CCJPB July meeting report

July 18, 2007 Meeting

Suisun City Hall

Report and photo by Russ Jackson
NOTE: Before the meeting started RailPAC learned some interesting news.

First, and this was reported to us the night before the meeting by Gene Skoropowski, two newly rebuilt Superliner Coach cars that the State of California is leasing from Amtrak arrived in the Oakland yard behind Amtrak train #5 on July 17. These two cars have been fully rehab’d, and will go into service in the Oakland car pool this week. They will go into separate consists in rotation, allowing some trains to have longer consists. Caltrans Rail program Chief Bill Bronte has spurred this deal, and he is working to get four more cars done the same way to add more capacity to the Capitols and San Joaquins. These cars, which are painted in California car colors, are leased for use until the new car order funded by Proposition 1B is delivered in about five years.

On time Capitol train 727 roars past Elmira crossing in Vacaville on July 14.

The other news is the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Chairman, Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall, has written a strong letter to the Governor asking him to veto the line item passed by the legislature which diverts $15.5 million of the remaining Proposition 116 money to the California High Speed Rail Authority. These funds were designated for a new Stockton station which is still in the planning stages, and for track work in the Port Chicago area on the BNSF route of the San Joaquin trains.

The CCJPB meeting began on a sad note, with Chairman Forrest Williams, who represents Santa Clara County, giving a tribute to the late Capitol Corridor Riders “Lord Mayor,” Robert Conheim, who passed away on Sunday. (A tribute, with a photo of Mr. Conheim when he spoke to the RailPAC meeting in January, 2006, has also been placed on RailPAC Associate Director Mike Barnbaum added his tribute to his friend. A memorial service will be held in Auburn on August 11.

1. Several routine “consent” items were passed, with a quorum present, but just barely. A report of plans for a permanent Wi-Fi installation on the trains was heard. A successful experiment was concluded in March. Among the considerations is whether it is to be a free system or a pay system. Member Christopher Cabaldon, representing Yolo County, urged this project proceed at full speed to bring this service to the train riders on a permanent basis.

2. Mr. Skoropowski reviewed the Governor’s “May Revise” budget. “First the good news, $187 million of Proposition 1B funds were programmed for intercity rail improvements, including the $150 million for new rolling stock. It also included an increase of $6.5 million for intercity rail annual operating funds to support the Amtrak contracts for the 3 corridor service plans. Now the bad news, there are several anti-transit components in the draft Governor’s Budget. More than $1.3 billion form the PTA is proposed to be diverted to resolve other shortfalls.” As of the date of this meeting there still was no new state budget, but the legislature had rejected $800 million of the diverted funds.

Mr. Skoropowski reported the U.S. Senate is expected to take up S 294 (Lautenberg/Lott), the “Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007,” (Amtrak reauthorization) in September. This is of particular interest to California as the bill contains a “federal match” of 80% to state money spent for capital projects. Operating funds are separated from capital funding. The CCJPA supports this bill.

3. Two surveys of Capitol Corridor on board riders are done annually. The latest report shows 21.4% of riders drove alone to a train station. This is a meaningful statistic, as in most areas this figure is much higher; 25.6% were dropped off; 7.4% took an Amtrak Thruway bus; 17% were local transit transfers, 15.3% walked, 2.9% used carpool, 6.9% rode a bicycle, and 2.4% took a taxi with the other 1.0% “other” (including another Amtrak train). This means over half of the riders used alternate transportation to get to the trains.

4. The ridership and revenue reports were presented, and are posted on Mr. Skoropowski reviewed them, pointing out the 9.1% increase in the 12-month period shows 1,384,364 passengers. Revenue continues to grow, up 20.6% over FY 2005-06, and the Revenue-to-Cost Ratio is “a bit over 45%, however we are just about to enter our period of highest monthly revenue” so, 50% is achievable this year.

5. On Time Performance is not what is most desirable. Year to date OTP is only about 71%, but has shown a big improvement in recent months. Mr. Skoropowski reported that 50% of the late trains have been late 10 minutes or less, while the big delays are usually caused by fatal accidents (unfortunately there were two this month.) The number of mechanical delays has “significantly decreased, and full train consists are generally being provided.”

6. Installation of “Quik Trak Ticket Vending Machines” Phase 1 will be completed this month. Installation of a second machine will be completed at some stations by late September. One of the machines has been installed outside Caltrans Director Will Kempton’s office, so officials can buy their tickets easily.

The next CCJPB meeting will be held September 19, also at Suisun City Hall at 10:00.

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