Issue 29, April 2007

Linsey Ettlin Message To Riders

Dear Capitol Corridor riders and friends,

Well, we made it through the track reconstruction program. Unfortunately, we are now dealing with the aftermath of the big trestle fire in Sacramento, resulting in delays due to freight train reroutes and construction of the replacement trestle. An interim bus bridge is operating for our Placer County riders between Auburn and Sacramento until the tracks are restored.

Proposition 1B Funds

Expectations were high in November when the voters approved Proposition 1B including an additional $400 million for capital investment in our state’s intercity passenger rail system. However, it now seems we also need a legislative appropriation to be able to use any of those funds. We are seeking an appropriation of at least $150 million (of the voter-authorized $400 million) in the state budget for the coming year so that Caltrans can go out for bids for more passenger rail cars for our service. It takes about four to five years from the time they are ordered until they are delivered, and I think most of you know we could surely use about ten more coaches on our existing trains today. The order needs to be placed as soon as possible, due to the long delivery time and escalating worldwide steel prices.
We are currently working with state Assemblymembers and Senators on securing this $150 million in Proposition 1B funds. We are hopeful when the state budget is adopted in June (or thereabouts), it will include the appropriation of the $150 million so Caltrans can START the bid process for the new passenger rail cars.

With Success Comes Challenge

In the day-to-day complexities of trying to operate this Capitol Corridor service for you, sometimes I hear the words of Gilda Radner’s character “Roseanne Rosannadanna” ringing in my ears. When she performed years ago on Saturday Night Live, her character Roseanne would quote the nonsensical famous sayings of her fictitious father, saying with profound conviction: “It’s always something. If it isn’t one thing, then it’s another.”
That’s a bit how we feel right now.
With unparalleled passenger rail success, not just on the Capitol Corridor, but all across California, the challenges remain the same: improve on-time performance, minimize freight train conflicts, secure funds to install more crossover switches for operating flexibility, getting more rail cars to accommodate all the folks who want to ride our trains. So, we are staying focused on these basics.

Working with UP on Improvements

Nonetheless, there are some very positive signs that improvement is coming. First, of course, is that the major Union Pacific trackwork for this year is completed. Second, Union Pacific is going to test a new operating plan to improve Capitol Corridor service.

Ridership Keeps Growing

Additionally, we have more riders now than ever. Since the expanded 32 train service plan went into effect late last August, ridership for the first five months of our fiscal year (starting with October 2006) is up 12%. We now carry more than 1,334,000 riders annually, and that number is growing with each passing month. Again, I make a plea to you to make room for the added riders by keeping seats clear of personal belongings. The revenue from every new rider whom we accommodate on the trains allows us to keep your fares unchanged.

Public Workshops

We finished the Public Workshops for our upcoming annual Business Plan Update the first week of March. Some 280 riders participated in nine on-board workshops and one land-side workshop. Thank you to all who attended and commented or made suggestions. Virtually without exception, the riders tell us how much they appreciate our service, and if it would run on-time on a consistent basis, nothing could top it.

Our Goals for the Future

Based on our plans, and your comments, our highest priority for the coming two to four years is improved and consistent reliability of your trains. Everything we are doing, on both the operations side as well as the capital investment side, is focused on improving the on-time reliability of your Capitol Corridor trains.
We know our service is very popular with the riding public, and our management team has an obligation to you – an obligation we take very seriously – to deliver a quality train service when you ride the Capitol Corridor. We are making progress, but we know there is much more to be done. I want you to know that we are working hard to achieve that goal of reliable, quality passenger train service for you.

On-board Survey Results

As many of you know, a third party conducts semi-annual on-board as a means of letting us (both CCJPA and Amtrak) know how you, our passengers, feel about the Capitol Corridor service. Stay tuned in the coming weeks to to view ratings of the service.