With the new Amtrak schedules, we regular Surfliner commuters were shocked to learn that there's a plan to have some Pacific Surfliner trains make Coaster stops, particularly the heavily used, commuter-popular 784 (the 5.10pm departure from LA south), and the later trains.
The Surfliner is an inter-city service that carries many long-distance commuters in the San Diego-Los Angeles corridor (known as LOSSAN). The Coaster is a local commuter train that effectively stops at every lamp post, like a dog. As we sang to the children when they were young, "one of these things is not like the other...."
If you are going all the way to downtown, you will be arriving at least 15 minutes later.Normally, it takes 13min to go from OSD to SOL on the Surfliner. Now, it will be more than 20. I can drive between those stations in less than that time.
The RailPac blog has a letter to Caltrans about this. Among the points they make:
Eliminating the opportunity to regain lost time by adding 4 stops on certain trains can only result in reduced reliability and worsening of the consequences of an incident on the line.There is also lost revenue--from the cost of stopping and starting a train,and mis-estimates of passenger usage: that is, will there be enough Coaster butts on seats to cover the costs and inconvenience? And this:
Study after study both within the USA and overseas has demonstrated the correlation between improved speed and patronage. This proposal reduces speed and decreases reliability and punctuality, and will drive away the business and end point to end point passenger.That would be me, and a lot of my fellow commuters. If we can drive up to OSD in less time than the Amtrak will cover the distance, well....let's be honest, Metrolink passes are cheaper.
And as a CA taxpayer, should you be funding local service?
The rolling stock and locomotives for the Surfliner were purchased with funds both from the federal government and voter approved bonds for intercity service. This is also true of the cars ordered under proposition 1B to be delivered in the next few years. This new rolling stock is specified to operate at up to 125mph, with business and café cars. Both the existing and new build cars are neither designed nor appropriate for multiple stop commuter service. It could be argued that this proposal represents a misuse and possible illegal diversion of funds from state intercity service to a local commuter agency.Here's how they finish their letter, and I think they are right.
What the Surfliner service needs is a long period of punctual, reliable service, together with low cost route and station specific advertising to maximize high fare patronage. This needs to be followed by continued incremental improvements that reduce journey times. One of the biggest complaints I hear from people who have tried the Surfliner once but don’t want to go again is the number of stops and the overall journey time. We must hold the line and not permit any further deterioration in the competitiveness of the product.When they open up the Surfliner in Pendleton and it cruises by the traffic on I-5 faster than any driver--well, that's what will bring people to the train. But you can't move at speed if you keep stopping (a lesson for the HSR folks, but that's for another blog).
People also critique the plan at this discussion board.
If you have an opinion on this, let CalTrans know. Really, it's worth printing out a letter and faxing it or mailing it! Here's the address:
Mr. William D. Bronte,
Chief, Division of Rail
Department of Transportation
1120 N Street MS 74
Sacramento, CA 95814