A local agency - not the state of California - will now manage the Amtrak train between San Diego and San Luis Obispo in an effort to make service more responsive to travelers.
"We are able to interact with the other passengers, with the engineers and talk to them about what works, what doesn’t work rather than trying to manage it from several hundred miles away," said Jennifer Bergener, Managing Director of LOSSAN, the agency now managing the train. The name is a play on Los Angeles, San Diego, San Luis Obispo - its main destinations.
The Pacific Surfliner is the second busiest Amtrak route in the country, with about 2.7 million boardings a year. The line is operated by national Amtrak and funded by the state of California.
Bergener said LOSSAN wants to provide real-time schedule updates on Twitter and Facebook and coordinate with regional transit agencies like Metrolink and San Diego Coaster to make sure arrival times work with one another.
The change was mandated by California state legislation passed in 2012. An Amtrak line in California's San Joaquin Valley is also transitioning to local control under the same law.
Recently the state awarded LOSSAN and the Pacific Surfliner $1.675 million in Cap and Trade funds to pay for a transit transfer program to offer free transfers from the Amtrak train to one of 12 local transit providers along the route.
The train takes about 8.5 hours to complete the full trip between San Diego and San Luis Obispo and travels an average of 41 miles per hour - partially because it shares the tracks with Metrolink in the Los Angeles area, Coaster in the San Diego area and freight trains throughout the corridor.
One of the first changes planned is to the on-board dining service where Bergener said the agency plans to switch from more generic national food vendors to smaller local brands.