Capitol Corridor

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Capitol Corridor
Capitol Corridor logo.svg
Amtrak Capitol Corridor train at Rodeo, January 2010.jpg
A Capitol Corridor train in January 2010
Service type Inter-city rail/Commuter rail
Locale Northern California
First service December 12, 1991
Current operator(s) Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, in partnership with Amtrak and Caltrans
Annual ridership 1,607,277 (FY17)[1]
Website Capitol Corridor
Start Auburn, California
Stops 17
End San Jose, California
Distance travelled 168 miles (270 km)
Average journey time 3 hours 15 minutes
Train number(s) Weekdays: 520-553
Weekends: 720-751
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
Track owner(s) UP and JPBX
Route map
0 mi
0 km
14 mi
23 km
18 mi
29 km
Placer County
Sacramento County
35 mi
56 km
Sacramento RT Light Rail
Sacramento County
Yolo County
49 mi
79 km
Yolo County
Solano County
75 mi
121 km
Solano County
Contra Costa County
93 mi
150 km
112 mi
180 km
Bay Area Rapid Transit
Contra Costa County
Alameda County
118 mi
190 km
120 mi
193 km
Oakland-16th Street
125 mi
201 km
Oakland – Jack London Square
Oakland Ferry Terminal
130 mi
209 km
Oakland Coliseum
Bay Area Rapid Transit
Oakland International Airport
138 mi
222 km
Union City
Bay Area Rapid Transit
to Stockton–Downtown
to Warm Springs/​South Fremont
150 mi
241 km
Altamont Corridor Express Bay Area Rapid Transit
Alameda County
Santa Clara County
161 mi
259 km
Santa Clara – Great America
Altamont Corridor Express Santa Clara VTA
165 mi
266 km
Santa Clara – University
Caltrain Altamont Corridor Express
San Jose International Airport Bay Area Rapid Transit planned
168 mi
270 km
San Jose
Santa Clara VTA Caltrain Altamont Corridor Express Bay Area Rapid Transit planned
extension to Salinas
Santa Clara VTA Caltrain
Morgan Hill
Santa Clara County
Monterey County

The Capitol Corridor is a 168-mile (275 km) passenger train route operated by Amtrak in California. Capitol Corridor trains operate between San Jose and Sacramento, roughly parallel to Interstate 880 and Interstate 80. One train a day continues through the eastern Sacramento suburbs to Auburn, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Capitol Corridor trains started in 1991.

Like all regional trains in California, the Capitol Corridor is operated by a joint powers authority. The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) is governed by a board that includes two elected representatives from each of eight counties the train travels through. The CCJPA contracts with the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District to provide day-to-day management, and Amtrak to operate and maintain the rolling stock (locomotives and passenger cars). The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) provides the funding and also owns the rolling stock.


The Capitol Corridor is named because it links the location of California's first state capitol, San Jose (1850), with the current location, Sacramento. The rail route also travels near historical state capitol locations of Vallejo (1852) and Benicia (1853).

A Capitols train at Sacramento in 1995

At the start of the 1990s three Amtrak trains operated in the Bay Area: the long-distance California Zephyr (OaklandChicago) and Coast Starlight (Los AngelesSeattle), and the short-distance San Joaquin (Bakersfield-Oakland). Only the Coast Starlight ran once a day between San Jose and Sacramento, and at inconvenient times. The last local service between the two former capitals was the Southern Pacific's Senator which ran between Oakland and Sacramento until May 31, 1962.[2]:140 In 1990 California voters passed two propositions providing $105 million to expand service along the route. The new service, named Capitols, debuted on December 12, 1991 with three daily round-trips between San Jose and Sacramento. Of these, a single round-trip continued to Roseville, an eastern Sacramento suburb.[3] The service was later renamed Capitol Corridor to avoid confusion with the Capitol Limited, which runs between Washington, D.C. and Chicago. In 1998 there was one round trip train that ran as far as Colfax but poor ridership was unable to sustain the extension. Today, most eastbound Capitol Corridor trains terminate in Sacramento, with Amtrak Thruway bus connections to destinations farther east. Only one daily train runs as far as Auburn.

Infill stations were added at Oakland Coliseum (with a close connection to BART) in 2005 and at Fairfield-Vacaville in 2017.[4]

Proposed expansion[edit]

New stations[edit]

A Capitol Corridor train passing the site of the planned Hercules Station & Terminal

Additional stations have been proposed along the route at Hercules, Benicia, and Dixon. Additionally, an intermodal station is planned at the Union City station, connecting to BART as part of a larger Dumbarton Rail Corridor Project to connect Union City, Fremont, and Newark to various Peninsula cities via the Dumbarton Rail Bridge.[5] The station is being planned and paid for by BART and the city of Union City.[6]

Vision Plan[edit]

The Capitol Corridor Vision Implementation Plan is a long range outline of possible improvements to the service; several realignments along existing and new right-of-ways were considered and studied. Near term suggested improvements include double tracking between San Jose and a realignment to the Coast Subdivision and a new station at the Ardenwood Park-and-Ride followed by track improvements between Emeryville and Richmond. Later goals include tunneling under Jack London Square to eliminate the street-running section there, rerouting freight traffic over another right-of-way between Sacramento and Martinez, and eventual electrification of the line.[7]


Extending service south to Salinas is planned,[8] which would add stops at Castroville, Watsonville Junction (Pajaro), Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Jose's Tamien Station,[9] the last three of which are also served by Caltrain during commute hours. Service is expected to begin in 2020.[9]

Preliminary work had started to add second pair of tracks between Oakland and San Jose, which would enable most trains to run from Sacramento to San Jose. A third track between Sacramento and Roseville is planned, which would allow an increase from one round trip per day to 10.[10]

An expansion to Truckee, California and Reno, Nevada on the UP line over Donner Pass has been considered. However, the rail route over Donner Summit runs through a single track tunnel, which travels underneath Norden, California; traffic through this tunnel is already at maximum capacity, as Union Pacific freight traffic is at an all-time high. A trans-Sierra eastern extension has not been seriously considered because the Reno/Tahoe region already gets once-a-day service, via the California Zephyr route, and ample bus service from other companies such as Greyhound and Megabus.

Frequency and ridership[edit]

Annual Ridership
FY* Ridership[1]
2010 1,304,000
2011 1,410,000 +8.1%
2012 1,441,000 +2.2%
2013 1,404,000 –2.6%
2014 1,419,000 +1.1%
2015 1,474,000 +3.9%
2016 1,561,000 +5.9%
2017 1,607,000 +2.9%
Amtrak Capitol Corridor (interactive map)

During fiscal year 2017 the Capitol Corridor service carried 1,607,277 passengers, a 2.9% increase over FY2016.[1] Revenue in FY2017 was $33,970,000, a 5.3% increase over FY2016, and a 57% farebox recovery ratio.[1] It is the fourth busiest Amtrak route by ridership, surpassed only by the Northeast Regional, Acela Express, and Pacific Surfliner. As of 2017 Sacramento is the busiest station on the route and the seventh busiest in the Amtrak system.[11]

The Capitol Corridor is used by commuters between the Sacramento area and the Bay Area as an alternative to driving on congested Interstate 80. Monthly passes and discounted trip tickets are available. Many politicians, lobbyists, and aides live in the Bay Area and commute to their jobs in Sacramento, while workers in the Oakland, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley employment centers take the Capitol Corridor trains from their less expensive homes in Solano County and the Sacramento metropolitan area.[12]

Starting on August 28, 2006 the Capitol Corridor had 16 weekday trains each way between Oakland and Sacramento, up from twelve in 2005 and three in 1992. (Seven of the sixteen ran to/from San Jose.) According to its management, ridership on the Capitol Corridor trains tripled between 1998 and 2005.[13]

Starting August 13, 2012 the Capitol Corridor dropped from 16 to 15 weekday trains each way between Oakland and Sacramento.[14] The Joint Powers Authority went ahead with a plan to drop train numbers 518 and 553 due to high fuel costs, low ridership, and a new ability to store an extra train overnight in a Sacramento railyard.[14]

As of February 2013 no weekday trains run the full length of the line between Auburn and San Jose. The single departure from Auburn runs to Oakland Coliseum; of the 14 westward departures from Sacramento seven run to San Jose, three to Coliseum and four to Oakland Jack London Square. Seven trains run San Jose to Sacramento, six downtown Oakland to Sacramento, one Coliseum to Sacramento and one Oakland to Auburn.

Stations and connections[edit]

Station County Service began Service ended Rail Connections Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach
Colfax Placer 1998 2000
Auburn Placer 1998 present
Rocklin Placer present
Roseville Placer 1991 present California Zephyr
Sacramento Sacramento 1991 present California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, Sacramento RT Light Rail
Davis Yolo 1991 present California Zephyr, Coast Starlight
Fairfield – Vacaville Solano 2017 present
Suisun – Fairfield Solano 1991 present
Martinez Contra Costa 1991 present California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin
Hercules Contra Costa planned
Richmond Contra Costa 1991 present California Zephyr, San Joaquin, Bay Area Rapid Transit
Berkeley Alameda 1991 present
Emeryville Alameda 1993 present California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin San Francisco
Oakland – 16th Street Alameda 1991 1994
Oakland – Jack London Square Alameda 1995 present Coast Starlight, San Joaquin
Oakland – Coliseum Alameda 2005 present Bay Area Rapid Transit
Hayward Alameda 1997 present
Union City Alameda planned Bay Area Rapid Transit
Fremont Alameda 1993 present Altamont Corridor Express
Santa Clara – Great America Santa Clara 1993 present Altamont Corridor Express, VTA light rail (via VTA Great America station)
Santa Clara Santa Clara 2012 present Altamont Corridor Express, Caltrain
San Jose – Diridon Santa Clara 1991 present Coast Starlight, Altamont Corridor Express, Caltrain, VTA light rail
Tamien Santa Clara planned Caltrain, VTA light rail
Morgan Hill Santa Clara planned Caltrain
Gilroy Santa Clara planned Caltrain
Pajaro/Watsonville Monterey planned
Castroville Monterey planned
Salinas Monterey planned Coast Starlight


A Capitol Corridor train with CCJPA-maintained California Cars and Amtrak-maintained P42 diesel locomotive passing through Alviso in 2016

The Capitol Corridor is fully funded by the state through Caltrans Division of Rail and Mass Transportation (DRMT). Caltrans managed the line from its inception in 1991 to 1997, but in 1998 the administration of the route was transferred to Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), formed by transit agencies of which the Capitol Corridor serves in order to have more local control, while still funded by Caltrans. CCJPA in turn contracted with BART for day-to-day management and staff support; also, CCJPA makes decisions on the service level of Capitol Corridor, capital improvements along the route, and passenger amenities aboard the trains.[15]

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority is governed by a Board of Directors which consists of 16 representatives from its member agencies:


A Capitol Corridor rounds San Pablo Bay near Pinole in 2011. An EMD F59PHI leads a mixed consist of 2 "California Cars" and 2 Superliner coaches.

The Capitol Corridor and its administration agency, the CCJPA, are responsible for the maintenance of the Amtrak California's Northern California fleet, which is used by both the Capitol Corridor and the San Joaquin routes.

When the Capitol Corridor debuted in 1991, it used Amtrak F40PH locomotives and Amtrak Horizon Fleet cars. Dash 8 locomotives were also used as they were brand new at the time. This equipment was used until the mid-1990s when most of the current state-purchased equipment arrived.

The current Northern California fleet includes fifteen EMD F59PHI locomotives (Numbered 2001 through 2015), two GE P32-8WH (Dash 8) locomotives (Numbered 2051 & 2052, formerly Amtrak 501 & 502), six Siemens Charger locomotives (Numbered 2101 through 2106) and a large number of bi-level coaches and café cars which are known as "California Cars". All cars are named after mountains and rivers of California. There are two series of California Cars, the 8000 series and the newer 6000 series. Standard Amtrak equipment such as the GE P42DC, Amtrak's main locomotive, standard Amtrak Dash 8 locomotives, and Superliner cars can appear on Capitol Corridor trains as substitutes.

In rarer cases, F59PHI's from the Amtrak "Surfliner" and "Cascades" trains are used. Before 2012, Caltrain EMD F40PH and MPI MP36PH-3C locomotives have been used as substitutes engines, and entire Caltrain trainsets have also been seen during busy periods, such as the peak Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

See also[edit]

  • Train Life, a 2006 documentary films about passengers on the Capitol Corridor


  1. ^ a b c d "Performance Report 2017" (PDF). Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority. 
  2. ^ Solomon, Brian (2005). Southern Pacific Passenger Trains. Voyageur Press. 
  3. ^ "Train links Sacramento, Bay Area". Lodi News-Sentinel. December 12, 1991. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  4. ^ "Coming Monday, November 13: New Schedule and Opening of Fairfield-Vacaville Station" (Press release). Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority. November 2, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Summary of the Dumbarton Rail Corridor Project Study Report" (PDF). San Mateo County Transit Authority. May 2004. pp. 3;18. Archived (PDF) from the original on 18 March 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2016. 
  6. ^ SamTrans - Dumbarton Rail Corridor
  7. ^ "CAPITOL CORRIDOR VISION IMPLEMENTATION PLAN" (PDF). Capitol Corridor. Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority. Retrieved 21 June 2017. 
  8. ^ Rahaim, Nick (5 January 2017). "Frank's Fish Market will close to pave way for new Salinas train station". Monterey County Now. Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  9. ^ a b "TAMC Selects LAN as Part of Construction Management Team for Salinas Rail Extension". Mass Transit. 3 January 2018. Retrieved 2 February 2018. 
  10. ^ "Sac-Roseville Third Track". Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority. 
  11. ^ "State of California FY2017 Fact Sheet" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2017. Retrieved June 6, 2018. 
  12. ^ Cabanatuan, Michael (December 26, 2000). "Capitol Corridor Ridership Grows On Stretching Bay Area Commutes". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  13. ^ Capitol Corridor's Largest Service Increase Ever Brings More Direct Trains To Sacramento Archived October 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ a b "Capitol Corridor Trains 🇦🇸 News - Capitol Corridor to Adjust Service Between Oakland and Sacramento". Capitol Corridor. August 7, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-11. Effective Monday, August 13, 2012, for the first time in 20 years of service the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) will reduce the number of weekday trains it operates. On August 13 the CCJPA will discontinue Trains 518 and 553. 
  15. ^ Sheehan, Tim (June 26, 2015). "Valley agency takes control of Amtrak San Joaquin trains". Fresno Bee. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 

External links[edit]

Route map: Google

KML is from Wikidata