Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Keeping the California 'Pacific Surfliner' Running on Time

At LAT, "Little-known agency keeps commuter rail network on track":
The 351-mile rail corridor that runs along the coast between San Diego, Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo is the second-busiest intercity route in the nation.

Its annual passenger load of 7.4 million is surpassed only by that of the northeast corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C., which handles more than 11.4 million a year.

But keeping those trains running on time — and safely, as they occasionally share tracks with freight traffic — is a constant challenge. The job has fallen to a little-known regional authority known as the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency.

During the last 25 years, the agency has helped synchronize schedules so passengers do not have to wait long to make connections. Maintenance and construction are better coordinated to keep trains running without significant delay.

It also tries to foster good relationships among the region's half-dozen railroads so riders can better navigate a complicated network crowded with freight and passenger trains.

Rail projects to accommodate more trains are underway, and the agency is starting to address track and scheduling issues along the popular route between Los Angeles and San Diego.

"I'm all for anything that integrates travel and fares," said Anthony Kemp, an English professor at USC who regularly rides the Metrolink commuter line from his east San Gabriel Valley home in Claremont to the campus near downtown L.A.

Kemp, who is from England, gave the agency good marks but said there is room for even more improvements. For example, European passenger railroads have long had convenient schedules and transit passes, such as the Oyster Pass in London, that allow riders to go from trains to buses to subways without buying a ticket for each boarding.

"That would be absolutely great to have that here," he said...