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calwatch

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  1. https://sjjpa.com/wp-content/uploads/SJJPA-Board-Packet-January-25-Web-Version-3.pdf After nearly eight months in operation, ridership on the Morning Express Train (701) remains very low and current trends suggest it is not likely to increase. Low ridership on the Morning Express Train has negatively impacted San Joaquins revenue and farebox recovery. Poor on-time performance in this time slot has certainly impacted the ability to attract and sustain Morning Express ridership, but based upon passenger comments, the limited amount of service available and the large amount of pad-time at the end of the schedule have also contributed to low ridership. The impact from the low ridership of the Morning Express Train on revenue is exacerbated since most of the Morning Express riders are taking relatively short distance trips and many are taking advantage of discounted (multi-ride) fares. Farebox recovery has also been declining since Amtrak has shown very little operating cost savings from reducing the distance served by the Morning Express Train. In order to increase San Joaquins ridership, revenue and farebox recovery, staff are recommending that SJJPA take action to return to full-corridor service for all 7 daily round trips (7 days a week) in April/May 2019. This change will be coordinated with the upcoming Capitol Corridor schedule change. A Scheduling Team which includes BNSF, Amtrak, Caltrans, CalSTA and SJJPA has been meeting since November to develop the best schedule to achieve the objectives. The Team is recommending that this schedule be a “slotted” schedule where all San Joaquins trains meet at specified double-track sections and a pulsed schedule where trains leave from Bakersfield and Oakland every two hours. The Team is also working on distributing the pad time more evenly throughout the corridor and overnight track maintenance windows. These changes will help increase ridership and revenue and also set the stage for being able to re-introduce Morning Express Service as part of future service expansion. Also, SJJPA is looking at an express bus from Madera to San Jose because Bakersfield residents wanted it. I think most LA basin residents would take one of the cheap intercity buses or fly rather than go on three vehicles (bus-train-bus), but it would help the Central Valley to Bay Area market tremendously.
  2. calwatch

    SAC Station

    Downtown Commons is open later even on non-game nights now. They still have the Macy's as well. Yard House will always stay open late. https://www.docosacramento.com/directory/#restaurant/
  3. Unless you had other plans in your destination in which case you should try to get them to spring for a flight to your destination.
  4. calwatch

    Empire Builder Timekeeping Struggles

    More bad luck on the Empire Builder. I was scheduled to take 8 (3) out of Spokane to Minneapolis tomorrow, but I'll just have to fly instead. Luckily Spirit has cheap flights from Los Angeles (I was going to meet up with friends on the train but we'll meet in MSP instead). 8(3) and 7(4) have been annulled, and more likely if it takes a few days. http://www.krtv.com/story/38800242/train-derails-near-cut-bank A freight train derailed near Cut Bank on Thursday afternoon. James Childress told KRTV that is happened on the east side of the railroad bridge crossing at about 1:30 p.m. Childress said that there do not appear to be serious injuries or property damage. Childress said in an email: "The tracks are torn up bad and will likely be close for a few days while the tracks are repaired. It looks like one of the cars in the mid section of the train jumped the tracks and the front half of the train is stopped on the other side of the bridge. There was a work crew on that section of the tracks earlier today, but no idea if that was related to the derailment." There is no word yet on the cause of the incident; we are trying to get more details. (UPDATE) BNSF spokesman Ross Lane says that it happened at about 1:23 p.m. Twelve rail cars derailed; they were carrying grain. Lane says that there were no injuries or hazardous materials involved. The cause of the derailment is being investigated; there is no word yet on when the track will re-open.
  5. Living in San Diego I was interested in the “express” Pacific Surfliner when they ran it in 2011. It was a terribly designed trial by any means. They only made one “express” train, northbound only from SAN-LAX, departing 7am Monday-Friday with an arrival at LAUS at 9:30 (20-30 minutes off of the normal times), and made people pay a premium to ride it. They found that ridership was down compared to an all-stops train it replaced, and the train that left an hour later had increased ridership that made up for the loss on the express. Basically they determined that people were willing to save money by departing an hour later an served all stops even if it was 20 minutes slower than the express option on the entire route. I wish they would try an express option again but with something like two trains each direction per day (one morning, one afternoon) with only 4-5 intermediate stops (Fullerton, Anaheim, Irvine, Oceanside, Solana Beach?) instead of the 11 possible stops. If LOSSAN can guarantee with priority a two-hour run it could be worth a small premium on a ticket to use it. This is what surprised me on the San Joaquins; no business class for a route of that length. Is it the lack of travelers that will pay for business class? I imagine those with the money to spend probably drive it if they don’t have to go often. They've talked about business class but have to get the market for it. I think you could do half a car with a "modular" business class that would just give you a drink and reserved seating, but no additional pitch. Or if they get the new equipment you could reset the seats to provide some additional legroom, not that the train is lacking it now.
  6. About 50 passengers on weekdays, half that on weekends. http://sjjpa.com/getattachment/Home/SJJPA-Board-Packet-July-27,-2018-(4).pdf After a strong first day/inaugural event, ridership on the Morning Express began very low, but has seen steady growth over the course of the last two months since the service began in early May. On the tenth week of service, the Morning Express (Train #701 – Monday – Friday excluding holidays) carried 259 passengers (averaging 51.8 passengers/day). [...] Weekend/Holiday Ridership: Weekend and holiday ridership has been disappointing with Sundays in particular seeing very low ridership numbers. 78% of weekend ridership originates in Fresno with the large majority of those riders beginning their trip in Southern California. San Joaquin Valley residents have not seen the need to take an early train to Sacramento on the weekends. They plan on retiming the weekend train and ending train 704 in Fresno rather than 718, to allow for more rest time.
  7. The roped off area at Union Station is supposed to be for passengers only though and depending on the diligence of the security guard, they will check, although it is usually triggered by someone who looks like they don't have enough train fare. But if they are bugging people at the standing tables, then the best thing to do is to say no. I will occasionally lend folks cell phones, since I know people sometimes lose them or have no charge, but I will dial the number for them and put them on speaker. If there is a genuine issue, then they won't mind.
  8. calwatch

    Amtrak's New "Fresh Choices" Dining on CL & LSL

    Although the press release clearly states that sleeper car passengers will have their food comped, it seems some in Amtrak didn't get the memo, or this may be telegraphing future changes. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-transportation/2018/05/07/chaos-asian-media-blitz-205562 BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE: While we're talking Amtrak, some readers may remember seeing an announcement a few weeks back about Amtrak's plan to start offering "contemporary and fresh dining options" to sleeping car passengers on lines from Washington to Chicago and Chicago to New York beginning in June. Vegan wraps and Greek yogurt will be among the new offerings. MT reached out to Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari for more details and he explained that hot food will no longer be included in ticket prices for sleeper car customers on those two lines. It will be cold food only, though some hot foods will be available for purchase in the cafe, he said. Cafe options include hamburgers, pizza and hot dogs. "We sell a lot of hot dogs despite any effort to convince people to eat more healthy," Magliari quipped. Also happening: Magliari said that additional service updates will include closing ticket windows at 15 stations. That is being done in response to the rise in customers purchasing tickets online and either printing them or downloading them onto their phones instead of going through station agents, he said. Here is a list of the 15 stations: Texarkana, Ark; Fort Madison, Iowa; Ottumwa, Iowa; Garden City, Kan., Topeka, Kan.: La Junta, Colo.; Marshall, Texas; Meridian, Miss.; Charleston, W. Va; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Lamy, N.M.; Hammond, La.; Shelby, Mont.; Havre, Mont.; Cincinnati, Ohio.
  9. Looks like all trains are unreserved as of Monday. This articles says buses but they still show as "reserved Thruway" on the Amtrak web site. https://thebusinessjournal.com/amtrak-san-joaquin-changes-fare-policies/
  10. calwatch

    Tehachapi Detour!

    Tehachapi is something that is fairly but not extremely rare. It seems to come about as often as an Olympic games or lunar eclipse - every few years. It used to much rarer and could become more rare in the future if Anderson has his way.
  11. Since last week the trains have been single bucket. It will go unreserved next month, although the May 7 schedule still shows all trains as reserved.
  12. Unless you go during Del Mar opening weekend, Comic-Con, or the Thanksgiving holiday, when the Surfliner is reserved, but those dates are usually announced well in advance.
  13. calwatch

    Back to the Buckets: Amtrak's bizarre pricing

    Interestingly the San Joaquin JPA staff has recommended to the board to eliminate the bucket pricing on that line and go to a fixed fare, unreserved tickets like the other California trains. They stated that 90% of tickets were sold at the lowest bucket and the grief received when tickets were higher than that was not worth the added hassle, especially when few trains sell out and people can be accommodated in the cafe car if needed. I expect they might reserve during Thanksgiving but not elsewhere. New York might consider that on the Hudson corridor.
  14. Also business class should be pretty empty, although of course nothing is guaranteed. It's a good option for solo travelers who don't want to sleep in (or pay for) a roomette and can take the small risk of having someone sit next to them.
  15. http://www.sjjpa.com/getattachment/Home/2018-SJJPA-Business-Plan-Update-Public-Review-Draft.pdf Highlights: - Morning Express Fresno-Sacramento to start May 7, 2018 with truncation of the last Oakland-Bakersfield train in Fresno. towards "late FY 2018-19" truncate another Oakland-Bakersfield train to start Morning Express to the Bay Area, Fresno-Oakland. - Pay Shasta Regional Transportation Agency to take Amtrak tickets for the future Redding-Sacramento bus, allowing Thruway service to end in Chico. Work with Butte CAG on convertin Chico-Sacramento to a regular bus rather than a Thruway that needs a train ticket. Work with Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit to convert the North Coast Thruway bus into a regular bus allowing local passengers. - Consider ending trains at Emeryville instead of Oakland to save a crew change, as well as skipping selected stops, along with speed improvements from the Charger locomotives. - Long term hourly service Sacramento-Fresno, and "investigat[ing]" service to Redding from Sacramento, with stops at Yuba City/Marysville and Oroville. - Reverting to unreserved trains, fixed price format currently used on other California corridor trains. Currently, Saver fares were introduced offering 20% off on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursday seven days in advance. The penalty fare for booking tickets Friday-Monday less than 24 hours in advance was also eliminated. (About 35% of riders book less than 24 hours in advance.) Initially, cancel the bucket system for the Sacramento trains, and make Morning Express fully unreserved to remove capacity limits. Continue California Everyday Discount policy with return of AAA and veteran discounts. - Elimination of the cafe car and conversion to cart service on selected trips where cafes are not performing. Rehab the existing the cafe cars to offer more seating. - More Spanish language marketing to reflect the diversity of the corridor. - Resigned to using the Siemens single level cars with the high floor boarding; considering mini-high platforms (but doubtful due to logistical issues). - Taking over operation of the Wi-Fi from Amtrak, who will "no longer going to be providing support to the WiFi system." - Medium term (June 2020), moving to a train every two hours on a "pulse" system with hourly peak service to Sacramento, using the eighth and ninth roundtrip. - Speaking of which, the "ninth" roundtrip is not a full length trip but only Bay Area-Stockton, with a transfer at the Downtown Stockton station to the train coming from Sacramento for passengers going further south. So six trains to Bakersfield, eight to Fresno, four to Sacramento (two going to the current Sacramento Valley station and two going to Natomas with a shuttle bus to Sacramento Airport), and five to the Bay Area (with one being a shortline).
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