The Capitol Corridor is a state-funded Amtrak “intercity passenger train system” and provides a convenient alternative to the congested I-80, I-680 and I-880 freeways. The popular service has been attracting new long-distance commuters and travelers at a rapid rate.
These are really nice trains (at least by U.S. standards) designed to make 50 miles+ trips very comfortable. Amenities offered on the train include: food and beverage service, bathrooms, infant diaper changing tables, 110-volt AC power and tables for laptops and other electronic devices, and bicycle storage. They also offer Wi-Fi/WiMax internet on a trial basis with plans to select a technology for a permanent offering.
By the numbers
- Route length: 170 miles
- Daily ridership: ~ 3,500 passengers/day (2005)
- Average passenger trip length: 68 miles
- 17 rail stations and 2 bus stations in 8 counties: Placer, Sacramento, Yolo, Solano, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Clara.
- 30 weekday trains between Sacramento and Oakland, and 14 weekday & weekend trains to/from San Jose.
To augment the train service, Amtrak runs connecting bus service to communities
- South of San Jose (such as San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara)
- East of Sacramento (to destinations such as Chico/Redding, Truckee/Reno and South Lake Tahoe/Carson City)
- Northwest from Martinez such as Vallejo, Napa, Santa Rosa, and Eureka.
- To San Francisco from Emeryville
Amtrak bus tickets can’t be purchased without purchasing a connecting rail ticket, because of a state law (SB 804) that is intended to prevent publicly subsidized feeder bus services from competing for work with non-subsidized private bus operators such as Greyhound.
- Current year operating budget: ~$38 million (FY 2006-07)
- Current year capital budget: ~$370 million (2-year budget, FY 2006-2008)
Funds for operating and marketing the train are provided yearly from the State of California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (BT&H). Capital improvements primarily funded by the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) on a biennial basis.
How to support funding for this service
Write to the Governor of California, to the state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency and to your state and federal representatives. Contact Elected Officials
And of course, ride it whenever you can, and tell your friends about it.
Challenges for this service
For most of its route, the Capitol Corridor uses tracks owned by the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) company, which operates freight trains. Conflicting priorities between UPRR and Capitol Corridor sometimes causes problems with on-time performance and reliability. After the CCJPA restructured its operating agreement with UPRR and Amtrak by linking incentive payments with on-time performance, on-time performance has improved but it is still a concern. The CCJPA has also double-tracked some sections, which has improved reliability and increased train speed. Additional improvements are sought but have been hampered by lack of funding.
The perennial attempts of the Bush administration to starve, de-fund and shut down Amtrak have also posed a threat to the Capitol Corridor service, since it’s Amtrak employees who operate the trains under the current agreement.
- Capitol Corridor Business Plan Update, FY 2006-07 – FY 2007-08
- Capitol Corridor 2003 Performance Report, 2005 Performance Report
- NARP Report, “The Economics of Passenger Train Food & Beverage Service”