A San Joaquin at the Emeryville station in 2012
|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|Predecessor||Golden Gate, San Joaquin Daylight|
|First service||March 5, 1974|
|San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, in partnership with Amtrak and Caltrans|
|Distance travelled||315 miles (507 km) (Oakland)|
282 miles (454 km) (Sacramento)
|Average journey time||6 hours, 1 minutes (Oakland)|
5 hours, 10 minutes (Sacramento)
|Catering facilities||Café Car|
|Rolling stock||EMD F59PHI locomotives|
GE P32-8WH locomotives
Siemens Charger locomotives
Single Level Trainsets:
|Operating speed||79 mph (127 km/h) maximum|
52 mph (84 km/h) average, including stops
|BNSF and UP|
The San Joaquin (sometimes referred to as San Joaquins) is a passenger train service operated by Amtrak in California's Central Valley. Seven daily round trips run between its southern terminus at Bakersfield and Stockton, where the route splits to Oakland (five round trips) or Sacramento (two round trips).
The San Joaquin is unique in the state and nation because of its extensive network of dedicated Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach bus routes that are critical to the performance of the service. Over 55% of passengers on the service use an Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach during part of their trip. Amtrak Thruway Motorcoaches are timed to meet trains and offer connections to points in Southern California (including Los Angeles Union Station where passengers can continue their journey on the Pacific Surfliner or Amtrak's long-distance trains), the city of San Francisco, the Central Coast, the North Coast, the High Desert (including Las Vegas), Redding, Reno, and the Yosemite Valley.
The San Joaquin is Amtrak's seventh-busiest service in the nation and the railroad's third-busiest in the state of California. During fiscal year 2019, the service carried 1,071,190 passengers, a 0.7% decrease from the prior year.
Like all regional trains in California, the San Joaquin is operated by a joint powers authority. The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (SJJPA) is governed by a board that includes two elected representatives from each of eight counties the train travels through. The SJJPA contracts with the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission to provide day-to-day management of the service and with contracts with Amtrak to operate the service and maintain the rolling stock (locomotives and passenger cars). The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) provides the funding to operate the service and also owns the rolling stock.
The San Joaquin runs over lines that once hosted several passenger trains a day. The top trains were the Golden Gate on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (predecessor to BNSF), and the San Joaquin Daylight on the Southern Pacific Railroad (later acquired by Union Pacific). Prior to 1960s service cutbacks passenger service continued south of Bakersfield, to Glendale and Los Angeles.
In April 1965, as ridership on passenger trains continued to drop, the Santa Fe Railway received permission from the Interstate Commerce Commission to severely curtail Golden Gate operations, with service finally abandoned three years later. The San Joaquin Daylight was discontinued with the start-up of Amtrak in May 1971.
Amtrak routed all Los Angeles-San Francisco service over the Southern Pacific's Coast Line in its initial 1971 route structure, leaving the San Joaquin Valley without service. Both the Southern Pacific's San Joaquin Daylight and the Santa Fe's San Francisco Chief had served the region. Beginning in 1972 Amtrak revisited the decision at the urging of area congressmen, notably Bernice F. Sisk, who favored service between Oakland and Barstow or, failing that, Barstow and Sacramento. Service began on March 5, 1974 with one round-trip per day between Bakersfield and Oakland and a bus connection from Bakersfield to Los Angeles. The San Joaquin could not continue south of Bakersfield due to capacity limits over the Tehachapi Loop, the only line between Bakersfield and points south and one of the world's busiest single-track freight rail lines. Amtrak chose the Santa Fe route over the Southern Pacific, citing the higher speed of the Santa Fe-79 miles per hour (127 km/h) vs. 70 miles per hour (113 km/h)-and freight congestion on the Southern Pacific. The decision was not without controversy, with Sisk alleging that the Southern Pacific lobbied the Nixon Administration to influence the decision.
In 1979 Amtrak proposed discontinuing the San Joaquin as part of system-wide reductions ordered by the Carter Administration. The state of California stepped in to provide a yearly subsidy of (then) $700,000 ($2.42 million adjusted for inflation) to cover the train's operating losses, and it was retained. At the time the state asked Amtrak to add a second round trip between Oakland and Bakersfield, and to extend the service south over the Tehachapi Pass to Los Angeles. Amtrak added the second train in February 1980, but attempts to extend the train over the Tehachapi Loop failed due to Southern Pacific's opposition.
A third round trip was added on December 17, 1989, followed by a fourth on October 25, 1992.:15 On May 16, 1999, Amtrak added a Sacramento-Bakersfield round trip - the fifth daily San Joaquin round trip. A second Sacramento-Bakersfield round trip was added on March 18, 2002.
Expansion of the service would stagnate after 2002, and 10 years later, frustrated by what was perceived to be Caltrans' slow response to regional concerns, local leaders pushed lawmakers to allow local control of the San Joaquin. On September 29, 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1779, which enabled regional government agencies to form the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (SJJPA) to assume administration and management of the route, while the state of California would continue to fund operations. Under the joint powers authority model, the service would be governed by a board composed of eight elected officials, appointed by an agency in each of the counties the train travels through. The governance structure was modeled after the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, which has been operating the Capitol Corridor regional train in Northern California since 1998.
The first SJJPA Board meeting was held on March 22, 2013 to begin planning for the shift in control. In that time, the SJJPA board contracted with the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission to provide day-to-day management of the service and contracted with Amtrak to continue to operate the service and maintain the rolling stock (locomotives and passenger cars). Control of the train service shifted from Caltrans to the SJJPA on July 1, 2015.
A fifth Oakland-Bakersfield round trip was added to the service on June 20, 2016, the first expansion of the service in more than 14 years.:15
Two years later, the SJJPA established an early-morning "Morning Express Service" between Fresno and Sacramento, allowing same-day trips to the state capitol for the first time, was expected to result in increased ridership from business travelers.:34 The change was criticized by Bakersfield-area officials, because it required ending the last southbound train of the day in Fresno, reduced daily service to Bakersfield by one daily round trip. The service began on May 7, 2018 proved to be unpopular, with ridership counts showing an average of just 50 people on the train, compared to 130 with the old timetable. The "Morning Express Service" was eliminated one year later on May 6, 2019 and trains were reverted to their previous schedule.
In June 2021, a third Sacramento-Bakersfield round trip will be added, with one existing Oakland-Bakersfield round trip also converted to a Sacramento-Bakersfield round trip. An Oakland-Stockton round trip connecting to a Sacramento-Bakersfield round trip at Stockton will be added. These changes will increase Sacramento service to four daily round trips while maintaining five daily Oakland round trips. Trains will be rescheduled to operate on two-hour headways (with one-hour headways during peak periods) to improve service quality and reduce the number of passing sidings needed on the corridor.:25
The two additional Sacramento round trips will be routed over the Union Pacific Railroad Sacramento Subdivision north of Stockton. Unlike the current route on the Fresno Subdivision, the Sacramento Subdivision has spare capacity to allow the increased service.:27 Six new stations will be added at Lodi, Elk Grove, three locations in Sacramento, and Natomas as part of a joint expansion with Altamont Corridor Express (ACE). The Sacramento Subdivision trains will not serve the existing Sacramento Valley Station, but RT Light Rail connections and a shuttle bus to Sacramento International Airport will be available.:27 Sacramento service will be supplemented by ACE commuter service, starting with an extension from Stockton to Natomas over the Sacramento Subdivision route. A branch from Stockton to Ceres over the existing San Joaquin routing will be added in 2023 and extended to Merced in 2027.
Current Oakland-Bakersfield trips take just over six hours, which requires an expensive crew change in Merced. The SJJPA wishes to reduce travel times to eliminate this expense; this may involve terminating some trains at Emeryville, skipping stops on some trains, increasing current 79 miles per hour (127 km/h) speeds to 90 miles per hour (140 km/h), and/or operational improvements like decreasing dwell times.:28 Longer-term proposals include extending Oakland trains to Oakland Coliseum station to provide service to Oakland International Airport and a second BART connection; routing some trains via the ACE route through the Tri-Valley; consolidating all Stockton service at Robert J. Cabral Station; and extensions to Marysville/Yuba City, Oroville, and ultimately Redding.:39 The SJJPA ultimately plans to increase Sacramento-Fresno service to hourly headways.:32
The San Joaquin runs from Bakersfield's Truxtun Avenue station northward on BNSF Railway's Mojave Subdivision within Bakersfield, the Bakersfield Subdivision from Bakersfield to Calwa (Fresno), then on the Stockton Subdivision from Calwa to Stockton.
The Oakland trains continue west on the Stockton Subdivision to Port Chicago. At Port Chicago they cross to the Union Pacific Railroad's Tracy Subdivision to Martinez, continue on the Martinez Subdivision to Emeryville, and finally travel a few miles on the Niles Subdivision to Oakland's Jack London Square station.
Trains to the Sacramento Valley Station diverge in Stockton and run north to Sacramento on Union Pacific's Fresno Subdivision and on the Martinez Subdivision within Sacramento.
If the tracks for the Central Valley segment of California High-Speed Rail (HSR) are completed prior to that system's full startup, there are calls for the San Joaquin to use the HSR infrastructure to speed up traditional rail service to 125 mph.
The route is Amtrak's seventh-busiest service in the nation and the railroad's third-busiest in the state of California.
|Station||County||Service||Service began||Service ended||Rail Connections||Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach|
|Sacramento Valley Station||Sacramento||?||1999||present||California Zephyr, Capitol Corridor, Coast Starlight, Sacramento RT Light Rail||connections are available to Redding, Reno via South Lake Tahoe, Oakland, and San Francisco.|
|Lodi Transit Center||San Joaquin||?||2002||present|
|Stockton - Robert J. Cabral Station||?||1999||present||Altamont Corridor Express||connections are available to San Jose, Redding, and Stockton - San Joaquin Street.|
|Oakland - Jack London Square||Alameda||?||1995||present||Capitol Corridor, Coast Starlight|
|Emeryville||?||1993||present||California Zephyr, Capitol Corridor, Coast Starlight||connections are available to a number of points in the city of San Francisco.|
|Richmond||Contra Costa||?||1978[a]||present||California Zephyr, Capitol Corridor, Bay Area Rapid Transit|
|Martinez||?||1974||present||California Zephyr, Capitol Corridor, Coast Starlight||connections are available along the North Coast, to Napa, Santa Rosa and McKinleyville.|
|Stockton-San Joaquin St||San Joaquin||?||1974||present||connections are available to San Jose, Redding, Sacramento, Lodi, and Stockton - Robert J. Cabral Station.|
|Merced||Merced||?||?||1974||present||connections are available to Yosemite National Park.|
|Fresno||Fresno||?||?||1974||present||connections are seasonally available to Yosemite National Park.|
|Hanford||Kings||?||?||1974||present||connections are available to the Central Coast and Visalia.|
|Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park[b]||Tulare||?||?||present|
|Bakersfield||?||?||2000||present||connections are available to a number of points in Southern California (including Los Angeles Union Station where passengers can continue their journey on the Pacific Surfliner or Amtrak's national network of trains), the High Desert (including Las Vegas), and the Central Coast.|
For its first two years of operation the San Joaquin used single-level coaches Amtrak had inherited from other railroads. In October 1976 Amtrak introduced new Amfleet coaches to the service. From 1987-1989 Amtrak used Superliner and ex-ATSF Hi-Level coaches. For a short period beginning on June 15, 1987, this included a full dining car on one of the trains. Amtrak reequipped the San Joaquin trains again in 1989, this time with new Horizon coaches, when service expanded to three daily round-trips. The San Joaquin began receiving the Superliner-derived California Cars that it uses today in 1995.
Amtrak California operates its own fleet of EMD F59PHI, GE P32-8WH and Siemens Charger locomotives that are used on San Joaquin trains. These locomotives are owned by Caltrans and carry its CDTX reporting marks. Amtrak owned locomotives are also occasionally used on the San Joaquin, including the P42DC.
The San Joaquin is equipped with Amtrak California's fleet of California Car bi-level, high-capacity passenger cars owned by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Each trainset typically consists of two coach cars, a coach/baggage car, a café (food-service) car, and a cab/coach car. The cab/coach car is a similar to other coaches but with an engineer's operating cab and headlights on one end, allowing the train to be operated in push-pull mode, which eliminates the need to turn the train at each end-point. Caltrans is in the process of refitting the cab/coach cars to have a space on car's lower level for storage for checked luggage and bikes.
Caltrans also owns several Surfliner bi-level cars that are used on some San Joaquin trainsets. The newer cars look very similar to the California Car fleet but feature reclining seats, open overhead luggage racks, and a restroom on the upper level of each car.
In 2007 Caltrans paid to repair several wreck-damaged Superliner I coaches in exchange for a six-year lease of the Amtrak owned cars that are normally used on long-distance trains. Four of these cars are painted to match the California car livery and often appear in service on the San Joaquin route in place of a coach/baggage car.
Increasing ridership on the San Joaquin led Caltrans to purchase 14 Comet IB rail cars from New Jersey Transit in 2008 for $75,000 each. The former commuter cars were refurbished and reconfigured by Amtrak's Beech Grove Shops to serve as intercity coaches at a cost of approximately $20 million. The refurbished cars have reclining inter-city seats with tray tables (4 per row), AmtrakConnect WiFi, two power outlets at each seat pair, luggage racks, trash/recycling bins, a restroom, and 6 workstation tables in the center of the car.
Caltrans has also paid to lease and refurbish 3 Non-Powered Control Units (F40PH locomotives converted into cab/baggage cars) and 3 Horizon Dinettes to serve as café cars (using the same equipment as other Amtrak California trains).
These single-level cars will be used to create two Comet Car trainsets that will run between Oakland and Bakersfield. This will allow Caltrans to break up two bi-level California Car trainsets and use the cars to add another coach car to each of the San Joaquin's remaining California Car trainsets.
Caltrans had planned to use the Comet Car trainsets on trains starting in July 2013, but the refurbishing process took longer than expected. The first Comet Car trainset was put into regular service on October 21, 2013 and the second trainset was put into regular service on April 15, 2014.