Issue 37, November 2009

November 19, 2009

Dear Capitol Corridor Riders & Friends,

In my time as Capitol Corridor Managing Director, now more than 10 years, I have personally written 37 “Messages” to you. This will be my final one, as I am retiring and entrusting the future of the Capitol Corridor to some of the most passionate, caring and customer focused railroad managers that I have encountered in my 42-year career. They should have all the right attributes to continue what we have achieved, as they have worked with me as a true team during these past 10 years.

For the riders who have been on our trains less than five years, you won’t remember “the good old days”….or maybe we should call them “the not-so-good-old-days.’” With 32 trains a day plying the Capitol Corridor route today, it seems like it would have been silly to try to get passengers to ride a train service that had only four trains each way a day. Yet, in October 1998, that was the Capitol Corridor service. To those who have been riding since way-back-then, you know how extensive the service improvements have  been. Not only are there more trains, but also better trains, smoother track, shorter travel times, better stations and better parking facilities (well, better facilities at SOME stations!).

 

In the beginning…

When I was hired into this job, there were two basic missions set out for me to accomplish: 1) grow the service and the ridership, and 2) build a better and more constructive relationship with Union Pacific, our host railroad. The first mission saw results fairly soon, and by 2002, we had more than doubled ridership and train frequency. The second mission took a little longer. However, the working relationship between the Capitol Corridor and the Union Pacific Railroad today is described by many in the industry as “the best partnership” in the country between a private freight railroad and a public passenger rail service. Indeed, the on-time performance of our service, now the most-on-time of any Amtrak-operated multi-frequency service in the country, is testament to that working partnership.

Amtrak and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans Division of Rail) have been strong and positive partners with the Capitol Corridor over the years, and I suspect this situation will remain strong. There is also support for intercity passenger rail from the Governor and the Legislature. With high-speed rail looming on the horizon, (I think we will see it first in California, within 10 years), conventional-speed intercity rail service like the Capitol Corridor will take on new markets, acting as feeder-distributor service at stations served by both high-speed rail and conventional-speed rail, such as at San Jose and Sacramento.

 

What the future holds

A Capitol Corridor capital investment program has been developed for the next 10 years, and we are seeking funds to implement our business plan. We need more double track to get train frequency to San Jose up to the same level as train frequency to Sacramento, which will provide convenient connections to high-speed rail trains. There is an ongoing effort with Union Pacific to identify what is needed and how much it will cost to build these added capacity facilities.

Expanded service east of Sacramento into Placer County has been in the planning stages for many years, but now there is an active design process underway with Union Pacific to define the needed capacity improvements and secure funding for expanded service. Placer County is our most underserved market, and it’s a market with substantial ridership potential.

For now, it is essential that the State order additional rolling stock (coaches and locomo­tives), so that the growth in riders can con­tinue. Our locomotives and station platforms can handle eight-car trains, but we have only enough coaches to operate four- or five-car trains. Longer trains can increase capacity by up to 60% at very little incremental cost and will make room for many more riders.

New cars will be designed to provide the long-awaited Capitol Corridor Business Class service, plus they will have expanded bicycle storage lockers. So we know what needs to be done to continue this success; all we need to do now is shake loose the funding (most of which has actually been voter-approved). And now, the federal government has a capital funding program; with the state funds available, we will have the required 20% match.

So I am leaving this job in capable hands, with a team of well-trained younger ‘pups’ who will both carry on, as well as further improve, the Capitol Corridor success story.

 

Thank you, riders

To you, the riders, I say thank you for your patronage. You are the sole reason we exist: to serve you and provide you with an attractive means of transport. We follow a public policy mandate, established by the CCJPA Board. That mandate is specific in its charge, with respect to frequency of service all along our route, financial performance, on-time performance and station criteria guidelines. This document, called the Vision Plan, was initially adopted in 2002 and updated in 2005. It is the document that sets our goals and objectives and provides our policy leaders with criteria to judge our progress. 

The train crews (engineers, food service attendants, conductors, and assistant conductors), station agents, and equipment maintenance technicians actually deliver the Capitol Corridor service to you.  In turn, you, in your surveys, rate them ‘tops’ in terms of service, professionalism and customer focus.  According to your responses to our surveys, their uniforms and pay-checks may say “Amtrak”, but their hearts and demeanor say “Capitol Corridor”.

 

From me to you

As I enter retirement, I offer you a sincere ‘thank you’.  Few of us are given the chance to serve others in a way that really is appreciated and has a positive impact on the quality of life of their customers.  The passengers we carry on the Capitol Corridor tell us how much they appreciate the service and then often describe the particular circumstance that makes our service important and special to them.  This is what has kept me going over the years, your encouragement, your use of our trains, and your support for the additional funding resources to sustain and grow the service.  That encouragement has been especially important to me during some dark days when we were experiencing significantly less-than-high-quality performance.  Your notes, letters and e-mails provided me with the motivation to keep working to fix the problems.  And we did.  Together.

Please accept my heartfelt “thank you” for riding the Capitol Corridor trains and for being supporters of your Northern California intercity passenger rail service. We didn’t know that intercity passenger trains weren’t supposed to work here in Northern California, according to the best travel forecaster studies in the country; so we just did it. It seems to work, work well consistently, and almost everyone likes it. We must be doing something right.

Again, many thanks to you all. May the improvements continue…

Eugene K. Skoropowski

Managing Director

Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

 

 

Issue 36, July 2009

September 1, 2009

Dear Capitol Corridor Riders & Friends,
For more than 10 years, I have personally written every “Message to Riders” with the intent to give you a personal perspective on key issues the Capitol Corridor faces and an inside view of our day-to-day world. My reports may be a bit different from what you read in the media or other official communications. I got started in the transportation business as an angry regular rider, mostly because the managing agency did not communicate well, or regularly, with its customers.
My “Messages” are intended to both inform you of events and assure you that we are advocating for you, our riders, customers, and employees. Sometimes the news I have to report is upbeat and encouraging, at times it is to explain certain actions we are taking, and other times the news is just difficult to report any other way. This Message is a bit of all of the above.

Difficult News to Report
There has been a spike in news reports of the increasing number of trespasser fatalities along railroad tracks in the Bay Area, including along the Capitol Corridor. Some of you may have endured the delays that result from these incidents. I want to explain what must be done after one of these tragic events occur. The majority of these recent fatalities are reported to be suicides. The intentional
loss of any life is a tragedy by itself, but death-by-train also adversely impacts many more people besides the victim and their immediate family. When a fatality occurs it usually results in a delay lasting more than two hours.
One reason for the delay is the emotional trauma suffered by the crew. Engineers who operate our trains bear an enormous burden following these incidents. They are helpless to prevent these tragedies when a person steps into the path of an oncoming train. Some engineers cannot or will not return to their professional career due to the emotional trauma following such incidents. When a train is involved in a trespasser incident, one of the first courses of action is to dispatch a new train crew to the location as soon as possible.
At the same time, a trespasser fatality requires an immediate investigation, often including local, Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) police, county sheriffs, or California Highway Patrol, and sometimes all or several of the above. Train crews are often interviewed by multiple entities and then usually request relief from their current duty. Meanwhile the train is held where it stopped and often all tracks of the railroad are also closed until the investigators determine which track. if any, may be reopened for train movement. The County Coroner’s office must also be notified. After the Coroner arrives on the scene, is satisfied that all appropriate cleanup and investigations have been completed, only then may trains be released.
While law enforcement agencies and the county coroners try to craft an expedited process to reduce delays to trains and passengers, delays are unavoidable when a fatality occurs. We do the best we can to minimize your delay to get you to your destination.
Riders who are impacted by these incidents often ask: “Why can’t we get off the train here?” or ”Why can’t they get buses here right away?”
Allowing passengers to exit a train along a trackway
depends on the perceived hazards along that trackway. For safety reasons, especially if the train is held in an area far from a station, passengers on the involved train may be denied the option of leaving the train. We work with Amtrak and UPRR to try to move the train to the closest station platform
wherever possible. This may not be possible if an incident occurs at an inaccessible location, like along San Pablo Bay. If a train can be moved to a station platform, or a secure crossing location,
then buses will be directed to that location, assuming that buses are available on short order and can get to the location. This is also often NOT the case, especially if the incident occurs during peak weekday travel times, when most buses are in use. There is no fleet of buses and drivers sitting around on the payroll just waiting to be called to respond to a train incident. Traffic congestion is also a factor, even when a bus and driver are found to be available. I can assure you that Amtrak Operations (rail and bus) do the best they can to secure alternate transportation in the event of an extended delay.
We have developed a communications strategy to ensure that these incidents and any corresponding delays are communicated to as many passengers as possible: Conductors make onboard announcements; at stations, we use electronic message signs or ticket agents; and we issue CC RailMail email alerts to passengers who have opted to receive train updates. To sign up for CC RailMail alerts visit www.capitolcorridor.org.
We run on a network of tracks that almost anyone can get onto if they want. The capital funds made available annually by state and federal entities for highway/roadway grade crossing elimination are miniscule in comparison to overall highway funding; and until the past 24 months, there has been no federal capital funding for investment in intercity passenger rail. These federal funds that have been invested are crumbs compared to what other countries invest annually. As long as roadway crossings of tracks are viewed as an issue for rail agencies, rather than highway entities, to fix, it is unlikely that at-grade street crossings will be removed anytime soon.

State Funding Effects on Capitol Corridor
At the time this message went to print, a state budget was not yet adopted. The Capitol Corridor
relies on only two sources of operating revenue
to deliver your service: your passenger fares and an annual allocation of state operating subsidy.
These amounts are now about equal, which is the goal the state has established. Through our current fiscal year, ending September 30, we have state funds to support the state share. Year-to-date ridership has now flattened, while the last four months average about a 10% decline and revenue is about flat. This is a harsh reality for us, after 10 consecutive years of growing Capitol Corridor ridership and revenue. Ridership today is four times the 463,000 annual riders that existed when the Capitol Corridor took over management of the service in 1998. Management and marketing funds are being reduced by the state by 14% for the coming year. However, I want to assure you that the Capitol Corridor will do everything in our power to preserve your train service at current levels. Cutting service will be the LAST place we will seek to reduce expenses to meet state funding levels.
We will continue to limit our fare increases to the 3% – 5% range, but we must have these modest increases to pay for the rider-generated share of revenue to sustain the service.
Much of the loss in riders has been among the full-fare riders and the full-fare ticket revenue during mid-day and weekend travel periods. We are undertaking a major effort to fill as many of those seats as possible with a paying fare. We’re promoting the Kids-Ride-Free-on-Weekends (2 kids up thru age 15 with a full-fare adult), and the “Senior Golden Ticket” discount (up to 50%) offer good on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Group travel fares are still in effect for 20 passengers
or more. (Our Group Travel desk is available at 877-9-RIDECC option 3).
We are doing everything we can to grow riders and revenue and with our 92% year-to-date on-time performance, we do have a reliable product to sell.

The Good News
In spite of what on some days seem like insurmountable obstacles, there are causes for optimism. Operation Lifesaver is stepping up its campaign to improve safety along the tracks. A consortium of law enforcement agencies are working among themselves and the county coroners’ offices to expedite a process for more timely resumption of train service following a fatal incident.
Lastly, the federal Stimulus program for Intercity and High-Speed passenger rail (officially: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, [ARRA]) funds are becoming available for capital intercity passenger rail investments. The state has submitted 10 funding applications prepared by the CCJPA for projects on the Capitol Corridor, and two additional applications to 1) buy new locomotives and coaches to increase our capacity on existing trains, and allow us to add additional services in the
future; and 2) install Positive Train Control (PTC) as mandated by federal legislation. Working with the UPRR, the plan is to maximize the benefits of PTC to increase speeds to a maximum of 90 miles per hour (where track geometry can be accommodating), meaning shorter trips times all along the Capitol Corridor Route.
The Capitol Corridor ARRA applications include funds to improve reliability, install a wireless network on the corridor, enhance safety/security, as well as expand track capacity for the increase of Capitol Corridor service to San Jose and to Placer County, east from Sacramento. I will keep you posted as we are notified of any grant awards.
Finally, I want to express my gratitude to each and every one of you for riding the Capitol Corridor trains. Even though we do receive public funding, our riders are our customers, and we know you do have other choices in the way you travel. We want the Capitol Corridor to be your FIRST CHOICE, to have you complete your trip on our trains believing that you had a good travel experience and that you received good value for the fare you paid to ride the Capitol Corridor.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me at www.capitolcorridor.org or 1.877.9.RIDECC (1.877.974.3322) with any questions or comments. And thank you for riding your Capitol Corridor
trains!
Thank you!
Eugene K. Skoropowski
Managing Director
Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

Issue 35, April 2009

March 31, 2009

Dear Capitol Corridor Riders & Friends,

We are three months into 2009–more than five months into our Fiscal year–and, aside from the track project between Suisun and Davis, our overall performance is meeting our Business Plan standards. With completion of all programmed track work by Union Pacific on March 15, as scheduled, we can look forward to train service returning to the high level of on-time performance we achieved before the track work.

Although track maintenance work causes some disruption and inconvenience, it is essential in keeping your trains on-time. The condition of the Union Pacific rails over which the Capitol Corridor service operates gives you the best ride-quality of any passenger service in the county. Additionally, it protects and preserves the initial State capital investments made on this route in the early 1990s.

This is the fourth year of Union Pacific’s incremental program to maintain and upgrade the rail track structure (ties and ballast). Union Pacific Railroad–owner and maintainer of all but two miles (in San Jose) of the 170 miles along the Capitol Corridor route–pays for and implements this program. Also, Union Pacific used the work period to have their street-crossing crews do improvement work at road crossings, thereby avoiding disruptions to service for maintenance work later in the year. All this work was accomplished in a four-week period, as planned. Additionally, over the weekend of March 21-22, Union Pacific replaced worn rail on curves between Fremont and Santa Clara. Your patience during these construction periods is always appreciated.

What else is coming?

By May, you should begin to see advertisements promoting the return of the “Kids Ride Free on Weekends” promotion. Why is the program limited to weekends? Answer: There is no room to accommodate any additional riders on most weekday trains. Our plan is to offer affordable travel to family groups at the times when we have seats available, which is usually weekends. Check upcoming issues of the CC Rail Mail (our e-newsletter) for details on this family-friendly–and budget-friendly–promotion.

Why don’t we just add more cars to the existing weekday trains to add capacity?

This is the million-dollar question, but with the growth of ridership on both the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin trains, there are simply no more available coaches to add. We employ as many coaches as possible to these trains, while still allowing time for servicing and maintenance of the fleet to ensure that you have clean and reliably operating coaches for your trip.

Why don’t we just buy more coaches?

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the owner of the Amtrak California fleet is in the process of doing just that. California voters have already approved the bond funds to buy more trains. However, it is not like buying a car–there is no railroad car ‘show room’ where you can drop by and purchase railcars and have them delivered in a week, month or a year. This process can take up to four years. Caltrans has started the process, but it will take time before we see the first new passenger rail cars roll off the assembly line.

So what do we do in the meanwhile, ride on the roof?

No, thankfully. As a stop-gap measure, Caltrans has purchased at least two trainsets of 1970’s stainless steel coaches from New Jersey. These coaches will be renovated to be suitable for California’s intercity rail market and will likely replace existing trains on the San Joaquin route on an interim basis. The Amtrak California trainsets being replaced on the San Joaquin route will then make as many as 10 Amtrak California coach cars available to add to other state-supported trains, including some of the most crowded Capitol Corridor trains. These trains will be in addition to the five leased Amtrak coaches already in operation in Northern California.

Is the Capitol Corridor getting any of the $8 billion “Stimulus” funding designated for High Speed and Intercity Rail Service?

We certainly hope to. These new federal capital funds are part of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Allocating federal capital funding for intercity passenger rail is a new role for the federal government. The Capitol Corridor, San Joaquin and Pacific Surfliner route improvements (locomotives, coaches, tracks, stations, parking, maintenance shops, etc.) have been almost exclusively funded by State of California voter-approved investments since the 1990 bond initiatives were passed.

Highways, public transit, airports, ports & waterways, bikeways, etc., all have had federal capital funding programs for decades, so there are formulas for distribution of ARRA funds for these modes of transport. The allocation of ARRA funds for these established programs is largely a mathematical calculation based upon long standing distribution formulas. Not so for the intercity rail capital funds. The US Department of Transportation is trying to figure out that process now.
We believe the Capitol Corridor is eligible for capital funding from several sections of the ARRA Stimulus Bill, including most components of the $8 billion designated for High Speed and Intercity Rail services. We are working with Caltrans and our sister rail agencies in California to present the federal decision makers with a solid, coordinated case for funding high speed and intercity rail in California. We will keep you posted on our progress. Caltrans Director Will Kempton (a regular Capitol Corridor rider, too!) is leading this charge for California’s share of these ARRA capital funds.

How is everything else going?

While ridership growth has slowed (some of this is a seasonal trend, along with the trackwork disruptions), Capitol Corridor ridership has increased +4.6% above a year ago in the five months since the start of our fiscal year last October. Revenue has grown +8.6% in the same period, keeping us just about on budget. We do hope to see a larger ridership and revenue growth in the coming months, as we approach the busiest travel part of the year. Our revenue-to-cost ratio is a bit below plan at 45%, but we hope to be on-target at 50% recovery by the end of our fiscal year at the end of September, per our Business Plan. Our fares, even with the usual adjustments, are still among the best ‘travel buys’ on a per mile basis anywhere. We want to keep it that way. We only increase fares in small amounts, and only to keep pace with costs. Our goal is to keep up your service frequency and the quality of service that we, and our partners at Amtrak, deliver to you.

On-time performance has never been better–I always hate writing this for fear of jinxing things! Even with the disruptions from the recent track work, after five months, Capitol Corridor trains are averaging 91% on-time. Since the track work has been completed, that rate has jumped back to the 93-94% on-time level, and we expect this good reliability to continue. All these efforts to get additional rolling stock and to make track improvements are part of our plan to deliver to you the best quality transportation service we can. We focus on you, our customers. Even though our train service is supported partially with public dollars, I believe we should still operate a customer-focused and efficient rail transport service designed to serve and attract more riders. After 10 years of improvement and customer focus, I hope you, and all our riders, feel the same way.

Are we there yet? No, not by a long shot. We still have slip ups, and we can identify many situations where we can do something better. When those situations arise, none of you are shy about letting us know. Maybe surprisingly to you, we actually appreciate your feedback when things are not as they should be. We can only fix what we know about.
Although my staff and I do ride the trains often, we cannot always be on every train, or at every station. We do rely on you to be our eyes and ears. After all, the Capitol Corridor is your service, as your fares and tax dollars provide the resources to deliver it. The CCJPA staff exists as your advocacy organization, and we want to improve your service any way we can. We do continually strive to provide you with a quality product of good-value-for-money-paid. Progress is being made.

At-Seat Cart Service? What’s that?

We are trying something new that is designed to be both a convenience for our riders, as well as relief for passengers waiting in the long lines at the café car during busy travel times. You will start to see At-Seat Cart Service offered on select heavily traveled Capitol Corridor trains. The cart attendant will come down the upper-level aisle of each car, offering beverages and snacks for sale as the train travels its route. From our food and beverage revenue reports, this cart service should make it easier for those of you wishing to purchase a beverage and/or snack. So, if you see the At-Seat Cart Service “trolley” (as they call it in Britain) making its rounds through the train during your trip, let us know what you think. We keep trying reasonable ideas that riders suggest that we think make good sense, and will make our service more attractive. If riders like the At-Seat Cart Service and use it, we will keep it.

Thank you for riding your Capitol Corridor trains!

Issue 34, December 2008

December 4, 2008

From Me to you…
Dear Capitol Corridor Riders & Friends,

As hard as it is to imagine, another year has passed. Following tradition, this is my annual St. Nicholas Day (December 6) Holiday Message to you, with a review of the past year, and a look ahead to the next. Let me begin with a hearty holiday greeting to each of you, along with my thanks and appreciation for riding the Capitol Corridor trains. While some will focus on the doom and gloom of the current economic situation, we are a country with a history of hope for a better tomorrow. Count me in among the hopeful that we will see better days soon.

2008: A Year of Change

We certainly have seen some changes in the last 12 months! Through the rise and fall of gas prices, collapses on Wall Street, and the election of new national leadership, ridership on Capitol Corridor trains has continued to surge. While this last year has made us increasingly aware of the challenges in our country and across the world, as residents of the United States we still have many reasons to be thankful. Historically, our population has been the pioneers of the world, and to this day people are still willing to make incredible sacrifices to come here. They come for a brighter future, and it is this desire for a brighter future that distinguishes our country from almost any other on the planet.

Ridership, Revenue & Performance

Overall, we have had a banner year for ridership and revenue. In October, we smashed through ridership records again, carrying more than 1,716,000 passengers in a 12-month period. That is 17% growth over the prior year. Revenue also had a record year, growing 22%.

For us at the Capitol Corridor, and for our riders, there was some very good news during the past year in terms of reliability of our service. The Capitol Corridor service now operates better than all but one corridor route in the entire Amtrak system – and that route is Chicago-Milwaukee. They are operating at 93.2% on time, while Capitol Corridor trains are operating at 92.3%. We have our sights set on being the best performing passenger corridor service in the country and are working towards that goal.

The Capitol Corridor still has the most frequent Amtrak service anywhere in the country outside the Northeast Corridor (NEC). Even with fare increases, our fares are about 25% of fares for the same distance traveled on the NEC.

Your fares are paying up to 55% of the cost of the service; and since Amtrak expenses have risen and the state subsidy has been limited due to the state’s budget crisis, we still need periodic fare increases. We do our best to raise fares in modest increments and still maintain the quality and quantity of your service, so you continue to receive good value for the fares you pay. We know that there is always room for improvement, and I want to assure you that we continue to work with Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad, our operating partners, to deliver the best service we can for you.

2009 Capitol Corridor Work Plan

What is ahead for next year? From mid-February to mid-March, Union Pacific will again conduct a track-renewal project as part of the multi-year program. The work area will extend from just north of Suisun-Fairfield Station to just outside Davis. Some 50,000 ties will be installed on 30 track miles. This work will require some bussing of mid-day trains, but peak travel trains in the morning and evening will operate through the work area. This track renewal work assures us of good track conditions so that your trains can operate reliably throughout the year.

You will see completion of the new Bahia crossover in Benicia. This crossover will cut delays in half when there is a freight train on the lower level main track shifting cars into the auto yard. More crossovers are planned, and start of construction of the new Sacramento Station passenger platforms and tracks is expected during 2009, as are improvements to the Emeryville station tracks.
The high-speed rail bond measure was approved by the voters, and the Capitol Corridor will get at least $47.5 million in capital funding from that program for improvements to better connect to high-speed rail stations. Since San Jose will be the first major high-speed rail connection point for the Capitol Corridor service, much of those Prop 1A funds will support projects that allow us to increase service frequency to/from San Jose.

Amtrak police officers dedicated to the Capitol Corridor service are working with local police, Union Pacific police and member agency police departments all along our corridor to improve safety and reduce incidents that cause delays to passenger service, especially around grade crossings. Operation Lifesaver is also stepping up activities to educate young people of the hazards of being around, or walking along an active railroad right-of-way.

Discussions between the Capitol Corridor and Union Pacific to identify capacity improvements that are needed in order to operate more trains East of Sacramento to Placer County. This effort is voluntary on both sides, and we hope that a viable plan emerges in the upcoming year.

What About More Coaches on the Trains?

While Caltrans is in the procurement process of ordering new coaches (similar to the ones we currently have), the new California Cars will not be delivered for as many as four years. In the interim, Caltrans has contracted for the repair and use of several Superliner-type cars. Caltrans plans to acquire two trainsets of single-level equipment to supplement the Northern California fleet. We hope these measures will be adequate to accommodate ridership growth until the new cars arrive.

Meanwhile, the original 66 California Cars have been overhauled and major components renewed and replaced. The soaring number of riders is wearing out the upholstery and carpets faster than anticipated on the existing fleet, so you will begin to see coaches with rider requests), curtains on the windows of all cars.

The Future for Rail Depends on Federal Support

A major part of our fate will rest with funding decisions at the Federal level. The Amtrak reauthorization bill was passed by a wide bi-partisan margin in Congress in the fall, and signed into law by the President in October. This comprehensive bill authorizes, for the first time, major passenger rail investments across the country, and federal appropriators are addressing the bill as I write this. A major effort to fund the authorized intercity passenger rail programs is expected in Congress shortly after the new Congress is seated. This is about as optimistic as I have been in my life regarding the future of intercity passenger rail.

You might have noticed that there was a recent election in our country, and it appears that intercity passenger rail is (after 37 years of waiting) about to get a fair share of federal capital funding, similar to the way federal capital funds are provided to all the other modes of travel. California is ready. We have the local matching funds required to draw down as much federal capital funding as will be available to our state. The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority has identified projects that are ready to go into construction. These will benefit both our service performance and the economy, as they will create construction jobs right away. We are also carefully monitoring the proposed economic stimulus bills in Washington so we can compete to get the resources we need to continue to grow. The new team in Washington seems to ‘get’ the economic benefits of infrastructure investment. Now, we need to get it – the capital money that is!

Holiday Greetings from CCJPA

In closing, to all of you, please accept my sincere thanks and best wishes for this Holiday Season. I have said it in prior years, and it continues to be true: this is your service, and we exist solely to deliver the best service to you that we can.

On behalf of the entire Capitol Corridor staff and our extended family at Amtrak, Union Pacific and Caltrans, we wish you and yours a safe, peaceful and joyful holiday season! Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Feel free to call us at our toll-free Customer Service Line (1.877.9.RIDECC) or e-mail us at trains@capitolcorridor.org with any questions or comments.

Special Message to Riders

October 22, 2008

Many of you experienced delays during your evening travel home on Monday evening (October 20, 2008) and I wanted to apologize for the lack of communication to you, our riders.
First, what happened Monday evening? It started when a vehicle ignored the crossing gates and bells just east of Richmond and attempted to cross the tracks ahead of San Joaquin train 713. The locomotive struck the rear bumper of the car and the driver of the car continued on without stopping. As a result of the incident, Union Pacific closed the railroad in both directions until the tracks were inspected and the investigation was complete, which is a normal safety procedure when an incident occurs at a grade crossing. Unfortunately, tracks remained closed for nearly an hour, which is more than usual for this type of incident, and the closure excessively delayed the operation of passenger and freight trains and resulted in the delays to trains 538, 540, and 549.
It is my understanding that our passengers were given limited information about this incident and ensuing delays. I understand how frustrating this can be and want to assure you that we are taking steps to improve our communication with passengers during service incidents. We know that timely information allows you to plan for your trip and make alternative arrangements, if needed. To that end, a joint committee of Amtrak and CCJPA staff has been assembled to review Monday’s incident and improve procedures to enhance direct communication to our passengers when an incident such as this occurs. We hope to have an improved communications plan in place within the next month.
While I cannot change the situation you experienced, I felt that you were entitled to as complete an explanation as I can provide, and to apologize to those of you who were delayed without information during this service incident.