Issue 22, Nov. 1, 2005

Linsey Ettlin Message To Riders

Message from the Director

From me to you…

Dear Capitol Corridor Riders and Friends,
It’s been quite a busy few months since my last message to you. There’s a lot happening with Capitol Corridor that I’m excited to tell you about.

Oakland Coliseum Station

The new station opened as scheduled on June 6, and it has been doing a growing business, especially now that Raiders and A’s fans have discovered how well the train works for catching weekend day games at the Coliseum.

Oakland-San Jose Construction Progress

Union Pacific track and signal forces have been building more capacity between Oakland and San Jose in anticipation of increased Capitol Corridor service to/from San Jose next year. Two of the three construction segments have been completed and are now in service. Unfortunately, the recent hurricanes in the south, and the unprecedented growth in the rail freight business have made the market for railroad parts (ballast, rail, ties, and signal components) much more competitive – resulting in later delivery times for some of our materials. Consequently, the start date for the expanded service to San Jose has changed from spring 2006 to late summer 2006. Caltrain is procuring and installing the signal materials for the junction in Santa Clara at “CP Coast” where the Capitol Corridor and ACE trains join the Caltrain Line into San Jose. Delivery time for those materials should allow for completion of the signal installation also in late summer.

Oakland-San Jose Track Improvement Program

To provide you with overall improved service, we have been trying to get the EXISTING tracks upgraded between now and the time the new service goes into effect. I am pleased to report that this effort has been successful. Union Pacific, ACE and Capitol Corridor are sharing in the cost of this track improvement program between Oakland and San Jose, with Union Pacific contributing the largest share of the cost. The first section (a wood tie installation/replacement program) started in mid-October and will be finished in mid-November. This has caused both Capitol Corridor and ACE trains to institute buses on certain days between Oakland or Fremont and San Jose. This has also caused delays to some trains operating between Oakland and Sacramento. We apologize for those delays, but we also want you to know that the “gain” after the “pain” will be more reliable service for all riders and a better ride quality, in addition to more frequent service.
By February or March of next year you will also see something relatively new along the Capitol Corridor: concrete ties. Union Pacific is upgrading its track construction standards by using more concrete ties throughout its system. Concrete ties are more stable and retain their alignment and placement for a longer time than wood ties. One of the first places you will see these ties is through station platform areas. The new second main track across Yolo Causeway (the track on the north side of the Causeway) was Union Pacific’s first concrete tie installation on the Capitol Corridor route.
You may also have noticed that your ride is a bit smoother when traveling over switches along the Capitol Corridor. Once again, Union Pacific is installing a new component for these switches (called “a spring frog”). These devices dramatically reduce wear on the rail crossing points and reduce the “banging” on the wheels as the train moves more smoothly over the switch. As an added bonus, the spring frogs are more likely to keep the track within acceptable federal tolerances so trains are less likely to encounter “slow orders” due to damaged or worn “frogs”. Spring frogs almost eliminate the need for welding at these crossing points, and more importantly, the need to reduce train speeds to 10 mph while repairs are being made. You don’t see much of this from the train, and you may not even notice the new crossing points, but they have a lot to do with our efforts to keep your trains on time and provide you with a comfortable ride.

On-Time Performance

We know that on-time performance has slipped in the past month or so, in large part due to the trackwork along the Capitol Corridor route. Union Pacific replaced the rail on some curves along the route during September. The track improvement program will likely impact service until mid-November, and then again early in 2006 for a few weeks. When the construction dates are firm, we will post trackwork dates and information at stations, on board trains, as well as on our website and e-newsletter (CC Rail Mail).

Performance Statistics

How did we do for the Fiscal Year that just ended September 30, 2005? Pretty darn well. In fact, we can say with confidence that “it was our best year yet”. Are we where we want to be or need to be? Not by a long shot, but every effort is being made to bring you the service you deserve. All our plans and our efforts are designed to accomplish this goal. Here are the FY2005 results compared to FY2004:

  2004 2005 Change
Riders 1,100,000 1,253,000 +8%
Revenue $13,5000,00 $15,200,000 +16%
Cost-recovery from Fares 38% 43% +13%
On-Time Performance 85% 85% n/c

New Call Center and Phone Number

Effective October 1, 2005, CCJPA initiated our next phase of improved customer service by opening a locally based call center. The new phone number is 1-877-9RIDECC (1-877-974-3322). What this means for our passengers is improved customer care with local representatives who are familiar with the Capitol Corridor service, route and connecting transit options. Localizing the call center also results in a cost savings that ultimately translates into more amenities and improved service for you.

Fare Changes

Even with the dramatic rise of fuel prices, we are not planning a Capitol Corridor fare change until spring of next year. We have been able to allocate other savings in our budget to cover fuel increases without having to come back to you with another fare increase. Our state funding is again flat (for the 5th consecutive year). However, with our regular, relatively small fare increases, 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 discounted multi-ride fares, are now much 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.

Federal Funding/ Amtrak

Congress is listening. The U.S. Senate adopted an Amtrak appropriation of $1.45 billion; while the House number is $1.2 billion. The final number will be agreed to in their “Conference Committee,” and is likely to be somewhere between the two. This is good news for Amtrak and good news for the Capitol Corridor. You may want to let your Congressional representative know how important train service is to you during the Congressional recess.
We are also hopeful that Senate Bill 1516 (a bi-partisan comprehensive bill to improve our nation’s passenger rail service) will be enacted this Congressional session. It contains a provision for establishment, for the first time ever, a federal share for states to invest in intercity passenger rail. As most of you know, California is the leader in passenger rail development and expansion, virtually all with state, voter-approved, tax dollars. The trains you are riding are owned by the State of California, and California is well positioned with existing matching funds to take immediate advantage of any new federal capital funding program.
California’s Position on Intercity Passenger Rail: Both of California’s legislative houses (Assembly and Senate) have adopted a joint resolution in support of Amtrak funding and the federal capital investment capital program. This places the highest elected legislative body of the most populated state in the nation (California) clearly on record with Congress as being in support of the major components of Senate Bill 1516. If you have the opportunity, say “thank you” to your state legislators for passing AJR-18 on August 30, 2005. AJR-18 was 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).