SJVRC Minutes-February 11, 2010.doc
Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera
Merced, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare
February 11, 2010
Call to Order and Welcome to MercedCounty
Amtrak arranged for a special flagstop adjacent to the CastleConferenceCenter in Atwater to accommodate the attendees of the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee (SJVRC) meeting.
Chairperson, Supervisor John Pedrozo—called this quarterly SJVRC meeting to order at 10:45 a. m.
Mr. Michael Barnbaum, a resident of SacramentoCounty, talked about several proposed revisions to the distribution of State excise and sales tax revenues, particularly in regard to funding intercity passenger rail and public transportation operations. The Caltransit.org website has additional information, and Mr. Barnbaum also noted that a “Transit Lobby Day” was scheduled for March 3,2010 in Sacramento. He said to phone the California Transit Association directly for more details at
Mr. Barnbaum next made an announcement for the upcoming National Association of Railroad Passengers convention in Los Angeles. Visit RailPAC.org online for the particulars.
A.Minutes of the October 29, 2009, Quarterly Meeting in Atwater
PASSED: StanislausCounty Supervisor Vito Chiesa made a motion, and members unanimously
approved this action item.
B.Nominations for Chair and Vice-Chair (April 2010 – April 2012)
CHAIR: Madera County Supervisor Vern Moss nominated Supervisor Pedrozo to serve a
second two-year term. Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea seconded, and all
members approved the nomination (with Chair Pedrozo abstaining).
VICE-CHAIR: Current Vice-Chair Moss announced his retirement when his current term as a Madera County Supervisor ends in 11 months, which would preclude him from another SJVRC two-year term. Mariposa County Supervisor Brad Aborn nominated Supervisor Chiesa. Alameda County Member Michael Snyder seconded, and members unanimously approved the nomination.
No further nominations came forward at this meeting.
Committee Member Concerns
Merced County Member Angelo Lamas reported on recent and upcoming visits at both state and federal capitols involving members of all four intercity passenger rail corridor organizations in California (SJVRC, Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency, Coast Rail Coordinating Council, and Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority). Mr. Lamas said that, as a group, they meet with legislators at least once each year and emphasize the importance of
passenger-rail ridership for clean air and reducing congestion. They had also mentioned the significance of California having the second, fourth, and fifth-busiest Amtrak corridors and promoted the valuable cost savings rail that delivers when making budgetary decisions. Chair Pedrozo remarked how the ridership numbers impressed the legislators, many of whom further expressed their support of rail, during their February 10, 2010 meeting itinerary.
Mr. Barnbaum inquired about the reaction from Assemblywoman as well as former SJVRC Chair Connie Conway. Lamas replied that Conway, while continuing support of rail, has the challenge of being a new legislator. Her effectiveness will be stronger after a while, and Lamas said that she will “keep rail as an important issue on her plate.”
SJVRC Facilitator and Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board Member Art Lloyd mentioned that March 3, 2010 will be a legislative awareness day in Sacramento for San Mateo County Transit/Caltrain. Mr. Lloyd and Mr. Jonathan Hutchison, Director of Amtrak Government Affairs–West, will attend meetings in Washington, DC, in the first week of March 2010 during an American Public Transit Association conference.
B.Central Valley Commuter/High-Speed Rail
San Joaquin County Alternate Member Hubert Hanrahan gave an update on behalf of Regular Member Stacey Mortensen, Executive Director of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. The most recent series of regional and high-speed rail public scoping meetings concluded in Modesto on January 28, 2010. Upgrades to regional rail service would happen first along the Altamont corridor, followed by Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto. Another round of meetings in July 2010 will be focusing on alignments favored by the public, with more environmental studies thereafter. Mr. Hanrahan said that cities and counties need to help by signing a draft Memorandum of Understanding with the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
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San Joaquin Valley Station Projects
Mr. Todd Almilli of Amtrak Engineering Services talked about some highlights of minor capital projects throughout the San Joaquin Corridor. This list included more “patrol stops” for police within the back office areas of Amtrak stations. Police officers drop by about ten minutes a day to type-up reports. This law enforcement presence brings visible security to the stations. Other improvements include designing a more “user-friendly” Bakersfield office; installing improved public address system in Fresno and expanding the security camera network; video analytics technology would continue improving where video feed could be monitored from centralized locations. Ticket clerks would be alerted to particular activities for assessment and appropriate responses. The Merced patrol stop and Stockton station repainting are among other projects anticipated in this year.
Mayor Hall requested contact information for Amtrak patrol stops. Mr. Almilli replied that if local police are interested, Amtrak will find a space. Ms. Cindy Camara, San Joaquin Station Manager, would be an appropriate contact for coordination for the patrol stop. Mr. Almilli would work with them on needed facilities. He added that every project, no matter how major or minor, is recorded in a database until it can be funded.
Several additional questions and comments followed about police response times to incidents on the trains, Amtrak and Caltrans annual assessments of station amenities/repairs. The Sacramento station track relocation project was also discussed.
History of the Yosemite Valley Railroad
Mr. Erik Ferroggiarro of the CaliforniaStateRailroadMuseum delivered an abridged version of his recent research project on the Yosemite Valley Railroad. His entire presentation was scheduled to debut at an upcoming museum event in Sacramento, as well as at Yosemite in March 2010 at the
Le Conte Memorial Auditorium
San Joaquin Corridor Environmental Study
Mr. Tom Dodson–environmental consultant for BNSF Railway Company–advised the group of an
18-month, corridor-wide study to qualify the San Joaquin service for future federal funding cycles. Comprehensive documentation would satisfy Federal Environmental Protection Act requirements.
Mr. Dodson described his 12 years of experience consulting with both Caltrans and BNSF for building projects throughout the San JoaquinValley. Extensive public outreach would be included to support expansion of service and safety projects such as positive train control (PTC). The SJVRC would be an important participant to address alternatives. He intends to reach out to communities along the route for feedback and focus upon feasible and implementable projects, resulting in five or six scenarios to evaluate. Raising the maximum speed on the corridor from 79 mph to 90 mph is an example of a benefit that can be derived from this study. He said an Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Study would hold the most weight with the Federal Railroad Administration for both environmental clearance and funding allocations.
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A structure to work with BNSF and UP for modeling the corridor will help find alternatives, using the railroads’ expertise to determine which projects would be required for improving average speeds for up to 12 round-trips per day. Improvements include closing or separating some crossings. A set of alternatives will be derived from extensive review and comment. Mr. Dodson said that community forums and outreach activities would be set-up wherever interest exists.
Mr. Dodson fielded questions from the audience. Caltrans Project Manager, Mr. Mark Codey at
(916) 653-0754 or Mr. Lee Goldenberg at (916) 654-9777 may be contacted to discuss.
A. Amtrak California Safety/Security and San JoaquinTrain Operations
Mr. Greg Santos, Amtrak Road Foreman, distributed reports with the latest on-time performance statistics and described the Amtrak train strikes and delays in recent months. Train 704, for example, encountered more freight congestion between Sacramento and Stockton. An increasing number of shopping carts have appeared on the tracks, which result in lost running time for trains and could potentially derail trains. Patrols of right-of-way need to be stepped-up. BNSF Maintenance of Way crews and Amtrak Road Foremen have been removing more carts from right-of-way. Additional local police involvement is also necessary. Mayor Hall asked about any communications with police departments on this problem. Santos and Mr. Rick Depler, BNSF said that would be a next step, as BNSF freight trains encounter twice as many carts as Amtrak trains. Mr. Hanrahan added that a concerted effort is underway in Hayward to clean up the corridor there. ContraCostaCounty Member Howard Abelson added that appropriate legal counsel should be consulted about liability issues for shopping centers near tracks. Businesses that allow the carts beyond their control might constitute a nuisance, which would at least capture their attention. Supervisor Aborn noted that helicopter sweeps of the Southern California railroads in the 1970’s helped to identify debris and coordinate removal.
Mr. Wes Lujan, UPRR said that he would continue to work with Mr. Jonathan Hutchison (Amtrak) to follow-up with the California Grocers Association.
Mr. Santos continued with an announcement about bus bridges for Trains 711 and 715 between February 22, 2010 and March 3, 2010 around Martinez-Oakland trackwork (tie replacement). Other train schedules will have timed meets adjusted at single-track segments. He concluded with updates on Operation Lifesaver and other recent safety/security activities (refer to Minutes Appendix
B. Union Pacific Railroad Company
Mr. Wes Lujan introduced himself as Jerry Wilmoth’s UP alternate on the SJVRC. He elaborated on the maintenance-of-way efforts underway throughout the network to replace ties, etc. Several freight rail facility improvements statewide have recently or will soon be deployed.
BNSF Railway Company
Mr. Rick Depler reported that on-time performance continued to remain above 96 percent. He said that maintenance-of-way activities outside of San Joaquin train schedules and proactive dispatching have supported these results, with most of the interference coming from other San Joaquintrains.
Mr. Depler further mentioned that Positive Train Control deployment is still planned for this fall, with full statewide installation is planned for 2012.
C.Amtrak California Thruway Bus Operations
Mr. Rick Peterson, Director of California Bus Operations at Amtrak, discussed a few spring 2010 schedule changes, which will be effective on May 10, 2010. No new routes are planned at this time, and Santa Barbara-Bakersfield might be reduced from four to three round-trips each day based on the ridership. He also said that Amtrak fully intends to continue a partnership with the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS). Drivers are customer-focused and work well with the Amtrak station staff at Merced. Amtrak will start selling tickets again for connecting service over to Mammoth as soon as TiogaPass reopens for the summer. Likewise, an agreement is underway with Visalia Transit for seasonal interline tickets between the Hanford Amtrak station and Sequoia Big Trees Museum.
Mr. Peterson discussed an effort to ensure that bus passengers have upgraded amenities comparable to the train, which include additional legroom (14 inches) between seats, WiFi, and up to four tables with seats facing each other to facilitate conversation. Demonstration buses with these amenities have been running between Santa Barbara and the San Francisco Bay Area. Mr. Peterson concluded by describing new training that Amtrak Bus Managers Barbara Ruditis and Andrew Felden providing drivers in collaboration with the bus operator’s own trainers. Classes should consistently raise driver-customer interface standards and safety, since driver expectations vary by company.
Mr. Barnbaum mentioned some concerns about using the Thruway Bus to make connections with California Zephyr trains in Reno. Mr. Peterson said that such additional service would be possible if reasonable running times could be retained. The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority must authorize any changes to Reno bus timetables. Mr. Peterson further added that Amtrak interstate trains in California would be retaining their current schedules. However, talks with UP about new Sunset Limited service were already underway. Either he or Mr. Hutchison will have further details before the next SJVRC meeting on April 29, 2010. Mr. Abelson inquired about the number of connections between the San Joaquin and long-distance trains. Mr. Peterson replied that ridership varies according to season and day of the week. For example, the 6 a.m.Thruway Bus from Fresno can carry about thirty Sunset Limited passengers when that connection is possible in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles County Member Hank Fung asked about bus waiting times from the connecting trains. For example, northbound Pacific Surfliner Train 585 was 1.5 hours late on February 10, 2010, and he along with other bus passengers waited an additional 15-20 minutes to depart after train arrival.
Mr. Peterson explained that 15-20 minutes is the time needed to ensure that passengers and baggage transfer from train to bus in the large Los Angeles Union Station. Availability of Redcap assistance for disabled riders is another factor. If the bus clerk understands that someone is still en route from the train platform, the bus is held.
D.San JoaquinOn-Board Service Update
Mr. Anthony Chapa reviewed the latest Customer Satisfaction Index scores. Mr. David Nisely noted positive responses to the on board restroom cleaning. Ridership increased by 0.8 percent on
San Joaquin trains, in contrast with the Capitol Corridor, which fell by 8.4 percent.
Mayor Hall asked about the location of customer comment cards on-board, which are in timetable racks and the Café Car. Mr. Chapa added that passengers may also phone (800) USA-RAIL.
E.Amtrak California Marketing Report
Ms. Lisa Martin of the Rail Marketing Branch at Caltrans said that Golden Star Award nominations will open soon for presentation on National Train Day (May 8, 2010). Last year’s winner was SJVRC Facilitator, Art Lloyd. Ms. Martin will distribute details on the Golden State Award Nominations as they come available. A related upcoming event will be the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner tenth anniversary celebration on June 10, 2010, in San Diego.
Ms. Martin mentioned a couple of staffing changes and debriefed the group about a Caltrans-sponsored “Respect the Rails” statewide tour. Consultants for Caltrans traveled to 32 high schools. Students could enter drawings to win $5000. The first Amtrak California “e-blast” newsletter was recently distributed, which featured a 25 percent discount, Amtrak Guest Rewards “winter*frees” bonus points offer for every $50 spent on Amtrak tickets, and the new “Twitter” communication capability, besides other items of interest. The website Twitter.com logs all of the announcements that “Amtrak_CA” has “tweeted” along with “PACSurfliners” and “SanJoaquinTrain” online.
Spring media promotions included running TV advertisements in English and Spanish. “Amtrak California” fuel pump “topper” ads will return as well. A new library of photographs will also be circulated among various promotional collateral items. Yet to launch is an online shopping portal of Amtrak California branded products at working with PRIDE Industries to deliver this service. “Kids ‘N Trains” boxed lunches can now be purchased for
San Joaquin Corridor school groups for $5.50. Caltrans made Spanish-language companion fare coupons, as requested by Fresno County Supervisor Judy Case at the October 29, 2009 SJVRC quarterly meeting. Finally, Ms. Martin circulated drafts of possible new SJVRC logos for members’ review and comment. She answered a few inquiries for additional details about items in her report.
F.Amtrak and Federal Budget Updates
Mr. Hutchison reported that in January 2010, the Federal Railroad Administration had distributed
$8 billion for high-speed and intercity passenger rail capital projects nationwide under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. However, funding for train operations remains a challenge both in California and elsewhere. He referenced a few corridors in other states with federal operating funds. Much of the direct $1.56 billion appropriation for Amtrak capital projects in Fiscal Year 2010 is for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. Mr. Hutchison continued by saying that Amtrak still faces tremendous needs using limited resources. A new fleet plan for Amtrak details the vision for rolling stock procurement to replace old equipment that has few amenities. The cost estimate is