RailPAC writes Amtrak COO William Crosbie re Southern California Issues

13th July, 2009

Dear Mr. Crosbie:
Many thanks for taking the time for a meeting with me last Thursday (8th July, 2009). I have written today to Mr. Boardman concerning the Sunset route and RailPAC’s support for positive steps by Amtrak. I’d like to expand upon some other topics that we covered briefly.

Regarding the long distance trains, over the years schedules have been extended and important connections lost at LAUS. Our members report recent trips on the southbound Coast Starlight with two hours “waiting time” at stations from Sacramento south. Northbound the Starlight is scheduled with the same running time as 799 which has about 10 more stops. May I request that you address these schedules as part of the review of the Sunset operation and urge you to find a way to reinstate the connections at LAUS between these trains and also the “Chief”?

With regard to the weekend Surfliner trains, there are still opportunities to reduce the scheduled running time of many trains north of Los Angeles. The timetable allows for meets with Metrolink trains that do not run on weekends. After about a year of complaining from RailPAC you finally adjusted 798 by about 25 minutes but failed to review 799, 763 and others. Even with the limited resources available there are improvements that can be made in journey times that will result in a better experience for passengers.

We are also concerned at the continued attempts by the commuter agencies to add intermediate stops to the Surfliner trains. While it may solve a scheduling problem for them at almost no cost, it adds operating costs to Amtrak (fuel, wear on brakes and doors etc.) and most importantly it increases the running time of what are supposed to be intercity trains. I have repeatedly pointed out to the LOSSAN Board that this policy will drive away the $30 plus passenger in favor of $2 of revenue from a local commuter. I understand that discussions are ongoing with the commuter agencies and we hope you will ensure that the integrity of the Surfliner service is protected.

Regarding the need for new high level cars for western corridor and long distance trains, we have common ground in recognizing the need for a long term, low volume car order, using a standard “box” and common components for multiple applications. We do not believe that the California 1B bond funds, should they become available, are adequate for an order of sufficient scale as to allow for a viable unit price, or to interest a builder. We plan to work through the political process to facilitate the availability of federal funds so that we can start to replace and augment the Superliner fleet and our state corridor equipment. I understand from you that Amtrak is in the early stages of formulating a long term fleet plan, which we hope will contain this element.

Thank you again for taking the time to meet and I look forward to future exchanges of views.
Yours faithfully,
Paul J. Dyson
cc RailPAC Board
George Chilson, Chairman, NARP
Ross capon, President, NARP
NARP Directors, SW Division.
Mr. William Crosbie
Chief Operating Officer
60 Massachusetts Avenue NE
Washington DC 20002

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