The buck starts here: Caltrans recruiting public input for plans to improve north corridor of scenic rail line to San Luis Obispo

A number of rail services operate on the LOSSAN North corridor. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner (operated with state funding) is the primary intercity passenger rail service, and runs between San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles (with additional service to Orange County and San Diego). Amtrak’s Coast Starlight (service between Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Portland/Seattle, in addition to stops within the LOSSAN North corridor) also operates on the corridor. Commuter rail service between Los Angeles and Ventura is provided by Metrolink. UP operates freight and goods movement service along the corridor. Map: Figure ES–1, LOSSAN North Study Area from LOSSAN North Corridor Strategic Plan.

A number of rail services operate on the LOSSAN North corridor. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner (operated with state funding) is the primary intercity passenger rail service, and runs between San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles (with additional service to Orange County and San Diego). Amtrak’s Coast Starlight (service between Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Portland/Seattle, in addition to stops within the LOSSAN North corridor) also operates on the corridor. Commuter rail service between Los Angeles and Ventura is provided by Metrolink. UP operates freight and goods movement service along the corridor. Map: Figure ES–1, LOSSAN North Study Area from LOSSAN North Corridor Strategic Plan.

Caltrans kicks off the first of four “scoping” meetings Monday to gather public and agency input that will eventually shape the environmental scope of plans to seek funding for much-needed improvements to the 222-mile Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN North) rail corridor. The meeting will be held at Metro from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Jan. 10. Meeting details: Public Notice

The rail line, also known as the Pacific Surfliner Rail Corridor, traverses some of California’s most scenic and environmentally-sensitive areas, according to the strategic plan for the corridor, which also notes increased rail traffic — and the impacts thereof — is expected to double over the next 20 years. The heavily-traveled southern portion to San Diego  already makes the entire 331-mile corridor the second busiest intercity rail corridor in the nation. More than 2.7 million Amtrak passengers share the corridor with some five million commuter passengers.

The real stakeholders in this planning process are the riders, we would say, clearly defined by the increased demand for travel in the area from commuters, students, vacationers and commerce.

Here are some of the issues on the table:

  • How to best improve rail capacity for all types of rail service, including intercity, commuter, and freight/goods movement: The northern LOSSAN corridor is less developed than the southern portion.  Freight rail capacity and reliability is severely impacted by sharing single-track segments within the corridor with passenger rail operations.
  • How to best provide faster, safer, and more reliable passenger service: The long stretches of single-track and relatively short sidings require passenger trains to wait for longer freight trains to clear a section before continuing.
  • How to make the rail corridor a preferred transportation alternative to the increased traffic congestion and longer automobile commutes on Highway 101, which generally parallels the rail line.

Four scoping meetings will be held, one in each county served by the corridor. You can also send comments, questions by Feb. 15 to Matt Fowler at matt_c_fowler@dot.ca.gov.

12 replies

  1. It’s a no brainer, I believe:
    1) Double-track the entire segment;
    2) Increase the frequency of the trains;
    3) Add tolls to the freeways / their portions’
    4) Increase Amtrak subsidies so ticket fares would be lowered.

  2. I know nothing of the process or funding for this kind of service (commuter, Metrolink, Amtrak) but my personal opinion is (if possible) we should double track it incase we decide to add it to the CHSR network later on. It would be nice to have the infrastructure already in place having to do only minor updates to the tracks. What we need is we need here in Ventura county is for the residents (myself included) to tax ourselves for enhanced service. That would help a lot.
    I live in simi and It would be AMAZING to see more frequent service on weekdays and weekends.
    I wish there was a train that ran at like 245 or 3am that would run from union station into ventura. It would be so nice not to have to worry about finding a sober driver… 🙂 just relax.

  3. I took the “train” to Santa Maria a few years ago. Unfortunately, I was taken off train and put on a bus to reach Santa Maria. I was so disappointed. How about a line that runs along the coast and one that runs along the 101? The two lines can join as one again somewhere after Santa Maria.

    The cost factor would be the new stations along the 101 route. A double line along the coast will cost less.

  4. Offering a 2AM or 3AM train would be nice, but the ridership is probably not there to justify it. Instead, I would propose a late-night Amtrak bus service that hits all of the same stations. It would allow people to take the train to late night events, and take the bus back home.

    I often find that I can’t do things in Los Angeles like see a symphony or a play because most events end after the last train leaves Union Station. There is already an Amtrak late night bus, but you can’t buy a bus ticket alone. Since I take Metrolink to LA, I can’t use the Amtrak bus service to return home.

  5. I can’t jump on the train bandwagon in this case. 3 big reasons not to expand rail transit on the coast.

    1. The existing coastal single track ROW is prone to many unstable hillsides from Ventura all the way to Santa Maria. Double tracking will only make those hillsides steeper and more prone to storm/earthquake damage.

    2. Most of California’s Central Coast counties are slow growth and demand will not rise quickly enough to support more frequent passenger rail service. The real need is SFO/SAC to LAX/SAN through the San Joaquin Valley.

    3. Tourists using the existing Coast Starlight service are sightseeing and not interested in HSR along that corridor where going fast is a liability, not a preference.

    One improvement that I would suggest is that more money should be spent to advertise and provide route planning for services that already exist. For a recent trip from Los Angeles to Oxnard and then to Santa Barbara, I was required to access 3 different sites (VTA, SCAT, Amtrak) in order to find buses/trains that went to the destinations I needed. There should be a statewide clearing house for scheduled public and private transit information. Metro does a fairly good job for Los Angeles County now, but still information for longer distance travel is still a big detective job and it shouldn’t be.

  6. Improvement projects along the LOSSAN North corridor cannot come soon enough. The ridership that this line handles given the minimal infrastructure along this corridor is very impressive.

    Much of this corridor, especially north of Goleta, is unimproved from its original form over 100 years ago.

    This is 2011! We should be far beyond ABS/TWC train operations and manual sidings!

  7. Hey Spokker,

    You can purchase an Amtrak ticket, use it on Metrolink for the outbound, then use the Amtrak bus for the return. Yes, that costs more than Metrolink, but you get your return bus.

  8. Several times The Source seems to have posted public notice documents on Google Docs. While sharing the documents is much appreciated, a Google login is required to access these documents. Please consider posting documents on a site that doesn’t require a password-protected account to access.

  9. Several times The Source seems to have posted public notice documents on Google Docs. While sharing the documents is much appreciated, a Google login is required to access these documents. Please consider posting documents on a site that doesn’t require a password-protected account to access.

    • Hi there —

      We try to ensure that anyone who has the link should have access to the docs, whether or not they have a Google account. But I’ll try to make sure this is the case in the future,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  10. Getting the trains to run late into the evening like till midnight or so would be nice on this route. The current line (effectively the Ventura county line) runs so infrequently and sporadically that of course there are fewer people riding it simply because its not a viable option for many people because of the lack of regular availability of use. Adding service to this corridor should be a no-brainer. I live in the valley and would certainly use this corridor a lot more if the frequency, time taken, and later running service were upgraded (and double tracking like any normal first world train system). People talk about sparse population and slow growth but that does not apply to the San Fernando valley which has almost two million people and is a major part of this corridor. Also traffic on the 101 going out to Ventura county or Santa Barbara and back is often congested. So the demand for travel is there, its just a matter of weather they use the trains to do it. Provide better service and more people will use it.