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California Rail 2020, 2004

California Rail 2020 -- Connecting North and South 

November 6-7, 2004


Sponsored by Train Riders Association of California and the California Rail Foundation at the Canterbury Hotel, 750 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California, USA.


Registration table prior to 10 a.m.


< (View from the speaker's stand)

10 a.m. Alan Miller, opened the Conference with comments including his desire for TRAC to be pro-active instead of responding to bad projects.  This would include seeking out friendly legislators and capital for rail projects statewide.


Mr. Miller also mentioned that there were 29 spots left on the two-car MUNI streetcar tour for Sunday, with the capacity being 80 guests for that rare charter tour of the system.


Featured Speakers (in order of appearance):


Chuck Harvey, Chief Operating Officer, Caltrain.


Chuck spoke on the wildly popular new Baby Bullet service.  He addressed ridership, the six-month review period process that will make suggestions for improvement and expansion of the service, operation challenges and flexibility from the operations perspective, a few stories from some interesting days on the line.

--from TRAC notes.


His power point presentation was titled, Caltrains Baby Bullet Project:  Extreme Makeover.  1863 was given as the year for the beginning of the concept.  In 1992, CalTrain assumed control of stations and rails with 15,000 daily riders.  In 2001, they had a 35,000 ridership with some downturn since then.  Their service is between San Francisco and San Jose.


Their objectives are:  Compete with the automobiles along this route; Increase the speed of the line:  Maximize investments in infrastructure;  and double weekend service.


They have formed a very successful Advisory Board of unions, employees, customers, and critics.


They have built passing tracks, remodeled stations, improved access and structures, made train control enhancements, and instituted Proof-of-Payment fare collection, eliminating conductor/onboard ticket sales.  They also have renumbered trains and redesigned schedules to accommodate the Bullet/Express.


With two years of construction on upgrades during weekends, they have regained their previous weekend ridership.  Now their revenues are up and they have a 97% on-time performance.  Parking revenues are up as well.


Their needs remain:  4-track railroad to accommodate the UP freights.


*3 x 5 cards were handed out for questions to be given to the speakers throughout the conference day.  However, later it was decided that with the well phrased questions so far, they would take verbal questions after the speaker ns presentation for the rest of the day.


Pete Rodgers, Central California Coast Rail Council, speaking on:


•Status of a revived Daylight train between LA and San Francisco


•Efforts to revive a Lark/Spirit of CA overnight coast rail service


•Surfliner service expansion to San Luis Obispo:  details on the new train.


•Booming buses on SLO-Bay Area route

--from conference preview


One reason I was impressed with Peter's presentation was that he provided us with an excellent brochure titled, The Coast Daylight  (my underlining) A Plan for Increased Rail Passenger Service between San Francisco and Los Angeles.  The brochure lists this address:  Coast Rail Coordinating Council, 1150 Osos Street, Suite 202, San Luis Obispo, CA  93401  Tel:  805-781-5712.

Their website:


This 21-stop train would leave San Francisco at 7:20 a.m. and arrive in Los Angeles at 19:00 with extended service to San Diego arriving at 22:00.  It would leave Los Angeles at 7:50 a.m. and arrive in San Francisco at 19:20.  You can see a comparison with the Coast Starlight times at their website.  They estimate 216,200 passengers per year.   There already is, and will continue to be free same day local bus service by showing the Amtrak ticket.


Still needed for the Daylight:  Equipment, Railroad ownership agreement, and funding.


The reason for S.F. to L.A. and not Oakland (where the facilities are located) to L.A. is that their research shows 63% of disembarking passengers go to San Francisco and 37% to Oakland.


The Coast Starlight is 48% federally funded, and 52% fare box recovery.


November 17, 2004 there will be a new Pacific Surfliner from L.A. to San Luis Obispo beginning at 7:30 a.m. in L.A. and arrive SLO 12:45.  It will turn and at 1:20 p.m. head back to L.A.


One of his slides was, "What are the causes of delay?"


47% Other Amtrak/Commuter Train interference

11% Freight Interference

10% Signals

5% Speed restrictions

5% Routing

8% Miscellaneous

6% Mechanical

8% Passenger



2321  2322  2323 


As we departed the conference room for lunch, I asked what the conference attendance was, it was 95.


Tyrone Bland, Amtrak director of Government Affairs West.


One of the most popular speakers at the 2003 Conference, Mr. Bland spoke on the state of Amtrak, long-distance routes serving California, the California Rail Program, working with David Gunn, and a few anecdotes from his travel-intensive position.

--from conference preview

Mr. Bland addressed the challenges of representing the five western states on a federal level due to difficulties with funding. Last year Amtrak requested $1.85 billion for capital and operating costs and received approximately half of that from Congress.  Mr. Bland mentioned that "Appropriations" is where Amtrak needs our support, then working on "Reauthorization." 

While Amtrak has reached record revenue and ridership numbers in 2004, the company is still facing the possibility of shutdown with the President's proposed funds of $900 million. The requested $1.2 billion from Congress would only be enough to keep trains running, with little to repair aging track and cars. Mr. Bland said he wanted to give us good news, but the picture was anything but rosy.

Alan Miller, summarizing, told the group that funding prospects are bleak, but citizen letters and calls to Congress are really effective.

Contact TRAC if you are interested in riding the rails and handing out informative Amtrak information.


Notes:  A new service of TRAC will be:  Upon receipt of a complaint, the complaint will be given a case number.  They will then follow up with the agency mentioned in the complaint until the complaint is addressed.  This is to encourage membership.  Volunteers are needed to make this program work. 


[This reporter would like to suggest that we also have an opportunity to send in commendations.  And, that they be handled on a case by case basis, keeping a tally of complaints and commendations for reporting purposes.  This tally might show that we are objective in our evaluations.]


The 13 brave members who allowed themselves to be nominated for board positions were unanimously elected with appropriate offices filled from within the ranks on the board through nominations and election.


2325Maria Ayerdi, Executive Director, Transbay Terminal Joint Powers Authority

Photo Credit:  San Francisco Business Times/Najib Joe Hakim

The Transbay Terminal will "decades after SP intended and then abandoned the idea" bring conventional (and possibly high-speed) rail into the heart of downtown San Francisco.  Ms. Ayerdi spoke on the grand terminal project and gave us a taste of what it will be like to travel into and through San Francisco in the coming decades.  This was an interesting talk, as the twists and turns of the dispute with the developer of an adjacent property make the status of the project at the time of our convention unknown.

--from conference preview


Ms. Ayerdi was articulate and her presentation was most professional in explaining this massive inter modal project.


It will take into consideration the November, 2006 Bond Measure on High Speed Rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco.


This project will include 3,000+ housing units (1,200 affordable), large hotel and retail facilities inside and outside the terminal.  The open architecture will be similar to Vancouver, B.C.


Her documents are online at:


Jonathan Garzoli and Brian Schmidt, Administrative and Operations Directors, Altamont Commuter Express (ACE).


DSC02327.JPGMr. Garzoli and Mr. Schmidt spoke on running California's only conventional rail system operated completely outside of the Amtrak structure.  They explored possibilities for ACE service including Modesto, Sacramento, a connection to BART, and service over a restored Dumbarton rail bridge.

--from conference preview


ACE provides onboard Free WiFi Internet and onboard Education with technology provided by the University of Phoenix.


Onboard food and beverage service is provided by the riders!  Not a sensitive new age potluck, but the service is provided by the riders, not the food itself.


Online ticketing, including printing of tickets at home or business is used.


Their "Buddy Program" is successful whereby a rider refers another rider and both get 5 days free commute plus 5% off for the person who refers and the one who was referred.


Future Plans:  Central Valley Express



A Feature Panel on the Status of California High-Speed Rail and Incremental Alternatives to line north and south should the project fail to be built in a timely manner.  The panel will feature:


•Melissa Hippard, Director, Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club, who coordinated their review of the high-speed rail draft EIR for the Bay Area to Central Valley mountain crossing.


•Sean Holstege of the Oakland Tribune, who recently wrote several articles on the politics of the California High-Speed Rail Authority and those seeking to gain from manipulation of and speculation on the high-speed rail planning process.


•Members of TRAC's high-speed rail project team that submitted comments about the California high-speed rail project.


--from conference preview





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