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.
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.
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.
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.