When Will Daylight Come to the California Coast?

Sep 17th, 2012 | Posted by

For years now local governments along the Central Coast, aided by passenger rail advocates, have been working to bring daily local rail service back to their communities. While the Coast Starlight does serve Salinas, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, and though the Pacific Surfliner serves other local stops from SLO southward, there’s still no daily scheduled rail service from SF to LA via the coast. Aside from Salinas, cities between Gilroy and Paso Robles have no rail service of any kind. And that in turn means no connection to the high speed rail system at Gilroy and again in the LA area, no connecting service and no funneling passengers to the bullet trains.

Train Tracks to San Miguel, California

The proposed Coast Daylight service would fill this gap. While the Central Coast is too hilly and sparsely populated to support high speed rail service, it’s a perfect spot for intercity rail along the Amtrak California model. It would boost tourism in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties and give residents there more reliable travel options to get to the Bay Area and SoCal. Amtrak California’s bus service along the corridor is popular, suggesting latent demand for rail.

Even the US military is supportive, hoping for a passenger rail stop at King City to serve soldiers going to and from Fort Hunter Liggett. (Little known fact: the military is one of the strongest supporters of transit in Monterey County, funding service through the local transit agency.) And as gas prices rise, it becomes more important than ever to bring some form of intercity rail to as many corners of the state as possible.

Unfortunately, as a recent article in the San Luis Obispo New Times points out, the Coast Daylight is yet again delayed thanks to a battle with Union Pacific:

According to a CRCC staff report, rail agencies are facing three major hurdles to reestablishing service. First, Amtrak needs the train set. According to the report, the arrival of new California-owned equipment in 2015 should help relieve the current rail car shortage and free up existing equipment.

Second, ridership and revenue modeling completed by Amtrak and Caltrans in 2010 concluded that about $7.5 million in new operating funds would be needed annually for the service, which is expected to increase ridership by an estimated 152,000 trips a year.

In previous years, Caltrans has proposed setting aside funds for the Daylight in its operating budget, but has been denied by the Department of Finance, citing the lack of an agreement with Union Pacific over the rails.

The CRCC is currently on its third draft of modeling, but thus far disagreements between the agency and Union Pacific have centered on the route’s projected impact on freight trains, which take precedence over commuter routes….

However, the agencies have disagreed with Union Pacific over just how many smaller, “reasonable” capital improvement projects would need to be made along the section of rail to get the route approved, such as updated signaling and other modernizations.

The state has about $43 million to restore service. New trainsets will be required, and once new cars are delivered to Caltrans in 2015 that should make available cars to use on the daily route in each direction. But that money has to go far, especially on older sections of track in Monterey County and northern San Luis Obispo County that need rehabilitation to help handle increased loads, or to lengthen sidings to give some more priority to passenger trains. So that makes it important from the state’s perspective to not have to spend too much money on capital improvements, hence their position in negotiations with UP.

The crux of the issue has to due with a capacity model. Bruce Jenkins of RailPAC summed up the issue in a post from December 2011:

The Coast Route remains a strategic line for Union Pacific freight operations, e.g., overflow traffic from the Tehachipi Route and growing local volume. The UP maintains that a single passenger train consumes the eguivalent of 2 to 4 freight train slots.

CRCC raised three main points of the modeling:
a) There are an unreasonable high number of freight trains assumed.
b) The modeling results can’t be verified.
c) The necessity of including projects south of San Luis Obispo (SLO) and north of SanJose (SJC) is unclear and unjustified.

UP responded :
a) The rail assets must earn a fair return for stockholders.
b) The high number of freight trains (20 trains/day) in the model include trains to east Oakland (Elmhurst), and 17.3 freight trains per day operate on the same tracks as the proposed Daylight.
c) The schedule can be modified and run again.
d) Model times can be set at SLO and SJC for the next run.
e) It is expected additional passenger operations would contribute to Positve Train Control (PTC).

In other words, UP wants to ensure they can make money from running a lot of trains over this corridor and that they don’t lose capacity to passenger trains. Of course, this may also be a negotiating position so they can get the state to put up more money to upgrade UP’s tracks, but UP has been notoriously hostile to passenger rail in California in the past.

As with all negotiations with UP, the state and the local governments, all of whom really want this service, are in a weak position. UP answers only to the federal government, which over 100 years ago took away most power to regulate railroads from localities at a time when Congress was in the railroads’ pocket. California’s Congressional leaders should do what they can to help push UP to come to a good faith solution with the state so that the Coast Daylight trains can begin rolling in 2015.

  1. joe
    Sep 17th, 2012 at 07:13

    We got a second term pet project for VP Joe Biden.

  2. Winston
    Sep 17th, 2012 at 07:40

    The coast daylight doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as a transportation project. The train is just too slow to compete with buses and cars and there aren’t a lot of destinations between SLO and Monterey. Perhaps as a luxury train with prices to match it could make money as a destination in itself, but not with the Amtrak business model. I think we’d be better off focusing on doing HSR right. And HSR done right really means keeping costs under control – the lowest hanging fruit in this area are keeping station footprints small, avoiding wasting money on things like CBOSS. These are things that a concentrated effort can change and that will lead to a better project even if less good route choices are made.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Monterey is enough of a destination by itself.

    That said, UP is being deliberately obstructive; its claims that passenger trains should pay for PTC installation are bogus. Best to wait until UP has been forced to install PTC *anyway* and try again.

    Alternatively, buy UP. It’s a small company by the standards of the California State Government and could be easily taken over in a hostile takeover — if the government had balls of steel, like it did when it sequestered the Colorado River water supply.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    If “but for” the passenger trains, no PTC installation would be required (and you’re never going to see it required on every mile of track anyhow), then it is entirely reasonable to demand that any new passenger service requiring PTC pay for the installation costs.

    And would you get off this stupid bugbear of trying a hostile takeover of UP? In addition to requiring a massive price premium to even be thought workable (BNSF was a 30% premium for a friendly takeover), you’d have to try and get the state legislature to agree to a massive bond measure (quite likely resulting in needing to get it past the voters first), and you would be tied up in legal battles with half the country for years, and all that’s assuming that the STB would ever permit it in the first place.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Well, I’m just describing what would happen in a functional country. I do agree with you that we live in a dysfunctional country with a nonfunctional system of government, and therefore sensible things will not happen.

    Nathanael Reply:

    As for the first point, PTC will be required for the Coast route, pretty much without a doubt; the current FRA regs are pretty clear on this point; there’s no way in hell the Coast route will qualify for a Main Line Exception.

    Judge Moonbox Reply:

    I think that one corridor that should start planning now (if they haven’t already–I’ve clicked on a link to Monterey County’s transit authority page and what I got was an army hospital) is a corridor from Gilroy to Monterey. I believe that we can build a new line through the San Andreas rift zone that’ll allow faster operations there–when I took the Starlight 3 years ago, that was the sloooooooooooowest segment. It would also improve the service–existing and proposed–to Salinas and points south..

    Michael Reply:

    Extend a Capitol Corridor or two to SLO. Very early am departure and a departure around lunch. Get the local transit agency to provide a feeder bus connecting to the train at Paso Robles, to save about 45 min on the trip over the Cuesta Pass, since that’s the point of the ride on the Starlight that makes me cry for the horrible travel time.

    By extending Capitols, that negates UP’s argument over capacity in the Bay Area. These two extended Capitols would run in existing (or existing allocated) slots between SJ and Oakland. The VTA owns TEN(!!!!) roundtrip slots between San Jose and Gilroy. A third extended Capitol originating in Salinas would allow Caltrain to discontinue service on San Jose Tamien – Gilroy, assuming retention of Morgan Hill and maybe a South San Jose stop.

    Michael Reply:

    Oh, and get the tar and feathers ready, the train arriving and the train departing mid-day in SLO would meet a Surfliner for those making the trip through SLO.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    And how are you supposed to extend a CC over UP’s track to SLO without their permission?

    Michael Reply:

    I’m not proposing to do it without their permission. If my words are mumbly, it’s because you just stuck a few extra in my mouth.

    My idea responds to UPRR’s condition stated in the blog post that specifically calls out Elmhurst as a point of concern. I do believe that UPRR has legitimate capacity concerns north of San Jose to Oakland, especially from Niles north. My point is that if the service uses existing slots from Gilroy north, there’s little concern for interference with UPRR’s freight where UPRR actually runs freight trains.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The Coast Daylight proposal was supposed to go up Caltrain to SF!

    Michael Reply:

    That is a proposal. Consider that a lot of trains runs between SJ and SF. Also consider that the Caltrans/Amtrak maintenance facility is in Oakland. Then consider the other stuff I wrote above. What makes sense?

  3. John Nachtigall
    Sep 17th, 2012 at 07:55

    They are hostile because they are a buisness and they have to make money. Since no passenger trains are able to make a return on investment (and all but a few can’t cover the operating costs) they want to make sure that they don’t end up giving up a profitable enterprise “freight” for something that will always be a money looser (passengers)

    I don’t see why this is surprising at all?

    jimsf Reply:

    The reason for UPs resistance is purely political. There is no capacity issue. They don’t even use the line. In the the past two months since I started working in SLO, I have seen excatly ONE freight train.

    That said. The daylight is a bad idea. The schedule too closely matches the starlight. I know that foamers and historical types want to revive the daylight for emotional reasons but what is needed from a business standpoint is an overnight train between sf and la. I know this from working in SF on the evening shift for many years. There is a big demand for an overnight train. One in each direction from la and sf – departing after dinner at 9pm and arriving in downtown la and sf at 9am. The southbound sked for instance would match the 645am departure from santa barbara. Train 768 arriving lax at 930 and san diego at 1230p

    northbound – train 591 from san diego at 615p departing lax at 905pm would arrive at sf at 9am.

    These are schedules that make sense and these trains would be FULL of overnight travelers, business and especially tourists. To save money, do not include a lounge/food car. as the trains depart after dinner and arrive at breakfast time. Instead offer some standard cheap0 coach seats and a comfort class section – not roometts – but wide fully reclining seats with leg rests along with a snack pack, and maybe morning hot towel service. and leave it at that.

    I promise you this would be a raging success. however, neither amtrak nor caltrans has any ability to think this way, so it will never happen. Amtrak and caltrans have excactly zero creative ability to think outisde the box. But I can tell you without hesitation as a front line employee that the service I described above. would be a huge success.

    Michael Reply:

    “Instead offer some standard cheap0 coach seats and a comfort class section – not roometts – but wide fully reclining seats with leg rests”

    Exactly! Take some coach cars, strip out everything, and replace with some very nice business class airline seating. I would hope that they could fit in a 1-2 configuration. Many manufacturers offer seating for rail and airlines. Go out and buy some, instead of cobbling something together out of old lazboys in Beech Grove at twice the cost.

    jimsf Reply:

    LOL are we there yet

    joe Reply:

    High end would be like international business class on a modern airplane. You can recline the chair into a flat bed.

    I’ve used these.

    Low end would be be like a domestic first class seat. The jimsf recliner with beverage cup holder in rich corinthian vinyl.

    jimsf Reply:

    and built in massage feature dont forget that

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Plain old Amfleet coach seats make first class on an domestic airplane look cramped.

    Derek Reply:

    The first thing I want to do after taking an overnight bus (besides sleeping) is to take a shower and store my luggage someplace safe before heading off to meetings or sightseeing, but is a 9am arrival time too early to check into a hotel?

    jimsf Reply:

    well in terms of tourists, they seem quite willing to put up with a bit of roughing it in order to save a nights hotel and travel overnight,… especially international tourists….. Im amazed at how resilient and willing they are. europeans and australians are especially well traveled and flexible. ( way more than me thats for sure) I suppose the trainset could be equipped with a freshen up room in each car, a place to wash up and change, shave, etc, maybe even a shower for the comfort class upgrade price I guess. for those who need it. contrary to amtrak and caltrans belief system, any thing is possible.

    joe Reply:

    Business red eye flights are no different – say SF to ORD or JFK or IAD.

    If you are departing 6AM from an airport like SJC to LAX, that’s a pretty early morning shower or not.
    You could freshen up at the station bathroom if not on board.

    A hotel would gladly accept luggage in the AM. If it’s day trip, a small carry on bag is sufficient and can be carried to meetings.

    jimsf needs to move the schedule up so the train arrives at 6AM in LA for the purpose of getting to a meeting by 9-10AM. That beats most 6AM flights out of SJC which get me into LAX/BUR around 7:30 – 8AM.

    Donk Reply:

    Anyone would be crazy to schedule a 9am meeting after a 12 hour trip on Amtrak with an on-time performance of 0.002%

    jimsf Reply:

    Dont be a nancy naysayer.

    besides its a trip more fpr the tourist set 90 percent, and maybne 10percent for actually real business y types.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Buffalo-Chicago is apparently actually used by quite a few people in Buffalo as a business-trip route; it’s better than taking the plane to Chicago, and apparently gets you to your meeting just as reliably (which is to say, Buffalo to Chicago airline service kind of sucks).

    Keep Houston Houston Reply:

    Hate to rain on your parade here but this is the exact business model of the “blue trains” in Japan and those are dropping like flies.

    The reason is dual competition from buses and planes. Your biggest issue with buses is traffic congestion and your biggest issue with planes is congestion + long lines at the airport. But there’s no traffic congestion long after the evening rush has subsided and there’s not a huge line at the airport at 9pm. SWA has a 9:55 departure from SFO getting into LAX at 11:15 for about 80 bucks. Hard to see how you’re going to beat that with a 12-hour train ride.

    You can also satisfy these riders with HSR. A theoretical 9:00 departure from Downtown SF gets into LA before midnight and could perhaps extend to SD with a 1:00am arrival. Likewise early-morning trains can get you there on time. If I woke up in Tokyo tomorrow I could catch Nozomi #99 at 6:00am sharp out of Shinagawa… Osaka by 8:20, Kyoto by 9:00.

  4. Derek
    Sep 17th, 2012 at 08:10

    If the company that owned the rails were not allowed to own rolling stock (and vice-versa), the company would be a little more neutral about deciding who gets to run their trains on the track and when. Maybe a law that fixes this conflict of interest is in order.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Europe’s model is stupid. And quite frankly, given how shitty Amtrak is at keeping the trains that do run on that route from breaking down (or simply giving them enough power to make it over hills), much less run on time, I’d be concerned too if I were UP. The Starlight and the Surfliner are the most mechanically unreliable trains in the country, who wouldn’t be less than enthusiastic about having another one?

    Derek Reply:

    Does UP ever complain that Amtrak trains break down more often than freight trains?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Amtrak is perfectly good at maintaining trains and providing enough power; they simply don’t *own* enough rolling stock. Which is due to funding starvation for 40 years. As usual.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    This would be the same Amtrak that had the Starlight stall out going up a grade last month and has regular engine failures on the Surfliner, yes?

    jimsf Reply:

    Speaking of incompetent drain on the treasury… in the course of 6 travel days, and 1500 miles, I was delayed a total of 4 hours on five highways. At one point the 5 was completely shut down. So not only are the highways not making a profit, but they are completely unreliable when it comes to keepin a reasonable schedule.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, and if trains were reasonably frequent and useful and reliable, they’d eat the highways’ lunch for long-distance trips. Shoveling snow even on mountain routes like the Siskiyou Pass is fairly easy given modern plow technology. The amount of snow or rain that will shut down a railroad is much larger than the amount that will shut down a highway with 6% grades.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Even without being frequent or reliable, the Empire Builder is already more reliable than the roads in Montana and North Daktoa.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The Amtrak which bought its last diesel locomotives in 1991-97, doesn’t have enough, and is running them past their useful life? Uh-huh, it would be that Amtrak, Paul.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    This hole isn’t deep enough. Let’s keep digging!

    jimsf Reply:

    poor richard. he’ll never be happy unless he gets his way, and hes never ever going to get his way in this country. so he will never be happy.

    VBobier Reply:

    The trains that are labeled Amtrak-California in California, are in fact owned and maintained by Caltrans, not Amtrak. If the line is merely used once a week as someone else suggested, maybe Caltrans should buy the line and make UP a mere Tenant…

    jimsf Reply:

    but what about the politics. its all about the politics and has nothing to do with transporting people or freight.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    The line isn’t for sale and the state has no power of eminent domain over rail lines.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Which is exactly the problem, and which shows again that UP is being obstructive on essentially political grounds.

    In contrast, NS and CSX have been happy to sell lines with similar levels of use.

    The fact is, a state government which was *dedicated* to the project, and willing to commit a lot of money, could use Amtrak’s power of eminent domain over UP to get hold of the line.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Paul Druce:

    Europe isn’t one country (like we are) and has a multitude of models to choose from.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The privatization model is a single model, begun by the British Tories with British Rail but now required by EU regulations.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Hmm, considering how badly the BR privatization was botched, why did the EU adopt it as a standard?

    Max Wyss Reply:

    The EU model is not quite the UK model; what it has in common is the separation of infrastructure and operation, and the separation of freight and passenger operation. The core is a non-discriminatory access to the network (as long as the various conditions for being an “operator”, and the technical conditions are fulfilled. But then, this is not thaaat far away from the US trackage rights model.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Well, in the US you definitely don’t have non-discriminatory access. At most, the federal government may force you to grant trackage rights to a competitor as a condition for allowing a merger that would otherwise create a monopoly.

    trentbridge Reply:

    According to Amtrak’s July 2012 report:

    The Coast Starlight is “on-time” 79.8% YTD
    The Surfliner is “on-time” 75.5% YTD

    Not great compared to the Capitols: 93.8% or San Joaquins: 88.5% but hardly the most mechanically unreliable trains in the country. Try riding the Wolverine – on-time 41.8% of the time or the Cardinal 42.1% “On-time”.

    Incidentally the same report says that the biggest cause of delays – those caused by UP are PTI – Passenger Train Interference. Perhaps the Surfliners get in the way of the Coast Starlight.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Engine reliability of Amtrak routes.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Those numbers are just odd. They don’t correlate with shop locations.

    However, knowing that Amtrak is somewhat short of engines, I wonder if Amtrak is deliberately assigning the “better” locos to some routes, and assigning the “last available thing in the yard” to other routes? This would certainly explain the Hoosier State, which is generally expected to be axed in a year anyway and can’t get very good time no matter what. I couldn’t tell you why the Surfliner and Coast Starlight are getting the “dogs”, but it might have to do with scheduling.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Europe’s model is stupid

    What’s with the free marketeer love of monopolies, price fixing, feather bedding and exclusion of competition?

    Europe’s “stupid” model is the only hope for rail freight on the continent. And franchising the provision of services of local and regional passenger operations (under competent state coordination, preserving the public user perception of integrated networks) seems generally positive.

    I do know there are plenty of US shippers who would welcome on-rail competition. I have no informed opinion as to how open access ought to or should or could work in North America’s geographically mega-cartelized private freight rail context, but aren’t customers supposed to always be right here in the global heart of free-wheeling open and transparent competition subject to wise and impartial and minimal regulation?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    What’s with the free marketeer love of monopolies, price fixing, feather bedding and exclusion of competition?

    I don’t trust that return on capital investment will be high enough without a massive increase in rates. Certainly the post-privatization history of BR doesn’t paint a pretty picture. If I’m wrong, of course, then I’m wrong and I’ll change my position.

    Europe’s “stupid” model is the only hope for rail freight on the continent.

    I don’t see how. Eliminate border crossing issues and simply do interchange and foreign trains like American railroads have always done.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    SNCF Fret

    Paul Druce Reply:

    I’m not meaning to be obtuse, but I’m not sure what you’re trying to mean with the reference.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    Rail freight in France is/was in collapse, with the national monopoly SNCF Fret’s employees happy to ride it all the way to the bottom, and fight tooth and nail to the last man to sink it. The situation in other countries (= regional monopolies of quasi-corporatised divisions of national railway companies) generally wasn’t a hell of a lot better. (Hello, Italy!)

    On-rail competition by motivated foreign and private operators is the only hope to return freight to rails.

    As for your suggestion that “simple interchange” will work. No, it’s the interchange which doesn’t work, even if parties on both sides of the exchange were working and motivated, which they generally aren’t.

    How about simple interchange at every US state border, and at some of the larger county boundaries?

    And, aside from all of that. how about the multi-day US freight transit delays around Chicago (and even elsewhere)?

    Large customers really competitive hook-and-haul from source to destination terminal, not to be forced to deal with regional mega-monopolies, with the only choice being “road freight”. Again, I don’t know enough to venture whether this is a macro-economically or socially desirable outcome in the US context. I don’t know a lot more about Europe, but I have stronger opinions about it, along the lines of “You’re Wrong!”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Isn’t Switzerland both a country with very strong freight rail mode share and a railroad that’s hostile to the EU privatization mandates?

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Not really; infrastructure and operations are separated, and cargo and passenger units are separated as well. From the former SBB, those units still belong to a holding company “SBB”, but they are independent companies (legally). The SBB holding company is owned by the Swiss Federation. Private operators do handle specific traffic, and there are several operators crossing Switzerland via the Gotthard route.

    One thing Switzerland is not doing (and it is not required by the EU regulations anyway) is selling off the SBB or ist parts to the public.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Alon, if you’d like to run a train through or within Switzerland, knock yourself out! http://www.trasse.ch/en

    Andy M Reply:

    Germany has seen a massive growth in rail freight thanks to private competitors. And interestingly, lathough DB-Schenker (the freight arm of DB) has lost market share, in terms of valume it has actually won. So breaking cartels and allowing competition will not necessarily actaully damage the incumbent. On the contrary, the competition has taught it to think more productively and fight harder for its customers.

    In the UK there has also been a growth in rail freight (despite a series of setbacks). One of the main problams here is crowding out due to growth in passenger traffic, and that many of the parallel routes that are sorely missed were lost to the Beeching axe. One example is Southampton – Newbury – Didcot. With the port of Southampton becoming ever more important as a source of rail freight, and many of the trains heading for Birmingham, having to detour trains away from the most logical route and use lines that are not only longer but also more congested is putting a cap on growth. Unfortunately, a revival of the lost route is nigh on impossible as it has been closed too long and in many places houses and highways have been built over the right of way.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    In my mind the true evil of the “Beeching axe” was not so much the service cuts, but that they sold off so much right-of-way. Services can be re-started, and tracks re-laid, at relatively reasonable cost, but right-of-way is an entirely different story. I think that more than anything shows how short-sighted they were.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …but in the 60s we were all going to drive everywhere and freight was going to move by truck.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Miles wrote:
    “In my mind the true evil of the “Beeching axe” was not so much the service cuts, but that they sold off so much right-of-way. Services can be re-started, and tracks re-laid, at relatively reasonable cost, but right-of-way is an entirely different story. I think that more than anything shows how short-sighted they were.”

    Bingo. I feel the same way about the lost ROWs in the US. Reassembling a ROW is a nightmare.

    BrianR Reply:


    and also don’t forget that in the 60’s we were going to fly everywhere on supersonic jets. All our international airports would be crowded with aged and decrepit Concordes and Boeing SST’s (and the ozone layer would be long gone already).

    Nathanael Reply:

    In Europe, make note that a large percentage of freight goes by ship and barge.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “What’s with the free marketeer love of monopolies, price fixing, feather bedding and exclusion of competition?”

    That’s always been what “free markets” have meant. A “free market” is defined as one where businessmen are “free” to organize monopolies, exclude competition, and engage in price fixing. At least, that’s been the working definition, politically, since the 19th century; Adam Smith would have disagreed. But then Adam Smith also believed that markets weren’t appropriate for everything….

  5. JTH
    Sep 17th, 2012 at 08:35

    What is the maximum speed this could reach with existing rail structure, with new trains?
    I think the old timetable in the 70’s had average speed at 50mph, with the entire trip taking 9hrs to LA to SF.

  6. Andrew
    Sep 17th, 2012 at 08:59

    Here’s how to connect the various communities within the Monterey Bay region, and the whole region with the Bay Area, Central Valley and Socal via HSR (click on the lines):

    Derek Reply:

    I wonder if Santa Cruz would be better served by a direct link to Gilroy, without a transfer.

    Pacifica could use a rail link.

  7. jimsf
    Sep 17th, 2012 at 10:27

    an overnight train from SF to LA. YOu can call it the moonlight or something.

    SFC 830pm after dinner out of sf.
    SJC 930pm after dinner out of sj
    SNS(mry) 1130pm
    SLO 230am after last call for students lol.
    SBA 530am additional early morning service for commuters.
    LAX 830am just in time for both commuters and tourists to start the day. and with continuing connections on to san diego arriving at 1230p


    LAX 830pm
    SBA 1130pm (late night addtional service for commuters)
    SLO 230am
    SNS 530am early arrival for tourists from la.
    SJC 730am early arrival for busniess traveler to silicon valley
    SFC 800am early arrival for tourists and business into sf.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’ve always thought this would be an awesome service to have.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Even more awesome would be:

    Transbay 7:00
    Millbrae 7:15
    RWC 7:24
    Diridon Intergalactic 7:42
    Sylmar 9:41
    Burbank 9:48
    Los Angeles 9:55

    Now repeat every 15 minutes, and add slower trains, making local stops between DIG and Sylmar.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The “Moonlight” makes a lot of sense in the post-HSR California.

    But I think the better question is if you continue the Starlight south of SF do you reinstate the Daylight. I argued a few months ago that probably it would make sense to expand the Sunset Limited and run it back to SF, and then end the Starlight in the Bay.

    Even so, I suspect a Daylight service will also be needed as a feeder. The catch is that as Amtrak California is spun off into JPAs, is who is going to run the agency that would do such a thing?

    I’ll also come out and say that PRIIA was probably the right move… so that Amtrak can focus on the NEC and long distance trains where you need national involvement. In the case of HSR, I see US airlines getting concessions to run most of them with states having to manage the feeder routes, commuter lines, etc.

  8. Amanda in the South Bay
    Sep 17th, 2012 at 10:33

    I know for a fact that for a while, the largest military installation on the central coast by far (Presidio of Monterey/DLI) didn’t allow MST busses on post. At least after 9/11 until November 2007 (when I left DLI). I think they do now, but that’s not quite accurate to say they are a big transit supporter. I think train service to Hunter Liggett made more sense a decade ago, not in an era when there’s no more Iraq War, and OEF is winding down.

    An awfully large number of DLI faculty commute from outside Monterey County. Honestly, the most cost effective and environmentally conscious decision would be to relocate DLI someplace that’s not the ass end of nowhere.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    They changed their tune around 2008-09. They now allow numerous MST buses on post (I used to see them every afternoon from my apartment in New Monterey) and they also fund a lot of bus service on special lines from PoM to the housing complex at Fort Ord. And I know that they have been supportive of the Coast Daylight because of the desire to have a station at King City for soldiers to use in transit to and from Fort Hunter Liggett, which is way out in the middle of nowhere (and stunningly beautiful to boot).

  9. jimsf
    Sep 17th, 2012 at 10:52

    I just finished a tour ( following a band) that took me from san luis obispo to san francsico to san jose to sacramento/citrus heights via visalia and from cistrus heights to newport beach and back to san luis obispo.

    It cost me about 242 trillion dollars in gas and marriotts. God knows what it did to my back. And it took way too long. I could have used amtrak for free except that the scheduling made it completely impossible – for any portion of the tour.

    Had we had a fully built out high speed rail system I could have gone to every show and been home in bed each night.

    Thats why I, ( and debbie harry) support high speed rail.

    jimsf Reply:

    It was at least 1500 miles

  10. Reedman
    Sep 17th, 2012 at 12:43

    I am confused.

    What would the benefit be of a Daylight train over the existing daily Starlight? More stops? Caltrain seems to well cover connecting SF and Peninsula to the Starlight in San Jose. Is there a driving need for more train service in Gilroy and King City?

    If Amtrak is going to add new routes, I would think New Orleans to Jacksonville would be a better idea.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Some benefits:

    1. More stops. There’d be stops at Gilroy, Pajaro/Watsonville, Salinas, Soledad, King City, and Paso Robles, in addition to the existing Surfliner stops from SLO south.

    2. Direct connection to SF. Currently there isn’t one from anywhere south of Gilroy.

    3. More reliability. The Coast Starlight, especially #11 (southbound), can get delayed north of Sacramento especially during winter, fucking everything up down on the Central Coast. A SF-LA route would not be subject to those delays, and the #14 usually is on time, or fairly close to it, heading north from LA along this part of the corridor.

    4. Additional service. Along with the Starlight you’d have a second train serving the Starlight stops on the corridor. It also reduces pressure from some cities and counties to add Starlight stops.

    This doesn’t come out of Amtrak’s budget, it would be funded by the state of California.

    As to the need, my view is consistent: California needs a lot more rail in a lot more places with a lot more frequency. Build it all.

    jimsf Reply:

    well then, four trains a day – two in each direction one day trip one overnight trip departing LA and SF at 8am and 8am and 8pm and 8pm and arriving 7pm and 7pm and 7am and 7am with a one hour turn time. A four car (cali) trainset with one conductor and one attendant for comfort class. or hell make the whole train comfort class for that matter, after all they are saving a nights hotel cost. Id price it at flat rate of 99 dollars and including a trav meal, a toiletries packet, and a shower in the lower level of each car. Morning coffee and continental served at seat.

    you could actually skip PRB and SLO and make it nonstop between SNS and SBA and maybe shave an hour off the time.

    joe Reply:

    2. Direct connection to SF. Currently there isn’t one from anywhere south of Gilroy.
    Gilroy-SF: 3 trains N in the AM and 3 returning S in the PM. Not much.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    1. More stops. There’d be stops at Gilroy, Pajaro/Watsonville, Salinas, Soledad, King City, and Paso Robles, in addition to the existing Surfliner stops from SLO south.

    Actually, the fewer stops there are the more viable the concept is. Not because I have anything against the sprawling metropolii of Guadalupe, Corcoran, or Soledad, but because the longer the route is, the fewer stops generally make sense.

    Under the Daylight concept you want to phase out stops in places like Van Nuys and focus on serving the medium size destinations like: Burbank, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Grover Beach/Pismo Beach/Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Monterey, and Watsonville/Santa Cruz.

    As I said above, the Moonlight should hit SF, Milbrae, Palo Alto, Diridon, Watsonville, Monterey, and then not stop again until Santa Barbara.

  11. jim
    Sep 17th, 2012 at 17:13

    The point of the Daylight is it would be a single seat ride between LA and SF. That’s something that doesn’t exist today and won’t for two or three decades otherwise.

    Boston-Washington via conventional rail is eight hours or so and there’s ridership. There’s even ridership on the night train despite its lack of sleepers and it taking ten hours (and passing through New York at two in the morning, so there’s not that much intermediate ridership).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You’d be surprised at how many people get on or off the train in the middle of the night.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Heard at a party last night: “San Francisco: the city that sleeps.”

    Matthew Reply:

    Doesn’t hold a candle to Boston: the city that always sleeps.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Fewer than would get on the train if it didn’t randomly leave early. My ex needed to take the night train from New York to Providence, showed up at Penn Station 10 minutes before the scheduled departure, was told the train had been rescheduled to 15 minutes earlier, and then had to wait 3 hours with the homeless people for the first Acela of the morning.

    But I don’t want to be such a naysayer. Amtrak rocks!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Which is why seasoned travelers, even when they aren’t traveling on Amtrak, check with their carrier on the day they are traveling to assure that their hasn’t been a schedule change.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Which is why seasoned travelers, even when they aren’t traveling on Amtrak, check with their carrier on the day they are traveling to assure that their hasn’t been a schedule change.

    Er, what? Maybe in the U.S.

    But in any country with a halfway sane transportation system, the idea that a rail journey is something one must “check” (unless there are obvious extenuating circumstances, e.g. extremely severe weather) seems simply bizarre.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    In most of the world the train system curls up and goes to sleep at midnight. I’m sure someplace somewhere on Amtrak’s website the schedule change was announced. If hhe has checked with Julie she wouldn’t have had a problem. If she had been at the station 30 minutes before departure like Amtrak suggests she wouldn’t have had a problem.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    For the record, the excuse the Amtrak employee I grilled about this at the Streetsblog party I’d gone to was that trains pretty much never leave early, and crews get in trouble if they do.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The word “gave” should be somewhere in that comment.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And if they had rescheduled it around maintenance in Kingston they left on time.

    swing hanger Reply:

    30 min before departure- b/c in America, train arrival/departure times are “rsadt” or railroad suggested arrival and departure times.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Amtrak trains do not leave early (except at the stops with that specific mark on them).

    But you do have to check that the schedule hasn’t changed the day before you travel. It’s just an error to not do so.

    Joey Reply:

    If the CalTrain corridor is going to be modernized we don’t want unreliable trains (partially UP’s fault but also largely unavoidable on US freight lines) mucking up the scheduling or capacity, especially where it will already be somewhat constrained (the CalTrain corridor). On the other hand CalTrain seems to want to do as little modernization as possible (electrification and lighter trains is about where it ends).

  12. Andrew
    Sep 17th, 2012 at 18:06

    Does anyone know, is it conceivable for an electrified passenger train running on standard railroad tracks to run through on SF Muni Metro tracks?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Yes. No.

    Andrew Reply:


    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I”m sure for 6 or 7 million dollars a car they could. And the billion or so to connect the national network to the Muni network.

    Joey Reply:

    There are a few instances where light rail can run on the same tracks as mainline trains, but they’re few and far between, with good reason. But usually it’s light rail running on mainline tracks, not the other way around. To list just a few of the problems: curve radii on light rail are frequently way to small for mainline trains to negotiate, small loading gauges would lead to clearance issues (platforms would get in the way even if they were the right height), overhead wires can be quite low (too low for mainline trains to pass under safely, if at all), and frequent stop spacing would lead to a capacity issue.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Go to Table 1 here and compare the specs with US mainline specs, e.g. 3.2-meter passenger cars, and a minimum curve radius of 80 meters (on the Acela at least).

    Joey Reply:

    20′ from LRT track center to fence? Greater than for mainline rail?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Look at the distance from the track center to the platform edge.

    Joey Reply:

    What’s so weird about 1.5m?

    Andy M Reply:

    Isn’t this happening already? The F-line to Fisherman’s Wharf is an old street-running freight route that served the various docks and once strectched all the way from what is now the Caltrains terminal to Fort Mason. The tracks have been re-laid, but not because they were the wrong gauge or anything but simply because they were old and in poor condition and not always ideally located. But trying to run a heavy train there today would verge on madness. But as things have changed in the past, so they may change again in the future, so never say never.

    (PS: you can still see the old tracks at the Fort Mason end and the tunnel, and there are even plans to run streetcars there).

    Jon Reply:

    You can put light rail on mainline tracks, not usually the other way round.

  13. blankslate
    Sep 18th, 2012 at 08:30

    I don’t understand why a whole new train is proposed, rather than extending a few Capitols south and Surfliners north until they meet up. “Coast Daylight” may have sentimental value because there was a train with than name 50 or 100 years ago or something, but from the point of view of actually existing current train riders in California, Capitols/Surfliner are viable services that can be built upon.

    Also, Caltrain provides ample service from San Jose to San Francisco. We don’t need to complicate that corridor any further.

    Michael Reply:

    Yes. Trains serving SLO from the north and south would aid the college population. When I ride either the Capitols or San Joaquins near the weekends, there are a lot of Davis shirts. I think a train north from Sacramento would get business from Chico students. Through traffic IS served by the Starlight. Other through traffic would work with a change in SLO. The Daylight proposal circulating isn’t that much different from the Starlight schedule, time wise.

    BrianR Reply:

    makes sense to me. I was surprised when looking at the Capitol Corridor’s timetable for San Jose to Jack London Square that it covers that route in about the same time as Caltrain’s baby bullets cover San Jose to SF. According to the timetables the route distances are roughly comparable. I find that odd considering the Capitol Corridor has a really odd serpentine route at the southern end, especially through Fremont. I think it has to slow down to about 10 mph in a couple areas. I find it remarkable how well it does despite that.

    Extending Sacramento to San Jose trains to SLO would be a good short term benefit but ultimately the ideal situation would be to have added trains between SLO and Oakland. Having separate Sacramento to San Jose trains and SLO to Oakland trains overlap their routes between Oakland and San Jose could help give it a frequency more or less comparable to Caltrain at certain times of times of the day. I know that’s not a mark of greatness but it would be an improvement.

    If someone is already willing to take the long slow route from SLO to San Jose on the coastal route I would find it odd if they protested the requirement to transfer to Caltrain in San Jose to continue up to SF (especially if the CC could maintain a reliable schedule guaranteeing all transfers will be 20 minutes or less). People that smoke could consider it a perk. “Complimentary break to take a walk, get some fresh air or take a smoke!” Since this is not HSR that “one seat ride” principle shouldn’t have to apply.

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