Passenger Train Service To The Coachella Valley

RailPAC Policy, June, 2006.  Story by Paul Dyson, RailPAC President — RailPAC has long advocated the extension of Southern California regional passenger services to the Coachella Valley, and indeed into the Imperial Valley and to Yuma and Phoenix. The line is an Amtrak route and so the tracks are maintained to passenger standards. However, the tracks are owned by Union Pacific Railroad, a publicly held corporation whose primary purpose is to make a profit for its owners operating freight services. Any proposal must take this into account.RailPAC strongly believes any new passenger rail link must be properly planned and operated. An ill conceived, poorly executed service will not attract riders and will not survive. RailPAC advocates the following criteria should be met prior to implementation:

  • The line must have sufficient capacity and the host railroad must be contracted to operate the trains punctually. We believe this can be accomplished by adding an additional track or tracks, paid for by a public/private partnership between Union Pacific and the State of California. Freight trains would also use the new trackage as long as they do not delay the passenger service.
  • There must be sufficient frequency of trains to provide an attractive service. We are against one train a day schedules as experience shows they are unsuccessful. We think this corridor needs at least three trains a day to begin.
  • The proposed trains must be integrated with the Southern California Regional Rail system, currently operated by Amtrak and Metrolink. It should be possible to buy a single ticket and connect with trains to San Diego, San Luis Obispo and the 70 plus stations served by Metrolink and the Amtrak Surfliner.
  • The service should be efficiently run with the aim of recovering 100% of operating costs within three years of start up.
  • Local involvement is essential. Riverside County, and the local towns and cities must be involved in locating stations, and setting up shuttle services, taxis, parking, and refreshments at stations. Local business people should be encouraged to provide as many of these services as possible. The trains should be advertised locally with specific fare and schedule information for each station.

Eventually we’d like to see the service extended to Brawley/Calexico and Yuma and Phoenix.

See the June 3 RailPAC Meeting Report for more information on this service.

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