“When is my travel time on the train going to improve (get shorter)?”
The answer is: on April 26, 2004. You will see the “first fruits” of the capital investment program when travel time between Sacramento and Oakland is reduced by 10 minutes.
So, how are we doing this?
It is a three-pronged approach involving 1) completion of construction work, 2) Union Pacific dispatching + Amtrak train crews, and 3) you, the passengers.
Union Pacific has now completed the first major construction project for the Capitol Corridor JPA, the second main track across Yolo Causeway. More construction will be underway this Spring, mostly between Oakland and San Jose (at long last!). Each of these improvements will reduce running time somewhat and improve the likelihood of reliable operation.
You must also be noticing the much higher level of on-time performance lately. For the month of March, through the 25th (as I am writing this on the 26th), on-time performance is 89%. Not where we want to be yet, but far better than any month in the last year. We all know that reliability is key to success. Union Pacific has made the operation of Capitol Corridor trains a priority, and it is beginning to show.
What else needs to happen to get the trains over-the-road faster??
We need to stop the trains in a consistent location along the station platform, and define for passengers where the doors will open along the platform (and the places at which passengers with disabilities should wait for the fastest boarding). Amtrak will be installing “car markers”, which are small signs to assist the engineers in stopping their train in the same location all the time, with the doors opening on the higher part of the platform, and not on a cross walk.
The Amtrak train crews will be asking passengers to exit from the trains as quickly as possible at their destination and they will be encouraging waiting passengers to board as quickly as possible. Most stations now allow two minutes stopping time, although usually passengers are off-and-on the train in about 45 seconds. If we can reduce the station “dwell time” at just five of our fifteen stations by one minute each, then your train trip will be five minutes faster, even without the benefit of the track improvement program.
And what do you, the riders, need to do?
To make this work, on-board riders will need to be ready to exit the train as soon as it stops, and passengers on the platform will need to board the train as quickly as possible once the doorways are clear of exiting passengers. The benefit of this effort will be getting you to your destination sooner, and less of your time spent traveling on the train.
Since this is the least costly way (and the fastest way) to reduce your travel time, I felt you should know what “The Plan” is, so that you will understand the changes you will be seeing on the train and at stations along the Capitol Corridor. Taking 10 minutes out of your travel time between Sacramento and Emeryville, for example, will allow you to leave home perhaps 10 minutes later than you do today. And it works the other way, too; you will get home 10 minutes sooner. A minute here, a minute there, and suddenly your daily travel time can be some 20 minutes shorter. We hope this plan responds to your requests.
We are counting on everyone to do his or her part to make this work, and deliver shorter trip times to you.
So that is “The Plan”
The first phase, a ten-minute travel time reduction is going into effect with the new Timetable, on April 26. It may not seem like much, but each step we take is a step to improve the quality of the service we are trying to provide for you.