Events, Steel Wheels Conference

Registration for the RailPAC Annual Meeting on October 16th is Now Available!

Registration for the Steel Wheels Conference on October 16 is now available. Additional details and the registration link are available on the Events tab. As noted earlier, the in-person meeting has been canceled. The 2021 conference will be a Zoom meeting.

CITIZENS FOR RAIL CALIFORNIA dba RAIL PASSENGER ASSOCIATION OF CALIFORNIA

NOTICE OF ANNUAL MEMBERS MEETING

Date:  Saturday October 16, 2021

Time:   10 a.m.   (Formal business meeting scheduled after the presentation)

Format:  Zoom meeting (see below for registration and invitation details)

Agenda:

Welcome

In remembrance of Bruce Jenkins and Marcia Johnston

The 2021 Annual Meeting is being held in the memory of these two dedicated RailPAC members

Guest Speaker:                  Jim Allison, Manager of Planning, Capitol Corridor JPA 

Business Meeting:           To conduct the regular business of the organization:
To elect the Board of Directors.
To receive reports from the President and Secretary/Treasurer

Any other business

Meeting Registration: Register at http://railpac2021.eventbrite.com/      

Upon Zoom registration, the invitation will be sent to the registrant’s email address. Please also check your Spam folder if it does not arrive. Please be advised last-minute registrations may be affected by a Zoom meeting cap.

Meeting Invitation: A day or two before the meeting, those who registered will be sent a Zoom invitation for connection on the day of the meeting.

Meeting Protocol: On Saturday October 16, for meeting security purposes, we will be using a “waiting room.” As a result, there will be a short delay between the time of your electronic connection with the meeting and your entrance into the meeting. Please mute your microphone upon meeting entry.

Commentary, eNewsletter

Update on Noel Braymer’s rail ENews

“As many of you have noticed, Noel Braymer’s ENews is no longer showing up every Monday in our inboxes.   I wanted to give everyone an overview of the status of this popular information source.  Over the past two years changes with the web vendors and the functionality of their products used to produce ENews combined with increases in the number of publications with “paywalls” has made it increasingly difficult and challenging to produce ENews using its traditional format.  Noel tried very hard to make it work but things became increasingly unworkable. As a result we are taking a step-back to reevaluate the ways in which current news can be provided and products that might be available to achieve that goal at a reasonable cost.  At present, there is no timeline for a replacement. So on behalf of myself, the RailPAC Board and all ENews readers I wish to thank Noel for all his hard work over the past decade in developing, editing and distributing ENews – including during his trips to Ireland.  Thank you Noel.”

-Steve Roberts, RailPAC President

Antelope Valley Line, LA Metro, Metrolink/SCCRA, SCORE Program

RailPAC submits comment letter on Draft EIR for Antelope Valley Line Capacity and Service Improvements Program

Brian Balderrama

Senior Director

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

One Gateway Plaza

Mail Stop: 99-17-2

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Email: AVL@metro.net

August 22, 2021

Subject: Public Comment Letter on Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Antelope Valley Line Capacity and Service Improvements Program

Dear Mr. Balderrama,

The Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC) is a two-state organization with membership throughout California and Nevada. RailPAC is a strong advocate for an expanded comprehensive public transportation network serving the entire state of California as well as Nevada. RailPAC is an all-volunteer non-profit passenger rail advocacy group, founded in 1978.

RailPAC fully supports the three capital projects in Antelope Valley Line (AVL) Capacity and Service Improvements Program Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR):

  • Balboa Double Track Extension located in the City of Los Angeles
  • Canyon Siding Extension located in the City of Santa Clarita
  • Lancaster Terminal Improvements located in the City of Lancaster

The three projects assessed in the EIR will provide the capacity required to allow Metrolink to increase AVL service to all-day 30-minute bi-directional headways between Los Angeles Union Station and the Santa Clarita Valley and up to 60-minute bi-directional headways between the Santa Clarita Valley and the Lancaster Terminal by the year 2028.

Upon completion, these three projects will benefit thousands of rail passengers each day on the Metrolink AVL- enabling a safer, more reliable and more frequent passenger train service, improving on-time performance and operational flexibility, while reducing the risk of train delays and operational shutdowns during routine maintenance and incidents on the AVL. 

Sincerely,

Brian Yanity

Vice President- South and Board Member,

Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC)

Fullerton, California

Amtrak Long Distance, Arizona, Bay Area, Caltrain, Commentary, Editorials, Electrification, High Speed Rail, LA Metro, LOSSAN, Metrolink/SCCRA, Nevada, Rail Photos, Rail Technology, SCORE Program, Steel Wheels Conference, Technical and Rolling Stock

Steel Wheels, 3rd Quarter 2021 Issue Available Online

Download the pdf of Steel Wheels, 3rd Quarter 2021 by clicking here.

In this issue:

  • Hydrogen and battery-electric rail propulsion
  • Dumbarton rail corridor
  • Amtrak dining
  • Amtrak to Glacier Park, group trip report
  • RailPAC California infrastructure priorities
  • Arizona News
  • Nevada News
  • RailPAC board member Marcia Johnston remembered
  • and more!

Commentary, Electrification, High Speed Rail, Rail Technology, Technical and Rolling Stock

RailPAC sends letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in response to letter from California Assembly Speaker Rendon on High Speed Rail Settlement Agreement

The Honorable Pete Buttigieg
Secretary of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, DC 20590

July 7, 2021

RE: Response to California Legislature’s Electrification Technology Letter

Dear Secretary Buttigieg,

The Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC) is an all-volunteer
bi-state organization that has advocated for the improvement of commuter and intercity
passenger rail service since 1978. Many RailPAC members are veterans of the railroad
industry or have considerable knowledge and experience of energy application and
transmission.

Recently the Speaker of the California Assembly and several co-signers sent you a letter
regarding the FY2010 High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Settlement Agreement.
The letter from the Speaker argued that battery and hydrogen technology make overhead
power delivery obsolete and that the Settlement Agreement should not restrict funds
solely to an overhead power system. In addition,that letter contained optimistic
assumptions and omissions which we would like to highlight.

While there is potentially a role for battery and fuel cell technology in rail transportation,
it is clear that neither hydrogen fuel cell nor batteries can deliver enough power to
operate a high-speed train. The key issue is the impact of weight and speed on the power
requirements.The critical advantage to overhead catenary electrification is the ability to
“offload” the power source to stationary power sources. This “off-loading” avoids
significant vehicle weight by eliminating thousands of pounds of fuel cell, hydrogen fuel
or batteries. Simply put, batteries and hydrogen fuel cells will never be light enough, or
have the on-board energy storage density to match the power efficiency of overhead
electrification for high speed rail operations. Overhead electrification has proven reliable
and is safe and cost effective for high-speed rail systems around the world.

Some members of RailPAC work on the design and building of prototype battery electric
locomotives while others own hydrogen powered automobiles and are involved in
advocating for adoption of hydrogen power. They were uniformly critical of the
Speaker’s proposal. They note that battery and hydrogen technologies are still unproven
both from the technical and economic perspective. There are scalability issues around the
production and distribution of green hydrogen which will require a significant investment
to become viable.Overhead electrification is “off the shelf” technology with decades of
proven service and continuous technological improvements.

Finally, given the lack of technical awareness and the lack of due diligence in the
Speaker’s letter,one can only presume the real intent of the letter was to sow confusion
in order to delay the project further,adding costs. Certain members of the Assembly
hope to divert funds to projects in Southern California seemingly unaware that there is
planned or ongoing investment of over $30 Billion in funded rail projects in the region.
Neither Southern California public agencies nor the construction industry has the
immediate capacity to take on additional large scale projects even if the funding were
made available.

RailPAC remains committed to the California High-Speed Rail project Early Interim
Service as the most viable path to the phase one high-speed network and the only viable
alternative to increased highway and airport investment. RailPAC sees no need to alter
the existing language in the Settlement Agreement. Thank you for your strong support
for passenger rail.

Sincerely,

Steve Roberts, President

Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC)

cc: Chief Counsel, Federal Railroad Administration

Commentary

Steel Wheels, 2nd Quarter 2021 issue available online

Download the pdf of Steel Wheels, 2nd Quarter 2021 by clicking here.

In this issue:

  • Orange County LOSSAN rail corridor improvement projects
  • Public transportation in a post-pandemic world, part 2
  • Trip report: Ride on the California Zephyr to Utah
  • Super Chief recollection
  • Does Ventura County need Metrolink?
  • Bruce Jenkins and Jim Mills remembered
  • and more!

Electrification, High Speed Rail, Rail Technology, Technical and Rolling Stock

RailPAC submits letter to Speaker Rendon, asking him to reconsider anti-electrification position in letter to Secretary Buttigieg

The Honorable Anthony Rendon

California State Assembly, 63rd District

State Capitol

Room 219

Sacramento, CA 95814

July 2, 2021

Subject: Please reconsider position stated in letter sent to Secretary Buttigieg on California HSR

Dear Speaker Rendon,

I hope that you will reconsider your position on amending the Settlement Agreement between the California High Speed Rail Authority with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

You sent a letter Tuesday June 29, 2021, signed onto by seventeen of your Assembly Democratic Caucus colleagues, to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. It asked that California to use the money to build California High-Speed Rail without overhead electrification. The letter argues that improving battery and hydrogen technology will make overhead wire obsolete, implying that the Federal grant money shouldn’t be used for that purpose.

Batteries and hydrogen fuel cells will never be light enough, or have the energy density, to power high speed trains. It is the laws of physics that prevent these technologies from ever advancing enough to power a high-speed train from Anaheim to San Francisco.  Overhead wire electrification is proven to be economical and reliable for high speed rail around the world. It is the best technology available, and will remain so. Battery-only and hydrogen trains have not even been proven to be reliable and safe- there are only a handful of prototypes of either type.  I know this because I have actually helped design and build a prototype battery-electric locomotive- it is fine for local use within a railyard, but it cannot go very far. However, we do know that these technologies incur significant losses in energy efficiency, will add significant weight, and will add costs.

The letter sent to Secretary Buttigieg also contains multiple falsehoods, as detailed in a June 30, 2021 editorial by Roger Rudick titled “Own it, L.A. Politicians–You’re Trying to Kill California’s Bullet Train” on the cal.streetsblog.org website. Can you please explain why you are taking such an anti-electrification position, in an open letter to the Biden Administration, based on false information?  The timing of such a falsehood-laden letter to the Secretary of Transportation could hardly be worse- California needs to show resolve and consistency when dealing with the Federal government on this vital infrastructure project. The Biden Administration wants to firmly support the project, and all that you are doing with this letter is sowing confusion and demonstrating technical ignorance about the state of rail technology. I would think California Democrats would be all in to get at least a test track and an electric high speed train set up and running by 2024 so that President Biden, and the state of California, can do a victory lap.

We cannot afford to further delay the California High Speed Rail project, and its electrification of the initial operating segment in the Central Valley. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Brian Yanity

Vice President- South and Board Member,

Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC)

Amtrak Long Distance, Arizona, Coachella/Imperial Valleys, Commentary

RailPAC submits public comment letter on Coachella Valley Rail Tier 1 EIS/EIR

Click here for more information about the Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service project, currently under environmental review by Riverside County Transportation Commission, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

Amanda Ciampollio

Environmental Protection Specialist

Federal Railroad Administration

1200 New Jersey Avenue SE

Washington, DC 20590

June 27, 2021

Subject: Comments on Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail, Draft Tier 1/Program EIS/EIR

Dear Ms. Ciampollio:

The Rail Passengers Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC) is pleased to offer these comments to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Division of Rail and Mass Transportation on the Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service Program May 2021Tier 1/Program Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report.  RailPAC is a 501c3 volunteer group of railroad professionals and advocates that has campaigned for improved personal mobility in California and the west since 1978.

RailPAC applauds this effort to advance additional intercity rail service between Los Angeles Union Station (“LAUS”) and the Coachella Valley. This new rail service has long been a goal of our organization, the California State Rail Plan, and Riverside County, and has been studied at least seven times by public agencies since the early 1990s. The time for action is now.

We recognize that this draft Tier 1/Program EIS/EIR is one step of a multi-phased iterative process, and that details such as passenger station locations will be evaluated and selected in the subsequent Tier 2/Project-level analyses. We look forward to reviewing this Tier 2 analysis. RailPAC also wants to emphasize how this project can open the door for future projects and goals much greater than the proposed new passenger rail service of two daily round-trip LAUS-Coachella Valley trains evaluated by the Tier 1 EIR.

  1. Third Mainline Track from Colton to Coachella

RailPAC fully supports the main feature of the preferred Build Alternative Option 1: the construction of a new third mainline track along 76 miles of the Union Pacific (UP) Railroad’s existing Yuma Subdivision between Colton and Coachella. Given the capital costs of the third mainline track proposed from Colton to the Coachella Valley, RailPAC wants to emphasize the variety of benefits to passenger and freight rail that are possible with this investment in additional track capacity. Any proposed service in the Coachella Valley Rail (CVR) corridor, and the capital improvements associated with it, must be recognized as a building block for future expansion. The initiatives described below would add significant public value to any capital grant request for a Colton-Coachella third mainline track:

  • Greater frequency and speed of CVR passenger trains. Improvements to the level of CVR service evaluated by this Tier 1/Program EIS/EIR recommended by RailPAC, would require and be enabled by the third mainline track: far greater frequency (minimum of 6 round-trips per day, preferably 12 or more) and higher speed (a goal of at least 60 mph average speed, up from the roughly 45 mph currently proposed). Fast and frequent service, competitive with driving, is essential to attract a rail ridership significant enough to provide major public benefits of reduced traffic congestion and pollution on the I-10 corridor.
  • Daily Amtrak Sunset Limited. Increase of the frequency of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited from tri-weekly to daily service has long been a goal of RailPAC. Of the multiple congestion bottlenecks along the Sunset Limited route between LAUS and New Orleans, which need to be relieved to allow daily service of this long-distance Amtrak train, the San Gorgonio Pass/Coachella Valley segment in Southern California is among the most important. There has long been wide-ranging support in the Coachella Valley for a daily Sunset Limited. Indio has been pushing for the Sunset Limited to return service to their community as well; and a new station built for the CVR service could also serve Amtrak trains. A daily Sunset Limited could complement the regional CVR service.  One of the markets served by Amtrak long-distance trains are shorter distance corridors. The Sunset Limited can add an extra schedule at off-peak times to add options and customer value to the CVR. The current schedule of the Sunset Limited which serves the Palm Springs station late in the evening/early in the morning almost certainly offers such an opportunity.
  • Benefits to UP freight rail. Steady growth of UP freight traffic on the Yuma Subdivision is projected to increase to 88 daily one-way freight trips on the Colton-Coachella segment by 2044 (pg. 2-26), more than double the 2018 average of 42 one-way freight trains per day (pg. 2-18). While UP has invested in many track capacity improvements on the Sunset Route over the years, one of its chokepoints remains the San Gorgonio Pass/Coachella Valley. With the new third main track, UP could run more conventional long-distance freight trains on the Sunset Route, and future short and medium-haul freight trains from LA/Inland Empire to the Coachella Valley and Arizona could be justified on public benefit of getting trucks off of I-10.
  • New California-Arizona regional passenger service. Amtrak’s May 2021 Connects US ‘Corridor Vision’ proposed one daily roundtrip of a LA-Arizona regional service, between LAUS, the Coachella Valley, Yuma, Phoenix and Tucson. For the long term, a daily Sunset Limited on its own is not sufficient to be the prime mover of rail passengers between LA, Coachella Valley, Phoenix and Tucson. RailPAC recommends that dedicated Southern California-Arizona corridor passenger trains should start with a minimum service of two daily trains each way, morning and evening from LA and Phoenix/Tucson (further complementing other future LAUS-Coachella Valley and Tucson-Phoenix trains).
  • Imperial Valley extension. Some trains of theLAUS-Coachella Valley service should extend to Brawley, El Centro and Calexico in the Imperial Valley (as described RCTC’s 1991 Los Angeles – Coachella Valley – Imperial County Intercity Rail Feasibility Study). The combined population of the bi-national region of the Imperial County/Mexicali Municipality is over 1.2 million people, providing a valuable international connection opportunity and ridership driver for CVR service.

2. Noise and Vibration of Passenger Rail Operations

In relation to Section 3.6 (Mitigation Strategy LU-3 “land use consistency”, pg. 3.6-42), RailPAC recommends that sound walls and sound-dampening ballast in railbed should be implemented where the track passes close to residential areas, such as in Loma Linda.

Sincerely,

Brian B. Yanity

Vice President- South and Board Member,

Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC)