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Passenger Trains > CalTrans says Dump the Surfliner Express

Date: 02/11/13 09:44
CalTrans says Dump the Surfliner Express
Author: GenePoon

Information provided by Rail Passenger Association of California

Re: Amtrak Pacific Surfliner #599
Agenda Item #5
February 7, 2013

Express Train Review
February 2011 through October 2012
by Caltrans Division of Rail with Data from Amtrak

> SUMMARY: Ridership for the train in the express slot was predicted
> to drop with the initiation of express service, while revenue was
> predicted to increase due to additional higher-revenue tickets sold
> due to the attractiveness of shorter trip times in the remaining
> markets. This revenue increase has not been realized. Ridership for
> some significant Rail2Rail markets was lost as was ridership at many
> intermediate city pairs that were lost, as well as the loss of the
> potential to connect to and from the dropped cities to specific
> Thruway buses and connections to other state corridors. The
> continuing downward trend in both ridership and revenue shows that
> the attractiveness of a shorter scheduled running time has failed to
> bring in significant additional riders to offset the revenue loss of
> markets no longer served. The train in the slot immediately before
> the express slot shows relatively flat ridership and revenue change
> since the express train was initiated. The train in the slot after
> the express shows significant ridership and revenue increases during
> the same period. This suggests that many riders in the city pairs not
> served simply chose to travel one hour later.
> CONCLUSION: This is the third trial of an “express” service on this
> corridor. The dropped stops were reinstated after a similar decrease
> in ridership in the earlier trials. The same declining pattern
> repeats with 2011 – 2013 express train. The corridor as a whole is
> overall holding steady on ridership and overall up on revenue during
> the period the express has been running. The express train is down
> severely in both ridership and revenue, with a continuing downward
> trend. Caltrans believes that reinstating the three dropped stops
> and the associated 21 additional city pair markets for the train
> will increase both ridership and revenue for the train, bringing the
> train in line with, and adding to, the positive trend of the corridor
> as a whole, and giving those travelling between the 21 lost city
> pairs an additional daily travel choice.

Date: 02/11/13 10:01
Re: CalTrans says Dump the Surfliner Express
Author: joemvcnj

It saved all of 8 minutes over the weekend local. Sound like Claytor's failed experiment of a San Diegan Metroliner.

Date: 02/11/13 10:36
Re: CalTrans says Dump the Surfliner Express
Author: stone23

An express in one direction but not the other is stupid. Why wasn't a PM express (410pm put of LA) ever started.

Politics as usual!!!!!!!

Date: 02/11/13 10:58
Re: CalTrans says Dump the Surfliner Express
Author: Ptolemy

stone23 Wrote:
> An express in one direction but not the other is
> stupid. Why wasn't a PM express (410pm put of LA)
> ever started.
> Politics as usual!!!!!!!

What is the politics here?

Date: 02/11/13 12:41
Re: CalTrans says Dump the Surfliner Express
Author: shoretower

I'm not sure I see any politics, but rather one more demonstration that you need lots of on-line business to support rail service, which means it's difficult to justify "express" trains that save relatively little time.

The NEC has tried "express" service at least three times. A nonstop Metroliner was instituted in late 1969 on a 2:30 schedule NYP to WAS. It lasted less than a year (IIRC) before intermediate stops were added.

In the early 1990s the 4 PM Metroliner ran nonstop WAS to PHL, and I was a very frequent rider because it was faster and less crowded than regular trains. The 1:28 running time has not been matched by Acela Express. But again, it didn't last. Baltimore was added as a stop, and then it went back to being a regular train.

Finally, an Acela Express stopping only in Philadelphia was instituted about seven or eight years ago. Again, it didn't last long. I rode once. Timing was, IIRC, 1:30 PHL to WAS, only about five minutes faster than the "regular" Acela Express and perhaps 15 minutes faster than the fastest regionals.

So no surprise that this experiment failed.

Date: 02/11/13 16:59
Re: CalTrans says Dump the Surfliner Express
Author: PossumBellyCaboose

Deja vu all over again. Somebody wake up Baxter Ward.

Date: 02/11/13 21:18
Re: CalTrans says Dump the Surfliner Express
Author: jbaker

When Amtrak spends a few billions to knock 10 minutes off a schedule, are we talking "New York Minutes",
or real minutes? How long is a New York Minute? Is a NYM worth more, than say a Pudnucker, North Carolina Minute?

Date: 02/11/13 21:40
Re: CalTrans says Dump the Surfliner Express
Author: Jaanfo

In order to make a successful business case for an express train Amtrak/CalTrans needs to;

A: Add a 7:00pm SB departure from LAUPT

B: Reschedule the 7:30pm departure back to 8:30pm

C: Launch an express train which arrives LAUPT before 8:00am (This would be the only express train, main goal would be to open the San Diego market to a commuter-hour arrival while departing as late as possible, at that hour Orange County would be well covered by Metrolink, so the train could conceivably stop at San Diego - Solana Beach - Oceanside - Los Angeles, skipping Irvine and Anaheim to make up as much time as possible).

Problems with this idea include lack of track space in San Diego for a fourth trainset, and lack of equipment. The express slot exists with only minor tweaking (less than 5 minutes) to Metrolinks 803 and 607 schedules, and shuffling train 807 to track 1 at Orange to keep it out of the way.

The failure of the current, and previous, express trials is that the trains have no marketability beyond being 13 minutes faster, and in order to achieve that speed they close the market to hundreds of potential riders by eliminating stops from current trains rather than adding new trains in. Marketing a new, commuter-friendly round trip would increase ridership by opening the door to hundreds of commuters hampered by the fact that the current earliest they can get from San Diego to LA, without waking up at 4 AM and driving an hour to Oceanside, is 9am.

Date: 02/12/13 07:26
Re: CalTrans says Dump the Surfliner Express
Author: abyler


Obviously the running time isn't anywhere close to fast enough for most of the endpoint business. Rail lives and dies on intermediate market business. Running expresses skips the intermediate markets, as Amtrak has found out time and again both here and trying to run DC-NY non-stop expresses.

Date: 02/12/13 11:13
Re: CalTrans says Dump the Surfliner Express
Author: stone23

A thought-

Coaster and Metrolink are the LOCAL service on this line.
Surfliners are the EXPRESS service on this line.

A round trip ADDED train would be the "ACELA" service on this line.

Wouldn't this create an entirely NEW market?

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