May California Intercity Passenger Rail Performance

Reported by David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director, CCJPA

The Capitol Corridor yielded positive results for May 2010 compared to May 2009 in all relevant performance statistics – ridership, revenue, and on-time performance.  Ridership for May was 1.4% above last year as was revenue (+2.9%).  On-time performance (OTP) set the record for the fiscal year at 95.9% – making the service once again the most reliable train service in the Amtrak system for May 2010 as well as fiscal year-to-date.

What is even more remarkable is that these positive ridership results have occurred while the three furlough Fridays per month for all state employees are still in effect.  These mandated furloughs have been dragging down the performance results for this year.  Based on conductors’ daily reports as well as my own personal observations, the trains were more crowded this last month than any prior month this fiscal year.  The Capitol Corridor train riders represent a diverse spread of users – students, leisure trippers, business travelers, youth/school groups – which has minimized the impact of the poor economy on the ridership (and revenue) results.  And having one of the most reliable trains in the country certainly helps to attract new riders and retain our loyal patrons.

With the multi-year tie-renewal program completed, OTP continues to excel at 92% year-to-date with a consistent, safe, reliable train ride for the passengers.  The current limitations to a better OTP are delays attributed to mechanical failures (primarily locomotive prime mover/head-end power and cab car controls) and drawbridge openings.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) High Speed /Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Awards
On January 28, 2010, President Obama released the names of the projects that will receive the $8 billion in ARRA HSIPR grants.  Of these awards, the Capitol Corridor will be the beneficiary of $29.2 million of these funds for three projects (Sacramento Railyard Relocation Project, Caltrain San Jose South Terminal Project, and Yolo Causeway West Crossover Project).
All three of these projects have been placed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on the “Fast Track” project release process/program.

On May 27, 2010, the Obama Administration obligated $6.2 million in FRA ARRA HSIPR funds to the Sacramento Railyard Relocation Project.  These funds will fill a funding gap and allow for the installation of new grade-separated passenger platforms as part of the rail line relocation and intermodal station development program.

Staff is working with Caltrain and Caltrans Rail staff on the final touches of the remaining agreements and related documents to secure an obligation of the $18 million in FRA ARRA HSIPR funds for the San Jose South Terminal
Project.  The parties are attempting to get all tasks completed by June 18 so that the project can move into the construction phase.  The final agreements on the last remaining project, the Yolo Crossover Project (at $5
million), are expected to be complete and ready for FRA funding obligation by mid-July 2010.

Onboard Workshops on Caltrans Rail Car Specifications and Design Plans CCJPA mechanical staff have been working with Caltrans Rail staff on the specifications and design plans for the next generation of new rail cars and locomotives.  To apply for FRA federal grant funds for the purchase of new rolling stock, the passenger rail cars must meet the FRA’s standard specification for bi-level rail equipment – a requirement that was established with the federal passenger rail legislation in October 2008.

To that end, Caltrans Rail staff has held open houses in Sacramento, Fresno and southern California to present these new design plans to the public as part of the standardization process for the new rail cars.  To expand this outreach effort, the CCJPA teamed up with Caltrans Rail and held similar open houses onboard several afternoon Capitol Corridor trains in late May and early June.  These onboard workshops were welcomed by riders, who provided encouraging remarks as well as helpful advice on these design plans.  The next step is to provide a summary of these workshops to Caltrans Rail staff, who will then submit these user comments to the multi-agency working group charged with preparing the standardized specifications for the bi-level passenger rail cars.

(Download:  May 2010 Performance Report)

Capitol Corridor (May 2010):

  • Ridership: 138,616 riders; +1.4% vs. May 2009; -4.3% vs. prior YTD; -2.9% vs. FY10 Plan; -1.0% compared to 2 years ago
  • Revenue: +2.9% vs. May 2009; +0.7% vs. prior YTD; -4.8% vs. FY10 Plan
  • On-Time Performance: 96%, best month yet in FY10; YTD result of 92% keeping the service #1 in the nation for multi-frequency trains.
  • System Operating Ratio: 47% YTD vs. 47% in FY09; expenses remain under control, while revenue is still below plan
  • The Capitol Corridor route still continues to be third busiest route in the country, with ridership at 1.55 million for the last 12 months

Pacific Surfliners (May 2010):

  • Ridership: 241,152 passengers; +1.7% vs. May 2009, and +1.1% ahead of prior YTD; remains second busiest route in the nation, by a wide margin
  • Ticket Revenue only: +7.3% vs. May 2009, and +5.6% vs. prior YTD
  • On-time performance for May 2010:  74% (YTD FY 2010 on-time performance: 79%)

San Joaquins (May 2010):

  • Ridership: 86,592 passengers  +2.0% vs. May 2009, and +5.1% v.s prior YTD; one of longest streaks of positive growth in Amtrak system
  • Ticket Revenue only: +18.4%  vs. May 2009, and +10.2% vs. prior YTD
  • On-time performance for May 2010:  90%  (YTD FY 2010 on-time performance: 90%)
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