All Posts By

Noel Braymer

Editorials

What’s Needed for Rail Service to Reduce Traffic in San Diego

SANDAG , the regional planning agency for San Diego County is appealing a ruling by 2 lower courts to the California Supreme Court of a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmental groups. The lawsuit is over SANDAG’s transportation planning for the County. The basis of this lawsuit is SANDAG’s current planning expects a net increase of today’s levels of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from increased vehicle traffic by 2050 . State Law calls for a reduction of GHG emissions by 2050 to levels lower than what they were in 1990.The plaintiff’s in this lawsuit wants SANDAG to redirect funding for major road constructions projects to increased funding of rail and bus projects in San Diego County. Over the 40 years between 2010 to 2050, spending of 214 billion dollars for transportation is projected by SANDAG in San Diego County. What then will be needed for regional rail passenger service to make a major dent in reducing auto traffic in San Diego County?

The first thing that is needed is to run more frequent trains. But to do that, what is needed is to fully double track the 60 miles of passenger railroad in San Diego County. Current plans call for 90% of this railroad to be double tracked by 2025. The last 6 miles however are the most difficult and expensive to double track. Full double tracking isn’t planned until after 2050. So what are the problems on the last 6 miles to be double tracked. The most expensive project is in Del Mar and the Los Penasquitos Lagoon wetlands. The plan is to build a double track tunnel in this area which is expected to cost at least a billion dollars. To double track most of the railroad is also costing another billion dollars. Another area which will need double track tunneling is under the UTC shopping mall in La Jolla. This will be a major transit hub with the extension of the San Diego Trolley Light Rail service to the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) and UTC, connecting both to the rest of San Diego. The area around UTC, UCSD and nearby Sorrento Valley is the largest job center and heaviest traffic generator of the San Diego region.

The tracks today from Sorrento Valley south go slowly around the UTC area in a long detour through hilly canyons. This is the slowest segment of rail in San Diego County. There are plans to double track this slow segment and raise speeds from 25 miles per hour up to 40 miles per hour after 2030. If we want to make a major impact on rail travel in San Diego County, we need to tunnel under UTC, both to make a major reduction in running times with a faster, shorter railroad and to serve a major and now largely ignored activity center. A third major tunnel project that is needed, is in Orange County at San Clemente. A tunnel is needed at San Clemente both for a faster and double tracked railroad to replace the slower single tracked line on the beach. This makes the railroad vulnerable to being washed out by heavy seas or blocked by landslides from the nearby cliffs. There is a lot of traffic between Orange and San Diego Counties and beyond. These 3,one billion dollar plus a piece tunnels are needed to dramatically increase rail passenger service and reduce GHG emissions by 2050.

There are now 11 round trip Pacific Surfliner trains run by Amtrak daily. On weekdays the Coaster runs 11 round trip trains between Oceanside and San Diego. A double tracked railroad could handle these 22 round trip trains in one hour. A major freeway can carry just over 300,000 cars a day. To make a major impact on travel in San Diego County, the Coaster would need ridership alone of around 100,000 passengers a day. Between San Jose and San Francisco, a distance of 51 miles, Caltrain now carries 58,000 passengers a day and expects to go over 100,000 in the future. A double tracked railroad can carry per hour more people than a 5 lane freeway in both directions.

The main factor in carrying a large number of additional passengers is getting people in and out of stations. What is holding back ridership now is the amount of available parking at stations. More parking will be needed. But we can’t build enough parking to carry up to 100,000 passengers a day. We will also need more development with new high density housing so more people can ride buses, bikes or walk to the train stations. We will also need to upgrade local bus service to carry more people to the trains.

We will also need more stations. There are several new stations being planned. A Transit Center is being planned with a Coaster Station in Camp Pendleton near the Coaster/Metrolink Maintenance Facility. There are also stations being planned to stop at the Convention Center in downtown San Diego. This will also serve PETCO Park baseball stadium, the popular Gaslamp District and is near the 12th and Imperial Trolley Station, the hub of all three Trolley Lines. A joint Trolley/ Amtrak/Coaster and High Speed Rail train station is also planned at the San Diego Airport. A station is also proposed for High Speed Rail at UTC. Stations should also be considered south of downtown San Diego to National City and at the 32nd Street Naval Base Trolley station. this would allow faster connections for passengers south of downtown by Coaster to the Trolley Blue Line by avoiding the slow street running of the Trolley downtown.

The best way to add more stations to the Coaster is to extend some trains north of Oceanside to Orange County. There are plans to run Coaster Trains to Fullerton in the future. There are also plans to extend Metrolink trains to San Diego. To extend a significant number of Coaster trains and add more Surfliner trains will require a double tracked tunnel in San Clemente.

These improvements will cost billions of dollars. But trying to expand freeways increasingly impossible. To justify such spending for rail passenger service will require greatly expanded rail ridership. Greatly increasing the ridership is what will be needed for rail service to have a major impact on transportation in San Diego County and the greater long term reductions in Green House Gas and other emissions.

Editorials

Train Trips to Disneyland ?

Summer, particularly in August up to Labor Day is one of the busiest travel periods in this Country. The Pacific Surfliners has its busiest month in August. The reason for this is no secret. Summer is the time for vacations and leisure travel. People like to travel.Thomas Cook understood that as early as 1841 when he organized the first rail excursion. Much of the extra travel in August on the Surfliners is from passengers going to the the Del Mar Racetrack for a day at the races. Metrolink has good ridership with beach trains and special trains for County Fairs, the Rose Parade and baseball games. Both Metrolink and the Surfliners get ridership for people visiting coastal cities like San Diego, Oceanside, Ventura and Santa Barbara. But there is still plenty of potential markets untapped just in Southern California for leisure travel by train. A major example of this is travel to Disneyland. And not just Disneyland, but many major travel destinations in Southern California, many of which are near Disneyland.

Why don’t more people take the train to places like Disneyland? Often what is missing are good connecting services from the stations to many leisure destinations. Also trains don’t always run at times when people want to arrive or depart from places like Disneyland. Many people on a day trip to Disneyland arrive in the morning and don’t leave until late in the evening. The last Metrolink train on Weekends is at 5:21 PM southbound leaving Anaheim, it is 10:19 PM on weekdays.This would be a tight connections on weekdays for someone staying for the firework show starting at 9 PM.The last weekday northbound train from Anaheim has a connection to Los Angeles at 6:35 PM weekdays and 6:45 PM on weekends.On the Surfliners southbound from Anaheim there is a departure at 10:49 PM and northbound at 11:04 PM.

For my recent trip to Disneyland I took Metrolink 641 north from Oceanside to Fullerton. This is the first direct northbound Metrolink train from Oceanside to Anaheim after the departure of of the 607 at 6:39 AM. There are 4 Metrolink trains from Orange County to Anaheim between the 607 and 641, but there are no connections south of the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo station. Many of the passengers on the 641 are people transferring to the 808 at Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo to the Inland Empire. Oddly enough the next Metrolink train from Oceanside after the 641 is the 609 to Los Angeles leaving only 26 minutes later than the 641. At all stations the conductor on the 641 made announcements for passenger waiting at the station that this wasn’t the train to the Inland Empire or Los Angeles,

At the Anaheim ARTIC station, there is plenty of room for growth. There are plenty of empty bus bays, with only 3 Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) lines now serving ARTIC. These are the 50 which goes near Disneyland on Katella Blvd then out to Long Beach. The 53 starts in Orange, then heads south on Main Street through Santa Ana to the edge of Tustin and Irvine.The 153 goes north of Anaheim to Brea. More bus lines at ARTIC would make it a true hub transit for the region. Megabus and Greyhound also stops at Anaheim.

What was most amazing to me was ART, or Anaheim Resort Transportation. This is a local bus service that serves primarily the “Anaheim Resort district” which includes the Disneyland Resort, GardenWalk, the Anaheim Convention Center and the many hotels in the district. There are 19 ART bus lines, all of which connect to each other at its hub at the Disneyland Resort Transportation Center. The Disneyland Resort is comprised of Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Theme Parks, 3 major hotels and the Downtown Disney District. Many of the 19 bus lines on ART run about every 20 minutes. There are no published timetables for most of these buses and times are subject to traffic.But you can use your cell phone to text TEXT2GO with your Bus and stop number for real time arrival information. At Disneyland, ART passengers can transfer to almost any place in the Anaheim Resort District.

Not only that there is service to Buena Park to Knotts Berry Farm,Medieval Times, Pirates’s Dinner Adventure and other attractions. ART also runs connecting buses to the Metrolink trains at the Anaheim Canyon Station to Disneyland. At ARTIC there are the 14 and 15 buses to Disneyland. The 14 bus arrived first, but the driver suggested that passengers for Disneyland wait for the 15 which was right behind the 14 which takes a more direct route to Disneyland. Coming back from Disneyland I took the 14 bus which came directly to ARTIC. When the 15 bus turned up Harbor Blvd, it was full of ART Buses. Each line had its own distinct graphics on the sides of the buses. The 14/15 buses are mini-buses with 28 seats and a wheelchair lift. But many of the other ART buses were standard 40 foot long buses.

There is a large untapped market of leisure travel on the non-rush hours times that can be served by rail. What is generally missing are trains running at the right times for leisure travel and connecting bus service to get people where they finally want to go. The Pacific Surfliner could carry more passengers to Disneyland. This would need packaging with connections to hotels and local transportation like ART. For people staying at a hotel the time of arrival and departure for the train is not critical when people are staying in Anaheim for a few days. For Metrolink carrying day trip riders to Disneyland would need service in the morning when most people want to arrive. The biggest issue is departures needed at night and having good bus connections to make the last train of the night. Most people leave Disneyland after the fireworks show which starts at 9 PM. So many people leave after the fireworks that it takes some time for everyone to move because of the crowds and catch shuttle buses to their hotels or the parking structures for their cars.

Metrolink has the problems on the LOSSAN Corridor with its other users of bottlenecks on the corridor which limits the number of trains it can run at a time. At least running extra trains a night should be a time with fewer trains than during the day. Extra trains during the weekends shouldn’t be difficult to add to serve Disneyland. This isn’t much different than extra trains for baseball games or County Fairs which Metrolink has experience doing. Such weekend trains can be run to better serve Disneyland, Beach Cities, Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles and other places people want to travel to for fun.

An advantage Metrolink has is it is a regional service with over 500 miles of rail running in 6 counties serving almost 18 million people. These millions of people love to travel to fun places and Metrolink can carry them to all the most popular places in their leisure time. By 2020 with new tracks at Los Angeles Union Station allowing trains to come and go without backing in or out as they do now, which will make it faster and easier for people from Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino and the many valleys of Los Angeles County to get to many of the attractions in Orange County and the rest of the region. At the Disneyland Resort, there are plans to spend to spend a billion dollars to expand and improve the parks to to draw ever more guests there. Will rail service be ready when these new attractions are?

Editorials

What’s Wrong with Amtrak?

Anyway you measure it, Amtrak just isn’t in the same league as the major league rail passenger railroads of Europe, Japan or China. Be it revenue, on-time performance, running times, average running times,customer satisfaction, passenger miles or whatever:Amtrak just isn’t in the same league for Passenger Railroading of most developed countries. To be fair, the United States let itself be left behind and it has been slow to try to catch up with much of the rest of the world. But Amtrak often seems to be oblivious to just how far behind they are to the rest of the world and what they need to do about it..

An example of this comes from a public meeting I was at a few years ago in California. A Vice-President of Amtrak gave a presentation which was mostly a sales pitch for Amtrak winning the contract to operate California’s future High Speed Trains. A major claim for winning this contract was that Amtrak was the leader in High Speed Rail operations in this country. Since Amtrak is the only operator for intercity passenger rail service this isn’t really much to brag about. But since this meeting, Amtrak no longer talks about getting the California High Speed Rail operating contract. Amtrak when this presentation was given, likely assumed the contract for the California High Speed Rail Authority would pay them to run the High Speed Rail Trains. The fact was always that like many High Speed Rail services around the world, California would own and build the High Speed Railroad. But operators would bid to pay the highest amount to California for the franchise to operate the trains and for the operator to make money while doing it.

Even before the creation of Amtrak, there has been political pressure to build a High Speed Rail service on the Northeast Corridor. There are several problems to doing this. The Northeast Corridor is a railroad that was largely built in the 19th century. Today most of the Corridor suffers from deferred maintenance going back to the 1940’s which after roughly $20 billion in Federal spending is assumed to require another $52 billion to get it in a “state of good repair”. Most of the rail traffic on the corridor is not for Amtrak, but the commuter railroads. For example New Jersey Transit runs 20 trains an hour during rush hour to Amtrak’s 4 in and out Penn Station in New York.

In the 1990’s Amtrak President’s were Thomas Downs and George Warrington: both came from the commuter railroad New Jersey Transit. Under them happened most of Amtrak’s development of the Acela High Speed Train. This included extending electrification from New Haven to Boston for faster service for all trains between Washington, New York and Boston.

Since the 1980’s Amtrak was under increasing pressure to reduce its budget deficit and break even. During the Reagan and Bush Administrations, former Southern Railroad CEO, W. Graham Claytor was able to control overhead costs, increase revenues and make major reductions in Amtrak’s deficit. In 1993 at his retirement, Amtrak President Claytor predicted that Amtrak would be able to break even by 2000, if it continued his policies. These included some extensions of Long Distance Trains and ordering additional Superliner Cars used on the Western Long Distance trains.

In 2001 as Amtrak President, Warrington claimed that Amtrak was on the “glide path to profitability”.Much of this was based on the assumption that with higher fares the Acela would be a major money maker. Under both Downs and Warrington, Amtrak cut back Long Distance service to “save money”. There were many problems with the Acela rollout in 2000. In 2002 George Warrington suddenly resigned from Amtrak. Amtrak was in terrible shape and had borrowed a great deal of money for the start up of the Acela assuming it would be a great success. Since 2002 billions of additional dollars of government money have been spent keeping Amtrak running as it still is recovering with the problems with the start up of the Acela.

So what is wrong with Amtrak? The culture at Amtrak hasn’t got a clue how to operate passenger service at a profit. Going back the first high speed train on the NEC, the 1960’s Metroliner, the assumptions was the key to making money for rail passenger service was to copy first class airline service of the day. The Metroliners were hailed as the thing that would save passenger service on the Pennsylvania Railroad. In the 60’s and 70’s the airlines were a highly regulated industry which protected airline’s profits by restricting competition and insuring high fares. Most airline passengers then were rich or traveling on business, the costs of which were largely subsidized with tax exemptions. Air travel was faster in the 1960’s, than it is now. There were more non-stop planes, plus airports and the airplanes were less crowded then.

Then came airline deregulation in the late 1970’s and everything changed for the airlines. In order to compete, the airlines had to become more efficient and get maximum value for each airline seat. That meant having as few empty seats on a plane as possible. A major part of the survival of the airlines, was the use of hub and spokes airports. The reality was that the least productive passenger service are non-stop services. The key to ridership the airlines realized was to serve as many markets as possible, with the fewest planes as possible. This was possible with planes making connections at hubs. The result is from almost commercial airport today, a passenger can travel to almost anyplace in world, with a few connections. Through the years, Amtrak has tried many times to increase ridership and revenues by cutting stops to reduce running times on trains. The result has been every time that ridership and revenue went down. Fewer stops meant fewer markets.

What the Northeast Corridor needs more than faster, more expensive trains , are more reliable trains that go or connect to more places in the Northeast. There are people who live in Long Island and upstate New York, yet what are the connections to Amtrak NEC trains for these people? There are plenty of cities in on the East Coast and Midwest which would feed traffic if connected to the Northeast Corridor. Cities such as Pittsburgh. Cleveland Toronto, Montreal. Charlotte and many other cities in between. Good connections and reliable service are the cornerstone to successful passenger service.

Switzerland is one of the best models for this. A wealthy country, it has one of the highest per capita usage of rail passenger service in the world. Most stations have rail service at least every half hour. The trains all connect with each other with connections as tight as 2 minutes. A late train can be a major news item in Switzerland. Not only do the trains connect to each other, the trains also connect to buses, ferries, airports and many other transportation modes. Most rail passenger service in the world have good connections. The United States still has a lot of catching up to do.

Editorials

What’s Coming and What’s Needed with LA Metrorail

There are now 5 rail transit projects in different states of construction in Los Angeles County. Two projects: the Gold Line extension from Pasadena to Azusa and the Expo Line extension from Culver City to Santa Monica are both now almost finished. Both will have passenger service by early 2016.

Also well into construction is the 8.5 mile Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line linking with the Green Line at the south along LAX to Expo Line at Crenshaw at the north. This will include direct service by an airport People Mover to the terminals at LAX. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is planned to open by 2019 with the LAX People Mover to the terminals running by 2022.

The next project after the Crenshaw/LAX Line is the Regional Connector. This is a new 1.9 mile subway tunnel under downtown Los Angeles. This will allow the Blue Line from Long Beach to be extended to Los Angeles Union Station and out to Pasadena, Azusa and in the future maybe as far as Ontario Airport. The Regional Connector will also reroute the Expo Line out to East Los Angeles on the current Gold Line. A new subway station in Little Tokyo will replace the current surface station and should allow easier transfers at the same platform between the two lines in the Region Connector. The new tunnel and rerouted services should be operational by 2020.

A related project, but not directly a part of LA Metrorail is SCRIP, or Southern California Regional Interconnection Project. Also know as the run-through tracks at Los Angeles Union Station. Construction should begin around 2017 and be fully operational by 2020. This is part of a larger program to increase the number of regional Metrolink and Amtrak Surfliner trains to 278 trains by 2025. This is up from roughly 156 train a day now run at Union Station. Run through tracks will eliminate the need for trains to either back in or back out of Union Station. It will also increase the train capacity of Union Station. Related plans are in place to allow more trains by double tracking more of the tracks in Los Angeles County. This will include full double tracking in the San Fernando Valley. SCRIP is a major part of the rebuilding going on at the same time of Union Station. The station will get a new concourse, replacing the 1939 tunnel to allow more passengers to use the station and for more direct connections between trains with rail transit and local bus services. This will also include more amenities at the station for all passengers and visitors.

The latest major rail project for LA Metrorail is the extension of the Purple Line west along Wilshire Blvd. An all subway service will make this the most expensive project for LA Metro. But this corridor also has the heaviest travel demand and greatest development unserved by rail transit in Los Angeles County. The first 3.9 miles segment from Western Ave. to La Cienaga Blvd. in Beverly Hills is expected by 2024. The full 9 miles from Western Ave to Westwood by the I-405 is scheduled no later than 2036. The exact day depends on future funding.

So what is planned after that? Voter approved Measure R calls for service to extend today’s Gold Line further east from East Los Angeles. Service to either Whittier or El Monte are both being studied. Measure R also calls for rail service on the old Pacific Electric West Santa Ana Line which is now publicly owned from Paramount next to the 605 freeway in southeast Los Angeles County to Santa Ana in Orange County. An extension of the Green Line in the South Bay is planned as far as Torrance. There is also suppose to be Light Rail in the San Fernando Valley. Also in Measure R is some money for rail transit from the San Fernando Valley in Van Nuys to Westwood and LAX. While Measure R has funds for all of these projects, it doesn’t have enough to fully fund these projects.

Los Angeles Metro is preparing a new ballot measure to present to the voters of Los Angeles County for the November 2016 election. A similar ballot measure was on the November 2012 ballot. It would have extended the current sale tax for transportation in Los Angeles County, which would allow the County to borrow money now to speed up construction of projects and avoid higher costs of construction in the future. This measure failed to pass, missing the required 2/3’s majority needed by less than one percent. Great care is being taken in what projects will be proposed for the 2016 measure that it will have greater support to insure passage.

There is no lack of desirable projects for rail service in Los Angeles County. LA Metro is proposing to convert the Orange Line Busway into a Light Rail service. The Orange Line is already reaching capacity as a Rapid Bus service as ridership continues to grow. One major project many people would like to see is rail service along the I-405 to connect the San Fernando Valley with the Westside of Los Angeles and LAX. Current planning for this is to use a Public.Private, Partnership, or PPP. This would include building a Toll Road in a tunnel under the 405 and smaller tunnel for rail transit from LAX to the Van Nuys Train Station. Funding for this project is expected to come from tolls on the highway tunnel and higher fares for the rail service. No word yet how high the tolls and fares would be to pay for this project.

There are several improvements that could be done on the Green Line. It should have a connection to the West Santa Ana Line project for service from Orange County to LAX and up the Crenshaw/LAX Line as far as Exposition Blvd. There are plans, but no funding to to extend the West Santa Ana Line at Paramount up the old UP Harbor Line to Los Angeles Union Station. Such service could be done for much less by extending existing Metrolink service on the UP Harbor Line as far as Long Beach with connections to both the Green and West Santa Ana Light Rail Lines.

What will also make sense for the Green Line is to extend it east from its Norwalk terminal by the 605 freeway 2 miles to the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station. This will be needed if this Metrolink Station is chosen as one of the California High Speed Rail Stations. As it stands now the Metrolink Station only has bus service by one line of Norwalk Transit. It will need more transit service if it becomes a High Speed Rail Station. Green Line service to Metrolink and High Speed Rail would give direct connections to LAX, as well as the South Bay and connections on the Blue Line to Long Beach as well as the area south of downtown Los Angeles and parts of West Los Angeles on the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the Expo Line.

One of the long term proposals would be to to extend the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the planned extension of the Red Line west of Western Ave. There are other calls to extend the Red Line in North Hollywood to the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and rail connections from Bob Hope Airport to the current Gold Line at Pasadena. There are also calls to build a connections between the Red and Purple Lines through West Hollywood. It will be some time before all of these projects can if ever be funded and built. The priority should be to serve as much of the region as possible with connecting services between LA Metrorail, Metrolink, California High Speed Rail, Amtrak as well as intercity and urban transit bus services.

Editorials

How Not to Run Rail Passenger Service

In the United States, we have been running rail passenger service the wrong way for years. What we need is a rail passenger system. What we have instead is a fragmented series of services that that don’t connect with each or serve places when and where people want to travel. Often service providers look at each other as competitors for passengers and funding, instead of valuable providers of transferring customers. They tend to be focused on existing and often shrinking travel markets while ignoring new ones.

The roots of these problems goes back when many different rail services began as unconnected local services. Over the years American rail passenger services have ignored changes in rail passenger service around the world and have shun efforts to innovate and learn from them. To often Rail Passenger service is a political football as social welfare and not as a valuable service vital to a growing economy.

The New York Times recently ran a story about the problems traveling around the San Francisco Bay Area by public transportation. It pointed out that the Bay Area has 9 counties and 20 public transport operators which often don’t connect or provide transfers to each other. This can make it difficult to get around the Bay Area, particularly if you are not travelling to downtown San Francisco. Even if you are going to San Francisco it is difficult to transfer to your final destination. But one can find many of the same problems in New York. There instead of counties not cooperating with each other, you have states with different services not working together to attract passengers.

What is needed to get different organizations to work together is a single umbrella organization that oversees all of the member agencies. By nature such an oversight organization should be neutral and fair so no agency feels it is being taken advantage of. But at the some time it is impossible to get anything done without sometimes upsetting someone. Such oversight organizations in one form or another have been around for years in Europe. In California there have been some efforts for oversight at the regional and county levels.

One example of this is the Metropolitan Transportation Development Board (MTDB) of San Diego which was created int 1976.It was responsible for planning all transportation for the metro area of the city of San Diego. Besides roads, it oversaw several local bus services and San Diego Transit which was then the largest bus carrier in San Diego County. By 1979 the San Diego Trolley project was approved . The bus operators, particularly San Diego Transit opposed the Trolley project fearing it would take funding and passengers away from them. The MTDB had to take responsiblity for building and operating the future Trolley. One of the first things noticed after service started up on the Trolley was that bus ridership also increased on the lines connecting to the Trolley.

In 2003 San Diego Transit was reorganized into today’s San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) which operates and builds extensions to the Trolley and operates most of the Bus service in the San Diego metro area. Service and operation of bus and rail service from northern San Diego County is handled by the North County Transit District (NCTD). The MTDB was phased out with it’s jobs split between the MTS which handles operation of both the Trolley and much of the bus service in metro San Diego. The planning and service coordination for both the MTS and NCTD where taken over by the County’s planning agency SANDAG.

Many of the issues that San Diego went through happened in Los Angeles County and its rail program. In 1976 the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (LACTC) was created. Its job was to oversee planning for all forms of public transportation and highways in the county. One of its jobs was to rule on whether or not to allow Culver City Bus to extend service on one of its bus lines to Westwood and UCLA. This effort was opposed by Santa Monica Bus which had many riders in Westwood. The LACTC approved Culver City Bus service to Westwood.

Shortly after the successful start up of the San Diego Trolley in 1981, local efforts in Los Angeles County were begun to build Light Rail on the old Pacific Electric Line between Long Beach and Los Angeles. At the same time Los Angeles County had a problem with having money and no project. There was State and local matching funds for a Federal Match for a “Downtown People Mover”. In the early 1980’s the Federal People Mover project was killed by the Reagan Administration and the local money for it had no place to go. Without a project the County of Los Angeles would have to return money to the State. This was the beginning of the Blue Line.

At this time the Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD) was responsible for both most of the bus service in Los Angeles County, plus planning and construction of the future “Heavy Rail” transit system for the region. The RTD was opposed to Light Rail because it feared it would take money away from its future very expensive Heavy Rail projects. As a result the LACTC ended up taking over the planning and construction of the original Blue and Green Lines. The Red Line subway project had many problems during construction and early ridership was below projections. What did happen was as Light Rail service expanded, ridership increased for the Red Line.

In 1993 the Legislature reorganized the LACTC and SCRTD by merging the two organizations. This resulted in the new Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It not only operated the buses and trains of the RTD, but was responsible for all transportation planning in Los Angeles County, including highways and oversight of the many local municipal bus companies in Los Angeles County. There are still bus services in Los Angeles County which don’t accept transfers between other bus services.

The closest thing we have today in Southern California for an oversight agency for Rail Passenger Service is the LOSSAN Joint Powers Authority (JPA). Just by having regular meetings between the different government agencies both within this JPA and the other 2 JPA’s in the State has gone a long way in improving communications and creation of common goals.

But progress is still very slow. With the construction of run-through tracks at Los Angeles Union Station by 2020 will bring 50 % of all trains at the station being extended to other end points. This will create a more efficient service for both Surfliner and Metrolink trains. This will also improve revenues and shorten running times for all of these trains.

But what is missing and have been advocated for some time in Southern California are better connections between trains and seamless ticketing with a single ticket for connections on a trip. Many connections that do exist are not highlighted on schedules and many potential connections have yet to be made. No major schedule changes have yet been proposed, let alone made to create more and better connections within or between Metrolink, Coaster and Surfliner trains.

You can buy Amtrak tickets on Metrolink Ticket Machines, But there still isn’t information about existing connections or one place ticketing between Amtrak, Metrolink and Coaster trains. By comparison airline passengers can go online and not only get tickets of a full itinerary over several carriers, but also reservations for hotels and car rentals.

On a State Wide basis the closest thing we have to a State wide oversight agency for rail passenger service is LOSSAN. LOSSAN started out as the Los Angeles-San Diego Rail Corridor Agency back in the late 1980’s. Today it represents counties from San Diego north along the coast as far as San Luis Obispo and as far east as Palm Springs.

Still LOSSAN is a local JPA. The other 2 rail passenger JPA’s serve the area of the Capitol Corridor Trains now from San Jose to Oakland, Sacramento and Auburn, and the San Joaquin trains from Bakersfield , Oakland and Sacramento. These three JPA’s share connecting buses with each other and these bring in many passengers between these 3 services. With the creations of 3 JPA’s for these California Trains, much of the attention of the JPA’s are on local issues and service. What is often missing are efforts to connect all these services to each other and connecting services of each for intrastate passengers.

This becomes even more important as High Speed Rail passenger service is built. For example there is only one joint station planned on the San Joaquin Trains with High Speed Rail. This would be the Bakersfield Station. The reason there are so few joint stations was from the desire of the local cities in placing their High Speed Rail Stations near areas in need of redevelopment. Now the city of Bakersfield is proposing a new station site that won’t connect to the San Joaquin trains. There is a simple solution to this. This is to build transfer stations in the south and north of the San Joaquin Valley were the San Joaquin and High Speed Rail tracks are near to each other. High Speed Trains could stop there when there are San Joaquin Trains to connect to. High Speed Rail will be running several trains an hour with some as local and other as express trains. Adding 2 stops to a local High Speed train shouldn’t be that difficult.

For the public to get their best value and most economical service from Rail Passenger service, we need services to be connected to each other and have seamless ticketing with stations providing good connecting services. This will only happen if there is planning and coordination between services. This may not always be done voluntarily by the different agencies. This is why we need a small oversight agency to make the final decisions to insure that we have a true rail passenger network of many parts and not a feudal patchwork of independent fiefdoms.

Editorials

Is Amtrak Management Incompetent?

If you asked Amtrak passengers if Amtrak management was competent after they spent a day on a train with a car that had a serious problem, what do you think their answer would be? Or passengers stranded for hours on a train first because of mechanical problems, but then because Amtrak didn’t have replacement crews ready after the first crew went over their 12 work day limit? Or passengers who miss their connections because no one held the train even though the connecting buses were only a few minutes late. Adding insult to injuries the station agents sat in their warm station, while passengers looked in the cold for the train they were told was waiting for them? Or how about being a passenger told to wait at the wrong track and platform for their train? Then having their train leave the terminal empty without anyone at Amtrak noticing until the passengers started to complain? The answer to the question of Amtrak management incompetence from these passengers wouldn’t be yes, but HELL YES!!

The most serious problem at Amtrak is poor management. This isn’t a new problem. This has dogged Amtrak from the very beginning. There is no shortage of good, hard working people at Amtrak. But the management system at Amtrak is overly centralized, with decisions often made by people miles away from the incident with limited information of the problems. Often when there is a problem the manager who’s department is responsible for the problem isn’t held accountable. A conductor in California can’t open an empty car with a train overflowing with passengers without calling a supervisor back east first. But first they have to track down the right supervisor who may have left work for the day.

This makes it unwise for anyone to take the initiative on the ground at Amtrak. This is because even it they are right, they will be in trouble for not going through channels.The result of this is different departments at Amtrak don’t talk to each other and no one really knows what is going on. But what is most telling about Amtrak incompetence, is when ever there is a problem, be it major or small, it is the unpreparedness and confusion of the organization that is the norm. In the recent deadly crash in Philadelphia, the survivors had nothing but phrase for the first responders and condemnation for Amtrak. Adding insult to injury, this accident was highly preventable with existing technology that had been on the NEC since the days of the GG1 locomotives. Amtrak had this signaling on other tracks next to the crash site. Only after the FRA ordered Amtrak did it extend it to the track of the accident and other tracks without this signalling on the NEC.

Why is Amtrak as an organization so disfunctional? I think it is because the United States hasn’t had a successful rail passenger service for over 50 years. After World War II rail service was in decline and there wasn’t much incentive for bright young people to make a career in rail passenger service.There isn’t any place in this country to learn how to run a successful rail passenger service. In this country there isn’t one successful intercity passenger railroad, only Amtrak.

But there are plenty of successful passenger railroads operating at a profit. They are literally all over the world with each carrying more people, with more trains to more places than Amtrak. Just replacing Amtrak President Boardman won’t fix the problems at Amtrak because the same management and management culture will remain as it always has over the years with other former Amtrak Presidents.

What Amtrak needs is a major shake up of its management. The best way to do this is to replace much of Amtrak senior management with a successful rail passenger railroad taking over. This wouldn’t be much different than the way commuter train service is operated in many places. Every few years the contract for the operations is up for bid, The assets of the commuter railroad are publicly owned and the commuter rail employees can stay on their job no matter who wins the contract. But this creates competition for management which can lead to improved service and revenues. If the current company fails to deliver, then another company can be given the chance.

This will be a big project. We should have the bidders present a business plan including their capital needs and service improvement plans to increase the productivity of Amtrak. What will be exciting is what these railroads will propose to improve service and revenue. Also having well trained, competent management will be an education for Amtrak employees to learn how to really run a good rail passenger service.

So who would oppose this plan? The states directly subsidizing Amtrak service would have much to gain. The rural states with Long Distance trains have nothing to lose. So who might oppose contracting out management for Amtrak? The States along the Northeast Corridor. Right now most of the budget for Amtrak directly or indirectly goes towards the NEC. The commuter trains of the States on the NEC depend on Amtrak to manage and maintain many of the tracks these trains run on. They benefit from Amtrak funding for taking care of these tracks. The strongest political block of support for Amtrak is the Northeast States.

The Northeast States also uses Amtrak as the one in the middle of the turf wars between the many commuter railroads on the NEC. This is particularly true in the New York City region between Metro North, Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit. Amtrak has been put in charge by the local politicians to promote the plans to add new tunnels under the Hudson River and enlarge Penn Station to handle more commuter trains and passengers. The irony is that most of this increased rail service will not benefit Amtrak, but New jersey Transit. But the State of New Jersey has pulled its funding out of the plan to build the new tunnels and enlarge Penn Station.

What is appalling is that with a little cooperation between the commuter railroads a much better and cheaper alternative would be possible. This would require the Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit to operate run through trains at Penn Station rather than terminating their trains there. This greatly improves the productivity of Penn Station allowing many more trains to use it. Some of these trains could to go on to Grand Central Station which has plenty of underused tracks and opens new markets for New Jersey and Long Island Railroads. But as New Jersey Transit’s executive director was quoted on the subject of increased cross agency cooperation ” If you’re not in charge you’re screwed” Well he didn’t say screwed, but I am being polite. But this is a strong case for importing competent management if we want better rail passenger service.

Editorials

The Unreported Meltdown on the Route of the California Zephyr

There were a few news reports on June 27th of an Amtrak train from Chicago that was stranded overnight in Iowa because of a bridge wash out. This was the westbound California Zephyr leaving Chicago on Friday the 26th of June. What was not reported was that this train arrived at Emeryville 36 hours and 5 minutes late! This wasn’t the only California Zephyr to be affected from the problems in Iowa. Two other California Zephyr trainsets, both headed eastbound to Chicago were also stopped in Iowa. This affected the schedules of trains depending on the turnaround of this equipment at both terminals. At the heart of this, the problem wasn’t with a washed out bridge. It was the lack of preparedness by Amtrak to handle what is often a common problem of needing to reroute trains.

Heading for Chicago after leaving California on the 25th, this Zephyr got stranded in Creston, Iowa after its crew went over the 12 hour work limit. A replacement crew was put on the now 17 hour late westbound Zephyr which left Chicago on the 26th to get the eastbound train going. The westbound Zephyr for June 27th left Chicago almost on time. It came close to catching up with the Zephyr in front of it. By the time the train that left Chicago on the 27th got almost to Lincoln, Nebraska, its crew hit the 12 hour work limit. A replacement crew from Denver had to be found and transported.

On June 28th, the westbound Zephyr out of Chicago was cancelled. There was a departing eastbound Zephyr from Emeryville on the 28th, which was six and a half hours late leaving. The Zephyr that left California on the 25th and got a fresh crew from the westbound train that left Chicago on the 26th was finally terminated in Iowa and the passengers transferred to buses.

Finally at 4:15 AM on Tuesday the 30th the Zephyr leaving Chicago on the 26th arrived at Emeryville. The biggest factor in making most of these Zephyr trains late wasn’t the washed out bridge in Iowa. Nor was it the ballast train derailment on the BNSF on the 26th which held up the westbound trains from Chicago. Even the need to reroute these trains over detour routes wasn’t the main problem. Much of the time the trains were stranded was because fresh crews were needed but not available to relieve crews that had hit the 12 hour workday limit. As the saying goes, late trains only get later. As more trains ran late, more crews were needed to get the trains running again. The railroads knew the status of the crews on these Amtrak trains. They stopped those Zephyrs from going further if they knew the trains would have to stop and block their busy railroads when crews reached their time limits.

This isn’t a rare occurrence with Amtrak. Whenever there is a problem, Amtrak management seems to be blindsided and left flatfooted with few backup plans. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. At Amtrak it often seems they are penny wise trying to cut costs, but pound foolish when these shortcuts creates expensive problems.

* Train 5 of 06/26/2015.
* THIS TRAIN EXPERIENCED A SERVICE DISRUPTION.
* California Zephyr
* CHI * * 1 200P * 322P Departed: 1 hour, 22 minutes late.
* NPV * * 1 234P * 402P Departed: 1 hour, 28 minutes late.
* PCT * * 1 344P * 513P Departed: 1 hour, 29 minutes late.
* GBB 1 438P 1 438P 622P 654P Arrived: 1 hour, 44 minutes late. | Departed: 2 hours, 16 minutes late.
* BRL * * 1 525P * 905P Departed: 3 hours, 40 minutes late.
* MTP * * 1 559P * 941P Departed: 3 hours, 42 minutes late.
* OTM 1 653P 1 653P 1128P 646P Arrived: 4 hours, 35 minutes late. | Departed: 23 hours, 53 minutes late.
* OSC * * 1 809P * 909P Departed: 25 hours late.
* CRN * * 1 841P * 1213A Departed: 27 hours, 32 minutes late.
* OMA 1 1055P 1 1105P 517A 606A Arrived: 30 hours, 22 minutes late | Departed: 31 hours, 1 minute late.
* LNK 2 1208A 2 1214A 716A 754A Arrived: 31 hours, 8 minutes late. | Departed: 31 hours, 40 minutes late.
* HAS * * 2 147A * 926A Departed: 31 hours, 39 minutes late.
* HLD * * 2 234A * 1019A Departed: 31 hours, 45 minutes late.
* MCK * * 2 343A * 1125A Departed: 31 hours, 42 minutes late.
* FMG * * 2 505A * 145P Departed: 32 hours, 40 minutes late.
* DEN 2 715A 2 805A 322P 529P Arrived: 32 hours, 7 minutes late. | Departed: 33 hours, 24 minutes late.
* WIP * * 2 1007A * 830P Departed: 34 hours, 23 minutes late.
* GRA * * 2 1037A * 915P Departed: 34 hours, 38 minutes late.
* GSC * * 2 153P * 104A Departed: 35 hours, 11 minutes late.
* GJT 2 357P 2 410P 256A 313A Arrived: 34 hours, 59 minutes late | Departed: 35 hours, 3 minutes late.
* GRI * * 2 558P * 504A Departed: 35 hours, 6 minutes late.
HER * * 2 720P MT
PRO * * 2 926P MT
* SLC 2 1105P 2 1130P 950A 1013A Arrived: 34 hours, 45 minutes late | Departed: 34 hours, 43 minutes late.
* ELK 3 301A 3 303A 151P 159P Arrived: 34 hours, 50 minutes late | Departed: 34 hours, 56 minutes late.
* WNN * * 3 540A * 540P Departed: 36 hours late.
* RNO 3 825A 3 836A 814P 855P Arrived: 35 hours, 49 minutes late | Departed: 36 hours, 19 minutes late.
* TRU * * 3 937A * 954P Departed: 36 hours, 17 minutes late.
* COX * * 3 1148A * 1225A Departed: 36 hours, 37 minutes late.
* RSV 3 1255P 3 1257P 141A 143A Arrived: 36 hours, 46 minutes late | Departed: 36 hours, 46 minutes late.
* SAC 3 213P 3 225P 207A 221A Arrived: 35 hours, 54 minutes late | Departed: 35 hours, 56 minutes late.
* DAV 3 244P 3 246P 237A 239A Arrived: 35 hours, 53 minutes late | Departed: 35 hours, 53 minutes late.
* MTZ 3 326P 3 332P 321A 323A Arrived: 35 hours, 55 minutes late | Departed: 35 hours, 51 minutes late.
* RIC * * 3 359P * 406A Departed: 36 hours, 7 minutes late.
* EMY 3 410P * * 415A * Arrived: 36 hours, 5 minutes late.

Editorials

What is Metrolink’s New CEO Art Leahy Up Too?

The interview in the June 30th Los Angeles Times by reporter Dan Weikel with Art Leahy gave some hints of what the future plans for Metrolink are. What was missing in the interview was background information about what was discussed. Leahy in the interview makes it clear that his priorities are dealing with the problems with the ticket machines, on-line ticketing, and new replacement locomotives.Other topics which were brought up were efforts to increase ridership, Wi-Fi on the trains, Metrolink’s relationship with its member Counties and future expansion plans.

The advantage Art Leahy has at Metrolink over his predecessors is that he has been a part of the transportation scene for many years in Southern California. In the past most of the CEO’s of Metrolink had been “commuter rail” experts brought in often from the East Coast. They generally didn’t have working relationships with many of the political leaders in the region. There has been a timid culture at Metrolink with “unwritten rules” to avoid other agencies “turf”, instead of reaching out to other agencies to improve passenger service with cooperation.between agencies.

Leahy in the interview makes clear that Metrolink expects to save money by having on-line ticketing. He also hinted that new locomotives are needed because of increasing numbers of breakdowns from the existing, aging fleet. One thing that wasn’t brought up was that new locomotives are needed to haul longer trains. The Rotem cars bought in response to the deadly 2008 Chatsworth crash are heavier than the Bombardier cars they are meant to replace. This is one reason the older cars are mixed with the newer cars on Metrolink. The existing locomotives don’t have enough power for a longer consist with heavier all Rotem cars. The new locomotives will need to have more horsepower.

What was tantalizing was talk by Leahy of possible future expansions of Metrolink to San Diego, Redlands and the Palm Springs area. There have been plans for years to extend some of the Metrolink trains between Oceanside and Los Angeles to San Diego.With the completion soon of more double track in San Diego County, it will soon be possible to run more trains in the county. Extended Metrolink trains to San Diego would be combined with extended service by the Coaster trains from Oceanside to Fullerton. There is a large untapped commuter market south of Oceanside for travel to Orange County, particularly around Irvine..

It was interesting that Leahy made a point that Metrolink has a low subsidy per passenger, a high farebox recovery and generates a large number of passenger miles compared to transit in the region.Passenger miles are a good indicator of revenue. Service extensions will increase passenger miles and revenue for Metrolink. San Diego is a major market which can attract new riders to Metrolink. The problems to doing this are the bottlenecks on the heavily traveled BNSF Mainline between Los Angeles and Fullerton as well as the single tracked bottlenecks between San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. Extending more trains on either or both bottlenecks will be difficult until more triple and double tracking is built. New service from the Inland Empire to San Diego would likely do well, but track capacity for such service is a problem in southern Orange County.

Metrolink service to Palm Springs will be years in the future. What would increase revenue and passenger miles now are better connections between Metrolink trains to serve more places with more distance trips. By 2020 with LAUS run through tracks. lines could be combined for direct service without transfers. Leahy talked about his plan to lower fares between stations to $2.00 to get more short distance passengers going only between 2 stations.This will be a period of experimentation at Metrolink for now to see what works and what doesn’t. When asked about the crossing at the recent crash in February in Oxnard, Leahy doubted that Ventura County would have the money to grade separate that crossing. He thought adding sensors at the crossing to stop trains if the crossing was blocked was more likely.

The interview ended with this quote from Art Leahy. ” In the 1980s people would say, ‘We don’t need rail here.’ They don’t say that anymore.”

Editorials

Cap and Trade’s effect on California’s Railroads

The State of California’s official policy is to reduce its emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The Governor recently set a new goal to insure the 2050 goal is met by executive order for the State to cut its GHG emissions to 40 percent below those of 1990 by 2030. Green House Gases are primarily carbon dioxide and methane. Transportation and energy production are both major emitters of GHG. What this will mean to meet these goals to reduce GHG in California are major reductions in the production and consumption of fossil fuels in California.

To bring about these reductions of GHG, the California Cap and Trade program was created using market forces to reward industries that reduce their GHG emissions and penalize those that don’t. Transportation in California, like the rest of the country is depended on oil. Not just for trains, but also trucks, buses and private vehicles. In the future California’s transportation will have to be run with little or no oil to meet the goals set for it by 2050.

California High Speed Rail is a major beneficiary of Cap and Trade. In the near future 25 percent of the income generated by Cap and Trade is earmarked for construction of High Speed Rail in California. The California High Speed Rail Authority has already pledged to use only renewable sources of electricity to run future High Speed Rail Trains which will be electrified. But this doesn’t address the needs to handle growing conventional passenger and freight rail service to reduce GHG emissions.

Outside of High Speed Rail and local rail transit very little rail service is electrified in California.The only other rail passenger service planning as of now to electrify is Caltrain between San Jose and San Francisco. Rail Passenger service in general will need to be expanded to reduce driving and lower the State’s GHG emissions to meet the State’s goals.

To meet the State’s goal to reduce Green House Gases, will need more trains to more places run with locomotives with reduced emissions. This will also mean more rail cars, locomotives, more double tracking with more service to more places, more frequent service and better connections to more markets. All of this is going to need more money. Also needed will be more new housing and development around the area of stations to encourage ridership and reduce the need to drive. Such improvements are needed not only on the LOSSAN Corridor which includes the Surfliners, Metrolink and Coaster trains. But also for the San Joaquin, ACE and Capitol Corridor trains as well. This also includes near future service along the Coast Line between Los Angeles and San Jose and from Los Angeles to the Coachella Valley .All of this expanded service will also feed more traffic to California High Speed Rail and possible future Las Vegas to Southern California High Speed Rail.

While we could see additional electrification of rail service to more of California, it won’t be practical to electrify all the railroads. Electrification is unlikely on the freight railroads The freight railroads won’t want to pay for it in California, let alone on a National basis. The freight railroads also want to have standardized equipment for their system for economy sake and would not want to have to change locomotives on trains between electrified and non-electrified track segments. What other options are there for clean locomotives?

What we will likely see will be new hybrid locomotives. Such hybrids are being studied now for the trucking industry. The cost of batteries are already coming down making them more attractive for transportation. Walmart has already built a prototype turbine-electric hybrid semi tractor truck with an aerodynamic body which uses half the fuel of today’s semi’s.Modern small turbine engines can run economically at a constant speed. The acceleration of a turbine-electric hybrid is handled by the batteries. The turbine’s job is to keep the batteries charged. A turbine is both much lighter than a diesel engine and burns much more cleanly. The increased fuel economy and cleaner burning turbine combine to reduce GHG.

For the railroads both passenger and freight, reductions in pollution has been an increasing problem to met with tighter Federal pollution standards coming into effect. Also many neighborhoods near major rail yards are increasingly complaining about diesel locomotive emissions. This is one of the reasons the railroads have been looking at liquefied natural gas (LNG) for their locomotives. For the freight railroads using hybrid turbine-electric locomotives will save more money in reduced fuel consumption and start up costs than building the infrastructure needed for running trains on LNG.

The ability to recycle energy with the train’s regenerative brakes with either batteries or ultra-capacitors make hybrid locomotives much more attractive than LNG. One thing about turbines is they can run on just about any fuel, not just oil. Fuels could be available in the future that are renewable and have a low carbon footprint, much lower than fossil fuels like Natural Gas.

For rail passenger service, Cap and Trade in California is an opportunity to expand and grow. Cars and trucks won’t disappear. But the main problem in the future will be roads. Economics is driving denser populations in cities as people are confronted with higher costs for housing and transportation. The 1950’s and 60’s are long over as is cheap housing in the suburbs and cheap gasoline. Roads today are not as free flowing as they were 50 and 60 years ago. To create more affordable housing and save money on transportation, increased density is coming to California and other urban areas of America. The only way to make this work and avoid gridlock is with expanded rail passenger service.

Editorials

How to Serve All Stations with Faster Trains

Almost every town that has railroad tracks with passenger rail service on them would love to have a train station. If a town has a train station, it would love to have every passenger train going past to stop at its station.The problem with that is if every train stopped at every station, you would have very slow rail passenger service. One of the major attractions for rail passenger service is its speed. As it stands now, most rail passenger service in this country is slower than auto travel expect when there is major traffic congestion.

Fast trains can’t slow down often to stop and still be fast. But there are plenty of people in the many towns between San Luis Obispo and San Diego that should be able to take advantage of taking faster trains. This can be done, and is done in many places in the world. This is done by using what are called sweep trains. A sweep train is a slower train that makes all stops that can pick up or drop off passengers with connections to the faster express trains.

The way a sweep train works is it leaves before the express train making all stops. This way it can pick up passengers wanting to transfer to the express train to their ultimate destination. Just before the express train passes the sweep train, the sweep train pulls into a station for passengers to transfer to the express train. The express train then leaves the station and passes the sweep train.

In the other direction, the sweep trains waits at the station for the express train to pass. After the transferring passengers board the sweep train, it follows the express train which leaves first. The transfer passengers then get off at their stations the express trains flies by.

The LOSSAN Corridor is a perfect place to have sweep trains for the Pacific Surfliner trains combined with Metrolink and the Coaster trains. For example, lets take the Surfliner trains between San Diego and Santa Barbara. We could reduce the running times on the Surfliners quite a bit with express trains. The way this could work would be for a Coaster train to leave San Diego ahead of the express Surfliner. The Coaster train would terminate at Oceanside shortly before the arrival of the express Surfliner. Passengers could transfer at Oceanside to their destinations at Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and even San Luis Obispo. The process can be reversed in the other direction with the Coaster following the express Surfliner after passengers have transferred. If the express Surfliner stops at Solana Beach, passengers from south of Solana Beach on the sweeper Coaster could transfer there to the express Surfliner.

Metrolink, could also run local trains ahead of the express Surfliners from Oceanside. By the time the express Surfliner reaches Fullerton the Metrolink passengers could transfer to the Surfliner before it passes the Metrolink train. Midway transfer stops at Irvine from Metrolink to the Surfliner are also possible.

North of Los Angeles, another Metrolink train on the Ventura County Line could leave Los Angeles ahead of the express Surfliner as a sweep train. Transfer points could be made at Chatsworth, Moorpark and Oxnard. For the trains to transfer and pass at stations extra tracks would be needed in some cases. In Oceanside there are plans by next year to build a third station track and platform so Coaster and Metrolink trains can layover without blocking the double track mainline. At Laguna Niguel/ Mission Viejo, the Metrolink station already has a layover track similar to what is planned for Oceanside. Fullerton has 3 thru tracks and a fourth stub track for 3 platforms to handle possible sweep/express trains.

Also as part of express service, connections at hubs are also important. Los Angeles Union Station is the central rail passenger hub for Southern California. With Metrolink connections can be created at Union Station to the San Bernardino, 91-Riverside, Ventura and Antelope Valley Lines. All of these connections are long overdue. But the combination of hub connections is not just for the Surfliners to Metrolink, It is also useful between all Metrolink lines to each other to allow travel to almost every part of Southern California by rail. The rest of Southern California can be connected to rail by expanded Motor Coach service. This will increase ridership and revenues for all services. This will create the fastest possible service to the most places with the fewest stops for all passengers.