Pacific Surfliner Expects Heavy Ridership Later This Month

Jul 8th, 2013 | Posted by

Passenger rail is quickly becoming a major travel choice between the Los Angeles area and San Diego. It makes sense, given the regular traffic jams on Interstate 5 and the reliable, comfortable service on the Pacific Surfliner. On days where freeway traffic is bad, the Surfliner is often faster than the car when going from a station in LA or Orange County to San Diego.

As a result, the Surfliners are seeing not only steady ridership growth – they are beginning to sell out even on non-holiday weekends. Later this month Amtrak California will require reservations for all Surfliner trips from July 19 to July 21. Reservations are a way of managing high ridership demand.

The San Diego Comic-Con is that weekend, along with the opening weekend of racing at Del Mar. But it’s Comic-Con that is the bigger draw. With the Convention Center a short trolley trip away from the San Diego Amtrak station, it makes sense that LA and Orange County residents heading to the Comic-Con would take the train.

As the benefits of train travel in Southern California becomes clearer, we can expect the Surfliner to begin approaching its capacity more often. Whereas reservations are currently only required around the winter holidays and at times like Comic-Con weekend, before long they’ll be required on weekends throughout the year.

It’s a clear argument for further investment in the LOSSAN corridor to allow for increased passenger rail service, from higher speeds to more frequent trains. That needs to be part of a broader statewide investment in passenger rail for everything from local streetcars to the bullet train. Californians are making it clear that they’ll take the train if the option is there for them. Let’s make sure they can continue to do so for decades to come.

  1. Donk
    Jul 8th, 2013 at 23:40
    #1

    I take the Surfliner probably once/month. It is a shame that they can’t come up with funds for a few obvious fixes, namely the LAUS run thru tracks, Del Mar fairgrounds station, and the Miramar Hill tunnel. Run thru tracks might happen with HSR funds. They are planning on reworking the entire track section over the lagoon at the fairgrounds to double track and adding a special events station there but have no funding.

    The Miramar Hill tunnel is the only way to really improve travel times to San Diego and to connect to the trolley at UTC. But this is a pipe dream.

    They should also rework the airport with terminals along the LOSSAN tracks. But this is at best 20 years away. Things move glacially in San Diego – look at how long it has taken to get started on the UCSD trolley extension.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    From what I’ve heard about the UCSD trolley extension, it was a matter of changing priorities. Initially the plan was to connect to UCSD before SDSU, but they swapped the order of the projects during the early planning stages.

    I don’t think we’ll ever see a tunnel under Miramar, but at least the track realignment and double-tracking will save a bunch of time and eliminate that section as a slow, single-train bottleneck.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    The sad thing is that a Miramar tunnel is the single most cost-effective improvement there is for Surfliner and COASTER.

    Joey Reply:

    The sadder thing is that it could have been a major transit hub with HSR integration, but they eliminated the possibility of any station in that area.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Nah. With the elevated UCSD trolley extension, the possibility of an underground COASTER station remains. Just a question of money, as always.

    Joey Reply:

    I think you misunderstood me. I meant “any station” in the context of HSR. Of course it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a Coaster station, but UTC really needs to be an intermodal transit hub with HSR, Coaster and the trolley.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    2nd most cost effective, after LAUS run through.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    How much time would LAUS run through save though? Miramar is, what, 10 minutes for every Surfliner and COASTER?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Probably about the same for every train through LA.

    Clem Reply:

    10 minutes don’t matter, I was told on this blog!

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Certainly not in the minds of NCTD with their insistence on Amtrak picking up at COASTER stations now…

    jimsf Reply:

    increasing speeds a little can make up for the additional stops. It gives people more city pairs from which to choose which increases the convenience of train travel.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The diesel locomotives can’t get up to speed between stops when the stops are so close together. What would actually help is faster acceleration. Throw catenary on the line (about $1 billion at high SoCal electrification cost) and get late-model EMUs if you want more speed.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Of course, every study has said “We shouldn’t electrify until we finish double tracking” and “We shouldn’t double track until we decide where we want the line to actually be located”, which means the tunnel under Miramar…. and then they get all hung up on the sticker price of the tunnel under Miramar….

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    LA Run through saves about the same (depending on how much padding ATK puts in the schedule PLUS allows real intra regional service by Metrolink plus greater efficiency with longer trips (e.g. Irvine to Palmdale, Chatsworth or Ventura to San Bernardino). Miramar tunnel is also a very worthy project, but then you move the bottleneck to San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente etc. All better value than Merced to Shafter or whatever the hell…

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The most cost-effective improvement?

    Try reorganizing the service itself.

    The Surfliner should be re-routed to run from (wait for it) Palmdale to San Diego while shifting the Central Coast line to a new intercity service ending in Palm Springs. That would leave only a handful stations that could be bridged with one more route through the 60 corridor and down through Riverside, the 91 corridor and ending in Orange County.

    The current logic of having the Surfliner hug affluent coastal areas belies the fact that there’s precious few souls that need to take it from Santa Barbara to Oceanside. If anything, it probably survives because it’s a lucrative subsidy to the UP’s underutilized freight routes.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    This is quite possibly the single most insane notion I have ever seen.

    synonymouse Reply:

    surfs up in Palmdale.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ted, How do track payments to UP help the Surfliner survive?
    If you go back that far you should remember that the San Diegans (later Surfliner) became very successful after the service was extended north to Santa Barbara, later Goleta and SLO. Indeed the service covered 100% of operating costs for a couple of years until ATK moved the goalposts. Service to the Coachella Valley is a goal, but there is the UP obstacle to overcome. Unlike the Coast line the UP line to AZ and beyond is one of their busiest. Uncle Pete will not roll over that easily, or cheaply.

    Joey Reply:

    If the trains became successful around the same time they were extended to Santa Barbara (etc) then it was not causative. Even today, only six trains per day extend to Goleta, and two to SLO. And even those have fewer passengers north of LA. The vast majority of the corridor’s demand is between LA and SD.

  2. Andy M
    Jul 9th, 2013 at 01:58
    #2

    If demand is so high, surely the solution would be to add some extra cars. Can’t Amtrak California pick up some second hand cars on the cheap somewhere to lengthen trains at times of peak travel? Obviously geting new cars would be a waste if they were only going to be used a handful of days a season. The state supported services in North Carolina rely entirely on second hand equipment. If it’s well looked after the passenger doesn’t realize its age. If trains are going to make a difference and take passengers off the roads in significant numbers, they need to have the capacity to take those passengers. The smartest of tunnels, electrification and other investments cannot change that.

    jimsf Reply:

    They do it where they can, when there is something available and the money to do it. Remember its not amtrak who pays for these trains in california, its the state who makes the decisions and pays the bills.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    There aren’t compatible second hand cars available.

    Donk Reply:

    The trains are usually crowded but rarely full. Only full during special events.

    Nathanael Reply:

    California is ordering brand new cars but they won’t be here until 2015 if I remember correctly.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s my understanding. That’s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fault, by the way – money for new cars was included in 2006’s Prop 1B but Schwarzenegger held up the release of those funds until 2009 or 2010.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Avtually it was the State Treasurer who held them up, claiming they weren’t needed.

  3. jimsf
    Jul 9th, 2013 at 07:20
    #3

    additional cars

    Joey Reply:

    IIRC they’re removing the cabs from those cars and replacing them with a heavy hollowed out locomotive. Why? Also I think they’re replacing the automatic doors with manual ones. It seems sort of silly.

    jimsf Reply:

    They are removing the cabs to provide more seating. and using the hollowed out locos because those double as the baggage car that way baggage does not take up seating space.

    Michael Reply:

    Amtrak should charge up the wazoo for checked baggage. People should learn to carry their own bags and deal with them. http://www.eurostar.com/uk-en/travel-information/travel-preparation/baggage/baggage-allowances#.Ud9u–CTpbE Note the part on EuroDispatch. “Baggage car” sounds as realistic as “unicorn” to someone who has traveled outside the merry old USA.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Too bad you can’t send your bags ahead to your destination by package service (for approx $15 a piece), and have them delivered at a guaranteed time, as you can where I live.

    swing hanger Reply:

    “hollowed out locos”- I know about FRA regs, but just imagine, that dead weight could instead be a revenue earning passenger car.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The scuttlebutt on the foamer forums is that they tried it without the extra weight and the gutted locomotives handling changed so much that they were unusable. So they put a block of concrete in them to make them handle like they did with diesel engine, it’s tank and generator onboard.

    jimsf Reply:

    otherwise, between the cab and the baggage you would lose almost a half a cars worth of seating

    Joey Reply:

    The cab doesn’t take up that much space, and they could have a normal baggage car. No reason to lug around all that dread weight.

    jimsf Reply:

    There arent any baggage cars available. There are these locos avail. simple as that. they use the same thing on the surfliner amfleet consist.

    what does it matter?

    Joey Reply:

    Higher operating costs, more fuel consumption, lower acceleration. I suppose in the context of the current pathetically low San Joaquin service levels it doesn’t make that much of a difference. Any idea why they removed the automatic doors?

    jimsf Reply:

    I dont know about the doors, but if they did that, my guess is for safety reasons as those cars atuo doors are designed for high level platforms.

    why do you have say service levels are pathetic. ARe you oblivious to the facts of limited funding, lack of equipment, and that service levels have increased over the years and plan to increase further? or do you just want to bad mouth amtrak because an amtrak ran over you dog when you were little?

    Joey Reply:

    I never said it was Amtrak’s fault. Of course lack of funding and UP’s unwillingness to allow additional trains are serious obstacles. But that doesn’t make six round trips per day frequent service.

    jimsf Reply:

    (here are 8 rt per day)

    Joey Reply:

    Traincars with high floors, low platforms, and automatic doors operate all over the Northeast US on a daly basis. Where are all the accidents stemming from this supposed safety concern?

    They even say in the presentation that additional boarding times could be an issue for reliability. Why make it worse by requiring that an employee be present to open every door?

    jimsf Reply:

    Why don’t you call them and ask them and let us know, because I have no idea.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Things are the way they are because that’s the way things have always been done. And if anything is going to be changed, you first need to “study” it, preferably by spending tens (or hundreds) of millions of dollars.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Do they actually operate automatically? I think Amtrak operates trapdoors manually, and I know the MBTA operates doors manually.

    There are automatic trapdoors in South Korea, but I don’t know if it exists anywhere in the US.

    jimsf Reply:

    The automatic doors only work for high platforms. The comets I have seen have high platform bart bart style doors in the center, with manual trap doors and steps at the ends.

    jimsf Reply:

    comet

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, my point is that there are high-floor trains in South Korea with automatic doors opening to low platforms, with automatic trapdoors.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Here is the automatic step in operation, on the “Nuriro” medium distance EMU trainset (at about 1:35):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_PiD_GhKaY

    *Many of the Seoul metropolitan area stations are high level platforms, while outside the region they are low level- this train can serve both types.

    jonathan Reply:

    not ADA-complaint though ;)

    swing hanger Reply:

    @jonathan
    Unfortunately yes. So you get incidents like this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1XAUUm7KGg

    Better to go all high level platform.

    jonathan Reply:

    @swing hanger: Sorry, that doesn’t follow. Better to go to a consistent, uniform height, yes.
    Following some arbitrary PRR platform height? that’s a completely seprate issue. I think we can all agree that 203.4mm ATOR is just _silly_.

    Mind you, the NEC height is close to the Shinkansen platform height, it’s not a t all close to the UIC/TER standard heights (there are two, one predominates, and AFAIK neither one works well for ADA-compliant level boarding.

    swing hanger Reply:

    ?? I didn’t mention a specific height in cm anywhere. Just having a consistent height where the ADA needs are met is fine (i.e. where the platform is level with the rolling stock floor), rather than having hodgepodge platform heights. It’s done in the UK, it’s done in Japan, it’s no big deal, all for the price of some more concrete- piddling, really.

    jonathan Reply:

    Oh, I thought you meant “high platform” as in NEC high platform height. Some here advocate that.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    it’s not a t all close to the UIC/TER standard heights

    So?
    How many trains are going to be leaving Euston for Penn Station? Or Gare Nord for Union Station, pick any one.
    A very quick romp through Wikipedia and I came up with a fleet size of 4,350 and I didn’t bother to check to see how many cars AMT, GOTransit, Metra, VRE etc are running. Big enough fleet that the manufacturers are interesting in catering to it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    But why not go with PRR heights? Two thirds of the world’s HSR ridership (Japan, China, and Taiwan) uses 1,250 mm boarding height, so there’s plenty of level-boarding rolling stock for HSR. A huge proportion of the world’s regional rail ridership is in Japan or on S-Bahn systems with high platforms, a bit lower than 1,250 mm but in the range of 915-1,100.

    Floor heights of about a meter are useful if you want step-free walk-through trains. FLIRTs and KISSes don’t and can’t have that. It’s also useful to be compatible with local mainline trains for economies of scale, to allow the huge orders that characterize the E231, E233, and other workhorses.

    jonathan Reply:

    @Adirondacker12800: Penn Station height is simply not relevant for CHSR.

    @Alon: you’re missing the point: why on earth should CHSR go with PRR platform heights?
    The FRA appears to be getting ready to approve UIC rolling stock, not Shinkansen or Taiwanese.
    ” Oh, but PRR platform heights are compatible with equipment.. we won’t be able to operate! with UIC equipment on “blended” track in the Peninsula! Hooray!”

    and as for E231, E233 compatibility: really? Really? 1435mm gauge and 10567mm gauge don’t mix.
    Yes, there’s some dual-gauge track on the Akita “mini-Shinkansen” line. Do they share platforms?
    The only way that’d work is if the platform-height width of the medium-gauge and standard-gauge vehicles differs by *exactly* the difference in track gauge. Does it?
    (there are some other constraints, but you can see what I’m getting at)

    That said: I agree that anywhere CAHSR and regional/commuter rail share track and stations, both should use a common platform height. Which means a platform height compatible with FLIRTs and KISSes and Desiros and what-have-you. Not Shinkansen, and DEFINITELY not E23x.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Does UIC standards include floor height? i.e. does following a UIC standard require continental European height floors? It seems strange that conditions in certain countries dictate that be duplicated in countries elsewhere, when a better solution exists. What about high floor cars built to UIC standards, like, presume, German S-bahn stock?

    Re. mini-shinkansen- there is minimal dual gauge track- local train stock and mini-shinkansen stock are both standard gauge and have the same loading gauge profile. When the mini-shinkansen runs on standard high speed lines, reliable automatic extensions are deployed to bridge the gap between train and the platform, which is built to the wider full shinkansen loading gauge.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Penn Station height is simply not relevant for CHSR.</I?

    And the platform heights in Gare du Nord are relevant how?

    jonathan Reply:

    Adirondacker, I never said the platform heights in Gare du Nord are relevant, either.

    PRR platform heights, on the other hand, are exactly as relevant to CAHSR as 25 Hz electrification, or PRR untensioned catenary.

    Or German/Swiss/Austrian/Nordic 16 2/3 Hz electrification, for that matter. Do tell Richard M. that, next time he goes unthinkingly worshipping at the alter of Swiss rail practice.

    swing hanger Reply:

    To add and to dispel a common misperception: the Japanese loading gauge for non-shinkansen is actually bigger than the British loading gauge (which uses 1435mm gauge) and positively ginormous compared to the tiny NZ loading gauge (which also uses 1067mm track). It almost as big as the continental loading gauge. There are also many standard gauge trains running in Japan (on private lines, one of which is intercity), so Japanese trains= incompatible with standard gauge is a fallacy.

    jonathan Reply:

    @Swigh hanger:

    Yes, TSI specifies two platform heights: 550mm and 760mm. Check out the Wikipedia article on “Railway platform height”. The standards don’t apply where there is a gauge change (Iberian peninsula” or a sea barrier (Great Britain; Ireland). I haven’t read all the original, but I believe the TSi applies to all HSR (which is all standard-gauge. There’s the Chunnel/HS1. Ireland, and Spain/Portugal, and GB excluding Chunnel/HS1, are off in a gauge of their own)

    If you want more detail than that, I could go into a litany of messy history about dozens of European principalities, each with its own local railroad and platform height… off-tpoic here, though.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I never said the platform heights in Gare du Nord are relevant

    So what are the relevance of UIC standards? You were the one who brought up platform heights.

    are exactly as relevant to CAHSR as 25 Hz electrification, or PRR untensioned catenary.

    So what’s the relevance of UIC standards?
    What’s so awful about Shinkansen standards?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The European export HSR models have floor heights in the 1,100-1,250 mm region. They just don’t have level boarding in Europe. The older bilevels in Switzerland make you climb steps from the 550 mm platforms to the middle level before climbing down to the lower level.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    As for the E231 and E233, I bring them up as an analogy: these are huge orders, which helps reduce unit costs. The same is true of the N700, which is $49 million for a 16-car train with Pareto better specs than anything that runs in Europe that’s not manufactured by Talgo.

    The point here is that California, like every other major region of the US, should expect to run about three classes of mainline trains: S-Bahn trains, for short-hop local service like some parts of Metrolink, or what BART should’ve been; regional trains, with higher top speed; and intercity high-speed trains. (I’m ignoring low-volume hourly diesel runs and such.) S-Bahns have a very good reason to be high-floor single-deck, and so does HSR. The regional trains can be either high- or low-floor, but if they use the same standards as the S-Bahns, they can use similar rolling stock, and if they use the same standards as HSR, they can share platforms. Larger orders are cheaper per unit.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well this is the best solution available for the money, since there are NO baggage cars, got money? Then donate the money to California to build a few baggage cars, otherwise forget it and make do with what is available and not with empty wishes…

    Joey Reply:

    Your choice is to spend money on TWO additional railcars now (super cheap second hand or third hand equipment would do just fine) or spend money on additional fuel and maintenance to drag around an overweight ex-locomotive.

    jimsf Reply:

    I doubt the hollowed out loco is any heavier than adding a baggage car would be

    jimsf Reply:

    and they have these locos on hand but their is a nationwide shortage of baggage cars already.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    The loco, minus prime mover, auxiliary power, traction motors etc is about the same as a baggage car in weight and has the advantage that it has a cab.

    Joey Reply:

    Okay, well that changes things a bit. I guess it’s conceivable that all of that stuff weighs 68 metric tons. I’m probably just thinking along the lines of the Cascades situation, where they actually added a block of concrete to the hollowed out locomotives.

    jonathan Reply:

    I doubt the hollowed out loco is any heavier than adding a baggage car would be

    Standard procedure for all Amtrak F40 cabbages is to pur a concrete floor in the engine compartment, weighing as much as the removed diesel prime-mover and generator. Arent’ the Amtrak California cabbages the same?

    Nathanael Reply:

    There is no “super cheap second hand or third hand equipment”.

    I don’t think you understand how bad the state of the passenger railroad car market is in the United States. We can’t buy leftover European or Asian cars because of the FRA rules. And there *are not leftover American cars*. The last large batch of “leftover” American passenger railroad cars were from the *1950s* and they are *falling apart on the track*. You can buy from museums (very expensive) or you can build new.

    California is building new, but the new cars won’t arrive until 2015.

    There are some leftover commuter cars from later than that, but they are (a) nothing but coaches, (b) completely clapped out from heavy usage, and (c) mostly *already purchased* by agencies trying to expand. Utah purchased some, and now Caltrans purchased some “Comet Ib” cars just in order to fill the need from now until 2015.

    In short there simply are NO additional cab cars available and NO additional baggage cars — you have to buy new or do some sort of conversion. There are basically no additional cafe cars either, but Amtrak happened to have less than a dozen, which are currently being lent to California.

    Joey Reply:

    Metrolink does have surplus bilevels. Not antiquated or falling apart, and not programmed for usage elsewhere yet. There are plenty of cab cars among them too. Baggage and cafe cars are another issue.

    jimsf Reply:

    and its the stae of california who calls all these shots by the way. and starting later this year, it will be the san joaquin joint powers who will start making decisions.. another political body who will likely make more decisions you won’t like, such as putting local concerns above statewide connectivity.

    jimsf Reply:

    Here is the presentation and reconfiguration chart. the are using cab space for ADA restrooms and bike racks.

    Andy M Reply:

    About the doors, I’m just guessing here but it could be that the old doors are just life expired and have reliability issues. Sometimes it’s better not to try and fix stuff like that.

    jimsf Reply:

    they are using what they have.

    Joey Reply:

    Metrolink currently has a surplus of Bombardier bi-level cars that they don’t know what to do with. I’m sure they’d be willing to part with some of them. These could even be used for permanent service.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    See http://www.railpac.org for a suggested use of Bombardier and Comet cars.

    jimsf Reply:

    I think the thing to do instead of making suggestions, is actually to ask caltrans why they made/make the decisions they made/make. Perhaps they have a reason that none of is privy too and it would be interesting to hear it.

    jimsf Reply:

    Im trying to find out but no answer.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    OK, let’s all stop making suggestions, who needs a blog anyway? Just ask the experts, they know best. But If we’re not privy to the reason then they won’t tell us.
    Caltrans has our suggestion for some weeks, no response yet. I’m guessing the problem is that Metrolink has “tainted” these cars by replacing them with the Rotems.

    jimsf Reply:

    Im just wondering what their reason is thats all Im saying. It would be nice to get the facts so we don’t have to speculate.

  4. 202_cyclist
    Jul 9th, 2013 at 07:32
    #4

    The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is holding a hearing this morning on the role of innovative finance for passenger rail. Rep. Denham (R-CA) justed asked John Porcari from the US DOT about the role of the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) program for the CA high speed rail. Porcari said that these loans have to have merit and be financially feasible but both he and Rep. Denham seemed at least mildly supportive of this.

    The Role of Innovative Finance in Intercity Passenger Rail

    http://transportation.house.gov/hearing/role-innovative-finance-intercity-passenger-rail

    Witnesses
    The Honorable John Porcari, Deputy Secretary, United States Department of Transportation

    Ms. Beverley K. Swaim-Staley, President and CEO, Union Station Redevelopment Corporation

    Mr. Frank Chechile, Chief Executive Officer, Parallel Infrastructure

    Mr. John Robert Smith, Former Mayor of Meridian, Mississippi, President and CEO, Reconnecting America
    ..

    VBobier Reply:

    I don’t trust Denham any farther than I could throw a bag of anvils…

  5. Paul Dyson
    Jul 9th, 2013 at 07:55
    #5

    Robert: 8 -10,000 passengers per day in a market of at least 10 million is I’m afraid not “a major travel choice”. Thank a number of people, probably most recently Arnie for cancelling the applications for fed funds for everything except HSR. Thank San Diego County for preferring 16 lanes of freeway over a double track railroad, thank LACMTA for failing to pursue the LAUS run -through when the EIR was prepared in 2004, thank those in high places who maintain the artificial distinction between commuter and intercity which has led us to a byzantine governance structure and competition between agencies for funds and track capacity, thank the CA congressional delegation for watching $30 million per year transfer to the NEC under PRIIA, etc. etc.

    202_cyclist Reply:

    The market for the combined LA and San Diego metro regions is more than 20 million residents.

    With that said, the 10,000 passengers on the Surfliner route between LA and San Diego is, of course, a small number out of 20M residents but it is course, not the only transit service in these two metro regions. There are 350,000+ daily boardings on LA MTA rail lines, 1.125M daily bus boardings on the LA MTA buses, 15,000+ daily passengers on Metrolink, and thousands more on the Sprinter and Coaster commuter rail. All of these transit trips, combined, is not insignificant. As any transportation engineer will tell you, if you decrease the number of vehicles on road by just a couple of percent, there is a nonlinear improvement in mobility.

    Additionally, since many of these 8,000 – 10,000 Surfliner passengers are either going to downtown LA or downtown San Diego, where do you propose putting 8,000 vehicles? Don’t forget that structured parking costs about $40,000 to build and takes scarce land away from other uses that could be encouraging vibrant neighborhoods and bring each respective city significant property taxes from land uses other than parking.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    … ‘structured parking costs about $40,000′ per spot – it may be obvious but I think it’s worth spelling out.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Are there actually 10 million daily trips between the LA and San Diego areas?

    202_cyclist Reply:

    Of course not. Half of all LA metro-area and San Diego County residents don’t commute back and forth between these two metro areas each day.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    The point I’m making is that in this dense Metropolitan area (only Camp Pendleton survives as open space south of L.A.) only a few thousand people per day consider the Surfliner service to meet their transportation needs, and that is for the whole corridor from SLO to San Diego. It’s pitifully small by any measure and could be much higher today if we had made sensible investments in capacity over the past 20 years. There are few business travelers because of the slow transit times and frequent delays. 202’s points are valid, but reinforce the view that it is better than nothing, but only slightly.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There’s more open space than just Camp Pendleton. Not along the coastline itself, but head even a few miles inland and it starts opening up along a large portion of the corridor.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    How relevant is that to the discussion? Two major urban areas, millions in population, almost physically joined, and the intercity service handles 8,000 souls a day. That’s the point.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Not quite. 262,926 daily trips according to Innovative Approaches to Addressing Aviation Capacity Issues in Coastal Mega-regions, page 37.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So, a mode share of 3-4%? That’s very low, but it’s not the same as 0.1% (10,000/10,000,000).

    blankslate Reply:

    Only comparing metro-to-metro car trips is erring too far in the other direction. The Surfliner also competes for intra-metro-area trips (e.g. Santa Ana to LA, Oceanside to San Diego, etc). You would have to look at the total number of car trips between city pairs served by the Surfliner, or total trips along the corridor. Not sure if the data is readily available, but that would be the right data to look at.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    The 8,000 also includes trips from SLO, Santa Barbara etc. Whichever way you measure it, and you’ll have a hard time finding the data on all those trips, it’s a tiny fraction of the market. I took up this topic because of the tone of Robert’s initial posting. Today’s meager total has been reached after 20 years of existence of the LOSSAN Board and 42 years since Amtrak took over the southern end of the corridor. This is clearly not a case of passenger rail “quickly becoming” the mode of choice.

    Joey Reply:

    Yep. 10 million trips per day between a region on 13 million and a region of 2 million.

    jimsf Reply:

    I dont think anyone really commutes daily between la and san diego for work. I think the majority of ridership on the corridor is travel other than daily work commuting. The market is so large that there is enough casual travel to create that much ridership.

    202_cyclist Reply:

    Paul Dyson:

    “thank the CA congressional delegation for watching $30 million per year transfer to the NEC under PRIIA, etc. etc.”

    When we don’t make funding sustainable intercity transportation a priority, then we get these battles between CA vs. the Northeast corridor vs. the Great Lakes.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    And here I thought I was being helpful, calling the Surfliners a successful example of passenger rail in California and worthy of more investment so that the service can be improved to serve many more people. Don’t let your criticisms of the LOSSAN corridor, accurate though they are, miss the broader point that the public needs to hear: SoCal likes passenger rail and wants more of it.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    “Well that’s where you’re wrong see boyo”, as one of my old colleagues used to say. Seriously Robert, you have to be more subtle. How about “in spite of lousy service, slower than it was 40 years ago, the Surfliner attracts a reasonable level of patronage. Just imagine what it could be given a level of investment that would make it competitive with Interstate 5″. The problem with the statement you made, and the focus by politicians on the fact that it is the second busiest rail corridor in the US, is that it leads to complacency, as if we already have something worth celebrating. It’s still a third world service on tracks which in many places Teddy Roosevelt would have recognized.

  6. synonymouse
    Jul 9th, 2013 at 11:23
    #6
  7. Keith Saggers
    Jul 9th, 2013 at 12:46
    #7

    Positive Train Control (Moorpark to San Onofre)d Track & Signal Allocated Ventura, Los Angeles,
    Orange, San Diego
    HSIPR Intercity Rail Capital Projects (IRCP
    $200 million allocated, State Rail Plan

  8. Derek
    Jul 9th, 2013 at 14:52
    #8

    Cheaper to go Over than Through the Mountains
    By Noel T. Braymer, 2013-07-04

    What is most interesting about the XpressWest project is its comparatively low construction costs… The key to this plan is the use of I-15 most of the way between Las Vegas and Victorville. Using I-15 avoids the costs of buying private land and dealing with environmental impacts… The equipment chosen by XpressWest was clearly meant for use on highway rights of way with the ability to take most highway grades and curves at high speeds.

    For the California High Speed Rail project the steepest grades planned are around 3.5 percent… The result of this decision will be miles of tunneling at the Pacheco Pass and between Bakersfield and Sylmar at the north end of the San Fernando Valley. The tunneling in Los Angeles County between Sylmar and Palmdale as now planned [will] be extensive and expensive.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Because I-15 crosses mountains as tall as the Grapevine?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Let me see if I get the political gist of this piece correctly. Mr. Braymer is in effect proposing to Mr. Antonovich to pass on really expensive tunneling in his bailiwick in favor of following existing road alignments with a maximum ruling gradient of 4.5%?

    I doubt this will fly as the whole purpose of the DogLeg Detour, it seems to me, was to divert a large amount of state and federal funding to benefit real estate developers in Antonovich’s district. That would constitute reneging on a political promise.

  9. Derek
    Jul 9th, 2013 at 15:18
    #9

    The reason traffic is bad on the I-5 is the same as the reason we don’t have money for rail improvements: we price access to the I-5 below the market clearing rate. Pricing something below the market is never a financially sound long-term strategy, despite what those who oppose express tolls would have you believe.

    nick Reply:

    exactly. some people on this blog complain about rail subsidy but are strangely silent on the fact that the roads are subsidised in the usa
    as the highway taxes levied dont cover the costs of maintaining said highways. even in europe with very high car and fuel taxes the total costs of road vehicles to society and the taxpaxer still aren’t covered. Those pro road people will say that increasing road costs puts prices up which it does and also that the wider benefits make the costs worthwhile. Then try rationalising with them that the same is true of rail…………None as blind as those that will not see

    Derek Reply:

    Yes, raising the price of road travel to make roads pay for themselves will raise store prices, but those increased prices will be canceled by the road’s reduced burden on taxes, and it will also increase demand for alternatives such as HSR. That’s two benefits for the price of one! Who doesn’t like two-for-one deals?

    Reedman Reply:

    The money collected on the gasoline excise tax is used for highways, but the gasoline sales tax pretty much disappears into the general fund. The people driving cars are paying their share.

    nick Reply:

    some in the uk talk about the govts “war on the motorist” and the taxes raised here are very high compared with the usa (£1.35 per litre of which 60% is tax etc etc) yet guess what – doesn;t cover the costs – see http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/25/car-pollution-noise-accidents-eu

    Derek Reply:

    That’s a good point. Air pollution in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley costs up to $1600 per person annually in health care costs, missed work, and so on.

    Automobile travel is very highly subsidized.

  10. nick
    Jul 9th, 2013 at 16:13
    #10

    the summary was as follows :

    The idea that drivers are “the cash cows of our society” is wrong, the authors write: “On the contrary, it must be stated that car traffic in the EU is highly subsidised by other people and other regions and will be by future generations: residents along an arterial road, taxpayers, elderly people who do not own cars, neighbouring countries, and children, grandchildren and all future generations subsidise today’s traffic.”

  11. Neil Shea
    Jul 9th, 2013 at 17:16
    #11

    Story from Quebec: “Transport Canada says there are no rules against leaving an unlocked, unmanned, running locomotive and its flammable cargo on a main rail line uphill from a populated centre.”

    http://www.theprovince.com/news/rules+against+leaving+unattended+trains+main+tracks/8636999/story.html

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