Amtrak service from Bakersfield is changing.

In January, Bakersfield will lose one of its seven train connections as the agency that oversees the system implements changes designed to reverse a slide in ridership.

Fresno will benefit from Bakersfield’s loss.

It will gain a train service that will connect business travelers to Sacramento by 8 a.m. — in time to hold business meetings and lobby legislators in the state capital.

Bakersfield loses a train that leaves in the evening and delivers riders to the Sacramento station at around midnight.

Not all is lost.

Bakersfield travelers will be able to connect to the Fresno express train — but they will have to get on a bus at around 2 a.m. to claim that benefit.

TRAIN

Dan Leavitt, manager of regional initiatives for the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, said the goal is to make it possible for a one-day round-trip from Fresno to Sacramento.

Currently the San Joaquins are used by leisure travelers who plan an extended stay in either Sacramento or the San Francisco Bay Area, he said.

“It’s hard to do a daily round trip for business passengers,” Leavitt said. “Even with our current train you have to say overnight.”

That adds a couple hundred dollars in expenses to what would otherwise be a relatively cheap round-trip train ticket from the South Valley to the state’s capital.

And currently the earliest Amtrak coming into Sacramento from the south arrives in the late morning — not the best option for people who have business to conduct.

“If you’re able to do daily trips you actually became an affordable option,” Leavitt said.

Attracting business travelers to the train is critical to keeping the system growing and strong, he said.

“With the valley — pretty much any industry you’re in — you have some connection to Sacramento. That travel to Sacramento is getting more and more difficult. There’s more and more congestion on Highway 99,” Leavitt said. “The San Joaquins are a very, very safe alternative.”

The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority thinks attracting business passengers is the key to the Amtrak system’s future, he said.

“We see a very bright future for the San Joaquins. We just need to be smart in what we do,” Leavitt said.

The Authority board, which controls Amtrak service in the Central Valley, has already voted to create the express service from Fresno to Sacramento.

Next week that board, Leavitt said, will vote to make the schedules official.

BAKERSFIELD

Michael Turnipseed with the Kern County Taxpayers’ Association will be at that meeting.

He spoke to the Kern County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, urging them to oppose the loss of the train to Bakersfield.

Instead, Turnipseed said, there should be a special “express” train service created from Bakersfield that skips some smaller stations on the way to Sacramento so that passengers coming out of Bakersfield can also make it up to the capital in time for an 8 a.m. meeting.

“The biggest problem with Amtrak is they have trains that don’t run when people want to ride them,” Turnipseed said.

He said Kern County is sitting back and letting people drive cars when environmental regulations call for the county to reduce air pollution.

Leavitt said the whole goal of the service is to add stops and serve more of the valley — not exclude connections to smaller communities.

Ahron Hakimi, executive director of the Kern Council of Governments, said Amtrak just isn’t competitive with cars for Bakersfield travelers.

Parking is cheap, traffic isn’t bad and the trains are slower and have had trouble making it to destinations on time, he said.

Users will have to see value, Hakimi said, before they use the train.

James Burger can be reached at 661‑395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @KernQuirks.

(4) comments

Rail Provocateur

From the perspective of other regions of the nation, California is most fortunate to have developed the Joint Powers Authority concept to manage the San Joaquin, Capitol, and LOSSAN corridors. In a relatively short period of time, these JPAs have succeeded to inter-connect the multiple regions of California.

Revamping the schedule of the "San Joaquins" serving the growing Central Valley evidences the successful "hands-on" approach to marketing by the San Joaquin JPA. Understanding its market and the potential for growing the market, required the need to improve utilization of its limited equipment to serve a correct vision: to facilitate "day trippers" between Fresno-Sacramento. For business travelers, and even the leisure market, research has clearly evidenced that schedule convenience and schedule frequencies are more important than even speed. Shortage of equipment only exacerbates the need to optimally utilize it with the best potential for building the market.

This is in no means meant to diminish the interests of the Bakersfield market. Frankly, this perhaps would not even be an issue if the federal government had not required the lowest bidder to construct a fleet of intercity bi-levle cars for California and the Midwest. As a result, the bid went to Nippon Sharyo to be a Beta site at the taxpayers expense; eventually failing to build even one car. When you have Siemens with an outstanding reputation and skilled American workforce in Sacramento, the federal low bid requirement was pathetic. Ironically, the contract has just been moved to Siemens, which has built a beautiful fleet of passenger trains for Brightline, to run between Miami-Orlando.

Building a solid market within, and despite, the financial and political constraints imposed upon the JPAs can only serve to validate and support proformas for acquiring additional equipment and motive power.

Bud

Interesting! Amtrak reducing service because of loss of ridership and Jerry Brown wants to spend billions of our tax dollars to build a rolling legacy for himself, the high speed railway. If Amtrak is going broke and relies on government subsidies, just imagine what the "Bullet Train" will cost us to keep running. And by the way, they haven't figured out how to get through Tehachapi yet. After our severe draught I believe it is evident that we should put that money in water transfer and storage so that we are not pouring billions of gallons of fresh water into the Pacific Ocean, instead of filling our reservoirs, lakes, agriculture canals and homes. Jerry put your train set away and start saving our state's economy.

GaryJohns

Why take the train? It's too expensive and too slow to get you where you need to be. Totally worthless.

APC

Gary, On a per-trip basis, the train is actually approximately $300 cheaper per roundtrip using IRS mileage rates. The proposal for express from Bakersfield would reduce travel time by 45 minutes, making travel on Amtrak about the same as driving. However, riding the train is economically more efficient because business riders and government employees can work on the train (rather than loosing 1 or 2 full-days in the office driving roundtrip.

For IRS standard mileage rates and Amtrak prices, please see:
https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/2017-standard-mileage-rates-for-business-and-medical-and-moving-announced

https://www.amtrak.com/home

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.