San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee meeting report

Report by Bruce Jenkins
I attended the SJVRC Meeting on Thursday, 2/28 in Fresno. Some of the more important items are as follows:

Caltrans Division of Rail Chief, Bill Bronte reported :

  • a) The San Joaquin trains are sporting a 64.5% Fare Box Recovery, the highest in the country.
  • b) On Time Performance for February, 2013, was 91.7%. He gave kudos to BNSF and UP for this time keeping.
  • c) The San Joaquins had the highest increase in ridership thruout the country.
  • d) 14 (reconditioned) Horizon Cars will arrive here from Beach Grove the end of March and will most likely be assigned as trains #711 & 718.
  • e) Coast Daylight and Coachella Valley trains are in the new California Rail Plan.
  • f) Up to six trains of the SJVR will be retained after HSR is operational. Bus service is most important, feeding 50% of the ridership to the trains and will definitely be retained.
  • In January Amtrak named Jay Commer as its General Manager, State Supported Services. He will be based in Oakland. Jay was general manager for the Calif, Corridor product line and superintendent of commuter operations for Caltrain, among other roles.

    Concerning the “Sequestration” debacle, Amtrak has not received guidance from Congress or the Administration on how sequestration will be implemented. Amtrak is planning to take actions to allow it to withstand a funding cut and not cut service.
    (NOTE: This meeting took place before Amtrak issued a notice to its employees:
    “From: Employee Communications, Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2013 2:30 PM, Subject: Special Employee Advisory – Sequestration. A Message from Joe Boardman, Dear Co-workers, You have probably been hearing about sequestration discussions in Washington and some of you are wondering if it will impact our service. Congress and the Administration have to agree on how to resolve these across the board cuts that will impact our federal funding. I want to assure you that we’ve been planning for this reduction in our operating and capital budgets and do not anticipate immediate cuts to service. We will continue to tighten our belts and focus on the bottom line. Hopefully, the sequestration debate will not last long. The continued lack of predictable federal appropriations does makes proper budgeting and future planning extremely difficult for us. I will let you know if our situation should change. Thank you for everything you do for Amtrak.”)

    D.J.Mitchell from the BNSF reported that PTC installation on the valley route was completed and will be operational when Amtrak gets the computers installed in their locomotives. Several members of the committee gave words of appreciation to BNSF and said they were glad to have BNSF “on the team”.

    Stacey Mortensen was absent, so there was no discussion concerning the JPA.

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