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.

Bicycle Access Program

April 10, 2012

Welcome to Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority’s (CCJPA) very first  Bicycle Blog entry! If you want to know about bikes on board the Capitol Corridor, you’ve hit the right web page. Launching CCJPA’s official bike blog coincides with the first phase of our  Bicycle Access Program. This blog will be updated at least once a month on issues we need to convey, but honestly many of our bike topics will depend on what’s going on with you.

Jim Allison, Manager of Planning at CCJPA, will be our primary bike blogger, but we intend to feature guest writers from time to time. And since Jim Allison is actually writing this, I will stop referring to myself in the third person because that just gets confusing to everyone.

Some background about why I’ll be the primary bike blogger: I moved from San Francisco to Sacramento in 2006 fully knowing I could reside in Sacramento and regularly ride the Capitol Corridor train with my bicycle to get to/from our CCJPA offices in Oakland (BTW – I am also a regular purchaser of the monthly passes). I ride my bicycle for my commute, I train for and complete (usually) long supported bicycle rides. I use a bicycle when I cart my kids around or pick up groceries. I pretty much ‘get’ the marriage of two wheels to steel wheels. To sustain this union I am circling back to topic #1 for this first blog entry—the launch of our new Bicycle Access Program.

It took over three years to get to this milestone. In late 2008, it was clear then that the use of bicycles with Capitol Corridor service was growing with the rise of gasoline prices and as a weekday rider, I started to see more and more riders who brought or used their bicycles to get to/from the train. It became apparent that Capitol Corridor service was challenged to keep pace with the increasing bicycle storage demand. As a “planner” I knew we had to find a solution. This meant working with CCJPA staff to implement a convenient online survey tool to get insight into how bicycles are used with the Capitol Corridor service. I thank all of those survey respondents who filled in their bicycle trip details from those surveys held in January/February 2011.

From that point, we began working with the owner of the rolling stock (Caltrans Rail Division) and Amtrak (our service operator) to do what we could to meet the demand. We convened a bicycle-working group, which included three actual train riders familiar with bicycle and on-board bicycle storage issues (kudos go to those volunteers and our partners too!) and instigated some immediate changes and worked on the suggestions that evolved into…our 2012 Bicycle Access Program.

Our program is launching on April 10, 2012 with the first phase being an educational phase for the conductors and those of you who may be bringing your bicycle on the train (or even leaving it at a station). We have put the details of the program on our webpage so I won’t repeat them in depth here but in short, there are two aspects – Securing and Storing. I will write more soon but in the meantime, please mind the two “S’s!”

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

New in 2012!

January 20, 2012

We were thrilled to unveil our free Wi-Fi service at the end of 2011, but we’re not done launching new, customer-focused projects. By spring 2012, we will join Caltrain in opening the new Santa Clara/University Station and show off the renovations at San Jose – Diridon Station. We will also partner with Amtrak on an e-Ticketing program (print-at-home ticketing) by March 2012.

CCJPA’s Bike Storage Educational Period Begins February 1

You may have heard or read public comments about the Capitol Corridor’s Joint Powers Authority’s (CCJPA) new on board bike storage policy. I want to clarify that on February 1, 2012 we will start our “get acquainted period” to help educate riders who bring bikes on board the importance of proper bike storage. We will begin implementing the new policy several months afterwards in order to give riders time to prepare and acclimate to proper bike storage practices that allow for adequate access and safety.

This policy change is an issue we have been wrestling with as a result of our growing ridership and the corresponding increase in bike usage over the past few years. Quite simply put, the increased use of bicycles in correlation with more riders has outpaced our capacity to safely accommodate so many bikes on board the trains. The CCJPA’s top priority is safety, and in this instance it is not just a viewpoint; it is mandated by compliance with basic operations regulated by federal law and enforced by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

During this educational period, for safety reasons and to acquaint bike riders with the upcoming policy, conductors may “tag” those bikes that aren’t properly secured or stowed in such a way that prevents accessing the aisle ways. We’re giving cyclists several months to learn about how to properly stow their bikes in accordance with the upcoming policy.

Upcoming Bike Policy

Several months from now, when the Capitol Corridor’s new bike policy is in place, passengers who board trains with bikes will be required to:

  • Secure bicycles to prevent the sudden or uncontrolled movement of bikes in the event of a sudden train stop; and
  • Store bicycles so that all passengers (including those in wheelchairs) can safely navigate the train aisle-ways.

Why the Change?

For the past four years we have seen bike ridership surge. More and more riders are bringing bikes on board; however, bicycle storage demand has outpaced our available space and compromised our ability to stay in compliance with FRA regulations. This means that we must implement solutions aimed to keep bikes secured on our trains, while allowing passengers (especially riders who use wheelchairs) to safely navigate through the train.

We’re looking at other solutions to increase bike storage, including working with Caltrans on possible car modifications; however, like buying new rail cars, train car modifications take time. In the meantime, we are obligated to address a very important issue: with more people on the trains, there is an increased demand for bike storage.

We urge bike riders to help us make our trains safe for all passengers. Conductors are our partners in this goal and will soon be trained to manage bike storage on the trains, refer passengers to our website for an explanation of the new bike policy and help identify safe bike storage solutions. On this page you’ll learn details of the reasons for the policy, what we’ve done to address the issue and ways you can help. For example, you may want to consider switching to a folding bike, an option that many transit systems encourage as folding bikes use less storage space.

Again, our goal is to make travel on the Capitol Corridor a safe, positive experience for all.