from DeBray,Fl arrived. It had the Cab control car leading with two coaches and the loco pushing. The Sunrail trains use the north end of the platform (pictured) where the ticket vending machines are located. A handful of passengers got off and on for the midday Sunrail train. Five minutes later, The Silver Star #91 arrived. Approximately 40-50 passengers got off, and another 30–40 passengers got on which is pretty good for mid -week. The Orlando Amtrak/Sunrail Station and the Tampa Amtrak Station serve thruway buses as well to the West Coast of Florida.

I had my ticket scan on the platform using my smart phone, the first time I have used the smart phone on Amtrak. After some station work, we highballed to Tampa. We encounterd some slow orders to Kissimmee,Fl. After a quick stop at Kissimmee we continue on to Tampa, and because of these slow orders we ended up adding 27 mins to our late train. The track speed from Orlando to Tampa is 60-79 mph. The LSA from the dining car came through the coaches for lunch reservations.


I chose the 1230 reservation. the other choices were 1145, 1230, 1315,or 1400. For lunch, I ordered the Angus beef burger (pictured below, left) and the Strawberry cheese cake (below right) for dessert. During lunch, my train met northbound Silver Meteor #98.

20140521_123959 20140521_130112

At Tampa, the train does a backup move to the station. Approximately 100 -125 passengers got off and on at Tampa. The Amtrak station is located in the Ybor City area of Tampa, which is a redeveloped and historical area with plenty of hotels and restaurants located nearby and connected by a street car system.

With everybody on board and a everyone had their smoke break, my train continued on to South Florida. The Silver Star stops in Lakeland, which has a nice new station, a stop at Winter Haven, which is the gateway to Legoland, Sebring, and at Okeechobee, which is the gateway to Lake Okeechobee and Everglades Recreational areas.

Before Sebring , at Devon Park, my trains passed Northbound #92 Amtrak’s Silver Star. After having a pleasant, wonderful trip and a friendly crew on my trip on Amtrak Silver Star, I arrived 1h 05 mins late at Ft. Lauderdale, Amtrak/Tri-Rail Station.

NOTE: I used the Amtrak Saver fare of $39 Orlando-Ft.lauderdale. If i used my car it would have cost $32 in gas and $12.00 tolls. Air would have cost $69-$563, or the Bus $30.00.


Los Angeles Union Station 75th Anniversary event

Report and PHOTOS by Robert Manning, Executive VP, RailPAC

The combination National Train Day and 75th anniversary for LAUS was a success even though the temperature hit 91, which made for a very hot day. In spite of this thousands attended making it very hard to move about. The photo below shows the main waiting room, with its new video arrival/departure screens on the far wall.

LAUS 75th photo waiting room

LA Metro which owns LAUS did a wonderful job in refurbishing the station. It was painted inside and out, all the brass and wood work was refurbished and new signage was added throughout the station, keeping with the art deco theme. The tunnel inside the station was repainted white with lights added making all of the connecting tunnels much brighter and safer.

The outside gardens looked great, and I must credit LA Metro for doing an overall fantastic job.

LAUS 75th photo ticket area w mural

The old ticket area (above) was turned into a seated area so people could listen to a live band with a singer performing music from the 1930’s with most everyone dressing from the same era.

LAUS 75th photo Harvey restuarant

The Fred Harvey Restaurant, (above) was where my wife and I spent most of the time because it was air conditioned, and they also had music and dancing from the 1930’s. And again many folks were dressed from the same period.

The equipment display included an Amtrak sleeping car, Lounge car, coach and Parlour car. There were also several private cars on display. The very long lines to visit this equipment took almost two hours.

LA Metro provided free Metrolink travel to Glendale and back and the same on the Gold line to Little Tokyo. If you showed your “tap card” (this is the card used to travel the LA Subway system) you received a 10% discount offered by restaurants in the greater LA area including Glendale, and at the retailers located inside LAUS.


Caltrain Board Honors Art Lloyd for 26 Years of Service

Art Lloyd Retirement On April 3, RailPAC’s Vice President Art Lloyd was commended for his 26 years of service on the Caltrain Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board.He will remain involved with “Emeritus” status as a consultant and for his vast railroad historical knowledge.

We at RailPAC can only echo the sentiments expressed therein and add our congratulations and acknowledgement of your service to that organization.  Without a thorough knowledge of the past, and the decisions that were made which created the circumstances of the present, it is not possible to make good decisions about the future.  Your passion for the subject and the determination to bring improvements to mobility and the quality of life that public transportation can bring combines with that knowledge to make a unique contribution that has benefited the community, state and nation.

Heartiest congratulations! Continue Reading


Amtrak opens the Los Angeles Metropolitan Lounge

Report by Paul J. Dyson, RailPAC President
Los Angeles, December 19, 2013

Today I attended the opening ceremony of the new Amtrak lounge for sleeping car and Business class passengers. In spite of being Amtrak’s 5th busiest, Los Angeles Union Station has never had a facility of this kind and it is much to be welcomed.

View of the new Metropolitan Lounge on dedication day. Pictured on the right are Mike Dwyer, Route Director for the Coast Starlight and Southwest Chief, left, and Jack Rich from Amtrak Planning in Washington DC. (Photo by RailPAC member Alex Gillman)

The project was managed by Marcos Gonzalez, assistant Superintendent, and Peter Zavala, project manager, engineering. Passengers can enjoy Internet access, newspapers, a conference room, and comfortable seating in a quiet setting. In addition, ticketing assistance is available and priority boarding via Red Cap service. The lounge offers complimentary beverages.

Original train-themed art work is displayed, including a number of pieces by Assistant Superintendent Road Operations, Eric Smith. Eric’s work is on the cover of the 2014 Amtrak timetable. Amtrak VP Operations D.J. Stadtler performed the ribbon cutting together with L.A. City Council member Tom LaBonge. Also in attendance was Art Leahy, CEO of Metro, owner of LAUS. The lounge will be open from 5.00am to 10.00pm daily.

Editorials, Reports

San Joaquin JPA; a trip and meeting report

Reported, with an editorial, by Paul Dyson, RailPAC President

I traveled to Fresno Friday 26th July for the San Joaquin JPA meeting, the third of this newly formed corridor agency. Travel both ways from Burbank Airport via Thruway bus and San Joaquin train was on time and uneventful. The trains were well loaded, about 95% in my coach both ways, and the buses about 50% northbound (including 8 from Burbank!) and 33% southbound. Both modes deployed clean equipment and courteous and helpful crews.

At the meeting the BNSF’s D.J. Mitchell and Rick Depler gave an informational presentation to the Board about BNSF’s role in the corridor, how they cope with emergencies and incidents, as well as their modelling and review process for capital projects.

The key action item on the agenda was the staff report on the appointment of a managing agency for the corridor. Following the model of the Capitol Corridor an agency with some experience of operations and service development, and perhaps most importantly contract negotiations, will be appointed to “run” the corridor. This will fulfill the current role of Caltrans Division of Rail. There were only two candidates, the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission which operates ACE, and BART which manages the Capitol Corridor. Both were rated highly by the selection committee but SJRCC won out based mostly on local knowledge and geographic relevance, being based in Stockton. Vice Chair Steve Cohn of Sacramento and also a member of the CapCor Board pointed out the specific experience of BART with intercity service. It was clear that he did not have the votes and the SJRRC was unanimously chosen, subject to contract terms.

The next item concerned the deployment of the “Comet Cars” which will soon be available for service. Board member Perea in particular had previously expressed reservations about these cars, and demanding that they should be replaced at the first opportunity with the new bi-level cars now being built at Rochelle IL. I spoke in public comment reminding the board of the delay between the passage of 1B in 2006 and the start of manufacture of the next generation of cars. The Comet car program was the only alternative to continued overcrowding. Furthermore I pointed out that once the bi-level program was under way there would likely be ongoing demand not only from the California corridors but from other states and even from Amtrak for the long distance trains. Since $28 million of taxpayers money had already been invested in the Comets it was incumbent on all concerned to make them work. I then went on to briefly describe our idea for deploying mixed consists of Comets and Bombardier bi-levels (see my story at which would provide low level boarding on alternate cars, plus ADA and bicycle accommodation.

Other agenda items included review of a joint policy statement with the High Speed Rail Authority and Caltrans. Also discussed was the April Sacramento Rail Forum and a meeting with the other state rail board chairs to discuss common principles and policies.

Editorial: This Board has a steep learning curve ahead of it, plus a difficult task of managing expectations. As long as Amtrak continues to maintain the rolling stock to current standards, the train crews give the excellent service that I witnessed and enjoyed, and if BNSF dispatches the railroad and runs the trains on time then there is little that “local control” can do to make a major improvement. We wish Stacy Mortensen and Dan Leavitt well as managers of SJRCC in their expanded role and we look forward to working with them to expand service.


The (Almost) Perfect Trip from Auburn to Bakersfield

Trip Report and Comments by Ralph James, RailPAC member
Photos by the author.

From time to time I have need to travel from our home east of Auburn and Colfax to points in the southern San Joaquin Valley. With no early departures out of Colfax, the best that can be done is to catch the weekday train 529 out of Auburn at 0635. This train arrives Sacramento at approximately 0730 in plenty of time to make the 20 minute connection to the San Joaquin 712 bus to Stockton at 0750. This combination gets the traveler to Bakersfield a little after 1330 with most of the afternoon still available.

Early morning at the Auburn originating station.  The equipment is stored overnight on the stub track.

Early morning at the Auburn originating station. The equipment is stored overnight on the stub track.

The only problem with this very reliable connection is that Amtrak does not show it in their computer, reservations agents will not ticket it and it cannot be purchased with Guest Reward points as a single trip. Thus, anyone in previous years who went to the Amtrak website or reservation center to check the options for such a trip would be told that the earliest possibility would be the 1030 bus out of Auburn, an almost two hour layover in Sacramento and connections to a second bus to Stockton for train 716 with Bakersfield arrival near 1930, about six hours later than is actually possible and with no time left in the day at the destination.

This Auburn station shot shows the switch lined onto Main Track 2 of the UP Roseville Sub for the trip to Sacramento and the Bay Area.

This Auburn station shot shows the switch lined onto Main Track 2 of the UP Roseville Sub for the trip to Sacramento and the Bay Area.

After several phone and e-mail communications with both Amtrak and the Capitol Corridor spread over a couple of years I was still unable to convince either agency that the early connection was reliable and should be shown in the computer with a backup connection to the train 714 bus for the rare occasion when train 529 might be delayed enough to miss the train 712 bus connection. An alternative was reached, however, to show train 529 connecting directly to train 714 at Martinez with no bus transfers and a two and a quarter hour layover. The connection direct to train 712 at Martinez is missed by about twenty minutes. Against all logic, the fare structure is additive for the longer distance via Martinez, resulting in a cost that is about 50% higher than it would be with a Sacramento bus connection, but at least the earlier option is now available with a Bakersfield arrival about 1600 vs. 1930. For the following trip I used Guest Rewards points so the cost was the same regardless of the routing details.

Train 529 was brought out of the overnight storage track at Auburn about ten minutes before scheduled departure and was moving toward Sacramento on the minute of 0635. Good crowds boarded at Auburn, Rocklin and Roseville. Arrival at Sacramento was five minutes early despite fairly slow running through the Newcastle crossover and down old Main 1 to Rocklin and it would have been easy to walk to the train 712 bus in plenty of time for the connection to Bakersfield.

Train #6, the California Zephyr, is loading at the four-track Martinez station.  The foreground shows a bit of the former passenger platform that was replaced by the modern platforms in the distance.

Train #6, the California Zephyr, is loading at the four-track Martinez station. The foreground shows a bit of the former passenger platform that was replaced by the modern platforms in the distance.

Arrival at Martinez was on time at 0840. Part of the plan for the 2+ hour layover was to walk to a local restaurant for a real sit-down breakfast before boarding the San Joaquin and I found a decent place not far from the Martinez station to do just that. Train 714 arrived on time at 1054 and maintained time within a few minutes at all intermediate stations. Fresno arrival was early and we had a few extra minutes to wait for an on-time departure. We met 713 at Merced on time and should have met 715 near Hanford and 717 near Wasco, but neither northbound train was seen. Arrival at the Amtrak lead at the Bakersfield station was ten minutes early, but there we sat a hundred yards from the platform while crews finished shuffling the apparently disabled consist of train 715 to combine it with the regular consist of train 717 for a late combined departure northbound. After a half hour we had a clear platform track and completed the journey twenty minutes late–not perfect but nearly so until the very last. BNSF freight traffic had also been noticeably absent for most of the trip and it was not until the evening news that I learned that a BNSF train had rear-ended a UP train near the Loop on Tehachapi and all thru freight traffic was blocked until the following day.


Comet Cars not seen in a glowing light by newly formed San Joaquin Joint Powers Board

Report by Bill Kerby, RailPAC Treasurer

The author of the May 24th meeting of a newly formed joint powers board wishes to submit a revised version of that meeting. The presentation made by Dan Leavitt was mischaracterized in the report. Agency names were not fully provided and this oversight is corrected in the following revision. The author regrets any inconvenience that may have been caused by these errors.

The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (SJJPA)… met in the City of Sacramento’s old city hall May 24th. New members of the recently formed JPA governing board were sworn in, Sacramento Assemblyman Roger Dickinson received an award for supporting intercity passenger rail through the JPA process, and several action items were voted for and approved. Fred Strong, representing the Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency (LOSSAN), expressed satisfaction with the prospect of coordinating service with the San Joaquin corridor. The SJJPA bound itself to a short time line to choose a managing agency for the new SJJPA. Process for the selection of the Managing Agency on behalf of the Authority requires the winning bidder to be responsible for management, administration, financial and legal matters coming before the SJJPA for three years. Final selection is slated for the next meeting of the SJJPA on July 26th in Fresno.

When the new management agency starts negotiation with Caltrans on an Interagency Transfer Agreement, the negotiators could find that the task “may prove somewhat challenging immediately as the SJJPA has no independent source of funding at the present time.” The Managing Agency and a Managing Director will be hired and located within the region served by the San Joaquin Corridor. Assuming that the Managing Agency takes shape during mid-year 2013, the JPA intends to harmonize the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s (CAHSRA) Business Plan with the SJJPA’s business plan. The staff report on this issue states”…it remains a possibility that the CHSRA may not need to do, or desire to run conventional intercity rail services on their first construction segment.” To demonstrate that the high-speed rail project from Madera to Bakersfield is operational at some level before full build out of the initial operating segment (between Merced and Southern California) of the California High Speed Rail project, Stacey Mortensen stated that the CHSRA could ask manufacturers in countries like China, Japan, Switzerland, Germany or France to demonstrate high-speed train sets running on the 130 mile test section.

At present, California has no electrified railroad line in passenger or freight service. In accord with Mortesen, RailPAC would prefer to see electrification continue beyond the Caltrain project. Once completed, experience gained on the San Francisco Peninsula could be employed in the 130 mile Central Valley project and thereby gain economies of scale.

If readers agree with electrification of the test track, let RailPAC and the SJJPA know of your agreement. Send comments to or

A heated debate erupted among the board members on the matter of accepting the refurbished Comet cars, originally built as electric multiple unit cars for New Jersey Transit. The question is should the rebuilt cars be substituted for Superliner cars with two of the four train sets currently in service on the corridor. Mortensen estimated a net gain of approximately 175-200 seats with the substitution, leading to potential revenue increases if the seats are filled. The downside of the swap attracted the most intense discussion. Vice Chair Perea questioned whether the SJJPA was legally required to accept the 14 cars, which are part of a $20 million contract. Worry about reimbursing the State of California for the Comet car share of $20 million through fare box recovery was also expressed by the Board. Other members focused on how ADA compliance would be achieved if less abled passengers had to climb up three steps into the Comets from station platforms. None of the Comet cars feature remote controlled doors, so some doors would remain closed at many stations and an extra car attendant might be needed to operate usable doors. Stanislaus County member Vito Chiesa offered a brief history of the Comet order. The lack of any used inventory of Amtrak certified cars and the inability of current manufacturers to fill small orders prompted Caltrans to select the Comets to gain needed seats. He noted further, this equipment order for purchase and refurbishment of cars nearly 40 years old should not be a surprise since Division of Rail’s Director briefed the San Joaquin Rail Committee numerous times over the last four years. As an advocate for strengthening rail service to the state’s capitol city, Sacramento Councilman Steve Cohn opined that he’d like to see obtain more equipment to add to Sacramento’s two daily trains between Stockton and Sacramento; however, he was not necessarily in favor of using Comet cars. Among the benefits of the Comet Cars is a good riding experience. Once a passenger is seated in the car, the rider will see a bright interior equipped with comfortable intercity seats and enjoy a smoother ride with the air suspension on the new trucks. Find the agenda document with Comet Car details at

RailPAC hopes the optimism shown by the pledge to work with the San Joaquin JPA by Fred Strong, LOSSAN corridor board member, and Roger Dickinson’s affirmation of support from the state, counties, and other support groups could unify a diverse group of interests meeting on the common ground of building a connected rail passenger system.

Issues, Reports

The complicated history of the Sprinter

Report and Photo by Noel T. Braymer, RailPAC e-newsletter Editor

The Sprinter started out as a simple project to serve the 22 miles between Oceanside and Escondido. The original proposal by RailPAC’s Byron Nordberg back in the 1980’s was to rebuild the existing single tracked short line railroad between these 2 cities for about 70-80 million dollars. Inexpensive, self-propelled diesel rail cars, proven and in production, would be used. The idea was to finish it in 1988, which was the centennial of these two cities and of the construction of this short line. After that things got complicated. The budget went up and opening day got pushed back to 2000 then 2005, 2007 and it finally opened in March 2008. By then the construction budget was almost half a billion dollars!

Sprinter at Oceanside

A major factor in the inceased cost and delays of this project was the decision to build a largely elevated connection off of the existing rail line for the Sprinter to the new campus of the California State University at San Marcos. This station is used when school is in session but is often quiet the rest of the time. The station is a long walk to the main campus, and shuttle bus service is included. The added cost and delays meant that money that had been budgeted to upgrade the Amtrak/Coaster Line in San Diego County was diverted to finish the Sprinter.

Just days before the planned celebration of the 5th Anniversary of the opening of the Sprinter in the first week of March, 2013, it was discovered that the center truck brake rotors on the cars had excessive wear. This center brake was not in the original design of this diesel powered rail car developed in Germany, but to meet California Public Utility Commission (PUC) regulations for braking for a Light Rail Vehicle a third brake was added to the center truck where the railcar was articulated. The rotor and brake parts for the central truck brakes were not the same as for the other trucks. The rotors are not in production and replacements would require a special order.

The discovery by the PUC that the center brake rotors had excessive wear was basically by accident; the PUC was following up on another brake issue for the Sprinters. The PUC had for over 5 years inspected the Sprinter 50 times, but many of the inspections were of the records, including maintenance records, but rarely physical inspections. The maintenance records recorded what work was done but didn’t include specific information on the condition of the parts such as the rotors. Such information had not been required by the PUC. It was shortly discovered that the North County Transportation District (NCTD) Engineer-in-charge of oversight of maintenance of the Sprinters knew about the excessive wear of the the rotors since 2009, just a year after the service began. This was also known in 2009 by the mechanics for the Sprinter who were employees of Bombardier, which had the maintenance contract for the Sprinter. By 2009 this NCTD Engineer, Richard Berk, was requesting quotes from manufacturers for replacement rotors. He got a reply 3 years later in 2012 and was told delivery would take 44 weeks. Mr. Berk “resigned” his position with the NCTD on March 1 of this year, the same day that the PUC discovered the problem with the rotors.

The issue of how and when the excessive wear was discovered on the rotors of some Sprinter brakes brings up several disturbing questions.

  • 1) Why did the PUC approve the Maintenance of the Sprinters largely without physical inspections of the the trains for over 5 years?
  • 2) How could management of NCTD be unaware of these problems with the rotors going back to 2009?
  • 3) How could a senior engineer go about looking for quotes for new rotors long before these rotors should need replacing without the knowledge of his supervisors?

Such an expense would require approval and justification from supervision sooner or later. Most disturbing of all is that in over four years no attempt seemingly was made to discover the cause of this abnormal wear or find a solution before replacing these very expensive and hard to replace rotors with new ones which would likely need to be replaced long before they should be.

NOTE: From an April 9 NCTD Press Release: “North County Transit District placed an order yesterday for a complete set of split disc rotors for the entire SPRINTER fleet. The replacement rotors are scheduled to be delivered from the European manufacturer by the end of April. Originally, NCTD anticipated the order would be placed in May however; the repair and testing process is proceeding ahead of schedule. While the repair process is moving swiftly and efficiently, NCTD still cannot set a date to resume SPRINTER service due to vagaries in manufacturing and shipping times, extensive testing requirements, and other variables. Once the complete set of rotors has arrived in Oceanside the agency will set and announce a re-launch date for the SPRINTER.”


Report of the First Ever San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority

Report by Mike Barnbaum, Associate Director of the Rail Passenger Association of California & Nevada, on Sunday 24 March 2013

The New San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, created by legislation from Cathleen Galgiani (AB 1779) and signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Jerry Brown on September 29, 2012, held its first meeting on March 22, 2013 in the City Council Chambers of the City of Merced. The meeting was called to order shortly after 1:30 P.M. After new member introductions and the pledge of allegiance, the historic Swearing In of New Members took place and the election of officers. A discussion took place regarding geographic region the three top officers are from so that to ensure that along the San Joaquin Valley Rail Corridor (Bakersfield to Sacramento/Oakland) had one member covering the Southern Portion of the Corridor, Central Portion of the Corridor, and Northern Portion of the Corridor. After the discussion took place, the new SJJPA Board Members agreed that they have accomplished that goal. With that being said, the new S.J.J.P.A. Officers are as follows:

  • Chair – Supervisor John Pedrozo of Merced County (Central)
  • 1st Vice Chair – Supervisor Henry Perea of Fresno County (South)
  • 2nd Vice Chair – Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Cohn and appointed to the S.J.J.P.A. by the Sacramento Regional Transit District Board

The legislation that created the S.J.J.P.A. and the coming together of the first meeting ever was work done behind the scenes by eleven astute people that made up Ad Hoc Staff Working Group including but not limited to Mike Wiley and Jeffrey Damon of the Sacramento Regional Transit District. All eleven of these people were publicly recognized during the first meeting.

Following the recognition of the eleven Ad Hoc Staff Working Group Members, the SJJPA took public comments. This writer was last, out of courtesy of other in attendance. Many public comments came from students of the new U.C. Merced as well as transportation professionals. Tom Richards, Vice-Chair of the California High Speed Rail Authority testified to the new members as to how the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority served as a great model over the years as to why the new S.J.J.P.A. was needed and ultimately created through state legislation. This writer talked about goal setting, particularly setting one critical goal of “Closing The Gap” that has been much talked about at the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee by the Treasurer of the Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC) Bill Kerby. The “Closing the Gap” refers to eliminating bus service in favor of providing rail service between Bakersfield and California’s Busiest Rail Station, Los Angeles Union Station. Los Angeles County is the largest County in the United States of America in terms of population and is the second busiest Amtrak Station in the United States of America in terms of passengers. The last this writer, from Sacramento, had checked, Sacramento is the second busiest Amtrak Station in California and the seventh busiest Amtrak Station in the United States of America.

Following public comments was the adoption of the consent calendar. The consent calendar was adopted unanimously, including the meeting schedule for the remainder of Calendar Year 2013 and the location of the next regularly scheduled meeting of the S.J.J.P.A. This writer addressed the group in regards to the date of the next meeting proposed for the Friday that comes on the heels of a major three day weekend. After brief conversation, the board decided to proceed with that date and the remaining dates on the 2013 meeting calendar. The next meeting of the S.J.J.P.A. will occur on Friday 24 May 2013 at New Sacramento City Hall Council Chambers from 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. so that new Board Members in the San Joaquin Valley will have the ability to ride Train 701 directly to Sacramento arriving at 12:25 P.M. and back on Train 704 directly from Sacramento departing at 4:55 P.M. This is the only way for San Joaquin County Board Members and participants to attend a S.J.J.P.A. Meeting in Sacramento so as to not have a run-in with Peratta’s Law. This was a law writted and signed into law year’s ago by former State Senate President Pro-Tem Don Peratta which prohibits exclusive Amtrak Bus travel when using Amtrak to do a roundtrip in their itinerary. The law, in plain English states that when using Amtrak on an itinerary, a segment traveled by train must be included somewhere in that passenger’s itinerary or the travel can not be sold by Amtrak under any circumstance.

With that being said, the following will be the meeting schedule for the remainder of 2013 set for the Fourth Friday of Each Month as Follows:

  • May 24, 2013 at New Sacramento City Hall from 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. (Train 701 to Sacramento & Train 704 to San Joaquin Valley)
  • July 26, 2013
  • September 27, 2013
  • November 22, 2013 (This is the Friday “Before” Thanksgiving Day)

Members are also being polled by the Ad Hoc Staff Working Group for a special meeting for June 28th and/or another date in June, not yet known, to come to agreement on final selection of managing agency. The Managing Agency currently in place for the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority is the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, headquartered in Oakland, California.

As the meeting proceeded a presentation was made about Intercity Passenger Rail Lobby Days in Sacramento that will be held over a 2-Day period on April 10 & 11. Caution was made into who would go from the new SJJPA Board so as to not hve a “quorum” present in the halls of the Capitol. If this occurred, a meeting would have to be noticed under California’s Open Meetings Act known as the Brown Act.

An Oral presentation was made regarding the selection process and criteria for selection of a Managing Agency and their Criteria. Staff of Agencies that have expressed interest in being the Managing Agency exempted themselves from speaking or presenting on this item. The item did allow for public comment of which this writer took full advantage as as transit rider, of promoting why the Sacramento Regional Transit District needs to be the Managing Agency of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. Among other things, the Sacramento Regional Transit District has completed a quarter of a century of operating Light Rail Service to the people of the Sacramento Region in 2012 and that on Monday 1 April 2013, the Sacramento Regional Transit District will turn 40. The comments made by this writer was to demonstarte to the Board Members and the independent presenter of the item that the Sacramento Regional Transit District is not new, and that the Sacramento Regional Transit District has a “track” record – no pun intended – of rail operations that is well established in the marketplace of the San Joaquin Valley for those Counties between Kern and Sacramento.


San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee meeting report

Report by Bruce Jenkins
I attended the SJVRC Meeting on Thursday, 2/28 in Fresno. Some of the more important items are as follows:

Caltrans Division of Rail Chief, Bill Bronte reported :

  • a) The San Joaquin trains are sporting a 64.5% Fare Box Recovery, the highest in the country.
  • b) On Time Performance for February, 2013, was 91.7%. He gave kudos to BNSF and UP for this time keeping.
  • c) The San Joaquins had the highest increase in ridership thruout the country.
  • d) 14 (reconditioned) Horizon Cars will arrive here from Beach Grove the end of March and will most likely be assigned as trains #711 & 718.
  • e) Coast Daylight and Coachella Valley trains are in the new California Rail Plan.
  • f) Up to six trains of the SJVR will be retained after HSR is operational. Bus service is most important, feeding 50% of the ridership to the trains and will definitely be retained.
  • In January Amtrak named Jay Commer as its General Manager, State Supported Services. He will be based in Oakland. Jay was general manager for the Calif, Corridor product line and superintendent of commuter operations for Caltrain, among other roles.

    Concerning the “Sequestration” debacle, Amtrak has not received guidance from Congress or the Administration on how sequestration will be implemented. Amtrak is planning to take actions to allow it to withstand a funding cut and not cut service.
    (NOTE: This meeting took place before Amtrak issued a notice to its employees:
    “From: Employee Communications, Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2013 2:30 PM, Subject: Special Employee Advisory – Sequestration. A Message from Joe Boardman, Dear Co-workers, You have probably been hearing about sequestration discussions in Washington and some of you are wondering if it will impact our service. Congress and the Administration have to agree on how to resolve these across the board cuts that will impact our federal funding. I want to assure you that we’ve been planning for this reduction in our operating and capital budgets and do not anticipate immediate cuts to service. We will continue to tighten our belts and focus on the bottom line. Hopefully, the sequestration debate will not last long. The continued lack of predictable federal appropriations does makes proper budgeting and future planning extremely difficult for us. I will let you know if our situation should change. Thank you for everything you do for Amtrak.”)

    D.J.Mitchell from the BNSF reported that PTC installation on the valley route was completed and will be operational when Amtrak gets the computers installed in their locomotives. Several members of the committee gave words of appreciation to BNSF and said they were glad to have BNSF “on the team”.

    Stacey Mortensen was absent, so there was no discussion concerning the JPA.