"California Night Train" gaining interest

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ShiningTimeStL

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RPA shared this on Facebook. I like name "Coast Moonlight," and I like the idea of Nightjet equipment. Even more than that, I'm absolutely intrigued at the suggestion of a California Autotrain... when traffic gets bad enough, you never know what people will do to avoid it. I think it just might work.

But let's keep our fingers crossed for the Coast Daylight before shooting for the moon, perhaps.
 

rickycourtney

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A Coast Moonlight would be great to have.

It would require the state to pay Union Pacific for several improvements: centralized traffic control (CTC), powered sidings, and the addition of one new siding, and the extension of five sidings.

I think Union Pacific is asking for a bit TOO much here (it's their opening position, after all) for tracks they barely use -- but CTC, powered sidings and some additional sidings seem like a reasonable request. They would also help speed up the Coast Starlight and improve OTP.

The holy grail, in my opinion, would be to negotiate the sale of the tracks while allowing UP to retain the right to operate the same small number of freight trains they operate today.

The huge elephant in the room is CAHSR -- the state seems unwilling at the moment to invest in major improvements to traditional rail service between SoCal and the Bay Area.
 

Cal

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I'm intrigued.

About the corridor service, however, I think the tracks should be straitened so trip times can be cut down.
 

Seaboard92

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Historically there were too night trains on the EsPee Coast Line. The Lark which was the All-Pullman train of the stars which is briefly featured at the end of North by Northwest. And the Starlight which was not as posh of a train as the Lark. Then you had the daylight train that was the Coast Daylight. So what Amtrak did with the current brand name is merging the two the Coast Starlight. Starlight because it's a night train over what used to be the Cascade's route, and Coast for the line.
 

JermyZP

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It would be great if they could have a train from San Diego to Oakland with a bus connection to SF or from LA to Sacramento. That runs once during the day and once overnight. I think the name of the train could be "Pacific Daylight/Moonlight"
 

PaTrainFan

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Given the Caltrain trackage, is it not possible to have an Amtrak train directly from downtown San Francisco to San Jose and on down the current Coast Starlight route to LA? I'm of the belief the HSR will never be completed. I cannot easily tell from Amtrak's "ConnectUS" map if that is in their proposal. I've got to believe a direct train would be well patronized.
 

Cal

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It would be great if they could have a train from San Diego to Oakland with a bus connection to SF or from LA to Sacramento. That runs once during the day and once overnight. I think the name of the train could be "Pacific Daylight/Moonlight"
That would be a very long day run, I would hope they would be able to decrease running times between LA and San JOse before that happens
 

jis

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That would be a very long day run, I would hope they would be able to decrease running times between LA and San JOse before that happens
Without decreasing any running times it will be more or less like the Palmetto. So it can very much be done today. But in effect it would be running within an hour of the Coast Starlight. Perhaps it would allow the Starlight to skip a few stops, and for this train to perhaps stop at a few more places potentially.
 

Cal

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Without decreasing any running times it will be more or less like the Palmetto. So it can very much be done today. But in effect it would be running within an hour of the Coast Starlight. Perhaps it would allow the Starlight to skip a few stops, and for this train to perhaps stop at a few more places potentially.
Yes however, the Palmetto covers a considerably longer distance.
 

jis

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Yes however, the Palmetto covers a considerably longer distance.
Which is not particularly relevant. The temporal length of the run will be similar, and it connects three significant population centers. If it managed to cover the same distance as the Palmetto it would be able to pull in Sacto too, which would be good, but not critical. Again we should not refrain from doing the good waiting for the perfect to come to pass.

To recall the thread of this discussion, I was responding to your hint that such a train between San Diego and Oakland/San Francisco could not be done unless the running time between LA and San Jose was reduced, to which I responded that that was not the case. It could very much be done since the running time would be similar to the Palmetto. At which point you threw in the business about the distance that the Palmetto covers in that time, which seemed to me like more or less a red herring. Of course if it was an Acela it would cover even more distance with available appropriate tracks. So what?
 

jiml

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Without decreasing any running times it will be more or less like the Palmetto. So it can very much be done today. But in effect it would be running within an hour of the Coast Starlight. Perhaps it would allow the Starlight to skip a few stops, and for this train to perhaps stop at a few more places potentially.
Considering it takes about 7 hours for the Starlight to get between the Bay area and San Luis Obispo, and the route south of there is served by Pacific Surfliners, the new train skipping some stops on the lower part of the route might make sense too.
 

Cal

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Which is not particularly relevant. The temporal length of the run will be similar, and it connects three significant population centers. If it managed to cover the same distance as the Palmetto it would be able to pull in Sacto too, which would be good, but not critical. Again we should not refrain from doing the good waiting for the perfect to come to pass.

To recall the thread of this discussion, I was responding to your hint that such a train between San Diego and Oakland/San Francisco could not be done unless the running time between LA and San Jose was reduced, to which I responded that that was not the case. It could very much be done since the running time would be similar to the Palmetto. At which point you threw in the business about the distance that the Palmetto covers in that time, which seemed to me like more or less a red herring. Of course if it was an Acela it would cover even more distance with available appropriate tracks. So what?
Fair points. I guess I'm just saying that, the trip time could and should be shortened so it's more attractive to people who don't want to drive.
 

sttom

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The question of a revived Daylight and its run time is more a matter of are you reviving it for end to end travel or to support travel somewhere in the middle? If it’s end to end travel, a daytime train would be a poor option given how long it takes even compared to the train/bus option that already exists and works. As a local service, it would be less successful than the Palmetto just because it would serve way less people. The central coast counties only have a combined population of about 1 million people. Which most of the urban areas the Palmetto serves can come close to on their own let alone the smaller towns between them. My question would be is are the daytime buses down the coast running full and can trains match their schedule? If yes, then replacing the buses with trains could work, if not, then no.

As a night service, a 12 hour Nor Cal to So Cal run time would matter less since the passengers will be asleep for the most part. Which would be the selling point, getting on and sleeping through the trip instead of driving or riding during the day when they would otherwise be awake. So, when it comes to reviving the Daylight or the Lark, I would go for the Lark first since it’s a more obvious hole in the system. I know this is all based on equipment availability, but so is everything until their is a glut of equipment.
 

Tlcooper93

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Which is not particularly relevant. The temporal length of the run will be similar, and it connects three significant population centers. If it managed to cover the same distance as the Palmetto it would be able to pull in Sacto too, which would be good, but not critical. Again we should not refrain from doing the good waiting for the perfect to come to pass.

To recall the thread of this discussion, I was responding to your hint that such a train between San Diego and Oakland/San Francisco could not be done unless the running time between LA and San Jose was reduced, to which I responded that that was not the case. It could very much be done since the running time would be similar to the Palmetto. At which point you threw in the business about the distance that the Palmetto covers in that time, which seemed to me like more or less a red herring. Of course if it was an Acela it would cover even more distance with available appropriate tracks. So what?
Do you think taking some stops off of the CS is financially good?
I don't know too much about LD economics, but I was always under the impression that the LD trains basically use their coach cars as regional cash grabbers. Would Amtrak admin allow for stops to be removed if they were serviced by a different train?
 

jis

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Fair points. I guess I'm just saying that, the trip time could and should be shortened so it's more attractive to people who don't want to drive.
That makes sense. Unfortunately often many take the corollary from that which says that the service should not be introduced until trips times have been shortened and other random pieces of gold plating applied to it making the entire project so expensive that it is canned and nothing happens.
Do you think taking some stops off of the CS is financially good?
I don't know too much about LD economics, but I was always under the impression that the LD trains basically use their coach cars as regional cash grabbers. Would Amtrak admin allow for stops to be removed if they were serviced by a different train?
You really expect me to hazard a guess as to what Amtrak, or for that matter Caltrans will or won't do? My guess is they will do something random and then scream at each other. 😬 That would be par for the course.

More seriously, Amtrak has had no qualms removing a whole host of stops in NJ or reducing service to those stations served by NJ Transit to a point where it is more or less unusable as part of Amtrak NEC. So who knows what they'll do? Then again they combined one of their own corridor trains with an LD (Palmetto) to add stops in NJ indirectly, but not at the stations that they abandoned originally. So it can go any which way.

Steven Gardner mentioned yesterday at the RPA Council Meeting that Amtrak is seeking to reduce the 750 mile PRIIA 209 to 500 miles in the Reauthorization this year. If that happens then a San Diego to Oakland train would become an LD train, so Amtrak's baby. There is that too! Then Amtrak can decide how to distribute stops for its own two trains.
 

bms

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Searched my files, and this is a schedule I came up with at some point along these lines. I called it the "Coast Overnight" at the time. Made this in Excel so I will try to paste an image instead of retyping the whole thing. Looks ok from here but let me know if you can't see it.

Screenshot 2021-04-20 11.03.53 PM.png
 

Cal

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Searched my files, and this is a schedule I came up with at some point along these lines. I called it the "Coast Overnight" at the time. Made this in Excel so I will try to paste an image instead of retyping the whole thing. Looks ok from here but let me know if you can't see it.

View attachment 21807
LAX-SAC 12 hours by train, 6 hours by car... ouch
 

bms

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LAX-SAC 12 hours by train, 6 hours by car... ouch
And even at that, the schedule I posted is faster than the Coast Starlight schedule because of skipping several stops. I think the train to Bakersfield and the bus to Los Angeles is actually faster than the Coast Starlight the whole way.
 

Cal

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And even at that, the schedule I posted is faster than the Coast Starlight schedule because of skipping several stops. I think the train to Bakersfield and the bus to Los Angeles is actually faster than the Coast Starlight the whole way.
Yep, it is. When the inbound Sunset or Chief is late, they will sometimes put connecting passengers onto a bus and then onto a San Joaquin to meet up with the Starlight in Martinez. It is definitely a faster route.
 

bms

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Yep, it is. When the inbound Sunset or Chief is late, they will sometimes put connecting passengers onto a bus and then onto a San Joaquin to meet up with the Starlight in Martinez. It is definitely a faster route.
I never have been to Bakersfield, but I've read that there are at least five or six buses waiting at the terminal to meet the train. Hopefully I'll make it out there one day.
 
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