Issue 23, Dec. 8, 2005

December 8, 2005

Message from the Director

From me to you…

Well, here it is St. Nicholas Day again (December 6), and, as has been my tradition for over 35 years, my holiday “Message” gets written. The Holiday Season is a special time for me and all of us at the Capitol Corridor office to say “thank you” to you, our loyal customers and riders of the Capitol Corridor trains. May this festive season bring peace and hope to you, your families and friends, and may the coming year bring you all health, happiness and prosperity.
The Capitol Corridor trains are truly your trains–built, bought and operated with your passenger fares and state tax dollars. The Capitol Corridor office staff exists solely to serve you and provide you with the highest quality passenger rail service we can deliver. We know that it is not yet a perfect service, but we, along with our partners at Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad, are striving to make it the best passenger service we can provide.
It has been another eventful year, with some real highs, and a few “not-so-highs.” On the “not-so-high” side, our on-time performance has suffered, and reliability has not been where it should, can and must be, since January 2005. I can provide a list of reasons, none of which matter when you count on the train being on-time. Every effort is being made by the Capitol Corridor office, Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad to restore the high level of on-time performance enjoyed prior to February 2005. The construction work between Oakland and San Jose (more tracks) and the maintenance work all along the line (tie replacements, new crossover switches, a dedicated UPRR track maintenance gang) will contribute substantially to our ability to deliver better on-time service when completed late next summer.
Virtually every other performance statistic indicates continuous growth and demand for our train service. Ridership increased 8% above the prior year, to a new record-high of more than 1,260,000 passengers, cementing the Capitol Corridor as the third busiest route in Amtrak’s national system. More impressive, our revenue increased 16%, with big gains in off-peak and weekend travel, the places where we have had the greatest available capacity. On weekday mornings and evenings, it is no secret that some trains are close to full, which is compounded by some passengers still occupying more than one seat, thereby denying other passengers the opportunity to sit down until a conductor has to request removal of a body, parcels or feet from otherwise unoccupied seats.
This revenue growth also results in a cost-recovery-from-fares ratio of 43% (up from 38% last year), the highest in the history of Capitol Corridor service since 1998, and well on the way to achieving the state’s goal of a 50% recovery.
All of this growth has happened with no change in the number of trains operated, for more than two-and-a-half years now. This is what the industry calls “pure growth”.
Our successful ridership growth is putting pressure on the train equipment and track infrastructure – driving the need for capital investment for more locomotives and passenger coaches and railroad projects (double and triple track, added crossovers, new track alignments and bridges and/or structures).
Elimination of vehicular highway crossings is also high on our list for safety and security of the right-of-way, as is the provision of more modern technology for security upgrades at stations and on the trains, selling and collecting tickets, and establishing real-time passenger manifests (who is on-board) for every train. You will see increased emphasis on modernizing these functions in the coming years. You may also see some new on-board customer amenities involving electronic technology, as well as continuation of our efforts to provide wireless internet service on all our trains.
Probably the most visible changes, and the most attractive to riders, will be the expansion of Capitol Corridor train service next fall. There will be more trains to/from San Jose. At least 7 trains will operate each way daily, and there will also be a significant increase in service between Oakland and Sacramento, with as many as 16 trains each way on weekdays, and 12 on weekends. These new trains should spread the current ridership demand to the new trains, relieving some of the crowding pressure off of our most heavily traveled trains. Overall, this service expansion is the equivalent of a 25% increase in our scheduled seated capacity to try to better accommodate your needs and the needs of the new riders who seem to “discover” our trains every day.
The Capitol Corridor service exists for you, our riders. You are the reason we exist, and we are committed to making the Capitol Corridor the best public service offered by a transportation entity, anywhere. As I’ve said before, we are not where we want to be by a long shot, but we are in way better shape today than we were 7 years ago, and we are well on our way towards accomplishing the goals set for the Capitol Corridor by our Board some 4 years ago.
Happy Holidays!

Issue 22, Nov. 1, 2005

November 1, 2005

Message from the Director

From me to you…

Dear Capitol Corridor Riders and Friends,
It’s been quite a busy few months since my last message to you. There’s a lot happening with Capitol Corridor that I’m excited to tell you about.

Oakland Coliseum Station

The new station opened as scheduled on June 6, and it has been doing a growing business, especially now that Raiders and A’s fans have discovered how well the train works for catching weekend day games at the Coliseum.

Oakland-San Jose Construction Progress

Union Pacific track and signal forces have been building more capacity between Oakland and San Jose in anticipation of increased Capitol Corridor service to/from San Jose next year. Two of the three construction segments have been completed and are now in service. Unfortunately, the recent hurricanes in the south, and the unprecedented growth in the rail freight business have made the market for railroad parts (ballast, rail, ties, and signal components) much more competitive – resulting in later delivery times for some of our materials. Consequently, the start date for the expanded service to San Jose has changed from spring 2006 to late summer 2006. Caltrain is procuring and installing the signal materials for the junction in Santa Clara at “CP Coast” where the Capitol Corridor and ACE trains join the Caltrain Line into San Jose. Delivery time for those materials should allow for completion of the signal installation also in late summer.

Oakland-San Jose Track Improvement Program

To provide you with overall improved service, we have been trying to get the EXISTING tracks upgraded between now and the time the new service goes into effect. I am pleased to report that this effort has been successful. Union Pacific, ACE and Capitol Corridor are sharing in the cost of this track improvement program between Oakland and San Jose, with Union Pacific contributing the largest share of the cost. The first section (a wood tie installation/replacement program) started in mid-October and will be finished in mid-November. This has caused both Capitol Corridor and ACE trains to institute buses on certain days between Oakland or Fremont and San Jose. This has also caused delays to some trains operating between Oakland and Sacramento. We apologize for those delays, but we also want you to know that the “gain” after the “pain” will be more reliable service for all riders and a better ride quality, in addition to more frequent service.
By February or March of next year you will also see something relatively new along the Capitol Corridor: concrete ties. Union Pacific is upgrading its track construction standards by using more concrete ties throughout its system. Concrete ties are more stable and retain their alignment and placement for a longer time than wood ties. One of the first places you will see these ties is through station platform areas. The new second main track across Yolo Causeway (the track on the north side of the Causeway) was Union Pacific’s first concrete tie installation on the Capitol Corridor route.
You may also have noticed that your ride is a bit smoother when traveling over switches along the Capitol Corridor. Once again, Union Pacific is installing a new component for these switches (called “a spring frog”). These devices dramatically reduce wear on the rail crossing points and reduce the “banging” on the wheels as the train moves more smoothly over the switch. As an added bonus, the spring frogs are more likely to keep the track within acceptable federal tolerances so trains are less likely to encounter “slow orders” due to damaged or worn “frogs”. Spring frogs almost eliminate the need for welding at these crossing points, and more importantly, the need to reduce train speeds to 10 mph while repairs are being made. You don’t see much of this from the train, and you may not even notice the new crossing points, but they have a lot to do with our efforts to keep your trains on time and provide you with a comfortable ride.

On-Time Performance

We know that on-time performance has slipped in the past month or so, in large part due to the trackwork along the Capitol Corridor route. Union Pacific replaced the rail on some curves along the route during September. The track improvement program will likely impact service until mid-November, and then again early in 2006 for a few weeks. When the construction dates are firm, we will post trackwork dates and information at stations, on board trains, as well as on our website and e-newsletter (CC Rail Mail).

Performance Statistics

How did we do for the Fiscal Year that just ended September 30, 2005? Pretty darn well. In fact, we can say with confidence that “it was our best year yet”. Are we where we want to be or need to be? Not by a long shot, but every effort is being made to bring you the service you deserve. All our plans and our efforts are designed to accomplish this goal. Here are the FY2005 results compared to FY2004:

  2004 2005 Change
Riders 1,100,000 1,253,000 +8%
Revenue $13,5000,00 $15,200,000 +16%
Cost-recovery from Fares 38% 43% +13%
On-Time Performance 85% 85% n/c

New Call Center and Phone Number

Effective October 1, 2005, CCJPA initiated our next phase of improved customer service by opening a locally based call center. The new phone number is 1-877-9RIDECC (1-877-974-3322). What this means for our passengers is improved customer care with local representatives who are familiar with the Capitol Corridor service, route and connecting transit options. Localizing the call center also results in a cost savings that ultimately translates into more amenities and improved service for you.

Fare Changes

Even with the dramatic rise of fuel prices, we are not planning a Capitol Corridor fare change until spring of next year. We have been able to allocate other savings in our budget to cover fuel increases without having to come back to you with another fare increase. Our state funding is again flat (for the 5th consecutive year). However, with our regular, relatively small fare increases, we can continue to deliver a quality service to you and expand that service modestly, to give you more value for your money. Our fares, especially the discounted multi-ride fares, are now much more than competitive with costs for auto travel, and we want to keep them that way. Every dollar of increased revenue is reinvested into your service.

Federal Funding/ Amtrak

Congress is listening. The U.S. Senate adopted an Amtrak appropriation of $1.45 billion; while the House number is $1.2 billion. The final number will be agreed to in their “Conference Committee,” and is likely to be somewhere between the two. This is good news for Amtrak and good news for the Capitol Corridor. You may want to let your Congressional representative know how important train service is to you during the Congressional recess.
We are also hopeful that Senate Bill 1516 (a bi-partisan comprehensive bill to improve our nation’s passenger rail service) will be enacted this Congressional session. It contains a provision for establishment, for the first time ever, a federal share for states to invest in intercity passenger rail. As most of you know, California is the leader in passenger rail development and expansion, virtually all with state, voter-approved, tax dollars. The trains you are riding are owned by the State of California, and California is well positioned with existing matching funds to take immediate advantage of any new federal capital funding program.
California’s Position on Intercity Passenger Rail: Both of California’s legislative houses (Assembly and Senate) have adopted a joint resolution in support of Amtrak funding and the federal capital investment capital program. This places the highest elected legislative body of the most populated state in the nation (California) clearly on record with Congress as being in support of the major components of Senate Bill 1516. If you have the opportunity, say “thank you” to your state legislators for passing AJR-18 on August 30, 2005. AJR-18 was authored jointly by Assembly Members David Jones (D-Sacramento) and Tim Leslie (R-Tahoe City) and in the Senate by Senators Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria), Denise Ducheny (D-San Diego) and Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego).

Issue 21, Jun. 1, 2005

June 1, 2005

Message from the Director

From me to you…

Dear Capitol Corridor Riders and Friends,

New Timetable Date

The new Timetable for the Capitol Corridor will become effective June 6, 2005. The only train schedule change is that train #544 will depart a few minutes later from San Jose and service to Oakland Coliseum Station will start. There are some bus changes, including the termination of Amtrak Thruway bus service to Monterey (due to low ridership and the resulting high cost) and the transfer of the Grass Valley-Auburn motorcoach service to Gold Country Stage. We expect that you will see the next Timetable change in early 2006, and in it you will see major service improvements all along the Capitol Corridor.

Oakland Coliseum Station

The new Oakland Coliseum Capitol Corridor Station will go into service starting Monday, June 6, 2005. This City of Oakland station project completes the first of three segments in our Phase I work to expand service south of Oakland. Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) constructed the tracks and signals for the new station under contract to the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA); and the City of Oakland built and will maintain the station parking lot, ramp to the pedestrian overpass and associated improvements. The station provides direct Capitol Corridor access to sports and other events at the Oakland Coliseum/ Arena, and another direct BART connection for train riders. Connections to/from Oakland International Airport can also be made via AirBART shuttles or AC Transit buses that berth directly in front of the BART Station entrance on San Leandro Street.

More San Jose Service In Early 2006

During the summer and fall of this year, UPRR construction forces will complete Segment 2 (Newark Junction double track), and UPRR and Caltrain construction forces will complete Segment 3 (CP Coast double track in Santa Clara) of the Phase I track capacity improvement program between Oakland and San Jose. Starting about February, more Capitol Corridor trains will operate to/from San Jose, and travel times between Oakland and San Jose will be reduced. UPRR, ACE and the Capitol Corridor also hope to complete a major tie-renewal program on the existing tracks to allow for shorter travel time and better ride quality.

On-Time Performance

After a few weeks of ‘hiccups’ following the conversion of the UPRR’s dispatch system in February and early March, on-time performance has stabilized at about 88%. Again, this is good, but not good enough. The CCJPA, Amtrak and UPRR are working together to get the Capitol Corridor service delivered to you, the customer, at 92% on-time or better. Even with the ‘hiccups’, the Capitol Corridor on-time performance is the best in its history, and it also vies for the best in the entire Amtrak system. You deserve reliable, ontime service, and I want to assure you that you have an entire team of railroad professionals working to see that you get it.

More Placer Service?

UPRR’s freight operation is beginning to smooth out, but Roseville Yard continues to be a crucial component in UPRR’s western railroad network. We are hopeful that, as the UPRR freight performance improves, capacity modeling will resume and the added Placer trains can commence when track/yard capacity improvements are made.

Fare Changes

As ‘promised’ in our Business Plan workshops in March, fares for one-way/round trip tickets will increase in June as part of Amtrak’s national summer pricing program, and multi-ride tickets (monthly, 10-ride) will go up modestly (approximately 5%). We don’t like raising fares any more than you do, but our locomotives ‘pull up to the fuel pump’ too. Our state funding is flat (4 years so far), and the same funding is proposed again for next year. However, with the regular, relatively small fare increases we make, we can continue to deliver a quality service to you and expand that service modestly to give you more value for your money. Our fares, especially the multi-ride ticket prices, are more than competitive with costs for auto travel, and we want to keep them that way. Every dollar of increased revenue is reinvested into your service.

Federal Funding/Amtrak

A lot has happened since the March ‘Message’ regarding federal funding and Amtrak. States, Chambers of Commerce and your Capitol Corridor staff (myself included) have been back to Washington, walking the halls of Capitol Hill and meeting with Members of Congress to convey the importance of preserving and improving our nation’s intercity passenger rail system, and funding it adequately so it can do the job it is capable of doing. Many of you, our riders, have taken it upon yourselves to contact your elected Congressional representatives, and the message is being heard, indeed, from all across the land.
As an alternative to the U.S. DOT’s budget proposal for Amtrak (‘zero’ budget, plus impractical and unimplementable ‘reforms’), the Amtrak Board itself, all appointees of President Bush, prepared its own plan for reforming and adequately funding Amtrak. David Laney, Chair of the Amtrak Board presented the Board’s plan (now commonly referred to as “The Laney Plan”) before Congress and requested federal funding of $1.812 billion for 2006. Of this amount, only $575 million is for operations of the entire country’s passenger rail system, with a substantial part of the balance being for capital investments, repairs and rolling stock, largely for the Northeast Corridor. The Laney Plan calls for Amtrak to ‘remain whole’ as an organization, but it also sets the stage for the introduction of new elements of competitive procurement.
The most important proposal for California and our sister states, is the call for establishing, for the first time, a federal matching program for capital investments in intercity passenger rail service. These funds would flow to the states, not Amtrak, and the states would have to come up with 20% of the project costs to draw down the 80% federal share, just as is done for highways. Many riders on the Capitol Corridor are surprised to learn that there is no federal funding in our service. The only two sources of revenue we have for operating costs is farebox revenue and state subsidy. For capital investments, it is 100% state funding. Your cars and locomotives were bought and paid for with state funds, and the ‘Amtrak California’ fleet is owned by the State of California. The voters of California approved the bonds for the state’s passenger rail system in 1990, and the investment of those bond funds has made our state’s passenger rail success story possible.
The CCJPA is eager for the establishment of a federal capital matching program, as we desperately need more rail cars and locomotives to handle our continuously growing ridership. Capitol Corridor JPA Chair Roger Dickinson (also Chair of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors) has publicly put the CCJPA solidly behind the financial concepts in The Laney Plan, as well as the bi-partisan federal Amtrak/ intercity passenger rail funding bills HR 1630 and HR 1631.
In California, our state legislature has also been active in the passenger rail debate. A bi-partisan joint resolution of the California Assembly and the Senate has been introduced, identified as ‘AJR-18’. AJR-18 has already passed the Assembly (55 to 11) and is expected to be heard in the Senate shortly. AJR is authored jointly by Assembly Members David Jones (D-Sacramento) and Tim Leslie (R-Tahoe City) and in the Senate by Senators Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria), Denise Ducheny (D-San Diego) and Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego). You may wish to thank these elected officials for representing your interests on this issue at the state level. Such local and state actions are seriously considered in Washington, as they clearly represent the will of the people ‘back home’, and this action by our state legislators may already have had a positive influence on the Washington scene.
As we have said before, the Capitol Corridor and the Amtrak-operated intercity passenger services in the State of California require the continued existence of Amtrak to carry out our services and programs. We are hopeful that The Laney Plan and its major components are adopted and funded by Congress soon. A federal matching share for capital investments for California cannot come too soon. We have proven that even here in California, the state known as ‘the auto capitol of the planet’, people will ride intercity passenger trains by the millions IF they are modern, frequent, reliable and reasonably time-competitive.

Issue 20, Feb. 18, 2005

February 18, 2005

Message from the Director

From me to you…

Dear Capitol Corridor Riders and Friends,

Annual Business Plan Update Time

As we have done each year, we will be holding Business Plan Workshops on board the trains during the latter part of March. We will tell you what our service and fare plans are, what expectations we have for improvements in travel time, and what our capital requests will be. We want to hear what you have to say and we will answer as many questions for you as we can. Notices of the Public Workshop dates will be posted on trains, in stations and on our website.

On-Time Performance

Regular riders know that our on-time performance (OTP) during the past six months has been remarkably reliable. With the exception of the first week of February, when Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) shifted to a new signal control system (Computer Aided Dispatching or CAD) and there were a few hiccups, continuing to February 11 for a few trains. However, since August 2004 and through January 31, 2005, the level of on-time performance delivered to you the riders, was an all time high of 92%. UPRR’s dispatching performance during this same period was also at a record high of 97%. The difference between the two performance percentages is due to mechanical breakdowns/delays, drawbridge delays (only a few nowadays, thanks to an effort by the U.S. Coast Guard, Vessel Pilots and UPRR Bridge Operators) and right-of-way incidents, usually vehicle or trespasser related. We continue to work with the UPRR to straighten out the “glitches” with the new CAD system, and with Amtrak to improve the maintenance and reliability of locomotives and coaches.
An integral component for improved OTP has been a general lack of slow orders due to UPRR’s periodic maintenance of the tracks. UPRR is planning a track improvement program this year along the route from Rocklin to Auburn, which should correct slow orders and restore ride quality and track speed to the Placer County trains.
A remaining issue that must be addressed and corrected is the freight train congestion in and around Roseville Yard. The Roseville Yard remains one of UPRR’s busiest facilities in the Western Region, and among the most congested. UPRR has indicated to the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) that they will address the needed improvements in and around Roseville this Spring, and will work with the CCJPA to find common ground for physical facility improvements that will assist in the facilitation of freights into and out of Roseville Yard. While providing added capacity to allow for the operation of a few more Capitol Corridor trains to and from Placer County, these planned Capitol Corridor trains are NOT part of the local counties’ Regional Rail effort, but are two long-planned Capitol Corridor round trip intercity trains.

New Timetable Date

The new Timetable for the Capitol Corridor will not be issued until late May, concurrent with the planned opening of the new Oakland Coliseum Station adjacent to the Oakland Entertainment/Sports Complex, the BART Station, and the AirBART shuttle to Oakland International Airport. Until late May, there will be NO CHANGES in the Capitol Corridor train schedules, although there will be a few seasonal bus run times adjusted on April 30 (adjusted bus schedules will be available on our website).

Construction Overview

The Newark Junction double tracking project, being carried out by UPRR, will be completed by the end of June 2005. This will complete the second element of our Phase I construction program to operate more trains to/from San Jose. The third and final element of this improvement program at CP Coast (junction with Caltrain) will be completed late this year or early 2006. The fall timetable for the Capitol Corridor will likely be held until the CP-Coast work is turned over to operations, either December 2005 or January 2006. At that time, when the new timetable goes into effect, 14 daily Capitol Corridor trains will operate to/from San Jose. This last segment includes a complex junction in downtown Santa Clara, provisions for a new ACE/Capitol Corridor/Caltrain Station at downtown Santa Clara, and is located in an area where UPRR and Caltrain tracks and signals come together just north of San Jose-Diridon Station.

State Funding

The Governor’s FY2005-06 budget proposal would continue to provide another year (the 5th consecutive year) of flat state funding for Capitol Corridor intercity service. We recognize the financial challenge facing the State, and we appreciate the State’s confidence in the Capitol Corridor management team to “live within our means.” We do expect that we will be able to deliver the full level of service currently being provided to our riders for the entire year. We also will have the funds and rolling stock to operate the added service to San Jose as soon as the construction work is completed.

Federal Funding/ Amtrak

While we are most disappointed in President Bush’s proposal to basically ‘collapse’ Amtrak, the recent comments by US DOT Secretary Norman Mineta in Chicago appear to recognize the necessity of the federal government becoming a funding partner with states to provide capital funding for intercity passenger rail. The Capitol Corridor, and almost every other passenger rail operation in our country, relies on Amtrak for some major components in the delivery of their services. For the Capitol Corridor (and also for the San Joaquins and Pacific Surfliner) these services include engineers and conductors for our trains, café car attendants, station ticket agents, telephone information and reservation services and maintenance of the state-owned locomotives and passenger cars.
In order for the Capitol Corridor to operate its service we must have trained, experienced professional railroaders operating our trains in a safe and secure environment. Freight railroads have said they will NOT allow any entity to operate trains over their railroad except Amtrak, unless they are certain of the qualifications and safety record of the people who operate passenger trains. The issue is much more complex, involving liability and claims, insurance costs, risk allocation and safety and training. In short, while the Capitol Corridor could possibly operate without Amtrak, it would take time to get up and running and require resolution of many unknowns. Plus, entirely new terms and conditions would have to be defined for access and maintenance charges made by the private freight railroads for these passenger services.
In short, the Capitol Corridor and the Amtrak-operated intercity passenger services serving the State of California require the continued existence of Amtrak to carry out our services and programs. The CCJPA and the Los Angeles-San Diego Corridor Board are asking the Legislature of the State of California to take a firm position calling on Congress to retain, strengthen and expand Amtrak and its role as the nation’s intercity passenger rail provider. These entities are also calling on the federal government to become a capital funding partner with the states (on a matching basis) to carry out procurements of rolling stock, track, signal and station improvements necessary to make intercity passenger rail an increasingly important component of our nation’s transportation system.
We remain concerned that the level of capital investment for the Capitol Corridor (along with everyone else) is being deferred due to the state’s budget crisis, and we need additional rolling stock (more coaches and locomotives) to accommodate our expanding ridership. Some trains need more cars, and we also need to add more trains in peak travel slots. Right now, we do not have the coaches or locomotives to do that. If Washington implements a federal ‘matching program’, this would allow us to leverage our state dollars to expand the rail passenger program. Right now, there is NO federal matching program for intercity passenger service like the Capitol Corridor. All of our funding, operating and capital, is either 100% state dollars, or revenue from passenger fares.
You have our assurance that we will use the limited funds entrusted to us to deliver you the best possible service, and that we will work to achieve the goal of having a federal funding partner for our train service improvements.

Issue 19, December 27, 2004

December 27, 2004

From me to you.

Dear Capitol Corridor Riders and Friends,

For many a year, it has been my custom on December 6th (St. Nicholas Day) to prepare my end-of-the-year and Holiday Message to you, our riders, and also to our CCJPA and fellow railroad employees at Amtrak and Union Pacific who make the Capitol Corridor passenger train service work. At this time of year when we all take stock of the past year’s events, I think it can be said with certainty that we are most thankful for the progress we are making.
As with any major undertaking, it is worthwhile to pause every once in while, look back, see where we are, and then look to the future.

A Quick Look Back, a Look Around, and a Look Ahead

Some pretty dramatic things happened in 2004 along the Capitol Corridor. Construction of the second track across the Yolo Causeway was completed on March 1, (on time, and within budget) by Union Pacific forces. There is no doubt that this investment is paying off with improved reliability and reduced travel time.
Track and signal work around the Oakland Coliseum was completed, and the City of Oakland is completing the new station platform, pedestrian ramps and surface lot and access improvements. Look for a grand opening of this station in late Spring 2005. Also, construction of the second main track through Newark Junction was started, and is now well underway. Together, these projects and the CP Coast track improvements, will allow many more Capitol Corridor trains to operate to/from San Jose by next Fall.
In April, trip travel time between Sacramento and Oakland was reduced by 10 minutes, with similar reductions planned for the San Jose end that will come next fall when the current construction work is completed.
The CCJPA, Amtrak and Union Pacific implemented a new on-time incentive agreement on December 1, 2003, and during the subsequent 12 months on-time performance of our Capitol Corridor trains has improved markedly. Union Pacific performance is now running at 96% or better, and delivered service to you, the riders, is now averaging above 90% for the first time in the past six years. We are not yet where we want to be (94% or better is our goal), but we are a good ten percentage points ahead of a year ago. Even ‘problem trains’ #527 and #538 have improved, again, not where they must be, but headed in the right direction.
Amtrak maintenance forces have moved into the new, jointly funded (State, Amtrak) Oakland Maintenance Facility. This is the first time the Northern California state-owned passenger train fleet has been maintained in a state-of-the-art shop facility. We should see a significant improvement in the reliability of the rolling stock, and, therefore, further improvements in on-time reliability during the next 12 months.
Ridership continued to grow, and there are now about 1,200,000 Capitol Corridor riders annually. That’s a 2.6% growth above 2003, and the growth rate for the past 6 months alone is above 5%. This also marks six continuous years of Capitol Corridor ridership growth, nearly 3 times as many riders as 1997-98, the year before the Capitol Corridor JPA assumed administrative management of the service. This growth is putting lots of pressure on the state-owned fleet of trains used to operate the Capitol Corridor service.

What is ahead?

First, we need to complete our construction projects and get the expanded service to San Jose in operation, and also to expand service to Placer County by at least two more trains each way. Efforts are well underway towards accomplishing both of those goals.
Second, we are working with Amtrak to improve the maintenance (and reliability) of the locomotives and cars now that there is a new facility in which to conduct this maintenance work. We know that consistent delivery of a reliable service is paramount in attracting and retaining riders.
Thirdly, we must identify and obtain a stream of capital funding to acquire more railcars and locomotives to satisfy our continuing growth (and this is a nationwide challenge not just limited to the Capitol Corridor), and to maintain the current ‘overhaul’ program being conducted by the state for the original passenger cars, which now approaching their 10th year in service. The overhauls are essential to both protect the state’s investment in the cars, as well as to keep them reliable in delivering your service. Hopefully, the economic recovery in the state will allow the voter-approved constitutional amendment (Proposition 42) to be implemented for its intended purpose, which will provide much of these needed capital investment funds.

My Request to All of You

Lastly, until we can expand the rail fleet, we must make the maximum use of our existing coaches and locomotives. This is where you come in. As most of you know, our trains are spacious and people enjoy the legroom and comfort of our trains. However, too many riders are occupying more than the one seat to which they are entitled when they buy a ticket. Many seats that would otherwise be available for more passengers are being ‘taken up’ by coats, parcels, baggage and (sometimes) feet.
We do not try to pack our trains like airliners, by intent. As an ‘unreserved’ service, we sometimes do get some very crowded trains, especially during busy travel times of the year. However, some current riders are also denying boarding riders a seat when they place personal items, or themselves, across more than one seat. Riders should not have to ask someone to remove such personal items or themselves from a seat in order to have a place to sit. Too often, when a rider is asked to make a seat available for another rider, it is taken as an ‘invasion of space’ and the response is not always particularly friendly. I have witnessed this myself, so I am not just relaying complaints from riders.
In addition to creating a needlessly difficult situation, taking up seats with anything but a paying customer also costs you money. When riders cannot get a seat easily, they often do not continue to ride. When they do not continue to ride, we also lose a fare. Our expenses, however, do not go down, and we must pay to move all seats, occupied or unoccupied. So, to get the revenue we need to operate the trains within the reality of a ‘flat state budget allocation’ for four years running, fares must be raised higher than what they might otherwise have to be raised, just to keep up with expenses. So that seat with a paying rider in it is important to you, too.
This is a personal plea from me to each of you to please keep the seat next to you available for another passenger. Going a step farther, when you see someone walking down the aisle obviously looking for a seat, let them know with a smile or a friendly gesture, that the seat next to you is available and they are welcomed to take it. Filling up as many seats as we can in each car on the train is the challenge we face to keeping the service growing and keeping fares as low as we can. So, if for no other reason than ‘pinching your own pocketbook’, make the other riders feel welcome, and invite them to sit in the seat next to you. Who knows, you might even make a new friend!
You will likely hear conductors making announcements asking riders to keep all seats not occupied by a person available to others. Hopefully, that announcement will remind you of this message.

My Vision for the New Year, and my wish to you

By this time next year, I see many more trains to/from San Jose, seven days a week. I see a new Oakland Coliseum Station with quick connections to Oakland Airport, BART and Coliseum events. Also, I see more trains to Placer County and continued improvements in the reliability of the train service. I see more riders, and a continued improvement of the California economy, allowing us to procure more passenger trains for still more added service.
My wish is for a Happy Holiday Season for you and all those you hold dear, and for a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!