Capitol Corridor JPA Board Meeting Report

Sacramento City Hall — Reported by Russ Jackson

  • CCJPB Officials Visit The UP HQ In Omaha
  • Expansion To 32 Daily Trains In August
  • RailPAC Urges Passage Of Legislation For More Rail Funds
  • Good News For Oakland To San Jose Riders
  • CCJPB’S Gene Skorpowski Writes To Riders About ‘On Time’

Eastbound Capitol train 724 has just crossed the Sacramento River bridge and is entering the Sacramento station 20 minutes late on Saturday, February 25, 2006. (RailPAC Photo by Russ Jackson)

The CCJPB met in the new Sacramento City Hall for the first time. City Councilman Steve Cohn, a CCJPB Director, welcomed the group to the 200,000 square foot building, constructed behind the 100 year old original building which has also been restored. He explained that the new building sits on the site of an 8-10,000 year old indian village, which was not known until excavation began.

  1. CCJPB Chairman, and Sacramento County Supervisor, Roger Dickinson, reported on the visit by several officials to the offices of the Union Pacific in Omaha in the third week of January. Placer County, which is home to the UP’s Roseville Yard and which is anxious for additional Capitol train service up to Auburn, sent several representatives with the group including Assemblyman Tim Leslie. Among others, they saw the UP’s Executive VP-Operations Dennis Duffy. They discussed the need for additional trains east of Sacramento. Mr. Duffy expressed concerns his company has about the effect on the on time performance and capacity issues with additional passenger trains on that route. The group reached a “concurrence” to pursue a third track from Sacramento to Roseville, and that engineering assessments will be done as soon as possible for a dedicated passenger-only track, paid for mostly by government funding. Also, the Feds have money available for track relocation, and the UP will take that into consideration. As for the on-time issues, and they got worse after this visit, the dispatch problems affect the UP’s freight as well as the passenger trains. The UP is aware of it and working on it. Mr. Dickinson said they were “useful meetings; everyone was honest with each other. Mr. Duffy has responded in writing acknowledging the discussions. We will have a continuing dialog.” The CCJPB’s philosophy is to work “with” the railroad, and not be aggressive against it despite all the problems.
  2. Mr. Dickinson also reported on the January visit of Amtrak Acting President/CEO David Hughes, who saw many state legislators and was very positive about what he had seen in California during his stay here. Mr. Cohn said Hughes “held out California as a model for state-federal relationships.”
  3. The FY 2007-2008 Business Plan Update preliminary draft was approved, subject to further input from the public and final passage at the next meeting. Public meetings will be held on the trains in March; more people attend these than when evening meetings are held off the trains. The plan calls for maintaining the present 24 train service with increases to San Jose and to Roseville/Auburn. However, it was announced that it appears likely that current revenue increases above the state’s allocation will allow expansion of Sacramento to Oakland to 32 weekday trains on or about August 28, 2006, and additional frequencies to San Jose. Schedules are being prepared to do so! Also, for the first time in over two years additional STIP funds are expected to fund some or all of the CCJPA’s capital projects which are designed to increase reliability, safety, and ride quality. They will also build on the success of their award-winning marketing campaigns/programs to raise the awareness of the Capitol Corridor “brand.”
  4. A revised policy on station and train service principles which mandates minimum daily average of 15 riders per train by the third year of service was approved. Three current stations do not meet that requirement, but with the completion of track work south of Oakland those stations are expected to increase ridership soon. It also states that any extension of train service outside the current service area (meaning to Reno and/or Redding) “shall not drain resources that would prevent the CCJPA from implementing it core service expansion goals.”
  5. The board reviewed current state and federal legislation that would affect the Capitols. The Governor’s “Strategic Growth Plan,” AB 1165, is a $26B bonding proposal to provide funding for infrastructure projects. It contains identified projects for each of the state corridors. Senator Perata’s version, SB 1024 calls for $12B without specific projects, and Senator Nunez has SB1165 will finance various unspecified projects. A conference committee is meeting to bring them together. RailPAC Executive Director, Richard Silver, spoke at this meeting about his visits to various legislators expressing the need for the additional funds for rail projects. He hoped the CCJPB members would also go back and “get your lobbyists and friends to keep hammering on the legislature to combine these proposals.” In other good news, it appears the “onerous” provision of the Amtrak funding bill that would restrict the offering of discounted fares, such as are offered on the Capitols, San Joaquins, Surfliners, etc., was interpreted as being NOT applicable to corridor trains, so “the issue is behind us,” according to Gene Skoropowski.
  6. In the Managing Director’s Report, Gene Skoropowski had some good news. “The programmed track improvement work between Oakland and San Jose was completed ‘this morning’ and a reasonable level of on-time performance has been restored for our passengers. There are no more slow orders as of today!” The effect of this work had been devastating to the reliability of the trains, with OTP being around 70% through all this work. “Despite that,” Mr. Skoropowski said, “we have managed to hold on to most riders and significantly improved our financial performance” to a farebox return of over 50% for the first time, and, “If on-time performance can recover and improve now, we will still have a good chance of delivering record high statistics again this year.” In a lengthy “from me to you” email letter to riders Mr. Skoropowski explained the difficulties of the past few months and said that they will be offering regular riders a substantial discount on multi-ride tickets for an upcoming month, most likely April. These letters go a long way to help keep riders informed and understanding that the difficulties are being constantly pursued.

The next CCJPB meeting will be April 19, 2006, 10 AM, at Suisun City Hall.

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