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.
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).
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.
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.