Sumitomo/Siemens Contract for 137 Cars (former bi-levels)

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nti1094

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They also operate Metrolink routes out of Los Angeles.
They operated the initial metrolink system at startup and hit many years, then they lost the contract on the early to mid 2000’s, then won the contract back at some point.
 

Steve4031

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So . . . I see that there are new posts in the thread about the Siemens cars. I discovered one post about babbling brook, a private car, and a second about metro link in LA. I just wasn’t to know when I’m going to get to ride the new cars.
 

Crowbar_k

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So, what's the deal with the Caltrans trainsets? The cab cars aren't supposed to enter service for another 2 years, so will any cars enter service on that line considering that they use permanently coupled trainsets? If so, how will the cars be coupled together?
 

jrud

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IndyLions

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sttom

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There's a lot of things to like in that document - but "vending cars" is not one of them...eek

Don't we ever learn from the past? Those have been tried and hated in just about every generation. I guess we have to try and hate them in this generation as well...
Automats are why I am starting to think the San Joaquin JPA is either trying to scuttle the service with a death by 1000 cuts approach or they don't ride the trains and don't understand that there is a difference between regional and intercity rail and that there will be different expectations for product level for each. Even SMART, which I am assuming the Marin parts of the board are trying to kill, have a snack bar with a person running it. Public transportation here in California is a mess.
 

MARC Rider

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Automats are why I am starting to think the San Joaquin JPA is either trying to scuttle the service with a death by 1000 cuts approach or they don't ride the trains and don't understand that there is a difference between regional and intercity rail and that there will be different expectations for product level for each. Even SMART, which I am assuming the Marin parts of the board are trying to kill, have a snack bar with a person running it. Public transportation here in California is a mess.
I'm not sure why some folks think that if there's no food service on the train, the train is going fail. Unlike the long distance trains, there are short trips. Back East the Keystone service runs between New York and Harrisburg (about 200 Miles) with absolutely no food service at all, and it is successful. The Piedmont trains in North Carolina (Raleigh - Charlotte 173 miles) have vending machines with what I think is a totally inadequate selection, and they're successful, too. Most people ride trains to travel somewhere, not to eat. They do that before they get on board or after they arrive. (If you're riding the Piedmont, and are getting off hungry in Salisbury, I'd suggest trying The Smoke Pit. A short walk from the station and excellent barbecue. Far better than anything served in a cafe car.)

The SJJPA is not the Southern Pacific Railroad, and it's not the 1960s. The SP wanted to get rid of the passenger trains, especially the long-distance ones, so they cut needed on-board service as a way of driving business away. This worked because riders of long distance trains need decent food service because of the longer trips they take. It's a completely different situation from the state-supported corridor services.

The SJJPA exists for the purpose of running the trains. Why would they want to drive customers away and eliminate their reason for existence? It's possible that their market research shows that most of their customers are satisfied with minimal food service. From the RPA ridership statistics, 75% of the trips on the San Joaquin's are less than 200 miles. They are dealing with a decline in ridership, but I don't think that has anything to do with the food service. I think the new equipment will help far more than whether or not there's a cafe car with a human attendant.
 

frequentflyer

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IndyLions

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I'm not sure why some folks think that if there's no food service on the train, the train is going fail.
Who said anything about a train failing? That’s a leap from a complaint about vending machines.

From the RPA ridership statistics, 75% of the trips on the San Joaquin's are less than 200 miles. They are dealing with a decline in ridership, but I don't think that has anything to do with the food service. I think the new equipment will help far more than whether or not there's a cafe car with a human attendant.
I’ve ridden tons of trains in multiple continents. All else being equal, the ones with a lounge car for 2-4 hour trips (<200 miles) are always nicer. It’s an amenity that makes a trip better. It gives you an alternative place to “go” instead of just walking up and down the aisles. It can also be more productive, as in some cases it provides an alternate place to work.

Yes, the new cars are nice - but history has shown they will be around 40 years. So that means 40 years with a vending machine. I’d rather have a cafe car.
 

west point

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1. Age of equipment is only one factor in replacing rail equipment. That metric is the ability to get replacement parts. IMHO any rail contract for new equipment has to have clauses that before a builder or sub contractor phases out providing any replacement part the contractor will pass to the buyer all patents, copyrights , etc without cost. That includes results of bankruptcies.
2. The integrity condition of the actual equipment is more important. Frame bents or non repairable cracks are more likely to cause a car to be scrapped.
3. Any car built needs to be built with easily replaceable parts. A big one is the HVAC units. Quick disconnects need to allow for a unit to be slid out and an operable unit in inserted and in service in one hour. That way spare units can be located at strategic maintenance locations. Especially true for western trains. In the east units at Sanford, CLT, Florence, Toledo, Albany the same.
4. The V-2s having an access panel to remove and replace sleeper units is a good example of easily replaceable construction.
5. Wiring of older cars and locos is one of the main items listed in rebuilding. A problem was that the AM-1s and probably Am-2s wiring was not having the wiring using Kapton insulation. Just not the available when they were built. But new cars and locos as well as well when rewiring older equipment needs that wiring needs to be Kapton. For comparison the FAA has had that requirement since the late 1990 for all new and replacement wiring on aircraft.
6. The wear and tear of major equipment and structures probably depends on the track conditions and mileage on those tracks. Previous Amtrak reports noted that AM-2s had 50 - 70% more average mileage than AM-1s. Many AM-1s that were sidelined were not rebuilt until the Obama rebuilding program circa 2009. (50+?) Those have less than 50% mileage. That was why Amtrak originally wanted to replace some AM-2s first. But Anderson pulled all those reports and instead only concentrated on calendar age of Amfleets.
7. There is no reason that the interiors of AM-1s that are in good physical condition cannot have new interiors installed. That is quicker and less expensive for getting additional equipment in service.. I suspect that this summer and thru the Christmas season that seat availability is going to be tight to non existence on Amtrak.

Do not get me wrong. There are problems with AM-1s v. AM-2s. 2 vestibules, narrow windows, seat views blocked, seats, reading lights, etc. But just retiring them because of calendar age is IMO just wrong !
 

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sttom

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Who said anything about a train failing? That’s a leap from a complaint about vending machines.
I did. California at the state level is largely ambivalent at worst when it comes to train travel, but there are still a lot of constituencies across the state that are anti public transit in general. The normal way for them to go about cutting service is make it worse till it fails or their constituency learns to live with diminished service. A large portion of Marin county politicians were like this when SMART was getting planned. Its partially the reason why they picked the rolling stock they did, where some stations are located and their current fight over continued dedicated funds. Given what the San Joaquin's board is doing, I'm not ruling out their actions having ulterior motives...granted that should be a given when dealing with politicians and pet projects.
 

MARC Rider

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I did. California at the state level is largely ambivalent at worst when it comes to train travel, but there are still a lot of constituencies across the state that are anti public transit in general. The normal way for them to go about cutting service is make it worse till it fails or their constituency learns to live with diminished service. A large portion of Marin county politicians were like this when SMART was getting planned. Its partially the reason why they picked the rolling stock they did, where some stations are located and their current fight over continued dedicated funds. Given what the San Joaquin's board is doing, I'm not ruling out their actions having ulterior motives...granted that should be a given when dealing with politicians and pet projects.
I think I (sort of) understand what you're saying, but you're being a little vague. "California at the state level" is ambivalent about train travel? What part of "California at the state level?" The governor? Members of the legislature? Staff at Caltrans? I gather that there's something in the political culture of the state that induces the legislature to shift responsibility for these services to these local authorities. Are you saying that some of the local authorities actually oppose the service that is the reason for the authorities' existence? What are the "constituencies across the state that are anti-public transport?" Is there a partisan lean to anti-public transportation sentiment? What are the political dynamics that lead to this situation?

All that being said, there may be some logic to the idea of getting the ridership learning to live with diminished service. It has worked very well for the airlines, who have made big bucks doing so. These operating authorities aren't out to get rich, but if they can provide a diminished level of service at lower cost, that can help them with political struggles relating to budget priorities. In other words, better to have a San Joaquin service with only vending machines than no San Joaquin service at all.
 

sttom

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I think I (sort of) understand what you're saying, but you're being a little vague. "California at the state level" is ambivalent about train travel? What part of "California at the state level?" The governor? Members of the legislature? Staff at Caltrans? I gather that there's something in the political culture of the state that induces the legislature to shift responsibility for these services to these local authorities. Are you saying that some of the local authorities actually oppose the service that is the reason for the authorities' existence? What are the "constituencies across the state that are anti-public transport?" Is there a partisan lean to anti-public transportation sentiment? What are the political dynamics that lead to this situation?

All that being said, there may be some logic to the idea of getting the ridership learning to live with diminished service. It has worked very well for the airlines, who have made big bucks doing so. These operating authorities aren't out to get rich, but if they can provide a diminished level of service at lower cost, that can help them with political struggles relating to budget priorities. In other words, better to have a San Joaquin service with only vending machines than no San Joaquin service at all.
By state level I do mean the Governor and Legislature. I have met with legislatures over the years and they are ambivalent about a lot of things. The political culture that induces the legislature to kick things off onto local entities is the Governor and Legislature not wanting to be on the hook for anything. The good thing with this is there tend to be fewer abuses of power since that would mean responsibility, but that does tend to mean a lot less coordination of services when coordination and a more centralized system would make the services overall better and cheaper. As far as the politics of the central valley goes, its suburbanizing, but there are still parts of it that are Republican. I'm saying that there is potential the people on JPA boards don't support the services they are charged with overseeing.

And this point gets more into the philosophy of government, the people on the JPA boards are elected to different positions. For example members of the BART board are on the Capitol Corridors board. This may seem nice, but these people are ultimately going to be judged based on the performance of the governments they are elected to serve, not what happens with the Capitol Corridor. For example, Debra Allen who is one of the people on the BART board ran in the last election opposing building new housing near BART stations on land BART owns, the Capitol Corridor wasn't mentioned at all in the election material I read. Just like my local bus agency, which is also a JPA is run by members of the various city councils and the county that are served. (I'm picking on her because she is my BART board rep) People on these boards don't generally run their performance with respects to Amtrak. They might when they run for a legislative seat or other elected position. Its my personal belief that vital public services such as transportation be run by people who's primary job in public service is the agency they are running and not running a specialized agency as a side project. BART's board on the other hand is elected from its own constituencies. Ruining BART would put these people out of a job, ruining or neglecting the Capitol Corridor won't. Which as far as politicians go is a perverse incentive.

As for the funding for the San Joaquin, as far as I know, the funding still comes out of the state budget since JPAs usually don't have taxing authority and we don't have a dedicated statewide tax to pay for Amtrak. The other way this service could be funded would be each county paying for some portion of it. CalTrain had a fight over that this last election. The thing was though, the counties were the ones that were raising taxes to give to CalTrain, not the JPA itself. Then you get into the weird instance of SMART being a district who's board is selected the same way as a JPA instead of being elected like BART's is, California is a mess to put it bluntly and our political leaders refuse to look outside our borders for ideas. But, having a snack stand manned by a person isn't going to break the bank for the service. If it were, there would be service cuts planned on the other 2 routes which they aren't and the automat has been planned since before COVID. Which makes me think the cost cutting is more about resume padding on the part of some of the board members and potentially their desire to make the service less attractive.

Where this intersects with how I would want Amtrak treated by the feds is that I strongly believe that Amtrak should have a qualified board running it. A board that has largely worked in transportation, for a railroad or hospitality industries. I have the same view on the state level here. I would much prefer a statewide agency with a qualified board appointed to run it instead of the legislature burying its collective head in the sand by making what are state level concerns local so they can dodge some of the responsibilities they were elected to have. I am not the kind of person that thinks having something done locally excuses things from being done with care and run competently. And the JPA structure does not meet my personal standard and that's beyond my normal distrust of politicians.
 

rickycourtney

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sttom -- I get what you're saying, I really respect and understand your opinion, but I think your concerns are perhaps a touch overblown. They're also not concerns that are exclusive to this board. They're ultimately the concerns that impact all boards here in California. Members can be directly elected, but few voters will know what they're voting for -- Members can be appointed in hopes that they're more knowledgable, but who's doing the appointing (Governor? local politicians?) and what are they getting in exchange -- or you can do this system where you make local elected politicians serve on a board.

But let's be real here. Stacey Mortensen and her ACE rail team are really the ones running the show, guided by the wishes of the board members. Most time the board stays out of the way until it gets into a more political decision. If it's a really bad decision, they can theoretically be voted out of their "day job" for it.
 
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rickycourtney

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Ultimately it seems like the SJJPA is extremely interested in "reforming" the way intercity rail service is operated in California.

SJJPA has signaled that they want to drop Amtrak as the contract operator in an effort to extract a better value... and because they don't agree with Amtrak's accounting practices.

The board also seems intent on "fixing" the underperformance of the café car. The JPA staff has pointed out that it's not revenue positive, but it is an attractive marketing amenity. In 2017, the JPA staff "put Amtrak on notice" to improve café cost recovery, but by 2019, the losses actually increased. I know at that time, the staff suggested getting a third-party vendor to run the café instead of Amtrak... but a few months later the Siemens Venture café cars were replaced with vending machines.

In my opinion, the biggest loss will be that vending machines won't be able to sell me the same regional craft beers. I'd lament the loss of the former dining cars now being used as café/lounge cars, but the state long ago decided that room wasn't needed and ordered the Pacific Surfliner cars as just basic cafés without a lounge area.

Ultimately, I support the decision if the machines have a good selection of products, and the costs are lowered for me as a passenger and helps the JPA spend more money on running trains instead of cafés.
 

PVD

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1. Age of equipment is only one factor in replacing rail equipment. That metric is the ability to get replacement parts. IMHO any rail contract for new equipment has to have clauses that before a builder or sub contractor phases out providing any replacement part the contractor will pass to the buyer all patents, copyrights , etc without cost. That includes results of bankruptcies.
2. The integrity condition of the actual equipment is more important. Frame bents or non repairable cracks are more likely to cause a car to be scrapped.
3. Any car built needs to be built with easily replaceable parts. A big one is the HVAC units. Quick disconnects need to allow for a unit to be slid out and an operable unit in inserted and in service in one hour. That way spare units can be located at strategic maintenance locations. Especially true for western trains. In the east units at Sanford, CLT, Florence, Toledo, Albany the same.
4. The V-2s having an access panel to remove and replace sleeper units is a good example of easily replaceable construction.
5. Wiring of older cars and locos is one of the main items listed in rebuilding. A problem was that the AM-1s and probably Am-2s wiring was not having the wiring using Kapton insulation. Just not the available when they were built. But new cars and locos as well as well when rewiring older equipment needs that wiring needs to be Kapton. For comparison the FAA has had that requirement since the late 1990 for all new and replacement wiring on aircraft.
6. The wear and tear of major equipment and structures probably depends on the track conditions and mileage on those tracks. Previous Amtrak reports noted that AM-2s had 50 - 70% more average mileage than AM-1s. Many AM-1s that were sidelined were not rebuilt until the Obama rebuilding program circa 2009. (50+?) Those have less than 50% mileage. That was why Amtrak originally wanted to replace some AM-2s first. But Anderson pulled all those reports and instead only concentrated on calendar age of Amfleets.
7. There is no reason that the interiors of AM-1s that are in good physical condition cannot have new interiors installed. That is quicker and less expensive for getting additional equipment in service.. I suspect that this summer and thru the Christmas season that seat availability is going to be tight to non existence on Amtrak.

Do not get me wrong. There are problems with AM-1s v. AM-2s. 2 vestibules, narrow windows, seat views blocked, seats, reading lights, etc. But just retiring them because of calendar age is IMO just wrong !
Honestly, the refreshed interiors in the Amfleets aren't bad at all for the services most of them run on. Whatever we say as regards to passing things on, the ability of a bankruptcy court to reject contracts is tough to overcome. They can reject as they see fit most contract terms. But even if I have the plans or designs for a part doesn't mean I can mfg it economically or practically.
 

jamess

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The SJJPA exists for the purpose of running the trains. Why would they want to drive customers away and eliminate their reason for existence? It's possible that their market research shows that most of their customers are satisfied with minimal food service.
These same folks did a bunch of research and came up with a Sacramento focused service plan, including cutting one train from Bakersfield. It was an enormous failure.

Pure coincidence, Im sure, but all of them are based in the north valley and probably have never been to Bakersfield.

The busiest traffic driver to the San Joaquin is actually LA. All the data told them this, but they ignored it.

The same folks boarding in Bakersfield, btw, came from a 2 hour bus ride. Theyre probably hungry.
 

sttom

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"Fixing the underperformance of the cafe car" isn't that literally the line Amtrak's board and Republicans in Congress used to cut dining service on the East Coast along with cutting station staff and other amenities that add value to customers and thus attract them? I wonder what will be their next hair brained idea after cutting one trip to Sacramento to have a morning Fresno trip and then backtracking it. I wonder what is the next thing they will cut in an attempt to "reform and innovate", my guess is cutting station staff. They already probably learned that people need the trains to go to Bakersfield, so bustituting south of Fresno for more Fresno trips won't happen.

My point still is, that I do not believe JPAs in any form should exist. Even if you want to ignore what the SJJPA has done, others have been at best unremarkable once past their first few years. A dedicated tax to fund CalTrain was nearly killed so one person in San Francisco could extract concessions. Hell, it took a dedicated JPA to build the new Transbay Terminal. Needing to have a dedicated entity to build a building is ridiculous considering other states would just have a regional transit agency who's job it would be to handle such things, mostly because it would be the primary user of such station. Metrolink also has varying degrees of service because of what each county decides to pay, which is a similar set up to my local bus operator. The CCJPA and LOSSAN have been fairly unremarkable.

I view this as both an institutional failure and a failure of political culture. The people running these JPAs might be as competent as your average politician, but that is a low bar to clear and I frankly have higher expectations of public services than the least worst level of incompetent or worst level of competence. California will never have an integrated public transit system that can compete with driving without more direction from the state. That doesn't mean we need to go to the extent that New Jersey did with 1 transit agency statewide, but that does mean we need better direction from the state, state level funding to act as a carrot to comply with a statewide plan and a consistent structure for public transit across the state. But that would mean treating Amtrak California like the statewide transportation it effectively is and reorganizing local and regional transit too.

Will this happen? It might or something similar to what I have said might in the next few years. When COVID hit, a bunch of transit officials in the Bay Area said that having as many agencies as we have was more of a hindrance than helpful. Two years ago, transit officials were laughing at the idea that we might start consolidating agencies and try to form a regionwide transit agency. COVID has shown that our current way of doing things across the US doesn't work, couple that with generational turn over and the current ways might be bound for the history books.
 
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