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A Trip to Los Angeles to Hear Michael Dukakis Speak 2/11/2006

A Trip to Los Angeles to Hear Michael Dukakis Speak Southern California Transit Advocates Meeting

by Chris Guenzler

Ken Ruben, a long-time member of the Southern California Transit Advocates, official caller of the Internet Radio Show Let's Talk Trains and a friend of mine, arranged for Michael Dukakis to speak at their February meeting. I have admired Mr. Dukakis for years as a pro-rail supporter. He was once the Governor of Massachusetts and a Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 1988. So when Ken invited me to the SOCTA Meeting to hear him speak, I could not wait for that day to arrive. Knowing I had a morning to kill, I came up with a plan and thought about doing some train riding before going to LA for the meeting.

Surfliner 564 2/11/2006

I arose early then drove to Santa Ana and got a Business Class ticket for my northbound trip to Los Angeles from Solana Beach. I watched 763 arrive and depart on time and about nine minutes later, 564 pulled in. I enjoyed my southbound journey along the coast this morning and came into full sunshine south of Oceanside. We arrived at Solana Beach a few minutes early. I went up into the station and had an idea for a picture. I quickly walked over to the Loomas Santa Fe Drive Bridge, hoping to get there before the train left Solana Beach.

Surfliner 564 that I had detrained from was now ready to depart Solana Beach. I walked over to a favorite donut shop before returning to the northbound platform. Coaster 642 arrived and went into the Del Mar siding before my northbound train arrived.

Surfliner 769 2/11/2006

The train pulled into Solana Beach a few minutes late and I boarded the Pacific Business Class Car, which was almost full. I took the rear seat and read USA Today while listening to music on my headphones. I enjoy sitting on the land side of the train every so often just to notice all the changes that have occurred over the last few years. The train made up some time and by Santa Ana, we were back on time. Here I switched to the other side of the train as I was wondering if Santa Fe 4-8-4 3751 would be back at Redondo Junction.

Santa Fe 3751 returned from Los Angeles Union Station last night to its outdoor home at the former Santa Fe turntable. The roundhouse was torn down a few years ago.

Los Angeles 2/11/2006

I met Eugene, whom Ken had arranged to take me to the SOCTA meeting. I wanted to stop and see Stan Garner, owner of the Pony Express, which was waiting to go to San Diego on a Surfliner 578/591 round trip today. I asked if Stan was there, but he was off getting some ice. The bartenders told me to come up and I asked to take some pictures with a "Yes" answer.

Here is a view of one of my all time favorite private cars, the Pony Express.

Views of the interior of the Pony Express.

Another view of the Pony Express. Here is some information on the Pony Express. The private party car Pony Express is comfortably appointed to provide a warm and sociable environment for group events such as birthdays, anniversary celebrations, wedding receptions, holiday parties and other social gatherings. It has an antique bar, comfortable lounge area and parquet dance floor. The car has been set up to function as meeting space, a classroom/conference room and as a film/event production office. It has numerous power outlets for computers, projectors, copiers, etc. and is equipped with a TV, VCR, Stereo and projection screen. It is approved for service on Amtrak trains operating throughout the United States. The "Pony" is based at Los Angeles Union Station. The car can comfortably accommodate 36 people for group events and has sleeping accommodations for 2. The bunkroom has a bathroom with retention toilet and full sized shower. The Pony Express is ideally suited for use as a companion to other private cars operating either on a regularly scheduled Amtrak train or as part of a private train. The Pony is uniquely suited for special use as a support car for special events and film production. It is equipped with full-open end doors on the lounge end and the floor and walls can be protected so the car can be used for storage of bulky items up to and including an automobile. The Train Source, Inc. is prepared to provide charter and lease cost information.

For the Pony Express Web Site

I highly recommend you take a trip in the wonderful car, the Pony Express.

Eugene and I then headed to the Red Line Station beneath Union Station, where I bought a day pass for my day in Los Angeles.

We went downstairs and found our waiting train ready to take us to the Pershing Square Station.

We detrained at Pershing Square and I took another picture before we went back up into daylight.

As we walked north, we approached the non-operational Angels Flight that will hopefully be restored soon.

I have always enjoyed riding up and down on those tracks. We then walked over to the Angelus Plaza and took the elevator up to the 4th floor and room 422. Ken Ruben found me and thanked me for coming to write for I talked with several people before I decided where to sit for the SOCTA meeting.

The Southern California Transit Advocates Meeting 2/11/2006

I sat at a table with good friend and train riding buddy Chris Parker, who was there to videotape the meeting. Everyone introduced themselves before the meeting started. Since I was a guest, I just sat back, listened and did not say anything.

I took a few pictures throughout the meeting and after about thirty minutes, Ken came over and told me it was time to find Governor Dukakis.

Ken Ruben, Nate Zablen and I then went to meet Governor Dukakis who was coming to downtown Los Angeles today by the Rapid Bus and Red Line from near UCLA. We all went back up the elevator to the meeting which was still going on.

The meeting ended and refreshments were available for everyone. The Governor and I went into the speaking room where we had a few moments to talk. Soon we were joined by several others who wanted to meet the Governor. Shortly afterwards, everyone took their seats for the start of the speaker portion of the meeting.

Michael Dukakis speaks at the Southern California Transit Advocates Meeting. 2/11/2006

Mark Strickert welcomed everyone to the speaking part of this SOCTA Meeting.

Ken Ruben then introduced Governor Michael Dukakis.

Governor Dukakis started off by telling us about his teaching a Master Course at UCLA and his family. He then stated that California could be at the verge of something exciting in rail transportation. He proceeded to tell us that he finished Law School in 1960 and was in the hotel next to the building where Jack Kennedy got his presidential nomination. The air he breathed in Los Angeles back in those days was a toxic soup. The newly-constructed freeway system was not working then and they were still building it. In fact, all over the nation, the craze was to build eight lanes of freeways into cities with a beltway around the civic center. This was 1963. Intercity rail was dying, the MBTA was horrible and questions were being raised about our transportation needs. Continuing to build these freeways into the city would have been the death of city centers. Jack Sherry and the Mayor of San Francisco stopped the Embarcadero Highway. President Kennedy stopped the building of this kind of freeway system in Washington, DC. Michael Dukakis went back to Boston where it took ten years of fighting, but Governor Sargent finally stopped the Master Highway. Thomas P. O'Neil then had Massachusetts become the first state to use their Highway Trust funds for rail transit in Boston. That $3 Billion fund was used to expand the MBTA and commuter rail. He was concerned that Boston still did not have a rail connection between North and South Stations. Also, there was no rail service to Cape Cod, even though the highways were extremely congested. New rail lines have transformed towns as investment in community development takes place allowing growth and revitalization.

Governor Dukakis reminded the assembled that public transit is for everyone, including the rich, the poor and everyone in between. In the last eleven years, when visiting Los Angeles, the Governor has used rapid transit. California is on the verge of having highways that no longer work. Every new foot of completed highway is filled to capacity. To be successful, it is necessary to have a first rapid transit class system. During the 1984 Olympics, the 3% to 4% reduction in highway traffic due to trucks being banned restored the freeways to workable. San Diego and San Francisco highways are already congested. The Inland Empire is a disaster waiting to happen because they have no master transportation plan. California Governor Schwarzenegger proposed $107 Billion over 10 years to meet California Transportation needs. 96% of this money is for highways, including 700 miles of new highways. The remaining 4% is for Intercity Rail. No money is set aside for local rapid transit. State and local leaders have been silent about the Governor's plan. This has become a major problem because we keep repeating the same mistakes by building highways over and over agian with the same results. The mayors and legislators of California must do something now. The State of California needs a High Speed Rail system. Two thirds of the state's population now live in Southern California. We must connect our cities with a High Speed Rail System. Europe and Japan have had these systems for years, Korea is building one and now Mexico is about to build one. It should be able to be built with 80/20 Federal Funding. Los Angeles and San Francisco airports can not expand, but would not have to if our state had a High Speed Rail system. If a 250 mile per hour rail system could be built, there would be no need for all those local flights within the state. One out of every three domestic flights is less than 300 miles. There is a $15 Billion expansion of O'Hare Airport in Chicago that would not be needed if there was the Ten State Midwest High Speed Rail network. Eliminating most of those local flights would mean that O'Hare would not need to be expanded. Governor Dukakis next discussed David Gunn, whom he called the best CEO Amtrak ever had. He was doing such a good job that Amtrak's best ever funding bill passed by a vote of 93-6. Five days later, he was fired by a four-member Board that, by law, is supposed to have seven members. Seventy percent of Americans want Amtrak. A politician who would make rail work would be very successful. The old ways of doing things just do not work anymore. Just think, if California increased the number of Surfliner trains from 11 to 16 a day, ridership would jump from over 2 million to almost 6 million passengers. If California would change from highways to rail, the rest of our nation would follow suit.

The Governor then answered questions from the audience. When he finished he then took time to greet and meet the audience. He also took time to take pictures with guests.

Governor Michael Dukakis and me.

A picture was taken of Governor Michael Dukakis, Ken Ruben and me. After the Governor greeted everyone who wanted to meet him, Eugene and I walked the Governor back to the Pershing Square Red Line station, where he bought his ticket and we walked down to track level.

The Governor and Eugene boarded the westbound train, leaving me to wait for mine.

A few minutes later, my eastbound train for Los Angeles Union Station arrived.

The interior of a Los Angeles Subway Car.

My train at the Los Angeles Union Station stop now ready to head west to Wilshire and Western.

A minute later, a train for North Hollywood came in. Back at LAUPT, I then headed up to track level to find my southbound train.

Surfliner 582 2/11/2006

I boarded Surfliner 582 with the idea of taking it to San Juan Capistrano and then taking Surfliner 785 home to Santa Ana. Knowing the train schedule since the last timetable change, my southbound train arrived in San Juan Capistrano before the northbound train. We headed south running on time with all going well until we got a flashing yellow two signals north of Avery. The next signal was a hard yellow, and I knew I was in danger of not making my connection. The train crew was as surprised as I was, and could not believe we would be stopping for at least fifteen minutes.

After we sat for a few minutes at Laguna Niguel, our crew decided to make this a smoking stop as the station had a platform. Once we got a green signal, Surfliner 582 proceeded to San Juan Capistrano where I detrained to wait for my northbound train.

Since I had the digital camera, I got an idea for a picture that I had never taken which was of the dome of the San Juan Capistrano Santa Fe Station. The building has been modified over the years from being a station to becoming a restaurant. I then waited for a thirty minute late Surfliner 587.

Surfliner 587 2/11/2006

While at the station, I talked to a pair of couples from Canada and that helped pass the time before the train arrived. At the same time, the setting sun caused the temperature to drop, so when the train arrived, I was happy to board a nice warm train. I used my time on board to recharge the camera batteries as the train made its way to Irvine then Santa Ana, where this day came to an end. What a great day it had been meeting the wonderful former Governor Dukakis.