San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Meeting Report

July 29, 2010 Meeting in Atwater

Reported by Michael Barnbaum, Associate Director

A moment of scilence was held in the memory of George Gaekle.  George spent many years on the San Joaquin alley Rail Committee and was also a Director of RailPAC.  He also served for many years as a County Administrator for Stanislaus County.  A plaque was passed around the room that eventually will be mounted and framed in the Modesto Amtrak Station.  George’s “big ticket item” on the SJVRC was closing the gap where there is a lack of rail service between Bakersfield and Los Angeles.

The first speaker was Bill Kerby of Sacramento County.  Bill is a retired Economics Professor from California State University Sacramento, and presently serves as Treasurer of RailPAC.  Bill spoke on the subject matter of the closing of the gap between Bakersfield and Los Angeles, and ultimately carrying on the legacy of where George Gaekle left off from at the April 2010 SJVRC Meeting.  After Bill’s comments a discussion took place amongst the members of the SJVRC, which ultimately resulted in a motion and a second to get a letter drafted to CalTrans Division of Rail Chief Bill Bronte and California High Speed Rail Chair, Curt Pringle.  The matter will continuously be on future agendas of the SJVRC until it is fully resolved, and the gap is finally closed.

Greig Pirie, President of the Station Host Association of California, made a brief comment of the dire need for Station Hosts at staffed stations throughout the San Joaquin Valley, including Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Fresno, Hanford, and Bakersfield.  Anyone that would like to inquire about becoming a Station Host can contact Greig via email or at (925) 457-9018.

Lee Goldenberg of the CalTrans Division of Rail presented the new colored logo of the SJVRC.  After a hard look and comparison of the Capitol Corridor logo, it was unanimously approved as the official logo.

Debbie Mullins and Lisa Martin of the Cal Trans Division of Rail presented “train wrap” art that will be applied to rail cars in the Oakland Equipment Pool that will be part of Rail Safety Month in September.  Debbie and Lisa mentioned a large Press Conference that will take place in Sacramento on September 14, 2010 in partnership with Amtrak, CCJPA, Operation Lifesaver, and the Union Pacific Railroad that will raise the awareness of rail safety in both English and Spanish.  Lisa and Debbie also introduced Amtrak’s Brian Hart, who will be phased in to do the duties formerly done by Carol Shannon.  Brian’s new title is Director, Field Marketing Western Region.

Lisa Martin showcased the new which features detailed information about each location that Amtrak California serves from Convention & Visitors Bureau information, as well as Public Transit Information, among other things.

Mike Edwards and Greg Santos of Amtrak reported on San Joaquin Line Safety/Security and Train Operations.  The report detailed debris strikes, trespasser strikes, and where police action was needed.  The slide show presentation also showed where a truck had a strike with a San Joaquin train and completely damaged and broke windows on at least one rail car in the Northern California/Oakland Maintenance Facility Equipment Pool.   This writer raised the awareness to all in attendance of how the equipment for the San Joaquin Line is also “shared” equipment in the mix with the Capitol Corridor as well.   I asked for both Amtrak representatives to run their presentation by staff of the CCJPA, and, if time allows, make a similiar presentation at the September 15th meeting at 10:00 A.M. in Suisun City, California.  Mike Edwards was willing to consider making such a presentation and making the CCJPA aware of what dominoe effects occur when equipment is struck and damaged.

Amtrak’s Anthony Chapa delivered a report about San Joaquin Passenger Services.  His report detailed and focused on food service, menu items and changes, as well as on-board cleaning services.  He mentioned that on August 12th, interviews will take place for a new cleaning person that will focus on the on-board cleaning services while the train is in motion, rather than at the end-points, which are done today and will continue to be done.

One of the most interesting speakers was Amtrak’s Thomas C. Cornillie, whose role and responsibility with Amtrak is the Principal Officer of Infrastructure Planning Policy & Development, West.  Tom made a presentation mainly about the East Coast High Speed Rail System and the infrastructure needs along the Northeast Corridor.  He then brought the presentation “back home” and discussed the San Joaquin Valley Line.  This writer brought up as the most critical need for expansion and frequency is the need for additional rolling stock for Amtrak in California and the West Coast.  It was mentioned that Bill Bronte was at a States 4 Passenger Rail Coalition (S4PRC) Equipment Committee Meeting on this very subject and that Bill will bring the SJVRC up to speed on the addition of new rolling stock at the next meeting.

Iosif Ivan, a mechanical superintendent with Amtrak gave a PowerPoint Presentation on the Oakland Maintenance Facility and the business operations that occur day in and day out with rail equipment for the San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor and the California Zephyr.

Barbara Ruditis, of Amtrak’s Bus Operations gave a bus tour that took attendees around the former Castle Air Force Base.  Barbara gave an oral presentation on driver training and driver safety.  This was all put together within the last six days or so prior to the July Meeting in wake of the Greyhound Bus incident on Highway 99 and McKinley Avenue in Fresno.  Barbara then introduced folks to Will Schilling, a rail transportation associate at the CalTrans Division of Rail in Sacramento who will focus solely on Statewide Bus Operations.  Will went over many items on paper that would have effects on service for many passengers.  The word-for-word report will be copied here that includes potential changes to Bus and Train Operations that would, if they become official, take effect on November 8.

Fall Schedule Change Discussions are currently ongoing between CalTrans and Amtrak Bus Operations regarding the Fall Schedule Change.

  • Tentative plans are to eliminate a couple of low revenue stops, such as Rosamond, Baker, Van Nuys Fly-Away and Lebec.
  • The Perris stop will be moved to the new Transit Center approximately 1 mile away on South C Street between West San Jacinto and Fourth Streets.
  • The low performing Beaumont stop will be discontinued in favor of a stop approximately 11 miles away at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa in Cabazon.  This will be on theAmtrakCalifornia Route 19 Bus Schedule between Bakersfield and Indio.  Cabazon is approximately 5 hours south of Bakersfield.
  • There is a request to have Train 6 (The California Zephyr) depart Emeryville forty minutes earlier, shifting from 9:50 A.M. to 9:10 A.M.  If this occurs, Bus Operations will make necessary changes to the AmtrakCalifornia Route 99 Bus Schedules.  There will also be enough time for the Train 711, Bus 3811 connection at Stockton to Sacramento for San Joaquin Valley passengers to meet Train 6 there.
    Anecdotally, this writer would be concerned about that and for Capitol Corridor Weekend Riders making connections in Emeryville traveling from San Jose-Emeryville.  Capitol Corridor #724 would make a seven minute connection to Train 6 in Emeryville, which would not allow enough time for this type of connection.  This writer placed a voicemail call into Capitol Corridor’s Transportation Officer for further review into this matter and possible resolutions and/or solutions to this operating matter.

Driver Training Amtrak California is continuing with bus driver training that includes Amtrak policies and procedures, along with ticketing information. Since the April 2010 SJVRC meeting, Andrew Felden has conducted driver training classes for the contracted bus companies.  New driver classes are scheduled for August.

Request for Proposal for Amtrak California Bus Routes 1, 4, 9, 12 and 19 The Thruway routes currently contracted to Coach America will be going up for bid this Summer.  Rick Petersen and Andrew Felden are in the process of finalizing the requirements at this time.  The vendor(s) will begin operating the new contract in late Fall or early Winter.

  • Route 1:  Los Angeles Basin (San Pedro-Long Beach-Los Angeles Union Station and points North and South; Los Angeles-Bakersfield; Fresno-Bakersfield-Los Angeles Area and San Diego)
  • Route 4:  Pacific Surfliner Route (Los Angeles-Santa Barbara-Goleta)
  • Route 9:  Bakersfield-Barstow-Las Vegas
  • Route 12:  Antelope Valley (Bakersfield-Tehachapi-Mojave-Lancaster-Palmdale-Little Rock-Adelanto-Victorville)
  • Route 19:  Inland Empire – Coachella Valley (Bakersfield-La Crescenta-Pasadena-Claremont-Ontario-San Bernardino-Riverside-Moreno Valley-Cabazon-Perris-Cabazon-Palm Springs-Sun City-Hemet-Thousand Palms-Indio)

It was announced that the next meeting of the SJVRC will be held on Thursday, November 4 in Madera, pending the completion of the new Madera station.

For any question about this written report, please contact me directly by email or at (916) 390-3989.

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