Get On Board! Message to Riders – October 11, 2013

October 11, 2013

Dear Valued Riders:

With the passage of summer and a new school year underway, I would like to take a moment to wish all the students and teachers a hearty and sincere “Welcome Back.” It’s always a pleasure to see so many students onboard the trains – some riding for the first time as well as students who have ridden with us in previous years.

Although vacation season may be over, I’m pleased that we have the 2013-14 sports season to look forward to here in Northern California! As always, Capitol Corridor will be there to provide passenger rail service to many different Bay Area sporting events including college football with the Cal Bears, NFL football with the Oakland Raiders, and for next year Capitol Corridor and the 49ers are working together to bring fans to games at the new Levi’sTM Stadium in Santa Clara. And congratulations to the Oakland A’s on a fantastic season!

How We’re Doing

Fall 2013 is off to a great start. Last month, Capitol Corridor on-time performance was 96.6%, which is a .6 percent increase over September 2012. Ridership for this period was 132,937, which was even with September 2012. As always, our number one priority is to provide safe, reliable transportation that is on time, and our focus continues to be on keeping the performance level high. Reducing major delays is a big part of this. We have been able to reduce bridge delays considerably, in part, due to a new joint program that was launched in March 2013 between the San Francisco Bar Pilots, Union Pacific, Amtrak and Capitol Corridor. The program identifies the most effective time to move marine traffic under the raised Suisun Bay Bridge while incurring the least amount of delay to the Capitol Corridor trains.

The results have been immediate and positive. The effort by the San Francisco Bar Pilots, (with assistance from Union Pacific Bridge Tenders) has resulted in a 36% percent decrease in delays to the Capitol Corridor passenger trains passing over the Suisun Bay Bridge in the six months beginning March 2013 and ending August 30, 2013, as compared to the same period in 2012. Collaborations like these help keep Capitol Corridor the number one rail passenger service in the nation for on-time performance across the whole Amtrak system!

Bikes on Board and Capitol Corridor Stations

Many of you have asked about progress relating to the multi-faceted Bicycle Access Program that will be deployed/in use both onboard our trains and at our stations.  Provided below are updates for the key elements of the Bicycle Access Program that we’re currently moving forward.

Bike eLockers: CCJPA Staff has a plan for most of the Capitol Corridor stations to install new bicycle eLockers for a viable, safe, and secure option for those of you who can store your bicycle at your start or destination station. We are getting through the necessary funding paper work and then this project can enter the installation phase. We hope to present this option starting in mid-2014.

Folding Bicycle Rentals: On a similar time frame to bike eLockers and tied to the same funding source, we are working on preliminary locations in Sacramento and Davis with potential to add Oakland Jack London as stations with automated folding bicycle rental.

BikeSharing: CCJPA, along with BART and many other regional stakeholders along our route, is at the forefront in both the Bay Area and Sacramento areas to establish a coordinated bike sharing system for Northern California. Each region is working their way toward a solution and CCJPA staff is working with the stakeholders to unite these efforts from the end user perspective to make bikesharing and Capitol Corridor travel an attractive multi-modal travel combination.

Cab Car Bicycle Storage Retrofits: We are retrofitting approximately one car per month for additional bicycle storage (13 bicycle slots). By December 2013 we will have sufficient bicycle conversions completed, but it won’t be until sometime in Spring 2014 when other cab-car modifications (positive train control devices) are completed before we will be able to consistently put these retrofitted cab cars out on every train on a daily basis without exception.

Policy Change: Transferability of Ten Ride Ticket

As many of you are aware, we have recently modified our policy regarding ten-ride ticket transferability, and it is understandable that many of you are less than pleased with this policy change. I want you all to know that I share your concerns, and that it’s important that we all bear in mind that the change in this type of policy was made to keep and maintain safety and security both at stations and onboard our trains. Knowing who is on the train at any time is a primary concern, and as such, a “one ticket per passenger” policy makes the best sense.

For those of you traveling with friends and family this season please take advantage of our Take 5 promotion that has been extended through November 15, 2013. In addition, our staff is exploring year-round small group fare options to make it more attractive for friends traveling together. We will update you on more details on this as they emerge.

Rail Projects:

A Union Pacific Railroad Tie Renewal Project is set to begin January 2, 2014 through the first week of February 2014. The rail segment affected will be between Richmond and Martinez.

The impact during peak weekday and weekend travel periods is anticipated to be minimal; however, we will be running alternate schedules and several mid-day bus bridges on specific dates, not yet determined.

In closing, I want to thank you all for continuing to ride with us. We strive to provide the best service possible, and it is very much appreciated that so many of you take the time to let us know what and when we’re doing well as well as areas in which we need to improve. Look for new service amenities coming soon onboard such as print implementation updates to eticketing, visual and audio improvements made to the electronic signs at stations and improved real-time communication for train schedule and ETA udpates at several media access points. Thanks again, and I look forward to seeing you all on board!

 

Capitol Corridor Breaks Annual Ridership Record

October 23, 2012

First, the Operational Issues
For those of you who are regular, frequent riders, I want to extend my sincere apologies for the recent spate of mechanical delays over the last three weeks.  Please know that I’m committed to providing a superior intercity passenger rail service for the Capitol Corridor riders. I recently received an action plan from Amtrak’s management team at the Oakland Maintenance Facility in response to these mechanical delays.  The CCJPA Mechanical team will be working with Amtrak to initiate an updated process and protocol for pre-service inspections.  This will ensure that each trainset goes through a thorough testing and evaluation prior to its scheduled departure from the terminal.
The CCJPA mechanical team will be working closely with Amtrak maintenance to track how this action plan is being implemented.

Capitol Corridor Breaks Annual Ridership Record
Over 1.75 million people rode Capitol Corridor trains in Federal Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12), which began on October 1, 2011 and ended on September 30, 2012, representing a 2 percent increase over FY11, thus breaking a previous ridership threshold we set in 2011!
The good news doesn’t end there: revenue  for the year was up 9 percent, we achieved a 50 percent operating ratio and maintained the top spot for reliability for passenger rail!  We recorded a 94 percent  on-time performance for the entire year!
If you’d like to view a table of the Capitol Corridor September performance, or past reports to the CCJPA Board, click here.
I was thrilled when we started off FY12 with a double digit increases:  October 2011 showed a 14 percent increase compared to October 2010.  Clearly the first eight months, from October to May 2012 demonstrated the continued popularity of the Capitol Corridor, but our upward ridership trend began to dip in June. Yet, despite experiencing four consecutive months of declining ridership, overall Capitol Corridor performance was the best in the history of our service.  I checked our ridership to date for October 2012, and preliminary data shows we are experiencing another strong start.  I’m sure skyrocketing gas prices help to inspire travelers to try our trains, but it’s our wealth of passenger amenities—free Wi-Fi, eTicketing, pleasant crews, electrical outlets in every car, food and beverages for purchase on every train, and the ability to do so many things you can’t do while driving—that keeps folks riding the Capitol Corridor!

Deep Discount Offered to Fill Weekend Seats
With the ridership on weekends for June through this September surprisingly lower than the same period last year, the CCJPA’s Marketing Team is working to fill the weekend ridership gaps by offering a 50 percent train fare discount for weekend travel. This online-only discount offers two ways to save: two passengers traveling together on the same itinerary can buy one to get the second ticket free or for those traveling alone; this offer can be used to get 50 percent of one’s train fare. The CCJPA is offering it only on-line as part of its social media strategy.  In 12 months, Capitol Corridor Facebook fans and Twitters followers have skyrocketed 620 percent and 65 percent respectively and we intend to use this resource to help build awareness about our service.California Steps Closer to a New Fleet of Railcars
Also in September, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) issued a news release announcing its multi-state partnership to procure 130 bi-level, assembled in America passenger railcars. Of the 42 new assembled in the US rail cars assigned to California, we expect 10 rail cars will be assigned to the Capitol Corridor. Delivery will begin in 2015 with final delivery expected by early 2018.  With the thousands of new passengers riding our trains every year, those 10 cars can’t come fast enough.

California Steps Closer to a New Fleet of Railcars
Also in September, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) issued a news release announcing its multi-state partnership to procure 130 bi-level, assembled in America passenger railcars. Of the 42 new assembled in the US rail cars assigned to California, we expect 10 rail cars will be assigned to the Capitol Corridor. Delivery will begin in 2015 with final delivery expected by early 2018.  With the thousands of new passengers riding our trains every year, those 10 cars can’t come fast enough.

Cab Car Renovated to Accommodate More Bikes
While I’m on the topic of customer-focused initiatives, our readiness to listen to our riders is another factor that helps inspire customer loyalty.  Our surveys show that riders who bike to and from trains have grown to 10% of our customer base.  Bicycle storage on-board is a crucial issue for Capitol Corridor service as demand for on-train storage is higher than we can generally supply.  In 2011, CCJPA staff established a Bicycle Access Work Group to address this issue.  I have used my blog to solicit feedback and folks have been using our web site to contact us as well.  In earlier blogs I let you know that we were in the process of working with Caltrans to modify Cab Cars to create more storage for bikes, while keeping aisleways clear to sustain accessibility for our wheelchair using riders.  I’m pleased to announce our first retrofit, Cab Car 8302, was completed in September.  Here are photos to let you see what to expect as we continue this retrofit program.

Observing Rail Safety & Fall Promotions

September 24, 2012

 

Capitol Corridor Observes Rail Safety Month

While Rail Safety is a daily priority of the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, like other rail operators in the state, we observe September as California’s Rail Safety Month. California experiences the highest number of train-related deaths resulting from people crossing or walking on the tracks when a train approaches. Unfortunately, the Capitol Corridor is not immune to these tragedies and for us one life lost because of unsafe practices is one too many.

Capitol Corridor staff began our annual Rail Safety Month public awareness efforts in August. Those efforts began on August 16th, when CCJPA staff conducted an Operation Lifesaver presentation about Rail Safety on board Union Pacific Railroad’s (UPRR) “Safety Train.” At least twice a year, UPRR invites community leaders, elected officials and the media to ride its special Safety Train along the Capitol Corridor route. This summer, UPRR ran the train from Oakland to Pinole. Along with the safety presentation, folks on this special train saw the CCJPA’s investment to secure the tracks in the City of Richmond from trespassers via fence projects the CCJPA paid for in North Richmond.

At the end of August, to help get the word out about rail safety, the CCJPA issued a news release, posted messages on Facebook and Twitter, and sent out public service announcements to local radio stations to build public awareness that September is Rail Safety Month in California.

Ridership Report
Our loyal riders who board at Placer County stations (Roseville, Rocklin and Auburn) may have noticed their trains are less crowded. It’s not your imagination. For the past three months, ridership has dipped in our northeastern stations and on weekends. While August data shows we carried 8,885 more customers than in July, the 146,232 August ridership count represents a five percent decline compared to August 2011.

The good news is we are still the most reliable passenger rail service in the nation thanks to Union Pacific Railroad’s expert, safe and prompt dispatching. As of this writing, we are at 96% on time performance and, as I’ve heard people say, “You can set your watch to Capitol Corridor trains.”

So, what are our ridership expectations? The student ridership, which represents five percent of the Capitol Corridor market, should start to increase with the beginning of fall semesters at the five universities we serve. To target the dip in weekend ridership, the CCJPA Marketing team launched new fall promotions. This includes our discounts for train fares to Cal Bears (an online promotion found on capitolcorridor.org) and the annual Oakland Raiders home game discount. If you’re 62 years or older, our mid-week Seniors 50 percent off promotion will end on September, 30—but don’t despair! Seniors and riders of all ages can use ourWeekend Free Companion Fare” offer, which begins October 1, 2012. This online-only discount offer is good for up to 50 percent off the regular (full) adult rail fare when two passengers traveling together on the same itinerary. Single travelers can also use this online offer to get 50 percent of their ticket. This great weekend deal ends on April 25, 2013.

Don’t forget that our Oakland A’s home game 25 percent discount is in effect until the end of their regular season. We hope you take advantage of this season’s discounts and hop on board the Capitol Corridor this fall!

Negotiating Sacramento Valley Station’s “Path to Progress”

August 15, 2012

On the evening of Sunday, August 12, 2012, the City of Sacramento’s “Path to Progress” was put to use at Sacramento Valley Station as Capitol Corridor and Amtrak trains switched to the new platform. The City’s new pathway is 500 feet (comparable to a block and a half) longer than what loyal riders are accustomed to walking; therefore, in my previous blog, I suggested riders give themselves extra time for the longer distance.

My staff and I walk the talk. We ride the Capitol Corridor or use other forms of public transit to travel to work or get to Sacramento, so we understand how changes in one’s everyday travel plan may take a little getting used to. But I am also aware that there are folks—whom for whatever reason—may find the walk a challenge and may need extra help in negotiating the longer path or the grade between the tracks and the platform.

The purpose of this blog is to let you know that not only is CCJPA listening to your concerns we have staff who use this station each weekday, so we are observing the issues as well. Therefore, the CCJPA is actively working with Amtrak to see what changes should be made to accommodate those riders who need extra support.

For example, Amtrak modified its early morning jobs schedule there at the Sacramento Valley Station, which means Amtrak will have two ticket clerks on duty at 4am on weekdays. In addition, the CCJPA is using various avenues to publicize that mobility impaired, ADA or elderly passengers who want assistance going to the new platforms need only to go the ticket window to request an electric cart to transport them to the trains.

We will continue to make adjustments in order to ensure that passengers have a safe and pleasant experience at the Sacramento Valley Station as well at other Capitol Corridor stops or on our trains. We appreciate your patience. We know public transportation is a choice, and we are grateful for your continued loyalty.