Is driving or the train less expensive?

In today’s SacBee article by Tony Bizjak, California just got 125-mph trains. Here’s why they still can’t outrace your car, it is claimed that driving is less expensive than the train. The example given is Sacramento (SAC) to Oakland Jack London (OKJ) round trip. The article says “A price check by The Bee last week found basic Capitol Corridor round-trip train fares – with no monthly pass or other discounts – of $50 to $54 for the Sacramento-Oakland ride. That is typically more expensive than the cost of gas and vehicle wear and tear on a car drive that distance.”

First, the undiscounted Capitol Corridor ticket price is $58 round trip, though there are many discounts. But I’ll stick with the price of $58. I use the IRS mileage rate, 53.5 cents per mile for this year, to calculate driving costs. I hear people all the time claim that it costs them much less to drive, but realize that this is a real calculation the IRS does each year, and it IS the average cost. Unless this is Lake Wobegon, where all cars are “below average,” this is the best number to use.  Driving from the Sacramento station to the Oakland station is 82 miles, so 164 round trip. Calculated cost is $0.535 x 164, $88. $30 more than the train. Of course this is a solo trip. If two people are going, then it is $116 train and $88 driving, advantage driving. However, once you arrive at Oakland, you have to find parking. There is no free parking within 1/4 mile of Jack London, and even that is places most people would not want to park at night. Parking rates in lots and decks (parking garages) is commonly $15 for the day, though there are a wide variety of choices. Add that to your trip cost if you are driving. 

My point is not to give Tony a hard time. He is just repeating information he hears all the time. I hear it all the time too, including from transportation advocates who should know better.

Amtrak discounts include AAA, NARP, military and veteran, senior, disabled, and children (2-12 50%, under 2 free). Capitol Corridor promotions include steep discounts for additional passengers in a group, such as the current Take 5 Weekend Deal and ongoing Friends and Family, and sports and entertainment co-promotions. Every situation is unique, but these discounts and promotions can often bring the train cost down below the driving cost even for groups of people. 

Of course there is the environmental responsibility comparison, and for that one driving always loses.

on-demand bike lockers at Sacramento Valley Station

BikeLink-cardForty on-demand bike lockers have been installed at Sacramento Valley Station by Capitol Corridor. They are located between the station exit to the platforms and the thruway bus area. These lockers use the BikeLink chip-card system, which I wrote about in 2013 (BikeLink). These join long-term lockers and the Pedal Stop bike station, and new lockers at the Amtrak/Capitol Corridor station in Davis.

Unfortunately, you can’t purchase a BikeLink card in the station, at least not yet. You can purchase them in the Cafe Car onboard all Capitol Corridor trains, but of course if you arrive at the lockers without a card, that doesn’t help you for this trip. You can also order cards via BikeLink. I am not sure how long it takes to get cards through the mail, but I think I remember about a week. The BikeLink map shows three vendor locations in Roseville, since Roseville now has BikeLink locker locations, though I have not used these. The cards cost $20, and that full value is available for locker rentals, though if you use a bike station location with multiple bike racks, such as the Folsom station and several in the bay area, you do have to pay a one-time $5 fee.

The lockers cost 5 cents per hour. That’s a pretty incredible deal given how much car parking costs, and the peace of mind knowing your bike is very unlikely to be stolen or vandalized. Even your seat will be dry!

Hopefully this will be the beginning of more installations showing up around Sacramento and the region, as business and agencies realize what a convenience and encouragement for bicycling the lockers are.

Thank you, Capitol Corridor!

transit and rail grants to Sacramento region

  California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) announced the recipients of its Transit and Intercity Capital Program (TIRCP) grants. Sacramento benefits from two projects:

  • $9M to Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority for expanded service to Roseville and related rail improvements
  • $30M to Sacramento Regional Transit District for a new streetcar

These grants of course are only a fraction of the cost of the projects, but every bit helps, and it is likely that these projects will now move forward though both were formerly stalled or moving very slowly.

From Streetsblog California, some more detail:


2. Increased Rail Service to Roseville and Rail Improvements
$8,999,000 to Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

The project includes:

  • Extending rail service to Roseville, building eight miles of a third track, a new bridge, station improvements, and more.
  • Creating a service optimization plan to connect with Altamont Corridor Express and Amtrak San Joaquin passenger rail services.
  • Adding standby electric train power to enable more trains to utilize grid electricity at the Oakland Maintenance Facility.

Capitol Corridor’s website News & Alerts page has more detail.
10. Sacramento Streetcar

$30,000,000 to Sacramento Regional Transit District

Funds go to the planned Downtown/Riverfront Sacramento-West Sacramento Streetcar (pending the project’s federal full-funding grant agreement expected by early 2017) including nineteen stations and six streetcars.