Discussion related to commuter rail and transit operators in California past and present including Los Angeles Metrolink and Metro Subway and Light Rail, San Diego Coaster, Sprinter and MTS Trolley, Altamont Commuter Express (Stockton), Caltrain and MUNI (San Francisco), Sacramento RTD Light Rail, and others...

Moderator: lensovet

  by Westernstar1
The Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains represent, essentially, a commuter train between San Jose and Sacramento. Here is the schedule:


While the trains do provide a needed service between South Bay Area and Sacramento, there are some things which bother me.

I think there are too many bus subs between Sacramento and further east to Auburn, as seen in green on the timetable. 529 westbound and 536 eastbound are the exception. Many folks in N. Calif are leaving the bay area and moving further east, toward the Sierras (or leaving the state, altogether). Towns like Grass Valley, Rocklin, & Auburn are becoming more popular. I wish there were more than 1 train, in each direction, going to Auburn. Also, some routes I have to wonder about with regard to ridership. For example, Train 551 leaves SAC at 9:10 pm, arriving in OAK at 11:07 PM. Train 553 leaves SAC at 10:30 PM, arriving at OAK at 12: 27 AM. I wonder how many people are riding those trains at those hours?

In addition, there has always been talk about the C. Corridor trains expanding to Reno. It would be nice, but that idea seems to be burdened with problems, such as cost, congestion, weather issues, and a possible need for double tracking. Maybe some day.

  by ExCon90
What we don't know--and ridership figures won't show--is how many people take earlier trains knowing that if for some reason they can't make the return train they want there are two later departures that will keep them from being stranded. Some people may travel once a week and never use the later trains but would drive if those trains weren't there as backup. In a corridor service you really have to look at the whole service pattern, including positioning moves, and not focus on a particular train.
As to service east of Sacramento, California paid a chunk of money to double-track the segment west of Sacramento. No doubt UP would want more of the same before agreeing to an eastward extension.
  by Westernstar1
I would have to think that if Calif. would pay for double tracking, over the Sierras, it might get the ball rolling. I read, on another forum, that only about 20 miles of double track would be needed, but I'm not sure.

At one time, there was a plan for a twice daily Capitol Corridor train from Sacramento to Reno. The estimate was that the train would be running by 2007.

The one Cap Corridor extension I would really like to see would be a daylight route out of Sacramento, to Redding and Dunsmuir. It would get into Redding and Dunsmuir at a reasonable time, compared to that of the Coast Starlight. I'm not sure if UP would cooperate. It would be a nice way to get up to the Mt. Shasta area. At one time, Caltrains was considering a train north of SAC, but I guess either cost or a projected low ridership didn't allow that idea to gain ground.

  by lensovet
California has a crushing housing and homelessness problem and you want them to pay for double tracking service over the Sierras for a few thousand riders a year? Ok…
  by njtmnrrbuff
While it would be nice to have the Capitol Corridor extended from SAC to Reno, probably the biggest issues are excessive curvatures in the right of way in the Sierras and east of Auburn. If the train can't keep up nowhere near a car or bus through the Sierras, then it's better that the Capitol Corridor doesn't get extended past Auburn. In the short term, it might be nice to have more Capitol Corridor trains running to Auburn. I remember Caltrans looked into having a few extended to Roseville but if there is enough demand for them as far as Auburn, then extend them to Auburn. As far as extending the Capitol Corridor north of SAC along the I-5 corridor, Reading would probably be a logical place to terminate the train. It's a large town and one of the largests far enough north. From looking at a map of the right of way from Sacramento north to Redding, it looks like there are many straight portions but with a pretty good share of curves. As for those night westbound trains from SAC, it's hard to tell. It could be more than we think. People might be attending events like sporting events and concerts in Sacramento and they end in enough time before those trains leave. There might be people attending business meetings that last a few hours after they normally leave work.

Here in the Northeast, in Hartford, Ct, whenever there are events in Downtown Hartford and people get to them by train, they will need later options if possible. During the week, for passengers heading in the evening from Hartford to points south, there is a Ctrail train that departs Hartford at 9:21 and 11:03 while on weekends, the rail options from Hartford to points south are even more limited-Ctrail departing Hartford at 10:24. Coming from Hartford and heading north, on weekdays, the last three trains of the night departing Hartford after 9:30 are Amtrak trains. The first one is at 9:36 Mondays through Thursdays and 9:34 on Fridays. The next one departs at 10:40 and the last one departs Hartford at 11:48. On weekends, northbounds that depart Hartford after 9:30 are Amtrak trains and each train runs on a different weekend day-10:15 on Sundays and 10:40 on Saturdays. There are special events in Hartford where CDOT will run more Ctrail trains. If your event is in Springfield during the week, then you better choose an event that ends in plenty of time for you to grab the last Ctrail train that departs Springfield at 9:45.
  by electricron
The problems with extending the Capitol Corridor beyond Sacramento, whether to Redding or Reno, or anywhere else, is not just limited to access to the tracks or the amount of tracks. You also have to look at the amount of trains that are available.
On a typical weekday, there are 15 trips eastbound and another 15 trips westbound from Sacramento. Only 1 round trip reaches Auburn, and around half the trips go to or come from San Jose while the other turn around in Oakland.
The total distance from San Jose to Sacramento is 133 rail miles and around 3 hours. Add another 35 rail miles and around an another hour to reach Auburn. Add another 120 highway miles and around 3 and a half hours to reach Sparks by Amtrak thruway bus. FYI, the California Zephyr shows 151 rail miles and around 5 hours between Sacramento and Reno train stations.

Hello, extending this train to Reno/Sparks is more than doubling the distance the train must make. Therefore more than twice as many trains will be needed for every train that gets extended just to maintain the existing schedules. Meaning, one train extended to Reno would require two more train sets, two trains extended to Reno would require four more train sets, etc.
More train sets also means more crews. There's much more to it than just getting access to the right-of-way for extend existing trains.

Because these trains travel over relatively short distances, sometimes it is difficult to see the point I'm making. While the following is a poor analogy, it never-the-less makes it easier to see my point. Take the Lake Shore Limited, instead of turning it around in Chicago, let's extend it twice as far to Denver to turn it around. Do you really think the few train sets set aside for it now will be enough after we extend it's route to Denver?
  by lensovet
The biggest issues aren't the curvatures, it's the fact that the passengers aren't there and the distances are huge. Hartford is 115 miles from NYC, the biggest city in America. Redding is 160 miles north of…Sacramento? Right.
  by Westernstar1
Yes, Mr. Lensovet, it's about 160 miles from Sacramento to Redding.

However, I think it's sometimes hard to predict ridership if a Cap. Corridor or any passenger train went from SAC to Redding. There are a lot of recreational areas north of Redding. The Trinity County and Mt. Shasta areas are very popular for campers and fishermen.
Mt. Shasta is only about 1 hr north of Redding, and you can rent a car in Redding. Also, the popular stop at Ashland, Oregon is only about 2.5 hours north of Redding. There is a flight, nonstop, from San Francisco to Redding. Alaska flies from Portland to Medford (near Ashland), Bend, Eugene, but no Alaska flights to Redding and no other direct flights to Redding, from Northern Calif. as best as I can tell.

It's too bad that there isn't a passenger train run along the old Siskiyou route from Eugene-Grants Pass-Medford-Ashland-Sacramento. But that was a long time ago. As recent as 1955 there was a "Rogue River" passenger train from Portland to Ashland, Oregon:


  by ExCon90
I suspect that the mail was the only thing that kept that train alive until 1955, not passengers, and after the mail was diverted to trucks all over the country ...
And weren't the operating difficulties of that route what prompted SP to build a new line via Klamath Falls and divert all trains but one to that route?
  by Westernstar1
Steep grades and curvy track were among the reasons why passenger trains no longer use the Siskiyou Pass between Ashland to Weed. I think the trains started using the Natron Cutoff, to Klamath Falls, back in the 1920's.

I don't know all the reasons for the discontinuance of the Rogue River Railroad.

If you are ever in Medford, Oregon, there's a great restaurant which now occupies the old SP depot. It's called "Porters". Great for steak and prime rib dinners.

  by njtmnrrbuff
That is correct about the distances between Sacramento and Redding verses the distance from Hartford to NYC. I have never been anywhere between Sacramento and Redding. I rode the Coast Starlight from LA to Portland Oregon. I think the UP route from Sacramento and Redding passes through multiple large towns. Yes, in order for rail service to be expanded, it's not just about track curvatures and distances. The amount of equipment available is very important.

As for taking trains between NYC and Hartford Connecticut, the trains pass through several populated areas in Lower Westchester County and Lower Fairfield County Ct. You also have New Haven County as well which is pretty populated. You have a choice about which companies to use-either Metro North to New Haven and then switch to Ctrail Hartford Line for the rest of the trip to Hartford and as far as Springfield. Amtrak runs multiple two car Amfleet shuttle trains between NHV and SPG. The downside of taking an Amtrak shuttle train on the Springfield Line is two cars is not enough. Those Amtrak trains, especially the Shuttles get very crowded. Sometimes, Amtrak Shuttle trains like 475 will run with a third Amfleet which helps, I guess. The Ctrail trains run with three cars usually and ridership continues to improve on them. I think the reason why the Amtrak Shuttle trains have gotten very crowded is that in addition to passengers who are switching to them from other Amtrak trains at NHV, you have people transferring to shuttles who are coming off of Metro North. When traveling anywhere along the Springfield Line, the fare for Amtrak's 400 Series shuttle trains as well as the few NE Regionals is the same as a Ctrail train. When that happens, that gives people more flexibility for which train to take.
  by lensovet
Having lived in both the NYC and Bay Area, I am quite aware of the differences between the two regions.

Sorry, the passenger volumes are simply not there for the routes being proposed here.
  by njtmnrrbuff
There was even a proposal to extend the Capitol Corridor to Salinas a few times.