Auburn to see second passenger train?

Proposition funds could move Donner tracks forward
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Local agencies are hoping to enhance one of Auburn’s commuting options. The Placer County Transportation Planning Agency along with the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority are hoping to get on the list again for some funds that could bring a second Amtrak passenger train through Auburn. Currently the only roundtrip train leaves Auburn at 6:35 a.m. and returns at 6:30 p.m. on weekdays. “We have been talking about it for some time,” said Auburn Councilman Keith Nesbitt, who serves on the board of directors for both agencies. “Right now there is one train that comes in, one that leaves in the morning and one that comes back in the evening, buses and shuttles. The times are such that people are either getting to work too early or too late. There would just be extra trains for people with slightly different schedules and the fact that the ridership – the trains are full.” Celia McAdam, executive director of Placer County Transportation Planning Agency, said it’s been the department’s goal to have four round trips to Auburn “for a very long time,” but the challenge is that Union Pacific Railroad owns the tracks, and the company’s first line of business is freight. McAdam said decades ago when the line was under Southern Pacific, there were double tracks going over Donner, but when the company started having trouble it shut one of the lines down. Union Pacific is now interested in opening the line again, and has said if the transportation agency helps get federal funding for that project, it would be OK with a second passenger train through Auburn, McAdam said. PCTPA is now looking at applying for $25 million of Proposition 1B trade corridor funds through the California Transportation Commission. The other half of the money for the project would come from Union Pacific, McAdam said. If the funds are secured and the Donner project goes forward, the second train could come to Auburn soon after, McAdam said. “It really depends … we are now looking at those Proposition 1B bonds, and in order to use those you have to be under construction by the end of 2013,” McAdam said. “That’s a negotiation point, exactly when that might happen, but it could happen fairly quickly once those agreements happen.” Nesbitt said the second train is probably about 18 months out and it wouldn’t call for any funding from the city of Auburn, unless the police department was asked to monitor the station more or if the city was asked to clean it more. What do commuters think? Grass Valley resident Gary Nodine, who usually commutes to his Sacramento job on the train, said he has been riding the train for 11 years and commuters, who call themselves CC (Capitol Corridor) Riders, have been talking about a second train for about nine of those years. “I think the next growth area is beyond Sacramento,” Nodine said. “Out toward obviously Roseville and Rocklin are obviously high growth areas and we move up the hills. There are going to be more and more people who want to commute to Sacramento, or even Rocklin and Roseville, and the Bay Area.” Nodine said he considers riding the train a friendly way to travel because fellow riders look out for each other and have their own social network. Grass Valley resident James McCready, a criminal law attorney who commutes to San Francisco on the train every other week, said he thinks the train system is already adequate because commuters can also take Amtrak buses to and from Auburn. “It’s a great service I think, but there are buses here that take you to Sacramento,” McCready said. McCready said riding the train to the Bay Area does make commuting easier. “It’s marvelous,” he said. “I wouldn’t drive. I would quit before I would drive.” Newcastle resident and CC Rider Chuck Robuck said he thinks there are several good reasons to ride the train, including savings on gas and car maintenance, transit subsidies from employers, Amtrak reward points and reduced commute-related stress. Robuck said he thinks a second train would draw more commuters. “I believe that one of the things that has stymied ridership to the foothills is the fact that there is currently only one train per day,” Robuck said. “While we can take Amtrak buses at other times, if more trains were available I believe more people would want to take Capitol Corridor. It’s a twist on a popular movie theme from a few years ago: ‘Provide the service and the riders will come.’” Ruel Abuda, who does business in Auburn, said he thinks a second train would allow for more business in the area and as the amount of people in Auburn grows, the train is necessary. A taxpayer advocate’s stance Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in Sacramento, said he thinks the association would like the idea of a second train compared to California’s High Speed Rail project, which he said is “a pipe dream.” “These are the kinds of projects that need serious consideration as opposed to the pie-in-the-sky type of mega projects such as the High Speed Rail,” Coupal said. Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------ Auburn Capitol Corridor train • An average of 42 people get on the train in Auburn and make roundtrips daily • Commute times for a second passenger train are still being discussed, but 5:50 a.m. leaving and 7:00-7:15 returning times have been put on the table. • 200-225 people get on the train daily as it travels from Auburn to Sacramento Source: Celia McAdam and Chuck Robuck