With 372,000 passengers getting on or off at the our station last year, Davis is the sixth-busiest stop in California for Amtrak. Mixed among the Capitol Corridor trains that make up 98 percent of that traffic are two long-haul survivors of the Golden Age of train travel: the Oakland-Chicago California Zephyr, and the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight.
Amtrak, the federal entity that operates the passenger trains in Davis and most of the country, has a new chief executive (ex-Delta Air Lines) and has been curtailing aspects of its service—ending student discounts, reducing dining-car options on two long-distance trains back east, and cutting its ranks of ticket and baggage agents, to name three. More changes seem likely. But, and this is highly unusual in Amtrak’s 47-year-history, Washington just increased Amtrak’s budget by more than $1 billion.
To get a sense of what all this means, on today's show we talk with George Chilson, former chair of the Rail Passengers Association. He tells us why he thinks trains still matter, and says Amtrak's first priorities should be new equipment and more frequent trains—an approach that helped the Capitol Corridor succeed. (Photo shows the view from the end of the eastbound Zephyr in fall 2017, near the Utah/Colorado border.)