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Commentary, Issues, Reports

Amtrak’s 2014 – The Real Stats

Amtrak continually tells us about how many passengers they put into seats in the Northeast corridor. What many suspect because of far longer travel distances, but never can get Amtrak to say, is that in passenger miles (passenger mile = one passenger riding for one mile), and is said by some to be the most proper measure of how much transportation is being produced … the Northeast Corridor is the least productive part of the company. Here are the statistics that Amtrak doesn’t tell us for FY 2014.

 

PASSENGER MILES
Includes over 3 million on NEC Spine Special Trains, and over 4 million on State Corridor Special Trains; none on Long Distance Special Trains

  • NEC Spine – 1,931,319,000
  • State Corridors – 1,961,953,000
  • Long Distance – 2,760,957,000

TRAIN MILES
Includes 14,000 on NEC Spine Special Trains, 10,000 on State Corridor Special Trains; none on Long Distance Special Trains

  • NEC Spine – 9,094,000
  • State Corridors – 15,232,000
  • Long Distance – 14,732,000

SEAT MILES
Includes over 9.2 million on NEC Spine Special Trains, 5.9 million on State Corridor Special Trains; none on Long Distance Special Trains

  • NEC Spine – 3,462,836,268
  • State Corridors – 4,607,897,790
  • Long Distance – 4,678,361,006

LOAD FACTOR
Load factors on NEC Special Trains 33.8%, State Corridor Special Trains 72.2%, no Long Distance Special Trains

  • NEC Spine – 55.8%
  • State Corridors – 42.6%
  • Long Distance – 59.0%
Source: AMTRAK
Commentary

Welcome!

Our Mission is to promote the development of a modern, sustainable, environmentally friendly passenger rail system through education of the public and government officials.
Our Vision is a comprehensive rail network of long distance, intercity, and regional trains, supported by and integrated with local transit, bicycle access, and pedestrian friendly stations.
 
We accomplish these objectives via print publications, electronic media, testimony at government hearings, direct contact with elected and agency officials and conferences.

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Events

SLO Rail Supporters Social Evening

Save the date!
Wednesday – August 13, 2014
6:30 – 8:30 PM

Meet local elected representatives including
SLO Mayor and the Chair and Vice Chair of LOSSAN

Light refreshments
Donation minimum $10

RSVP essential to Paul Dyson

Events

2014 Steel Wheels Conference, 1 February


2014SteelWheels

The 2014 Annual Steel Wheels Conference

Saturday, February 1, 2014
Los Angeles Metro Board Room
at Union Station, Los Angeles

9:30 am – 3:30 pm • Doors Open 9:00 am
with a break for lunch (not provided)

Once again RailPAC and NARP are presenting the annual Steel Wheels Conference, a must for rail advocates. Conveniently located at the Metro Board Room at Union Station this meeting will kick off the 75th anniversary of the station with information and discussion about the issues facing passenger rail. This could be a year of opportunity, or a very tough year for passenger rail. The national network is struggling, to put it mildly. The Empire Builder service is falling apart, a combination of a surge in freight traffic and extreme weather. The Southwest Chief is in jeopardy, who will pay to maintain the track? The Coast Starlight is a shadow of its former self, with a reduced consist and threat of loss of the Pacific Parlor car. At the same time the regional and commuter trains are underfunded. Punctuality remains poor on the Surfliner service. What will the new Joint Powers Boards do that the old management could not accomplish? These questions and more will be raised at our February 1st meeting in Los Angeles. This is our chance to show the politicians and Amtrak management that we care about these issues, and that we, and the public, deserve better. Please make every effort to attend this important meeting.

Some of the officials coming to the February 1 Meeting (UPDATED January 27);
Not in order of appearance!

LA City Council Member Tom La Bonge,
California Senator Carol Liu,

Amtrak
Mark Murphy – General Manager, Long Distance Services
Joy Smith – Business Liaison Director of Service Excellence, Long Distance Services
Mike Dwyer – Route Director, Coast Starlight and Southwest Chief

California High Speed Rail Authority
Michelle Boehm

LOSSAN Corridor Joint Powers Authority
Fred Strong, Chair, LOSSAN
Dave Golonski, Vice Chair, LOSSAN
Jacki Bacharach, former Vice Chair, LOSSAN
Jennifer Bergener, LOSSAN staff.

LA Metro
Don Sepulveda,

Armin Kick, Siemens
Roy Van Wynsberghe, Alstom
Dave Cook, Energy Conversions
Penny White, La Vegas X Train

You can register using one of two methods:

  1. Send the attached registration form with a check to RailPAC, c/o Marcus Jung, PO Box 22344, San Francisco, CA 94122
  2. Online, use this link to the Steel Wheels Conference on EventBrite
2013 Steel Wheels
Events

2013 Steel Wheels Conference, October 5th

2013 Steel Wheels

Joint RailPAC-NARP members meeting,

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Port of San Francisco Community Room

Pier 40 • Embarcadero, San Francisco

10:30 am-3:00 pm with a break for lunch (not provided)
Doors Open 10:00 am
RailPAC members business meeting 3:00 pm
Registration: Register on line here:



Member or Non-Member?




OR Complete the form below and mail your check to:
RAILPAC, 1017 L Street, PMB-217, Sacramento, CA 95814-3805

2013registration-preview
Steel Wheels Conference Registration, 2013

Commentary

A New Model For American Passenger Rail

By: Dick Spotswood. Originally published in the Steel Wheels newsletter, May/June 2012.

THE DILEMMA:

In the past decade it has become obvious that Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, regards its principal responsibility as making the Northeast Corridor America’s first true high-speed rail route.

That’s a worthy goal and no easy task. Running from Boston south through nine states and the District of Columbia, the Northeast Corridor is the central transportation axis for southern New England and the Middle Atlantic states.

The dilemma is that Amtrak’s mandate is not limited to the northeastern states. Amtrak’s official name is the NATIONAL Railroad Passenger Corporation. Some forget that the rail passenger corporation’s mandate has always been to provide a truly national rail system. Unfortunately, it’s a role that the current Amtrak board and its permanent staff gives mere lip service.

It is time for America to have two intercity rail passenger operators: The current Amtrak in the eight-state/District of Columbia Northeast Corridor and a brand-new passenger corporation providing a high level of services for the remaining forty-two states.

Amtrak’s current priority, whether it is staff time, innovation, planning or allocation of fiscal resources, is the right-of-way between Boston and Washington. The reality is that the Northeast Corridor is perceived by the corporation as the prime reason for its existence. The national system serves as little more than a useful political device when it comes time for the public passenger carrier to seek federal subsidies.

When times are tough, as they are now, those trains provides Amtrak’s current management was a convenient scape goat: blame deficits on long-distance trains. While based on erroneous data, it’s a task facilitated by Amtrak’s dysfunctional accounting system and a political agenda that places the Northeast Corridor as priority one.

Amtrak’s focus is on this 455-mile stretch of Middle Atlantic-Southern New England mainline trackage. That leaves than the remaining national system’s approximately twenty-one thousand route miles across the American west, Midwest and the South as an unwanted stepchild. Some of Amtrak’s limited focus is due to practical concerns; but a big part is an East Coast centric corporate cultural that overwhelms both staff and board. The final element is political

From an Amtrak management and board point of view, concentrating on the Northeast Corridor and especially their Acela high-speed train service provides a manageable project within the professional capabilities of their current staff. Acela has had its problems, not an wholly unexpected development given the pathetic lack of American-based high-speed rail expertise.

It’s even consistent with the plan proposed two years ago by House Transportation Committee chair John Mica (R-Florida) and Rail Subcommittee chair Bill Shuster, R-Pennsylvania, to privatize development and operation of the Northeast Corridor. Whether operated, as now, as a quasi-public agency or, as Mica and Shuster proposed as a private railroad, the Northeast Corridor has the volume of passenger traffic and the potential for increased freight services that should make it a viable stand-alone railroad under either scenario… if properly managed.

CULTURE:

The corporate cultural aspect of the dilemma is harder to quantify, but very real. The men and women who manage Amtrak are based in Washington, D.C. Most have spent the bulk of their professional lives in those very same Middle Atlantic States. When they, their friends and family think of rail, they naturally focus on what they personally are familiar with.

They ride Northeast Corridor trains with some frequency. When they look out the windows of their Washington Union Station-based national Amtrak headquarters, they see the Northeast Corridor fleet, along with excellent Maryland and Virginia commuter operations. The few long distance trains to Florida, the Midwest and the South appear as oddities with weak constituencies. They are easy to ignore and can even be entirely written off with little political or bureaucratic risk… so far.

It’s so easy for most of us residing in the bulk of the continental United States to forget but Northeasters suffer from a provincialism that regards much of America, even California, as a backwater. They vaguely understand that Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and for the well-traveled, perhaps Seattle or Denver, do exist. More often these far-off exotic locales are out-of-sight and out of mind. They consider us “the Coast” or “The West.” The later is defined anywhere west of Buffalo. We live in cities and town where Easterners go on vacation but certainly not where they perceive many Americans actually live.

The very notion that real live people live in small towns like Whitefish Montana, Ottumwa Iowa, Flagstaff Arizona, Meridian Mississippi or even Santa Barbara, are incomprehensible to the good folks of all socioeconomic classes who live and work in or between Washington, Manhattan or Boston.

As long as that East Coast culture represents the world view of Amtrak managers, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation or its privatized successor will be “national” in name only.

POLITICS:

The politics of all of this is understandable. In the eight Northeast Corridor states Amtrak and commuter rail is a big deal. Much of the Middle Atlantic States’ voting public utilizes these rail service and makes it known to their elected officials that they consider passenger rail a priority. Just like their constituents, their elected officials personally use the system and “get it.”

When he was a Delaware senator, “Amtrak Joe” Biden was famous as a regular rail commuter. Not to be forgotten is that his frequent seatmate was Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, both of whom would regularly run into fellow Congressional rail commuters headed home after a hectic day at the Capital.

In itself that’s a terrific situation giving passenger rail in general and Amtrak in particular high visibility crucial at budget times. The lamentable but inevitable secondary result is that federal support for rail passenger service tends to be aimed only at those services that Eastern Congressmembers and their constituents personally experience. Ditto for the good folks at NARP.

Unfortunately, the unintended result is that the national long-distance system and those corridors outside of the Northeast are ignored or wrongly dismissed as underutilized anachronisms.

The negative effects of this Southern New England-Middle Atlantic orientation is visible on every Amtrak long distance train resulting in an inconsistent (at best) on-board passenger service.

Old equipment poorly maintained all staffed by a mixed bag of employees is the norm. While some Amtrak’s employees are highly dedicated and professional, too many others emulate the worst traits practiced by indifferent private passengers railroads or government bureaucrats s a scenario directly stemming from a management preoccupied with the Northeast Corridor.

To any impartial follower of the national rail passenger scene, it’s clear that unless a prompt order is made for new long-distance passengers cars, the national service will wither away within a decade or two. That’s how long the present roster of coaches, sleeping cars and diners have before being hauled off to the scrap heap. Given the huge lead time in ordering any new equipment, the current delay by Amtrak management to address this critical need is appalling.

Likewise, senior Amtrak managements doesn’t even possess the basic budgetary tools necessary to evaluate the costs and expenses of long distance services. Their current muddled accounting system provides none of the basic tools widely available to regional transit systems, not to mention airlines, to analyze and accurately inform management of the incremental costs of each of segment of their services.

Wildly inaccurate information is disseminated that too often appears to be grossly biased against any passenger services not based in the Northeast, and likewise biased in favor of Northeast Corridor trains. Recent efforts are at best efforts to keep supporters of a national system at peace, are too obviously designed “to keep the troops happy.”

As critic Andrew Selden has long pointed out, accounting gimmicks were designed to minimize the costs and maximize the revenue generated in the Northeast Corridor, preordaining that one will always be perceived as a “winner” and the other a fiscal “loser.”

“Lying with numbers” is an old trick in the transit business. It’s the use of seemingly unbiased figures to justify actions that coincide with the agenda preset by staff and well-positioned board members.

While the Northeast Corridor address a crucial if limited segment America’s mobility needs, current Amtrak management tends to ignore other corridors. The mere fact that it is “understood” at Amtrak headquarters that the Northeast Corridor’s infrastructure requirements and operations will be financed by the national system, while California, Illinois, North Carolina or the Pacific Northwest need to be “partnered” with local state funding sources, is a classic example of the Upper East Coast-bias inherent the current set up.

2009 began with much hope. The Obama-Biden Administration proclaimed itself the friend of passenger rail. While their intentions were good, they failed to add one single mile of additional passenger rail service or even so much as one additional non-corridor frequency. Amtrak’s management failed to use any available opportunities to expand its role or by purchasing badly passenger cars to replace the aging long-distance equipment.

The causes of this failure are multiple and bipartisan, but its undeniable that zero progress has been made. Given political realities, even less can be expected in the coming 2012-2016, whoever is president.

SOLUTION: TWO SEPARATE RAIL PASSENGER COMPANIES:

Just continuing the status quo is not only unfair to the other forty-two states, it puts untenable pressure on Amtrak’s current staff and board. It’s also a guarantee that American passenger rail will never be a competitive travel option as it is in so much of the economically advanced world. They are now being asked to serve two masters: the Northeast Corridor, and a national system of long-distance trains and “emerging” corridors. It’s too much to ask, and in the long run unsustainable.

It’s time to dissolve Amtrak. It’s very name “Amtrak” has developed in the public such a negative, bureaucratic connotation that it should become the latest “fallen flag.” Why else does Amtrak in the East focus on the weird word “Acela” to describe their premier service.

In its place, two alternative models are suggested.

One involves transforming the present National Railroad Passenger Corporation into a new, slimmed down entity. Either remaining in the public sector which much state involvement, or as a taxpayer assisted but private enterprise run corporation, this new NORTHEAST RAIL would be allocated the sole responsibility of perfecting a southern New England -Middle Atlantic passenger service stretching from Boston south to Richmond, Virginia. If the Northeast Corridor is privatized, there is little doubt that the needed management staff will be lean.

Note that NORTHEAST RAIL will assume all of Amtrak’s rights and obligations in the current Northeast Corridor.

Simultaneously, a new rail passenger corporation needs to be established. For now, let’s call it AMERICAN RAIL. It too will assume all of Amtrak’s rights and obligations that exist outside the Northeast Corridor.

Its purpose will be to assume responsibly for all aspects of a new independent passenger railroad. That entity will operate and secure financing for all long-distance and corridor services in America west and south of the Appalachians. It should combine some aspects of public funding with the actual service operated by private operators on a line-by-line basis.

How much better for all concerned for “NORTHEAST RAIL to concentrate on what it knows best, the Northeast Corridor. At the same time, much of America, particularly at a time when the understanding of the travel and environmental importance of AMERICAN RAIL, a truly national rail network, could benefit from an organization focused on its own needs and priorities.

The name AMERICAN RAIL signifies a fresh start and new direction. It should have its headquarters anywhere but Washington. Chicago, the traditional hub for western and mid-American rail passenger services, would be a fine location as would St. Louis or even Denver. With its own separate board of directors, with new management and working with new private sector operators, AMERICAN RAIL would not compete with NORTHEAST RAIL but serve as its national connection.

With innovation the watchword, AMERICAN RAIL should lead to way to new routes and more frequencies all in new passenger cars and locomotives operated by a freshly recruited and trained staff equipped with a private sector-style customer-first approach. Is there risk of failure? Yes, but right now the risk of the ultimate demise of Amtrak’s long-distance service seems assured.

THE DIVISION

The new railroad’s mission will be the operation of all American intercity passenger trains outside the Northeast Corridor.

Certain services ancillary to NORTHEAST RAIL’S heartland, such as the New York to Buffalo Empire Service, the Down Easterner Route from Boston to Portland, Maine and the once-a day service extending east from Richmond to Newport News would be subject to amiable negotiations. If NORTHEAST RAIL considers those lines essential part of their bailiwick, they should continue to operate them. This plan envisions a non-hostile division resulting in two new, independent but cooperating entities.

The private sector components of both plans is an acknowledgement of the new leaner 21st Century structure of government and the ruinous divide that in the past few years has seen with passenger rail identified with the Democrats and vilified by many Republicans. A serious effort needs to be taken to depoliticize the topic of passenger rail.

Creating allies in the private sector without alienating labor is a difficult but essential component of this strategy.

This approach will result in two new entities that should create their own new corporate cultures.

While some may consider that scenario optimistic, there is zero doubt that if Amtrak’s status quo is maintained no progress will ever come to pass.

The most difficult aspect will be the division of essential federal operating and capital subsidies between the two new companies. There is no doubt that even if there is significant private sector involvement, federal dollars will remain an essential part of the puzzle, just as it has decades when it comes to air, highway and barge modes of passenger and freight mobility.

Congress is entitled to a voice even with much private sector participation. Yet, there is no valid reason that rational minds can’t prevail resulting in mediated solution acceptable to Congress and the Administration without raising regional passions.

Greater involvement by the individual states could assist in all of the above described goals. One dares to think that federal funds might even be allocated on a per-capital basis, rather than the traditional allocations which relied more on history than rationality.

MANY BENEFITS, FEW NEGATIVES:

This concept is a win-win for all except some current management employees at Amtrak’s Washington headquarters who will find themselves redundant.

Rail labor will benefit. Not only will there be no layoffs of operating personnel, there is a distinct prospect of additional employment associated with more routes and greater frequency. Certainly the manufacturing sector will benefit from equipment purchases to replace worn out passenger cars and locomotive.

Small town America will benefit. Not just from additional routes and frequencies, but from American Rail, a new rail passenger company focused on their needs. Likewise, larger states will be rewarded from attention to their emerging corridors linking major and medium sized cities.

Northeast Corridor states win from Northeast Rail, an operation undistracted by what’s proved to be an incompatible a long-distance system.

The bulk of America benefits from a new system focused on the needs of Western, Mid-western and Southern states needs and desires with new management open to innovative public-private partnerships.

MOVING FORWARD – NEXT STEP:

It’s my suggestion that the Rail Passengers Association (RailPAC) of California and Nevada members contemplate this plan aided by the preparation of professional-quality research reports. The end result would be consideration of adopting the notion of dissolving Amtrak and replacing it with the two new entities, NORTHEAST RAIL and AMERICAN RAIL as RailPAC’s official position.

We would then urge other rail advocacy groups to join with us. Sad to say, it’s doubtful that NARP, almost as East Coast centric as the current Amtrak leadership, would be supportive. NARP’s history, understandably, has been to defend and justify Amtrak management. The time for that self-defeating approach has clearly ended.

An essential early step is to secure bipartisan sponsors in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives to serve as our proponents. It’s naive to think that Amtrak’s current board and senior management will not oppose this move. Substantial bipartisan Congressional and Administration support is essential if this proposal is to be taken seriously. Just getting the debate off the ground is not an easy task. We can’t do it with just the old friends of passenger rail. Simultaneously, we need to expand by adding others, e.g., Republicans and the business community, who have in recent years opposed or indifferent to passenger rail, but were supportive in the past.

At the very least, debating this proposal will cause many in the rail community to think about Amtrak’s current dysfunctional structure and understand its long-term implications. A vigorous public conversation will have the salutatory side effect that Amtrak management will likely never again take the West, Midwest and the South for granted as they have done so often in the last few decades.

At best, such a bold discussion will spark others in the rail passenger community to rethink old approaches and faulty assumptions. Ideally this will all lead to a more sustainable vision of a vibrant twenty-first century truly national rail passenger system.

Rail Photos

1999 RailPAC Annual Meeting in photos!

January 23, 1999

Report by Steve Grande of Trainweb

Today the Rail Passenger Association of California (RailPAC) held its 19th annual meeting/luncheon at the Old Spaghetti Factory Restaurant here in Fullerton, next to the Amtrak station.

Speaking to the capacity crowd first was Michael McGinley, Director of Engineering & Construction for Metrolink. Then John Barna, Deputy Director of the California High Speed Rail Authority, made a presentation. All of TrainWeb’s staff was there, and here are our photos from the luncheon:

[autonav display=/2000/fullerton]
Reports

Sprinter Inauguration – December 28, 2007

I was delighted to receive an invitation from NCTD to represent RailPAC at these ceremonies in Escondido this past Friday. It’s been nearly 27 years since a group of us, including the late Byron Nordberg and Adrian Herzog, and the very much alive Russ Jackson and Noel Braymer, met at Oceanside and discussed the possibilities of the then freight only A.T. & S.F. Escondido Branch. Byron had the vision of frequent inter city and commuter trains on the “Main Line” to and from Los Angeles, with the Escondido branch providing local and feeder services. I was proud to see the engraved stone at the Oceanside T.C. dedicated to Byron’s work.

Sprinter Inauguration

I met up with Art Brown, Chairman of LOSSAN, and Richard Elgenson, camera at the ready, of Trainweb, and we rode the Sprinter dmu from Oceanside to Escondido. Also on board were Joe Kellejian who represents SANDAG on the LOSSAN Board, is Mayor of Solana Beach and has been a major champion of the Sprinter, and a number of other public and elected officials. I have to confess a prejudice against diesel multiple units. They are a utilitarian solution for lines such as this, but whether in a restored 1930’s Great Western “Flying Banana”, a 1960’s British Railways DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) of the kind that took me to work at Paddington Station or the latest iteration in this case from Siemens, you can’t get away from that buzzing under your feet. In this case the experience was enhanced by squealing from flange contact over considerable distances, and some very loud brake valve (?) noises during those oh-so-slow approaches to stations.

The line is tortuous and climbs over 700 feet from Oceanside to San Marcos, and includes new construction to link UC San Marcos. (It cries out for electrification and regenerative braking!) This, and such issues as handicap access platforms while maintaining freight operations has led to a total cost of close to $500 million dollars, or 8 times the original estimates. It’s a frighteningly large sum for someone raised in an era when a million dollars was a lot of money. And there is more expenditure to come; a maintenance yard at Oceanside and a wheel lathe are both needed. All that flange noise has to a cost, either turning the wheels or lubricators.

Back to my prejudice against DMUs, not so much as a species but as an exotic species. It seems that every new rail system built or proposed has to have a different technology, or at least a different car type. Different car types mean exclusive repair shops, parts inventories, crew and repair staff training, which offset to a large degree the theoretical operating savings that the sales person has told you his wunder train has to offer. Speaking as a former operations manager I am perhaps overly disposed to thinking that the best piece of rolling stock to use is the one that the guy next door is using, so that at a pinch you can borrow his trains, buy spares in bulk, share a maintenance shop, and generally enjoy the convenience of standardization. NCTD (Coaster) and Metrolink already operate Bombardier bi-levels and locomotives. Would it have been such a disadvantage to use the same system?

To be fair to all concerned, I have to say that my operating, sales and finance background have never required me to conceive and manage a project of this nature and I always admire those that have the fortitude to see it through to the ribbon cutting. It’s become almost impossible to lay track anywhere in this state, even along existing rights of way. So I’d like to express our congratulations to NCTD for adding 22 miles to the California rail map.

Now I’d like to address some issues of networking, connectivity, convenience of use and so on that are close to my heart. The focus at the ceremony was local; on how convenient this service will be for workers, students, shoppers and so on. While this is true, the line will have far greater utility in terms of automobile mileage reduction if riders can be attracted to rail for long distance trips. Crack open your atlases and you’ll see that the line runs roughly WNW from Escondido to Oceanside. The Coaster and Amtrak to San Diego run thence SSE, and the rail mileage from Escondido to San Diego is more than double the highway mileage. The MTS Express bus from Escondido takes about 70 minutes to San Diego so only rail fans and those with a morning to kill will ride the train in that direction. But look the other way and you’ll note that Amtrak and Metrolink run NW to Orange County and Los Angeles, almost a continuation of the line from Escondido. Here’s a market to be tapped, wouldn’t you think?

Unfortunately we hit an institutional barrier. The Sprinter (NCTD) map also includes the Coaster (NCTD) route, and while acknowledging the existence of Amtrak and Metrolink northbound from Oceanside there is no further information on the travel opportunities available in that direction. There are a dozen Amtrak trains to Los Angeles and beyond, and 8 Metrolink trains to Orange County, and some to Los Angeles. Can you buy a through ticket? No. Can you get a route plan on a single website? No. Can you get home in the evening? No. The last Sprinter train from Oceanside will depart at 8.33 pm to Escondido. Metrolink 608, 6.30pm from Los Angeles, arrives at 8.28pm. Would you risk that connection? Amtrak 590 weekend train arrives 8.49pm. Let’s hope that the task force that is supposed to be working on coordinating these schedules will prevail upon NCTD to run a later Sprinter to connect with these trains.

I overheard Mayor Kellegian say he’d be pleased with 11,000 riders per day in the first year. Let’s say these folks average 10 miles per trip, so that’s 110,000 trip miles per day, although a lot of these will be former bus riders. What if the service could attract 500 trips per day connecting northbound at Oceanside to Orange County and points north? Those folks will be traveling about 70 miles, or 35,000 trip miles, adding revenue to existing services and saving fuel and emissions. Right now those hardy individuals who want to try such a journey will have to have two tickets and schedules in their pockets, and if they haven’t booked in advance will have to allow extra time to use a ticket machine or the Amtrak agent at Oceanside or risk missing their train. Folks, this is California. This is the state that brought you Silicon Valley, Yahoo, Google, E-Bay and the iPod. Rail and Transit ticketing, information and connectivity is a disgrace and is holding us back from winning a lot of the traffic that should be riding the trains.

Altogether I give the Sprinter a B, with room for improvement. We have to think regional systems, not individual line segments, if we want rail transit to reach its potential.

PD 12/31/07