Saturday, February 02, 2008

Excellent article on the riders of the Capitol Corridor

Sam Whiting of the San Francisco Chronicle filed an excellent account of the riders of California's Capitol Corridor. He gets on the train in Oakland and takes it to Sacramento, interviewing the regular riders and explaining the market that this successful intercity commuter railroad services.

By the way, we think the Chicago-Milwaukee service should emulate the Oakland-Sacramento service profiled in the article. There are 16 round trips a day in California. Only 7 in Illinois and Wisconsin. That's the direction we need to go and the way to do that is to invest more taxpayer dollars in rail instead of just in highways.

The City of Milwaukee is a leader on this issue, taking a formal position against expanding I-94 and for an intermodal approach. It's just shy of 2 billion to build more lanes on I-94 on the Wisconsin side and much cheaper than that to buy the 16 daily round-trips on Amtrak (not to mention building a Metra extension from Kenosha through Racine to Milwaukee).


Blogger plaws said...

If that's the way you want to go (and it would be great), get the legislature to enact laws allowing for creation of something like the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority then pass bond issues to support them. It's pretty clear that without the CCJPA, there wouldn't be 16 trains on that route every day.

Having smaller, route- or service-focused entities might avoid some of the problems seen with the RTA and it's squabbling subsidiaries (over which it has little control).

10:26 AM  
Blogger Dan Johnson said...

I guess we would need to create a bistate authority. It seems like a good idea to me to develop an authority that exclusively cares about chicago-milwaukee rail service. I don't know whether the KRM commuter rail extension from Kenosha to Racine and Milwaukee can and should be a part of a new authority. In principle the answer is yes. (Maybe because I'm on the northbound Metra now). Even if we dodged that issue, having a Hiawatha authority to focus on improving trip time, growing ridership and growing frequencies would be a great institutional advance.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Christopher Parker said...

It's not just the Capital Corridor. Maine's Downeaster has the same model and it's thriving.

In both cases the difference is an inspired leader who operates on a local level.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Dan Johnson said...

Good point about the Downeaster (but I think there is less frequency in Maine than in Illinois-Milwaukee). It strikes me that the only way to get a local, inspiring leader is to hire one to run an agency or authority exclusively responsible for operating the service. How does the Downeaster work?

3:48 PM  
Blogger Christopher Parker said...

The Downeaster (which now has 5 trips each way) is run by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. This accomplishes three things - it creates a mechanism for states to work together (in like manner to the Joint Powers Board, which allows localities to work together), it removes it's operation from a Department of Transportation that might be less than supportive (what?! a hypothetical situation of course that would _never_ apply to any actual state we'd work with) and it provides the mechanism for empowered local management (Gene and Patricia are responsible for their service in a way that's different from a program manager that is responsible to a boss). In other words, just what you said, about hiring one to run an agency exclusively to run the train. The Downeaster also has the benefit of Trainriders/Northeast which has a focus on promoting that service in similar manner to the Midwest High Speed Rail's focus. Likewise they have a dedicated leader (Wayne Davis).

7:50 PM  
Blogger Dan Johnson said...

I didn't know the Downeaster worked that way. Thanks.

I'm going to blog about this some more and start asking around. Maybe this is the right way to go.

10:07 PM  

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