Thursday, May 3, 2012

Amtrak Thruway and the Bakersfield Gap

The agenda for LOSSAN's May 10th meeting is now up and with it an interesting presentation by Amtrak regarding the Amtrak Thruway service:

1. 1 in 6 Amtrak California riders use a Thruway bus.
2. There are 107,000 bus passengers taking a Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo-Oakland bus. Many of these would presumably transfer to the Coast Daylight when it starts.
3. There are 10,000 passengers on Amtrak Thruway buses between the Coachella Valley and Fullerton. Amtrak's continued refusal to make the Sunset Limited a daily train is puzzling since these would be a shoehorn in for it. Yes, Union Pacific is resistant to it. But Amtrak isn't even fighting over something that they themselves identified as lowering annual losses.
4. The LA-Bakersfield Gap sees 212,000 annual riders by Thruway bus, all of which requires a connecting ticket to another Amtrak train (though the holder is not required to make that connection of course). The importance of completing the infrastructure for a one-seat ride between LA Union Station and Bakersfield cannot be overstated.

The Surfliner finally had a ridership gain in March (1.6%), compared to a previous year, after declines from October through February due to track work playing merry hell with train delays and cancellations. Impressively, it was accompanied by a 22.3% revenue increase. The San Joaquin was up 15.9% and 18.1% respectively.


  1. Union Pacific has put Amtrak over a barrel when it comes to the Sunset Limited. In order to get some improvements, Amtrak agreed not to ask UP for daily service... before 2014. That year is not coincidental. At that point the political landscape could be entirely different.

    Amtrak has an awful lot on its plate in the intervening two years; the new section 209 rules will be fully implemented, the new Viewliners will arrive and the new bilevel corridor cars will arrive, several new services will start, e-ticketing and point-of-sale food service will be implemented, along with a whole bunch of capital improvement projects.

    I assume that fighting with an intransigent UP didn't seem like the best use of time, particularly while the AZ and NM governments are hostile to rail. The politics will change in two years and Amtrak will presumably try again.


    1. Useful info on UP for perspective on the situation.
      As to NM government, along with Colorado it has been an advocate for rail, supporting improvements to road bed. This way they are preserving Southwest Chief service through their states.


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