Capitol Corridor JPA Board Meeting Report

Suisun City Hall — Reported by Russ Jackson — The good news is the expansion to 16 daily round trips between Sacramento and Oakland will take place August 28.CCJPB Chairman, Roger Dickenson, opened the meeting with comments about the Bond issue package which the Governor and the Legislature have placed on the November ballot, and reflected on how “Much will be said over the next months about how important this measure is.” If the voters approve it, $400 million will be designated for the three state rail corridors with $125 million for new rolling stock which will “allow us to increase capacity on these routes, by adding cars to the existing trainsets.”

  1. The board quickly approved an updated funding plan for the Oakland-San Jose Track Improvement project based on a revised budget from the Union Pacific Railroad. These new funds, $650,000, were available through cost savings and increased revenues this year. Also approved was a pilot project to place security cameras on the Capitol Corridor/San Joaquin trainsets. The estimated cost of the full project is $500,000.
  2. Adoption of the CCJPA Policy Statement on station and train service brought a lively debate, with a list of standards that must be met for new stations and retention of service to existing stations. Managing Director, Gene Skoropowski, emphasized that this policy statement “focus is on maintaining the existing corridor first, but not ignoring future expansion.” The statement includes such items as, “Minimum daily average ridership of 15 boarding or alightings per train within the third year of CCJPA train service,” “Any extension of CCJPA service outside the Auburn-San Jose corridor shall not drain resources that would prevent the CCJPA from implementing is core service expansion goals,” etc. Board member Jim Spering stated that reliability of service is the #1 concern. Member Steve Cohn asked, “How do we reduce running time on the corridor,” particularly if new stations are added. Mr. Skoropowski replied that reliability continues to be the top priority, and “We are focused on that, also, and each time a new station is proposed we have protected the existing riders so they don’t get longer times.” Other completed projects have allowed a 20 minute reduction in running time. The proposed Fairfield/Vacaville station with its new design will mitigate any increase in the schedule because of the elimination of a grade crossing at that site and other factors. Mr. Cohn added that Sacramento is looking at adding a station at Swanton, five miles east of the current station, in order to reduce the impact on the present downtown facility which is very short of parking spaces. Mr. Dickenson said he thought “we must start thinking about express service.” The policy was adopted.
  3. The CCJPA is an interested participant in planning Caltrain’s Dumbarton Rail Service, which will operate a second transbay train service of six round trip commuter trains via a renovated Dumbarton Rail Bridge between a reconfigured Union City BART Intermodal station and San Francisco/San Jose. Segment “G” of this project includes a new junction of the Niles Subdivision in Hayward and a new connection to the Centerville Line east of the Fremont-Centerville Capitol Corridor/ACE station. The CCJPA agreed to pay Caltrain $9.5 million in Regional Measure 2 funds for planning this segment. Caltrain has begun an environmental review of the entire project, which RailPAC has learned is estimated to take 2 ½ years.
  4. The current “Wi-Fi” project, with internet capability on three pool cars, is successful and plans are underway for an eventual expansion to the whole fleet. Currently these cars are all shared with the San Joaquins, so they are not available all day at the same time. Riders on both routes found they like having the service, but do not like finding the next time they ride that the car is not on their train. Full system deployment can begin in the 4th Quarter of 2007. The CCJPA is a pioneer in this development, and other agencies are watching for its success.
  5. In his Managing Director’s report Mr. Skoropowski reported there have been management changes at the Union Pacific which have resulted in steadily improving on-time reliability, which has brought ridership and revenue growth. Ridership for the past year is about 1,200,000, significantly higher than the past five years. Many trains are regularly running at 50-60% capacity. After the new service begins on August 28, the next expansion will come with the addition of additional cars to each train, up to 7 or 8 per trainset. The system “operating ratio” now is at 47.7% farebox recovery, “the highest in our history.” That can be partially attributed to “our cost-controlled ‘fixed price agreement’ with Amtrak.” Mechanical failures to Amtrak locomotives have again caused the on-time performance to be low. Also, Mr. Skoropowski introduced a new element has become a problem. Increased shipping through the Martinez strait under the 1920’s rail drawbridge has increased substantially, as has rail traffic across there. There is now only a 5 foot clearance on each side for the largest ships that go under that old bridge. Discussions have begun about replacing it.
  6. The CCJPA was awarded a “Compass Award of Merit” for marketing from the Transportaion Marketing Communications Association. In the photo are (front row center) Linsey Ettlin (left) and Priscilla Kaludgian (right) of CCJPA accepting the award. (Photo courtesy Kristie Ruiz, CCJPA)

  7. RailPAC member Mike Barnbaum provided information from the Sacramento RT about the progress of that city’s Amtrak Depot Improvement Project. Improved lighting, a pickup/dropoff area, a shift of the 5th Street entrance lanes, and modifying the front plaza to add a taxi area are in the works. The opening of light rail into the Sacramento Valley Station has been delayed for 5 to 6 weeks, and is expected to open this Fall.

The next CCJPA meeting will be held September 20 at Suisun City Hall.

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