Introduction to the Strategic Plan
by Art Leahy, Metrolink CEO
Metrolink is moving forward. At 23 years, Metrolink continues to connect the Southern California region together, giving people access to their jobs and new housing opportunities and providing significant benefits to improving the efficiency of our transportation system and the quality of the air we breathe. Metrolink has been a critical part of Southern California’s transit renaissance and I have been happy to be a part of it, especially as leader of two of Metrolink’s member agencies.
Because of this long and proud tradition of providing rail service in Southern California, I am pleased to take on the role of leading Metrolink in this time of tough challenges.
This Strategic Plan reflects the significant challenges that Metrolink is facing during a time when ridership and revenue are down.
We need to bring the way we do business up to date. SCRRA was established by California legislature in 1990 as the operator of the Metrolink commuter railroad. Past business practices and financial systems still need to catch up to the way we have to do business today. Because of system issues in the past, we were unable to report financial data on a monthly basis. This prevented us and our partner member agencies from having information to make appropriate adjustments to our spending. We also had low cash reserves that left us in a situation where we weren’t paying back an outstanding loan. We owe it to our partners to be transparent with them so that they will have the trust in us to invest more.
Our infrastructure has reached its capacity and is aging past its useful life. For example, many of our locomotives are now more than 23 years old, well past the time when they should have been overhauled. Many of these locomotives would have gone through a Service Life Extension program approved by the Board in 2012, but was not followed due to (1) performance issue with contractor and (2) inability to redirect funding for maintenance work. At this time, we need to continue to make sure the rest of our fleet – cab cars and coaches – is to the latest standards of safety and comfort. When we see the condition of our platforms at Union Station, the insides and outsides of our cars, our maintenance facilities, and our ticketing systems, we know we can do better and we can’t defer and avoid confronting what needs to be done. Keeping infrastructure in a state of good repair, whether it’s our fleet, our track, or our bridges is critical to bring value to our customers by delivering them to their destinations safely and on time.
We need to build on a foundation of our people and change our working culture to bring a sense of urgency. Metrolink has lost a lot of its staff lately, so much so that 166 in 262 employees (63%) have been with the agency 5 years or less. We need to build a culture of trust and security with capable individuals who can stay on to build the next Metrolink era, another quarter century beyond. A vision to move forward is needed so we are not stuck in a rut deferring and avoiding our challenges, but confronting them confidently, collaborating with all our partners to find solutions. We need to make Metrolink a world-class organization where one can have an exciting and rewarding career.
To address these challenges, focus and discipline is needed to sustain the trust of our riding public and of our partners in running service on the tracks day in and day out.
We have a number of initial successes that point the way to progress:
- Implementation of Positive Train Control – We are the first commuter railroad in the nation to complete our implementation of life-saving PTC technology and to submit for federal certification of our system. With this, we continue our role as the established leader for safety among commuter rail systems in the United States.
- Launch of Mobile Ticketing – We have launched, will leap forward and provide a whole new way of buying tickets by smartphone and on line. No more having to wait in lines.
- Innovation in Fares – We are experimenting with our fare system. We’re capturing more passengers through experiments in our fares. Through a partnership with Metro, we experimented with lower fares across the board on the Antelope Valley Line and targeted discounts on shorter distance trips to yield year-over-year gains of nearly 25%. We are testing new discount products system-wide and with the launch of the Perris Valley Line. In January, this experiment will be extended system-wide. We will do thorough data collection and analysis of the results. Our goal is to increase ridership and revenue.
- New Clean High-Horsepower Locomotives – We are moving forward to replace more than seventy percent of our aging locomotive fleet. In the past year, we were awarded grants in excess of $100 million to support another set of new locomotives. The locomotives start coming into service in the middle of this year (2016).
- Greater Collaboration with our Partners – We have started engaging the leadership of our five member agencies in ways that highlight our integration, meeting with the CEOs and Executive Directors, the Chief Financial Officers, and our Technical Advisory Committee. We are tackling our problems together. Metrolink must be more open, more cooperative, and more forthcoming with our partner agencies.
- Local Coordination of Rail Service – Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor (LOSSAN) is now under the local management by the Orange County Transportation Authority. As five of seven of those lines run in the LOSSAN Rail Corridor, we are continuing to build our strong partnership with them to make our customer experience seamless across the two services. We need to develop a constructive cooperative relationship to build synergy between Metrolink and Amtrak services and personnel.
- Improved Financial Reporting and Financial Position – We are closing our books on a monthly basis and reporting to our Board and our partners, building trust through transparency.
- Higher Cash Balances – Moreover, our cash balances have improved by expedited billing and collection of amounts due.
- Extension to the Perris Valley – Through the investment of our partners, the Riverside County Transportation Commission and the Federal Transit Administration, we are extending service 24 miles toward the Perris Valley, the first major change to or route network in 14 years.
Based upon passenger miles, we are the second biggest transportation provider in Southern California. In addition, we have the highest farebox return and the lowest subsidy per passenger mile of any carrier in our region. Our service provides much needed mobility. We help relieve congestion on the I-5, the 91, the 60, the 10, the Hollywood freeway, and the Ventura freeway.
We have a very solid foundation to build on. Metrolink, indeed, has a bright future. We are an essential part of Southern California.
Arthur T. Leahy
Chief Executive Officer