Important Update — Weekday Train Service Changes, Effective August 13, 2012

August 3, 2012

Important Update — Weekday Train Service Changes, Effective August 13, 2012

Capitol Corridor customers may have heard recent news reports about changes in the Capitol Corridor weekday train service levels. This blog post is to accurately confirm specific information so Capitol Corridor riders will be aware of the very latest service news.

Discontinuing Trains 518 and 553

Effective Monday, August 13, 2012 Trains 518 and 553 will be discontinued. This decision to reduce weekday service levels from 32 to 30 trains took months of careful consideration, but like other public transit systems, the CCJPA was faced with cost-effectiveness decisions that lead to this action.

We outlined our intention to reduce service in the CCJPA’s Business Plan published in January 2012 and adopted by the CCJPA Board in February 2012. This year, as we have for over 12 years, CCJPA staff and I boarded several trains in January 2012 to present the annual business plan and the related weekday service changes to the Capitol Corridor passengers. This outreach effort let those passengers know personally that we were discontinuing these trains.

To accommodate Train 518 riders, effective Monday, August 13 2012, an existing Davis to Sacramento Amtrak Thruway bus will be scheduled to begin its trip at Martinez. The bus will serve the Martinez and Suisun/Fairfield stations, as well as the current Davis and Sacramento stations and provide connections to San Joaquin train #702 to Bakersfield.

More About Train 553

In our new train schedule, you may notice that Train 553 will not be listed in the schedule. Train 553 is being renumbered to Train 551, this means the latest train out of Sacramento will still leave at 9:10PM. As we are merging two westbound trips (6:40pm and 7:40pm) into one train (#549) departing Sacramento at 7:10pm, our last trip out of Sacramento will be listed in Capitol Corridor’s train schedule as 551 at 9:10pm.

This is the first time in 20 years that we discontinued a train or reduced service, but changing from 32 to 30 trains per weekday will help CCJPA save approximately $1 million. These cost savings will be used to address steep increases in diesel fuel prices, while ensuring the continued operation of trains that have higher passenger counts.

Other Changes: Train numbers 520, 531, 549

Also effective Monday August 13, Capitol Corridor schedules for trains 520, 531, 549 (and again Train 551) will change as a result of the City of Sacramento’s track realignment project. The project will enable an additional train to be stored in Sacramento overnight, eliminating the need to operate an extra round-trip every day to move train sets to/from Oakland as we had to do when train storage space was limited. Therefore, several other trains have minor adjustments to provide better spacing between departures.

Eastbound changes:

  • Train 520 will operate 10 minutes earlier.

Westbound changes:

  • Train 531 will operate 10 minutes earlier.
  • Train 549 will operate 30 minutes later.
  • Train 551 will operate 90 minutes later (taking over slot currently used by train 553).

There will be no changes to weekend Capitol Corridor service (trains 720-751).

Sacramento Project Improves Your Safety

Speaking of the track relocation project, the four new station tracks will improve passenger safety because the new boarding platforms will provide grade- separated access to the trains. Passengers will never have to cross a track in order to reach their train. When the improvements are complete, new electronic signs will direct patrons to the proper boarding areas, and new canopies will protect the passengers from the elements on the walkways, ramps and boarding areas.

A new walkway will be put in service on August 13.  It is an extended walk from what riders are used to, so until you’re used to the new path, I’d suggest adding an extra 10-15 minutes to get to your train.

It DOES Take a Village

May 22, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton popularized the old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” which increased awareness about the need to be involved in our communities. Once again the Capitol Corridor will be a part of a multi-regional “village” to help “Fight Hunger One Stop at a Time.”  From June 1 through June 15 we will host collection bins at our staffed stations to collect food for families in need in the eight counties we serve. The public may also help fight hunger by donating online on the food bank websites.

The beginning of summer is a critical time to replenish food banks. During the school year many children in need are served meals at school, but they lose that resource when classes break for summer. We want to fight hunger by asking our passengers and the communities along our corridor to donate nutritious, nonperishable food items (peanut butter in plastic jars, rice, beans, healthy cereals, canned vegetables and fruit) at the collection bins at our stations.

This year, Amtrak, Amtrak California, Caltrain, the Solano Transportation Authority, Sacramento Regional Transit and Union Pacific are joining the Fight Hunger campaign. The help of our partners makes our 2012 campaign the biggest rail-related food drive in California, if not the nation!

Riding Capitol Corridor to a Bike-Friendly Event?

To help accommodate passengers who bring bikes on board, we are reaching out to the bike community.  We want to do our best to have room for bike groups traveling to bike-friendly events on our corridor.  If you know of this type of event and are planning to attend with your bike please contact us at least three weeks before you travel with us.  We’d like to know well in advance how many bicyclists to expect to determine the best train equipment combination.  If you’re traveling in a group, you may want to take advantage of Capitol Corridor’s group travel (21-day advance notice required) program.

We want everyone to have a positive, safe train experience.  Giving us a heads up on those events where you predict folks will bring bikes on board will help us achieve this goal.

New Santa Clara Stop for Capitol Corridor Trains

Good news for travelers heading to and from Silicon Valley!   On May 21, 2012 the Capitol Corridor added service to Caltrain’s Santa Clara/University Station (station code SCC).  This new stop is located at 1001 Railroad Avenue in Santa Clara. It provides convenient access to Santa Clara University, San Jose’s Mineta Airport and a seamless connection to Caltrain and ACE train services.  By adding the Caltrain Santa Clara/University Station to our route, we are now providing a green connection to four international airports and five universities!

eTicketing is Here!

April 16, 2012

What began as a vision in 2003 has become reality. Starting today, April 16, 2012 Amtrak deployed electronic ticketing on the Capitol Corridor® and San Joaquin® routes. Similar to airline ticketing, intercity rail tickets can now be purchased and received at your home or the office.  We are thrilled to offer Amtrak’s enhanced eTicketing solution to our customers. Many of the features of Amtrak’s new onboard ticketing option were tested and developed in a pilot program Capitol Corridor conducted over a two-year period—kudos to Amtrak for developing this trial into a national ticketing system.
The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) has sought this solution since 2003 and we are proud of our contributions to the final national Amtrak program.  The CCJPA was so dedicated to an electronic ticket option that we launched our “Automated Ticketing Validation” (ATV) pilot program from 2009 to 2011. The ATV program used a mobile device to achieve a way to validate and scan passenger tickets on a moving train.  On the operation side, the CCJPA ATV system helped enhance passenger safety/security matters and strengthened revenue control measures by creating a passenger manifest list and ensuring proper and thorough onboard ticket validation and sales. In regards to customer service, we knew passengers would prefer the convenience of printing out tickets in their home or office.  As technology evolved, we knew riders would like to have the option to simply display an eTicket barcode to the conductor from a smartphone for a hassle-free ticket purchasing experience.
What Amtrak did was to “marry” efficiency with popular technology.  They took CCJPA’s core solutions and put it in the convenience of an iPhone.  Now they are in the process of training their 1,700 conductors on this endeavor and we applaud their efforts!
eTicketing Means More Flexibility
Amtrak’s news release states eTickets provide passengers more flexibility when making or changing reservations and eliminates the need to obtain traditional paper tickets.  Passengers also have the ability to print their reservations.  A receipt will be e-mailed to the passenger with the eTicket attached as a printable document.  Those passengers using their smartphones can present their eTicket to the conductor by simply opening the eTicket document from their e-mail to display the barcode for scanning. If a customer misplaces their eTicket, they can reprint the document to present onboard.  Passengers may also print their eTickets at Amtrak ticket offices and Quik-Trak™ kiosks.

Phases of the eTicketing Program
Initially, this pilot program will only issue “eTickets” for one-way and roundtrip travel on the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin trains.  California Thruway Buses will join this pilot over the summer and passengers will continue to receive a conventional paper value ticket if they have purchased a Multi-Ride Ticket (such as a monthly or 10-ride ticket).
During the field pilot in California, only the Capitol Corridor and Amtrak California San Joaquin trains will begin using the new eTicketing system.  Connecting California Thruway Buses will follow suit with the first few bus routes becoming eTicket-ready in early summer.  Amtrak expects to convert the entire California Thruway bus system to eTicketing gradually, with the transition complete by late summer.

Working Together to Create a Solid & Safe Bike Program

March 3, 2012

After my last blog entry about our proposed bicycle policy, several bike users took the time to comment. I appreciate your feedback. We, at the CCJPA, know that these changes on the Capitol Corridor service may affect some riders accessing the trains with their bicycles.

Since my announcement and the subsequent feedback, the CCJPA Board of Directors at its February 15, 2012 meeting adopted some Principles that will help guide the development of the CCJPA Bicycle Access Policy (download link included below).   Using these Principles, the CCJPA team has been busy revising and updating some aspects and elements of bicycle access to and storage of bikes on Capitol Corridor trains.  Therefore, based on all of the helpful comments and observations, I would like to take the time to update everyone regarding some of the developments.

Solutions are a Collaborative Effort

The CCJPA views the solutions to the bicycle storage issue as a collaborative effort.  We will strive to be creative as our resources will allow (rail equipment, regulatory safety compliance and funding).  Just as importantly, we will need the help of our bicycle using riders as well.  It’s apparent to CCJPA, Amtrak staff and frequent riders that our soaring ridership and the corresponding growth in bike access in just a few years has presented us all a challenge.  The increased use of bicycles in conjunction with ridership growth has strained our capacity to safely accommodate so many bicycles. Safety, in this instance, is not a subjective concept; safety is the CCJPA’s top priority and it is regulated on intercity passenger trains by federal law.

In order to maintain compliance of federal safety standards, we conducted a survey of bicycle usage on the Capitol Corridor in January/February 2011 and established a Bicycle Policy Working Group comprised of CCJPA, Amtrak, Caltrans Division of Rail and three Capitol Corridor riders (two who use bicycles and one who uses wheelchair). The Bicycle Policy Working Group met several times and worked towards evaluating solutions to this dilemma.

In addition, those who learned of our impending policy change have suggested several steps we could take to better prepare our riders, our conductors, and the service overall.  The comments and suggestions from you to the CCJPA Board of Directors and staff have been thorough and very helpful.  We have examined these concepts and are postponing the official launch of the policy for several months in order to raise awareness among the riders and allow more time for conductor training in preparation for eventual implementation. This will also provide us more time to hopefully be closer to bringing more solutions to bear when implementation arrives.

Some Measures Will Take Time

Rest assured we are working in every creative way to permit travel with a bicycle on the train or stored at a station to be as safely feasible for all involved.  If we can’t implement a concept or an idea, it is because we don’t have the ability to modify existing cars, get more rail car equipment with mass bicycle storage on the train, or get secure bicycle parking solutions at stations ready in the immediate future. We do have plans to implement some improvements which will take time and resources that are not available now.  We truly appreciate your cooperation, patience and understanding and above all, the individual effort you can make with the conductors, with your own travel with a bicycle, and amongst other bicycle-carrying customers also using the train.

Soon you will find more details of all things related to bikes on our trains here:

http://www.capitolcorridor.org/on_board/bikes_on_board.php and http://www.capitolcorridor.org/on_board/bikes_background.php).

These web pages will be refreshed with bike-related news so Capitol Corridor customers to may stay apprised of all aspects of our Bikes on Board program. The first web page will discuss the policy itself and the second will describe the background and measures the CCJPA, Amtrak and Caltrans Rail Division have taken, are working on, as well as steps passengers may take to help.

Doing Our Part

Things we have done so far include:

· Introduced more bicycle storage on most Capitol Corridor trains by shifting around the car types shared between the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin services.

· Received information that we have programmed funding (expected to arrive in late 2012 through late 2014) to add secure bicycle parking storage at stations.

· Begun an education period (1) for conductors to gain more consistency and attention to the parking and storage of bicycles on the train, and (2) for customers bringing their bicycles on the trains so that the conductors and travelling public know what to expect in terms of eventual policy application. In this time conductors will hang tags on bicycles (or luggage) that is not stored in a way that is compliant with the future policy.

Thank you once again for providing your comments.  We are committed to accommodating all users of Capitol Corridor trains.  During our upcoming  phase of the program, we will do our best to accommodate our riders who wish to bring their bikes on board, while adhering to federal safety standards.

CCJPA Board Principles for Bicycle Access Policy 02152012

Special Message to Riders – Delays of February 17, 2012

February 20, 2012

 

Dear Capitol Corridor riders,

I truly apologize for the delays that were experienced by Capitol Corridor riders Friday evening.  These delays were extensive; in fact, some of the worst in the history of the Capitol Corridor.

At about 4:30pm Friday afternoon, Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) had a major signal outage that stopped all train traffic between Martinez and Suisun. To compound this delay, the timing and location could not have been worse – a Friday evening prior to a three-day weekend along the busiest stretch of Capitol Corridor’s route.

I could elaborate on the technical and communication problems, but that is not the purpose of this message.

This is an apology.

I want all the Capitol Corridor riders that were inconvenienced to know that the CCJPA will be working with Amtrak and UPRR to learn our lessons from this signal outage and its cascading impacts to the passenger and freight trains. We will be working together to establish processes and protocols to ensure that similar outages are either prevented or resolved in a much more expeditious manner.

We did not deliver top quality service to our passengers this evening, but we (CCJPA, Amtrak, UPRR) will make sure that we do everything in our means to recover from this evening’s poor performance and return to our top form.

David Kutrosky,

Managing Director, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority