Commentary, Issues

Letters written in support of RailPAC position on Coast Starlight suspension

The following letters have been written in support of RailPAC’s position of opposing Amtrak’s outright cancellation of the Coast Starlight because of the landslide in Oregon. (1) to Senator Boxer (2) from LOSSAN Corridor (3) from SBCAG As other letters are received we will add them here.

January 24, 2008


VIA Fax to Casey Jackson
213 894 5047


Dear Senator Boxer:

The Coast Starlight is Amtrak’s flagship service on the west coast. This popular train between Los Angeles and Seattle, WA, serves as a link for many cities along the way, including Oxnard, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Salinas, San Jose, Sacramento, and Redding. Many of these cities have colleges or universities, many have little or no air or inter city bus service, and the train brings in tourists from within the state and overseas.

On Sunday a major landslide occurred in central Oregon which severed the line, and we now hear that it could be weeks, even months, before normal service is resumed. In the past, and on railroad systems around the world, the normal practice is to run the train over as much of the route as is practicable, and provide a bus connection for the “gap”. Amtrak did this for three days but has now decided to save money by cancelling service through the entire length of the route.

North of the blockage Amtrak has the “Cascade” service between Seattle and Eugene so passengers have an alternative. To the south there is no through train until you reach San Luis Obispo.

RailPAC would like you to consider the following points:

Amtrak is a federal entity funded by the taxpayer, and should not be permitted to arbitrarily suspend service over one of its core system routes, leaving over 700 route miles in California without service.
If a train can be cancelled for weeks, if not months at a time, taxpayers can justifiably ask why we are supporting the program at all. Is the train part of our transportation system, or just a novelty?
California, more than any other state, provides additional funds to Amtrak to provide a system of trains in the LOSSAN, Capitol Corridor, and San Joaquin corridors as well as connecting buses. Amtrak needs to be told that this action on their part is political suicide if they wish for continued support from the California Congressional delegation.

RailPAC believes that Amtrak should immediately reinstate Coast Starlight service between Los Angeles and Klamath Falls. For its part, RailPAC pledges, along with the cities and counties along the line, to do all it can to encourage Californians to ride the train on that part of the line that is open to offset the revenue loss from the long distance passengers.

Senator, we know that you have been a long time supporter of Amtrak and of environmentally friendly transportation alternatives. Our all volunteer group actively campaigns for passenger rail, yet all our efforts are likely to be undercut if there is the perception that passenger rail cannot be relied upon. Please support our efforts to have this train restored.

Yours faithfully,
Paul J. Dyson, President


January 24, 2008
Mr. Alex Kummant
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)
60 Massachusetts Avenue NE
Washington DC 20002


Dear Mr. Kummant:

On behalf of the Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) Rail Corridor Agency, we urge you to reconsider your recent decision to suspend Coast Starlight service due to recent mudslides in Oregon. Californians have shown that they use rail service and the market continues to grow.
As you know, the Starlight currently serves as our only rail service between northern and southern California and while Amtrak motorcoach service operates, this should not be considered a substitute for passenger rail service.

We further understand the financial difficulties of operating on an annual appropriations cycle. But at the same time, California voters, and local, regional, and state agencies have been your financial partners since the San Diegans and San Joaquins first began service in the 1970s. More recently, LOSSAN, and our rail corridor partners in the state, were instrumental in passing California Assembly Joint Resolution 18 that signaled bipartisan support for Amtrak from our state. As a result of all our efforts, the system has grown to record ridership levels, high farebox recovery ratios, and currently one in every five Amtrak passengers is riding in California.

We look forward to continued partnerships and we strongly urge you to reverse your decision to suspend Starlight service. If you have any questions, please contact me at (714) 562-3760 or our staff person, Linda Culp at (619) 699-6957.

LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency
Cc: Corey Jackson, Office of Senator Barbara Boxer
Jonathan Hutchison, Amtrak Government Affairs
LOSSAN Member Agencies


January 23, 2008

Mr. Alex Kummant
President and Chief Executive Officer
60 Massachusetts Avenue NE
Washington DC 20002


Dear Mr. Kummant:

The City of Santa Barbara learned this afternoon that Amtrak is suspending Coast Starlight service throughout its entire length because of a mudslide in central Oregon. The Coast Starlight train service is an important element of transportation to and from our city and throughout California. Indefinitely suspending the train’s service for its entire length would be an unfortunate event impacting thousands of passengers.

We are formally requesting that the Coast Starlight operation be maintained south of the slide to sustain California train service. We believe that suspending the train for its entire length continues to undermine the reliability of passenger rail transportation at a time when our city is supporting increases in service. Additionally, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) will decide at its February meeting whether to fund numerous rail projects with Proposition 1B funds. Included in this list is $25 million for signal and track improvements on the Coast Line. We believe that suspension of the train service sends the wrong message to passengers and the CTC. Please reconsider this decision.

Jim Armstrong
City Administrator
Cc: Mayor and Councilmembers

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