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Surfliner's up 

The Pacific Surfliner train runs along the Pacific coast, extending from San Luis Obispo, cutting through Santa Barbara, and ending at its southernmost destination in San Diego. The surfliner is provided by Amtrak, but overseen by the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) Rail Corridor Agency—a joint powers authority used to give more local control to decisions regarding the rail line.

LOSSAN's Chief Financial Officer Jason Jewell was named as the interim managing director of the agency when Donna DeMartino stepped down. Jewell will now oversee all agency operations and continue in his role as financial officer, he said.

In a statement, Jewell said that he's committed to working with the agency's board to advance its goals, which include further restoring the Pacific Surfliner service and other projects that will benefit the coastal corridor.

Jewell's been with LOSSAN for seven years and worked in several other transportation agencies in the past, all starting in Santa Barbara County after graduating from UC Santa Barbara, he told New Times.

He worked for Santa Barbara County for five to six years before moving to Orange County to work in Mission Viejo's finance department, then got a job at the Orange County Transportation Authority—the managing agency of LOSSAN—and finally landed his position within the agency, Jewell said.

As LOSSAN's interim manager, he said he will be in the role until the agency's board of directors finds a candidate to replace him or decides to keep him in the position. In the meantime, he said he hopes to work on getting the Surfliner back to pre-pandemic service levels and developing a coastal resiliency plan.

"There's been concerns about the coastal zone and areas that come close to the water, like erosion issues and land movement issues," he explained. "Discussions continue to happen about water level rise and other impacts that could potentially erode the land right by the tracks."

The agency's currently analyzing studies and working with its stakeholders to find a coordinated solution to this problem, Jewell said.

"Because LOSSAN doesn't own any of the tracks, there's a lot of areas with specific owners that we have to work with, and [we] definitely want them to be at the table to help coordinate and discuss. I haven't been personally involved, but I know it's something that's been a hot topic that I do intend to be more involved in," he continued.

Along with environmental concerns, LOSSAN's looking closely at demand levels as the Surfliner works its way out of the pandemic, Jewell said.

"Prior to COVID, we were looking at longer-term plans to add additional round trips and add capacity, but COVID turned everything upside down. Now, we're looking at what the trend forecasts look like and what that means for long-term plans," he said.

The future's showing promise as April ridership levels were the highest they've been since the pandemic started, Jewell added.

"It's a real reassuring and positive trend, and I think we have to be poised and ready that if that trend continues, we don't have overcrowded trains. We are looking at different ways to add equipment and planning for that right now," he said. "The new normal isn't less ridership. I hope and think positively that it will come back."

Fast fact

• After a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus, Crawtism is back. The 15th Annual McGee's Crawfish Boil, a "FUNdraiser" for the Central Coast Autism Spectrum Center, happens Sunday, May 15, at McCarthy's Irish Pub (600 Marsh St., SLO), starting at noon and going until the crawfish runs out. In years past, they'd boil 200 pounds of Louisiana crawfish flown into LAX from BRS Seafood, but this year due to uncertainty about attendance, they're shipping out just 150 pounds. "Still, 150 pounds is a lot of crawfish," organizer Michael McGee said with a laugh. "I drive to LAX to pick it up, which I guess is why it's called the 'McGee's Crawfish Boil.' Besides the crawfish, we do a traditional boil with potatoes, onions, corn, and sausage, and we'll have jambalaya for those seafood intolerant." Most jambalaya recipes call for chicken and andouille sausage with rice and Cajun seasonings. Food is $20 a plate, and there's also a raffle, a 50/50 drawing, and the bartenders donate a portion of their tips. Great cause, great food, and great company! Δ

Taylor O'Connor from New Times' sister paper wrote this week's Strokes. Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey wrote the fast fact. You can reach him at

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