Capitol Corridor Business Plan

The Capitol Corridor trains (Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority) is seeking comment on its 2020-2022 Annual Business Plan, at https://www.capitolcorridor.org/business-plan/. The plan is 24 pages long, readable, but full of details that may take some while to process. There is a separate Vision Plan (2014-11) and Vision Implementation Plan (2016-11) [https://www.capitolcorridor.org/vision-plan/] which cover long-term plans, but the business plan does reference a number of longer term projects.

Capitol Corridor has lost on-time performance over the last two years. End-point on time performance, passenger on time performance, and operator delays have all declined, though not precipitously. Though my own frequent travel on the Capitol Corridor is often not time sensitive, the many people who commute for work and professional meetings are time sensitive, and I am concerned that a loss of performance will lead to reduced ridership. Though interruption by freight traffic has traditionally been the issue with delays, it seems as though break-down of equipment is becoming more and more common. The passenger cars, and many of the locomotives, are aging, and that contributes to the program. The state has failed to make a purchase of NEW passenger cars to replace old ones, and it is showing. But I also suspect that the rolling stock is simply not being maintained to the level of reliability that it should be. The business plan doesn’t really address these issues.

My own experience as regular rider over the last eight years (and a bit before that) is that the quality of the ride, the smoothness of the train on the tracks, has declined significantly over this time. I used to be able to write in my journal while on trips, and that is no longer possible. In fact, for many sections, it is no longer possible to type on a keyboard, as the jilt make proper finger placement unlikely. Again, many passengers are business customers who are using the travel time to catch up on or do work, but if the ride continues to deteriorate, they won’t be able to. Of course the quality of the tracks is not directly the responsibility of Capitol Corridor, as Union Pacific owns the rails and right of way. But it does point out that running passenger trains on a freight system is not viable in the long run. Capitol Corridor, and the California Division of Rail, must move towards ownership of track. A higher speed rail line, up from the 79 mph that can’t always be maintained due to poor track quality, up to 150 mph that is desired, simply cannot take place on tracks owned and maintained by Union Pacific. The Capitol Corridor should eventually be electrified, and it is unlikely that UP will ever allow that on its routes (though it is present in other countries).

There is also a lot to like in the business plan, upgrading signage, WiFi, bicycle accommodation, California Integrated Travel Program (better ticketing and transfer), Sacramento to Roseville double-tracking phase 1 with a small increase in trips, improvements to Davis station, and others. I am not being negative about Capitol Corridor service, I use it often and love it. I’ve tried the less expensive bus services (Megabus, FlixBus, etc.), but have gone back to the train for most trips because it is just better in all the ways I care about most.

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