The Bad News For Infrastructure And Extreme Weather

Tags

, ,

By Noel T. Braymer

The bad news is weather is getting more extreme with each passing year. That’s not my opinion, the insurance companies which cover storm and wildfire damages have been seeing the number and amounts for claims going up every year in the last few years as weather has become more extreme. Extreme weather runs from extreme heat to extreme cold often at unseasonable times of the year. Just as extreme are long periods of drought turning into periods of heavy rains and snowfall. Extreme weather is taking an increasing toll on infrastructure such as dams, roads, pipelines, electrical grid and railroads. Recent rains in California has caused damage to railroads which has forced reductions of service this February.

With more stress on our infrastructure comes the other problem of years of deferring maintenance of our infrastructure. In the case of rail infrastructure, this is mostly privately owned. While adequate in the past, extreme weather is damaging ever more railroads. This is also affecting passenger service sharing the private freight railroads and disrupting service. An example of the fallout from weather damage to the private railroads on passenger service can be seen this February when a derailment on the UP during heavy rains in Elk Grove near Sacramento. This caused 22 freight cars to derail with several siding down into the Cosumnes River which was flooding at the time.This derailment shut down this UP Mainline for almost a week. The resulting rerouting of UP trains to alternative routes caused the cancellation of ACE service for most of a work week between San Jose and Stockton, San Joaquin rail service between Sacramento and Stockton and service on the California Zephyr. Heavy rains in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties of up to 6 inches in a day led to the cancellation of Pacific Surfliner and Coast Starlight trains north of Los Angeles for track repairs.

Even when railroads are publicly owned and maintained there is a race to upgrade aging infrastructure to handle future extreme weather before these structures fail from future extreme weather. Much of the rail corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego has been greatly improved over the last 30 years or so. But there are still some problem areas. San Diego County has been busy replacing old single track wooden bridges on it railroad. As they replace these old bridges often with double track bridges, they are also building the new bridges with concrete and building them higher to withstand greater future floods. But San Diego still has major problems. These include the bluffs the railroad is on at Del Mar. The bluffs are subject to erosion and it is only a matter of time until parts of the bluff comes down due to the weather. There is also the canyon areas with slow running in San Diego by Miramar which could be damaged from weather. The biggest problem area is at San Clemente in Orange County. There the tracks are right on the beach near the ocean next to miles of bluffs. This leaves the tracks at the mercy in a major storm of being washed out from a major storm surge, buried in mud from a landslide during a heavy rain storm or even both at the same time in a future major storm.

Infrastructure problems go beyond the railroads to also include the electrical grid, water pipelines, oil and gas pipelines, sewers, roads and so on. The reality is the country has been falling behind other developed countries for years for infrastructure spending and improvements. Now there is one solution to raising funding for infrastructure which sounds painless. There are huge numbers of transactions in the financial markets like the stock exchanges. There have been proposals to place a tiny, fraction of a penny tax on each share for example. Because the volume of trading is so great, often with the same shares being bought and sold several times in a single day, this would generate billions of dollars in new tax revenue for repairing infrastructure. So who would oppose such a modest plan? Wall Street of course. In the past the taxes on oil and gasoline paid most of the cost for highway construction and repair. Local road are generally paid out of property taxes. The gas tax has remained frozen for about 20 years and due to inflation now is not paying the full cost of highway construction and repair. Also cars and trucks as they become more fuel efficient are per capita using less fuel and paying less in fuel taxes.

Infrastructure is more than about pipelines, roads and tracks. It is about public health, economic growth and the general welfare of this Country. Yet to “save tax dollars” repairs and investment in infrastructure have been deferred for years at the local, State and Federal level. Does this save money? No, because it cost more money both in repairs and lost revenue when you have a catastrophic failure of a critical part of infrastructure as oppose to timely maintenance or replacement. There is a matra that raising taxes is bad for the economy and that when taxes are cut the economy blooms. While many people would enjoy a tax cut, there is no evidence that lower taxes stimulates the economy. When President Reagan became President in 1981 he made major tax cuts as the heart of his economic plan. By 1982 the Country was thrown into the worse recession up to that point since the 1930’s and the Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives. After 1982 the economy improved after President Reagan raised some taxes and increased government spending by increasing the National debt.

There have been several states in the last 6 years which have cut taxes and spending in the hopes that this would increase taxes revenues. This hasn’t happened. The Governor of Kansas is unpopular with a majority of members of his own party. Because of tax cuts which have resulted in crashing States revenues, the Governor has slashed spending for schools and roads. The legislature recently passed a measure to raise taxes to restore services. This was vetoed by the Governor, so the lower chamber voted to overrule the veto, but the upper house while voting with a majority to override the veto just missed the super majority needed for an override. The State of Louisiana is also a basket case due to revenue shortfalls caused by tax cuts made by the previous governor. The football program at LSU was in jeopardy as a result by 2016.

In 2010 the government of the State of California was a mess. The economy had been sluggish for most of the 21st Century and the State had high levels of debt. Since 2010 the California economy has boomed. But not my cutting taxes. Several taxes have been increased. State spending has been under control and much of the State’s debt paid down. There has been increases in government spending on the State and Local Level. Much of this is for improvements in transportation, including rail service. It has been known by economists for a long time that investments in infrastructure have a high rate of return. All economies are based on spending. If someone or something has money it wants to spend (demand) there will be someone who will want to sell it to you (supply). California today shows that this is still true. There is a great pent up desire for infrastructure improvements still in this country. Transportation is high on the list of improvements people want.

We will have to do more about rebuilding infrastructure in the near future. Extreme weather will continue to damage and destroy all forms of infrastructure. We will have to replace it when this happens, which will take time and cause disruptions. Ideally upgrading and replacing vulnerable infrastructure to greater withstand future destruction from extreme weather can avoid the disruption and save money and lost productivity if we act before extreme weather destroys.

Why Passenger Miles Matter On Passenger Trains

Tags

, , , ,

By Noel T. Braymer

The LOSSAN JPA recently published data on ridership of passenger trains on the LOSSAN Corridor as well as other passenger trains running in the State of California. This data is from the 4th quarter of the fiscal year 2015-2116 which is the most recent information that is available. Ridership was down from the same time last year on several California trains. Ridership was up 7.5% over the same quarter last year on the Capitol Corridor with 399,009 riders. The San Joaquin train’s ridership on the other hand was down 7.4% with ridership at 279,442. But if we look at the revenue for these trains during the same quarter, revenue for the Capitol Corridor was $7,329,823. But revenue for the San Joaquin trains was greater at $8,467,016.

So why did the San Joaquin trains bring in more revenue with fewer passengers compared to the Capitol Corridor trains? The answer is passenger miles, which is the total miles passengers travel on a train, plane or bus. Most of the passengers on the Capitol Corridor trains only travel between San Jose and Sacramento which is a distance of 133 miles. On the San Joaquins most passengers travel between Bakersfield and Oakland which is 315 miles. This also includes the passengers miles of the 45% of San Joaquin passengers who transfer to and or from buses on their trip. The San Joaquin trains generate more passenger miles and revenue with fewer passengers traveling longer distances than with passengers on the Capitol Corridor.

The Capitol Corridor JPA is very aware of this. They want to extend service to Salinas and have more trains go to Auburn and eventually to Reno/Sparks. Now let’s look at the LOSSAN Corridor. Metrolink ridership is down 6.2% on the Ventura County Line at 219,930. On the Orange County Line it is down 8.6% at 553,664. The Coaster ridership is down 5.8% at 405,356. So how is the Pacific Surfliner service doing at the same time? Ridership was up 2.6% at 739,764. But compare revenues for the Surflners at $17,998,742, which is more than double the revenue of the San Joaquin trains at $8,467,016. The big difference though is with the Coast Starlight, which “only” carried 116,114 passengers, but brought in $10,157,672: second only to the Surfiners during the same 4th quarter of 2015-2016.

Any rail service must balance utility, in other words how many people use their rail service, versus the economic impact their rail service has. The best solution to this issue is to do as much with both as possible.

Back in the 1980’s the late Dr. Adrian Herzog, then Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Cal State Northridge was doing computer simulations of existing and potential Long Distance Amtrak routes to see which factors caused ridership to go up or down. He calibrated his computer simulations by seeing if they replicated ridership on existing services. The key to ridership growth on Dr. Herzog’s computer simulations was the number of markets (or stations) served or connecting to trains. Dr. Herzog was able to greatly increase ridership and revenues in his simulations by using a combinations of extending train routes, of adding sections to existing trains to split off to serve new markets and by creating hubs for trains to connect and transfer passengers to more markets. Running sections on trains is common in much of the world as is guaranteed connections at stations to other trains. But this is rare in this country.

At the heart of increasing ridership and revenues for rail service, Dr Herzog found it was the need to link a rail service to the most markets as possible, while using the least amount of equipment and labor. A simple way to do this is to extend an existing rail service to serve more stations and increase average trips lengths which doesn’t require major capital improvements and has good labor productivity. An example of this was the effort by the Sate of California in the 1970’s and 80’s to extend “San Diegan” service between San Diego and Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. This was resisted by the Southern Pacific, but one train was finally extended in the late 1980’s to Santa Barbara. The result was an immediate increase in revenue for the then San Diegan trains. This was largely a result of the increase in station combinations which added more riders and passenger miles to these extended trains. Of the 12 round trips on the Pacific Surfliners today between San Diego and Los Angeles, 5 round trips are extended to Santa Barbara, or which 2 of these trains go as far as San Luis Obispo. It is these extended trains which have greatly increased revenues and ridership for the Surfliners.

What also can be done to increase ridership and revenue which is done in most places with rail passenger service are good connections between trains and to other travel modes. This is what the airlines do with their hub airports, so passengers are able to travel to or from almost any place on earth with only one or two connecting flights. Airlines often have agreements between themselves at hubs to transfer passengers to other airlines that go to places the other airline doesn’t serve. This was a result of deregulation of the airlines in the 1970’s in order to survive the airlines had to reduce costs and increase productivity to stay in business.

What about skipping stations and running trains faster to attract more riders and revenues? Faster rail service attracts more riders and improves a train’s productivity because it means carrying more passenger miles in less time. But Amtrak over the years has tried to increase ridership and revenues by skipping station to reduce running times between major cities. The result was always the ridership went down. Any additional passengers gained with faster speeds also caused the loss of more passengers who lost service from or to stations they wanted to travel.

What steps can be made to increase ridership on other passenger trains such as Metrolink, Coaster, ACE or the San Joaquin trains? Increased frequencies usually work. When the State of California paid Amtrak to increase the number of round trips between Los Angeles and San Diego in the 1970’s from 3 to 6, ridership more than tripled. Where possible more stations help. Since 1979 there are more stations serving Amtrak trains between Los Angeles and San Diego which has added more ridership. Metrolink could extend service to serve more station combinations and run more frequent service (track capacity permitting). Metrolink could run more frequent service on weekends and holidays on a schedule to serve the weekend and holiday market compared to commuter rush hour service they run on the work week. Such service has been found popular on the Surfiners, it should work on most of Metrolink’s lines. With construction of run through tracks expected by the early 2020’s at Los Angeles Union Station, Metrolink could easily combine existing rail lines. This could see trains from Oceanside to Los Angeles running to the San Fernando Valley and up the Antelope Valley to Palmdale and Lancaster. Would many people ride this train from Oceanside to Lancaster? Probably not, but the increased numbers of station combinations will increase ridership on this combined train service. The same could be done with trains from San Bernardino to Los Angeles extended to Ventura County. These 2 extended trains should share the same platform at Union Station arriving at the same time to allow passengers to easily transfer between these 2 extended trains.

What is long overdue are timed connections between Surfliners, Metrolink and Coaster trains with seamless ticketing (one ticket, ticketing) to allow rapid and easy connections to as many markets as possible by rail. Passengers should be able to catch a Coaster in Encinitas to transfer to Metrolink at Oceanside to travel to Tustin or many other combinations of stations which are now almost impossible to connect to. Connections could be made between Metrolink Inland Empire/Orange County trains and Surfliner trains in Orange County to allow easy transfers for travel between San Diego County and Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Many of the problems to doing this are more institutional than physical. In other words it is hard to get bureaucracies to work together even when doing so would improve their bottom line. But if we are to see ridership growth such changes will be needed. The best way to get financial support for expanded rail passenger service is to be successful. When you have full trains there is more support and less opposition to spending money to improve service. Also busy stations create economic growth in their towns which increases support. Much of this is what has happened in the LOSSAN Corridor since the 1970’s. By connecting more places to existing rail services ridership grows and so does revenues and popular support for more rail passenger service.

loosan-4th-quarter-2016

Ridership Data for California passenger trains published in the agenda for the Jan 31, 2017 LOSSAN JPA Board Meeting

What the Los Angeles-San Diego Rail Corridor Needs To Really Take Off

Tags

, , , ,

By Noel T. Braymer

The original LOSSAN Rail Corridor (Los Angeles to San Diego) has come a long way since the State of California in the mid 1970’s started paying Amtrak to add more trains to the 3 round trips it was already running. Back then most of the LOSSAN corridor was single track. Most of the tracks dated to World War II which were on wooden ties with bolted rail. The trains had to be wyed to reverse directions which required miles of non-revenue travel in San Diego and a slow back up move out of Los Angeles Union Station. Today most of the line is doubled tracked with more planned in the future. Today the corridor has more trains beside Amtrak’s. Many Metrolink trains operate between Los Angeles and Oceanside with more Coaster trains between Oceanside and San Diego. Even more trains are planned in the near future.

Despite this progress, the running time between Los Angeles to San Diego is still slower today than it was in 1979. Most of the Pacific Surfliner equipment is at least 17 years old or older. Equipment shortages are holding back ridership growth. But efforts by the State to buy 42 new rail passenger cars for the State’s supported Amtrak services is going nowhere. This is because the company with the car order is years behind schedule just building a prototype. It is increasingly looking like this contract for a total of 172 cars for several States will soon be cancelled.

A long sought goal of the LOSSAN Corridor is to reduce running times between Los Angeles and San Diego on the Pacific Surfliners to under 2 hours. This will be a major change compared to Surflines trains now running in 2 hours and 40 minutes or more now between Los Angeles and San Diego. Raising top speeds from 90 to 110 miles per hour will be needed to operate trains in under 2 hours. Shorter dwell times at station stops would also be needed. There are also 3 expensive, major bottlenecks that need to be removed to greatly reduce running times on trains between Los Angeles and San Diego. These are at Del Mar in San Diego County, as well as at San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano in southern Orange County. At Del Mar and San Clemente the right of way is very narrow for a second track and local residents are demanding tunnels be built to double track the railroad in their towns.

jan-31-2017lossan5

This from San Diego County on plans to increase speeds in San Diego in the canyon area around Miramar Hill.

The opposition to double tracking in San Juan Capistrano is largely an effort to limit the number of trains running through that town. Another bottleneck is in northern San Diego with 2 miles of 25 miles per hour operation in the canyon area by Miramar. There are plans to double track this area by 2030 with a new alignment raising speeds to 40 miles per hour which will save several minutes of running times. At $100 million dollars this is the most expensive project (other than a billion dollar tunnel in Del Mar) planned to double track the LOSSAN rail corridor in San Diego County. The Del Mar Tunnel is not planned before 2050, if by then. San Diego County is now working on rebuilding the I-5 Freeway the 27 miles between Del Mar and Oceanside. The size of this project was cut back due to homeowner’s opposition to having their property condemned for the original plan. Out of this SANDAG included double tracking for most of the coastal rail line in San Diego County as part of the highway project. A common question asked by homeowners opposing expansion of the I-5 was why wasn’t more being done to expand rail passenger service?

jan-31-2017lossan-2

From San Diego County on the plans to double track the coastal rail line up to 95% by 2035

When you look at the current plans in San Diego County for this 27 miles of freeway construction, the estimated cost is in 2011 dollars is $3.1 billion. There is need to rebuild this segment of freeway which include many freeway bridges which are over 50 years old and need to be replaced. San Diego County is not alone in spending billions of dollars rebuilding the I-5 in their counties. The problem is the justification for expanding the I-5 freeway to handle future traffic growth on the I-5. What has been shown time and again is that expanding roads doesn’t reduce traffic congestion. Increased road capacity encourages drivers to drive more which creates more traffic congestion.

The LOSSAN corridor can go a long way in pulling traffic off of the I-5. One project which should be finished in about 10 years is the complete grade separation of the railroad between Los Angeles and Fullerton. This is where LOSSAN passenger trains share the tracks with the busy BNSF mainline from Los Angeles to Chicago. Building grade separations are very disruptive to both road and rail service, so only 1 or 2 can be built at a time. This process of building grade separations between Los Angeles and Fullerton has been on going since the 1970’s. We are now down to just a handful of grade crossings that need grade separating. But of course these will be the more difficult and expensive to build. As grade separations have been built, segments of triple tracking has also been built to allow more passenger trains. In about 10 years when the last grade separation is finished it will be possible to build 4 tracks between Los Angeles and Fullerton. This will separate freight and passenger trains, allowing more passenger trains to go faster than now possible sharing tracks with freight.

If we can run frequent, economical and faster trains in under 2 hour between Los Angeles and San Diego, that would create a dramatic increase in rail ridership in the region and divert major auto traffic off of the I-5. What is needed for this to happen is a network of rail and transit services to make carless travel care free. Much of this is in place with stations used by Surfliner, Metrolink and Coaster trains. These stations are often destinations as well as major transfer points between rail and transit. What will be needed is easier transfers for travelers between Surfliner, Metrolink and Coaster as well as to local transit. This is common in many places such as Europe. The more connections to rail the more places on the Los Angeles-San Diego Corridor people will be able to quickly travel to without worrying about parking.

This still leaves the problems of tunneling at Del Mar, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. This will need billions of dollars. But expanding decent rail service will be more economical than trying to expand roads. One thing the city of San Clemente is opposed to besides surface double tracking in their town, is expansion of roads nearby as well. The County of Orange has been trying to build a toll road to bypass San Clemente to deal with traffic congestion in southern Orange County. This continues to be blocked by local residents in southern Orange County. Traffic congestion is bad and getting worse in southern Orange County as well as in Camp Pendleton in northern San Diego County. Building wider or new roads isn’t a solution.

Long term we need to deal with this problem on a regional, not a county level. That means raising the money to eliminate the major bottlenecks on the Los Angeles-San Diego rail corridor in order to run more and faster trains. These trains need to be faster than it is possible by driving by car. This won’t happen overnight. In the near term we need new and more equipment and faster running times with what is possible in the near term. We need to reduce dwell times and improve equipment reliability. We also need easy transfers to all services to reduce wait times between travel modes. This can include express Surfliner trains with connections to Metrolink and Coaster trains to feed passengers from stations that can be bypassed to reduce running times. This will help get us to the point that we have Surfliners running hourly or better day and night in under 2 hours between Los Angeles and San Diego with connections to all the Metrolink and Coaster stations in between.

My Latest Train Adventure To Los Angeles and San Bernardino

Tags

, , ,

By Noel T. Braymer

Lately I just haven’t had the energy to get up by 6:00 AM to catch the last morning Metrolink train out of Oceanside. So I decided to splurge and take a late morning Surflner to Los Angeles and connect there with Metrolink to San Bernardino. One thing about buying a ticket from an agent is it seems to go faster than using a ticket machine. There is also less anxiety about missing your train waiting to get your ticket. When my Surfliner arrived the odd thing was the train crew only opened one door on the train out of 6 cars, even though most cars have 2 sets of doors on each side of the cars. Also Amtrak police were onboard with police dogs going through the train. I’m not sure why they only opened one door to one car, my guess is that was the car with the most empty seats. While this car had empty seats, all the window seats were taken. I noticed as the train went north through Camp Pendleton in the midday that south bound traffic on the I-5 was stop and go in places.

dscn3034

Northbound Surfliner arriving in Oceanside. Note left handed running on double tracks in San Diego County.

The day was sunny for once, but cool and windy. In Orange County Mount Saddleback was covered with snow after recent storms as well as adjoining ridges. Snow rarely last long just on Mount Saddleback. As the train reached Anaheim even more deeply snow covered mountains could be seen from Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. This is quite a change after years of drought leaving even Mt. Baldy which usually had snow most of the year with almost none in recent winters. Well we arrived into Los Angeles 4 minutes early. I only noticed 4 open doors on a train with powered opened doors as I left the typical Bi-level Surfliner 6 car train. Two of these cars are Superliners Coaches leased from Amtrak which lack trainlined powered doors. It seemed odd on this trip that more doors weren’t being opened.

The next Metrolink train to San Bernardino was leaving in 14 minutes when I got to LAUS and I had no problems buying a ticket and getting on my Metrolink train with plenty of time to spare. What I noticed was there were no announcements on my Amtrak train of connections between this and other trains coming into Union Station. I also noticed as I got on Amtrak in Oceanside on the only car with an open door was that it was the Cafe/Coach car. While sitting upstairs in the coach area I noticed that there were no signs letting people know the Cafe was on the lower level of this car. On the upper level of a Bi-Level car where people can walk between cars, most coaches look the same. While the Cafe attendant usually gives announcements and sometime directions to the Cafe at the start and end of a trip, many people such as myself get on in the middle of the route.

dscn3097

The old Santa Fe Depot for Pomona. The Metrolink train is running on the old SP right of way. On the other side of the station to the north is the right of way and tracks for the old Santa Fe.

One of the things I wanted to check out on this trip was the area between North Pomona and Montclair. The next installment of LA Merto Light Rail Construction east of Azusa is planned to start construction soon. What is now the Gold Line, to be renamed the Blue Line in 2021 uses the old Santa Fe right of way between downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena out to Azusa. This old Santa Fe right of way is also used by Metrolink from North Pomona east to San Bernardino. The Santa Fe line meets the tracks of Metrolink from the north side. Metrolink’s platforms at Claremont and Montclair are on the north edge of the right of way. The north side is were most of the foot traffic is. The right of way is more than wide enough for 4 tracks, 2 apiece for Light Rail and Metrolink. But there are likely going to be engineering challenges relocating the Metrolink platforms and adding Light Rail tracks and platforms. This will likely require grade separated pedestrian crossings at the joint stations.

dscn3089

Looking north from a Metrolink Train at the platforms at Claremont. The plan to relocate Metrolink tracks to the south and bring in Light Rail to the north.

My reason for going to San Bernardino was to check out construction of new run through tracks and platforms at the station. Metrolink trains at San Bernardino now terminate at stub tracks next to the San Bernardino ATSF station, but Metrolink passengers now don’t use the old station. With new passenger only tracks and platforms Metrolink service will be extended to a new station in downtown San Bernardino. By 2021 a new DMU service will run the 9 miles from Redlands connecting with Metrolink at downtown San Bernardino, When the construction underway at San Bernardino is finished Metrolink trains will be able to use new platforms at San Bernardino with direct access to the old ATSF station. Connecting the the new platforms to the station is an under construction bridge serving the new platforms. As well as future connections in downtown San Bernardino to DMU rail service to Redlands, there will also be better connections to local transit bus service.

dscn3064

Construction at San Bernardino station of new tracks and platforms to extend Mertrolink to downtown San Bernardino

The day was sunny but cold and very windy in San Bernardino. Because of the construction around the station it was difficult to walk around to get a better view by the old station. I made my stay short and got back on the train I came on to get back to Los Angeles to catch a train to Oceanside. The Metrolink conductor came up to the gate where the passengers were waiting. After the security guard unlocked the gate to the platforms, the conductor scanned all the tickets of the passengers heading to the train. The trip westward was generally uneventful. We were going against rush hour traffic and stopped for a meet just east of Baldwin Park and at a siding in the El Monte Busway. Things only got strange after dark and when we were about a mile outside of LAUS. We came to a full stop on the east side of the Los Angeles River not far from the throat of LAUS. First we were told that there was track congestion at the station and we were waiting for traffic to clear. Later we were told the problems was with station track signaling. We sat waiting for a while before we finally moving. I was glad that I got back on this and not the next Metrolink train from San Bernardino.

I had over an hour before I caught the 790 Amtrak train to get back to Oceanside. This gave me time to get something to eat and walk around a bit around and in Union Station. The 790 is the evening train from San Luis Obispo and this being on a Friday, it was the busiest train on the busiest day (Friday) of the week for the Surfliners. The arrival board said that the 790 would be arriving at 7:10 PM and Departing at 7:31. I walked along the station tunnel and saw a platform sign saying train 710 on I think tracks 11/12. This was around 7:00 PM so I went up so I could get on the train as early as possible. I saw a handful of other people at this platform with the same idea. I also saw on the next platform on I think track 10 a low level trainset parked there.The platform sign where we were said this was the track for train 790. Soon there were announcements and station employees telling me and the other people waiting for the 790 that we had to go to the next platform. When we went up the ramp to the next platform, there was the low level trainset with an open door between 2 cars and a conductor near the top of the ramp.

I got on the train and was trying to figure out what was going on. While we were waiting I saw a Pacific Surfliner trainset arrive at the other tracks across the platform from the train I was on. Not long after that even more people got on the low-level train which had almost no one when I first got on. I finally realized that the 790 from San Luis Obispo was the train that arrived next to the train I was on. Amtrak moved everyone off of that train to the “new” 790 train. This is what is planned if and when the Pacific Surfliners get the 2 leased Talgo trainsets in service: -have people transfer at LAUS for travel north and south of Los Angeles on different trains. But why were they doing this, this Friday night? I’ve seen this done before. This weekend all rail service in San Diego County would stop early Saturday morning during the weekend for several rail construction projects in the Country. My guess is Amtrak didn’t want the Surfliner trainset from San Luis Obispo stuck in San Diego all weekend with no way to be serviced. So they brought from the yard their low level trainset to spend the weekend in San Diego.

The conductor warned everyone this train was going to be full and would leave Los Angeles with standees. And it was. There were only spare seats when the train was in southern Orange County. Generally things went smoothly until we got to the Metrolink Station for Laguna Niguel/ Mission Viejo at 8:49 PM. This was the end of double tracking in Orange County. There is only Serra Siding south of San Juan Capistrano until you get to Camp Pendleton which is now mostly double tracked. We had to wait for a late 591 to pass us before we could get south of Laguna Niguel/ Mission Viejo. When I got off at Oceanside the train was 8 minutes late.

Who Opposes Rail Passenger Service?

Tags

, ,

By Noel T. Braymer

An annoyance of supporting improved Rail Passenger service are the critics who will do and say anything to try to kill rail projects. Quite often what these critics claims are not supported by reality. Yet these opponents seem to get plenty of attention from the media. So who are these folks? Why are they so against better rail service and alternatives to jammed roads, crowded airports and faster and more relaxing travel. Or for that matter the economic development that comes with improved rail passenger service? Lets look at the usual suspects.

1). NIMBY’s

Nimby’s or Not In My Back Yard. People will often tell the press that they are not opposed to rail passenger service, they just don’t want it near to where they live. It is not so much that they are opposed to rail service, as they are opposed to any changes in their neighborhood. When a major rail project or any major project is proposed, by law several alternatives must be studied in the hope that the best alternative is chosen. When several potential routes are announced for a new rail project, large groups of neighbors living next to the different alternatives come out to oppose the alternatives nearest to them. This often get media attention with quotes from and pictures of upset people. As the planning process progresses and alternatives get eliminated, the number of people opposing a project drops off as alignments in their neighborhood are dropped from consideration. As part of the planning process changes are made to some alignments to placate residents, which often increases the cost of the project. After modifications are made, as residents get a better idea of what is planned, and a route with the least resistance is found, a project can usually go ahead. Not everyone can be pleased, but by the end of this process the level of opposition is greatly reduced compared to the first public meetings.

There is often opposition in rural areas to High Speed Rail as has been seen in California and now in Texas. Much of the opposition is based on complaints about how construction and loss of their land will affect farmers, their business and future earnings. Not expressed, but likely on the minds of these farmers is development caused by rail service would increase the value of their land and increase their local property taxes. These farmers often dominate  their local politics. With development and population growth, these would dilute these farmers political influence which makes it harder for them to control their local government.

2). The Railroads

The railroads are rarely happy to run more passenger trains on their tracks. It isn’t so much that they are against rail passenger service, as they are against losing money. Over the years to stay in business, the railroads have trimmed expenses on their tracks to make the most money from their freight trains. Freight trains don’t need to go as fast as passenger trains. The railroads can run more freight with a few very long trains for less on mostly single track with few sidings than with many shorter trains needing many sidings. A single late passenger train can disrupt meets for many freight trains forcing them with long waits at the limited number of sidling because of a late passenger train. In general railroads are friendly to commuter railroads when they agree to pay what the railroads want to run these trains on their tracks. Also commuter railroads usually pay the railroads for track improvements to smooth out operations with mixed freight and passenger service. This includes the passenger services assuming liability in case of accidents on their railroads. We’ve seen this in actions on the Capitol Corridor trains in Northern California. For years the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Agency has paid the Union Pacific Railroad extra money to maintain their tracks to a higher level than they need for their freight trains. But the UP has benefited with smoother operation of their trains by doing this and UP likes getting the extra maintenance money from the JPA. This has lead to a generally cooperative relationship between the Union Pacific and the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Agency.

Another example of this is with Metrolink and the BNSF. Metrolink runs some of its trains between Riverside, Fullerton and Los Angeles on the BNSF mainline between Los Angeles and the east. Work is underway building triple tracking between Los Angles and Fullerton to allow  operation of more Metrolink and Amtrak passenger trains. This includes eliminating grade crossing as well. When the line is fully grade separated there will be 4 tracks between Los Angeles and Fullerton in order to run more passenger trains. In order to run Metrolink trains from Fullerton to Riverside a third track was needed because BNSF needs a double track railroad for their freight traffic. The public paid for the 3rd track, and it is not unusual to be on a Metrolink train in the middle of the 3 tracks with long freight trains on the other tracks much of the time. With the completion of the Colton Flyover eliminating a major bottleneck for both the BNSF and the UP, there is interest in extending more Metrolink trains terminating now at Riverside to San Bernardino. The BNSF has said no problem, but first the public has to pay to add a third track to San Bernardino from Riverside.

3). The Oil, Car Makers and Tire Companies

The fact is General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum were indicted and convicted in Federal Court in 1949 of conspiring to monopolize sales of buses and related material (tires and oil products) to National City Lines which was also owned by these companies. After going to the appeal process General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum were each fined $5,000 dollars and their executives a dollar each. The fact is these companies did buy up many transit agencies in the 1930’s and 40’s, many of which operated rail transit service. This included the passenger service of the Pacific Electric Railroad of California. The tracks and freight service remained with the Southern Pacific railroad. The reality is even at their best private rail transit service rarely made money. Their primary purpose was to open land to development and to bring electrification to land that was being developed by the company that owned the railroad. This mostly happened before 1920. By the thirties with the Depression and increasing car ownership, many rail transit companies were in trouble and it was cheap and easy for a front company like National City Lines to buy these distressed companies, get cash scraping transit rail and making money for the owners of National City Lines buying their buses, tires and oil product. Ideally with hindsight local government should have preserved much of the rail infrastructure and improved it for better public transportation. It was also at this time that General Motors developed the diesel electric locomotive which was much more economical than steam power. After World War II conversion to diesel was a major factor in keeping the railroads in business after business declined with the end of the war.

4). Politics

Politics and political spending for over the last 30 years has been increasingly dominated by a few very rich men in this county. Some donors give money almost exclusively to one of the 2 major political parties. Other donors hedge their bets by giving money to both parties so no matter who wins, they will have access. Most of this donated money goes for political advertising, most of which goes to the television networks. Elections are major moneymakers for the networks and the media in general. Most of these rich donors also fund multiple foundations and other non-profit organizations to promote their goals. These goal often include lowering their taxes and not raising them for other rich Americans. Along with this they often oppose anything that will increase government spending that will not improve their business.

Many of these rich men have made much of their money in fossil fuel. The foundations and other organizations supported by these rich men regularly publish reports critical of emerging renewable energy which would compete with fossil fuel or transportation modes which don’t use fossil fuels. Most of the opposition to the science of increasing carbon dioxide correlating to increased global temperature is from such foundations and Think Tanks funded by this small number of very rich men. Much of what is published can be called propaganda. Propaganda’s purpose is to shape public opinion by appealing to emotions and often fear rather than facts. Often propaganda is misleading or flat out fiction. These foundations and Think Tanks are well funded and have excellent media relations. It also helps that the rich men that fund these organizations control companies which buy a lot of advertising in the media.

So this makes government agencies that operate or plan and build rail passenger services vulnerable to constant attack stories against rail passenger service. This is not to say that American Rail Passenger service can’t be run better and more efficiently. But the point of these stories are often part of a larger political effort to get politicians supported by political donors in power and those who don’t out of office. One of the oldest red herring arguments against rail passenger service is that it doesn’t make money and needs subsidy. What is not noted is by that measure no form of transportation makes money. Rail passenger service can and in many places does operate at a profit. This is what most transportation services do. But government subsidizes the infrastructure needed for most forms of transportation. Private transportation companies outside of paying taxes doesn’t pay for the full costs of the Coast Guard, the Army Corp of Engineers, Airports, the Federal Aviation Administration or to build and maintain the public roads. Those are paid in full by all taxpayers. Taxes are something many major companies pay little or none of, which are often owned by the very rich men who complain about subsidizing rail passenger service.

‘DISNEY INVENTED IT; UNITED NOW EMBRACES IT:

Tags

,

CUSTOMER SERVICE DELIVERY-THE MISSING LINK IN THE RE-ORGANIZATION OF AMTRAK TO FULFILL A CONSISTENT, POSITIVE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE”

By M.E. Singer

In response to the long awaited, desperately needed re-organization of Amtrak announced January, 2017 by CEO, Wick Moorman, it is time to recognize a missing organizational value that a parallel ,previous problematic culture, United Airlines, recently embraced. Sadly, any notion of customer experience at Amtrak over the prior ten years before Mr. Moorman, if addressed at all, was through an “echo chamber.”

Acknowledging how Disney created the relevance of having an overall, hands-on perspective of the Customer Experience, United Airlines, under ex-CSX President Oscar Munoz, has jumped in with both feet, with United now having a Senior Vice President Customer Service Delivery. Indeed, the immediate relevance for Amtrak is how United has explicitly delineated its expectations for the position of Customer Service Delivery: “Our customers have told us they want a more consistent positive experience, and bringing all of our people that serve customers daily into the same team ensures a great experience at every point in their travel. This will include all aspects of United’s customer-facing experience, ranging from food service, airport operations, airport lounges and inflight services, with an employee and customer focus.” In respect to Mr. Moorman’s re-ordering of Amtrak’s values to now focus on emphasizing 1) safety; 2) customers; 3) employees, the timing is perfect to emulate United’s deliberate 180 degree turn. In the very competitive airline business, United’s focus is on eliminating operational firewalls to ensure all customer-facing areas are ‘rowing in the same direction’ to accomplish a consistently, positive customer experience. For that, this key position at United reports directly to the Chief Operating Officer.

Now, even major medical centers and cruise lines are also giving credence to the concept of customer service delivery to alleviate their haphazard approach towards achieving the customer’s expectations in a highly competitive marketplace. Just as United is well on the way of a sustainable flight path of a successful turnaround orchestrated by an ex-Class 1 railroad as its CEO, Amtrak now also enjoys a former railroad CEO seeking to run Amtrak as a business. Mr. Moorman’s history evidences his appreciation for the value of how customer experience is a critical component for change. It’s time to apply to Amtrak how Mr. Moorman successfully changed Norfolk Southern’s customer delivery metrics; how today, Michael McClellan, Jim McClellan’s son, is taking those metrics to build a merchandise business line on that same railroad with boxcars and reefer cars within a previous non-competitive 750 mile market to now go head-to-head with trucks.

As I was fortunate to experience private passenger trains in the 1950s-1960s, from the very best (Super Chief), the good (City of New Orleans), the horrible (The General), and the pathetic (Manhattan Limited), I also experienced Amtrak from its beginning. It’s interesting to remember how well the Super Chief was maintained until 1973, when Santa Fe CEO John Reed rose-up to protect ownership of the brand by refusing its dismemberment; how well maintained the Metroliner parlor service was into 1973; yet, how quickly the Empire Builder faded into a bland, standardized service concept. The point here is that regrettably, from its beginning, Amtrak’s one consistent issue has been the proliferation of its inconsistencies towards customer service delivery and experience.
Typical Customer Experience-And Issues

Before delving into the overall perspective to support an executive management level position at Amtrak for Customer Service Delivery/Customer Experience, what prompted my research on this topic was a recent trip over 2016 Christmas weekend. With my only daughter overseas, the idea of spending Christmas solo was dreadful. Cheaper than a psychiatrist, I booked a round trip roomette on the Capitol Limited, leaving Chicago on 24 December; arriving and leaving Washington back to Chicago on 25 December. What struck me was the perpetual attitudinal and service inconsistencies that would truly fluster a newbie rail traveler. Mind you, not one of these points elaborated upon is based on any reflection of, “back on the Century…”, as each and every issue was avoidable, if under the eagle eyes and nurturing wings of a competent head of Customer Service Delivery/Customer Experience at Amtrak. Ironically, despite the plethora of blogs, including Amtrak’s site, and the how-to books, Amtrak has yet to appreciate how its customers outside the “Acela Corridor” lack an institutional knowledge, a reference point, and the frame of mind of passenger train operations and services. (Just think of the crowd flying in the summer and its lack of decorum en flight.) In my commentary below, the central theme is identifying how Amtrak is not sensitive to and focused on how to deliver a favorable customer experience.

12/24/16
Metropolitan Lounge (Chicago Union Station):
Am I the only one who believes this area to be so very overbuilt; to question why, given so much space, a vendor, or Amtrak, could not have a spot to sell cocktails, wine, and beer? Set-up on a few tables are the Amtrak throwaway freebies–a couple pieces of fruit, and real cheap nuts that pour into your hand (and all the others before you) by turning the wheel; coffee and water dispensers; and the inevitable Pepsi branded fountain (where would this less desirable product be if it did not seriously undercut the more popular Coke brands?) Ironically, when I checked in, a redcap was also seated at the front desk, as if he was on break. Curious why there were no schedules inside the lounge, I inquired and was sent next door to the ticket office, where I was told they no longer have “timetables.” I was referred to the large waiting room where racks of schedules were finally located. But why make it so difficult to not be able to pick-up a schedule in the lounge? Note how the indistinguishable upstairs Pennsylvania Room was unused, as well as the equally indistinct Burlington Room, which was pre-occupied with the Polar Express displays. Also, no communication to inform customer what feature equipment their train carried, e.g., diner/cafe; sightseer lounge. As the menus are now so pathetically homogenized, this would have been an ideal opportunity to also evidence (hanging frames) menus and how to select what’s included per meal.

To test the new lounge boarding process, I inquired at the front desk. The lady was rather short in her answer, repeating how actual track numbers were only for coach passengers. (The lack of social skills apparently a classic example of “friends & relatives” hiring. ) I just wanted to verify that customers are no longer escorted directly to their train gate and advised location of sleepers (forward or aft). Listening to her garbled mispronunciations, as with marbles in her mouth, of prior departures over the PA, I knew people would be confused and persistently inquire about their train, and how to find it. When #30 was announced, we were directed to just go through the side doors marked, “To Trains.” Although I know the South concourse and gate numbers, how would anybody new to this travel mode understand and correctly find the boarding gate?

Boarding #30 CHICAGO-UNION STATION:
Just to verify sleeper position, as nobody was at the gate, I inquired at the first open car where a very young (and cute!) conductor stood (I found out later she was Jen-Toledo), and was directed forward of the diner/cafe. Amazingly, she smiled and said, “Merry Christmas!” I turned and inquired was she that happy that former CEO Boardman was out, or, Trump elected? I encouraged her to most certainly continue with that spirit, and never lose it. But, was it that long ago that a lighted train sign was at the gate denoting the cars consist by type and line number? The Q went all out with a full-size silver “Zephyr” sign over the entire gate. Hard to believe in Europe, with so many more trains, that depot platform signage actually electronically indicates the class, car line, and destination, so customers know where to stand. Of course, the cars are colored by class and denote class level by number as well.

En Route #30 to WASHINGTON:
Remembering from prior trips the ridiculous excuse for no ice bins in the sleepers due to District of Columbia health regs (really?), I had prepared a large bag of ice and cups from the Metropolitan Lounge for my Crown Royals (also knowing there is no real liquor kit or trained bartenders on board). Also, I learned to bring a quality air pillow for my back, and when sleeping, for under my head to avoid falling into the well. Although my dinner reservation had been secured in the Metropolitan lounge, a SA came by inquiring re dinner times, but never reinforcing how dinner was complementary, or, what was on and included from the menu. Aware of the inventory par level/stockout issues, I never do dinner after 730pm. The cafe section did not open until 735pm (see 12/25 notes). Despite prior news of Mr. Moorman re-establishing the flowers on tables, not here yet. But very acceptable white linen-type tablecloth and dark linen-type napkins. Steak dinner was fair; service by 2 SAs confusing. Some sleeper customers had no concept of how and what to select; the process had also changed, confusing customers what part of the order check to even complete. It also would be wise to stamp on the menus and meal order forms that “Tips Not Included” for the benefit of so many pretending to be from France and expecting “Service Compris.” Steak was ’86’ by 845pm (see 12/25 notes).

At the end of dinner, no staff in the diner, or sleepers, offered information identifying when breakfast hours would be the next day. Interesting, nobody ever even suggested viewing the beautiful Allegheny grades from the non-staffed Sightseer Lounge next to the diner. Apparently, no longer does the TA offer to take wake-up calls, despite a schedule taking so much longer with a 105pm arrival in WAS. (Note, under the B&O, even into the mid-1960s,”The Cap” was almost 2 hours faster.)

12/25/16
En Route #30 to WASHINGTON:
Riding lower #14 directly over the trucks, sleep at night was like a sub being depth-charged and laterally thrown around violently, given the less than desirable roadbed. Too bad customers are not warned of such obvious rough spots. Also, how many times did I hear people complaining of no WiFi, as apparently they were not informed in advance that between Pittsburgh-Cumberland, “nada WiFi.” If a person somehow cannot be awed by the sheer beauty and history of the grades and curves of the Alleghenies, nothing like a good book. Breakfast in the diner: I learned long ago to order the omelette minus the stuffing, as you received three eggs. But the perfect square size, thin, rubbery dimension of this omelette, served with no garnish made me wonder were the eggs pre-made for Guantanamo? No Tabasco or other condiments offered; no suggestion by SA for Bloody Mary, etc. But SA strictly held to the so-called limit of only two drinks, despite my requesting two juices and a black coffee, and in respect to a good tip at dinner night before. I did inquire if their would be a brief Express lunch, but was informed not with the train running early

I returned briefly to my roomette to find the TA, though responsible for two sleepers, diligently working with a carpet sweeper in each compartment and corridor. I applauded him for his effort, as well as the very clean bathrooms, despite how quickly I noticed people re-trashing them. Also, very interesting to see this TA inform customers on the PA of the majestic beauty of the Alleghenies, and how at Cumberland, there would be an extended smoke break and WiFi, as we were running early and would be in by 12:40pm. This TA was very gracious when I palmed him $5 at Cumberland, as I found that he had really provided overall good service, unlike most on that line.

As the Sightseer Car was dominated by obnoxiously loud teens, I went to the cafe to chat with the very friendly LSA. I noticed how he (and later, others) had their own Amtrak business cards; though inconsistent by not all showing their position, or, to where to either call (800) or provide written comment. So, menus are standardized, but not business card format, eh? I could not help but to acknowledge how the pass through station was nicely decorated with Christmas lights, inquiring if that was a “post Boardman policy change,” remembering how the diners in past years since 2013 had become a rolling “Charlie Brown Christmas tree?” This LSA, Jordan Lombardo, appeared quite knowledgeable of food & beverage, coming out of the restaurant business. When I inquired why the cafe opened so late the night before, he informed me it was because 14th Street yard had pulled the diner/cafe he came in with on #29 that morning; nobody informed him the car was pulled or why. But my immediate thought was, ” how could you be so blindsided when there is a Train Manager plus a Route Director?” Just like a hospital, there should be no break or absence of management just because of a holiday. This lack of communication is indeed a serious issue impacting customer experience. Because of this lack of communication, the diner crew needed more time to set-up, as I was informed that usually the cafe is open leaving Chicago Union Station and until 12:15pm the next day if on schedule. That last minute switch also explained why they ran out of steak at dinner, whether or not the inventory par level is allegedly set by the load. Someday, Amtrak will have a Point-of-Service software program (POS) for all food and beverage purchases to alleviate the still extensive manual accounting required to track all items. Although I chose not to put this LSA in a conflict re POS details, I did indicate how I had personally researched a POS offered byToast-how it is used in major Chicago restaurants, and its application to treat each diner as a restaurant or sightseer as a bar, and not require WiFi to operate.

Despite delayed departure from Chicago due to #4 Southwest Chief arriving late, and the passenger emergency requiring police/ambulances near Elkhart, we arrived Washington 12:35pm-30 minutes early. So, Christmas Day is indeed the best one of the year for passenger train schedules!

12/25/16
Acela Lounge-WASHINGTON:
Given the fact it was Christmas Day, one would think the staff in charge of this so-called First Class passenger lounge would be able to answer what exactly was open in the depot for lunch; indeed, to have a list depicting who exactly was open. Interestingly, there was a pile of folders on the counter with advertising by Rapido Trains Inc. As I have not seen a “ticket document” in years, you would think there would have been some signage to take one and how to use?

Unlike Chicago, when #29 was announced, we assembled at the doorway and were escorted to the specific track for boarding the Capitol Limited to Chicago. As with incoming #30, the consist was one baggage, one dorm sleeper, two sleepers, one diner/cafe, one sightseer, and two coaches; a reduction from December, 2014 when the consist included four sleepers and four coaches.

12/25/16
En Route #29-CHICAGO:
Although no PA announcement re bar service in open cafe upon on-time departure from WAS, this train’s SA and galley resembled elements of a first string crew, when combined with my TA and LSA on #30. What a total difference the steak dinner experience was eastbound on #29. Instead of two mediocre SAs, we had one individual SA holding down the entire diner, Mr. Floyd Elliot Bateman. Talk about somebody who knew his job and really hustled! Service was far better, faster, friendlier, and more motivated than the night before with two SAs! Complementing Mr. Bateman on the far superior quality of the meal preparation, he proudly informed me he was working with the “A Team;” providing me with the business cards of Chef Brett Weakley and Food Specialist Dora E. Luna. However, lacking any information with their ticketing or in their compartment, or, verbally indicated by their TA, I encountered passengers who had no idea what the complementary meal and its options included. As well, there was no communication from the diner crew, or TA, identifying breakfast hours the next day.

There were issues with customers who had no idea how tight the roomette space was for two senior adults, as apparently Amtrak, blogs, how to travel books, just fail to competently explain the space limitations; how to upgrade to bedrooms; the fact that the berths are no longer in existence, replaced by thin Army mat rolls and the windows far above the berth space. Apparently, both Baby Boomers and Millennials were befuddled by such layout. As well, this car, Florida, had multiple bathrooms with broken locks; wonder if ever reported and why not fixed?

Again, no solicitation by TA re wake-up call, or, information re breakfast hours; or, even smoking stops.

Although most customers in my sleeper retired by 9pm EST, I was shocked how the TA, Timm, did not control the customers exiting and boarding after that hour, as I was continuously rudely awakened by loud talking customers oblivious to the old Pullman adage, “Quiet Is Requested For Those Who Have Retired.” Never did I ever hear the TA request those customers to tone it down.

To my shock, the TA, Timm, got on the PA at 0715 EST to wake everybody up at once in our sleeper, as if we were in boot camp, to announce the diner was open and described in vivid detail the breakfast menu. Really? Even if running on-time, let alone, on 26 December running early, the theme is apparently what works for Amtrak’s convenience. I noticed how quickly the TA moved between compartments to change linen and towels, just so the car would be ready arriving CUS. As well, it was then emphasized how the diner would be closed after South Bend (7:51am EST/6:51 am Chicago time).

Breakfast in the diner with SA Bateman was a pleasure–omelette appeared quite attractively; my request for two juices and coffee not dismissed; however, ran out of croissants. I noticed several sleeper passengers who viewed the menu and just left their tables. At my my table, I had to walk through the menu and selection options with a millennial couple who had no idea how to order. Ironically, only one Tabasco to share between tables. I did learn how 14th Street yard persistently stabs this train by pulling cars with no communication; adding “cold cars” which would explain the shortage of steaks on #30. For the convenience of the diner crew, at least one booth is consumed with silverware and set-ups.

No PA announcement to customers how early train was running; actually arrived CUS approximately twenty minutes early.

CHICAGO-UNION STATION:
Devoid of any signage, I had to inquire at the Hertz counter how could I find the walkway to the new CTA bus terminal across the street on Jackson/Canal. I was informed to follow the sign reading, “to parking garage.” Really?
Analyzing Organizational Effectiveness to Check, Verify, and Re-Check to Fulfill Customer Experience

Given this agonizing trip report, it becomes quite evident how Amtrak still does not understand the demographics of its customers, nor, how to appropriately and acceptably communicate to them–as they contemplate ticket purchases, accommodations, to understanding the meal concept and bar situation; in essence, life aboard Amtrak in the 21st century. As this trip report depicts, what happens on the rails continues to be quite different than whatever is professed by any Lean Six Sigma diplomas or analyst assurances at HQ, let alone by Amtrak’s Customer Advisory Committee NARP is paid to operate. It is time to look beyond simply re-cycling internal candidates for the much vaunted meritorious promotion concept of Amtrak and seek from outside the organization fresh blood with a new set of eyes and bold ideas, mindful of the history, but not blinded by the dismissive corporate milieu disdainfully responding with, “this is how we’ve always done it;” or, “we tried it once, and it didn’t work?”

Whether Amtrak is mandated to foist the long distance routes upon the states, or, make a 180 turn to reinvigorate customer services, what should apparently be obvious is Amtrak will not be allowed to continue on this current tangent track over the next four years, let alone, indefinitely, without a curve either way. Accordingly, Amtrak’s re-organization needs to embrace the growing recognition in the hospitality, transport, and medical world of a senior individual to “own the brand,” to have the organizational structure reflect its new mission to ensure the customer receives a consistent, positive experience. To “own the brand” means taking the same interest as the IC’s CEO, Wayne A. Johnston did into the mid-1960s, expecting his Panama Limited to arrive on time, everyday; demanding accountability if the train was late. In essence, given Amtrak’s past decade of Strategic Plans giving lip service to being “customer focused,” it’s time to take to heart the Bloomberg analysis of January 14, 2016, “United’s Quest to be Less Awful.”

The building blocks for this new position for Amtrak should reflect what will ensure its accountability and opportunity for success; to prevent any false starts. This will require a senior level management grade to lead from a diverse platform incorporating customer-facing areas to collaborate, gain consensus, and build alignment to support execution of customer-centric strategies; creatively address multi-faceted issues to manage through ambiguity; to drive influential actions and behavior across multiple departments focused on the stakeholders–the customers. Importantly, to work with Brand Management to re-focus on the customer experience, which is what should define the brand. To be effective throughout the organization, and ensure accountability as a change agent (“disrupter”), this position must report to the CEO. To emphasize the importance of customer experience, the Board of Directors should create a “Customer Experience Committee” requiring at a minimum a monthly verbal/written report to review identifying issues, and progress to resolve, or not.

Expectations and Reach to Ensure Implementation and Accountability of Customer Service Delivery, as referred to at Disney as “Operations Integrity”

Eliminate the customer odyssey forced to learn “the Amtrak way,” instead of how the process should be sensitized towards the customer.
For example, in reference to my trip report, raise the customer’s expectations to a more effective process:

Ticketing Process
Need to more adequately explain room size and dimensions on booking site; perhaps even have mock-ups in the major depot lounges. Explanation on E Ticket indicating what meals included in fare; typical menus, and selection option. Indicate if bar service available, and in what car. Ideally, some details on what to pack in room; perhaps even recommended range of tipping (just as restaurants print requisite tip percentage for parties of six or more); information re availability of WiFi; use larger, darker font indicating car line and room assignment. Facilitate on-boarding of customers by reserving individual seats in coach on long distance routes and business class (just as the railroads managed to perform manually until Amtrak).

Metropolitan Lounge
Escort customers to train gate. Post menus in Metropolitan Lounges and on-line depots, again reinforcing what meals included in sleeper ticket (without pricing), selection options, tipping not included. More effectively train staff on proper use of PA and word annunciation.

Train Gate (Departure Terminal)
Destination signage at boarding gate to include car line numbers and type in consist.

On-Board
Instead of National Magazine (no perceived value), use space to include menus; information on bar services and diner location. Train TAs to inform customer of diner and lounge; hours of meal services; offer drinks, ice, or meals. (Should be an up charge for non-disabled customers requesting meal room service). Inform of shower and dressing room availability and procedures, i.e., towels. Train TAs to offer wake-up calls; refrain from using PA to wake-up entire car; to explicitly advise night before of breakfast hours on arrival day. Focus on cleanliness and mechanical functioning en route.

Diner
Menus in diner for sleeper passengers should be without prices to eliminate confusion; set-up as “A La Carte” to clearly indicate what is included by selection options, e.g., 2 beverages; indicate tipping not included. Restore flowers. Have table tents suggesting cocktails, wine, and beer at each period. Diner SAs/LSA must explicitly communicate to customer breakfast hours on arrival day. Drastically improve re-order points of par level inventory system to prevent stock-outs of food and beverages. Instruct chef to greet passengers during meal periods in diner; SAs to re-fill drinks. Improve and clarify new meal order ticket, i.e., explicitly break-out by meal period and selection options.

Lounge
Should be set-up, open, and ready to serve upon boarding for sleeper passengers, recognizing conductors lifting tickets only in coach as still not reserved by individual seats. Amazing how the better airlines have invested in the customer experience en flight, learning how popular an on-board bar is for their customers to mingle, enjoy themselves; even offering signature airline themed drinks; some sponsored by the distillery itself.

Re-Inventing MBWA (“Management By Walking Around”)

Assign “road days” for managers in customer-facing areas and those impacting customer experience to actually be visible on the trains; lounges; yards to learn first hand the frustrations and problems impacting consistently acceptable good service. Identify “A” team members to staff same train to enable management to more properly focus 80% of its time on the 20% persistent problem issues to bring up to “A” member standards all other OBS crews. Identify needless layers of “cardboard management” inhibiting timely communication, blocking change, and demoralizing employees. (When Humana recruited me in 1991 to help run Michael Reese Hospital Medical Center, a 900-bed Chicago teaching hospital, the first action was to eliminate the position of Ph.D RNs, who as ‘desk jockeys’ were redundant in clinical management and stifling needed change.)

Maintenance/Repair Yards
Establish performance metrics to ensure clean windows and interiors; properly functioning equipment; check and verify how problems attended to as reported on inbound trains; improve metrics for turning around a consist for cleaning, re-stocking, and inspection. Establish communication channel to Train Manager/Route Director when cars are pulled out of consist by the yard to ensure outbound crew alerted; feature cars properly inventoried and supplied. In hospitals, they have an Administrator-On Duty for nights, weekends, and holidays, realizing they are not a 9-5, Monday-Friday business operation.

Product Development/Mechanical
Identify how to fix bathroom sink faucets from splashing water spray on customer. Identify how to repair/fix partitions between Superliner bedrooms B-E that allow voice sounds, smells, and rattling noises to permeate throughout trip. Identify more acceptable and comfortable replacement for horrid contraption that replaced the berth, providing only a flimsy pad and army roll to bounce on the seats/couch; position of head far lower to window.

Product Development/Food & Beverage
Vastly improve menu selections and product quality; craft menus by real chefs. Review feasibility of converting to a Bistro-type menu; or, determine if charging sleeper for meals would allow improved quality and selection. Introduce coffee shop/grill service for coach. Train LSAs in mixology; provide inventory and garnishments to increase sales in diner and lounge; ensure staff have the tools to do their job. Determine feasibility of enabling coach customers to pre-order/pre-pay meals, bar; to convert cash to prepaid cards at certain depots. Ensure quick implementation of a POS to improve customer experience, prevent stock-outs, etc.

Food & Beverage
Identify reason for stock-outs en route, especially with no ability to re-stock en route (as VIA does in Winnipeg). Identify shortage, or non existence of condiments, e.g., Tabasco.

HR
Establish more successful metrics for candidate selection for OBS; push accountability to hiring manager for orientation, training, and supervision; as well as cost of turnover. Develop more successful employee engagement policies to acknowledge the higher value of an engaged workforce; acknowledging how clarity in communications is like oxygen for employee growth and development. Need focus on improving employee experience.

Marketing
Eliminate payment to NARP for running the Customer Advisory Committee, as this forum’s relevance should be contained exclusively within Customer Experience. No customer experience focused transportation firm outsources such a vital component to identifying and resolving issues in a format potentially biased by its reliance upon a monthly check. Identify extent of how customer base is currently segmented by age and other demographics. Ensure knowledge of research in healthcare to an understanding of millennials as unforgiving–one bad experience, and they will not return. Restore and embrace true concept of First Class, e.g., morning newspaper (USA Today); flowers in diner and sleepers; happy hour on second day of western routes; wake-up calls, etc. Identify what is the real cost of eliminating amenities vs. lost opportunities for revenues? What would research indicate re customer experience if provided pajamas; upgraded linen and pillows? Push for research to truly identify the impact of eastbound/southbound long distance routes from Chicago scheduled to meet typically late incoming western trains vs. producing schedules to explicitly serve their market. Coupled to this would be the financial impact re asset utilization, i.e., market-specific schedules would reduce required consists from three to two for New York, Washington, and New Orleans.

Survival Requires Operational Integration and Planning of Customer Experience Areas to Overcome the Hurdles

Although Amtrak did away with the Passenger Service Representatives in the 1970s and the Train Chiefs by early 1990s, VIA Rail Canada continues to rely upon the Service Director for the entire train and the Service Manager for food/beverage services for the same train, The Canadian, between Toronto-Vancouver. Even Indian Railways has instituted a Train Captain on its Nilgiri Express to ensure proper customer experience en route. Key to appreciating customer experience is best expressed by United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, who stated in The Seattle Times of October 6, 2015, “…the processes and systems and investors and all that stuff? Those are wonderful…but what I’ve got to start with is people.” Indeed, the employees cannot hold a negative perception of the company and their work environment; lacking employee engagement policies. What Disney learned long ago, and what United is now realizing is the fact that the employees cannot hold a negative perception of the company and their work environment, lacking clear employee engagement policies and encouraging an owner’s mentality.

As emphasized here, Amtrak must accept how the customer should be made to feel respected, relaxed, and rewarded with a consistently acceptable, positive experience to engender a sense of wanting to ride again, and soon. And for that customer of Amtrak to have a direct communication channel to air issues and to receive satisfactory response. The essence of how Disney appreciated customer experience was the fact of understanding that people did not visit every few days, or, even every week. Outside the Northeast Corridor, this is also true for Amtrak, making it all the more reason to have the capacity to deliver daily a consistent product and service; to fulfill customer expectations.

As much as Mr. Moorman is to be a shot of B12 to Amtrak, a successful, all encompassing customer experience commitment will require an individual to manage the overall customer services delivery bringing together all the customer-facing areas and contributing operational areas to eliminate the firewall mentality; to prepare Amtrak for its future direction within these next four years. This preparation must include how to contend with what is currently under the radar of FRA’s proposal to competitively bid out three long distance routes. How will Amtrak’s customer experience match-up against a potential private operator?

Will Jerry Brown Turn To China to Fund California High Speed Rail?

Tags

,

By Noel T. Braymer

With Republican control of Congress and the White House, the prospect of additional Federal funding for construction of California High Speed Rail is bleaker than ever. In fact there is a good chance that efforts will be made to take back Federal Funding that has already been granted. Governor Jerry Brown is an old man. But he still has a sharp mind and has years of experience in politics. He has made his fair share of political mistakes, but has learned from them. Every attempt by opponents to outmaneuver Governor Brown in the last 6 years has found Governor Brown usually 1 or 2 steps ahead of his opponents with contingency plans to get his way. A priority of Governor Brown is the California High Speed Rail Project. If the United States government refuses to help build it, there are other countries that would likely be interested in doing so.

As Governor, Jerry Brown has made several overseas trips. Several of them have been to countries with High Speed Rail service. Governor Brown has visited China and ridden some of the High Speed Trains there. Quite likely he also made contacts with officials of the Chinese Government and the National Railroad. China has loaned money to several countries to build railroads. China is aggressively marketing to more counties to build new railroads with Chinese financing, construction companies and train equipment. China would love to get a foothold in the American High Speed Rail market. They also expect to get their loans paid back. China has had problems keeping the contracts for building railroads in some countries. A little over a year ago XpressWest, the company planning to build High Speed Rail service between Las Vegas and Southern California signed an agreement with a Chinese company to build and finance the High Speed Rail line to Southern California. Yet less than a year later XpressWest pulled out of the agreement due to conflicts with the Chinese company.

Why would China want to get involved in the California High Speed project? Besides the reasons already mentioned, there is the element of spite stemming from tensions between the United States and China. With the election of Donald Trump as President, these tensions will likely increase. Having a major presence in the United States in the largest State in the US would be good business as well as very annoying to the Trump Administration.The first 119 miles of construction is well underway in the San Joaquin Valley for High Speed Rail and by 2019 it should be ready to test High Speed Trains. Most of the money for building the rest of High Speed Rail between Wasco to San Jose is expected to be covered by already granted Federal funds, State Bonds and Cap and Trade income. With Chinese financing, there is a better chance that construction could be extended to Bakersfield and San Francisco. This will greatly increase ridership and revenue for this first segment of California High Speed Rail. The amount of Chinese investment would be small for the second largest economy in the world for this first leg. But this could lead to finishing this first leg before the now planned 2025 finish and position China to be involved in the rest of the construction of the full 800 miles of California High Speed Rail. It would also help China win other contracts both in this country and elsewhere.

Of course China is not the only country that could be interested in building High Speed Rail in California. Japan has been aggressively competing with China to win High Speed Rail contracts in other countries. Japan is supporting the Dallas to Houston High Speed Rail project. Japan would likely be interested in competing with China to finance and build the California High Speed Rail project. Japan would want the business and to showcase their High Speed Rail technology. They also want to beat China and gain influence and prestige at China’s expense.

Who else might be interested in getting involved in financing and building California High Speed Rail? The next largest economy after China and Japan with High Speed Rail service is Germany. Naturally Germany would love to get the contract for California High Speed Rail. But Germany, and many other countries including China and Japan would also want to see the United States continue to work to lower its emissions of greenhouse gases in accordance with the Paris Agreement to stop the rise in Global Warming. Governor Brown was in Paris during the final session of the Paris Agreement. California has long been a leader and very successful in reducing its emission of greenhouse gas while at the same time seeing its economy grow with the increasing use of renewable energy. California High Speed Rail is a major piece of Governor Brown’s effort to reduce California’s and the US’s emission of Greenhouse gas. Germany, China and Japan and most of the countries of the world would also like to see California maintain its leadership in renewable energy and energy efficiency. They would also be interested in blocking the Trump Administration efforts to increase use of fossil fuels. To that end, helping California build high speed rail would be a small price for any of these countries to pay.

It’s About Time Metrolink Connects To LAX

Tags

,

By Noel T. Braymer

With funding from Measure M, LA Metro and SCAG have begun the effort to plan the extension of the Green Line which terminates now at the west edge of Norwalk 2.8 miles east to the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station. There were plans in the 1990’s to extend the Green Line in a subway to the Metrolink station. But because of cost overruns and tunneling problems with the Red Line construction in the 90’s, future subway construction was banned and money to extend the Green Line dried up. One of the problems with trying to extend the Green Line in Norwalk has been the lack of local support for this project. Norwalk residents opposed surface construction on busy Imperial Highway which is the most direct route. Local residents questioned the benefits of Green Line service in a subway with no stations between the Metrolink station and the Norwalk Green Line terminal.

There is a great deal of interest for a Metrolink /Green Line connection to serve LAX in Orange County and the Inland Empire which both have Metrolink trains that stop at the Norwalk/Santa Fe station.The need for Green Line service at the nearby Metrolink station will increase with plans to make the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs station a stop for future High Speed Rail service. Current plans with Measure M funding calls for completion of the Green Line extension to Metrolink by 2052. There is hope that creative financing will allow construction to start sooner. Yet even without High Speed Rail service there is a major potential market for Metrolink with connecting service to LAX, the South Bay and West Los Angeles. A simple interim solution would to run connecting bus service from the Metrolink station to LAX, the South Bay and West Los Angeles. This would have limited capital costs and could be running in a year or two, not decades. Bus service wouldn’t replace the Green Line extension, but would provide interim service and stimulate a market for the future rail connection. Such buses could take advantage of the HOV lanes on the Century Freeway between LAX and Norwalk.

While we wait for the Green Line to be extended, there are other markets that would benefit Metrolink with feeder buses. There are plans to build Light Rail service along Van Nuys Blvd in the San Fernando Valley and later extend it to Westwood and after that to LAX. This is in the 405 freeway corridor which is often congested. There are plans to run rapid bus service on new bus lanes on the 405 in the meantime as far as Westwood from the San Fernando Valley by 2026. Some connecting express bus service could be added between LAX and Westwood to the San Fernando Valley years before the new bus lanes are finished over the Sepulveda Pass.

Metrolink rail service is largely focused on rush hour travel. With this there are gaps in Metrolink service in the middle of the day and at night and weekends. Also some trains don’t travel the entire route on their line. Feeder buses to trains are not new and have been very successful connecting to the 3 California supported Amtrak trains in the State. Metrolink can do the same on a smaller scale. This will increase ridership and make riding Metrolink more convenient. Here are a few examples.

The Ventura County Line has limited service much of the day and not all trains run to the end of the line. Adding buses to fill in the gaps will allow more people to use the train. This might mean catching the train in one direction and a connecting bus to a train to get back to the station where the person caught the first train.

The recently opened Metrolink service to Perris on the 91/Perris Valley line in Riverside County has very limited and slow bus service to the south. Buses could be run extended on the 15 freeway for faster connections to the area around Temecula in southern Riverside County and to San Diego County. Such service should also allow for connections to transit in both counties. At Riverside buses could connect passengers to San Bernardino as well as Banning and Palm Springs. This should be in addition to LOSSAN’s rail service to Palm Springs from Los Angeles planned in the near future.

In Orange County there are some Metrolink trains that go no further than Fullerton or south of Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo. A major reason for this is track capacity problems which limit the number of trains that can run between Los Angeles and Fullerton or south of southern Orange County. Connecting buses with station stops to these trains north of Fullerton to Los Angeles and in southern Orange County to Oceanside would add ridership to these trains and make travel more convenient with more service to more places.

Getting back to the Green Line connecting to Metrolink: one idea to increase local support in Norwalk for extending the Green Line is to add one station between the current Green Line terminus and the Metrolink Station in downtown Norwalk. SCAG is looking at this which would also entail some street level running which would also mean a slightly longer route by avoiding Imperial Highway. This would cost less than a 2.8 mile long tunnel. Like any major projects it will not be possible to please everyone, and just the planning to build anything will take years. Bus service however once approved could be running in a year or two if the desire and funding is found to do it. Running such bus service will make travel in the region easier to west Los Angeles County. It will also attract more passengers to Metrolink and reduce divert auto traffic off many miles of freeway at the same time.

Rail Service’s Role in California’s Road Diet

Tags

,

By Noel T. Braymer

For over 100 years the United States has tried to build more roads and highways to eliminate traffic congestion. In the 1950’s and 60’s freeways were built in the hopes that they would relieve traffic congestion in the cities. The simple fact is congestion is worse now than ever. Why is that? What traffic engineers have found is the more roads we build, the more people drive. A recent example of this was in Los Angeles with the recent construction of car pool lanes in the 405 freeway between Westwood and the San Fernando Valley which took several years to build. Since this project has been completed, traffic congestion in this section of the 405 is back to the same levels of congestion as before the car pool lanes were built. This doesn’t include the increased congestion caused by construction during the time the car pool lanes were being built.

The question for California is how and why should it try to reduce traffic congestion? One reason is to meet the State’s goals to make major reductions in Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The other is to create economic growth in the State of California. Housing and Transportation costs are very high and the largest expenses residents face living in the State. For economic growth the State needs housing people can afford as well as economic transportation to jobs and services. As it is now we are having trouble building more roads at the same time we are not repairing roads fast enough to keep them from falling apart.

How was traffic handled in the past? Before 1960 cities often had decent public transportation, the ridership of which often fell as people and businesses moved out to the new suburbs with the construction of freeways. Population density was generally higher in most cities before 1960 than today. The advantage of greater density is it leaves more open space outside of the city and reduces the distance needed to travel since places are closer together and less spread out. It also saves money since people don’t have to drive as much and less money is spent for parking. Dense housing is also cheaper in an urban area because it uses less land per residence, which is expensive in urban areas. Dense development makes it faster and easier to get around by walking, biking or by pubic transit than by car. How much difference can public transit make compared with driving which most cars have only one person? A double tracked subway can easily carry many more people per hour than a typical 5 lanes freeway in both directions. With people on bicycles and walking on sidewalks, streets can carry more persons than it can with cars. Today in California commuter trains carry as many people in the same time as cars on one lane of freeway traffic. It is noticeable that the area with the greatest traffic congestion are not the older parts of town but in the post World War II suburbs. Some of the worst traffic jams are at suburban public schools from parents picking or dropping off their children.There was a time when I was growing up when kids walked or rode their bikes to schools.

One thing that would reduce congestion and get more people onto transit is to give light rail and buses priority at traffic lights. Today in downtown Los Angeles the Blue and Expo Lines travel on Flower Street with the Blue line also running on Washington Blvd. A typical 3 car train can easily carry well over a hundred people. That’s instead of hundreds of more cars on the street. But these trains must stop at traffic lights to let a dozen or so cars and trucks go first. More people can and will ride light rail and buses if they go faster in traffic. It also means fewer people driving which means less traffic.To make this happen will require new development centered around rail service and changes in the way we use roads. Much of this is already underway. Another issue is how parking is subsidized which encourages driving and reduces space for housing and commercial use. An example of what can be done is London which started charging tolls for cars and trucks to enter the central city in 2003. At first this reduced traffic dramatically. Today traffic is congested again, but now most of the traffic is from cabs and delivery trucks not private cars. Since 2003 the population in London has grown and more people are using transit, riding bikes on new bike lane, walking more and driving less. Also since 2003 some roads in London have been closed to vehicle traffic for use by bikes and pedestrians.

One example of what could be done in Los Angeles is from an opinion piece published in the Los Angles Times on November 3rd 2016 by Thom Mayne, a Professor of Architecture at UCLA. He proposes building new hi-rise housing for a million people along the Purple Line in the Wilshire Blvd Corridor which is already one of the most densely populated areas of Los Angeles County. This would triple the population in the Wilshire Blvd Corridor. But this would significantly increase housing in Los Angeles County without using undeveloped land. Dr. Mayne points out even at these levels of populations density, it would be lower than the population density of most major cities in the world. As part of this project he proposes extending the Purple Line to Santa Monica. While this is only a proposal, we will see development with high density  and mixed-use along many areas with rail service in California. In fact in downtown San Diego we already see many hi-rise condos lining the Trolley lines and by the Santa Fe Depot, the downtown train station.

dscn2393

Some of the new tall buildings built in downtown San Diego near the Santa Fe Depot

A good example of this is already happening in downtown Vista, California. Vista is a city of over 93,000 in northern San Diego County between Oceanside and Escondido. It has Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) light rail service every half hour on the 22 miles between Oceanside and Escondido with the Sprinter trains. At Oceanside there are connections to Amtrak, Coaster and Metrolink services and at Escondido connections to Rapid Bus service to northern and downtown San Diego. At the Vista Transit Center which is the downtown Vista Sprinter Station there is also local bus service with several lines. The city of Vista has been busy redeveloping downtown near the Transit Center. This includes a modern Vista Village shopping center including a movie theater complex and water park. There is also new high density housing that has been built near the Transit Center with more in the works. There have also been major changes in the roads in downtown Vista which aim to calm traffic. The aim of the city of Vista was to transform its old and tired downtown commercial district along Santa Fe Ave into “a mixed-use, destination oriented, and pedestrian friendly district connected to mass transit.”

Here are some photos with examples of this.

dscn3016

Sprinter DMU train arriving at the Vista Transit Center

dscn2996

Across the street from the Vista Transit Center is the Vista Village Shopping Center including Cinemas and a Water Park.

dscn2997

Paseo Santa Fe is the name of the district along Santa Fe Ave in downtown Vista transforming from a commercial to a mixed-use area.

dscn3001

As part of traffic calming to encourage walking there is a Traffic Circle or Roundabout at one intersection. Even though this forces cars to slow down, more vehicles are able to pass through the intersection since the cars don’t have to stop.

dscn2998

This is new housing just opened at Paseo Santa Fe with 3 floors of housing and the street floor available for shops or businesses.

dscn3014

This is some more new housing across the street from the Vista Transit Center. At this same intersection Vista recently approved construction of a 5 story building with more high density housing.

LA Metro’s Rail Projects up to 2030

Tags

By Noel T. Braymer

With the passage of Measure M last November by over 71% of the vote, funding for future transportation projects are on a strong footing in Los Angeles County. Most of the rail related projects that will be built by 2030 are already under development or will be soon. But the new funding made possible by Measure M will speed up construction of projects already under construction or start construction sooner than was possible without Measure M.
The 8.5 mile Crenshaw/LAX Rail line now under construction is already half finished. It will meet the current Green Line at the Imperial Highway Station at the southeast corner of LAX. The Green line will be extended, sharing the Crenshaw/LAX line up to the Century Blvd as well as the 96th Street stations. The 96th Street station will be the transfer point to the future LAX People Mover which will provide service to the airport terminals. Because of Measure M, there is now funding available to build the People Mover transfer station for the Green and Crenshaw/LAX lines. The rest of the Crenshaw Line is already funded  with constructed expected to finish by 2019. The 96th Street Station construction is planned to start by 2018 and completed by 2021. The LAX People Mover is planned to be running by 2023.
screenshot-2016-11-24-at-10-07-17-am-edited

Cropped LA Metro Map of the location of the joint Light Rail/ Airport People Mover Station for LAX

The Crenshaw/ LAX line will also serve Inglewood and go north up Crenshaw Blvd to Exposition Blvd allowing passenger to transfer to the Expo Line at Crenshaw to either Santa Monica or downtown Los Angeles. Plans are in the works to extend the Crenshaw/LAX line using San Vincente Blvd to connect with the Purple Line at Wilshire and La Cienaga at the east end of Beverly Hills. From there the Crenshaw/LAX line would head north to serve West Hollywood and connect to the Red Line in Hollywood at Hollywood and Highland. This will allow connections from downtown Los Angeles and east San Fernando Valley to West Los Angeles and LAX. Speaking of the Purple Line, plans to extend it west of La Cienaga to Westwood with only Measure R funding was set for 2035. With the passage of Measure M, the plan now is to start construction west of La Cienaga by 2018 and reach Westwood by 2023. The original plan for finishing Phase 1 of the Purple Line extension to La Cienga was by 2023. The length of the Purple Line extension from Western Ave to Westwood is 9 miles.
screenshot-2016-11-24-at-11-26-20-am-edited

The plan for the future Crenshaw/LAX extension north is to go from Exposition Blvd to the Purple Line Station at La Cienega. From there the extension will go through West Hollywood to the Red Line Station at Hollywood and Highlands which is the station nearest to West Hollywood

Another major project now under construction is the Regional Connector. This is a roughly 2 mile long subway between the existing Blue/Expo lines tunnel at 7th and Flower in downtown Los Angeles to a new subway station in Little Tokyo at 1st St and Central Ave. This also includes 2 other new subway stations at 2nd St and Broadway and 2nd Place and Hope St. With the construction of the Regional Connector the Blue Line from Long Beach will be extended from 7th and Flower to Union Station on what is now the Gold Line to Pasadena, Azusa and possibly as far as Ontario Airport in the future. The Expo Line will also be extended to Little Tokyo on to East Los Angeles on what is now the Gold Line. The Regional connector will reduce the need to transfer to get to more destinations in less time. This project is already fully funded and planned to be in service by 2021.
LA Regional Connector

The green dashed line shows the Regional Connector.The Red and Purple Lines shows the existing subway and the Silver Lines are for the Rapid Bus Sliver Line.

Starting in 2018 or so for the rest of the coming decade will be reconstruction of the tracks, platforms and a new underground concourse at Los Angeles Union Station. The biggest change will come with the construction of run through tracks at LAUS. This will allow trains to enter from one end of the tracks and continue on exiting the station from the other side without having to back up as is needed know withe the station’s stub end tracks. This will greatly increase the station’s train capacity allow more rail passenger service. In 2015 the California High Speed Rail Authority asked LA Metro for 4 tracks and 2 platform for future High Speed Trains as part of the new track and concourse construction at LAUS. This has delayed this project by about a years as changes to the project are needed to include High Speed Rail. But this will make transfers between High Speed Rail to the other train and bus services at Union Station much faster and easier for passengers, compared to the original plan for an underground station for High Speed Rail. The new concourse under Union Station will be built under the platforms at the station. The will eliminate the congestion at the current 1939 tunnel connecting to the platforms as well as open space for more shops, services, places to eat and create more direct connections between trains and to bus and rail transit.
HSR at LAUS 2

This is the current plan to bring in High Speed Rail at grade into Los Angeles Union Station. The red tracks and platforms are for High Speed Rail and the blue tracks and Platforms are for Amtrak and Metrolink.

There are 4 new or extensions of existing rail transit services planned by LA Metro between now and 2030. Rail service was extended in the summer of 2016 from Pasadena to Azusa. This greatly increased ridership on this line. The right of way east of Azusa continues on to San Bernardino. While there are no plans to run Light Rail service to San Bernardino, planning is going ahead to extend it at least to Claremont early in the next decade. The ultimate goal is to extend this service to Ontario Airport in San Bernardino County. Before that can happen there are plans to extend it to Montclair which is on the right of way now used by rail service to Azusa and is in San Bernardino County on the border with Los Angeles County. To even get to Montclair, let alone Ontario Airport will require matching funds from San Bernardino County. While these issues are being worked out, LA Metro is going ahead with plans to extend service from Azusa to Clairmont which will be the station in Los Angeles County closest to Montclair. The future Blue Line extension east of Azusa will be sharing right of way with Metrolink and likely also stations at Pomona, Clairmont and Montclair. This will allow transfers between Metrolink and Light rail. Getting to Ontario Airport by Light Rail will be a challenge since there isn’t a direct right of way connection to the airport from the right of way at Montclair
screenshot-2016-11-25-at-10-04-07-am-edited

Stations proposed for the Gold LIne extension to Montclair. This could share stations with Metrolink at Pomona, Claremont and and Montclair. Graphic by the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority

The first new Light Rail line will likely be in the northeast San Fernando Valley. This will be in a roughly 9 mile corridor along most of Van Nuys Blvd in the center of the San Fernando Valley heading north and turning up San Fernando Road. This service would have connecting stations at the Metrolink Sylmar Station, the Van Nuys Metrolink/Amtrak Station and the Orange Line Busway. Van Nuys Blvd already has the heaviest bus traffic in the Valley. There are also plans to build a busway on the 405 for rapid bus service to Westwood which will connect with Light Rail at Van Nuys Blvd and the Purple line at Westwood. Construction of the East San Fernando Valley project is expected by 2021 and be completed by 2027. The bus connections to Westwood are planned by 2026 and there are plans to extend the Orange Line bus service from North Hollywood to Pasadena by 2022.
screenshot-2016-11-23-at-8-04-23-am-edited

LA Metro Map of the route likely to be light rail from San Fernando down Van Nuys Blvd to roughly the Ventura Freeway

By 2028 there are plans to build 8 miles of Light Rail between Paramount and Artesia in the south east area of Los Angeles County. Construction is planned to start by 2022. At Paramount this service would connect with the Green Line at a new joint station near the 710 freeway at the 105 freeway. The right of way for this would be on the old West Santa Ana Branch of the Pacific Electric which use to run from Watts Junction to Santa Ana. The right of way is still intact south of Artesia to Santa Ana. Orange County plans to use part of this right of way for a Streetcar service from Santa Ana to Garden Grove in the near future, That are currently no plans to connect service between Orange and Los Angeles County. The northern segment of this yet unnamed rail line is to extended it 12 miles to Los Angeles Union Station mostly along the now publicly owned former UP Harbor Line. No final route has been decided into downtown Los Angeles for this segment.
West_Santa_Ana_Map

Map of the route of the old West Santa Ana Branch

The final rail project we can expect by 2030 is the extension of the Green Line south from Redondo Beach to Crenshaw Blvd in Torrance. Construction is expected to start by 2026. This will use the former BNSF Harbor Line right of way which is already used by the Green Line south of El Segundo. Construction for this segment  should be fairly easy to build. There is more former Harbor Line right of way available south if Crenshaw Bivd, but there are currently no plans to use it for future extension of the Green Line. There are plans to extend the Green Line at the east end from the Norwalk Green Line terminal to the Metrolink Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs station. This station is planned as a future High Speed Rail station. Currently planning for this new station is after 2050. There is some talk of building this and other projects sooner with Public,Private Partnerships which would include additional private financing.
m-green-line

Route of the Green Line today to Redondo Beach. This shows the future extension to Torrance at Chenshaw Blvd.