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TRAC California Rail 2020 Pasadena, CA, Nov. 1, 2003


California Rail 2020

 Train Riders Association of California (TRAC) Annual Meeting

Saturday, November 1, 2003
Sheraton Pasadena, California

By Carl Morrison, member and attendee,


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Saturday, November 1, 2003

5449   ««  10:00 a.m.   Alan C. Miller, Executive Director welcomed the 80 attendees at the Train Riders Association of California (TRAC) to their meeting.  Alan thanked those who helped with the Conference setup.  He apologized for the Gold Line not operating because of the current strike and said the Gold Line from LA Union Station to Pasadena was exactly why this location was chosen, and now the strike was preventing us from getting here by rail.  

Referencing the title of the conference, he said that in Nov. 2004 there is to be a state bond for high speed rail.  He mentioned that rail in California had the potential to be the largest public works project in the US and it was the goal for California to have good high speed rail by 2020.  He mentioned that as TRAC members grew older, membership was decreasing.  One solution was for members to put in their wills funds for membership for family members.  

The best tool for membership is now CALIFORNIA RAIL NEWS , which is distributed to all passenger stations in California.  It is published 6 times a year by the California Rail Foundation in cooperation with the Train Riders Association of California (TRAC).  Richard Tolmach, is TRAC President, and Alan C. Miller, is TRAC Executive Director.  Their address is 926  J Street, Suite 612, Sacramento, CA  95814, Tele:  916 557-1667, FAX:  916 448-1789.  E-mail: .  Website: .  Alan read an e-mail from a new member who mentioned that during a layover in a California train station, he had read an issue of CALIFORNIA RAIL NEWS, and joined because ot it.

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Pasadena Gold Line Del Mar Station, under construction and under strike.

Because the first speaker needed a PC with Power Point to run his presentation, we moved to the 10:30 agenda item,

Rescuing Amtrak:  What Will it Take?
This was a three-member panel discussion with questions following.  Alan had instigated a new procedure for asking questions where members used 3 x 5 cards on the tables to write their question and pass the questions forward during and after the presentations.

5451 «« Tyrone Bland, Amtrak Director of Government Affairs-West, spoke first titling his segment, The State of Amtrak.

Mr. Bland mentioned that in its 33-year history, Amtrak has been under funded.  The current 5-year plan is 1997-2002.

He mentioned Myths about Amtrak:  1.  Amtrak can be profitable without assistance.  2.  The private sector is lining up to take over Amtrak.  3.  There is a quick fix even though California is now in a $27 billion deficit.  Other points he made were:  The 3 state-supported routes in California are doing extremely well.  Amtrak needs $1.812 billion from the federal government to correct the years of shortfalls.  The Senate has passed a $1.3 billion bill and the House has passed a $900 million version.  CEO of Amtrak, Gunn, has said if the final amount is $900 million, Amtrak will shut down.  With the Senate amount ($1.3 billion) Amtrak could get through the year but wouldn’t be able to begin activities intended to bring the railroad back to a state of good repair.

Contact Information:  Tyrone D. Blanc, Amtrak Director Government Affairs West, National Railroad Passenger Corporation, 530 Water Street, 5th Floor, Oakland, CA  94607. tel 510 238.4359.

For an update on the federal funding of Amtrak, click here .
Richard Tolmach, TRAC President, spoke second.  Richard mentioned that there are two kinds of Amtrak, one owns the right of way and the second operates on other companies' rights of way.  Amtrak works well operating on Metrolink's right of way.  Saying that some privatization would work, he sited Britain who has privatized some routes and is doing well with the best ridership and lowest subsidies.

Contact Information:  Richard Tolmach, 926  J Street, Suite 612, Sacramento, CA  95814, Tele:  916 557-1667, FAX:  916 448-1789.  E-mail: .  Website: .
5452 ««Jim Seal , Jim Seal Consulting Services, spoke in support of privatization.  He mentioned that where there are 1 million boarding passengers, 65% are profitable as private entities, as with Japan's JR East and JR West.  In the US, some believe the MBTA is privatized in Boston.  [Editor:  True a new operator has been chosen to replace Amtrak, but the MBTA continues to subsidize the operation.  In a true privatized operation there would be no subsidy.  The “T”s commuter operations were always franchised out to third party operators.  Before Amtrak, the Boston & Maine (now Guilford) was the contractor, running trains not only over its own tracks but also those of Conrail and Amtrak. ]

Stockholm has privatized their whole transportation system including busses, trains, etc.

Contact Information:  Jim Seal Consulting Services, 2431 32 Street, Santa Monica, CA  90405,  (310) 452-4948, FAX (310) 399-0912, E-Mail:

Integrating Bicycles with Rail, Chris Quint,Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition


««Chris Quint had an informative Power Point slide show of examples of how bicycles can be integrated with rail travel.  He had traveled with his wife to the Netherlands because his wife wanted "a flat place to ride," and he took pictures of how well they have integrated rails and bicycles.

His goal was to have those at this conference not forget requirements for wheeled passengers...bikes, strollers, wheelchairs, and hand carts.  He found the Netherlands airports and train stations had good connectivity.  The BART system has electrical outlets for electric bike charging and rails on stairs, under the hand rails, for bike wheels to move smoothly up or down..  

Chris would like to see the USA provide bikeways and walkways to train stations, as in Europe, and busses with racks for bikes, which Long Beach has done.  Another need is secured 24/7 parking at stations.

Weak links in our US transportation system shows a need for elevators for strollers, chairs and bikes.  Areas on trains designated for bikes and luggage should be for bikes only, since bikes can only be stored there, unlike luggage that can be stored elsewhere.

As with most things, a little bit of education can go a long way to improving things, and Chris is providing such education.

When I asked for web links he said to search the web for "Bike Advocacy" and mentioned a few links: , , .

A Vision of Los Angeles's Rail Future, Roger Snoble, Esecutive Director of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority.
5458 Roger ««It was not certain if Roger Snoble could be at the Conference because of the Transit strike, but since no negotations were planned for this day, he and his wife attended the conference.  Roger is very articulate and spoke first about the strike.  He said there are 10 million people in Los Angeles County, and most of them are affected by the rail strike in one way or another.  To add levity, he said he would give us 'Top 10 Good Things from the Strike.'  He mentioned that he couldn't come up with anything for #10 through 4, but he said #3 was:  No Bells ringing at crossings disturbing residents, #2.  No Accidents have happened on any line, and #1.  There have been no workers compensation claims.

Beyond the strike, Roger stated that $2 Billion had been taken from transportation from state funds which has put 400 projects on the back burner because of the state budget crisis.

Federal money into the state seems to go to San Francisco and San Diego instead of Los Angeles.

The green light on freeway traffic indicators used to mean 50 mph, but nowdays a green light means 35 mph.

MTA goals are better cooperation between Metrolink and MTA.  Increased passenger rail capacity as much as we have increased freight rail capacity.

Problem areas he sees are high speed rail because of the need to fund bonds.

Future Items includs Gold Line extension.  Light Rail must be competative with automobiles and bicycles and crossings slow down average speed of even the new Gold Line.  There will be future fare increases to pass holders (most of the riders) and a decreases for single trip riders.

Planning a Connected Network,  as per the "all possible rail routes" report.

5458 ««This panel consisted of (left to right) Roger Snoble, Friends 4 Expo Rail's Darrell Clarke, Metrolink's Mike McGinley , and TRAC VP Roger Christensen .  Darrell felt that light rail going down freeways is a terrible idea since it is a terrible place to wait for a train, it doesn't go where people want to go.  The Blue Line is the 2nd largest light rail line in the US.

California's First Diesel Light Rail project gets moving.

Don Bullock, Project Manager of the NCTD Oceanside-Escondido line had some enlightening insights.  This new train is called the Sprinter.  It involves 8 cities along the old, circa 1886, rail line that will be upgraded for light rail use.  There will be 22 miles to this line along Hwy. 78 with 15 stations.  They decided to use (Diesel Multiple Unit) DMU technology to keep the cost down.  The project will total $352 million with the feds giving $152 million, and local buy in at $200 million (57%).

DMUs are articulated (married pairs) cars and they plan to use two married pairs per set.  The fare will be the same as the bus fare, $1.75.  Cost will be lower because of no electrical catenary is needed over head.  The diesel motors are Mercedes V-12 truck engines with Euro 3 standards on emmissions.  They have many diesel busses so there will be no new training needed.

The DMU was on tour 10 or so years ago and this was the impetus for the project.   Since this project was for 12 vehicles, not a big order, there was not much interest by manufacturers to bid, only 3 did make a bid, none from the USA.    They asked for proposals in October, 2002, and only two bid:  Bombardier and Seimens.  "Deserio" is the brand name they are using.

Since this is still a freight line (2 or 3 freights a week, at night) there had to be complete separation of light rail passenger from freight.  The FRA gave the shared use waiver after additional items were added, such as anti-climber devices, braking rate changes, crash posts to match electric vehicles.  The regulator is PUC.

One city, Vista, sued because it would impact (their already) impacted crossings, but that has been settled.  There are 37 grade crossings.  Sound walls were in the project plan, but they have been found to not be effective, so some of them will not be built.  Double fencing will be built for the entire 22 miles, however.

The Oceanside end of the project is where the roadbed actually runs in a riverbed.  They will have to raise the roadbed 6 to 7 feet to the 100-year flood level.  There will be Rail to Trail facilities.  

Smart cards will be used for fare collection, and the first revenue is expected in mid. 2006.

Their website (part of Coaster site) is .

High Speed Rail
Mike McGinley, Metrolink; Dan McNamara, California Rail Foundation; Adrian Brandt, TRAC; Michael Kiesling, Regional Alliance for Transit; and Walter Strakosch, USDOT-retired, spoke in a panel setting about the latest developments in California High Speed Rail.

High Speed Rail is running in Europe and is not a rocket science idea.  However, current thinking in not using the Altamont Pass in the proposed San Francisco to Los Angeles High Speed Rail is not  a sound idea.  High Speed Rail has to be 200 mph to compete with airplanes and cars and to make money to pay for other lines.  It is said that the Paris to Leon, France, line paid for the other lines in the system.  High Speed rail reduces pollution to 1/10 of the pollution produced per person using cars and is even lower than airplanes.  

Incremental high speed rail, planned for Orange County, will run on some class 6 standard track at 100 mph.  Geometry cars run on a proposed line to judge its speed worthiness.

San Diego:  LRT Grows with New Lines and New Cars.

Tom Larwin, SANDAG, gave an update with maps of current and future plans for light rail in San Diego.  In one case, the red line goes directly under the university campus and has a station there.

The conference was very informative with excellent speakers.  Read the California Rail News( ) and join TRAC and support passenger rail service in California.
Thanks to Editors, Ellis B. Simon, Don Drummer and Gary Hess.

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Piazza Conference Room at the Sheraton Pasadena during the conference.