Capitol Corridor Runs Cleaner-Burning Diesel Train

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One of the busiest passenger rail trains in the nation is getting a new engine — a greener engine. In California, Amtrak's Capitol Corridor, which runs between San Jose and Sacramento, is starting to use a cleaner-burning diesel engine. The new technology cuts harmful emissions in half.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And one of the busiest passenger rail trains in the nation is getting a new engine, and it's a greener engine. It's not the electric one many environmentalists hope for in the long run, but it is a cleaner form of diesel.

Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler reports from Sacramento.

BEN ADLER: Brittany Shockey(ph) is a regular rider on Amtrak's corridor route between Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area. She was on the train last Friday putting on some makeup.

Ms. BRITTANY SHOCKEY: I'm in a long-distance relationship.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHOCKEY: So, I'm actually going to meet him in Martinez.

ADLER: And that's why you're putting your�

Ms. SHOCKEY: Yeah, exactly. That's why I'm putting on the makeup on the train �cause I woke up at an ungodly hour after a hard night of drinking and got on a train and had no makeup on.

ADLER: The trains on this line have diesel engines that rank last on the EPA's scale of emission levels - a tier 0 - but that's starting to change. This week, the first Tier 2 diesel engine will hit the tracks. There's money for more on the way.

Larry Greene is with the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, one of the agencies footing the bill.

Mr. LARRY Greene (Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District): They get 45 percent less pollution than the same engine before the upgrade, and use 20 percent less fuel. So, it's a good deal for greenhouse gases, for ozone and for particulars.

ADLER: Most riders I talked with hadn't heard about the new engine, though they're glad it's on the way. But one, UC-Davis grad student Joanna Kauffman(ph), is holding out for something more.

Ms. JOANNA KAUFFMAN: I'm waiting for the electric high-speed rail to come but I know it's probably not going to be here for a while.

ADLER: Environmentalists like David Pettit with the Natural Resources Defense Council are happy with the new diesels as a first step.

Mr. DAVID PETTIT (Natural Resources Defense Council): I think it's very positive that the project is going from bad diesel to better diesel. I'd like to see, in the medium run, going from good diesel to electric propulsion, which is even cleaner.

ADLER: Until then, Pettit will settle for what's being called the cleanest passenger locomotive in California.

For NPR News, I'm Ben Adler in Sacramento.

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