Rail Safety is a Daily Commitment

September 23, 2011

On Thursday, September 15 California rail officials came together to unveil this year’s “Rail Safety Month” locomotive wrap.  It serves as our mobile “billboard” to remind California residents that they need to keep safety in mind each and every time they approach a railroad crossing.

September 2011 commemorates the third Rail Safety Month in California, which was initiated by Senator Carol Liu (D-Glendale).  Rail Safety Month provides the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority the opportunity to team up with both public and private partners to help build public awareness about rail safety along our corridor.  I want to point out that since Senator Liu’s first Rail Safety Month resolution in 2009, incidents involving Capitol Corridor trains have declined steadily thanks to the efforts of our service partners – Union Pacific Railroad, Amtrak, and the Caltrans Division of Rail.

For me, this year’s graphic is the strongest one we’ve used so far as it illustrates how death by train is a tragedy that affects us all.  The collection of  217 handprints the Caltrans Division of Rail gathered this summer forms one large handprint.  It’s a powerful symbol that shows a trespasser incident not only strikes down the victim, it’s a horrible event that touches us all.  Such accidents also hurts the victim’s surviving loved ones and harms the psyche of the train engineer, conductors, passengers and the first responders who must deal with the tragic memory.

The 10,500 trains we run annually necessitates our efforts to promote rail safety 365 days a year. To that end, our service has reinvested your tax dollars into multiple safety and security projects throughout out system.  These safety projects include installation of:

  • video surveillance equipment at six (6) unstaffed stations along the Corridor
  • fencing to discourage trespassers from going on railroad tracks in Richmond and Oakland Jack London Square.

We are working closely with the Union Pacific and cities of Hayward and Suisun to install fencing in those cities this year as well.

As California’s Rail Safety month comes to a close, I wanted to underscore that safety and security is a top priority seven days a week, 52 weeks a year for the Capitol Corridor.  If crossing railroad tracks is part of your daily or weekly routine, please be “track smart.” Trains can’t swerve to avoid people walking, playing or illegally crossing railroad tracks.  Remember: Stay off the tracks, stay alive.

Looking for a Solid Career? Try Transportation!

August 29, 2011

Transportation is a field with much promise.  As Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority’s Managing Director, I want to tout the transportation industry as a solid career choice.

Although I’ve had the privilege to speak at countless venues and in front of a wide spectrum of audiences, I was especially excited to serve as guest lecturer for the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) transportation studies program. For those not familiar with the MTI, it’s a program that offers a Masters and two Certificate programs with curriculum aimed to elevate the education of transportation professionals.

Speaking before MTI students gave me an avenue to express my enthusiasm for public transportation’s upward trend, its current renaissance and the opportunities one may find in this field.

Twenty-four years ago, when I embarked on my career path, the MTI was not yet established.  Instead, my first steps in transportation began as an intern while still an undergrad.  I started on the ground floor, learned all I could and climbed up to my current position on the rungs of the ‘transit planning’ ladder, promoting into jobs of greater responsibility until I was appointed to helm the Capitol Corridor.

As a life-long transportation professional, I can see that this country is truly experiencing a rebirth in transportation.  It’s an exciting time for the industry.  Whether starting from the ground up, or taking the scholastic route, if a career in transportation is your objective, be confident that this industry is filled with opportunities.

Ideology aside, our current leaders see the need to reinvest in transportation, not only to maintain what service exists today, but for future growth, especially here in California—where notwithstanding the current economic challenges—the State will continue to grow.  This means that a career in transportation is a solid choice.  Whether you seek employment in the private or public sector, it’s a path ripe for opportunity.

Remember: Jobs in transportation can’t be outsourced!

If A Picture is Worth 1000 Words, A Link is Worth 10,000

August 4, 2011

According to “The Phrase Finder,” newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane first coined the expression, “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words,” in March 1911 when addressing the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club (somewhere along the line it was attributed to ancient philosophers, but that’s a topic for somebody else’s blog).

If a picture is worth one thousand words then a link must be worth 10,000 don’t you think?

For more than a year, I’ve updated you on several Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority projects including our Automated Ticket (ATV) hand-held device pilot and the upcoming Wi-Fi installation. No doubt you’ve also heard about Capitol Corridor’s upward trend of increased ridership or funding for new trains cars. Recently, my staff shared several links with me of broadcast and print news stories that did a solid job of showing viewers these very topics:

• This news coverage about the 14% increase in ridership train ridership—specifically in reference to the growth that the Capitol Corridor experienced this winter—does a great job in capturing why customers choose riding trains over driving;

• A story about our announcement to offer free Wi-Fi on our trains by the end of the year conveys the excitement and anticipation of our passengers for this upcoming service;

• KCRA’s story about Capitol Corridor’s Automated Ticket Validator pilot program underscores the safety and security application our pilot program may achieve;

• A recent travel article about the City of Suisun on sfgate.com poetically weaved the Capitol Corridor service into its feature about this quaint delta town, and

• Finally, here’s an account of the US Department of Transportation’s multi-million dollar boost for American-made, state-of-the-art rail cars earmarked for Capitol Corridor service.

If you’re aware of news stories about the Capitol Corridor that you’d like to share with us let me know in the “Comment” section below!

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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Fight Hunger – Video of Day 1!

June 7, 2011

Hi everyone,

Check out our video of last week’s Fight Hunger food drive kickoff.

Many thanks to our riders, especially to Geoff McLennan, Chuck Robuck and Marilyn Sommerdorf for encouraging so many to donate food on Day 1 of our drive!