Editorials, Issues

RailPAC Responds to LOSSAN Business Plan 2018

One of RailPAC’s missions is to respond to the Business Plans of the State Rail Corridors.  We have concerns about many of the policies adopted and hope that our experience is useful in pointing these Boards in the right direction.  The reality is that RailPAC has a longer history of attendance at these meetings, and knows the issues better, than almost all of the Board members.  And it seems that Board members are rotated on and off the Boards more and more frequently by their member agencies.

The LOSSAN Board meeting is today, we’ll see if there is any response.

15th March, 2018

Hon. Bryan MacDonald And Board Members LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency

2018 Business Plan –  Punctuality, Additional Trains, Rolling Stock

Dear Chair MacDonald and Board members:

RailPAC is a volunteer non-profit group of advocates, many with professional experience in the railroad industry.  Since 1978 we have attempted, through constructive criticism, and through advocacy at local, state and national levels to bring about a modern passenger railroad system in California and the west.

We have reviewed the draft of the 2018 business plan and would request your careful review of our comments on three particular, and related issues.

Punctuality:  Table 2.4 of the draft indicates that On Time performance (“OTP”) at 68.8% for 2017 is the worst it has been in well over a decade.  Add to that the Uniform Performance Standard (“UPS”) which counts trains that are up to 10 or 15 minutes late as on time and it is clear that fully a third of your customers are likely to be delayed or inconvenienced by this appallingly bad performance.

The draft makes comforting statements about working with host railroads, monitoring performance and so on, but this has been going on since before the agency was formed and the problem is worsening.  We see at least three problems here.  First, the primary source for information about delays comes from the Amtrak conductor’s reports.  These tell only a small part of the story.  Passenger trains run according to a schedule so any reference to “passenger train interference” as a cause of delay is fundamentally flawed.  One train delays another if one or both are running out of course.  The question is why was that train running late? The conductors’ reports do not have that information, and so you must dig deeper.  An in-depth analysis of at least a large sample of a day’s operations is required to root out where the problems are occurring and to formulate an action plan.

When additional stops were introduced in San Diego County at the behest of NCTD we were informed that their performance would be reviewed.  Amtrak maintained that the additional stops could be accommodated within the schedule.  What they did not make clear was that stops would take away and recovery time, meaning that an early morning delay would cascade through the schedule for the rest of the day.  RailPAC recommends that the morning northbound stops at Carlsbad Village and Sorrento Valley be removed from the schedule. Likewise, any southbound evening stops on a train that has a return northbound trip should be eliminated.

The UPS, permitting late trains to be counted as on time, further obfuscates the problem.  Minutes may be lost at stations with passenger boarding but these seemingly minor problems can accumulate to a ten-minute delay, which goes unrecorded in the statistics.  Yet this train running ten minutes late can negatively impact a train in the opposite direction and cause a cascade of late running for the rest of the day.  We recommend the elimination of the UPS “grace period” in evaluating and analyzing on-time performance and request that train statistics for Board reporting purposes be based on the actual recorded time against the scheduled time, i.e. that on time means on time, not ten minutes late.  Only then will you have a clear picture of the service that your customers are enjoying.

Additional trains:  The draft Business Plan calls for an additional round trip between San Diego and San Luis Obispo.  There is no reference in the document to any significant infrastructure improvements that will permit the efficient running of additional trains.  We know some improvements are taking place but there will still be significant bottlenecks that make the schedule fragile at best.  Indeed, the current projects are barely adequate to support the current level of traffic without further straining the system.  We have tried to point out that, since the introduction of commuter services on the Corridor, there are too many trains scheduled on weekdays to enable the operation of a consistently reliable service.  The punctuality statistics prove our point.  We recommend that there should be no additional trains scheduled until significant projects such as RaymerBernson double track, and the Rosecrans-Marquardt grade separation are complete.

Rolling Stock:  There is no way to put a gloss on this. The State agencies have made a complete mess of passenger rolling stock procurement since the passage of 1B in 2004.  In addition, CALSTA is trying to force California to adopt a high-level boarding standard twenty-five years after massive investments have been made in low-level boarding stations and rolling stock for both intercity, commuter and mixed-use stations throughout the state.  I have no doubt that there are advantages to high level boarding, but there is no appetite and no funds for wholesale reconstruction of our one hundred plus passenger stations.  We have to play the hand we have been dealt. The decision by Calsta to abandon construction of bi-level coaches and order single level cars should therefore be opposed by LOSSAN and the other corridors.

Reference is also made to the possible acquisition of Chicago type gallery commuter cars from Great Lakes Railway.   This idea should be immediately abandoned.  These gallery cars are the worst passenger cars in North America, if not the world.  Boarding is via steep stairs and the upper level is reached via a narrow staircase.  The cars were designed for the convenience of conductors checking tickets, and are noisy, uncomfortable and totally unacceptable for service in this corridor.  Staff should be directed to cease any attempt to acquire these cars.

RailPAC have previously recommended the interim use of mixed consists of Horizon/Comet and Bombardier cars (See Photo at end of text).  Bombardier continues to manufacture these cars and they can be equipped with intercity seats, as bicycle cars, ADA and escort accommodation etc.  This can be a stop gap while the bi-level
procurement program is revived and put in the hands of professional management.  We also understand that some former ATSF cars, an early version of the Superliner, may be available and this option needs to be explored.

Bombardier Comet mixed consist Richard Suggs 2010

Photo by Richard Sugg, RailPAC member.

The sensible approach for LOSSAN is to focus on the rolling stock and punctuality issues for the next two years.  If Surfliner compatible cars can be acquired, then existing trains can be augmented.  New locomotives should improve reliability and to some extent train performance.  Any idea of adding trains to the schedule should be put on a back burner until On Time Performance is radically improved.  The focus of the Board should be to persuade their member agencies to allocate funds for double track and other improvements in the right of way, and to ensure that these funds are spent once they are available.

RailPAC congratulates the LOSSAN staff for its efforts to better market the Surfliner service under difficult conditions.  We trust that the Board will set realistic objectives and at the same time set out a vision for a modern passenger rail corridor that will meet the needs of Southern California.

Yours sincerely, Paul Dyson President pdyson@railpac.org

Commentary

Amtrak determined to starve itself to death – Paul Dyson

This is a brief posting as I am working on the next issue of Steel Wheels.  In the last two days Bob Johnston of Trains magazine has reported on Amtrak’s reduction of consists on the long distance trains.  RailPAC’s James Smith tells me that his daughter has been unable to reserve a seat on the “Chief” from Kansas to Chicago for a number of days because the train is showing “sold out”.  SOLD OUT!!  In March!!!  This is absurd.  The Southwest Chief is down to two coach cars while Superliners are parked.  I would not be surprised if their next idea is to add seats to the Superliners rather than add cars to the train.  Let’s reduce train travel to airline standards.

Today we hear that Amtrak is alienating another group of loyal (and influential) patrons, see below.

https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/attachments/fullsize/1278000/No_More_Charters.JPG

At the same time there are consistent rumors from 60 Mass Ave that Amtrak management is once again looking at thrice weekly long distance trains and “corridors” to reduce costs.  So Amtrak and the new genius CEO has the formula, keep cutting until we make a profit.  How many times since 1971 have we seen this tried, and failed.  And after every attempt at starving the patient we emerge with a smaller, frailer network with zero new investment.

Most interesting of these recent activities is the silence from top Amtrak officials.  There used to be official and unofficial channels of information, call them leaks if you like, whereby we advocates had a rough idea of what was happening and could at least attempt to react and prevent the worst of disasters.  Well, 60 Mass these days is watertight.  Anderson and the flyboys don’t care about the advocates and don’t want us to know what they have planned.

RailPAC will continue to do its best to keep you up to date and to act on your behalf to maintain the national network.  Your support, and most of all your membership of RailPAC, is appreciated, and more vital than ever.

Comments and updates to pdyson@railpac.org

 

Commentary

High Speed Rail Still Supported by Californians

While this post has already been widely circulated I think that it is worth repeating here, if for no other reason than as a historical marker.  It’s easy to be against something, especially a massive long term project, lacking in instant gratification.  Kudos to those Californians who understand the long term need for a modern passenger railway to radically improve our mobility.

Majority of Californians Still Support HSR

Despite overruns and non-stop pillorying in the press, new poll shows most still want the train built

The majority of Californians still support the state’s high-speed rail project, with 53 percent in favor, and 43 percent opposed, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). That’s up from 48 percent in favor when the survey was conducted last year, despite revelations that costs have risen substantially.

Support remains especially strong in the Bay Area, with 61 percent in favor.

It’s amazing that support for the project remains strong, considering the beating it continues to take in the press.

CALmatters columnist Dan Walters, in “Bullet train is a solution in search of a problem,” and the Bay Area News Group’s Daniel Borenstein, with “Jerry Brown’s embarrassing bullet-train bragging to Trump,” were just two of many writers who once again pilloried the project. “The bullet train, however enticing, is not a wise use of tens of billions of transportation dollars. It wasn’t when voters passed Proposition 1A in 2008, and the situation is worse today,” wrote Borenstein in his piece.

The Garces Viaduct in Kern County started construction this month--just the latest piece of HSR to start construction. Photo: CaHSRA The Garces Viaduct in Kern County started construction this month–just the latest piece of HSR to start construction. Photo: CaHSRA

Long-time opponents, such as Borenstein and Walters, started their recent editorials against the program ostensibly because costs have risen, but then lapse into making the same points they did before the voters approved HSR in 2008. “California has no shortage of transportation problems, but traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles isn’t one of them,” writes Walters in his recent piece (has he ever traveled between S.F. and L.A.?).

It’s also worth noting that the Los Angeles Times wrote about the PPIC poll as it applies to political candidates, but once again conspicuously failed to mention the results of the HSR question. As Streetsblog has pointed out before, the Times deliberately omits positive news and information about HSR.

“Nothing much has changed when it comes to attacking rail in America,” wrote Andy Kunz, President and CEO of the US High Speed Rail Association. “If you dig behind the surface of this, it is always the same–the ongoing influence of the auto/highway/oil lobby in America. They’ve been saying the same things, doing the same things, etc. for decades.”

As Kunz sees it, the continued popularity of the project, despite the media bias and the incessant and often false attacks against it, are an indication that Californians are probably traveling to Europe and Asia and experiencing high-speed rail first hand. They take bullet trains between Paris and London, Tokyo and Osaka, Beijing and Shanghai, and ride top-notch connecting services, and then wonder why traveling around California has to be so slow, frustrating, and unreliable. You can’t keep telling people that HSR will never work to make their lives better and their travels easier when they’ve experienced it first hand overseas.

“The evidence is all around the world, EVERY country that has invested in HSR has benefited enormously, and continues to benefit, while America continues to get worse (in terms of oil dependency, congestion, highway deaths, sluggish economy from sluggish transportation),” added Kunz. “It’s quite amazing how they have kept America stuck in a sort of time-warp of the 1950s, while the rest of the world has bolted into the 21st century.”

Chart: PPIC survey Chart from the PPIC survey

Of course, many, including the mostly Republican opposition to HSR and writers such as Borenstein, are crying for a redo of the only high-speed rail poll that really matters: the November 2008 vote to approve the project. The argument goes that voters deserve another chance because they were “lied to” about construction costs.

They might have a point–if the PPIC poll had shown public support cratering. By it’s now widely known that costs are higher than original assumptions (in fact, that information was included in the PPIC polling question) and yet there’s been little change in support. That said, Dan Richard, Chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board, reportedly said that he would not oppose a re-vote on the project in 2020. That may simply be because a second voter affirmation would be a powerful tool to hush opponents (plus the 2020 presidential election is expected to bring out oodles of progressive voters). It would be a risky proposition for HSR, since the PPIC poll also shows that a majority of “likely voters” oppose the project, so everything would hinge on voter turnout.

The PPIC survey conducted interviews with 1,706 adults, including 1,193 on cell phones and 513 on landline telephones. Phone numbers were picked using computer-generated random samplings.

Issues

RailPAC response to CHSRA 2018 Business Plan

Steve Roberts, Vice President, Policy and Research.

March 2018

The Rail Passenger Association of California since 1978 has supported a modern passenger railroad system for the State of California and the West.  We campaigned actively for the passage of 1A, the High Speed Rail bond measure.  While frustrated and dissatisfied with progress to date we still support the project overall.  However, at this point we are concerned that there is no deliverable alternative that will meet the mobility needs of a growing population and economy.

The California High Speed Rail Authority has a new Chief Executive Officer and has just published the 2018 Business Plan.  This document is available on the CHSRA website:  http://hsr.ca.gov/docs/about/business_plans/Draft_2018_Business_Plan.pdf

Our comments are as follows:

  1. The new Business Plan is a more realistic assessment of the current situation.  The negative trends, most specifically the lack of any follow-on Federal funding, were apparent in 2016 but the Authority adjusted by shifting to a Northern California focus.  The question is, can the Authority delivery its latest plan.
  2. Compared to the 2016 Business Plan the physical gap in the 2018 Business Plan (Chowchilla to Gilroy) is highlighted.  In 2016 the gaps were Wasco to Bakersfield and San Jose to San Francisco.  The problem was a San Jose to Wasco route would not generate a positive cash flow (after expenses) meaning the Early Train Operator would have had to finance the shortfall in ticket revenues.  The 2016 Business Plan had a vague discussion of closing the gaps.  As information, a Bakersfield to San Francisco route is forecast to be cash flow positive (after expenses) from year 1 of operation.  So it is vital that the Gilroy gap be closed.
  3. The CHSRA urgently needs to develop a credible funding plan for financing full service between San Francisco, Merced and Bakersfield. There is a Legislative HSR update scheduled for Spring of 2019.   RailPAC challenges the Authority to develop a detailed plan for closing the Chowchilla – Gilroy gap by that hearing.  With additional information such as the EIS documents for the other route segments, with some approved, with construction further advanced and with substantial pre-engineering analysis on the Chowchilla – Gilroy route RailPAC feels making this “stretch” goal is not unreasonable.
  4. This goal is also important because closing the new Chowchilla –Gilroy gap offers significant leverage by unleashing a large cash flow and is very attractive politically.

 

 

1.

  1. 6.RailPAC also supports the prioritization of investments that generate near-term benefits;

–          Extending the HSR line to Bakersfield means the San Joaquins will not face any BNSF slot issues on the south end of the route if they are shifted to HSR.  There is construction taking place between Madera and Stockton on the BNSF to increase track capacity which will allow an increase in San Joaquin frequencies on that segment of the route.  Marry that capacity with an HSR routing means a large potential increase in frequencies along the entire route.  That said, RailPAC supports full San Francisco – Bakersfield HSR service, not this fallback position.

–          Transforming Los Angeles Union Station into a run-through facility;

–          The extension of Caltrain electrification to Gilroy will generate significant ridership growth.  The plan seems to be suggesting a blended system but does not mention that specifically or what would happen to the four intermediate stops Tamien to Gilroy.  RailPAC is very interested in the reviewing the details of this important service expansion.

  1. The HSR 2018 Business Plan clearly indicates that the LAUS run-through tracks (LINKUS) is the Southern California priority.  HSR funding for the project is already committed in the Southern California Memorandum of Understanding (MOU.  However, RailPAC feels LA METRO and other political entities in Southern California seem to work to promote projects they champion, rather than LINKUS.   LINKUS seems to be viewed as an outside project with no one championing it.  While RailPAC will closely monitor MOU priorities on the LA Urban Mobility Corridor to make sure the funds don’t get spent on other projects, RailPAC requests the Authority and its Board’s assistance to keep the focus on LINKUS.

In summary, RailPAC feels the project’s key long-term benefits, the reasoning behind the High Speed Rail, remain the same:

  1. California is the sixth largest economy in the world.  Economic growth and job growth have been steady and with all of California’s inherent strengths this growth is forecast to continue;
  2. California is the second largest intercity travel market in the U.S. and easily in the top ten travel markets in the world;
  3. The only other transportation projects underway in California are the completion of a third lane on CA 99 and some HOT lanes on the connecting urban Interstates.  There is no alternative to high-speed rail being planned.  As we have seen, the planning and implementation of any major transportation project is a 30 to 40-year process;
  4. Any alternative transportation project would undoubtedly face the same cost pressures from inflation, delays due to litigation, changes in scope due to mitigation, etc.  In short HSR is still the least expensive option because any other option would have seen its cost rise in concert with those of the HSR project;

    2.

  5. The “No Build” option is a false choice since it would bring gridlock, worsen the quality of life and stifle economic growth;

One final challenge, if the Texas Central Railway can be privately financed, then one would think an 80-mile gap, with an approved EIS, an in place ROW, partial state funding and the fact that closing the gap leverages large market and revenue growth, could be financed.

 

Questions regarding RailPAC policy should be directed to info@railpac.org.

 

 

Events

CANCELLED March 10: Informal Members Discussion at Philippes

Unfortunately due to a conflict, we must postpone this event.
We hope to reschedule at a later date.

There will be an informal members discussion March 10th at 10 AM within walking distance of LA Union Station and the Chinatown Gold line station at Philippes the Original, 1001 N Alameda, Los Angeles.

phillipesmeeting

RailPAC members welcome!  Meetings usually occupy the first room (to your left at the top of the stairs) on the second floor of Philippes.

 

Commentary, Editorials, eNewsletter, Issues, Tracking Rail News

RailPAC Weekly E-Newsletter for March 5, 2018

newsletterheading

Newsletter Edited by Noel T. Braymer
Feel free to forward copies of this E-Newsletter to your friends or someone who can use this information.
If you would like to subscribe to the E-Newsletter just send your name and email address to nbraymer@railpac.org

If you’d like to see expanded and improved Rail Passenger Service-
Join Us!
Membership increases our strength in presenting the case for rail to policymakers at all levels!



This is a notice online from San Diego County of the latest on going track improvement projects in the county. This will be going on for several more years.


Amtrak cancels all service in Northeast corridor between Boston and Washington due to weather conditions
CNBC-Mar 2, 2018
mtrak has temporarily canceled all services between Boston and Washington, the railroad corporation said Friday evening.
Of the 106 trains scheduled to run between Boston and Washington — and the Keystone line connecting Pennsylvania and New York — all have been canceled or delayed, an Amtrak spokeswoman told CNBC.


Monster Storm Cripples Rail Service, Cancels More Than 1500 Flights
NBC New York-Mar 2, 2018
A powerful nor’easter is punishing the tri-state area with heavy rains and damaging winds through early Saturday
The storm suspended Amtrak service along the busy Northeast Corridor and canceled more than 1,500 flights (and counting) at area airports
Commuter rail services are also impacted, with delays and cancellations on NJ Transit, Metro-North and LIRR reported


Last person hospitalized after fatal Amtrak wreck in Crozet is released
Richmond.com-Feb 26, 2018
CHARLOTTESVILLE — After nearly a month, the last person hospitalized after the Jan. 31 crash between a garbage truck and an Amtrak train in Crozet has been discharged from the University of Virginia Medical Center.
Hospital officials announced Monday that Time Disposal employee Dennis Eddy, who spent nearly two weeks after the crash in critical condition, has been released.


Amtrak reviews risks of ‘dark territory’
Albany Times Union-Feb 27, 2018
In the wake of two recent fatal accidents, Amtrak’s CEO Richard Anderson told a Congressional panel earlier this month that the passenger railroad “will change how we operate through sections of track with no signals at all, so-called ‘dark territory,’ which is also exempted from the PTC mandate.”
Anderson said Amtrak trains currently travel over 222 miles of dark territory track nationwide, about one percent of its routes. At least some of that track is in New York, Vermont and Quebec, and is used by the Adirondack and Ethan Allen Express services, according to two industry sources. Freight railroads own most of the track over which Amtrak operates.


Caltrain considers new Wabtec contract for PTC
RailwayAge Magazine-Feb 27, 2018
Caltrain is trading long-delayed CBOSS for conventional PTC on its commuter rail corridor between San Francisco and San Jose.
The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board of Directors plans to consider the approval of a contract with Wabtec Railway Electronics, Inc. at its March 1 meeting to complete a federally-mandated safety upgrade to implement positive train control (PTC) along the corridor’s signal system.


Caltrain ends Parsons PTC contract; reaches agreement with  contractors for PCEP deadline extension
Railway Track & Structures-Feb 28, 2017
Caltrain has terminated a contract with Parsons Transportation Group (PTG), the firm responsible for designing and implementing a Positive Control System or CBOSS, after the agency said lack of the contractor’s progress threatened to delay implementation of the technology.


GAO: 7 to 19 commuter railroads could miss Dec. 31 deadline for adopting automatic braking
USA TODAY-Mar 1, 2018
WASHINGTON — Up to two-thirds of 29 commuter railroads nationwide will miss a Dec. 31 deadline for adopting automatic braking technology for their trains, a government watchdog said Thursday.
Susan Fleming, director of physical infrastructure at the Government Accountability Office, told the Senate transportation committee that seven to 19 commuter railroads are on pace to miss the deadline for installing and training crews for technology that Congress required in 2008 in an effort to prevent crashes.The 29 commuter railroads carry 500 million passengers a year.


If NJ Transit misses safety deadline, could Amtrak save the day?
NorthJersey.com-Mar 1, 2018
Amtrak could save the day for New Jersey commuters if NJ Transit is barred from operating on the tracks to New York Penn Station because a critical safety system hasn’t been installed.
Instead of hopping on an NJ Transit train, commuters would hop on trains pulled by Amtrak locomotives and crews, Amtrak’s CEO told lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday.
That’s what Richard Anderson proposed to members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, in testimony about the progress railroads are making toward installing positive train control by the end of December.
Where will Amtrak find the locomotives and crews to operate NJT’s Trains? Amtrak runs roughly 4 trains an hour peak in both directions into Penn Station. NJT operates up to 20 trains per hour in each direction during peak hours. NB


Trump Said to Tell Republicans Not to Approve Hudson Rail Tunnel Funds
Bloomberg Mar 3, 2018
Trump doesn’t want to advance the project, known as Gateway, which would provide a crucial rail link between New York and New Jersey — in part because Schumer had held up the nomination of several of Trump’s nominees, according to people familiar with the president’s thinking on the issue.
“This project is vital to fifty million people in the northeast corridor and to our American economy, and politics shouldn’t get in the way,” Schumer of New York said in an emailed statement.
Committing funds to Gateway also runs head-on into the philosophy that’s driven Trump’s push for a trillion-dollar public works plan — that states and municipalities should bear more of the cost, and the federal government less, for much-needed upgrades to U.S. infrastructure.


“HOW TO STOP AMTRAK’S CANNIBALIZING REGIONAL RAIL IN BEHALF OF THE NORTHEAST CORRIDOR”
A Short Treatise to Break the Mold on the West Coast
By M.E. Singer

In a very astute, detailed article in OREGON BUSINESS, “Post-derailment, Oregon passenger rail struggles to get back on track” (2 March), this media source clearly understood the financial issues for the Cascade route between Oregon-Washington, as magnified by the wreck of Cascade #501 last December. However, what was so apparently lacking in this otherwise fine depiction of what ails state-supported corridors was a concise understanding of the causes, and importantly, how to correct them.


Amtrak CEO clarifies position on Vermonter
WCAX-Mar 1, 2018
Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson was questioned Thursday by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan wanted to know if there was a way for the company to address safety concerns without taking the critical Vermonter line out of service. Anderson admits keeping the line is economically advantageous to the company and it’s now looking at lower cost fixes.
“We have an R&D project underway at Amtrak to determine whether we can use technologies from Europe that don’t require as much trackside investment but would give us speed restriction and signal location,” Anderson said.


New details revealed from fatal SC Amtrak crash in NTSB report
The State-Feb 28, 2018
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a preliminary report on the head-on collision between an Amtrak passenger train and CSX freight train in Cayce on Feb. 4.
The accident damage was estimated at $25 million and the agency’s investigative team has looked into the dispatch system that allowed the accident to happen.
The report’s findings mirror a NTSB safety recommendation released earlier this month. That recommendation requested that the Federal Railroad Administration issue an emergency order providing instructions for railroads to follow when signal suspensions are in effect and a switch has been reported relined for a main track.


Next phase of Amtrak construction begins at Penn Station
WABC-TV-Mar 2, 2018
Now, workers will focus on replace tracks that direct Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road trains.
The work could cause some track outages, but Amtrak says most of the project will be done on weekends to minimize disruptions for commuters.


TSA is testing explosive-detection technology with Amtrak
CNBC-Feb 27, 2018
The Transportation Security Administration and Amtrak are testing new technology to detect concealed explosives, the TSA said Tuesday.
The equipment, known as “stand off explosive detection technology” can detect an explosive when an individual passes by the device, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a news release. An alarm would go off on the equipment operator’s laptop, triggered by an individual’s “naturally occurring emissions from the human body.”
The tests will be conducted at New York’s Pennsylvania Station in the Amtrak terminal.


BLET, Amtrak reach tentative agreement
Progressive Rail Roading-Mar 2, 2018
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and Amtrak have reached a tentative contract agreement that governs rates of pay, benefits and work rules for about 1,400 locomotive engineers.
Ballots and a synopsis of the agreement were mailed to active members who work for the railroad. Voting will conclude April 1, according to a BLET press release.


Another positive Amtrak Trip Report?!! …and a few other things like Maricopa, BLTs and 737s
Commentary by Russ Jackson
Whenever one can write a positive report after a trip on an Amtrak long distance train it is a welcome breath of fresh air.  When a positive report can be written for two consecutive trips the celebration should begin.  Not that these are the only positive trips in our 40 year riding experience, but I think there is a positive culture “out there” on the rails. The first trip report was written about our September trip, and this one is our January trip from Ft. Worth to Los Angeles on the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited; one way this trip; circumstances forced us to fly home.


It’s a go for the Rockland Amtrak passenger rail pilot program
PenBayPilot.com-Feb 27, 2018
PORTLAND — On Monday, Feb. 26 members of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Association (NNEPRA) voted in favor of a truncated pilot program that would test running Amtrak’s Downeast Coastal Connector passenger rail service to Rockland during three weekends in August. The meeting took place at the University of Southern Maine.


Ex-Amtrak exec who steered business to wife’s photo company dodges prison
Chicago Sun-Times-Feb 27, 2018
A former Amtrak official caught steering $30,000 in business to his wife’s photo company to take pictures of families in front of a Polar Express exhibit narrowly dodged a prison sentence Tuesday after a judge said he was inclined to impose one.
Instead, U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras ordered Benjamin Sheets, 50, to serve three months in community confinement in a deal arranged to help Sheets keep a new job he found after he was fired last fall as the head of transportation at Union Station.


Amtrak train slams into car on tracks in Little Italy
CBS 8 San Diego-Feb 27, 2018
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – No injuries were reported Tuesday morning when an Amtrak train struck an SUV abandoned on the tracks by a suspected drunk driver in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood, authorities said.
Officers had already helped evacuate the driver of the stalled Nissan Xterra when the southbound Amtrak train slammed into the vehicle about 1:35 a.m. near West Grape and California streets, San Diego County sheriff’s Deputy Giovani Pantoja said.


ROBERT PRICE: Let’s move the downtown Greyhound station
The Bakersfield Californian-Mar 3, 2018
More than once I’ve wondered if they might be better served at a new, more modern Greyhound station that’s part of an intermodal transportation center. Some place that’s better situated for travelers than the corner of 18th and F streets, on the fringe of the city’s compact but growing restaurant and entertainment district.
Like … a mile to the southeast, next door to the city’s Amtrak station.
I’m not the only one who has considered the possibility.


King City seeks gas tax funding to reestablish train service
KCBX-Feb 26, 2018
The California gas tax that took effect on November 1 is raising money for transportation projects across the state. Cities, towns and counties are applying for grants under SB1, the law that established the tax increase. A big focus of the state department of transportation, Caltrans, is to increase rail service in many places.
King City in southern Monterey County wants to be on that list. City and county officials are working to get Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train to stop in King City. And stop at a rebuilt train station, said Mayor Mike LeBarre.


Sacramento Valley Station by Page & Turnbull and ZGF
Architectural Record-Feb 26, 2018
Designed by San Francisco firm Bliss and Faville, the Sacramento Valley Station was built as a flagship depot for the Southern Pacific Railroad. By the 1970s, the 68,000-square-foot Renaissance Revival building—with its exterior of local brick and terra-cotta, and its ornate waiting room adorned with California marble, travertine, steel, bronze, and mahogany—fell into disrepair.


Major $183 Billion Boost to California’s Economy Expected Over 10 Years from Transportation Investments in Senate Bill 1
PR Newswire Feb 28, 2018
New Analysis Comes as Legislation Approaches 1st Anniversary; Report available: www.artba.org
A comprehensive new analysis finds that an April 2017 California law will generate nearly $183 billion in economic activity and user benefits throughout all sectors of the state’s economy over 10 years.  The additional demand, in turn, will also support or create an average of over 68,200 jobs per year, adding up to over 682,000 job-years over the next decade—with over half coming in sectors outside of the construction industry.
The 62-page analysis, conducted by American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, examines the numerous impacts of Senate Bill 1 (SB 1)—the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.  The measure included $5 billion annually in new investments for the state’s highways and local streets, bridges and transit systems.
This is a press release basically from the road construction lobby celebrating the spending coming from the recent increase in California’s gasoline taxes. This report does shows that spending is at the heart of economic growth. Economists call it the multiplier effect. When someone spends a dollar, the person receiving the money is able to spend it on something else. Spending on infrastructure not only improves productivity, but also stimulates the economy. This also includes investment in rail passenger service. NB


Kowloon High Speed Rail Terminus Site Could Spawn $18B Hong Kong land king
Mingtiandi-Mar 4, 2018
The Hong Kong government has unveiled its land sale programme for the new financial year from April 2018 to March 2019, including four commercial sites and 27 residential sites. Drawing the most attention is a 6-hectare commercial site above the Hong Kong terminus of the Express Rail Link connecting Kowloon to mainland China. Analysts estimate the site to be valued at as much as HK$142 billion ($18 billion) — more than five times the city’s largest-ever land sale to date.


Section of Downtown Fresno street closed due to High-Speed Rail Project
KFSN-TV-Feb 26, 2018
Construction crews will begin working on another section of road in Downtown Fresno as part of the High-Speed Rail Project.
The Rail Authority said the closure of H Street between the Stanislaus Street Bridge and Divisadero Street will begin Monday. Crews will be conducting utility relocation work, which is expected to last about two months.
Work will be conducted in two-block segments with each segment taking about two to three weeks to complete.


Texas Central answers questions at High Speed Rail luncheon
Cleburne Times-Review-Mar 2, 2018
Vice President of External Affairs for TCR Travis Kelly spoke on behalf of the High Speed Rail, attempting to clear up any misconceptions and answering questions the public has asked.
When concerning property taxes, Kelly assured that “because we are a private company, we will pay taxes for our property; the bill will be on our dime … We also want our neighbors to get rich, and we consider you as our neighbor. Whether we need your land or not, the check from the price we negotiate for land is yours to keep.”


High-speed rail linking 3 airports wins first nod
Bangkok Post-Feb 26, 2018
The Eastern Economic Corridor Board has approved in principle a 260km high-speed train project seamlessly linking Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao airports at a cost of 200 billion baht…
At up to 250km per hour, the train will take 45 minutes from Bangkok to U-Tapao airport, compared to 2-3 hours by car. It will initially have five stations: Chachoengsao, Chon Buri, Si Racha, Pattaya and…
The project will also build three extensions from existing Airport Rail Link (ARL): a 21km Don Muang-Phaya Thai extension, 29km Phaya Thai-Suvarnabhumi and Suvarnabhumi-U-Tapao.
This is all in Thailand. NB 


Transport Scotland to study potential high-speed rail link from Glasgow to Carstairs
Glasgow Live-Feb 27, 2018
Transport Scotland are to study the potential for a new high-speed rail link between Glasgow and Carstairs as part of a nationwide High Speed Rail route.
The feasibility report will also look at the possibility for a new interchange station at Eurocentral to enable high speed train connectivity between Glasgow and Edinburgh with London.


Is the Hyperloop Taking Cities for a Ride?
Streetsblog USA Feb 27, 2018
The Hyperloop has never carried human passengers. Yet Ohio officials signed off on a grant based on the promise of Cleveland-Chicago route in just three to five years.
The Hyperloop and Silicon Valley are going to save the rust belt.
That’s the message in a slick marketing video dropped by Hyperloop TT after a big announcement in Cleveland Monday. Civic leaders in Northeast Ohio, including Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Congressional reps Marcy Kaptur and Tim Ryan, were on hand for the signing of a $1.2 million grant, funded in part with $200,000 from the Cleveland Foundation, that kicks off a six-month study of Chicago to Cleveland Hyperloop service.


Why Mag-Lev And Hyperloop Won’t Work And How Passenger Trains Can Run Full
By Noel T. Braymer
There is lots of talk by promoters about how High Speed Rail or any rail service is too expensive and won’t attract many riders. But according to the promoters the solution is technology with either Mag-Lev or Hyperloop. But there isn’t much in the way of examples of either Mag-Lev or Hyperloop services that are successfully in service . But you do have thousands of miles of successful rail passenger service around the world, including new High Speed Rail services continuing to be built. So what’s wrong with either Mag-Lev of Hyperloop? It boils down to they often don’t get you where you want to go.


This is a recent photo of my almost 4 year old grandson playing in the snow in Dublin, Ireland. What makes this photo unique is it doesn’t snow very often in Dublin and recent snowfalls have shut down travel including air service. Most of Europe got hit last week with cold weather and heavy snows including Rome. Photo by Marissa Braymer


Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann and Luas issue notices to customers as red weather warning in place for Storm Emma
The Irish Sun-Feb 27, 2018
PUBLIC transport companies are warning there may be some cancellations and delays to services because of the ‘Beast from the East’.
A red weather warning has been issued for Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Wicklow and Meath this morning.
Weather experts have predicted the polar vortex will blitz the country with its worst fall in 36 years with up to 65cm (25 inches) of snowfall expected to be dumped on parts of higher ground across the country between tonight and Friday.
And Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, Luas and Bus Eireann are urging customers to check their sites for updates over the coming days.
A Luas spokesperson said: “Luas will operate normal passenger services this week however, this will be subject to weather conditions and advice over the coming days.
“We would advise you to plan your journey in advance and allow plenty of time to travel.


Freezing weather in Europe linked to soaring temperatures at North Pole, say scientists
Telegraph.co.uk-Feb 26, 2018
While Britain shivers in the “Beast from the East”, scientists say temperatures have risen above freezing repeatedly at the North Pole, reaching as high as 30C above normal for the depths of winter.
The cause is a “warm air intrusion” bringing mild and moist air. It is a common feature of Arctic weather systems but this year has been deeper and longer than normal, according to meteorologists.
The disturbance is responsible for displacing a blast of chilly Arctic air, sending it streaming over Europe.


California Decries Federal Climate Change Reversal, Cap-And Trade Yields Big Return
Capital Public Radio News-Mar 1, 2018
The latest results from California’s signature climate change program are in, and they show a third straight sellout.
The state cap-and-trade program turns greenhouse gas emissions into a commodity — businesses must obtain a credit for each ton of carbon they will emit. The sellout at the latest quarterly auction of credits means the state will get about $700 million for clean energy programs and the high-speed rail project.This was also the first auction since the Canadian province of Ontario linked its cap-and-trade program with California and Quebec’s, with no apparent hiccups.
But, some environmental groups have a concern — businesses are buying more credits than they need, suggesting that they’re stocking up now when prices are low and credits are numerous, to continue a higher level of emissions in the future, when the state plans to cut.


To Meet Climate Goals, California Should Cut Oil Production, Report Says
Inside Climate News Feb 28, 2018
California built a reputation launching some of the most ambitious climate policies in the world, but it’s also a significant oil producer, with the third largest oil production of any state.
If it were to eliminate even half of that production, it could cut global carbon dioxide emissions by 8 million to 24 million tons per year, the Stockholm Environment Institute says in a new report. That’s equalivalent to as much as 5 percent of the state’s overall emissions.


Caltrain bike capacity
San Mateo Daily Journal-Feb 27, 2018
More bike capacity on Caltrain is needed because I’ve been denied boarding trains with my bike during peak commute hours, which is negatively impacting to my job.
I’m happy that the staff has applied for funding to launch electrified service with eight-car trains to increase capacity for both seats and bikes in 2022. I’m concerned that the Caltrain staff’s current proposal for six-car electrified trains has 25 percent fewer seats and 7 percent less bike capacity than today’s trains.


Caltrain ridership is on rise
San Mateo Daily Journal-Mar 3, 2018
Caltrain ridership is up this year, bringing a mixed bag of increased fare box revenue as well as overcrowded train cars.
As of January, average weekly ridership increased 3.2 percent to 57,018 from January 2017, which saw 55,271. Total fare box revenue is up 13.7 percent over that period, from $6.9 million to $7.9 million, according to a staff report.
Last year saw a small dip in ridership, which Caltrain spokesman Dan Lieberman attributed to extreme weather and rain, but otherwise ridership has been growing steadily since 2010.


Here’s why BART’s new cars don’t have outlets for charging electronics
SFGate-Feb 26, 2018
Commuters with long rides ahead of them each day will need to remember to charge their phones and iPads before heading to BART.
BART’s new and upgraded train cars, which they’ve dubbed the “Fleet of the Future,” don’t include a feature found near some seats on their older cars: outlets.
The new cars are modified to handle more passengers — they include seats that take up less space to allow for more standing room — but as a result, there don’t appear to be any convenient places to put outlets.


Andersen Drive section in San Rafael closing for SMART work
Marin Independent Journal Feb 24, 2018
Busy Andersen Drive near West Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael will be closed for up to four months beginning Monday as commuter rail tracks are installed across the thoroughfare.
The closure will be in place 24 hours a day until the work at the crossing is finished. Traffic will be rerouted off Andersen Drive to Francisco Boulevard as well as onto Woodland Avenue.
San Rafael has been working with Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit and the Golden Gate Bridge district to bring trains through the Bettini Transit Center and to Larkspur near the ferry terminal.


Odor From Rail Tanker Car Triggers Pittsburg Shelter In Place
CBS San Francisco Bay Area-Feb 27, 2018
PITTSBURG (CBS SF) — A strong odor from an empty railroad tanker car parked on the BNSF tracks in Pittsburg Tuesday triggered a brief shelter-in-place order for a nearby neighborhood, authorities said.
The incident was reported around 12:30 p.m., according to Fire Marshal Robert Marshall. Contra Costa County firefighters and Pittsburg police officers condoned off the tanker cars on N. Park side Driveway and 17th Street.


Travel association blames homeless crisis for stalling San Francisco tourism
Curbed San Francisco Feb 23, 2018
San Francisco tourism slumped a bit in 2017, and the San Francisco Travel Association [SFTA] says that a one-two punch of the city’s ongoing homeless crisis and the United States in general’s declining public image in other countries is to blame.


NIMBYism no response to Weiner’s bold California housing plan
The San Diego Union-Tribune-Feb 26, 2018
The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board will let the legislative process play out more before taking a position on the bill. But so far the howls that have met it from politicians in Los Angeles and San Francisco have amounted to the same old parochial not-in-my-back-yard arguments that have driven California’s housing shortage for decades.


Studies Are Increasingly Clear: Uber, Lyft Congest Cities
NBC Southern California-Feb 26, 2018
One promise of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft was fewer cars clogging city streets. But studies suggest the opposite: that ride-hailing companies are pulling riders off buses, subways, bicycles and their own feet and putting them in cars instead.
And in what could be a new wrinkle, a service by Uber called Express Pool now is seen as directly competing with mass transit.
Uber and Lyft argue that in Boston, for instance, they complement public transit by connecting riders to hubs like Logan Airport and South Station. But they have not released their own specific data about rides, leaving studies up to outside researchers.


Amtrak, Coaster Shut Down This Weekend In San Diego County
Patch.com-Mar 2, 2018OCEANSIDE, CA – The North County Transit District will shut down Amtrak and Coaster service this weekend for infrastructure improvements, with the first disruptions going into effect late Friday evening.
Amtrak and Coaster service will also be cancelled next weekend for more improvements and an emergency exercise, NCTD officials said…
“During the closure weekends, neither Amtrak nor Metrolink will service the Oceanside Transit Center due to project work north of the station,” Sawyer said. “Connecting bus service will require Amtrak reservations.”


Leaders Break Ground on Metro Purple Line Subway to Century City
Streetsblog LA Feb 23, 2018
This morning, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Inglewood Mayor James Butts, Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse and other L.A. leaders celebrated the official groundbreaking for section two of the Westside Metro Purple Line subway extension. The $2.53 billion 2.6-mile heavy rail subway extension will include stops at Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive and on Constellation Boulevard in Century City.


The most exciting construction project in LA right now is the Regional Connector
Curbed LA Feb 27, 2018
It’s the most important construction project in LA right now, and it is not a building. It’s a gargantuan subterranean structure that stretches 1.9 miles from Little Tokyo to the Financial District. When complete, it will provide a one-seat ride from Santa Monica to East LA, another from Long Beach to Azuza. That’s a distance of almost 40 miles, north to south, east to west, on one fare.


Bill To Promote Housing Near Transit Amended To Address Local Concerns
Hoodline Feb 28, 2018
A state bill to allow mid-rise, denser development near transit corridors was amended by its sponsors yesterday to address concerns raised by local planning agencies.
State Senator and former District 8 Supervisor Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) issued his first round of amendments to SB 827 to clarify that local inclusionary housing requirements would still stand and that tenant protection provisions, such as the right to return, should be upheld.


Mixed-Use Affordable Housing Planned Along Blue Line
Urbanize.LA Feb 28, 2018
Another mixed-use affordable housing complex is coming to the southern fringe of Downtown Los Angeles.
Earlier today, AMCAL Multi-Housing submitted an application to the Department of City Planning to construct a five-story mixed-use building at 220 E. Washington Boulevard, featuring 109 apartments – including 108 affordable units and one manager’s unit – above 10,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space and a semi-subterranean parking garage for 57 vehicles and 122 bicycles.


More Apartments Coming to Monrovia Station
A four-acre south located immediately south of the Gold Line’s Monrovia Station could yield a multifamily residential complex, according to an announcement from the Monrovia City Manager.
Richman Group, a Connecticut-based real estate developer, has announced plans for Station Square South, a 296-unit apartment complex at the northeast corner of Magnolia Avenue and Duarte Road.  A handful of small commercial buildings would give way for the collection of five-story structures.


It’s done! Monrovia finishes restoring its historic train depot
San Gabriel Valley Tribune Feb 25, 2018
Built in 1926, the iconic building had been decaying for 45 years at what is now the Monrovia Gold Line station at Duarte Road and Myrtle Avenue.
Contractor Samuelson & Fetter started the design process for the $2.2 million restoration at the end of 2015. The company broke ground on the project in March 2017, said Nic Fetter, director of marketing, and it finished the work Feb. 16.
The original William H. Mohr building is expected to house a vendor, most likely a restaurant, Fetter said, although one has not been named yet.


City Wants to Fund Flower Street, Arts District Rail Projects
Los Angeles looks at establishing a TIF to fund rail improvements
Red Line Reader Feb 24, 2018
The district defined by the City would cover the vast majority of downtown LA and is envisioned as the primary funding vehicle for a suite of transit spending including the extension of the heavy rail subway from Union Station as well as “capital improvements to the Blue / Expo Line throughout the Flower St and Washington Blvd corridors,” active transportation projects, increased bus service in southeast downtown neighborhoods, and the expansion of a 7th Street pedestrian corridor all the way to the L.A. river.
Part of the feasibility study would involve gauging the revenue that could be raised over the life of the EIFD, but the tentative project list is ambitious. Based on prior Metro documents, the projects listed will likely come in somewhere over $1 billion if they involve undergrounding the Blue and Expo Lines on Flower and Washington.


Los Angeles Looks to Advance Five Affordable Housing Projects
Urbanize. LA Feb 27, 2018
At its meeting today, the Los Angeles City Council will consider a request from the Housing + Community Investment Department to advance five proposed developments that would bring new affordable housing to Downtown, Hollywood and South Los Angeles.
The projects, which have already been admitted to HCID’s Affordable Housing Managed Pipeline, would create 401 rental housing units – including 245 units of permanent supportive housing – at a total cost of $170.5 million.  Approval of the request by the City Council would allow HCID to issue letters of support for the five proposed developments, which are pursuing low-income housing tax credits.


Boston’s Best Bet for Better Transit: Modernizing Commuter Rail
Streetsblog USA Feb 27, 2018
Boston commuter rail has the pieces for an expansive modern system. What it needs isn’t a big extension, but a fresh approach to service.
That’s according to a new report from local advocacy group Transit Matters.
The 398-mile MTBA Commuter Rail system carries an unremarkable 130,000 passengers a day. But that’s not surprising given its slow and limited service.
Transit Matters has proposed a $2-3 billion “Regional Rail” overhaul that would make it much more useful.
Here is what the group proposes:
1. Increase service
2. Electrify the system
3. Free Transfers
4. North-south rail link



This is a map of San Diego showing where construction is ongoing for both Coaster/Surfliner services and San Diego Trolley. Looking at the upper right hand side are the railroad tracks which are doubled tracked from Miramar Road down to the 52 freeway. South of the 52 the tracks are being double tracked all the way to Old Town and a few miles are also being straightened to allow faster speeds for Surfliner, Coaster and freight services. The dotted blue line shows the alignment of the $2 billion dollar extension of the San Diego Trolley Blue Line to University City. New Trolley tracks are being built north of Old Town along side of the Coaster/Surfliner/freight tracks which are also being double tracked. On the dotted blue line, the parts encased with double black lines shows where the Blue Line will be elevated. The black square at the base of Gilman Drive is for an undercrossing where the Blue Line moves to the west on its own right of way along the 5 freeway to the UCSD Campus area and University City. All that’s now missing is a joint station for  transfers between Blue Line and Coaster trains near University City. The Blue Line extension is expected to be running by 2021 and the new 10.3 miles of new double tracking between the 52 and Old Town will be finished by 2020.


We Get Emails


Re: Amtrak AAA discount
As of this writing Amtrak has eliminated the AAA discount to its rail fares without explanation.  Do you know why this has occurred?
– Bruce Fredian
In two words: new management. The new Amtrak President, Richard Anderson spent most of his career in the airline industry. He has shaken up Amtrak management bringing in many people from the airline industry to Amtrak management. The airline industry includes those wonderful people who want to charge you extra to eat airline food, check your luggage and even to pick your seat when you reserve your flight. NB 


Re: Amtrak incompetence!

First, thank you for your comprehensive passenger rail e-news.
Second, considering the gross incompetence of Amtrak, that e-news may be as close as I will get to ever riding Amtrak again.
Three weeks ago from the Amtrak web site I sent an inquiry about about whether or not bags could be checked on Northeast Regional trains departing Washington Union Station. That information either was simply not available at the web site, or so obscured that after a 30 minute search I could not find it. Yesterday, after three weeks I finally got a response from Amtrak. Did it answer my simple question? NO. It directed me to phone Amtrak Customer Service, or should that be Customer Abuse, and then presumably sit on hold for 30 to 90 minutes to get an agent that would still be unable to find that information. Forget it.
Now, at the Amtrak web site, I attempted to find the schedule and fare for a return trip day excursion from San Francisco to Sacramento. Impossible! There are Thruway buses that connect to Emeryville from various San Francisco locations. There are multiple trains from Emeryville to Sacramento. But the web site could present only one bus-train itinerary in late afternoon. OK, attempt two. Obviously, the bus connection is much too complicated  for the web site. So, I just searched for trains. I specified return trip, entered the other required data, and clicked Find Trains. The site provides the list of trains Emeryville > Sacramento. I choose one and click Add to Cart, and that is it. The site does not then offer a list of return trains. There is no link to the Cart. Nothing. End of track. Forget it.That is just the web site. Every trip I have taken on Amtrak in the past twenty years has been compromised to some degree by incompetent service in one category or another. I travel by air five to ten times a year. It certainly has its frustrations, but in regard to competent, professional service it is in an entirely different world than the extraordinary disservice Amtrak regularly offers the public. At which I am so annoyed, that I could almost join the trumpetboy in wanting to scrap the whole mess.
– Michael Howard
Palm Springs, CA
I have often joked that I have never had mediocre service on Amtrak: it is either very good or very bad. Amtrak has been a creature from the start more of politics than of dedication to rail passenger service. Much of the political fun and games are centered on Northeast politics. This comes at the expense of the National System, particularly the long distance trains. Many of the long distance trains earn roughly half of their revenues from sleeping car passengers. Adding more sleeping cars would easily increase Amtrak revenues. But Amtrak isn’t the only “business” with customer service that gives customers the run around. Years ago I was a customer of a major bank. The local branch lost my check for a credit card payment which I had dropped off at my bank’s local branch. I was told by the bank that I would have to call customer service. I called and several times when I reached the checking department I’d be transferred to the credit card department who would transfer me back to the checking department. I went back to my then bank branch and asked to see the branch manager. The manager told me I’d have to call customer service. I replied you (the manager) are customer service! The manager called for security and I soon closed out my accounts with that bank. NB 


Opinions expressed in this enewsletter are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Rail Passenger Association of California.

The RailPAC Mission: Passenger Rail advocacy, Publications…both print and electronic, Representation at regional meetings, and Rail education.
Join us! More memberships increase our strength in presenting the case for rail to policymakers at all levels!

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Commentary, Issues

Electrolink Will be on the 2020 Ballot

ElectrolinkArtMeme

Funding for Metrolink regional rail electrification (#Electrolink for short) is going to be on the ballot in 2020 in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange Counties.

And we only need 55% of the vote – so long as we do it in accordance with the recent state supreme court ruling reducing the threshold for citizen-sponsored referendums and the like.

Our meeting with former Mayor of Santa Monica Denny Zane and the wonderful staff over at Move LA – the team probably as responsible as any for Los Angeles County’s previous $120 Billion transit investment, Measure M – went very well.

It is late on Saturday evening so I’ll put off going into detail until a future post, but so as not to leave you good people in suspense, here is the main finding of RailPAC’s first official meeting with Move LA:

Move LA’s 2020 ballot measure is going to mean more Metrolink – so much more Metrolink. 

We’re going to use this opportunity to to turn all 500+ miles into Electrolink – a modern, punctual, frequent electric passenger rail service similar to Europe and Asia’s –  dramatically improving passenger experience and eliminating local air pollution.

Much more to come on this and the numerous other exciting passenger rail developments we’ve been covering, once RailPAC President Paul Dyson has returned from his brief trip to Canada and we’ve had an opportunity to go over everything that’s happened in the few days he’s been out of town.

Stay tuned!

Alex

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Commentary, Editorials, eNewsletter, Issues, Rail Photos, Tracking Rail News

RailPAC Weekly E-Newsletter for February 26, 2018

newsletterheading
Edited by Noel T. Braymer
Feel free to forward copies of this E-Newsletter to your friends or someone who can use this information.
If you would like to subscribe to the E-Newsletter just send me your name and email address to nbraymer@railpac.org

If you’d like to see expanded and improved Rail Passenger Service-
Join Us!
Membership increases our strength in presenting the case for rail to policymakers at all levels!



This is a recent photo early in the morning at Oceanside. The locomotive at the end of this Metrolink Train is one of 40 new EMD locomotives built for Metrolink, many of which had been delivered to Metrolink by last summer. The first of these new locomotives went into service on Metrolink back in October. So far there have been many problems needing troubleshooting with these new locomotives which makes them unreliable so far. As a result Metrolink pairs these new locomotives to a reliable older locomotive to insure their trains don’t get stranded. Slowly but surely Metrolink is getting this new fleet of locomotives up to spec. These new locomotive are central to plans to add more trains and cars into Metrolink’s service in the coming 5 years. Photo by Noel T. Braymer


Wild California police chase ends after driver detours into train tunnel
Fox News-Feb 21, 2018
Driver leads cops on wild chase, vanishes into subway tunnel
Authorities in Southern California were led on a wild pursuit in East Los Angeles on Tuesday that ended when the driver took a surprise detour into a subway tunnel.
The police pursuit began in Huntington Park, located south of downtown Los Angeles, after authorities spotted a pickup truck that had been reported stolen, according to KTLA.
During the chase, captured by television news helicopters, the driver of the pickup truck slammed into a yellow taxi at one point and then kept driving.
Later news reports said this driver was wanted on 6 felony charges. NB


NTSB: Truck was on tracks, gates were down before Amtrak crash
Progressive Rail Roading-Feb 22, 2018
A garbage truck involved in a fatal Amtrak accident late last month had entered a grade crossing after the warning gates were lowered, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced yesterday.
On Jan. 31, an Amtrak train struck a garbage truck that was stopped at the crossing in Crozet, Virginia. The train was carrying Republican members of Congress on their way to a legislative retreat in West Virginia.
As a result of the crash, one truck passenger died; another truck passenger sustained serious injuries and the truck’s driver sustained minor injuries.


Valley Amtrak Routes On Track To Meet Safety Standards
Valley Public Radio-Feb 20, 2018
The operator of Amtrak service in the Central Valley says they plan to put positive train control in place by the end of this year. This comes a day after the CEO of Amtrak said routes without the safety feature could suspended…
In the Central Valley, the San Joaquin corridor of Amtrak is operated by Caltrans and the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority.
Matt Rocco, with Caltrans, says they will probably meet the deadline for getting positive train control functioning.
“For the San Joaquin lines, most of the equipment has been installed,” Rocco says. “We are very confident that this will be running at the beginning of next year.


Safety On The Tracks? The Bigger Death Toll Is At Grade Crossings
By Noel T. Braymer
There has been a great deal of media attention on Amtrak and its fatal accidents that have happen in the last few years. These accidents were preventable and should never have happened. But fatal accidents still happen all the time often for no other reason than human error. Passenger train crashes often look terrible and invoke strong emotions with the public. An article in USA Today published on May 13, 2015 gave perspective of the level of dangers to passengers riding on Amtrak. This article pointed out that 158 Amtrak passengers died between 1975 to 2015. That’s an average of roughly 4 passenger deaths a year during this time. Several of these deaths were from passengers falling or jumping off from moving trains. This USA Today article also pointed out that during this time period between 1975 to 2015, Amtrak was involved with a total of 3,744 deaths. Just 4% of these deaths were with passengers. This article published in 2015 pointed out that for 2014 of 119 Amtrak related deaths, 108 were from people trespassing on the tracks.


Take Responsibility For Your Property:’ Astoria Residents Want Amtrak To Repair Cracked Sidewalk
CBS New York-Feb 22, 2018
In New York City, property owners are responsible for repairing and repaving the adjacent sidewalks, and the city gives out violations to owners who don’t.
“This is Amtrak’s property. Take responsibility for it and make sure that you keep our residents safe as you’re passing through our neighborhoods,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides, of Queens, told Bauman.


Amtrak completes repair work on Track 15 at Penn Station
Newsday-Feb 23, 2018
The national railroad, which owns Penn Station and has come under fire over its deteriorated condition, began work at the beginning of January focusing on Track 15 — part of a series of infrastructure renovations at the aging rail hub.
The project included demolishing and replacing a section of concrete.
“We completed the track work within budget, safely, and with minimal amount of disruption to service, as committed,” Amtrak said in a statement, noting the the work was completed three days ahead of schedule.


Amtrak could suspend Vermont service
Vermont Biz-Feb 23, 2018
Anderson spoke at a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on the slow-paced implementation of positive train control (PTC), a crash-prevention technology which, under federal law, must be installed on some 60,000 miles of the nation’s rail routes by year’s end.
He was addressing safety concerns in the aftermath of several fatal accidents that the Amtrak system has witnessed since December.
The routes that Amtrak uses in Vermont, for the Ethan Allen Express and Vermonter trains, are in fact exempt from the federal requirement because they see so little traffic, but Anderson told the subcommittee that “for those instances, where we will not have PTC even after the 12/31 deadline because it’s not required by statute, we have a question about whether we’re going to operate at all, and I doubt we will.”
This could be an issue as well on the Southwest Chief over Raton Pass which doesn’t have PTC and has little traffic outside of trains 3&4. It wouldn’t be economical to install PTC on lines with  little traffic or chance to run into other trains . NB


Union Pacific, Amtrak nearly finished with Positive Train Control upgrades
Northern Nevada Business Weekly-Feb 23, 2018
According to reports from Union Pacific, 99.7 percent of PTC hardware had been installed as of Dec. 31, 2017, on the company’s routes — including through Reno — and on 98 percent of its locomotives.
Those lines are in the testing phase. Other lines are expected to have PTC systems installed before the deadline.


PTC: Ignore the circus. Here’s what’s really going on
Railway Age Feb 16, 2018
The railroad industry is making steady progress implementing Positive Train Control. You wouldn’t know it though, if you believed some of the choreographed histrionics the House Subcommittee on Railroads and its chairman displayed at a Feb. 15 hearing on PTC...
“Today, U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, took to task representatives of the railroad industry, including Amtrak, on their failure to implement PTC safety technology that would have prevented crashes and saved lives: ‘If you have a timeline, we want to see that timeline. If you have questions or concerns or impediments, we want to know what those are. If you haven’t received funding, maybe you should request funding. But certainly, ignoring a congressional mandate again won’t be tolerated by either side of the aisle. I think the American public is tired of excuses. This is an amazing technology that will continue to improve the safety of our rails across the country.’”
You can stop laughing now.
None of the above has even the slightest shred of truth. Some of it is an outright, bald-faced lie. So what’s the purpose of Denham’s pontificating on PTC?


Off the rails: What’s going on with all these deadly train crashes?
Metro US-Feb 23, 2018
“I’m not sure we’re seeing so many accidents and derailments, we’re seeing a couple that are getting a lot of press,” said Allan Zarembski, the director of the Railroad Engineering and Safety Program at the University of Delaware.
Referring to statistics released by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that show a downtick in accidents and fatalities, Zarembski said, “Nothing I’ve seen in the statistics from 2017 show that it was a major aberration in safety.
And, despite the high-profile accidents, there has been no dip in train travel, with only a 4 percent dip in travelers over the last decade, according to the FRA.


Passenger rail service proposed from New Orleans to Mobile with stops on the Coast
WLOX-Feb 22, 2018
In a letter addressed to Governor Phil Bryant from Coast lawmakers, the plan calls for Amtrak service to be added from New Orleans to Mobile with stops in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula. This proposal does not offer service to Jacksonville, FL.
Knox Ross with the Southern Rail Commission said the shorter route gives passenger rail service a better chance of becoming a reality sooner.
“Much of the track between Mobile and New Orleans already has positive train control, which has been in the news a lot lately and it’s signaled correctly,” said Ross. “It’s in great physical condition and they [CSX] have indicated to us that this would be a much more preferable option for them as well.”


New California Everyday Discounts Program Offers Savings on Train Travel
PR Newswire Feb 22, 2018
The Amtrak® Pacific Surfliner® recently launched the California Everyday Discounts program, offering year-round savings on train travel for seniors, students, and passengers with disabilities. The Pacific Surfliner route serves San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo, connecting nearly 3 million passengers a year to many of Southern California’s top destinations.


New Amtrak commuter train servicing Ventura, Santa Barbara areas ready to roll in April
KEYT-Feb 22, 2018
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A long-awaited commuter service involving a precisely timed Amtrak Pacific Surfliner will begin April 2 between Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
The demand has been high for traffic relief for years. The recent disasters, which left the area with a transit mess and broken bridges on Highway 192, has resulted in extreme congestion during peak hours.
An estimated 15,000 vehicles are using that route daily for work.
The planned train will have stops in Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura, Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and Goleta.


Nice price: Metra to buy Amtrak locomotives
RailwayAge Magazine-Feb 23, 2018
Chicago’s commuter rail agency is bargain-hunting as it looks to buy used locomotives to help bolster its motive power fleet.
On Feb. 21 Metra directors authorized negotiations to purchase as many as 21 locomotives at a cost of $1.3 million each that were most recently used by Amtrak in California and other West Coast lines.
Metra is also seeking proposals from manufacturers for new locomotives, for delivery in late 2020.
Metra Chairman Norm Carlson was quoted as saying the price for the power “[I]s wonderful. With a relatively small investment we can reduce operating costs and emissions.”
The F59 locomotives deployed by Amtrak were built by General Motors in 1998 and rehabbed in the past five years. They are also 10-25% more fuel efficient than Metra’s older power


A SOLUTION TO REBUILDING THE NORTHEAST CORRIDOR
M.E. Singer
As the status quo will not hold much longer for Amtrak, let alone the Northeast Corridor (NEC), a new paradigm is desperately required. Having no transparency on data and finances provided by Amtrak plays into its “shell game” that prevents a logical paper trail to audit how the long distance routes funding is bled off to cover the widening fiscal hole of the NEC. Concomitantly, how much, if not every dollar paid by the non-NEC states is turned around to support the NEC? For how long has Amtrak manipulated such finances to dump the NEC’s overhead and infrastructure costs into the long distance and state-supported sectors?


How Trump Doomed His Own Infrastructure Plan
Bloomberg View Feb 22, 2018
His trillion dollar dream lacked support within the White House and among Republicans…
A president focused on infrastructure should probably stack his administration with policy experts capable of translating his grand vision into a governing program that gets approved and funded by Congress. Instead, he mostly brought in conservative Republicans who aren’t exactly known for putting together large infrastructure plans. So I’m not surprised they have produced something that my View colleague Barry Ritholtz called a “deeply inadequate” and “fanciful” plan that would “give private investors a gift at the expense of the taxpaying public.”
All politicians need to bring government spending to their districts to get reelected. Elected politicians won’t give up spending to their district without a fight. NB


Geotechnical studies underway in South Bay for high speed rail
KGO-TV-Feb 19, 2018
In Silicon Valley, work is now starting on geotechnical analysis of proposed track alignments in Santa Clara County and in the City of San Jose.
A crew on President’s Day was busy drilling for core samples along busy Monterey Road, just south of Senter Road. The samples will help planners to understand soil conditions before proceeding with advanced engineering and environmental work.


High speed rail construction Tuesday in Wasco
Kern Golden Empire-Feb 19, 2018
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Work on the California’s High Speed Rail is coming to Kern County Tuesday.
Construction work will cause some closures in Wasco.
The High Speed Rail Authority says eastbound shoulders on Pond Road will close between Magnolia and Palm avenues on Tuesday.


High Speed Rail project prompts road closures in Downtown Fresno
KFSN-TV-Feb 23, 2018
The California High-Speed Rail Authority announced the closure of H Street between the Stanislaus Street bridge and Divisadero Street for utility relocation.
Work is scheduled to start next Monday, February 26th and will last approximately two months.


Hanford meeting to detail latest high-speed rail work
The Business Journal-Feb 21, 2018
The meeting, which is set for March 6 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Hanford Fraternal Hall, will also include design, right of way information and discussion of small business and employment opportunities.
Construction Package 2-3 (CP 2-3) is the second design-build construction contract executed on the high-speed rail program. CP 2-3 is the 65-mile segment between East American Avenue in Fresno County to one mile north of the Tulare-Kern County line. It will include approximately 36 grade separations in the counties of Fresno, Tulare and Kings, including viaducts, underpasses and overpasses.


The ‘train deniers’ are wrong. We Californians love riding the rails.
The Desert Sun-Feb 23, 2018
If California’s train deniers are right — that no one ever rides trains here, that Californians prefer to drive or fly, and that high-speed rail is a boondoggle that won’t attract riders — then how do you explain my wife’s public humiliation?..
The Pacific Surfliner that day was mobbed, with every seat taken and passengers standing in the aisles and stairwells. So when I took those two hungry boys in the direction of the café car, the crowds were so thick I couldn’t squeeze through. The boys, now nine and seven, are very skinny and insisted on continuing on, despite my pleas, beginning a memorable adventure.


Thursday letters: High-speed rail
Houston Chronicle-Feb 21, 2018
Fear of unknown
Regarding “Progress vs. preservation” (Page A1, Sunday), it’s not surprising that farmers, townspeople and local leaders between Houston and Dallas are opposed to the Texas Central bullet train. This in spite of the fact that the high speed line will be elevated along most of its right-of-way and the trains will travel in virtual silence as opposed to the existing freight lines that cross many of their properties at grade and produce noise at any hour of the day. The claim that it will interfere with their way of life simply reflects the trait all of us have in common – fear of the unknown.
When I lived in Germany, the construction of high speed rail – which now offers the preferred means of transportation for many travelers throughout Europe – was in its infancy. Farmers and rural townspeople were suspicious of what effects it might have on them.
But now, years later, they have come to realize that high-speed rail has had no effect on their lives. They and their livestock are totally unaffected by the trains that glide through their pastures and near their towns.


China saves on oil with switch to high-speed rail
Nikkei Asian Review-Feb 19, 2018
The trains are not only transforming Chinese economy and travel but are also starting to chip away at oil use in the world’s second largest consumer and biggest source of fuel demand growth. The impact is being felt primarily on jet fuel and gasoline consumption. The trains, running at roughly 200-350 km/hour, provide an economical and often more reliable alternative to air travel.
State-owned oil giant China National Petroleum Corporation recently cited HSR among a host of changes including electric cars and the sharing economy as factors crimping Chinese gasoline demand growth.

Faster than flying: the high-speed rail routes taking on the air industry
Railway Technology-Feb 18, 2018
But while air transport dominates the long-haul travelling market, on shorter distances, more and more passengers seem to be inclined to opt for the train instead.
Bloomberg analysis has recently shown that, on key routes in Asia and Europe, high-speed railways (HSR) and air travel are neck and neck.
The reasons are quite easy to grasp. Firstly, when taking into consideration what flying entails – travelling from home to the airport, time spent in check-in and security, as well as additional transport and baggage pickup– taking the train offers big overall travel time savings.


Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed rail opening to be delayed six months
The Jerusalem Post-Feb 21, 2018
The rail line – which has been under construction for years – would halve the arduous, traffic-congested route to a speedy 28 minutes between the two cities.
“Not all the regulatory approvals required for the operation of the line for commercial use of passengers…have yet to be  received,” Israel Railways said in its filing to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Wednesday morning. “Such operation is expected to be postponed by six months, subject to the receipt of all such approvals.”


BNSF SoCal yard project headed to state Supreme Court
RailwayAge Magazine-Feb 20, 2018
The SCIG will create a railhead for container traffic in Wilmington just four miles from the Port of Los Angeles, rather than boxes having to be drayed 24 miles on local roads and the 710 freeway to downtown rail facilities. BNSF has said SCIG will allow 1.5 million more containers to move by more efficient and environmentally preferred rail through the Alameda Corridor each year, reducing truck traffic congestion in Southern California, while also creating jobs.
But the city of Long Beach, air pollution regulators, environmentalists and neighbors objected, contending in 2013 lawsuits that the 185-acre yard would actually make air quality worse. They want further work done on the environmental reports needed for approval, which the city of Los Angeles granted in 2013.


This is a view of a recently completed set of ramps and stairs at the Laguna Niguel/ Mission Viejo Metrolink station. This allows safe travel under the east and west tracks. These ramps and stairs replaced an outdoor elevator which is no longer in use. Photo by Noel T. Braymer


Dreams of a train tunnel slip away
Palo Alto Online-Feb 21, 2018
For nearly a decade, Palo Alto’s elected leaders and residents have advocated for construction of underground rail tracks to accommodate California’s high-speed rail system and Caltrain, which is planning to add more trains as part of its electrification project.
But with a new study highlighting the high costs and steep engineering challenges of the project, city officials are preparing to pull the plug on the idea and to consider less ambitious and less costly methods for separating the train tracks from the city’s roadways.


‘Did You Know?’ Fun Caltrain Facts For Every Rider
Patch.com-Feb 20, 2018
From samTrans: Did you know that more people ride Caltrain daily than live in Greenland? Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was President when the railroad began carrying riders 150 years ago?
Interesting facts like these are all part of Caltrain’s new “Did You Know?” public education campaign, which kicked off Sunday, Feb. 19.


Caltrain launches grade crossing improvement projects
Progressive Rail Roading-Feb 20, 2018
Caltrain last week began construction to improve three grade crossings in Redwood City, California.
Crews are installing new pedestrian gate arms, as well as new guard rails and signage to channel pedestrians toward crosswalks. Workers also will install roadway markers and bumps along the crosswalk so vehicles don’t accidentally turn onto the tracks, Caltrain officials said in a press release.


Caltrain has a list of demands before it will change pole design for Atherton
The Almanac Online-Feb 23, 2018
In the latest volley in the battle between Atherton and Caltrain over the height of the poles it plans to install as part of its project to electrify its trains, Caltrain has given the town until Feb. 28 to meet a list of demands if it wants shorter poles installed.
A Feb. 6 letter from Caltrain demands that Atherton pay it $200,000, get written consent of property owners whose trees will be affected by changed plans, and agree the town won’t support or be a part of any lawsuit filed against the electrification project. In return, Caltrain would install 10 35-foot-tall poles with crossbeams spanning only one set of tracks, instead of the five 45-foot-tall poles that cantilever over two sets of tracks it had planned.


BART Says No to Station at Proposed Site for A’s New Ballpark
NBC Bay Area-Feb 19, 2018
It looks like another swing and a miss for the Oakland A’s in their quest for a new ballpark near downtown.
BART has said it cannot build a station at the Howard Terminal site the A’s have eyed for their new stadium. BART officials said a station at the site, just north of Jack London Square, would be too disruptive to its service and would take too long to design and build.


CA: BART Gets Serious About a 2nd East Bay-SF Transbay Tube
MassTransitMag.com-Feb 22, 2018
Feb. 21–A new BART tunnel beneath the bay might begin in Alameda and emerge in Mission Bay. It could parallel the existing tube but then head up Mission Street on the west side of the bay instead of up Market. Or maybe it would stretch between Alameda and AT&T Park.
No one knows, but after years of supposition and pie-in-the-sky conjecture from planners and passengers alike, BART officials are starting to study a second Transbay Tube.


Violent attacks on BART employees rising
SFGate-Feb 21, 2018
Over the last year BART employees have been kicked, punched, shoved, spat upon and pelted with rocks while on the job.
More than 40 incidents of battery targeted at the public transit agency’s staff were reported in 2017, according to crime data obtained by SFGATE. The number of assaults has increased steadily year-over-year since 2013, with the figure nearly doubling between 2015 and 2016, and that’s just the reported incidents.
According to a recent KTVU investigation, the “actual numbers of assaults are significantly higher.” Train operators said a “significant, yet unknown, number of cases go unreported.”


Screen Doors Coming to Oakland BART Station
Streetsblog San Francisco -Feb 20, 2018
As part of Measure RR and its $3.5 billion investments in expanding capacity, BART is planning to test out platform “screen doors” at the 12th Street BART Station. Screen doors, as seen in the photo above of the Paris Metro, are a set of safety doors, placed along the edge of the platform, intended to prevent transit riders from getting onto the tracks. BART is allotting $3 million of Measure RR money to this pilot.
“We’re in the early stages of our platform edge door project,” Chris Filippi, a spokesman for BART, explained in an email to Streetsblog. “This is an ambitious project for BART, as no transit system in North America has platform edge doors despite having similar crowding challenges as those faced by BART.”


Swarm of 16 earthquakes shakes Danville and Diablo, slows BART trains
SFGate-Feb 23, 2018
When BART receives reports of earthquakes, it stops trains until it can get information from the Geological Survey. If the magnitude is lower than 3.0, trains can start running under automatic controls. If it’s higher than 3.0, operators run trains at low speeds, under manual control, for about five minutes while conducting visual track inspections.
A 2.8 earthquake at 12:21 p.m. caused BART to halt trains briefly, transit officials said. A 5:53 a.m. quake also led to a 10-minute delay that affected the morning commute.


Palo Alto: City officials oppose bill that allows tall, dense housing
The Mercury News-Feb 23, 2018
Palo Alto officials say a pending state bill would strip their control of land uses in the city and possibly result in exceptionally tall housing developments along high-transit areas.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, last month introduced State Bill 827, which aims to boost housing density in and near transit corridors. If passed in its current form, the bill would allow buildings that include housing units to be as tall as 85 feet within a quarter-mile of busy transit corridors where buses stop at least every 15 minutes during peak commute hours, or within one block of a major transit stop, such as Palo Alto’s two Caltrain stations.


A sweeping new bill targets California’s housing crisis
Vox-Feb 23, 2018
California is in the midst of crippling housing crisis. The state’s population has steadily grown, but it hasn’t been building new places for people to live at anything close to the same rate. It now ranks 49th in housing units per capita.
The predictable consequence of demand growing faster than supply is that existing housing in the state, especially in its biggest cities, has become insanely expensive. Seven of the 10 most expensive US real estate markets are Californian. The median home price in the state is $524,000; in San Francisco it is approaching $1.3 million.
Rising prices push middle-class workers further and further from their jobs, leading to unhealthy commutes and traffic congestion. Low-income Californians are increasingly forced to choose between rent and food or health care, adding to the state’s hunger and health problems, or being pushed out of housing altogether, adding to its burgeoning homeless population. According to analysts at McKinsey, the housing crisis is costing California $140 billion a year in lost economic output…
A tangle of land-use restrictions makes it difficult to build homes in California
But those legislative reforms are fighting against an artificially constrained market. The basic problem remains: It is difficult to build housing in California, thanks in part to a thicket of local parking regulations, building requirements, zoning restrictions, and bureaucratic choke points. The state’s (generally whiter, wealthier) residents use these tools to prevent new construction that might house (generally more diverse, poorer) newcomers.


Germany considers to fight pollution with free public transportation
Washington Post Feb 14, 2018
Germany’s latest, and more radical, plans are similarly supposed to solve the lingering problem of air pollution in German cities, which recently prompted the threat of major E.U. fines.
More than 130 cities in Europe are affected by “life-threatening” air pollution, according to the European Commission, that is believed to be responsible for about 400,000 deaths each year in the European Union. And even though Germany is far from being Europe’s most polluted nation, the topic is taken more seriously here than in most other places that have repeatedly breached E.U. limits on nitrogen dioxide and fine particles.


New Rail Transit Being Built In The Next Ten Years In Los Angeles
By Noel T. Braymer
Los Angeles County under the management of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, also known as LA Metro, has an ambitious and multi billion dollar plan to expand rail transit service in the county. As each new link is finished and connects to the rest of the transit system more people will be able to get around the county without dealing with jammed freeways or hunting for parking. There are 8 major rail projects LA Metro is planning to open between now and 2028.


Renderings Galore for the LAX Automated People Mover
Urbanize. LA Feb 16, 2018
With construction expected to begin this year, Los Angeles World Airports has unveiled new renderings and an animated video that preview the LAX Automated People Mover.
The APM, a monorail-like system, will operate along a 2.25-mile elevated guideway with six stops between the LAX Consolidated Rental Car Facility and the Central Terminal Area.
Utility relocation and surveying for the APM are expected to begin in the second quarter of 2018, with construction of the guideway set to start as early as 2019.


Blue Line in Long Beach to close for a total of eight months next year to undergo $300 million renovation
Press-Telegram Feb 21, 2018
Metro is preparing to close the 22-mile Blue Line for a total of eight months next year to complete the modernization of the transit agency’s oldest train line.
Opened in 1990 and showing its age, the Blue Line will be receiving $300 million in improvements during the closure period.
The agency plans to add four new switches that allow trains to move quicker, new signals, new tracks in downtown Long Beach and improvements at street level intersections, especially at the Washington Boulevard and Flower Street junction near downtown Los Angeles where cars have crashed into trains, causing significant delays.
Metro planners are working with the city of Long Beach and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation for better signal synchronization at sections where the trains stop for traffic at red lights, Ted Lindholm, executive officer of capital projects for Metro, said Tuesday.


Why the Expo Line is slow—and why it might not be that way forever
Curbed LA Feb 20, 2018
An upcoming change to state environmental rules might make it possible to speed up the frustratingly slow Expo Line.
The change could set the stage for the city to give trains the right of way at some intersections—instead of cars.
Giving cars the right of way has been one of the biggest challenges to making the light rail, which runsfrom Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, faster. Instead of flying over or tunneling under intersections, especially between Western Avenue and Downtown, the train stops and waits for traffic to pass in front of it.


San Dimas, Pomona sue the Gold Line Construction Authority over plans for the train’s expansion
San Gabriel Valley Tribune Feb 16, 2018
Two of the six cities in the 12.3-mile path of the $1.5 billion Gold Line foothill extension are pursuing lawsuits against the construction authority, saying last-minute changes to the alignment, bridges and plans to acquire properties will cause permanent damage to their cities and are a violation of state environmental laws.


Rolland Curtis Gardens Development Rises Near Expo/Vermont Station
Urbanize. LA Feb 20, 2018
The project, which is being built next to Metro’s Expo/Vermont Station by nonprofit developer Abode Communities, will feature interconnected one-to-five-story buildings featuring 140 apartments, 8,000 square feet of commercial space, and a landscaped courtyard area.  Plans also call for a 114-car garage within the new development.
Per the California State Treasurer’s office, the new apartments will come in one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans, with rents ranging between $466 and $1,354 per month.  The units will be targeted to households making between 30 and 60 percent of the Los Angeles area median income.


Mixed-Use Project Near Pasadena Gold Line Station Moves Forward
Urbanize.LA Feb 22, 2018
Trammell Crow Company continues to move forward with plans for a mixed-use development near the Gold Line’s Sierra Madre Villa Station in Pasadena.
The project, slated for an approximately 8.32-acre property at 3200 E. Foothill Boulevard, would replace a self-storage facility with eight mixed-use buildings featuring 550 apartment units, 9,800 square feet of retail space and parking for up to 782 vehicles. The mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom dwellings would include 481 market rate units, as well as 23 units priced for moderate-income families and 46 units for low-income families.


Southern California’s transit ridership will get rolling: Larry Wilson
The Pasadena Star-News-Feb 24, 2018
Everyone’s a little bit wrong here. And the argument is a bit of an academic one, filled with classic posturing. In Los Angeles County especially, what with the creation of the massive cash cow that is the Measure M 1 percent forever sales tax to fund Metro, rail and bus line building isn’t going away. It’s going to entirely change the transportation infrastructure of the populous core of our region over the next 30 years. If the sprawlers are right and no one really wants to get out of their cars — and these same folks are the ones who say Southern Californians don’t want to live in multi-family buildings near transit-friendly development, so that what we really need is more exurban sprawl, with three-bedroom housing tracts filling in the wild gap from here to Joshua Tree — well, there’ll be some swell views of empty light-rail cars on lines from Sherman Oaks to Santa Monica from those new toll roads.


This was shot from the new Platform by Track 3 at Oceanside. The 2 tracks in this picture are used by the Sprinter DMU service to Escondido with a center platform between the 2 tracks. In the background is a station parking lot. Notice the pedestrian crossing on the track leading to the parking lot. This got me to thinking that if there was also a pedestrian crossing between Platform 3 to the Sprinter Platform, this would be a great shortcut for passengers walking to and from the parking lot. This would also relieve the congestion on Platform 3 which is common after a Coaster Train arrives in Oceanside. For now most Sprinter trains usually use the track with the pedestrian crossing nearest the parking lot. Photo by Noel T. Braymer


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Re: RailPac Newsletter
Noel – As usual, you have put together another very informative compilation of relevant passenger rail and transit articles! Your efforts are appreciated because you always find articles some of us in the rail industry miss so thank you again for your focus and dedication to this resolve! You and Paul really speak out and don’t hesitate to point out critical issues, or things that are simply wrong.  Keep up the great work!
Richard Phelps

Opinions expressed in this enewsletter are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Rail Passenger Association of California.


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