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!

Issue 18, October 10, 2004

October 10, 2004

Dear Capitol Corridor Riders and Friends,

On-time Performance

Since the disruptions of June caused by the freight congestion, we have worked with Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) to remedy the freight issues causing delay to passenger trains, and I am pleased to report steady progress since July. UPRR is now performing at 96% on-time, and total delivered service to you, the passengers, is now at about 90%. We ended our fiscal year (September 30) at 86% on-time for the last 12 months–the best annual on-time performance in the last 5 years, in spite of a spate of delays in June. While this performance for the year is good, our standards call for 90% or better, and we are continuing to work to achieve this.
You should also know that the Oakland-Sacramento Union Pacific rail line over which Capitol Corridor trains operate is among the busiest in the UPRR network. There are now 36 passenger trains and about 42 freight trains operating every weekday on these tracks. Six years ago, at the start of the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, there were 20 passenger trains and about 12 freight trains every weekday on this same route, so the improved on-time reliability represents a major management improvement in use of these resources.
Not readily apparent from the statistics is the poorer performance during most of the last 3 months of trains #527 and #538, particularly train #538 in the afternoon. These are the only two trains that serve Placer County, and they must traverse through UPRR’s massive freight marshalling yard in Roseville, and then on to primarily freight-only tracks to Rocklin and Auburn. While the operation of these trains has improved since July and August, more improvement is needed to make them reliable. UPRR is preparing a significant track improvement program to rehabilitate and upgrade deteriorated segments of the line beyond Roseville that have caused periodic slow orders to crop up, and delay trains. UPRR is also working to further reduce mid-day train delays.
There are still some significant delays not related to UPRR’s dispatching, and these are primarily related to mechanical problems with the rolling stock. We are hopeful that Amtrak will be able to improve the mechanical reliability of the trains and I am certain that the new Oakland Maintenance Facility (brand new shop to service all Northern California trains, opening in November) will assist in that effort.
Also, there is a never-ending series of events that delay trains, beyond the occasional drawbridge being open. This list includes vandalism (placing objects on the tracks intentionally, to disable a train), people walking along and across the tracks, some with a head-set on (so they are unable to hear the train’s whistle blasts until it is too late), vehicles getting themselves onto the tracks (not at a street crossing) and then getting stuck and struck by an on-coming train, or, the latest one, an inebriated person (who boarded the train in that state) and then became belligerent and lit up a cigar on the train, requiring police to remove him. These events delay trains, and inconvenience an entire trainload of passengers. While these events tend to be “the rare exception”, they happen far too often than they should, and an increased security and surveillance effort is being implemented all along the route and at stations to try to minimize them.

Fixing an Important Bus Connection

For several years, riders have complained about the need to “hold” at Sacramento the scheduled 4.00pm bus to Placer County/Nevada City even after train #534/#734 has arrived, due to a late bus arrival in Sacramento from Stockton with connecting passengers. Effective immediately, the 4.00pm bus covering the Nevada City run will be dispatched as soon as all connecting passengers from train #534 have boarded. This bus will discharge passengers at Roseville, Rocklin and Auburn en route to Nevada City. The second bus to Colfax-Reno/Sparks will be held, if needed, for connecting passengers from the arriving bus from Stockton. This will allow for a reliable departure for Capitol Corridor passengers headed to Placer County train stations. While this may not solve the problem for every passenger, it will make travel more certain for most train passengers to Placer County.

New Timetable Date

A new Timetable will be issued effective November 1, 2004. There are NO CHANGES to Capitol Corridor trains. There are some connecting bus changes, as mentioned above, and a new bus connection to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara from San Jose effective November 17.

A New Transit Partner

Starting on November 1, Capitol Corridor ticket holders will also be able to use the Placer Commuter Express (PCE) buses serving the Auburn and Rocklin stations. Only PCE monthly and 20-ride passes will be honored on the Capitol Corridor. There are two trips in the morning (one before and one after the train) and two trips in the afternoon, both earlier than the departure of train #538. Bus service is weekdays only, and the closest stop near the Sacramento Valley Station is located at 4th and J Street, about a block and half from the train station. We hope this gives our Placer County riders a bit more flexibility in their travel options. We are still working with UPRR on additional Placer County trains, but until the freight congestion problems around Roseville are resolved, these trains cannot be started, so the PCE bus option is offered as a quick way to offer you more travel flexibility.

Construction Overview

For those of you who ride to/from San Jose, you have been seeing a lot of activity around Newark Junction as UPRR constructs major capacity improvements and several more miles of double track. This part of the work should be completed by late Spring 2005. Also, UPRR and Caltrain are constructing several major capacity improvements at CP Coast in Santa Clara, where the UPRR and Caltrain tracks merge into San Jose Station. This work should be completed by mid-summer, allowing the operation of 14 daily Capitol Corridor trains with the Fall 2005 Timetable.
The passage of Regional Measure 2 in the Bay Area provides construction funding for several Capitol Corridor improvement projects, particularly in Solano and Alameda Counties. Passage of several more local tax measures for transportation improvements on the ballot in November could provide funds for further improvements. I will keep you posted on these programs.

Oakland Coliseum Station

The City of Oakland’s contractor is well underway building the new station platform, adjacent parking lot, bus loop, and handicapped access to the walkway directly into the Stadium/Sports complex. This station will also provide another direct BART transfer point, as well as direct transfer to Oakland Airport connector service. We are looking at a Spring 2005 completion time, hopefully in time for Oakland A’s baseball season.

State Funding

We have received our allocation letter for the fiscal year October 2004-September 2005 from the Secretary of the Business, Transportation & Housing Agency. Like last year, the bad news is: no more state funding, and the good news is: no less state funding. So, for the fourth year in a row, we are operating the Capitol Corridor on a ‘flat’ state budget allocation. We expect that we will be able to deliver the full level of service currently being provided to our riders for the entire year. We do have funds to operate the added service to San Jose as soon as the construction work is completed.
We are concerned that the level of capital investment for the Capitol Corridor is being deferred (along with everyone else) 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.

Issue 17, June 4, 2004

June 16, 2004

Dear Capitol Corridor Riders and Friends,

Since the winter holidays, there has been an incremental improvement to our service performance, culminating with 90+% or better on time performance in April and May. Unfortunately, during the first week of June things took a pretty bad turn following an early morning trespasser fatality that involved a freight train and then delayed all the morning trains on Monday June 7th. Then, collapse of the levee in San Joaquin County put the BNSF mainline tracks out of service, forcing all San Joaquin passenger trains to go to Sacramento, and several BNSF freight trains to operate on the same tracks as Capitol Corridor and Union Pacific trains to/from the Port of Oakland and Port Richmond. Those of you that experienced delays to your trains during this week (June 7th-June 13th) need not be told the result of all these events.
To add to the delays, a rail inspection car revealed several track conditions needing repair, resulting in the immediate imposition of ‘slow orders’ (reduced speed, longer travel time) until repairs could be made. Coupled with slow orders near the Kinder-Morgan Pipeline spill clean-up north of Benicia, service was ‘not pretty’. Hopefully, by the time you read this, the slow orders will have been removed and our on-time performance will be restored to where it was during April and May. Please accept my sincerest apology for these delays. We are trying, but some days it seems nothing goes right, and that we have no control over events. We met with Union Pacific officials on June 11th to go over their program for removing these slow orders (and Union Pacific is doing this repair work quickly).
Making the May statistics even more impressive is that we were able to reduce your travel time between Sacramento and Oakland by a full 10 minutes, and the trains still ran with a high degree of on-time reliability. As you know from my prior “Message”, we asked for cooperation from you, the riders, to board and depart the trains as expeditiously as possible to keep your trip time as short as possible. We also asked the train crews to try to get the passengers on and off as safely and as quickly as possible at stations to keep the train on schedule. We asked Union Pacific to make a concerted effort to provide as timely and disciplined dispatching as possible to ‘get the trains over the railroad on-time’. I am pleased to report cooperation on all three fronts, and to offer a commendation to all of you: the riders, our train crews and Union Pacific. April, and especially May, clearly showed us all that faster, reliable and on-time Capitol Corridor train service is indeed possible to consistently achieve. Hopefully, when the June track repairs are made, on-time reliability will return to the 90% plus range, where it should be.
A few milestones to be noted: The second track across Yolo Causeway was completed in March and has provided a major addition to line capacity, making faster, reliable service easier to achieve. We still are planning to install additional crossover capability (switches to cross from one track to the other) between Sacramento and Davis, but the available funding did not allow us to do this in the initial project. As the state economy improves, we will be seeking the capital funds to make this additional improvement.
From mid-June to mid-July three more “Wi-Fi” cars will be introduced to Capitol Corridor trains, vastly expanding the on-board availability of wireless internet service to our riders. More information will shortly be on the Capitol Corridor website: www.capitolcorridor.org
Also by the time you read this, the new signals should be in operation between Oakland and Elmhurst (the end of double track south of Oakland), which will improve the flow of trains there (to/from San Jose) and enhance on-time reliability. Many of you who travel to/from San Jose have seen the start of construction on a major capacity improvement project at Newark Junction, which is part of our effort to add more trains to/from San Jose. Hopefully, by next Spring (2005), with the completion of this Newark Junction work, and also an additional passing track near Caltrain’s Santa Clara Station at CP Coast, you will see at least 7 trains each way operating to/from San Jose, every day.
I need to say a few words about Safety and Security, and what is being done on the Capitol Corridor trains. No, we hope you will NOT be required to go through the process you have to at an airport, but Amtrak crews are rigidly enforcing identification requirements for tickets purchased on board the trains. Station agents already require identification. The credit/debit cards used in the Quik-Trak ticket machines may also require presentation of valid identification to the train crews when the ticket is collected. These measures have not been undertaken to make your life more difficult, but rather for your safety and security, and we appreciate your cooperation and understanding. Additionally, all outlying overnight train storage locations will be fenced and locked, lighting and cameras installed, and security patrols implemented Again, this is to provide you with safe travel. We have received a federal security grant to evaluate and initate implementation of cameras on the ceilings of Capitol Corridor passenger cars, using the new Wi-Fi communication system. Our first priority is to transport you safely to your destination. As always, if you see any suspicious packages, activity or persons, please report them immediately to a member of the train crew, or the station agent if you are at a staffed station.

Stations

the City of Oakland expects to have the new Capitol Corridor Oakland Coliseum Station completed for the 2005 Baseball Season, and this will add another direct BART connection, as well as a direct connection to Oakland Airport, and, of course, all the events at the Oakland Coliseum complex. The crossing improvements and temporary platform paving have been made to Berkeley Station, and the City of Berkeley expects completion of the new permanent platform by early 2005. The City of Rocklin has major improvements underway at Rocklin Station, and the City of Auburn is expanding the new parking lot, as the recently completed Auburn Station parking lot is already full.
Regional Measure-2, adopted by Bay Area voters last November will provide $25 million for Solano County improvements, including additional tracks to reduce train congestion, and a new station at Fairfield-Vacaville (Peabody Road). Regional Measure-2 will also benefit the Capitol Corridor service in the Union City/Fremont area, as some $135 million has been provided for the new Dumbarton Rail service, a substantial portion of which will be for tracks and facilities shared with the Capitol Corridor.
The State (Caltrans- Division of Rail) and Amtrak are funding the new Oakland Maintenance Facility, and it is expected to be ready to open this coming October, providing a long-needed state-of-the-art environment to maintain our fleet of locomotives and railcars. The maintenance goal is to eliminate mechanical failures en route by providing a higher quality level of maintenance in facilities designed for this purpose (in place of the ‘makeshift’ 1920’s enginehouse and outdoor tracks used today). In addition, the State is undertaking a multi-year overhaul of our state-owned passenger cars, which will both renew the electrical/mechanical components and improve the amenities on board (provide 110 volt electrical outlets at EVERY pair of seats, for instance) as well as make the cars operationally more reliable.
The Capitol Corridor is increasingly becoming a major component of the Northern California transportation system, helping to contribute to the economic recovery of the state. Our ridership base, and its continued growth, is an indication that our economy is indeed turning around. Ridership has begun to climb again after five months (December 2003 through April 2004) of being basically flat. May 2003 ridership jumped 5.5%, reaching 105,710 passengers, the highest May ever, and second highest month for ridership in the history of the service.
Lastly, I want to assure you that in spite of the late-train ‘snafus’ at the beginning of June, there is a concerted effort to keep our collective primary focus on restoration and maintenance of 90% or better on-time reliability. You have told us that on-time reliability is YOUR highest priority, therefore, it is our highest priority. The Capitol Corridor Office, Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad are striving to deliver you reliable passenger rail service that you can count on for your travel needs. We know we aren’t there yet, but we are making every human effort we can to ‘get there’. Thanks for riding the Capitol Corridor.

Issue 16, April 4, 2004

April 4, 2004

“Shorter Travel Time?” A Frequently Asked Question

“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.

Issue 15, December 3, 2003

December 3, 2003

From Me to You

Each year for the last 33 or so, on St. Nicholas Day, I prepare an annual message to my staff. This year I am expanding this letter to be this year’s fourth Message to Riders and it is directed to you, who really are “the Capitol Corridor.” As we approach the holiday season, I want to say a heartfelt “thank you” to each of you for your patronage, especially through some not-so-good times this year, and to extend my personal greetings to you and your families for the Holiday Season. We do have much to be thankful for, and this is a good time of year to remind ourselves of that. Like our service sometimes, things are not always perfect. We live in a land that is not perfect, but in that imperfection still lies the reality that we are fortunate to live in “the best place the world has to offer”, and that with our collective determination and persistence, we can make things better than they are today. If this were not true, there would be no reason to continue to try to make things better. Sometimes we need to stop and remind ourselves of why we are living, and the holiday season provides that opportunity.
This certainly has been an eventful year. Most of it was “good”, some of it “not so good”. Overall, however, we have kept the Capitol Corridor in growth mode, with another record year for ridership and revenue. Ridership was up 6%, and the revenue-to-cost ratio is hovering just below 40%. In the last 60 months, ridership has grown a whopping 146%, and revenues have more than doubled, and the revenue-to-cost ratio went from about 29% to as high as 40%.
More service was added (33% more) on the busy Oakland-Sacramento segment, and plans are in the works for added trains to Roseville and Auburn, and to San Jose (when the construction projects are completed). Keeping our “nose to the grindstone” has allowed us to make this happen and still keep our costs within the same state funding allocation. We have implemented several service expansions over the past few years with a flat state budget allocation, an enviable accomplishment.
While the “on-time” reliability of our trains has slipped to well below where it must be, the response of the Union Pacific in establishing the Corridor Improvement Team is most encouraging. Starting in early November, most trains saw a substantial improvement in reliability. Keeping this effort going will be our on-going challenge.
Our strong positive relationship with Amtrak is being further strengthened with a Mechanical Department restructuring, and preparations for moving into the new maintenance facility next fall are well along and on-schedule. At the national level, Amtrak’s new President, David Gunn, has given Amtrak a credibility with Congress that has not been seen in many a year. The level of interest in Congress for a capital source of funding, for intercity passenger rail, for the first time ever, is escalating and we may actually see a funding source for capital projects made available to states who have “local match”. We have a local match through the State’s current investment in our capital improvement program. We have cash in hand so that when such a program is created, we will be in a position to seek funding quickly. This infusion of new funds will allow us (CCJPA, Caltrans, Union Pacific, Amtrak) to implement major beneficial projects along the Capitol Corridor that we can now only dream about. All improvements to date have been made almost exclusively with state funds.
We have seen the start (and almost completion) of our first major capital projects with Union Pacific. One is at Yolo Causeway, the other between Oakland and Elmhurst, including the tracks and signals for the new Oakland Coliseum Station. The completion of the Yolo Causeway by February 2004 will increase reliability by reducing conflicts and improving velocity, keeping the railroad more fluid for both passenger and freight service. Coliseum Station will bring to reality a project on the books for almost 20 years, providing another direct BART connection, as well as access to Oakland International Airport.
The new Oakland Maintenance Facility will transform the environment and facilities for our rolling stock maintenance from “steam-era” to “space-era”. Combined with the restructuring of Amtrak’s Mechanical Department, we should see some dramatic improvements in servicing of the rolling stock, particularly locomotives.
Our challenges remain several. First, there have been major changes at the state level, both with a new administration and a revenue crisis, which present some unknowns. However, with the documented success of the Capitol Corridor, I am optimistic that we will continue to be provided the resources we need to keep up our momentum. The recent discussions with Caltrans regarding alternate ways to acquire additional rolling stock are evidence of this. Second, we must find a means to acquire additional rolling stock if we are to reach the service goals established by our Board, and which are included in our Business Plan. Third, provision of on-going capital funds to invest in the railroad is a must. While we have much work going on right now with Union Pacific, after the end of 2005, there is presently no funding for new capital allocations in the State Transportation Implementation Plan (the STIP). There are several possibilities, including a turnaround in the state economy (and more revenue coming in to the state), protection of Proposition 42 funds for their intended purpose (transportation), and passage of the high-speed rail bond measure (CCJPA would get an immediate infusion of at least $47.5 million, and can compete for an additional $47.5 million). Any of these state funds can also be used as “match” to draw down federal funds for capital investments if, as mentioned above, a federal source of intercity passenger rail is created. Fourth, we need to continue to work with Union Pacific to increase the level of track maintenance, and work towards a dedicated Maintenance-of-Way gang. Only when the 170-mile Capitol Corridor Route is in top condition can we operate service with a minimum of slow-order delays (still our largest cause of delays). Lastly, on-time reliability remains an elusive goal. Much of it is dependent upon Union Pacific, and some of it is dependent upon Amtrak’s vehicle maintenance. Both Union Pacific and Amtrak goals are reachable, but it will take a continued team effort to accomplish them.
On the bright side, our riders remain incredibly enthusiastic and supportive advocates for the service. What you ask is for the trains to be on time and to make your trip time as short as possible. This request is not incompatible with the goals of the CCJPA, nor Amtrak or Union Pacific. Getting trains across the railroad as quickly as possible increases the capacity of the railroad, and keeps trains moving (‘fluidity’). You also want timely and accurate information, both at the stations and on the trains. We have made some pretty big strides here, and we are close to accomplishing our goal and satisfying most of your requests. You know there will be occasional delays, and what you have asked for is timely and accurate information. We can do this. Your advocacy as riders can also be an effective source of support in Sacramento and Washington DC for our efforts to continue, and grow, the level of funding for operations and capital improvements.
Our Marketing efforts are paying off “big time”, on weekends especially. Also, the Train Treks school group program is introducing a whole new generation of riders to train travel. These young folks actually think our trains are kind of “space-age”. As we have often said, today’s trains have about as much in common with a steam engine as your car today has in common with a Model T. The technology of both has been around a while, but the technological advances would make each unrecognizable today by their inventors.
Lastly, the potential for a redefined CCJPA is also on the horizon. The work of our member agencies on regional rail service, and the work with Union City and the proposed Dumbarton Rail Project also could significantly increase the visibility, use and value of Capitol Corridor service. Yes, we have come a long way, yet we have only just begun to scratch the surface of the potential market. Things like City Car-Share and Wi-Fi will only serve to attract more and more riders to our trains. With success comes money, as we have found out. Our mission is indeed NOT impossible, and we have the team that can do it. Continued funding is the essential ingredient.
Again, I want to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to each of you for being Capitol Corridor customers. I want you to know how much your patronage is appreciated. In that spirit, the CCJPA wants to wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season and extend to you our best wishes for a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year.