Issue 25, April 13, 2006

Linsey Ettlin Message To Riders

Message from the Director

From me to you…

How are things going now?

I probably don’t have to tell you that service performance has improved dramatically since my February “doom and gloom” message. We are now averaging well above 80% on-time even with some remaining slow orders, some maintenance and construction work, lots of rain (which hopefully will go away soon!), and just as much freight and passenger traffic along the Capitol Corridor Route as at any time in recent memory.

So, what has changed?

Several things: The major track improvement program between San Jose and Oakland was largely completed by Union Pacific (UP). Only selected street-crossing work remains, and this work will be done on weekends. Also, UP has implemented some management changes in its Omaha Dispatching Center, and track maintenance crews have worked to catch up with the slow orders imposed early in the year, mostly due to the rainy weather. This series of events has really made a positive difference in the delivery of on-time performance of our trains. Again, we aren’t there yet, but we are clearly moving in the right direction.

We are sorry for the Winter delays

To sincerely apologize to you, our riders, and to invite back those who had given up on us, we are offering a discount of 10% on the purchase of your May 2006 Monthly Tickets (they went on sale on April 16), and are also offering a 10% reduction in the price of 10-Ride Tickets sold between April 16 and May 15. You can pick the start date of your 10-ride ticket, and the tickets are good for 45 days.

Are there grace periods on tickets?


There is a long-standing Amtrak and Capitol Corridor policy regarding the dates during which tickets are valid. Tickets are valid ONLY for the dates indicated on the ticket, after that, they have NO VALUE. When an expired ticket is presented, the conductor must collect that ticket and charge an applicable regular one-way fare for travel. The passenger is entitled to keep the coupon stub receipt only.I am addressing this issue because some passengers have become angered at the conductor when asked to pay the regular full fare when their out-of-date ticket is not accepted. PLEASE abide by the rules. A conductor can lose his/her job for failure to abide by these long-established rules. Discounted tickets are offered as an incentive for frequent travel, and abuse of the rules jeopardizes that benefit for everyone. Just as it is when traveling by airplane, tickets have a valid time period and are NOT valid for use outside the dates printed on the ticket. Again, please abide by the rules. I trust I have cleared up any misunderstanding on this issue. This same information will be printed in our Timetable so that everyone is aware of the policy and guidelines of use of discounted tickets.

Why can’t I find a seat on some trains?

I have received several complaints about lack of available seats on some trains. Yes, some trains are very crowded, particularly train #523 and train #538. In fact, train #538 handles more passengers than any other train we operate. That is why you will often see an extra car (if we have it available) on Friday nights. We handle about 1,000 more people on a Friday than any other day of the week.

How crowded is it?

It is sometimes difficult to find a seat, but it is usually because people who are paying for only one seat are occupying two or more seats with their body or their belongings. This situation is neither right nor fair.
I am asking all our riders to PLEASE MAKE ROOM FOR OTHER RIDERS TO SIT DOWN. The ability to accommodate more riders on our trains is essential if we are to generate the revenue we need to control fare increases and improve service. We have a limited number of coaches, so we must deploy what we have in the most efficient way possible. We ask for your cooperation. Empty seats are being counted at the maximum load points (when there are the highest number of people on board) on every train to try to deploy the right number of seats on each train. The general policy is never to have a train with more than 80% of its seats occupied at its maximum load point, and to try to increase the number of seats when that load point gets to 72% of available revenue seats.

Again, we need your help.

We aren’t magicians who can make more train cars appear overnight. We are desperately trying to deliver you the best service we can, but frankly, from my own countings on trains, there are a lot of potentially available seats if “stuff” (e.g. feet, pillows, entire bodies) are relocated to allow each paying passenger to occupy one seat. If you want to pay for a second seat, please inform the conductor when your ticket is collected, and he/she will gladly sell you the extra seat, and will issue you a second seat-check for the additional seat. Our seats give you a lot more room than in any airplane, and we will try not to stuff you into about two square feet of floor space, as do airplanes. But we do need your cooperation to make efficient use of the state-owned train cars and the seats that are in them.

So what does the August schedule look like?

A new timetable comes out on April 24, 2006 with minor changes to schedule. However, the August 28, 2006 schedule will reflect a major increase in frequency of service. Every day there will be 14 trains (7 each way) between Sacramento and San Jose. On weekdays there will be 32 trains (16 each way) between Oakland and Sacramento, and 22 trains (11 each way) on weekends and holidays. There will still be only the two daily trains (1 each way) between Sacramento and Auburn.
Proposed Fall 2006 Schedule