Capitol Corridor

Last updated
Capitol Corridor
Capitol Corridor Pinole.jpg
A Capitol Corridor train in Pinole in 2011
Service type Inter-city rail/Commuter rail
Locale Northern California
First serviceDecember 12, 1991
Current operator(s)Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, in partnership with Amtrak and Caltrans
Former operator(s) Amtrak California
Annual ridership1,607,277 (FY17) [1]
Website Capitol Corridor
Start Auburn, California
End San Jose, California
Distance travelled168 miles (270 km)
Average journey time3 hours 15 minutes
Service frequency15 round trips (weekdays)
11 round trips (weekends)
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
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35 mi
56 km
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118 mi
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161 mi
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165 mi
266 km
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168 mi
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The Capitol Corridor is a 168-mile (270 km) passenger train route in Northern California operated by Amtrak between San Jose, in the Bay Area, and Auburn, in the Sacramento Valley. The route is named after the two points most trains operate between, San Jose (which hosted the first state capitol of California) and Sacramento (which currently hosts the California State Capitol). The route runs roughly parallel to Interstate 880 and Interstate 80. Some trips run from Oakland to San Jose, while a single daily round trip runs all the way from San Jose 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.


Former service

The First Transcontinental Railroad was completed to Oakland from the south in 1869. Following the completion of the California Pacific Railroad in 1879, most long-distance service of the Southern Pacific (SP) reached Oakland from the north. Long-distance service from the south ran to San Francisco via the Peninsula; some trains had Oakland sections. The Western Pacific Railroad (completed to Oakland in 1910) and Santa Fe Railroad (completed to Oakland in 1903 over the former California and Nevada Railroad) largely ran long-distance service with limited local stops. Commuter service around Oakland was largely provided by the electric interurban trains of the SP-owned East Bay Electric Lines (1911–1941) and Key System (1901-1958).

By the end of the 1930s, the SP operated five daily local round trips plus a number of long-distance trains between Oakland and Sacramento. The Oakland Lark and an unnamed local train (an Oakland connection for the Coast Daylight ) provided local service between Oakland and San Jose on the Coast Line. The inland Niles Subdivision was served by a daily Oakland–Tracy local and a commute-timed Oakland–San Jose local (which ran via Centerville and part of the Coast Line on the northbound trip and Milpitas southbound). [2]

The Oakland–San Jose trip on the Niles Subdivision was discontinued on September 29, 1940, followed by the Oakland–Tracy trip in 1941. [3] :37,40 The two Oakland–San Jose trips on the Coast Line were discontinued on May 1, 1960. [3] :7 The last local service between Oakland and Sacramento was the Senator, discontinued by the SP on May 31, 1962 (though long-distance service continued). [4] :140


A Capitols train at Sacramento in 1995 AMTK 385 Sac Depot Feb 1995xRP - Flickr - drewj1946.jpg
A Capitols train at Sacramento in 1995

From the 1970s to the beginning of the 1990s, three Amtrak intercity trains operated in the Bay Area: the long-distance California Zephyr (Oakland/Emeryville Chicago) and Coast Starlight (Los Angeles Seattle), and the regional San Joaquin (Bakersfield–Oakland). Of the three lines, only the Coast Starlight ran between San Jose and Sacramentoonce a day in each direction, and at inconvenient times (southbound early in the morning, northbound in the evening). In 1977, Amtrak approved an additional Oakland–Sacramento round trip, the Sacramentan; the service was never operated. [5]

In 1990, California voters passed two ballot 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. [6]

One of the ballot propositions, Proposition 116, provided the name Capitol Corridorso named because it links the location of California's first state capitol, San Jose, with the current location, Sacramento. [3] :7 The service was known as the Capitols until April 29, 2001, when Amtrak renamed it the Capitol Corridor. [7] [8]

Service changes

The Capitols originally ran via the Coast Line from Elmhurst to Santa Clara, with no stops between Oakland and San Jose. In 1992, after the completion of track and signal work, the Capitols were rerouted onto the Niles Subdivision further inland between Elmhurst and Newark. The new route allowed the addition of infill stations at Fremont in 1993 and Hayward in 1997. [3] :33 The Oakland Central station, which had been damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, was closed in 1994, and replaced by new stations at Emeryville in 1993 and Oakland-Jack London Square in 1995. [3] :33 Additional infill stations were added at Santa Clara – Great America in 1993, Oakland Coliseum (with a close connection to BART) in 2005, the existing Caltrain station in Santa Clara-University in 2012, and at Fairfield–Vacaville in 2017. [9]

One daily round trip was extended east to Colfax via Rocklin and Auburn on January 26, 1998. The trip was cut back to Auburn (with the Rocklin stop retained) on February 27, 2000. [3] :73

Service was gradually increased from the original three daily round trips. The fifth round trip was added in November 1998, followed by the sixth in February 1999. [10]

Installation of positive train control along the route was completed by November 2018. [11]

In response to low ridership as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Capitol Corridor schedule was reduced to five daily trips on March 21, 2020, with discontinued Auburn service and many trips ending in Oakland. Three runs were added back on June 1 and Auburn service restored. [12]

Proposed expansion

New stations

Additional stations have been proposed along the route at Hercules, Benicia, and Dixon.[ citation needed ]

A Capitol Corridor train passing the site of the planned Hercules station Hercules Station site 2749 01.JPG
A Capitol Corridor train passing the site of the planned Hercules station

Vision Plan

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. [13]

The 2018 Senate Bill 1 allocated $93 million in funds for the Capitol Corridor, partially for planning the realignment to the Coast Subdivision. [14] As of June 2020, the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the realignment (branded as South Bay Connect) is expected to be completed at the end of 2020, followed by the Final Environmental Impact Report a year later. Design is to take place in 2022–23, with construction beginning in 2024. [15] The project is to have a single new station at Ardenwood (at SR 84); stations at Hayward (at SR 92) and Newark Junction were considered but rejected. [15] [16]


Two daily Capitol Corridor round trips, along with some Caltrain service, are planned to be extended to Salinas in 2020. [17] Initial service will have intermediate stops at existing Caltrain stations at Tamien, Morgan Hill, and Gilroy; future phases will add new stations at Castroville and Watsonville/Pajaro. [18]

A third track between Sacramento and Roseville is planned to start construction in 2021, [19] which would allow an initial increase from one round trip per day to three, with plans for up to ten. [19] [20] Extension east to Reno, Nevada was deemed unlikely in the Vision Implementation Plan due to heavy freight traffic over Donner Pass and lack of funding. [13]

Extending service to downtown San Francisco by crossing the bay is being considered as part of a proposed second Transbay Tube. A study of a joint project providing a second crossing for BART began in 2019. [19] [21] San Francisco has not had direct intercity rail service since 1971.

Frequency and ridership

Amtrak Capitol Corridor (interactive map) Amtrak Capitol Corridor.svg
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, with 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 . In large part due to the route's success, as of 2017, Sacramento is the busiest station on the route, the seventh busiest in the Amtrak system and the second busiest in California. [22]

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, including those connecting to the train via Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach from San Francisco, [23] 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. [24]

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. [25] On August 13, 2012, the Capitol Corridor dropped from 16 to 15 weekday round trips between Oakland and Sacramento; one round trip was discontinued due to high fuel costs, low ridership, and a new ability to store an extra train overnight in a Sacramento railyard. [26]

As of July 2019, 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, and seven run to Oakland: three to Coliseum and four to Jack London Square. Of the 15 eastbound trains to Sacramento, seven run from San Jose and eight from Oakland: six from Jack London Square, one from Coliseum and one from Oakland to Auburn. On weekends, there are six round trips from Sacramento to San Jose, four from Sacramento to Jack London Square, one from Sacramento to Coliseum, and one along the entire length of the corridor from Auburn to San Jose. [27]

Stations and connections

LocationStationService beganService endedConnections
Colfax Colfax 19982000Now served by California Zephyr
Auburn Auburn/Conheim 1998Aiga bus trans.svg Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach to Sacramento [28]
Aiga bus trans.svg Placer County Transit
Rocklin Rocklin 1998Aiga bus trans.svg Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach to Sacramento [28]
Roseville Roseville 1991 BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak: California Zephyr
Aiga bus trans.svg Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach to Sacramento [28]
Sacramento Sacramento Valley Station 1991 BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak: California Zephyr, Coast Starlight , San Joaquins
Sacramento Regional Transit.svg Sacramento RT Light Rail: Gold Line
Aiga bus trans.svg Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach to Stateline, Auburn/Conheim, Reno, Sparks, Stockton–Downtown, Redding [28]
Davis Davis 1991 BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak: California Zephyr, Coast Starlight
Aiga bus trans.svg Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach to Stockton and Redding [28]
Fairfield Fairfield–Vacaville 2017Aiga bus trans.svg FAST
Suisun City Suisun–Fairfield 1991Aiga bus trans.svg FAST, Rio Vista Delta Breeze, VINE Transit, Greyhound Lines
Martinez Martinez 1991 BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak: California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, San Joaquins
Aiga bus trans.svg Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach to Napa, Santa Rosa, Arcata Transit Center, McKinleyville, Sacramento [28]
Aiga bus trans.svg County Connection, Tri Delta Transit, WestCAT
Hercules Hercules Planned
Richmond Richmond Transit Center 1991 BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak: California Zephyr, San Joaquins
Bart-logo.svg BART: Berryessa/​North San José–​Richmond Line, Richmond–​Millbrae + SFO Line
Aiga bus trans.svg AC Transit, Flixbus
Berkeley Berkeley 1991Aiga bus trans.svg AC Transit
Emeryville Emeryville 1993 BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak: California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, San Joaquins
Aiga bus trans.svg Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach to San Francisco [28]
Aiga bus trans.svg AC Transit, Emery Go-Round
Oakland 16th Street 19911994
Jack London Square 1995 BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak: Coast Starlight, San Joaquins
Aiga bus trans.svg Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach to San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, San Jose [28]
Aiga bus trans.svg AC Transit
Oakland Coliseum 2005 Bart-logo.svg BART: Berryessa/​North San José–​Richmond Line, Dublin/​Pleasanton–​Daly City Line, Berryessa/​North San José–​Daly City Line, Coliseum–​Oakland International Airport Line
Aiga bus trans.svg AC Transit
Hayward Hayward 1997Aiga bus trans.svg AC Transit
Fremont Fremont–Centerville 1993 ACE arrows.svg Altamont Corridor Express
Aiga bus trans.svg AC Transit
Ardenwood Planned
Santa Clara Santa Clara–Great America 1993 ACE arrows.svg Altamont Corridor Express
BSicon LOGO SCvta.svg VTA Light Rail: Green Line, Orange Line (at Great America)
Aiga bus trans.svg VTA Bus
Santa Clara–University 2012 ACE arrows.svg Altamont Corridor Express
Caltrain roundel.svg Caltrain
Aiga bus trans.svg VTA Bus
San Jose San Jose Diridon 1991 BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak: Coast Starlight
ACE arrows.svg Altamont Corridor Express
Caltrain roundel.svg Caltrain
BSicon LOGO SCvta.svg VTA Light Rail: Green Line
Aiga bus trans.svg Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach to San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Salinas [28]
Aiga bus trans.svg VTA Bus, Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (Highway 17 Express), Greyhound Lines, Megabus
Tamien Planned Caltrain roundel.svg Caltrain
BSicon LOGO SCvta.svg VTA Light Rail: Blue Line
Morgan Hill Morgan Hill Planned Caltrain roundel.svg Caltrain
Gilroy Gilroy Planned Caltrain roundel.svg Caltrain
Pajaro Pajaro/Watsonville Planned
Castroville Castroville Planned
Salinas Salinas Planned BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak: Coast Starlight


A Capitol Corridor train with CCJPA-maintained California Cars and Amtrak-maintained P42 diesel locomotive passing through Alviso in 2016 Southbound Capitol Corridor passing through Alviso, July 2016.jpg
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. [29]

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


A typical Capitol Corridor train with a Charger locomotive and California Cars and a Superliner car. Capitol Corridor leaving Suisun City station (1), November 2019.jpg
A typical Capitol Corridor train with a Charger locomotive and California Cars and a Superliner car.

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),eight Siemens Charger locomotives (numbered 2101 through 2108) 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, F59PHIs 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.

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Auburn station (California)

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Hayward station (Amtrak)

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The Caltrain Modernization Program (CalMod) is a $1.9 billion project that will add a positive train control (PTC) system and electrify the main line of the U.S. commuter railroad Caltrain, which serves cities in the San Francisco Peninsula and Silicon Valley, as well as transition from its current diesel-electric locomotive powered trains to electric multiple units (EMU). According to Caltrain, electrification of the tracks will allow it to improve service times via faster acceleration and shorter headways, reduce air pollution and noise, and facilitate a future railway tunnel into downtown San Francisco's Transbay Transit Center.

<i>California Zephyr</i> Amtrak service between Chicago, IL and Emeryville, CA

The California Zephyr is a passenger train operated by Amtrak between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area, via Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Reno. At 2,438 miles (3,924 km), it is Amtrak's longest daily route, and second-longest overall after the Texas Eagle's triweekly continuation from San Antonio to Los Angeles, with travel time between the termini taking approximately 5112 hours. Amtrak claims the route as one of its most scenic, with views of the upper Colorado River valley in the Rocky Mountains, and the Sierra Nevada. The modern train is the second iteration of a train named California Zephyr; the original train was privately operated and ran on a different route through Nevada and California.


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