Extending the California Zephyr to LAX?

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

Joined
Jul 25, 2015
Messages
2,052
Location
Philadelphia Area
Let's see how quickly this gets shot down.

So the CZ would go down from EMY to make stops in Oakland Jack London Square, San Jose, Salinas, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles. Using the CS schedule,

5: EMY 5:20pm, Oakland 5:35/5:50pm, San Jose 6:55/7:07pm, Salinas 8:48pm, San Luis Obispo 12:20am, Santa Barbara 3:02am, LAX 6:00am

6: LAX 8:10pm, Santa Barbara 10:40pm, San Luis Obispo 1:35am, Salinas 4:28am, San Jose 6:11/6:23am, Oakland 7:24/7:39am, EMY 7:54am/8:04am

Sure, there already is the SWC to go between CHI-LAX. On the other hand, some people at this group have taken the TE between CHI-LAX and there is a thread about wanting to go between CHI-SAN via the CZ so if the CZ goes to LAX then that would be made much easier as it would be just one transfer in LAX and the times would be very easy. In addition, the extension would give one seat rides between Chicago-San Jose, Chicago-Oakland, Chicago-Santa Barbara and also Denver-Los Angeles, Salt Lake City-Los Angeles, and Reno-Los Angeles.which don't exist now as well as overnight service between the Bay Area and the Los Angeles area.

Running the CZ an additional 469 miles between EMY and LAX seems expensive. On the other hand, if you do that, you can close the long distance facilities in the Bay Area. How much does it cost to maintain those facilities vs. running the train those extra miles? Hopefully the ability to close the facilities in the Bay Area helps pay the cost of the additional service (and eventually they will make back the money with the additional revenue).

As for getting the OK from the host railroads, Amtrak runs tons of trains between LAX and San Luis Obispo and SJC and EMY right now so one more can't be that big a deal. The only one that could possibly be a deal breaker would be the 203 miles between SJC and San Luis Obispo.

Sure you can say once CASHR is coming this service will be obsolete. And how many years away will that be? 10? 20?
 

AmtrakBlue

Engineer
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
13,169
Location
Delaware
Let me be the first to shoot this down.

You do know that the OBS work the trains end-to-end, and back-to-back runs, don’t you? I don’t think they or the unions would agree to adding another 2 full days to their schedules.

I would not want to add another day to my trip on one train. I would welcome the connection. Everyone is not looking for long one-seat rides.

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
 

Ryan

Court Jester
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Messages
17,567
Location
Off looking for his sense of humor
As for getting the OK from the host railroads, Amtrak runs tons of trains between LAX and San Luis Obispo and SJC and EMY right now so one more can't be that big a deal. The only one that could possibly be a deal breaker would be the 203 miles between SJC and San Luis Obispo.
Here in the Real World, problems don't get solved that easily.
 

Thirdrail7

Engineer
Joined
Jul 9, 2014
Messages
4,490
Let's see how quickly this gets shot down.

So the CZ would go down from EMY to make stops in Oakland Jack London Square, San Jose, Salinas, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles. Using the CS schedule,

5: EMY 5:20pm, Oakland 5:35/5:50pm, San Jose 6:55/7:07pm, Salinas 8:48pm, San Luis Obispo 12:20am, Santa Barbara 3:02am, LAX 6:00am

6: LAX 8:10pm, Santa Barbara 10:40pm, San Luis Obispo 1:35am, Salinas 4:28am, San Jose 6:11/6:23am, Oakland 7:24/7:39am, EMY 7:54am/8:04am

Running the CZ an additional 469 miles between EMY and LAX seems expensive. On the other hand, if you do that, you can close the long distance facilities in the Bay Area. How much does it cost to maintain those facilities vs. running the train those extra miles? Hopefully the ability to close the facilities in the Bay Area helps pay the cost of the additional service (and eventually they will make back the money with the additional revenue).
I'll take this part. Operationally, if you close the Bay area facility, you'd still need to find another place to perform a calendar day inspection. You've added another 12 hours to the trip and pushed the trip into another calendar day. Therefore, you'd need a facility and mechanical presence to perform this inspection. You'd also need additional crews.

Fuel looks like it would be an issue. The CS fuels twice en route while the CZ fuels three times. Judging where they both take on fuel, I'd say you'd need additional fuel for the diesels on the CZ.

Therefore, I submit you would save very little money since you'd need a presence somewhere prior to SLO going west and prior to ELK going east to service the train. The only possible savings is if you can do it in a cheaper place but then you're talking about the cost associated with abandoning existing profiles while building new ones.
 

TiBike

OBS Chief
Joined
Apr 18, 2015
Messages
709
Location
Alta California
If you want to know about the issues involved in getting another train running along the coast, between the Bay Area and LA, check out the planning documents for the Coast Daylight:

Coast Rail Coordinating Council home page

Amtrak study

We've been trying to get the Capitol Corridor extended to Salinas for 20 years, and even that's proved impossible, for all kinds of reasons: UP unwillingness, nimbys near the station, union conditions, train storage, agricultural opposition to anything that attracts people and, of course, budget. The Coast Daylight has similar problems, plus the need to do extensive track upgrades between SLO and Paso Robles, or so we're told.

There might be demand for overnight service between the Bay Area and LA, and there's a bus company that's trying that business model:

Cabin

I'm planning to try it sometime. It's a genuine 8 hour overnight that appears to run on time (they actually have to do some extra driving around to make it last 8 hours, to give passengers something like a full night's sleep). An overnight run on the Zephyr would be 12 hours, and is almost guaranteed not to run on time southbound. At best, its on time performance would be comparable to the Coast Starlate, I'm sorry, Starlight, which is not good enough for business travel. At best. Northbound, the Starlight has the same on time issues, which for the Zephyr would play havoc with the eastbound run out of Emeryville.

It's hard to imagine who else would want to ride it, besides rail fans. Even the land cruise market would be a hard sell: "See the spectacular California Coast in the dark!". You're left with the occasional through passenger from Reno or Salt Lake, or maybe Denver, and, as on the Starlight, college students and people who have no other options (particularly true for Salinas and Paso Robles). And it's not like that's a market that'll explode if a second option becomes available.

I don't see much enthusiasm for it in the coastal counties that are pushing for the Daylight and the Capitol Corridor extension. Those trains, at least, would add service to several more cities, serve business travellers as well as everyone else and eventually provide connections to high speed rail.

Extending the Zephyr to LA is a nice thought, but not practical or needed.
 

Anthony V

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 10, 2016
Messages
251
For California Zephyr service to Los Angeles, it would make more sense to revive the Desert Wind. Much more direct route and it would serve Las Vegas!
 

west point

Engineer
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
2,873
Location
SW ATL airport
A connecting train at EMY would be much more in line. Granted that a late westbound CZ will be a problem but if that happens occasionally Amtrak can certainly provide some kind of alternatively. How the 750 mile rule could be avoided is for others. California doe not seem to be ready yet to support it. Then we get into the need for more equipment. Cannot see spare 4 SL sleepers available. ( 3 for train and spare at OAK )
 

AmtrakBlue

Engineer
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
13,169
Location
Delaware
A connecting train at EMY would be much more in line. Granted that a late westbound CZ will be a problem but if that happens occasionally Amtrak can certainly provide some kind of alternatively. How the 750 mile rule could be avoided is for others. California doe not seem to be ready yet to support it. Then we get into the need for more equipment. Cannot see spare 4 SL sleepers available. ( 3 for train and spare at OAK )
But remember the OP HATES making connections. He only wants one-seat rides.
 

Just-Thinking-51

Very bored and cranky pundit
AU Lifetime Supporter
AU Supporter
Joined
Sep 17, 2009
Messages
2,360
Location
USA
The only positive would be able to charge the full amount of the maintenance base to the state. There was some issues a few years back.

Just not sure the benefits out weight the cost.
 

bmjhagen9426

OBS Chief
Joined
Apr 16, 2014
Messages
771
Location
North Sacramento, California
If we are talking another LD train out of LAX or the CZ extension, I would rather prefer to talk about revival of Desert Wind: Service to Las Vegas NV (think all of the tourists, nice alternative to LAX-LVS Greyhound or BFD-LVS Ambus), and much more direct route to SLC from LAX.
 

Steve4031

Engineer
AU Supporter
Joined
Aug 27, 2002
Messages
6,282
Location
Chicago
This would never happen IMHO. Also IMHO it would make more sense to run the cz to Bakersfield with the bus connection.

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
 

tomfuller

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 24, 2012
Messages
880
Location
Crescent Oregon (17 miles from Chemult)
If you are coming in on the westbound CZ, the thing that makes the most sense to me if you want to go to LAX would be to get off in Sacramento and have a dedicated San Joaquin train instead of the bus at 3:05 to Stockton.

The last northbound SJ goes to SAC to connect with the northbound CS before midnight. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, my wife and I left Bakersfield 20 minutes late

and got to SAC 18 minutes late (11:59). Luckily, the CS was also 18 minutes late to SAC.
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2015
Messages
2,052
Location
Philadelphia Area
This would never happen IMHO. Also IMHO it would make more sense to run the cz to Bakersfield with the bus connection.

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
That's even more impractical than Los Angeles. You're running the train an extra six hours in each direction. If they want to get to LAX from DEN/SLC they still have to transfer (and it's a bus rather than a train). The only relevant one seat rides (that no one cares about other than me) are Stockton, Fresno, and Bakersfield and you are getting away from the Pacific Coast/Bay Area/Southern California where there's a lot more people. Plus where are you going to park/service the CZ then? In my proposal you park the CZ with the SWC/CS/SL and close the CZ service facilities in the Bay Area. At least you can save some money although as Thirdrail7 said it would pale in comparison to the added costs of running the CZ to LAX. In yours, you have to find a whole new place to service the CZ. That will add more money on top of the additional cost of running the train to Bakersfield. Plus while there may be value of going to Bakersfield and Fresno for people in the Bay Area this Philly area resident might want to go to Yosemite once in his life and after that no thanks so to me a train going from Chicago to Bakersfield is about as useless as a train going from Chicago to Seattle.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

jebr

Enthusiastic Transit Rider
AU Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jan 23, 2012
Messages
4,529
Location
"The Last Great City of the East," St. Paul, MN
Honestly, other than the trackage rights issue, this doesn't seem like a terrible proposal on its face. You're adding distinct new markets, there's been a desire to have an overnight train between San Francisco and Los Angeles already, and the timing on the CZ currently is actually somewhat conducive to being that overnight train.

I'd push the departure back to 7:00 PM southbound from EMY - if trackage allows just rest the consist at EMY for that time (or wherever you could do a daily inspection/refuel stop.) It'd give some time to make up delays en route, while also allowing a more reasonable 7:40 AM arrival into LAX. The labor issue is a concern, but maybe Amtrak changes OBS crew there as well if there's no way to negotiate the layover to LAX? You're going to need much the same OBS crew if we ever get a Bay Area - LAX train anyways, so I don't think that should be a showstopper.

The biggest issue, as always, is trackage rights. I don't know the details of that, but it'll take work to get that negotiated and likely require some state funding to make it happen. Still, if California ever decides to make a go of an overnight train between the Bay Area and LAX, they'll likely hit the same issue.

It'll take state intervention to make the funding happen, but should California decide to pursue getting an overnight train, extending the CZ may be a way to make it cheaper than making a whole new train, and (if my math is right) require only one extra consist versus two.
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2015
Messages
2,052
Location
Philadelphia Area
Honestly, other than the trackage rights issue, this doesn't seem like a terrible proposal on its face. You're adding distinct new markets, there's been a desire to have an overnight train between San Francisco and Los Angeles already, and the timing on the CZ currently is actually somewhat conducive to being that overnight train.

I'd push the departure back to 7:00 PM southbound from EMY - if trackage allows just rest the consist at EMY for that time (or wherever you could do a daily inspection/refuel stop.) It'd give some time to make up delays en route, while also allowing a more reasonable 7:40 AM arrival into LAX. The labor issue is a concern, but maybe Amtrak changes OBS crew there as well if there's no way to negotiate the layover to LAX? You're going to need much the same OBS crew if we ever get a Bay Area - LAX train anyways, so I don't think that should be a showstopper.
Or you can add also some padding/rest time at OKJ and/or SJC. The train can better serve Oakland and San Jose.
 

TiBike

OBS Chief
Joined
Apr 18, 2015
Messages
709
Location
Alta California
The Zephyr's on time performance rating is 35%. The Capitol Corridor's is 93% and it makes more stops. If you want to improve service for Oakland and San Jose, terminate the Zephyr at Sacramento and get it out of the way.
 

BCL

Engineer
Joined
Nov 16, 2012
Messages
3,953
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
Running the CZ an additional 469 miles between EMY and LAX seems expensive. On the other hand, if you do that, you can close the long distance facilities in the Bay Area. How much does it cost to maintain those facilities vs. running the train those extra miles? Hopefully the ability to close the facilities in the Bay Area helps pay the cost of the additional service (and eventually they will make back the money with the additional revenue).
The yard in Oakland primarily services the state corridor services. It's already is there and is not going away. Taking just the CZ away isn't going to save much.
 

Anderson

Engineer
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,725
Location
Virginia
Honestly, you'd probably be better off extending a Capitol Corridor train with a workable connecting schedule to one of the Surfliners. I think there are also some issues with the line through Vandenberg being quite constrained due to a lack of passing sidings (I'm reminded of the "Escape From Goleta" incident, where due to traffic passing through it took like eight hours to move the baggage car to the back of the Starlight).
 

Seaboard92

Engineer
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
4,391
Location
South Carolina
I just read this thread since when did a train Chicago to Seattle become useless? That train has great ridership on its route. Same with the Portland section. And it's a route with zero redundancy.
 

cpotisch

Engineer
Joined
Sep 2, 2017
Messages
7,511
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Ultimately, do we need a third CHI-LAX train? If people want a one-seat ride from Chicago to LA, they have a choice of the Sunset/Eagle or the Southwest Chief. But if Amtrak did decide to offer a one seat ride for Zephyr passengers, why not run a through-car from the Zephyr to the Starlight? This would probably involve some rescheduling, but they wouldn’t have to add points to refuel or inspect the train.
 
Top