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San Joaquin draft business plan for FY 2018-19

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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).

Edited by calwatch

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Well if they are going unreserved, then I say they should convert the Cafe to Business Class instead of extra coach seating. Make business class guaranteed seating like it is on the Surfliner currently. With the elevator in the cafe car, running cart service should not be a big issue on the San Joaquins.

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I thought the city pair analysis was interesting. Fresno-LA is the fourth highest rated, which jibes with 75% of Bakersfield passengers making thruway connections in one direction or the other. Long term (i.e. not in my lifetime :) ), that's good news for high speed rail, but it's also a data point that might be considered if Amtrak wants to better serve city pairs. Coming up with a sustainable short/mid term solution for rail service between LA and Bakersfield could be a better option than the coast route. If they're able to cut travel time between the Bay Area and Bakersfield to six hours as they hope, it could be a significantly faster way of getting to LA.


Overall, there are a lot of good ideas in the plan. I'm glad they're thinking ahead.

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I'm trying to wrap my head around the proposal for extension to Oroville.

 

That makes absolutely no sense.

 

Oroville is on the former WP Feather River route, and thus would be orphaned from any further northern expansion. Additionally, it would require a brand new station and associated facilities. And Oroville, demographically, is not a booming place (think lower middle class with a whole lot of poverty) with lots of people commuting out of the area.

 

Chico, on the other hand, already has a station that is served by two trains, several Amtrak buses, and Greyhound. It is a university town, and is mostly middle to upper middle class who does have a lot of Sacramento-located commuters. And it is on a line that makes further northern expansion to Redding a possibility in the future.

 

Color me puzzled (but happy someone is actually thinking about the hugely untapped market of nearly a million people north of Sacramento.)

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The plan specifically says the Oroville and Marysville/Yuba City stations would be on the UP line -- I read that as meaning a station somewhere west of Oroville proper. You're right -- terminating in Oroville and cutting out Chico (and Red Bluff and Redding) wouldn't make much sense.

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I'm trying to wrap my head around the proposal for extension to Oroville.

 

That makes absolutely no sense.

 

Oroville is on the former WP Feather River route, and thus would be orphaned from any further northern expansion. Additionally, it would require a brand new station and associated facilities. And Oroville, demographically, is not a booming place (think lower middle class with a whole lot of poverty) with lots of people commuting out of the area.

 

Chico, on the other hand, already has a station that is served by two trains, several Amtrak buses, and Greyhound. It is a university town, and is mostly middle to upper middle class who does have a lot of Sacramento-located commuters. And it is on a line that makes further northern expansion to Redding a possibility in the future.

 

Color me puzzled (but happy someone is actually thinking about the hugely untapped market of nearly a million people north of Sacramento.)

Well remember that this is a State supported route. If anything there is probably a lot of lobbying by locals to the State for "what about us" rail service. Most likely reaction to some form of "hey we pay taxes up here too."

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I thought the city pair analysis was interesting. Fresno-LA is the fourth highest rated, which jibes with 75% of Bakersfield passengers making thruway connections in one direction or the other. Long term (i.e. not in my lifetime :) ), that's good news for high speed rail, but it's also a data point that might be considered if Amtrak wants to better serve city pairs. Coming up with a sustainable short/mid term solution for rail service between LA and Bakersfield could be a better option than the coast route. If they're able to cut travel time between the Bay Area and Bakersfield to six hours as they hope, it could be a significantly faster way of getting to LA.
Overall, there are a lot of good ideas in the plan. I'm glad they're thinking ahead.

 

Makes sense. Having been on the San Joaquins multiple times starting out in Bakersfield, the station is pretty much empty until the busses arrive from SoCal and the train pretty much empties out at Fresno. Just from my observation, I'd say that the route is primarily two markets. Bay Area/Sacramento to Fresno and Fresno to Bakersfield and beyond.

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I'm trying to wrap my head around the proposal for extension to Oroville.

 

That makes absolutely no sense.

 

Oroville is on the former WP Feather River route, and thus would be orphaned from any further northern expansion. Additionally, it would require a brand new station and associated facilities. And Oroville, demographically, is not a booming place (think lower middle class with a whole lot of poverty) with lots of people commuting out of the area.

 

Chico, on the other hand, already has a station that is served by two trains, several Amtrak buses, and Greyhound. It is a university town, and is mostly middle to upper middle class who does have a lot of Sacramento-located commuters. And it is on a line that makes further northern expansion to Redding a possibility in the future.

 

Color me puzzled (but happy someone is actually thinking about the hugely untapped market of nearly a million people north of Sacramento.)

Well remember that this is a State supported route. If anything there is probably a lot of lobbying by locals to the State for "what about us" rail service. Most likely reaction to some form of "hey we pay taxes up here too."

True. Except it's a 15 minute drive to Chico. And Thruway service already serves Oroville (from a dirt turnout across the street from a Chevron gas station.) The we pay taxes here argument pretty much fizzles out when the cost of putting rail service back in a place who has not had it since 1971 (the WP station closed with the final departure of the original CZ on April 30, 1971.) Especially considering that Chico has a fully ADA compliant modern platform that was rebuilt by CA taxpayers only 5 or so years ago, with established multi-modal connections.

 

Being local, I can tell you 97% of residents in Butte County have zero idea Amtrak even exists here. I have friends who live four blocks from CIC who were shell-shocked when I educated them that one could board a passenger train there every day of the week.

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Being local, I can tell you 97% of residents in Butte County have zero idea Amtrak even exists here. I have friends who live four blocks from CIC who were shell-shocked when I educated them that one could board a passenger train there every day of the week.

 

 

I don't think they're talking about cutting out Chico, just adding stops along the existing route. The Oroville stop would be a bit of a drive, but more convenient than going all the way to the Chico station.

 

The big reason most people in Butte County don't know about train service is the schedule -- it's in the wee hours of the morning, going both directions. I never take the train when I go to Chico or Redding on business, even though I can jump on the Starlight in Salinas. I'd pretty much lose a night's sleep -- not worth it. Anything they do to improve usability, even if it means a bus connection from Oroville, would be an improvement IMHO (although, again, I don't think that's what's on the table).

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Being local, I can tell you 97% of residents in Butte County have zero idea Amtrak even exists here. I have friends who live four blocks from CIC who were shell-shocked when I educated them that one could board a passenger train there every day of the week.

I don't think they're talking about cutting out Chico, just adding stops along the existing route. The Oroville stop would be a bit of a drive, but more convenient than going all the way to the Chico station.

 

The big reason most people in Butte County don't know about train service is the schedule -- it's in the wee hours of the morning, going both directions. I never take the train when I go to Chico or Redding on business, even though I can jump on the Starlight in Salinas. I'd pretty much lose a night's sleep -- not worth it. Anything they do to improve usability, even if it means a bus connection from Oroville, would be an improvement IMHO (although, again, I don't think that's what's on the table).

Aye, the part that has me baffled is there is no way to do a train to Oroville that also goes to Chico. Oroville is on a completely separate line that goes nowhere close to Chico, and there is no way to connect via rail.

 

So if you go to Oroville, you can't go to Chico and vise versa.

 

Better to leave the trains in Chico and do a bus from Oroville (or fund the B-Line, Butte County's transit bus system, to have lines timed to meet trains to/from Oroville and Chico Amtrak station.)

 

I'm certain that the County Supervisors would agree if any local money were to be involved (since Butte County is extremely poor and very much in the red.)

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Based on the attached PDF, it looks like the crew change at Merced is a problem for cost. I really hope they don't go the route of the staggered stops along the route like the are proposing.

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Thank you for the link - although I might need some help understanding the content. I ride the SJ from Hanford to Richmond round trip (then BART into the City). 4 1/2 hours each way, although the last return trip I took (3/6) the train was more rattle than roll. Hopefully an equipment upgrade.... soon.

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I'm trying to wrap my head around the proposal for extension to Oroville.

 

That makes absolutely no sense.

 

Oroville is on the former WP Feather River route, and thus would be orphaned from any further northern expansion. Additionally, it would require a brand new station and associated facilities. And Oroville, demographically, is not a booming place (think lower middle class with a whole lot of poverty) with lots of people commuting out of the area.

 

Chico, on the other hand, already has a station that is served by two trains, several Amtrak buses, and Greyhound. It is a university town, and is mostly middle to upper middle class who does have a lot of Sacramento-located commuters. And it is on a line that makes further northern expansion to Redding a possibility in the future.

 

Color me puzzled (but happy someone is actually thinking about the hugely untapped market of nearly a million people north of Sacramento.)

Well remember that this is a State supported route. If anything there is probably a lot of lobbying by locals to the State for "what about us" rail service. Most likely reaction to some form of "hey we pay taxes up here too."

 

I believe I have read elsewhere that the Oroville proposal, odd as it is, is related to the adding of service to Natomas. If I have this right, they feel they have the ability and can get an OK from whichever railroads are involved, to run some San Joaquin trains to Natomas (and eventually on to Oroville), but at the cost of bypassing the present Sacramento station (and missing Chico as you have mentioned)! Whereas the railroad(s) would not OK more service on the Sacramento-Chico-Redding line.

 

If we were being really optimistic we could look on it as a possible restoration of passenger service on the Feather River route (east from Oroville through the mountains).

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http://chicoenterpriserecord.ca.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=03e310015

 

More about the possible Oroville bus and/or train service on San Joaquin extension

Good to see that things at the State level are moving faster than anything at the national level of Amtrak.

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If you check the website, you'll note the San Joaquin service will revert back to reservations on 2/25/19. I suspect (although I can note confirm) it may have something to do with the standees along the route.

Edited by Thirdrail7

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The website reverts back to reservations, but that doesn't mean the trains will :-).

It appears that flat rate pricing is in effect through at least April (I didn't check any further ahead). It's probably another IT work in progress. The JPA already made the policy decision, so it won't change back to reserved seating until they make another one.

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From the latest SJJPA business plan update...

 

Quote

The current fare policy for the San Joaquins is unreserved ticketing with no revenue management. SJJPA cancelled the dynamic pricing revenue management policy due to its potential for ridership losses, especially on the San Joaquins with its low-income and disadvantaged riders. The escalation of fares can price riders out of the market and create a misperception in the market that travel on the San Joaquins is “too expensive”. Also, revenue management negatively affects riders purchasing tickets at stations. A portion of San Joaquins riders arrive at the station with cash to purchase their ticket from the ticket agent. Revenue management disproportionally impacts these passengers as fares increase over time and have a greater likelihood of increasing nearer to departure time when most cash paying passengers are at the station to purchase their ticket(s). Additionally, Amtrak has misallocated fare “buckets” (i.e. price categories), namely in November 2017, which has led to high pricing and ridership loss. Due these and other concerns, SJJPA cancelled dynamic pricing for the San Joaquins and is developing its own “one-bucket” fare grid similar to Capitol Corridor and Pacific Surfliner. This change will provide a stable pricing structure for the riders and bring the San Joaquins in-line with the other two state supported California corridors.

This cancellation also applies to all four trains on the Sacramento Branch, providing a stabilized pricing structure.The cancellation of reserved ticketing opens San Joaquins trains to potential overbooking, but this is not a current issue during normal operations. Due to the limited capacity of the Thruway Bus system, it remains reserved to ensure proper capacity control is maintained. SJJPA is taking a more active role in monitoring ticket sales to ensure capacity is available. Additionally, this change allows riders to purchase a ticket for one train, but ride another train between the same origin and destination points. This will allow regular riders more flexibility with the tickets they purchase and limit the responsibility of the passenger to change his/her ticket.

 

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13 minutes ago, TiBike said:

The website reverts back to reservations, but that doesn't mean the trains will :-).

It appears that flat rate pricing is in effect through at least April (I didn't check any further ahead). It's probably another IT work in progress. The JPA already made the policy decision, so it won't change back to reserved seating until they make another one.

There are no changes in the prices or fare structures. However, the trains will revert back to reserved status.  That is why if you look at the website (which I used for public verification), you will see it shows as unreserved up until 2/24.

The SJJPA makes policy and the website wouldn't show the need for reservations if it wasn't needed. (read in between the lines here, Tibike.)

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You have access to information that I don't, so okay. I went back through the board agenda since the last business plan was approved, and there was a decision to adjust the (flat) rate structure over time, and to continue with reserved seating during holidays, with the possibility of fare buckets in that circumstance. But no decision to go back to reserved seating was made by the board, and if an executive decision was made by staff (it's within their discretion if circumstances demand) it wasn't publicised, which would be unusual. But not impossible.

OTOH, if I were to read between the lines, I might squint and see Amtrak unilaterally deciding it was "necessary", as it did out east -- Connecticut, wasn't it?

This could be interesting. Time to get the popcorn ready :-).

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Yes all this is true.  Partial solution?  Once the new cars are in reliable service take the old cars into a "surge" storage and when by reservations know the board knows they will be needed for extra cars or extra sections.  Once they are in a surge status sell them slightly cheaper with the understanding the cars will not meet normal passenger expectations!  Actually AMTRAK should do the same!  That occurs at Thanksgiving with the leased MARC cars now.

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53 minutes ago, west point said:

Yes all this is true.  Partial solution?  Once the new cars are in reliable service take the old cars into a "surge" storage and when by reservations know the board knows they will be needed for extra cars or extra sections.  Once they are in a surge status sell them slightly cheaper with the understanding the cars will not meet normal passenger expectations!  Actually AMTRAK should do the same!  That occurs at Thanksgiving with the leased MARC cars now.

Probably not. Word from the conductor is those bi-levels are coming to SoCal once the Siemens single level are delivered up north.

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