TAMC Rail Policy Committee meeting of Sep 8, 2008

Report by Chris Flescher

The first part of the meeting was news of passenger rail south of here.  The local transit agency in San Luis Obispo County offers free transfers from the Pacific Surfliner trains.  At this time, in Grover Beach, the passenger train platform is on one side of the tracks, but the stop for connecting buses is on the other side of the tracks.  There is an interest in changing the layout of the station, so that passengers making a transfer between trains and buses will not have to cross the tracks.  Recently, the Coast Starlight began to stop at Paso Robles.  Some other issues include: on the LOSSAN corridor, a study was done about service improvement projects, and about 20 improvements were found that can implemented quickly and relatively cheaply; Orange County wants to have mid-day stops on some long distance trains; soon there will be a single statewide timetable booklet, which will include the Capitol Corridor trains (whose schedule is not in the present timetable booklet); and about 50% of delays on Pacific Surfliner trains come from commuter or other Amtrak trains, so freight trains are not the biggest problem at this time. 

Proposition 1B only provides $400 million for intercity passenger rail, while the existing services need about $80 million per year.

The Coast Rail Coordinating Council (CRCC) did a capacity analysis most recently in 2005.  The group’s biggest objective is to get the Coast Daylight train started.  That train would need about $6 million per year in operating costs. 

Caltrans/SLOCOG and TAMC have programmed $26 million for the service.  There will be $150 million from the state to purchase new railcars, but they probably won’t arrive until 2012.  There should be 20 refurbished Amtrak railcars coming to California in the near future. 

One issue that needs to be studied is the clearance for the railcars in the Caltrain tunnels and the future Transbay Terminal. 

If the new railcars are going to be ready in April 2011, then the state budget will need to be changed in 2009, in order to provide operating money for the Coast Daylight train, in the Fiscal Year 2010/2011. 

Pete Rodgers (of SLOCOG) said that the state does not fund the Coast Starlight, so the associated infrastructure is not in great shape.  For example, at the Salinas station, there is an announcement system of the expected arrival times of trains, but it does not work well. 

There has been discussion of having a bond or sales tax in Soledad, and the money would go towards paying to have Amtrak stop in Soledad, and staffing a station there. 

It appears that the Coast Daylight train will stop in Pajaro, and it will also stop in King City and/or Soledad. 

The statewide bond for high speed rail, if passed, will have some money for connecting rail services, and some of that could go towards the Coast Daylight. 

Debbie Hale mentioned that she was in San Diego recently for a conference, and she rode the new Sprinter train in Oceanside.  She also said that inside the trains are large signs, describing the connecting bus lines for each station.  There is an interest in having people from TAMC take a tour of the Sprinter, along with the Orange Line bus rapid transit in Los Angeles. 

A representative from Santa Cruz County mentioned that the county is doing well in negotiations with UP to buy the rail line (that runs from Watsonville to Davenport).  He expects that the sale will happen in the near future

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