July 27, 2015 Click left to open file
By Noel T. Braymer
There is 60 miles of track from the Orange County border to downtown San Diego. As of 2009, 30 miles of these 60 miles of track were double tracked. By 2025 San Diego County plans to have 90% of this railroad doubled tracked which is about 54 miles.Before the end of 2015, San Diego County will have 40 miles of double track in service.The point of all this is to run more trains, faster, in San Diego County. So most of the construction projects are designed to increase track capacity and remove bottlenecks on the railroad.
Currently there are 2 segments of double tracking under construction in San Diego County. There is 4.6 miles being added in Camp Pendleton and 1.1 miles in Sorrento Valley which will be fully operational this Fall. There is an additional 1.6 miles of track planned to be double tracked in the near future in Camp Pendleton which will double track most of the railroad on the Base.
View from the train of construction of double track in Camp Pendleton. All photos by Noel T. Braymer. Click on photos to enlarge.
Almost all of the Coast Rail Line in the City of Oceanside is double tracked. Construction is planned to begin later this year for completion next year of a third track and platform at the Oceanside Transit Center. This will create a layover track for Coaster and Metrolink trains that terminate at Oceanside. This will also increase track capacity at Oceanside by freeing up the 2 main tracks at the station where one track is often used for terminated trains.
View of the location of the new third track and platform at the Oceanside Transit Center
Another station project is at the Poinsettia Coaster Station in south Carlsbad. No new tracks are involved. What is planned is a pedestrian undercrossing between the platforms and a fence between the tracks to prevent people from crossing the tracks. Currently passengers have to cross both tracks at grade to get to and from the west platform to the station entrance in the east. Because of the current station layout, no trains are allowed to pass through the station while a train is loading and unloading passengers for safety reasons. By eliminating having people walk across the tracks, more trains will be able to get full use of the 2 tracks at the station when another train is stopped there. This project is planned to be finished in 2016.
View of the one of the three crossings across the tracks at the Poinsettia Coaster Station
The largest increase in new double tracking in San Diego County by 2020 will be in the north end of the City of San Diego. This is part of a project to extend the San Diego Trolley Blue Line from downtown San Diego north to Old Town, UCSD and the University Towne Centre. At the same time of the Trolley construction will also be work on the same right of way to add and connect more double tracking to the existing railroad in this area by the end of 2017. Part of this will build a new double track bridge over the San Diego River just north of Old Town with construction starting next year. This will also create almost a mile of new double track. But it will also connect 2 segments of existing double track creating 7 miles of continuous double track by the end of 2017.
The existing single track bridge over the San Diego River next to the Green Line of the San Diego Trolley
The other double track project in north San Diego built along side the Blue Line extension is between Highway 52 and Mission Bay. On the railroad this is between Elvira and Morena. This will result in 2.6 miles of new double track. There will also be straightening of the curvy segments of tracks in Elvira which will increase speeds for trains in this area. Construction of this project is planned to begin later this year and finish by summer 2018. With these 2 projects connecting to existing double tracking will create 10.3 miles of continuous double tracking in the city of San Diego.
The view at Elvira from the train in San Diego next to a creek the line was built next to. Construction near bodies of water pose problems dealing with environmental issues. Plans to build double track at Elvira go back to the 1980’s.
The biggest issue in San Diego to double tracking is the need to build new rail bridges, All of the old wooden bridges built by the ATSF are being replaced one at a time with new, concrete bridges with lower maintenance costs and built higher than the wooden bridges to be better able to survive future floods. There are many places in San Diego County where new bridges are needed over the many lagoons and wetland areas in the County.Two examples of this are first, the new rail bridge over the Batiquitos Lagoon between Carlsbad and Encinitas. With this new double tracked bridge it will be possible to extend double tracking 2.7 miles from the southern end of Carlsbad to just outside the Coaster Station in downtown Encinitas. This is planned for completion by Spring of 2019. Another Lagoon is the San Elijo Lagoon between the Cardiff by the Sea community and Solana Beach. This new double tracked bridge will add 1.5 miles of new double tracking and create over 4 miles of continuous double tracking by connecting it to existing double tracking. This project is planned to be finished by early 2018.
View from Encinitas of the single track and part of the Batiquitos Lagoon.
Between the border to the south with Carlsbad at the Buena Vista Lagoon to the north end of Oceanside by Camp Pendleton almost all of the Coast Line railroad in Oceanside is doubled tracked. A small gap is at the north of Oceanside is caused by the old single tracked bridge over the San Luis Rey River. With the replacement of the San Luis Rey River railroad bridge and almost a mile of new double track in northern Oceanside will create 10.3 miles of continuous double track from Oceanside to the existing double tracking in Camp Pendleton. When the last 1.6 miles of double tracking is funded and built in the middle of Camp Pendleton, this will create almost 20 miles of continuous double tracking within Oceanside and the Base. The San Luis Rey River rail bridge is planned to be finished by 2020.
The single track railroad bridge over the San Luis Rey River at the north end of Oceanside
After 2020, the remaining projects for double tracking in San Diego County become harder to build and more expensive. Current plans call for San Diego County to have 90% double tracking by 2025. Those last 6 miles include 2 miles for double tracking in the canyon areas at Miramar. That alone is estimated at around $100 million dollars. There is also plans after 2030 to extend double tracking south of Oceanside into downtown Carlsbad and a new bridge and double tracking by the Del Mar Fair grounds with a platform for Fairground events. The last major project is a proposed tunnel between Del Mar and Sorrento Valley to bypass the Del Mar Cliffs and Los Penaquitos Lagoon and wetlands with a high speed double tracked tunnel. This tunnel is proposed sometime after 2040 is estimated to cost over a billion dollars.The cost for all the other double tracking projects in San Diego County is budgeted for a billion dollars.
By Noel T. Braymer
There is no shortage of stories in the media about how difficult it is building High Speed Rail in America. There are also stories about how we are behind other countries when it comes to High Speed Rail. Many stories claim that America is the wrong place to build High Speed Rail. What these stories fail to write about is what is needed before you can build a successful High Speed Rail service.
After World War II, the United States mostly dismantled both its urban and intercity rail passenger networks. At the same time cheap open farm land was being turned into suburban housing built near to new freeways. All of this was made possible by inexpensive autos, cheap gasoline and affordable housing in the suburbs.
In Europe and Asia after World War II this wasn’t an option. Large parts of Europe and Asia were recovering from major damage from the war. This included major damage to their economies. Farm land was not cheap in these countries or even food readily available. So land for new or replacement housing was scarce. Unlike America which then was producing all the oil it used after the war, most counties had to import all of their oil. These countries placed high taxes on oil to limit oil consumption and avoid a major trade deficit.
So most countries after the war rebuilt and improved their urban and intercity rail services while America dismantled theirs. As these counties economies recovered, autos became more popular and roads became crowded. New roads were built in these counties. But these counties knew they also needed rail service to save money on expensive imported oil and to make their densely populated cities function.
But these counties also knew that to keep and grow ridership on the trains in the first world counties of Europe and Asia, that they needed faster trains to compete with both auto and air travel. Japan and France in particular would lead in the development of faster trains. Today most major countries outside of America continue to upgrade their rail passenger service and run faster trains.
At the heart of a decent High Speed Rail service are good connecting urban and intercity rail passenger services. Also needed is major development around downtown stations to provide traffic for High Speed Trains. In most of America these elements don’t exist. The Northeast Corridor between Washington, New York and Boston is one of the few places left where it would seem High Speed Rail should work in this country. There is often talk on the NEC of running trains over 200 miles per hour. This is highly unlikely to happen.
The NEC was largely in place before the American Civil War. As a railroad it was never designed for modern high speed rail service. Most of the traffic on the NEC is for commuter trains. It is impossible to mix 70 mile per hour commuter trains with high speed trains going over twice as fast. Separate tracks for this would be needed on a right of way often already built to maximum capacity. In Europe most of the High Speed Rail operations is done out in the countryside where new construction is less than a problem than in a urban area. Also even in urban areas, train speeds of over 100 miles per hour are common where it is common for High Speed Trains to share tracks and stations with conventional passenger trains.
After several years of planning, Amtrak finally gave up on building a new high speed railroad on the NEC. It was just to expensive and there wasn’t the money available to build it. The cost was due to the largely developed area in the NEC and high cost of property. What will be possible will be tilt train service with speed in some places up to 160 mile per hour. But even these trains will have to slow down for the several major curves like the 50 mile per hour curve Amtrak Train 188 recently derailed at in Philadelphia at 106 miles per hour.
What about California? It has had some luck building both new urban and intercity rail service. There is clearly plenty of population growth and density for High Speed Rail service in California. An advantages California has over the NEC is there are some areas of open space between urban areas, unlike the more developed NEC. Also the distance between major urban areas in greater is greater which mean more passenger miles and revenues for a High Speed Rail service in California compared to the NEC.
Building a new railroad in a urban area is very expensive. There are places between Los Angeles and San Francisco where it will be possible to build a new High Speed Railroad, although not always popular with the people impacted by it. In densely populated areas such as near Los Angels much of the construction is planned in tunnels to avoid local opposition. There are plans to use existing rail rights of way for some sections between San Jose/ San Francisco and Los Angeles/Anaheim. This is possible with speeds no greater than 125 miles per hour and is much cheaper than building a new railroad,
California is also likely to get High Speed Rail service from Southern California to Las Vegas. Unlike California, Nevada will be able to use an existing right of way on the I-15 freeway between Las Vegas and Victorville. From Victorville it will be able to share right of way with a new highway planned between Victorville and Palmdale. From Palmdale the Nevada trains would share the tracks of the California High Speed Trains. Being able to take advantage of existing public rights of way will greatly reduce the costs of building High Speed Rail for Nevada. It was also planned for slower speeds of “only’ 150 miles an hour which lowers costs.
As High Speed Rail service comes into place around California, we will see ridership grow. A major factor for High Speed Rail is the need for more housing in California. The high cost of housing in the coastal areas of the State, will drive new housing development inland. Because of neighborhood opposition it is often difficult to build new housing along coastal California. Expanded rail passenger service, including High Speed Rail service will be a major factor in opening up land inland for more affordable housing. This in turn will bring more ridership to rail service. This is what happened in the post World War II era with freeways and suburban housing driving development.
California may not be the perfect model for other regions in the United States for High Speed Rail passenger service. What we will likely see is expansions and improvements of rail passenger service on existing rights of way connecting to more urban rail service. There is an element of diminishing returns after train speeds go more than 150 miles per hour. Just seeing trains speed raised from 79 miles per hour or less to 125 miles an hour will cut much running time from current schedules.
Report and Commentary by Russ Jackson
This is a tale of two long distance Amtrak trains that are having “experiments” play out on them this summer and into this fall. One is a positive and the other is a huge negative. Just how these experiments are going is yet to be finally determined, but it doesn’t take much guessing to draw some conclusions.
This writer has several areas of primary interest, as you have no doubt realized if you have followed previous writings, revolving mostly around the Amtrak long distance trains. The RailPAC board is to be complimented for creating the position of VP Long Distance Development, with long time VP South James Smith filling that position. James is highly qualified, as he travels frequently on these trains, knows many of the crews and station workers, and has contributed to this report.
Trains 11/14, the Coast Starlight
The West Coast’s premier passenger train, the Coast Starlight, has been traveling between Los Angeles and Seattle daily since 1971. Oh, the first few years the schedule varied from tri-weekly, but it has been daily most of its life. As for current on time performance, the Starlight has been doing better than the other western trains. In June, 2015, its endpoint OTP was 71.7%. That compares with 1.7% for the California Zephyr, 10% for the Southwest Chief, and 36% for the Sunset Limited. An interesting comparison finds the Empire Builder at just under 36% is doing better this year after having a horrible OTP last year. Storms, washouts, heat, railroad summer track maintenance, human and animal fatalities, and the usual Amtrak maintenance failures all have contributed to late trains crossing the mid-western U.S. See http://www.railpac.org, The Unreported Meltdown on the Route of the California Zephyr by Noel Braymer.
This summer Amtrak announced some enhanced services for the Starlight. “Business Class” upgrade is now available as an option for Coach travelers until the “experiment” ends September 30. There are only 12 reserved seats available on each train, in the lower level of Car 11 where the video games were. That option includes access to the Pacific Parlour car but only for the wine and cheese tasting; access to the Metropolitan Lounges in Los Angeles Union Station and Portland; a $6 food & beverage coupon good in the Dining Car, Sightseer Lounge, or Parlour Car (the wine and cheese costs more than that); and complimentary Wi-Fi access. That sounds good, but is hardly an attraction for other than short-day travelers, as many of the longer-day riders now reserve one of the Roomettes and have full access to the items mentioned. The new business class fares start as low as $39 one-way between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and $172 between LAUS and Seattle. While this business class could free up some more roomettes, it must be seen if this inducement will succeed.
On July 17 a rider on the southbound Starlight leaving San Jose wrote, “They just made the lunch reservation announcement and one of the offerings for coach passengers is lunch at your seat.” A check of the Amtrak summer timetable shows that the Starlight is the only train that lists “at-seat meal service upon request” for Coach passengers. While that service has always been available for handicapped passengers, we found that the rider mentioned above had found something new. James Smith reports that it is a two-month experiment that is only publicized on board the train. A special meal, for all Coach passengers only, can be ordered and delivered to the rider. A $9 box lunch of a BLT, with chips and pickle, and an $11 dinner box of a Salisbury steak with a small salad, are available. We have heard that these meals may change daily, with a grilled cheese sandwich as an option, although those have always been an option on the Childrens’ menu (and available only to children). Food service has returned to the Pacific Parlour car, with two choices again available (short ribs is one), after that service was dropped in the springtime economy crunch. These revenue enhancing ideas are commendable, and regular readers know that this writer has thundered for BLTs and Grilled Cheese options for everyone in the Dining Car. While this “experiment” lasts only for two months, and will be tried on the Southwest Chief next month, it’s a step in the right direction. The Starlight has suffered a decline in revenue since the Parlour Car was downgraded. Now all they have to do is let people know about it; it’s well and good that these experiments are offered to folks who already are riding, but apparently will disappear before new riders can be attracted.
Train 91/92 the Silver Star
At least all Coast Starlight riders, whether in the Coaches or the Sleeping Cars, still have access to the Dining Car at meal times, to order off the regular menu. That is not true on the New York to Florida Silver Star. Instead of having inducements such as are on the Starlight, the Star’s Dining Car was removed entirely in a six-month “experiment,” with riders only having the Sightseer Lounge menu items for purchase. In exchange, Sleeping Car fares have been reduced. While a second lounge car attendant is on most of the trains, it is a bad idea for the riders. Most of the people riding on this train reserved their spaces before this change was announced, have had their e-tickets, and are looking forward to their trips. That’s particularly true of those who want to go to the Tampa Bay area, as this is the only train that serves that area. While the bean counters in Amtrak’s DC HQ feel this is a legitimate “experiment” to compare what happens on the Star with the results on the Silver Meteor which runs parallel, to Miami but not Tampa Bay. Are the costs comparable? For one thing, the Meteor runs with more sleeping cars. They must check to see when the ticket was purchased when they evaluate this deal. What have passengers said about this surprise which they discovered upon boarding the train and encountered long lines in the Lounge with its very restricted menu? One writer suggested a better name for the train would be the “Junk Food Star.” Gene Poon sent a comment from a lady who rode from North Carolina to Florida on the Star, and said the lack of food was a “real bummer” and although there was “stuff” in the café car, the line was long, the service was strained, and the food was not good, so next time she will fly. Poon says, “Scratch one passenger.” Another writer suggested that since Amtrak’s long distance trains are “hotels on wheels” the dining car must be restored, and like many hotels in this country and in Europe Amtrak should offer free breakfast to ALL passengers.
Is Amtrak listening? Apparently someone who is a disciple of Amtrak’s retired VP Brian Rosenwald, the founder of the original enhancements on the Coast Starlight, came up with the “experiments” for that train and should be promoted, but whoever came up with the elimination of the Dining Car on the Silver Star should be relegated to counting the beans somewhere else as soon as possible. Unfortunately, those positives on the Starlight will likely disappear in a cloud of 14 reasons of why they “failed.” But, the Silver Star experiment is “too big to fail,” so to show Congressional critics that they are doing meaningful cost reductions, that Dining Car will be history. The precedent is set and as this writer commented in the last writing that we should watch out for what comes next. Will riders and/or advocates be consulted about changes under consideration or be asked for new ideas? HA. Have they ever? We will keep pounding away here, and hopefully the Amtrak long distance trains will someday get the support their financial status proves is the only service that truly deserves more support. As Andrew Selden has factually pointed out, those few long distance trains produce each year half-again the annual output of passenger transport as the entire Northeast Corridor, have a higher load factor and nearly double the market share of the NEC where the capital requirement achieves a negative rate of return.
Russ Jackson is Editor Emeritus of the Rail Passenger Association of California, and while he lives in Texas now still rides and writes whenever possible.
The interview of Art Leahy, Metrolink CEO, by Dan Weikel was revealing. (LA Times, June 30th) The revelation is that there is no long term movement to make Metrolink a vibrant, relevant mobility option for large numbers of citizens. Nothing that Leahy said indicated a desire to do anything more than business as usual, except with better execution, and no doubt that is the direction he has been given by his Board. One would like to think that there is a desire among decision makers in Southern California to have something better than sporadically scheduled diesel powered trains carrying a miniscule number of commuters on weekdays and little else, but there is precious little sign of it.
After gaining momentum as a substitute for the automobile post the 1994 Northridge earthquake the system was allowed to atrophy. The Glendale accident (unfortunate, unavoidable) followed by Chatsworth (probably avoidable) set the agency back and led to a lack of confidence among would be patrons. Key investments, such as the SCRIP tracks at Union Station, the Van Nuys new platform, and double track to Sylmar and Chatsworth, are still not complete, although they are finally in the pipeline, a decade late. The result is today that patronage is static or declining, with barely one tenth of one percent of the five county population choosing the train for their transportation needs each weekday.
After more than twenty years of service it is still not possible to travel by Metrolink train between the San Fernando Valley and Orange County without changing trains, and the connections are poor to non-existent, even on weekdays. At weekends the Orange County line and the Antelope Valley run round trips, but most don’t connect with each other at Union Station, so the market between northern Los Angeles County and Orange County attractions is simply not served. Why is Metrolink even thinking about service to San Diego, Palm Springs and other places when the journey opportunities on existing lines within the five-county area are so poor?
Southern California as a whole has three agencies providing regional passenger rail service. The services are familiarly known as Coaster, Surfliner and Metrolink. By any definition they are boutique operations, with combined daily ridership barely exceeding 60,000, about the same as the Caltrain route between San Jose and San Francisco. Each has its own administration, marketing, customer service, ticketing, procurement and maintenance facilities. The trains do not connect, delays are frequent. The system maps look impressive but the ability to travel is limited by the lack of consistent schedules. How many agencies should we have?
One hesitates to use the word failure, but clearly the current patronage reflects the fact that passenger rail is not meeting the needs of the vast majority of people. We need some vision here. We need to start with a plan, and an organization that can execute it. This plan needs to include all of the agencies in Southern California, be they bus, transit rail or regional rail. The objective should be half hourly service at every station, all day, every day, with timed local transit connections providing door to door service. Switzerland began this process in the 1990s and today, with a single integrated fare structure the system is in place and working. And Switzerland, a country which could fit between Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, has just as many geographic and institutional challenges as we do here in the Southland.
I had hoped that the High Speed rail project would have acted as a catalyst to jump start a modernization program, initially between the San Fernando Valley and southern Orange County. Electric regional trains would share tracks with Intercity (High Speed) trains between the end of the High Speed line, Union Station and a southern terminus at Mission Viejo. Electrification can later be extended to Chatsworth and San Bernardino. The current Metrolink Board is not interested and probably thinks that the High Speed Rail project will not succeed. Time will tell.
An integrated system will take time and money to implement. Most of all it will require institutional changes that subordinate some local concerns to the regional good. It will require its own source of funds since clearly the Counties have neither the will nor the means. But surely we must do better than today. The three passenger railroads receive $180 million a year in operating subsidies, plus capital grants. Are we getting value for money or can we deploy these resources in a more cost effective way, building on service integration to give Southern Californians an alternative to the automobile? Not only do I believe that we can do better, but that we must if we are to enhance mobility and clean the air.
Paul Dyson is President of the Rail Passenger Association of California, a non- profit volunteer advocacy group and is recently retired after 46 years in the railroad industry on both sides of the Atlantic.
818 371 9516
By Noel T. Braymer
If you asked Amtrak passengers if Amtrak management was competent after they spent a day on a train with a car that had a serious problem, what do you think their answer would be? Or passengers stranded for hours on a train first because of mechanical problems, but then because Amtrak didn’t have replacement crews ready after the first crew went over their 12 work day limit? Or passengers who miss their connections because no one held the train even though the connecting buses were only a few minutes late. Adding insult to injuries the station agents sat in their warm station, while passengers looked in the cold for the train they were told was waiting for them? Or how about being a passenger told to wait at the wrong track and platform for their train? Then having their train leave the terminal empty without anyone at Amtrak noticing until the passengers started to complain? The answer to the question of Amtrak management incompetence from these passengers wouldn’t be yes, but HELL YES!!
The most serious problem at Amtrak is poor management. This isn’t a new problem. This has dogged Amtrak from the very beginning. There is no shortage of good, hard working people at Amtrak. But the management system at Amtrak is overly centralized, with decisions often made by people miles away from the incident with limited information of the problems. Often when there is a problem the manager who’s department is responsible for the problem isn’t held accountable. A conductor in California can’t open an empty car with a train overflowing with passengers without calling a supervisor back east first. But first they have to track down the right supervisor who may have left work for the day.
This makes it unwise for anyone to take the initiative on the ground at Amtrak. This is because even it they are right, they will be in trouble for not going through channels.The result of this is different departments at Amtrak don’t talk to each other and no one really knows what is going on. But what is most telling about Amtrak incompetence, is when ever there is a problem, be it major or small, it is the unpreparedness and confusion of the organization that is the norm. In the recent deadly crash in Philadelphia, the survivors had nothing but phrase for the first responders and condemnation for Amtrak. Adding insult to injury, this accident was highly preventable with existing technology that had been on the NEC since the days of the GG1 locomotives. Amtrak had this signaling on other tracks next to the crash site. Only after the FRA ordered Amtrak did it extend it to the track of the accident and other tracks without this signalling on the NEC.
Why is Amtrak as an organization so disfunctional? I think it is because the United States hasn’t had a successful rail passenger service for over 50 years. After World War II rail service was in decline and there wasn’t much incentive for bright young people to make a career in rail passenger service.There isn’t any place in this country to learn how to run a successful rail passenger service. In this country there isn’t one successful intercity passenger railroad, only Amtrak.
But there are plenty of successful passenger railroads operating at a profit. They are literally all over the world with each carrying more people, with more trains to more places than Amtrak. Just replacing Amtrak President Boardman won’t fix the problems at Amtrak because the same management and management culture will remain as it always has over the years with other former Amtrak Presidents.
What Amtrak needs is a major shake up of its management. The best way to do this is to replace much of Amtrak senior management with a successful rail passenger railroad taking over. This wouldn’t be much different than the way commuter train service is operated in many places. Every few years the contract for the operations is up for bid, The assets of the commuter railroad are publicly owned and the commuter rail employees can stay on their job no matter who wins the contract. But this creates competition for management which can lead to improved service and revenues. If the current company fails to deliver, then another company can be given the chance.
This will be a big project. We should have the bidders present a business plan including their capital needs and service improvement plans to increase the productivity of Amtrak. What will be exciting is what these railroads will propose to improve service and revenue. Also having well trained, competent management will be an education for Amtrak employees to learn how to really run a good rail passenger service.
So who would oppose this plan? The states directly subsidizing Amtrak service would have much to gain. The rural states with Long Distance trains have nothing to lose. So who might oppose contracting out management for Amtrak? The States along the Northeast Corridor. Right now most of the budget for Amtrak directly or indirectly goes towards the NEC. The commuter trains of the States on the NEC depend on Amtrak to manage and maintain many of the tracks these trains run on. They benefit from Amtrak funding for taking care of these tracks. The strongest political block of support for Amtrak is the Northeast States.
The Northeast States also uses Amtrak as the one in the middle of the turf wars between the many commuter railroads on the NEC. This is particularly true in the New York City region between Metro North, Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit. Amtrak has been put in charge by the local politicians to promote the plans to add new tunnels under the Hudson River and enlarge Penn Station to handle more commuter trains and passengers. The irony is that most of this increased rail service will not benefit Amtrak, but New jersey Transit. But the State of New Jersey has pulled its funding out of the plan to build the new tunnels and enlarge Penn Station.
What is appalling is that with a little cooperation between the commuter railroads a much better and cheaper alternative would be possible. This would require the Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit to operate run through trains at Penn Station rather than terminating their trains there. This greatly improves the productivity of Penn Station allowing many more trains to use it. Some of these trains could to go on to Grand Central Station which has plenty of underused tracks and opens new markets for New Jersey and Long Island Railroads. But as New Jersey Transit’s executive director was quoted on the subject of increased cross agency cooperation ” If you’re not in charge you’re screwed” Well he didn’t say screwed, but I am being polite. But this is a strong case for importing competent management if we want better rail passenger service.
`By Noel T. Braymer
Since the mid 90’s and the Northridge Earthquake, Metrolink has had few major extensions or service expansions.The only new line since the 90’s was the 91 Line in 2002. The first extension in years is coming with new service from Riverside to Perris on the 91 Line. There has been some excitement over recent discussion of future service to San Diego, Redlands and the Palm Springs area.
The limiting factor for extending Metrolink today is finding existing railroads that don’t have rail passenger service. Most of the railroads Metrolink runs on now were either bought or the rights to use them secured in the 1980’s and 90’s. This was when the railroads had plenty of surplus railroad they wanted to sell off or were willing to share. Those days are long gone. But there are still a few rail lines available in Southern California that could be upgraded and used for passenger service.While this may not be cheap, this will still be faster and cheaper than building rail transit from scratch.This can result in more miles of rail service to many more places sooner.
One existing line suitable for Metrolink service is owned by the County of Los Angeles.It is the old Union Pacific Harbor Line between Long Beach and downtown Los Angeles which the county bought as part of the deal for the Alameda Corridor Project. Metrolink could run regular service with some track upgrades from the Long Beach Airport area to Los Angeles Union Station Most likely such a service would be extended past LAUS to an existing line like the Antelope Valley Line.
Using the old UP Harbor Line could have connections to the Green Line to LAX and the future West Santa Branch line to Orange County. The West Santa Ana Branch was an old Pacific Electric Line from Watts Junction to Santa Ana.Plans now for it are to connect at Paramount with the Green Line and to Orange County. Orange County plans for service are still not settled. There are plans for a “Street Car” service using the West Santa Ana Branch from Westminster to Santa Ana with street running to the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center.
One of the greatest needs for Metrolink is for more track capacity in the San Gabriel Valley. This is because the San Bernardino Line is stuck on a single track in the middle of the I-10 Freeway between Los Angeles and El Monte. A good way to get around this problem would be for additional service on the old SP mainline between Los Angeles and Colton. This would at the least require double tracking of the railroad and the cooperation of the UP which now owns it. This would also open service to more places like San Gabriel and Ontario Airport. Some trains could bypass the I-10 tracks and switch over to the San Bernardino Line in El Monte adding more service. Express trains and Ontario Airport trains could be run on this line to San Bernardino as well,
The UP line along the Blue Line could also be used for a new service to Orange County. By the Slauson Blue Line Station is a UP Junction that heads east to La Habra and down to Fullerton where this line merges into the BNSF and to the Fullerton Station. This route would serve a new market to the north and east of Fullerton, give direct connections to the Blue Line and create a bypass to the BNSF for service to downtown Los Angeles both in case of problems on the BNSF route and to allow additional capacity beyond what is available on the BNSF between Los Angeles and Fullerton.
Another railroad that could be used for passenger service with improvements is the UP rail line next to the Blue Line. With Metrolink trains extended from Union Station, such trains could connect to the Blue Line. These Metrolink trains could switch to the El Segundo Line and head west. There could be a station at Vermont Ave for transfers to the Green Line to LAX. At El Segundo, Metrolink could switch to the publicly owned old ATSF Harbor line which could provide service to the South Bay area and as far as Torrance or even Wilmington. A major area where Metrolink is missing, it along the I-405 corridor along the coast. This extension would give major connections to this major population center to the rest of Southern California by rail.
The better solution would be to use the old ATSF Harbor line which ran from downtown Los Angeles past LAX to the harbors. Much of the line is still intact. But between Imperial Highway by LAX to the area near Crenshaw and Slauson in Los Angeles the tracks have been torn out for construction of the Crenshaw Light Rail Project. In 2009 LA Metro did a study of using the ATSF Harbor line as either a locomotive hauled passenger service or a DMU service. This would provide a direct service from downtown LA to LAX, service to the South Bay area and connect with the Blue, Green and Crenshaw Metrorail lines. This project has no funding and nothing more has been done on it since 2009.
study_map click Link to see a map of routes using the ATSF Harbor Line from a study in 2009 for direct rail service from Los Angeles Union Station to LAX and with connections to the Blue, Crenshaw and Green Metrorail Lines.
There are efforts to get funding for the ATSF Harbor line project on an upcoming ballot measure to increase transportation funding. Other problems this project will have is a new track connection is needed to connect the old ATSF Harbor line to Union Station. Also many residents along Slauson Ave don’t want the trains back. They want to use the right of way for a bike path/ landscaped parkway. There are also many grade crossings along the right of way along Slauson and trenching may be needed to grade separate these crossing if rail service is restored. There could also be a movement soon to integrate a new service on the ATSF Harbor Line as Light Rail, sharing the future tracks of the Crenshaw Line and the exiting Green Line.
July 6, 2015 Click left to open file