Get On Board – Number 43 ● July 2011

July 18, 2011

Get On Board (formerly Message to Riders)
Number 43 ● July 2011

Dear Valued Riders:

The year is half over and I have a lot of news to share. First the very good news! Last month Governor Brown passed the State budget, which means State funding for Capitol Corridor operations is secure for this fiscal year. In addition, the budget provides the required match for the federal funding allocated for new rail cars. You may remember my May announcement of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s award of $68 million for state-of-the-art rail cars. Securing that federal grant depended on a State match, so the Governor’s budget is welcome news for passenger rail services throughout California. The next steps to procure these new cars are to develop and execute the agreement obligating the $68 million to the State of California.

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) is especially thrilled to expand our rail car fleet as our upward performance trend is now at sixteen consecutive months where ridership and revenue have exceeded prior year monthly results. We need more rail cars to accommodate both our new and loyal customers.

Speaking of expansion, in November the Capitol Corridor will add another stop in the Silicon Valley. Caltrain is expected to complete their renovations and add a grade-separated center platform at the Caltrain Santa Clara Station in Fall 2011. Stopping at this station means Capitol Corridor trains will serve customers going to the San Jose/Mineta International Airport and Santa Clara University.

Also, we expect the Capitol Corridor wireless project will be completed, which means free internet access for our riders by the end of 2011! Currently, the prototype trains are being outfitted with wireless equipment. Once these trains are fine tuned, tested internally and pass muster, the rest of our fleet will be equipped.

Thanks for Fighting Hunger this Year!
We are grateful that so many people once again stepped up to the community plate to “Fight Hunger One Stop at Time.” We are proud to announce that this year’s food drive exceeded the results from last year’s efforts. Of the seven Capitol Corridor/Amtrak stations that hosted bins, similar to last year, Sacramento yielded the most donations. Donors who used that station gave 680 of the 1231 total pounds of food collected during the Fight Hunger One Stop at a Time campaign. In fact, donations in the smaller communities were up compared to last year as well:
• Davis Station donations went up 49 percent
• Martinez 54 percent; and in
• Emeryville we collected an amazing 207 percent more food!

Bikes on Board
A great number of our customers use bikes to access our trains to reach their final destination. While we welcome this green mode of transport, the CCJPA’s number one goal is the safe transport of passengers to their destinations. Our top priority, which is shared by Amtrak, our operating partner, is passenger and employee safety while traveling on Capitol Corridor trains. Safe bicycle storage on board Capitol Corridor trains is not only our concern, it is a requirement of federal regulatory agencies which govern passenger train travel, and therefore, we have raised our collective attention to on-train bicycle storage.

The demand for on-train bike storage space is tracking very closely with the recent rise in fuel costs as well as the continued surge in ridership. As such, the need for more bike storage space is at a premium on many Capitol Corridor trains. To this end we are working with Caltrans, the entity that owns the railcars, and Amtrak to address bikes on board–not only to increase bike capacity on Capitol Corridor trains, but on a new bicycle policy as well. This new policy is being developed by a working group consisting of CCJPA and Amtrak staff, plus Capitol Corridor bicycle users. We expect to roll out this new policy in the coming months.

When it comes to bicycle storage, there are individual measures which help our bicycle-using passengers collectively retain as much on-train bicycle capacity as possible. In addition, we recognize that many cyclists have solid suggestions to help create bicycle storage capacity on the train, so we welcome your constructive ideas. If you’d like to pass along your bike storage idea, feel free to contact us at [email protected]

Rail Safety
Finally, I must speak to the recent spike of delays caused by trespasser incidents on our corridor. In June the Capitol Corridor experienced four trespasser incidents—three were fatalities—and we’ve had one fatality in July so far. These incidents are almost always avoidable and are devastating to the loved ones of the deceased, train crew members and the passengers onboard the trains. When near railroad tracks please follow rail safety practices:

Cross safely! The only safe place to cross railroad tracks is at a public crossing—designated by safety signs. Look both ways and listen before crossing train tracks. Expect a train at any time.
Don’t be distracted. Turn your cell phone and iPod or other MP3 players off when you’re near train tracks; texting or checking your emails can also be deadly distractions near the tracks. Trains are quieter than you think, go faster than they appear, and do not run on set schedules.
Never race a train. If you see a train coming, don’t try to ‘beat’ it, stay off the tracks. Also, an approaching train will always be closer and moving faster than you think
Avoid trespassing. Tracks, trestles and train yards are all private property. For your safety, we ask you to avoid socializing or ‘hanging out’ near railroad tracks.

Remember: Rail and recreation don’t mix! Never walk, bike, jog, or run down a train track; it’s illegal and it’s dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer can see a person or a vehicle on the tracks, it is too late because trains can’t swerve! The train cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.

In conclusion, despite the recent spike in these tragedies, I am thankful for the overall positive year we have had so far. We are fortunate that we have a solid fiscal structure, more riders on our trains and we’ve maintained the number one spot for on-time performance this year.

Thank you for your continued loyalty to the Capitol Corridor service. We strive to deliver you, our paying customer, a high-quality transportation experience. We welcome your comments; feel free to contact us via capitolcorridor.org or at 877-974-3322.

Thank you for riding the Capitol Corridor!
David B. Kutrosky
CCJPA Managing Director

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It’s time to Get On Board!

May 17, 2011

Welcome to Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority’s official blog:  “Get On Board with David Kutrosky”  While I’m not addicted to my PDA, I do put it to good use.  I often use it to catch up on blogs that my peers post and I each time I do, I’m inspired to create my own.  This relatively new way for me to communicate will enable me to exchange comments with an on-line audience.

While I plan to continue publishing my quarterly “Message to Riders” for the segment of our riders who aren’t on the grid, the on-line version of “Message to Riders” will have this newer platform. Also, you’ll notice that the previous editions of “Message to Riders” are archived here.

Evolving my messages into a blog will give many of you timely status updates as well as an opportunity to post comments on my blog page.  I intend to explore a new topic every two weeks, including brief updates about Capitol Corridor projects and public transportation in general.

Apology for Delays on March 25 & 28

March 29, 2011

We would like to extend our apologies for delays experienced on Train 524, Friday, March 25 and Train 523 yesterday, Monday, March 28. Some passengers have experienced long delays and train cancellations. This is not the level of service you expect from the Capitol Corridor, and falls well below the quality of service we work to provide you.

We have a clear understanding of the inconveniences delayed or canceled trains can cause, and for that we apologize.

A few of the morning trains, Train 523 in particular, have been directly or indirectly delayed by these mechanical issues last week or yesterday. Please rest assured that these back-to-back mechanical issues are being addressed with the Amtrak mechanical team and we are taking steps to monitor and avoid repeated events like this in the future.

We worked hard to achieve an average 95+% on-time performance for 2010, which is the best in the Amtrak-operated system.

Despite these recent delays, we remain committed to maintain that level of on-time service to our passengers and will work closely with our operating partners to bring you the service you’ve come to expect.

David B. Kutrosky
Managing Director
Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

Issue 42, December 2010

December 3, 2010

Dear Riders:
On behalf of the team at Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), I’d like to wish you a joyful holiday season! In fact, if you’re on Train 538 on December 7th or Train 544 (between San Jose and Martinez) on December 9th come join me in the Café Car—where we will host our quarterly Rider Appreciation Events—so I may extend my season’s greetings to you in person!

The holiday season is often the time one reflects on the high points of the year while preparing for the next. From our perspective, the CCJPA has much to be thankful for this past year. Despite a shaky start, we’re ending 2010 on a positive note. Because of new and loyal passengers, ridership and revenue are steadily climbing. Our host railroad, Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR), has helped us achieve a stellar on-time performance (OTP) of 96%, which continues to make Capitol Corridor the nation’s OTP leader. We are pleased that this year you, the passengers, rated Capitol Corridor and Amtrak, our operating partner, the highest satisfaction levels since we began the bi-annual on-board surveys over ten years ago.

Completed Projects
Part of our customer service strategy is to improve communications with our riders and enhance security and safety on our trains, in the stations and along our corridor. Our 2010 projects included:

  • Introducing Capitol Corridor’s E-Updates program so passengers may receive real-time schedule changes and service alerts. More than 270 riders have visited capitolcorridor.org to sign up for this free service.
    Replacing the wall display board in the Sacramento station as well as the Passenger Informational Digital Signs (PIDS) at each station along the corridor. The new signs can carry more text and are easier to read.
    Using Proposition 1B (the voter-approved transportation bond) money to fund the completion of new fencing in Richmond and Oakland-Jack London Square which will help deter trespassers.
    Deploying our hand-held automated ticketing validation (ATV) device pilot program.

Looking Ahead In 2011

  • The CCJPA is committed to working with our service partners to retain and attract new riders, enhance passenger safety, maintain excellent service reliability and provide superior customer service. In 2011, we plan to:
    Use Proposition 1B funds toward installing fences at other UPRR-identified areas to prevent trespassers.
    Full deployment of ATV devices on all trains. The goal of the ATV project is to improve ease of ticketing for passengers. Implementation of these devices lays the groundwork for print-at-home ticketing once Amtrak launches its “E-ticketing” program.
    Work with Amtrak to install a wireless system onboard our train cars so our passengers may have free access to the internet while riding our trains.

Changes to the Board
CCJPA Introduces New Chair and Vice-Chair
On November 17, the CCJPA Board of Directors unanimously voted in Director Bob Franklin as CCJPA Chair and Jim Spering as CCJPA Vice Chair for the 2011-2012 term. Chair Franklin, who represents part of Contra Costa and Alameda counties, will have the distinction of concurrently serving as the Bay Area Rapid Transit District Board President in 2011 as well. He has served on both Boards since 2004 and brings a wealth of transportation and green initiatives to the dais. Vice Chair Spering is fondly known as the “father of Capitol Corridor” as he played a key role in establishing the service. He represents Solano County Board of Supervisors.

Farewell to Directors Dickinson, Augustine and Chu
Three members of CCJPA’s 16-member board will be leaving us in 2011: Roger Dickinson, Len Augustine and Dean Chu.

I extend hearty congratulations to CCJPA Director Roger Dickinson, a leading progressive voice on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, who was recently elected to represent the 9th Assembly District. He has served on the CCJPA Board since 2000.

I wish all the best to Director Augustine, who in July of this year announced his decision to retire and to not run for re-election. As former chair of the Solano Transportation Authority and long-time Mayor of Vacaville, the CCJPA benefited from his years of public service and transit leadership.

Finally, I want to thank Dean Chu, Metropolitan Transportation Commissioner and former City of Sunnyvale Mayor, for his role in representing Santa Clara County on the CCJPA Board. Director Chu will finish his tenure on our board at the end of 2010. This was his second term on our Board as he also served as a CCJPA Director in 2006 and 2007.

Act Now!
Support Parity Between Parking & Transit Commuter Benefits
Does your employer offer you pre-tax transit benefits? If you’re one of the thousands of employees who take advantage of the IRS increased transit benefit of $230/month, you may want to act today to help preserve it. The increased transit benefit, which puts it equal to the parking benefit, is set to expire on December 31, 2010. Please visit preservethelimit.com to add your voice to the thousands of others who have emailed their Congressperson or Senator asking them to permanently enact the $230 pre-tax transit limit.

Happy Holidays
Let me again wish you a joyful holiday season and extend our gratitude for your continued loyalty. We hope that we have succeeded in making your Capitol Corridor experience a pleasant one. Our continued goal is to deliver you, the paying customer, a high-quality transportation experience. If I don’t see you on one of our trains, please contact us via capitolcorridor.org or at 877-974-3322 to let us know how we’re doing!

Season’s greetings,
David B. Kutrosky
CCJPA Managing Director