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RailPAC Weekly E-Newsletter for February 26, 2018

Edited by Noel T. Braymer
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This is a recent photo early in the morning at Oceanside. The locomotive at the end of this Metrolink Train is one of 40 new EMD locomotives built for Metrolink, many of which had been delivered to Metrolink by last summer. The first of these new locomotives went into service on Metrolink back in October. So far there have been many problems needing troubleshooting with these new locomotives which makes them unreliable so far. As a result Metrolink pairs these new locomotives to a reliable older locomotive to insure their trains don’t get stranded. Slowly but surely Metrolink is getting this new fleet of locomotives up to spec. These new locomotive are central to plans to add more trains and cars into Metrolink’s service in the coming 5 years. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

Wild California police chase ends after driver detours into train tunnel
Fox News-Feb 21, 2018
Driver leads cops on wild chase, vanishes into subway tunnel
Authorities in Southern California were led on a wild pursuit in East Los Angeles on Tuesday that ended when the driver took a surprise detour into a subway tunnel.
The police pursuit began in Huntington Park, located south of downtown Los Angeles, after authorities spotted a pickup truck that had been reported stolen, according to KTLA.
During the chase, captured by television news helicopters, the driver of the pickup truck slammed into a yellow taxi at one point and then kept driving.
Later news reports said this driver was wanted on 6 felony charges. NB

NTSB: Truck was on tracks, gates were down before Amtrak crash
Progressive Rail Roading-Feb 22, 2018
A garbage truck involved in a fatal Amtrak accident late last month had entered a grade crossing after the warning gates were lowered, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced yesterday.
On Jan. 31, an Amtrak train struck a garbage truck that was stopped at the crossing in Crozet, Virginia. The train was carrying Republican members of Congress on their way to a legislative retreat in West Virginia.
As a result of the crash, one truck passenger died; another truck passenger sustained serious injuries and the truck’s driver sustained minor injuries.

Valley Amtrak Routes On Track To Meet Safety Standards
Valley Public Radio-Feb 20, 2018
The operator of Amtrak service in the Central Valley says they plan to put positive train control in place by the end of this year. This comes a day after the CEO of Amtrak said routes without the safety feature could suspended…
In the Central Valley, the San Joaquin corridor of Amtrak is operated by Caltrans and the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority.
Matt Rocco, with Caltrans, says they will probably meet the deadline for getting positive train control functioning.
“For the San Joaquin lines, most of the equipment has been installed,” Rocco says. “We are very confident that this will be running at the beginning of next year.

Safety On The Tracks? The Bigger Death Toll Is At Grade Crossings
By Noel T. Braymer
There has been a great deal of media attention on Amtrak and its fatal accidents that have happen in the last few years. These accidents were preventable and should never have happened. But fatal accidents still happen all the time often for no other reason than human error. Passenger train crashes often look terrible and invoke strong emotions with the public. An article in USA Today published on May 13, 2015 gave perspective of the level of dangers to passengers riding on Amtrak. This article pointed out that 158 Amtrak passengers died between 1975 to 2015. That’s an average of roughly 4 passenger deaths a year during this time. Several of these deaths were from passengers falling or jumping off from moving trains. This USA Today article also pointed out that during this time period between 1975 to 2015, Amtrak was involved with a total of 3,744 deaths. Just 4% of these deaths were with passengers. This article published in 2015 pointed out that for 2014 of 119 Amtrak related deaths, 108 were from people trespassing on the tracks.

Take Responsibility For Your Property:’ Astoria Residents Want Amtrak To Repair Cracked Sidewalk
CBS New York-Feb 22, 2018
In New York City, property owners are responsible for repairing and repaving the adjacent sidewalks, and the city gives out violations to owners who don’t.
“This is Amtrak’s property. Take responsibility for it and make sure that you keep our residents safe as you’re passing through our neighborhoods,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides, of Queens, told Bauman.

Amtrak completes repair work on Track 15 at Penn Station
Newsday-Feb 23, 2018
The national railroad, which owns Penn Station and has come under fire over its deteriorated condition, began work at the beginning of January focusing on Track 15 — part of a series of infrastructure renovations at the aging rail hub.
The project included demolishing and replacing a section of concrete.
“We completed the track work within budget, safely, and with minimal amount of disruption to service, as committed,” Amtrak said in a statement, noting the the work was completed three days ahead of schedule.

Amtrak could suspend Vermont service
Vermont Biz-Feb 23, 2018
Anderson spoke at a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on the slow-paced implementation of positive train control (PTC), a crash-prevention technology which, under federal law, must be installed on some 60,000 miles of the nation’s rail routes by year’s end.
He was addressing safety concerns in the aftermath of several fatal accidents that the Amtrak system has witnessed since December.
The routes that Amtrak uses in Vermont, for the Ethan Allen Express and Vermonter trains, are in fact exempt from the federal requirement because they see so little traffic, but Anderson told the subcommittee that “for those instances, where we will not have PTC even after the 12/31 deadline because it’s not required by statute, we have a question about whether we’re going to operate at all, and I doubt we will.”
This could be an issue as well on the Southwest Chief over Raton Pass which doesn’t have PTC and has little traffic outside of trains 3&4. It wouldn’t be economical to install PTC on lines with  little traffic or chance to run into other trains . NB

Union Pacific, Amtrak nearly finished with Positive Train Control upgrades
Northern Nevada Business Weekly-Feb 23, 2018
According to reports from Union Pacific, 99.7 percent of PTC hardware had been installed as of Dec. 31, 2017, on the company’s routes — including through Reno — and on 98 percent of its locomotives.
Those lines are in the testing phase. Other lines are expected to have PTC systems installed before the deadline.

PTC: Ignore the circus. Here’s what’s really going on
Railway Age Feb 16, 2018
The railroad industry is making steady progress implementing Positive Train Control. You wouldn’t know it though, if you believed some of the choreographed histrionics the House Subcommittee on Railroads and its chairman displayed at a Feb. 15 hearing on PTC...
“Today, U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, took to task representatives of the railroad industry, including Amtrak, on their failure to implement PTC safety technology that would have prevented crashes and saved lives: ‘If you have a timeline, we want to see that timeline. If you have questions or concerns or impediments, we want to know what those are. If you haven’t received funding, maybe you should request funding. But certainly, ignoring a congressional mandate again won’t be tolerated by either side of the aisle. I think the American public is tired of excuses. This is an amazing technology that will continue to improve the safety of our rails across the country.’”
You can stop laughing now.
None of the above has even the slightest shred of truth. Some of it is an outright, bald-faced lie. So what’s the purpose of Denham’s pontificating on PTC?

Off the rails: What’s going on with all these deadly train crashes?
Metro US-Feb 23, 2018
“I’m not sure we’re seeing so many accidents and derailments, we’re seeing a couple that are getting a lot of press,” said Allan Zarembski, the director of the Railroad Engineering and Safety Program at the University of Delaware.
Referring to statistics released by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that show a downtick in accidents and fatalities, Zarembski said, “Nothing I’ve seen in the statistics from 2017 show that it was a major aberration in safety.
And, despite the high-profile accidents, there has been no dip in train travel, with only a 4 percent dip in travelers over the last decade, according to the FRA.

Passenger rail service proposed from New Orleans to Mobile with stops on the Coast
WLOX-Feb 22, 2018
In a letter addressed to Governor Phil Bryant from Coast lawmakers, the plan calls for Amtrak service to be added from New Orleans to Mobile with stops in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula. This proposal does not offer service to Jacksonville, FL.
Knox Ross with the Southern Rail Commission said the shorter route gives passenger rail service a better chance of becoming a reality sooner.
“Much of the track between Mobile and New Orleans already has positive train control, which has been in the news a lot lately and it’s signaled correctly,” said Ross. “It’s in great physical condition and they [CSX] have indicated to us that this would be a much more preferable option for them as well.”

New California Everyday Discounts Program Offers Savings on Train Travel
PR Newswire Feb 22, 2018
The Amtrak® Pacific Surfliner® recently launched the California Everyday Discounts program, offering year-round savings on train travel for seniors, students, and passengers with disabilities. The Pacific Surfliner route serves San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo, connecting nearly 3 million passengers a year to many of Southern California’s top destinations.

New Amtrak commuter train servicing Ventura, Santa Barbara areas ready to roll in April
KEYT-Feb 22, 2018
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A long-awaited commuter service involving a precisely timed Amtrak Pacific Surfliner will begin April 2 between Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
The demand has been high for traffic relief for years. The recent disasters, which left the area with a transit mess and broken bridges on Highway 192, has resulted in extreme congestion during peak hours.
An estimated 15,000 vehicles are using that route daily for work.
The planned train will have stops in Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura, Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and Goleta.

Nice price: Metra to buy Amtrak locomotives
RailwayAge Magazine-Feb 23, 2018
Chicago’s commuter rail agency is bargain-hunting as it looks to buy used locomotives to help bolster its motive power fleet.
On Feb. 21 Metra directors authorized negotiations to purchase as many as 21 locomotives at a cost of $1.3 million each that were most recently used by Amtrak in California and other West Coast lines.
Metra is also seeking proposals from manufacturers for new locomotives, for delivery in late 2020.
Metra Chairman Norm Carlson was quoted as saying the price for the power “[I]s wonderful. With a relatively small investment we can reduce operating costs and emissions.”
The F59 locomotives deployed by Amtrak were built by General Motors in 1998 and rehabbed in the past five years. They are also 10-25% more fuel efficient than Metra’s older power

M.E. Singer
As the status quo will not hold much longer for Amtrak, let alone the Northeast Corridor (NEC), a new paradigm is desperately required. Having no transparency on data and finances provided by Amtrak plays into its “shell game” that prevents a logical paper trail to audit how the long distance routes funding is bled off to cover the widening fiscal hole of the NEC. Concomitantly, how much, if not every dollar paid by the non-NEC states is turned around to support the NEC? For how long has Amtrak manipulated such finances to dump the NEC’s overhead and infrastructure costs into the long distance and state-supported sectors?

How Trump Doomed His Own Infrastructure Plan
Bloomberg View Feb 22, 2018
His trillion dollar dream lacked support within the White House and among Republicans…
A president focused on infrastructure should probably stack his administration with policy experts capable of translating his grand vision into a governing program that gets approved and funded by Congress. Instead, he mostly brought in conservative Republicans who aren’t exactly known for putting together large infrastructure plans. So I’m not surprised they have produced something that my View colleague Barry Ritholtz called a “deeply inadequate” and “fanciful” plan that would “give private investors a gift at the expense of the taxpaying public.”
All politicians need to bring government spending to their districts to get reelected. Elected politicians won’t give up spending to their district without a fight. NB

Geotechnical studies underway in South Bay for high speed rail
KGO-TV-Feb 19, 2018
In Silicon Valley, work is now starting on geotechnical analysis of proposed track alignments in Santa Clara County and in the City of San Jose.
A crew on President’s Day was busy drilling for core samples along busy Monterey Road, just south of Senter Road. The samples will help planners to understand soil conditions before proceeding with advanced engineering and environmental work.

High speed rail construction Tuesday in Wasco
Kern Golden Empire-Feb 19, 2018
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Work on the California’s High Speed Rail is coming to Kern County Tuesday.
Construction work will cause some closures in Wasco.
The High Speed Rail Authority says eastbound shoulders on Pond Road will close between Magnolia and Palm avenues on Tuesday.

High Speed Rail project prompts road closures in Downtown Fresno
KFSN-TV-Feb 23, 2018
The California High-Speed Rail Authority announced the closure of H Street between the Stanislaus Street bridge and Divisadero Street for utility relocation.
Work is scheduled to start next Monday, February 26th and will last approximately two months.

Hanford meeting to detail latest high-speed rail work
The Business Journal-Feb 21, 2018
The meeting, which is set for March 6 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Hanford Fraternal Hall, will also include design, right of way information and discussion of small business and employment opportunities.
Construction Package 2-3 (CP 2-3) is the second design-build construction contract executed on the high-speed rail program. CP 2-3 is the 65-mile segment between East American Avenue in Fresno County to one mile north of the Tulare-Kern County line. It will include approximately 36 grade separations in the counties of Fresno, Tulare and Kings, including viaducts, underpasses and overpasses.

The ‘train deniers’ are wrong. We Californians love riding the rails.
The Desert Sun-Feb 23, 2018
If California’s train deniers are right — that no one ever rides trains here, that Californians prefer to drive or fly, and that high-speed rail is a boondoggle that won’t attract riders — then how do you explain my wife’s public humiliation?..
The Pacific Surfliner that day was mobbed, with every seat taken and passengers standing in the aisles and stairwells. So when I took those two hungry boys in the direction of the café car, the crowds were so thick I couldn’t squeeze through. The boys, now nine and seven, are very skinny and insisted on continuing on, despite my pleas, beginning a memorable adventure.

Thursday letters: High-speed rail
Houston Chronicle-Feb 21, 2018
Fear of unknown
Regarding “Progress vs. preservation” (Page A1, Sunday), it’s not surprising that farmers, townspeople and local leaders between Houston and Dallas are opposed to the Texas Central bullet train. This in spite of the fact that the high speed line will be elevated along most of its right-of-way and the trains will travel in virtual silence as opposed to the existing freight lines that cross many of their properties at grade and produce noise at any hour of the day. The claim that it will interfere with their way of life simply reflects the trait all of us have in common – fear of the unknown.
When I lived in Germany, the construction of high speed rail – which now offers the preferred means of transportation for many travelers throughout Europe – was in its infancy. Farmers and rural townspeople were suspicious of what effects it might have on them.
But now, years later, they have come to realize that high-speed rail has had no effect on their lives. They and their livestock are totally unaffected by the trains that glide through their pastures and near their towns.

China saves on oil with switch to high-speed rail
Nikkei Asian Review-Feb 19, 2018
The trains are not only transforming Chinese economy and travel but are also starting to chip away at oil use in the world’s second largest consumer and biggest source of fuel demand growth. The impact is being felt primarily on jet fuel and gasoline consumption. The trains, running at roughly 200-350 km/hour, provide an economical and often more reliable alternative to air travel.
State-owned oil giant China National Petroleum Corporation recently cited HSR among a host of changes including electric cars and the sharing economy as factors crimping Chinese gasoline demand growth.

Faster than flying: the high-speed rail routes taking on the air industry
Railway Technology-Feb 18, 2018
But while air transport dominates the long-haul travelling market, on shorter distances, more and more passengers seem to be inclined to opt for the train instead.
Bloomberg analysis has recently shown that, on key routes in Asia and Europe, high-speed railways (HSR) and air travel are neck and neck.
The reasons are quite easy to grasp. Firstly, when taking into consideration what flying entails – travelling from home to the airport, time spent in check-in and security, as well as additional transport and baggage pickup– taking the train offers big overall travel time savings.

Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed rail opening to be delayed six months
The Jerusalem Post-Feb 21, 2018
The rail line – which has been under construction for years – would halve the arduous, traffic-congested route to a speedy 28 minutes between the two cities.
“Not all the regulatory approvals required for the operation of the line for commercial use of passengers…have yet to be  received,” Israel Railways said in its filing to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Wednesday morning. “Such operation is expected to be postponed by six months, subject to the receipt of all such approvals.”

BNSF SoCal yard project headed to state Supreme Court
RailwayAge Magazine-Feb 20, 2018
The SCIG will create a railhead for container traffic in Wilmington just four miles from the Port of Los Angeles, rather than boxes having to be drayed 24 miles on local roads and the 710 freeway to downtown rail facilities. BNSF has said SCIG will allow 1.5 million more containers to move by more efficient and environmentally preferred rail through the Alameda Corridor each year, reducing truck traffic congestion in Southern California, while also creating jobs.
But the city of Long Beach, air pollution regulators, environmentalists and neighbors objected, contending in 2013 lawsuits that the 185-acre yard would actually make air quality worse. They want further work done on the environmental reports needed for approval, which the city of Los Angeles granted in 2013.

This is a view of a recently completed set of ramps and stairs at the Laguna Niguel/ Mission Viejo Metrolink station. This allows safe travel under the east and west tracks. These ramps and stairs replaced an outdoor elevator which is no longer in use. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

Dreams of a train tunnel slip away
Palo Alto Online-Feb 21, 2018
For nearly a decade, Palo Alto’s elected leaders and residents have advocated for construction of underground rail tracks to accommodate California’s high-speed rail system and Caltrain, which is planning to add more trains as part of its electrification project.
But with a new study highlighting the high costs and steep engineering challenges of the project, city officials are preparing to pull the plug on the idea and to consider less ambitious and less costly methods for separating the train tracks from the city’s roadways.

‘Did You Know?’ Fun Caltrain Facts For Every Rider 20, 2018
From samTrans: Did you know that more people ride Caltrain daily than live in Greenland? Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was President when the railroad began carrying riders 150 years ago?
Interesting facts like these are all part of Caltrain’s new “Did You Know?” public education campaign, which kicked off Sunday, Feb. 19.

Caltrain launches grade crossing improvement projects
Progressive Rail Roading-Feb 20, 2018
Caltrain last week began construction to improve three grade crossings in Redwood City, California.
Crews are installing new pedestrian gate arms, as well as new guard rails and signage to channel pedestrians toward crosswalks. Workers also will install roadway markers and bumps along the crosswalk so vehicles don’t accidentally turn onto the tracks, Caltrain officials said in a press release.

Caltrain has a list of demands before it will change pole design for Atherton
The Almanac Online-Feb 23, 2018
In the latest volley in the battle between Atherton and Caltrain over the height of the poles it plans to install as part of its project to electrify its trains, Caltrain has given the town until Feb. 28 to meet a list of demands if it wants shorter poles installed.
A Feb. 6 letter from Caltrain demands that Atherton pay it $200,000, get written consent of property owners whose trees will be affected by changed plans, and agree the town won’t support or be a part of any lawsuit filed against the electrification project. In return, Caltrain would install 10 35-foot-tall poles with crossbeams spanning only one set of tracks, instead of the five 45-foot-tall poles that cantilever over two sets of tracks it had planned.

BART Says No to Station at Proposed Site for A’s New Ballpark
NBC Bay Area-Feb 19, 2018
It looks like another swing and a miss for the Oakland A’s in their quest for a new ballpark near downtown.
BART has said it cannot build a station at the Howard Terminal site the A’s have eyed for their new stadium. BART officials said a station at the site, just north of Jack London Square, would be too disruptive to its service and would take too long to design and build.

CA: BART Gets Serious About a 2nd East Bay-SF Transbay Tube 22, 2018
Feb. 21–A new BART tunnel beneath the bay might begin in Alameda and emerge in Mission Bay. It could parallel the existing tube but then head up Mission Street on the west side of the bay instead of up Market. Or maybe it would stretch between Alameda and AT&T Park.
No one knows, but after years of supposition and pie-in-the-sky conjecture from planners and passengers alike, BART officials are starting to study a second Transbay Tube.

Violent attacks on BART employees rising
SFGate-Feb 21, 2018
Over the last year BART employees have been kicked, punched, shoved, spat upon and pelted with rocks while on the job.
More than 40 incidents of battery targeted at the public transit agency’s staff were reported in 2017, according to crime data obtained by SFGATE. The number of assaults has increased steadily year-over-year since 2013, with the figure nearly doubling between 2015 and 2016, and that’s just the reported incidents.
According to a recent KTVU investigation, the “actual numbers of assaults are significantly higher.” Train operators said a “significant, yet unknown, number of cases go unreported.”

Screen Doors Coming to Oakland BART Station
Streetsblog San Francisco -Feb 20, 2018
As part of Measure RR and its $3.5 billion investments in expanding capacity, BART is planning to test out platform “screen doors” at the 12th Street BART Station. Screen doors, as seen in the photo above of the Paris Metro, are a set of safety doors, placed along the edge of the platform, intended to prevent transit riders from getting onto the tracks. BART is allotting $3 million of Measure RR money to this pilot.
“We’re in the early stages of our platform edge door project,” Chris Filippi, a spokesman for BART, explained in an email to Streetsblog. “This is an ambitious project for BART, as no transit system in North America has platform edge doors despite having similar crowding challenges as those faced by BART.”

Swarm of 16 earthquakes shakes Danville and Diablo, slows BART trains
SFGate-Feb 23, 2018
When BART receives reports of earthquakes, it stops trains until it can get information from the Geological Survey. If the magnitude is lower than 3.0, trains can start running under automatic controls. If it’s higher than 3.0, operators run trains at low speeds, under manual control, for about five minutes while conducting visual track inspections.
A 2.8 earthquake at 12:21 p.m. caused BART to halt trains briefly, transit officials said. A 5:53 a.m. quake also led to a 10-minute delay that affected the morning commute.

Palo Alto: City officials oppose bill that allows tall, dense housing
The Mercury News-Feb 23, 2018
Palo Alto officials say a pending state bill would strip their control of land uses in the city and possibly result in exceptionally tall housing developments along high-transit areas.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, last month introduced State Bill 827, which aims to boost housing density in and near transit corridors. If passed in its current form, the bill would allow buildings that include housing units to be as tall as 85 feet within a quarter-mile of busy transit corridors where buses stop at least every 15 minutes during peak commute hours, or within one block of a major transit stop, such as Palo Alto’s two Caltrain stations.

A sweeping new bill targets California’s housing crisis
Vox-Feb 23, 2018
California is in the midst of crippling housing crisis. The state’s population has steadily grown, but it hasn’t been building new places for people to live at anything close to the same rate. It now ranks 49th in housing units per capita.
The predictable consequence of demand growing faster than supply is that existing housing in the state, especially in its biggest cities, has become insanely expensive. Seven of the 10 most expensive US real estate markets are Californian. The median home price in the state is $524,000; in San Francisco it is approaching $1.3 million.
Rising prices push middle-class workers further and further from their jobs, leading to unhealthy commutes and traffic congestion. Low-income Californians are increasingly forced to choose between rent and food or health care, adding to the state’s hunger and health problems, or being pushed out of housing altogether, adding to its burgeoning homeless population. According to analysts at McKinsey, the housing crisis is costing California $140 billion a year in lost economic output…
A tangle of land-use restrictions makes it difficult to build homes in California
But those legislative reforms are fighting against an artificially constrained market. The basic problem remains: It is difficult to build housing in California, thanks in part to a thicket of local parking regulations, building requirements, zoning restrictions, and bureaucratic choke points. The state’s (generally whiter, wealthier) residents use these tools to prevent new construction that might house (generally more diverse, poorer) newcomers.

Germany considers to fight pollution with free public transportation
Washington Post Feb 14, 2018
Germany’s latest, and more radical, plans are similarly supposed to solve the lingering problem of air pollution in German cities, which recently prompted the threat of major E.U. fines.
More than 130 cities in Europe are affected by “life-threatening” air pollution, according to the European Commission, that is believed to be responsible for about 400,000 deaths each year in the European Union. And even though Germany is far from being Europe’s most polluted nation, the topic is taken more seriously here than in most other places that have repeatedly breached E.U. limits on nitrogen dioxide and fine particles.

New Rail Transit Being Built In The Next Ten Years In Los Angeles
By Noel T. Braymer
Los Angeles County under the management of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, also known as LA Metro, has an ambitious and multi billion dollar plan to expand rail transit service in the county. As each new link is finished and connects to the rest of the transit system more people will be able to get around the county without dealing with jammed freeways or hunting for parking. There are 8 major rail projects LA Metro is planning to open between now and 2028.

Renderings Galore for the LAX Automated People Mover
Urbanize. LA Feb 16, 2018
With construction expected to begin this year, Los Angeles World Airports has unveiled new renderings and an animated video that preview the LAX Automated People Mover.
The APM, a monorail-like system, will operate along a 2.25-mile elevated guideway with six stops between the LAX Consolidated Rental Car Facility and the Central Terminal Area.
Utility relocation and surveying for the APM are expected to begin in the second quarter of 2018, with construction of the guideway set to start as early as 2019.

Blue Line in Long Beach to close for a total of eight months next year to undergo $300 million renovation
Press-Telegram Feb 21, 2018
Metro is preparing to close the 22-mile Blue Line for a total of eight months next year to complete the modernization of the transit agency’s oldest train line.
Opened in 1990 and showing its age, the Blue Line will be receiving $300 million in improvements during the closure period.
The agency plans to add four new switches that allow trains to move quicker, new signals, new tracks in downtown Long Beach and improvements at street level intersections, especially at the Washington Boulevard and Flower Street junction near downtown Los Angeles where cars have crashed into trains, causing significant delays.
Metro planners are working with the city of Long Beach and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation for better signal synchronization at sections where the trains stop for traffic at red lights, Ted Lindholm, executive officer of capital projects for Metro, said Tuesday.

Why the Expo Line is slow—and why it might not be that way forever
Curbed LA Feb 20, 2018
An upcoming change to state environmental rules might make it possible to speed up the frustratingly slow Expo Line.
The change could set the stage for the city to give trains the right of way at some intersections—instead of cars.
Giving cars the right of way has been one of the biggest challenges to making the light rail, which runsfrom Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, faster. Instead of flying over or tunneling under intersections, especially between Western Avenue and Downtown, the train stops and waits for traffic to pass in front of it.

San Dimas, Pomona sue the Gold Line Construction Authority over plans for the train’s expansion
San Gabriel Valley Tribune Feb 16, 2018
Two of the six cities in the 12.3-mile path of the $1.5 billion Gold Line foothill extension are pursuing lawsuits against the construction authority, saying last-minute changes to the alignment, bridges and plans to acquire properties will cause permanent damage to their cities and are a violation of state environmental laws.

Rolland Curtis Gardens Development Rises Near Expo/Vermont Station
Urbanize. LA Feb 20, 2018
The project, which is being built next to Metro’s Expo/Vermont Station by nonprofit developer Abode Communities, will feature interconnected one-to-five-story buildings featuring 140 apartments, 8,000 square feet of commercial space, and a landscaped courtyard area.  Plans also call for a 114-car garage within the new development.
Per the California State Treasurer’s office, the new apartments will come in one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans, with rents ranging between $466 and $1,354 per month.  The units will be targeted to households making between 30 and 60 percent of the Los Angeles area median income.

Mixed-Use Project Near Pasadena Gold Line Station Moves Forward
Urbanize.LA Feb 22, 2018
Trammell Crow Company continues to move forward with plans for a mixed-use development near the Gold Line’s Sierra Madre Villa Station in Pasadena.
The project, slated for an approximately 8.32-acre property at 3200 E. Foothill Boulevard, would replace a self-storage facility with eight mixed-use buildings featuring 550 apartment units, 9,800 square feet of retail space and parking for up to 782 vehicles. The mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom dwellings would include 481 market rate units, as well as 23 units priced for moderate-income families and 46 units for low-income families.

Southern California’s transit ridership will get rolling: Larry Wilson
The Pasadena Star-News-Feb 24, 2018
Everyone’s a little bit wrong here. And the argument is a bit of an academic one, filled with classic posturing. In Los Angeles County especially, what with the creation of the massive cash cow that is the Measure M 1 percent forever sales tax to fund Metro, rail and bus line building isn’t going away. It’s going to entirely change the transportation infrastructure of the populous core of our region over the next 30 years. If the sprawlers are right and no one really wants to get out of their cars — and these same folks are the ones who say Southern Californians don’t want to live in multi-family buildings near transit-friendly development, so that what we really need is more exurban sprawl, with three-bedroom housing tracts filling in the wild gap from here to Joshua Tree — well, there’ll be some swell views of empty light-rail cars on lines from Sherman Oaks to Santa Monica from those new toll roads.

This was shot from the new Platform by Track 3 at Oceanside. The 2 tracks in this picture are used by the Sprinter DMU service to Escondido with a center platform between the 2 tracks. In the background is a station parking lot. Notice the pedestrian crossing on the track leading to the parking lot. This got me to thinking that if there was also a pedestrian crossing between Platform 3 to the Sprinter Platform, this would be a great shortcut for passengers walking to and from the parking lot. This would also relieve the congestion on Platform 3 which is common after a Coaster Train arrives in Oceanside. For now most Sprinter trains usually use the track with the pedestrian crossing nearest the parking lot. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

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Noel – As usual, you have put together another very informative compilation of relevant passenger rail and transit articles! Your efforts are appreciated because you always find articles some of us in the rail industry miss so thank you again for your focus and dedication to this resolve! You and Paul really speak out and don’t hesitate to point out critical issues, or things that are simply wrong.  Keep up the great work!
Richard Phelps

Opinions expressed in this enewsletter are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Rail Passenger Association of California.

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The Governor Signing the Symbolic Rail
Issues, Rail Photos, Reports

CAHSR Groundbreaking Ceremony – January 6, 2015

Photos by Paul Dyson, President

Rail Photos

RailPAC trip report PHOTOS for Christmas (2014)

This is a SPECIAL 10 PHOTO EDITION. All the photos (except one) are from Russ Jackson on his family’s Fall trip across the country. To see these photos larger, click on the photo. To read the full trip report, see “Trip Report on the Texas Eagle and other trains: How was it?” that was posted on this site on November 28.
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1. Amtrak’s Texas Eagle departing the St. Louis, MO, station is about to cross the Mississippi River on a cold November day with full view of the Gateway Arch.
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2. The Texas Eagle has arrived at the Chicago Union Station platform on a very cold and wintry November, 2014 day.
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3. Many Amtrak sleeping car attendants “dress up” the area at the top of the stairs like this one on California Zephyr #5, providing passengers with books and other items. On this trip the ice, fruit juice and coffee were always available.
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4. November snow was visible out the car windows across Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado. This is the platform at the Denver station just as #5 has arrived. Because of the weather the photographer was unable to visit the newly remodeled station (seen in the background).
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5. The trip of the California Zephyr up the face of the Colorado Rocky Mountains in the snow is always a much anticipated view out the car windows.
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6. The writer is in better weather on the platform in the Reno trench where #5 has made a very productive stop.
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7. It was a cold day, but this non-rail photo tells the story of the beautiful California Central Coast at Pt. Joe on the Monterey Peninsula 17 Mile Drive.
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8. The return trip on Amtrak took us on #422, the combined Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle through car. At the Tucson, AZ, station the disabled ramp has been removed from its storage shed to assist loading a passenger in a motorized wheel chair. Note the new-style “stepstool” by the car door alongside the traditional yellow one.
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9. Many Amtrak car attendants decorate their cars for the holiday season. This is one of the displays that Lisa, our sleeping car attendant, provided. Lisa will also conduct holiday bingo games in the Sunset Limited’s Sightseer Lounge on her runs during December.
LAUS Christmas tree 2014 Braymer photo
10. With this photo of the Christmas tree next to the main entrance at Los Angeles Union Station we close our trip and wish all the readers a Happy Holiday from the RailPAC Photo department. If this picture looks familiar, it was seen first on the December 7 RailPAC e-newsletter. This report writer was standing next to Noel Braymer when he took the photo.

Rail Photos

RailPAC rail PHOTOS of the month (November, 2014)

Here are this month’s photos by RailPAC photographers!
Click on each photo to see it full size!
Contributions to this page are welcome. Send your jpg rail photos to Russ Jackson, RailPAC Photo Editor, at

Donner pass with rainbow 11-2014
This is Donner Lake at 7000 ft in the Sierra Nevada, with the photo taken through the window of Amtrak’s California Zephyr on a dry day in November, 2014. On this day there was enough mist in the air that a rainbow formed, a portent of a possible end to the drought? Russ Jackson photo

The Union Pacific Railroad continues its project to double track the “Sunset Route.” While segments east of Maricopa, Arizona to El Paso have been completed, there are segments yet to be done in western Arizona and in California east of Indio. In this November 3, 2014 photo grading for the second main west from Mohawk, Arizona awaits rail. A UP freight is about to roar by on the single track. Ralph James photo

At the RailPAC-NARP meeting November 15 in Sacramento RailPAC President Paul Dyson (right) presented a plaque to retired Caltrans Divison of Rail Chief Bill Bronte, honoring Bill’s work in building the California Corridors into the huge success they are. Bruce Jenkins photo

The eastbound California Zephyr is arriving at Emeryville station on November 17, 2014. The photographer boarded there to ride it as far as Sacramento, although he was planning on going to Roseville to ride both Zephyrs that day, but with the westbound train running 3 plus hours late that day he cut his trip short. Mike Palmer photo

The eastbound California Zephyr has arrived at Ft. Morgan, Colorado only 15 minutes late on the evening of October 26, 2014. This photo shows the importance of the Amtrak long distance trains to small communities, with this small group preparing to board. Steven Crosmer photo

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Veterans Day, 2014, at Chicago’s Union Station where there was a busy “Hire Veterans” event in the Grand Hall. Russ Jackson photo

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The Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco sees an F Line historic trolley about to pass by on this November day. Russ Jackson photo

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The SMART project in Marin and Sonoma Counties is under construction, as seen in this new ballast at the Hamilton Parkway crossing in Novato in November, 2014. Russ Jackson photo

Rail Photos

RailPAC rail PHOTOS of the month (October, 2014)

Here are this month’s photos by RailPAC photographers!
Click on each photo to see it full size!
Contributions to this page are welcome. Send your jpg rail photos to Russ Jackson, RailPAC Photo Editor, at

1. (of 5)
This was the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Caltrain Baby Bullet trains, which was held the end of October at the 4th & Townsend Caltrain station in San Francisco. Caltrain Ridership has more than doubled in that ten years. Congresswoman Jackie Speir is speaking in this photo. Seated in the front row are State Senator Mark Leno (left) and Caltrain JPB Chairman and former SF Supervisor Tom Nolan (right). (Photo by Bruce Jenkins, who represented RailPAC and retired JPB Director/RailPAC VP North Art Lloyd.)

Strandberg trip 7-2014 Tucson trolley 2 car 107 closeup
Tucson, Arizona’s modern streetcar, not technically light rail, seems off to a good start. Tony Haswell writes from Tucson that “ridership is close to projections and there have been no significant operational glitches. Tucson lacks either space in existing arterials or unused RR rights of way for provision of true light rail at a reasonable cost.” (Photo by Richard Strandberg.)

Noel 10-18-2014 Chula Vista trolley w old trainset
A San Diego Blue Line Trolley approaches the E Street station in Chula Vista on the original line, and using one of the original trainsets, on October 18, 2014. (Photo by Noel Braymer.)

Noel 10-18-2014 San Dielgo trolley new trainset
On the same day, October 18, a San Diego Green Line Trolley is at the Washington Street station in San Diego using the new cars. (Photo by Noel Braymer.)

Anthony trip 10-2014  Las Vegas train station
This is where the Amtrak station in Las Vegas, Nevada, was when the Desert Wind train was still running. A freight train can be seen passing on the Union Pacific tracks at the right. Ridership to/from Las Vegas was always strong for that train, by passengers going north as well as south. (Photo taken October 6, 2014 by Anthony Lee.)

Rail Photos

RailPAC rail PHOTOS of the month (September, 2014)

Here are this month’s photos by RailPAC photographers from everywhere!
Click on each photo to see it full size!
Contributions to this page are welcome. Send your jpg rail photos to Russ Jackson, RailPAC Photo Editor, at

Amtrak’s northbound Vermonter, which travels the NEC to that state from Washington DC daily, is arriving at the BWI Marshall station on August 8, 2014, where the RailPAC photographer will board it for his short trip. He will change trains in Philadelphia to reach his destination in Harrisburg, PA. (Mike Palmer photo.)
The New York Central Railroad Museum is located in Elkhart, Indiana, just east of South Bend. (Anthony Lee photo.)
Strandberg trip 3-2014 Austin station #22 loading w pvt car
Amtrak conductor scans “tickets” for passengers boarding the northbound Texas Eagle, train #22, on March 5, 2014, at Austin, Texas. A private car is on the adjacent track. The Eagle will depart to the left. (Richard Strandberg photo.)
Noel 9-2014 New Bakery at LAUSA new Armenian bakery has opened in Los Angeles Union Station, in the former Union Bagel location. The next opening will be the former Fred Harvey restaurant which will open again, under new ownership, soon. (Noel Braymer photo.)
Noel 9-2014 Guess WhoGuess who is buying a Metrolink ticket from the center machine at Los Angeles Union Station on September 19, 2014? That’s RailPAC’s former Executive Director, Ric Silver, who now lives in Southern California. (Noel Braymer photo.)

Rail Photos

Rail Photos of the Month: August 2014

Here are this month’s photos by RailPAC photographers.
NINE (9) of them this time from everywhere!
Click on each photo to see it full size!
Contributions to this page are welcome. Send your jpg rail photos to Russ Jackson, RailPAC Photo Editor, at

2014-7-29 Texas rail pics and Hi-levels 7
Ever wonder where Amtrak’s ex-Santa Fe “Hi Level” cars are? Some are in Chicago, owned by Corridor Capital for possible use on their new contract to operate the Hoosier State. The cars above are on a privately owned track across the street from the main entrance to the Texas State Fairgrounds at Fair Park, near Dallas. They can be seen from the DART Green Line. Russ Jackson photo.

2014-7-29 Texas rail pics and Hi-levels 6
Which cars are at Fair Park? Here is a closeup of the nearly dozen cars that have been stored there for some years in anticipation of being eventually used. Russ Jackson photo.

Strandberg trip 7-2014 Tucson trolley 1 Congress & Stone
Tucson, Arizona, began revenue service on its new SunLink Streetcar line on July 26. This view, looking northwest, is car 103 at the historic corner of Congress Street and Stone Avenue downtown. The famous Fox Tucson Theater is a destination in the background. Richard Strandberg photo.

Strandberg trip 7-2014 Tucson trolley 4 end of the line
The end of the line for the Tucson 4-mile street car line, near the University of Arizona Hospital, is positioned so the system can be expanded. Richard Strandberg photo.

Amtrak Cascades train 501 is arriving a few minutes late at the Tukwila, WA, station on July 18, 2014. These platforms are being rebuilt. Mike Palmer photo.

The Portland, OR, section of the Empire Builder follows the north bank of the Columbia River. This picture shows the train at the Wishram, WA, station on July 11, 2014. Mike Palmer photo.

Noel 7-12-2014 Sacramento station bus hub
Amtrak Thruway buses provide a popular connection to Amtrak corridor trains in all parts of the state. This is the Sacramento station bus hub. Noel Braymer photo.

2014-7-29 Texas rail pics and Hi-levels 2
The Denton County, TX, A-Train service connects that county with the Dallas DART Green line. This is a mid-morning southbound DCTA A-Train at the Old Town Lewisville station. Russ Jackson photo.

2014-7-29 Texas rail pics and Hi-levels 3
This DCTA “Connect” bus picks up A-Train passengers at the Lewisville station, with its route going to Vista Ridge Mall. On this day two passengers boarded the bus. Russ Jackson photo.

Rail Photos

RailPAC rail PHOTOS of the month (June, 2014)

Here are this month’s photos by RailPAC photographers. Click on each photo to see it full size! Contributions to this page are welcome. Send your jpeg rail photos to Russ Jackson, RailPAC Photo Editor, at

Noel 6-27-2014 trip Atk 156 at Anaheim
Amtrak Surfliner train departing the current Anaheim station on June 27 with “historic” locomotive 156. (Noel Braymer photo)

Strandberg trip 2-2014 Pensacola station
This is the lonely Pensacola, Florida, station that was once a stop for the Sunset Limited extension from New Orleans to Orlando but was discontinued after hurricane Katrina in 2005. The station is still there on March 3, 2014, and keeps waiting for resumption of the service. (Richard Strandberg photo)

Noel 6-7-2014 trip LAUS new signage
New track number signs at Los Angeles Union Station. The old drumhead numbers for the tracks are gone. (Noel Braymer photo)

These will be the platforms at Azusa Avenue for the new extension of the Gold Line. The third track beyond the platforms is the BNSF freight right-of-way, formerly the Santa Fe’s Pasadena subdivision. The white building is the old Santa Fe depot. Will this and other historic buildings be replaced? (Photo taken on June 4, 2014, from the new Target store balcony by Don Bing)

This is the infamous “Tower 55″ at the junction of the BNSF and the UP in Ft. Worth, Texas, in a photo taken from the window of the southbound Texas Eagle in February, 2011. The train is crossing the UP tracks after having waited 20 minutes for a freight train to clear. A big construction project is underway in 2014 to improve this site and cut the number of delays to all trains. The Texas Eagle has been rerouted this summer, with buses taking passengers to/from Ft. Worth from the south, including transfers from the Sunset Limited. (Russ Jackson archive photo)

Rail Photos

Rail Photos of the Month: May 2014

Here are this month’s photos by RailPAC photographers. Click on each photo to see it full size! Contributions to this page are welcome. Send your jpeg rail photos to Russ Jackson, RailPAC Photo Editor, at

THIS MONTH WE ARE SHOWING TEN (10!!) PHOTOS, including Art Lloyd’s honor by RailPAC; Train Day at LAUS, Santa Barbara, and Emeryville; the new Amtrak St. Paul station; and a shot for RailPAC by Carl Morrison from Fullerton RR Days. Other articles posted on this site this month have also contained interesting photos, such as at San Juan Capistrano, Florida, the Coast Line, and a full LAUS Train Day report.

On Tuesday May 20th, the RailPAC Board honored Art Lloyd for his service not only to the group as VP North, but for the totality of his career in passenger rail at a luncheon at the Trellis Restaurant in Menlo Park. Art, at the right in the photo, was joined by many current and former RailPAC Board members, including (left to right) Marcia Johnston, Bill Kerby, and Bruce Jenkins. (RailPAC photo.)

RailPAC President Paul Dyson, left, presented Art Lloyd with a plaque honoring his service. Art, who would be 89 in a few days, appreciated the photo on the plaque of his favorite train, Western Pacific’s original “California Zephyr.” (Bruce Jenkins photo.)

This is the RailPAC-NARP table at Los Angeles Union Station on L.A.’s Train Day, also the 75th Anniversary of LAUS, May 3, 2014. In the center is NARP’s Matt Melzer, and RailPAC Associate Director Mike Barnbaum, who spoke with the visitors about passenger rail advocacy. The photographer also spoke with the NARP people about contacting legislators. (Mike Palmer photo.)

The 75th Anniversary of Los Angeles Union Station included performances in the huge ticket room at the front of the station, once used by the three founding railroads, AT&SF, Southern Pacific, and Union Pacific. The historic ticket windows are shown on the right side of the photo. (Alexander Friedman photo)

Train Day Santa Barbara 2014 Dyson photo
This large crowd is waiting for the southbound special Surfliner to Carpinteria which was part of Train Day at Santa Barbara, which was sponsored by RailPAC and led by RailPAC Director, Dennis Story. (Paul Dyson photo.)

These are the Amtrak California Comet Cars that run on the San Joaquin trains. This southbound train was at the Emeryville station for National Train Day, May 10, 2014. (Bruce Jenkins photo.)

If this photo looks familiar, it is the same scene as in photo 3 above, but inside the Emeryville Train Day event a week later. Matt Melzer is in the center, continuing to speak with the northern California visitors about rail passenger advocacy. (Bruce Jenkins photo.)

Minneapolis station closed photo
The longtime Amtrak Midway station in Minneapolis, Minnesota, closed with the last train, the eastbound Empire Builder running late on May 7, 2014. (Andy Selden photo.)

The first use of the new St. Paul, Minnesota, Union Depot started the night of May 7 with the arrival of the westbound Empire Builder. In this May 20 photo passengers were waiting for the chronically late train #8. Access from this waiting room is through an unmarked door, and down two floors. Agents expected 54 passengers on-off that day. (Andy Selden photo.)

St. Paul, Minnesota, Union Depot has this small enclosed lounge for sleeping car passengers, but it is at least 100 yards from the one Amtrak gate. (Andy Selden photo.)

Making sure we show a full train set this month, we are pleased to show Amfleet equipped Pacific Surfliner 572 with locomotive 145 on the point passing Fullerton, California’s very active Amtrak station on May 4, 2014 at about 11:40 a.m. during Railroad Days 2014 presented by the Southern California Railway Plaza Association. (Photo by Carl Morrison,