Report by David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director
Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority
The performance results for both ridership and revenue continued to decline in November 2013 when compared to November 2012.
For November 2013, a total of 117,891 passengers rode the Capitol Corridor trains, representing a 6.8% drop in ridership and an 8.2% decline in revenues versus November 2012. Specifically, ridership for the Thanksgiving week (November 25 – December 1, 2013) was 4.8% below the 2012 results. These 2013 holiday results were equal to the Thanksgiving 2010 report. A minor portion of these ridership losses can be attributed to having the last day of the Thanksgiving week fall on Sunday, December 1, 2013.
On-time performance (OTP), however, continues to maintain a superior level of 96%, keeping the Capitol Corridor as the most reliable service in the Amtrak network. The year-to-date system operating ratio is 51%, below the 53% standard due to decreased ridership/revenues.
As stated in earlier reports, our an initial analysis of our downward ridership trend has revealed that the largest sustained customer losses are occurring at the Placer County, Sacramento and Davis stations, and on the midday trains. Efforts are underway now to reverse these trends. Some immediate actions include the reinstitution of the Seniors 50% discount on midday trains and the 50% on-line fare discount for weekend travel.
Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR), our host railroad, continues to maintain the railroad in a good state of repair thanks in part due to the annual CCJPA/UPRR Capitalized Maintenance Program and disciplined dispatching. The delay minutes that can be attributed to UPRR are the lowest in the Amtrak system and have been trending even further downward since August 2013.
After concerted efforts with our service partners and local communities, third party associated delays (such as trespasser incidents and bridge lifts) and mechanical delays due to Amtrak maintenance have also declined and have pushed the OTP to continuously be above 95%.
Funding Outlook, State/California
Draft FY 14-15 State Budget: In January 2014, the Governor will release his draft State Budget for FY 14-15. The State Budget Act of 2013 for FY 13-14 included $108.9 million to support the operation of the three CA IPR services (San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor and Pacific Surfliner), an increase of $18.6 million to conform with the implementation of the PRIIA Section 209 pricing policy for the nation’s twenty-seven (27) Amtrak-operated, state supported IPR services. It is anticipated that the Governor’s Draft FY 14-15 State Budget will continue with this conformance to PRIIA Section 209 for the three CA IPR services.
It is unclear what the Governor’s draft budget will include for Cap and Trade Auction revenues. If such revenues are included in the draft budget, eligible projects are expected to include: rail modernization and system integration (including intercity and high speed rail); expanded transit and ridership programs; infrastructure; livable communities; transit-oriented development; and active transportation.
Select Committee on Passenger Rail (Senate and Assembly): CCJPA and other California IPR agency staff have been working with State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson’s office to develop a Select Committee in the Senate that will pursue growth in investment for the state’s passenger rail system. Concurrently efforts are underway to develop a similar select committee in the Assembly.
Federal Surface Transportation Reauthorization
Recently, there has been some movement to produce federal legislation to reauthorize the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act of 2008, which expired on October 16, 2013. This act covers Amtrak authorization and the current railroad safety programs, including Positive Train Control (PTC). APTA has recently adopted a program for the federal investment in a national intercity passenger rail network that includes state-sponsored IPR routes, the Amtrak system and planned high/higher speed train services. This program presents principles that will then be referenced into APTA’s documents supporting the upcoming surface transportation authorization efforts of MAP-21, thereby helping to establish a federally-funded Rail Title. CCJPA staff also continues to work with AASHTO and other interested agencies to prepare and advance principles similar to those adopted by APTA.
Customer Service Program Upgrades
Bicycle Access Plan: A launch of the on-board element of the Plan is set for Spring 2014 once the all the cab cars have been modified for added bike storage and the PTC equipment has been installed in these cars. Concurrently, on some of the trains with heavy bike utilization, the CCJPA is working to replace one regular coach car with a coach/baggage car which has expanded lower level bike space (similar to modified cab cars).
In concert, at-station elements of Plan are moving forward over the next year (2014) to deploy the eLocker and folding bicycle rental programs once all funding and related agreements are completed by late January 2014.
On-Board Installation of Positive Train Control Equipment:
- Installation of the PTC equipment on the state-owned equipment is proceeding. All California owned locomotives have been equipped and installation on cab cars is underway (~60% complete).
- Safety Fences: Continued investment to secure the right-of-way and deter trespassers via fence projects in North Richmond and the Suisun/Fairfield Station.
- Grade Crossing Upgrades: Outreach has begun with local communities to assist the CCJPA in addressing delays and safety concerns associated with a recent spike in cars getting stuck on the tracks. These incidents are occurring at or near the Oakland Jack London Station/Embarcadero roadway, causing delays of 30 minutes or more.
Marketing Updates While the 50% train fare discount for weekend travel and popular Seniors ride for 50% off on selected weekday midday trains are currently underway to fill the weekend and midday weekday ridership gaps, the CCJPA is working with Amtrak to address other underperforming markets: Placer County, Davis and Sacramento stations.
Outlook: While the ridership and revenues for the first two months of FY 2014 are 5% and 6% below FY 2013, respectively, the Capitol Corridor remains the third busiest service in the Amtrak system and the most reliable with a 96% OTP. The Capitol Corridor has a solid foundation of loyal, frequent riders supported by the commitment from our service partners to safety, reliability and high quality customer service. Targeted marketing programs are underway and being developed to address ridership losses with the intent to push ridership levels into positive results. The CCJPA team working with operating and funding partners continue to complete pre-development work for the service expansion projects (involving San Jose/Salinas, Placer County), as well as developing advocacy strategies to secure capital grant funds to construct these service expansion projects.