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Local control of Amtrak San Joaquin better for customers, says Galgiani
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Regional governments could soon manage Amtrak’s San Joaquin Corridor, if a new bill passes the state legislature.

The bill, authored by Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), would transfer administrative control of the Amtrak line from CalTrans to a coalition of local governments. Those locals would better understand how to run the train, the bill posits, leading to improved service for customers.

“Local and regional government and transportation agency officials from Bakersfield to Sacramento have been working together to make similar improvements to the service in the Valley by creating a structure to administer state supported intercity passenger service,” said Galgiani. “This would provide Valley communities with a stronger voice in advocating for service improvements and expansions; local decision-making that is more responsive and adaptive to passenger issues; better marketing and partnerships with local agencies; and more local support.”

Local control of Amtrak lines has already proven successful in the Sacramento area. For the last 15 years Auburn, Sacramento, and San Jose have managed Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor line, leading it to greater successes than previously seen under CalTrans administration.

“In addition to less costly administration and operations, the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority has more than doubled the number daily round trip trains and improved rider satisfaction on that corridor,” Galgiani said.

Modeled after the Capitol Corridor legislation, the Intercity Passenger Rail Act of 2012 would hand governance of the Amtrak San Joaquin Corridor to the governments along the route – from Bakersfield to Oakland. All existing local, regional, and state funding would be retained for the line, despite the change in management.

Galgiani’s bill has passed through the Assembly committees on Transportation and Local Government, and now sits before the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If ultimately approved by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), the bill would take effect on Dec. 31, 2013.

The bill can’t go into effect soon enough, said Tony Boren, executive director for Fresno Council of Governments speaking on behalf of the San Joaquin Valley Regional Policy Council. A strong rail system could help accelerate the Valley’s economic turnaround, he said.

“Increases in San Joaquin intercity passenger rail service and ridership will result in more jobs, improved air quality, and will help promote sustainable development in the Valley,” Boren said.