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Back on track: Commuters laud Union Pacific for keeping trains on schedule

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Passengers along the Auburn-to-Sacramento Capitol Corridor passenger-rail route are giving kudos to Union Pacific for keeping trains running on time. About 150 passengers signed a letter from the CC Riders passenger group that was sent to the railroad's regional operations chief in praise of the recent trend of on-time trains. Chuck Robuck, who has been riding the Auburn-Sacramento train for eight years, said it was time to praise Union Pacific for turning around a situation that had been so bad four years ago, riders were dropping out to go back to driving or riding buses. The outlook was bleak at that time but is bright now, he said. Statistics from September to December showed that Train 536 ” the evening train to Auburn and also the busiest train in the Capitol Corridor's foothills-to-Bay-Area system ““ was on time 94 percent of the time or higher during each month. In November and December, the on-time rate was 100 percent. Robuck said passengers have been kept apprised of meetings between Capitol Corridor, Union Pacific and AMTRAK representatives since CC Riders Lord Mayor, the-late Robert Conheim, and others sharply criticized the trend toward late-arriving trains. We've beaten them up enough in the past on this, Robuck said. It's only fair to give them kudos when they do a good job. The result of the Capitol Corridor-Union Pacific effort has been more people getting on the train. We've seen a lot of new ones, Robuck said. At the courthouse in Sacramento where I work, there have been 10 new riders in the last six months. Much of the move to train travel has to do with rising fuel prices for car commuters, he said. Robuck added that he believes Union Pacific efforts are the reason for better train times, not fewer trains on the track because of fewer shipments in a slowing economy. Once people get on the train, they can't believe how wonderful it is, Robuck said. Marilyn Sommerdorf, another long-term commuter, said that on-time trains have meant a renewed confidence in the service for passengers. We can now, once more tell people the benefits of riding the train and be confident that they won't let us down, said the California State Railroad Museum employee. I just think riding the train is so much better than fighting the traffic. Conheim, who died last year, was a leading advocate of passenger rail service and a much-loved ceremonial mayor on the journey to and from Auburn. The city has named the Auburn train station after him and at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 14, upon arrival of Train 536, he'll be remembered in a plaque-unveiling ceremony. The Journal's Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com, or post a comment.