By Paul Dyson RailPAC President
California Senate Bill 477 (Canella)
The Transportation Agency of Monterey County (“TAMC”) has sponsored
legislation, SB 477, to enable the Capitol Corridor service to be extended to
Salinas. The legislation setting up the state corridor JPAs sets geographic
limits to their operations so this bill is required to run trains between San
Jose and Salinas. This bill will also enable the operation of a Coast Daylight
service by bridging the legislative gap between the LOSSAN limit, San Luis
Obispo, and San Jose. RailPAC strongly supports this. I’ll be testifying at
the LOSSAN Board on Monday 17th April and at the Senate transportation
Committee hearing in Sacramento April 25th.
For your information, below is my testimony to the LOSSAN Board,
followed by the LOSSAN staff report and the legislative bill summary.
Chairman Krantz and Board members, Paul Dyson, President of RailPAC.
One of the many negatives of the JPA form of governance, especially
governance of what is at least nominally a commercial enterprise, is that the
enabling legislation places the Authority in a straightjacket. While Megabus
and Greyhound can add routes and introduce new equipment the JPA takes
months or years to make changes, and is in most cases prohibited from
acting outside its jurisdiction. If you add to that the fact that member
agencies of the JPA tend to be intensely parochial and send representatives
whose first concern is to protect the interest of that agency and certainly to
avoid committing any of its resources, you have a recipe for failure, or at
best limited success.
It need not be this way, and SB 477 could provide a framework which would
enable passenger rail to expand, and for existing services to be far more
successful. The evidence for this goes back to the late 1980s when RailPAC
and others successfully pushed for the extension of the San Diegan trains to
Santa Barbara. Adding new destinations and doubling the number of
stations served quadrupled the number of origin/destination pairs, and the
additional route mileage enabled longer journeys at higher average fares.
For a time farebox recovery of operating costs exceeded 100% until Amtrak
woke up and increased their charges, a salutary lesson and one that you
should be wary of today.
The lesson of this is that expanding a network is not a burden but a benefit.
Adding routes and stations provides greater mobility for our citizens, and
adds to the revenue base. Furthermore the benefits are not just commercial.
Consider that the original Santa Barbara extension added two more counties
and numerous cities, each with their own Congressional and State
representatives, and you will realize that the political gains are at least as
important as the monetary. Without the support of the politicians in Ventura
and Santa Barbara Counties, and later San Luis Obispo, not to mention those
politicians on the routes of the other state corridors, it is doubtful whether
we would have received the capital infusions from the federal and state
governments had the Los Angeles – San Diego not grown to the north.
It seems to me that the LOSSAN Board, and the other state rail boards,
should seize the opportunity presented by SB 477 to establish a more
flexible commercial framework. Indeed I would be looking to offer
amendments to this bill that changed the boundaries of the LOSSAN JPA.
Extending the northern boundary to San Jose, and adding a route to Calexico
via the Coachella Valley, enables you to add service at a future date without
requiring you to do so. The Thruway buses already serve these routes and an
alternative approach would be to enable LOSSAN and the other boards to
convert bus routes to rail where physically possible. This should not be
Finally, we live in a climate of political uncertainty at the national level, and
once again the Amtrak national network has come under attack. While
attempts to kill off these routes have failed in the past we cannot be
complacent, not with Executive and Legislative power in the hands of a
single party. SB 477, especially with the amendments that RailPAC
proposes, gives the state corridor agencies the authority to step in and
preserve intercity passenger service over key routes.
RailPAC recommends and requests that the LOSSAN, San Joaquin and
Capitol Boards formally support SB 477 as the next step in expanding
mobility for the people of California.
LOSSAN Staff Report:
Senate Bill (SB)477(Canella, R Ceres):
Intercity Rail Corridors: Extensions
SB 477 (Canella, RCeres) seeks to provide flexibility to intercity rail
corridors to allow for future expansion beyond existing statutorily defined