RailPAC letter to CRCC re Coast train schedules

By RailPAC President, Paul Dyson, wrote this letter to the Coast Rail Coordinating Council with a copy to Caltrans Division of Rail, before the accident on 9/12, about scheduling of trains on the Coast line. The CRCC meets 9/19 in Soledad. Mr. Dyson and RailPAC Treasurer, Bill Kerby, met with DofR acting Chief Lam Nguyen the week before to discuss these issues, which are high on the RailPAC action agenda.

1017 L Street PMB 217, Sacramento, CA 95814
9th September, 2008

Chairman Dave Potter and Council Members


Dear Chairman Potter AND Council members:

As you know we at RailPAC are dedicated to campaigning for improved passenger train service in California, and since 1978 we have strongly advocated additional trains along the coastal route. We also try and make realistic proposals that produce the maximum benefit for all parties. We are a non-profit, all volunteer group, and we try to represent the concerns and desires of the train passenger and the taxpayer.

We have always considered the schedules of the 798 and 799 trains to be a compromise at best. The running times are very poor compared to other trains in the corridor and therefore do not present the best of rail travel to the fare-paying passenger. The overall Surfliner service is stressed by overcrowding and intense utilization of the rolling stock, and characterized by poor punctuality. At the same time commuter agency trains are underutilized outside the peak hours and at weekends. In addition there is unmet demand for early morning service westbound from Los Angeles to meet the needs of northwest Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

In communication with the various agencies concerned we are therefore calling for a complete overhaul of all the schedules in the LOSSAN corridor, commuter as well as intercity, in order to develop a coordinated service that best uses the assets and capacity available, seven days a week. Scheduling a predominantly single track railroad is difficult, and trying to make minor adjustments without interfering with other schedules is almost impossible. We therefore recommend the “blank sheet of paper” approach, building a new schedule from the ground up.

As part of this exercise we strongly support the careful study of an early morning “799” service from Los Angeles. Departing at about 5.40am this train will provide travel opportunities for “reverse” commuters from Los Angeles to Ventura, and from Ventura to Santa Barbara Counties. In addition this train will provide a better morning schedule from the coastal counties to the Bay Area. With a longer interval between this train and the Coast Starlight there is less likelihood of abstraction of revenue from that train. I personally believe that this train will attract early morning long distance passengers from Los Angeles as long as the overall travel times are reasonable. With a good schedule this train can be 30 minutes faster just to Santa Barbara than the present 799.

RailPAC hopes that the CRCC will support this comprehensive review of the current schedules which we believe will lead to a more customer responsive, punctual, and economically more viable train service for the California Coast.


Paul J. Dyson

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