Making a Good Thing Better: Central Valley Rail Service Gaining Momentum

As planning for the first leg of high speed rail in the Valley continues amidst its share of controversy, another exciting development in the Valley’s passenger rail  system is moving forward with broad support.

Last month marked the official creation of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (SJJPA), which would bring the Valley Amtrak line under local control. The JPA is made up of local and regional officials throughout the Valley, and it will be taking over the day-to-day management of the existing San Joaquin passenger rail service that runs from Bakersfield, to Sacramento, and Oakland.

That line, which until recently has been managed by the state transportation department, is already quite popular with Valley residents.  Ridership has been growing steadily for years, and in 2012, it reached record highs.

The creation of the JPA is expected to make a good thing even better.  Since another Northern California Amtrak line, the Capitol Corridor, switched operations to its own JPA, its daily trips have quadrupled, and its on-time performance is the best in the country.  This has made the route increasingly popular, with ridership more than tripling to become third-highest of any line in the nation.

Increasing Valley leadership will hopefully have similar results.  It may allow more engagement with communities, closer partnership or even joint outreach and marketing with local transit, and increased service to respond to the needs of Valley residents.  It could also strengthen the regional Valley voice for service improvements in Sacramento and Washington D.C.

The first board meeting of the SJJPA was on March 22nd, and while switching over full operations of the train service won’t be complete until June 2014, rail fans in the Valley can learn more and get involved by attending the next Board meeting on May 24.

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