Capitol Corridor November 16 meeting report: changes are coming

Report by Mike Barnbaum, RailPAC Associate Director

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Board of Directors met for the final time in 2011 on November 16 in the City Council Chambers at the City of Suisun City. Chair Bob Franklin (San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District) opened the meeting with his “Report of the Chair” that included news of all-time records being set for the Capitol Corridor in three key categories of Ridership, Revenue, and On-Time-Performance. Chair Franklin also mentioned that there will also be $42 Million coming in in Proposition 1B Funds that will include 42 rail cars and 6 Locomotives for Amtrak California, of which the Capitol Corridor will get 10 cars and two locomotives. Chair Franklin went on to highlight Section 209 in regards to Amtrak Operations Pricing Policy and that December 11th is the 20th Anniversary for the Capitol Corridor.

Managing Director David Kutrosky gave the highlights and the low lights of legislative matters. It was mentioned on the Federal side that prohibitive language (with a sigh of relief) was removed from a Congressional Conference Report that would have been a blow to State Supported Corridor Rail Services. Unfortunately High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Capital Grants Program is allocated at zero dollars. It was also mentioned that in FY ’13-’14 Operations Costs will increase mainly because the Pacific Surfliner will no longer receive Amtrak Funding, but will be operationally covered 100% by the State of California. Also in the State of California, Governor Brown will release his FY ’12-’13 Draft State Budget. A report by the Managing Director will be made shortly after release of this critical draft document. CCJPA is also monitoring at the State Level, legislation by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg that would allow for a Regional Fee Proposal to help increase the Gas Tax. More will follow when the next steps on this are taken.

At the local level, Capitol Corridor will be receiving approximately $40 Million in Alameda County Measure B Funds which will be utilized to expand to more frequencies to/from San Jose. Additionally, much was mentioned about the California Transportation Commisssion and the Donner Interchange Project that involves CCJPA Partnerships with the Union Pacific Railroad and the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency. Everyone was told to stay tuned to the Donner Interchange Project as things develop hopefully in going from a Tier Two Project to a Tier One Project. Staff will more than likely will brief the Sacramento Valley Sierra Foothills Riders on the latest developments of the Donner Interchange Project prior to the February Board Meeting when the Annual On-Board Workshops are held on Train Number 536, on a January date to be announced.

In approving the CCJPA Board Calendar for Calendar Year 2012, three things to take note of. In February, when the Board meets in Suisun City on the 15th, it was Highlighted in the Issue Paper Report that this will be the meeting in which will include the Business Plan Adoption and the meeting in which a Vision Plan Workshop will be conducted. The June Meeting, which will take place on the 20th whill be held in Oakland at the BART Boardroom inside the Henry J. Kaiser Center. The November Meeting, which will be held in Suisun City will take place on the 14th of November rather than the 21st so that Staff, Directors, and Public are not meeting on the Day Before Thanksgiving 2012, which falls on the 21st, followed by an Early Thanksgiving Day 2012 on the 22nd. Other than the November Meeting, which will fall on the second Wednesday, the remainder of Meetings will fall on the third Wednesday in the months of February, April, June, and September.

Staff also provided a power point presentation on Positive Train Control which will be legally mandated by December 31, 2015. The first area of the United States that will receive PTC is the Los Angeles area followed by both Northern California and the Chicago, Illinois area. It was shown in the Power Point Presentation that Union Pacific RailRoad expects to complete Capitol Corridor Route Positive Train Control by 2013.

The Marketing and Communications Team, lead by Assistant General Manager for Marketing & Communications, Priscilla Kalugdan went over the Marketing and Promotions campaign wrap-up of FY ’11 and discussed what’s next for FY ’12. Much of the focus will be attracting ridership at the Santa Clara/Downtown University Station once it opens sometime in early 2012. This new station for the Capitol Corridor Route will also include CalTrain, Altamont Commuter Express (ACE), and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (SCVTA) operates Route 10, a free shuttle service for riders linking the Santa Clara Station with the San Jose/Norman Y. Mineta International Airport. This writer and the folks in the Meeting Room were assured that Amtrak riders using the California Coastal Bus from Santa Barbara to San Jose will be allowed to use the Capitol Corridor Trains for a one station ride to the new Santa Clara Station, once it opens, to get to the SJC Airport and that a receiving only policy as well as a discharge only policy will never go into effect at the new Santa Clara/Downtown University Station. The Marketing and Communications team made mention that the opening of this new station will be the primary focus of the upcoming Marketing Campaign. There was mention that the rest of the Capitol Corridor Route will not go unnoticed, but that since Santa Clara/Downtown University will be so new in early 2012, the concentration of the marketing efforts will be in this section of the Capitol Corridor Route.

The meeting ended with intriguing public comment coming from Alan Miller of the CalTrans Division of Rail. Alan discussed the upcoming January 9th changes on the Pacific Surfliner and highlighted changes for Capitol Corridor Riders heading all the way down to San Diego as one example of a major undertaking on the Pacific Surfliner. Alan mentiond the current train-to-train transfer that must currently occur when a rider departs San Luis Obispo at 2:00 P.M. Come January 9th of 2012 Alan mentioned that the rider will no longer need to make such a transfer in Los Angeles as the 2:00 P.M. train departing San Luis Obispo will be a “through” train all the way to San Diego. Other changes that will take place will include streamlining the schedule so that many of the Friday through Sunday Trains will be re-tweaked so that the Pacific Surfliner Corridor will be schedule consistent throughout the week. This “new” timetable, which will also include California Coastal Connections in the “Dress Shirt TimeTable” will debut on Monday the 9th of January, which falls in 2012 as the Monday between “New Year’s Day Observed” and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

As far the exact date of the Capitol Corridor Schedule Change, which will include scheduled times at the new Santa Clara/Downtown University Station, CCJPA Staff mentioned that an exact date is not ready yet as scheduling issues and construction issues are now being finalized with CalTrain and the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE). Once these are resolved a date will be announced in the near future.

The next meeting of the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors will take place inside the City Council Chambers of the City of Suisun City on the Wednesday before President’s Day 2012. The Wednesday date and time will be February 15th at 10:00 A.M. The Meeting Forecast calls for adoption of the Business Plan and the holding of the Vision Plan Workshop.

–Respectfully Submitted by Mike Barnbaum on Wednesday 16 November at 11pm EST

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