Thursday, April 21, 2011

Newbies: missing their stop

If you travel by train in rail-oriented cultures, like Japan, you'll find helpful signs on the train itself to tell you what the next station is, and how long till you arrive. On Amtrak, you have to rely on the conductors to make an announcement. Normally they tell you about 5 -10 minutes before you get to the station. But you have to be responsible for yourself. It's not really that hard--if you don't know the schedule, it's in each car. Since you walked upstairs to your seat, you should know how long it takes to walk downstairs to the door. This is particularly true in the superliner car, which does not have an exit--you have to walk into the next car to go downstairs to the door. Generally, you want to do this before you get to your stop.

This morning, I noticed a woman rushing past me after we stopped in Anaheim with two kids and suitcases. I always sit in the superliner, and almost as soon as they passed me the train started to move. I figured they didn't make it, and a few minutes later they trudged forlornly back to their seats. The doors had closed before they got there.

Unfortunately, it's the #563, which doesn't stop in Fullerton (just 10 minutes further up the line). Nope, they have a 40 minute ride to LA Union Station in front of them, before they can turn around and go back.

I feel sorry for them, but come on. It's a train. You know when it's supposed to get in. You know how long it takes to collect your kids and your luggage! They announced the station, but you should have been already getting your stuff.

Not a very nice way to start your vacation at Disneyland.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Rules of the Parking Lot

There's a definite culture of the parking lot at Solana Beach, where I park in the morning. For the early train (#763), I can usually find a spot in the section closer to the station. I get there around 20 minute early, because I build in padding in case there's an accident or delay on the freeway. Like most regulars, I back into the stall, which is absurdly wide. This makes the evening getaway easier because of all the people walking through the lot--I can see them better forwards than backwards.

Once parked, I leave the radio on and use my iphone to read the news while I finish my morning tea. Generally most of the cars around me are also occupied, with people reading the paper or sipping coffee. I go down to the platform around 10 minutes before the train is due.

An hour later, on the days I catch #563 (the pseudo-express, which is proving to be rather disappointing), I have to park considerably further away, usually past the third driveway. That gets to be a pretty long schlep to the platform, which I notice in the evenings when I do the walk in reverse. On the rare days it rains in San Diego, it is particularly sucky.

We all queue up to leave --often it's faster to drive away from the station and exit one of the more distal driveways, because the first driveway is clogged with people doing pickups. Then there is a mad dash up to the freeway on-ramp so we can get home and turn around and do it all again the next day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Note to Amtrak: you can't call it an "Express"

....if you don't treat it as one.

Going into LA yesterday, #563 came to a stop at a signal right before the station and waited.

And waited and waited.

SEems there was no open spot amongst tracks 9,10,11, and 12. We had to wait for them to pull something out so we were 20 minutes late--which means it would have been an on-time arrival for the old #565, non-express.

C'mon. You couldn't put it in the "A" section of the track? moved another one of those trains? Planned ahead?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

So how's that express working for ya?

I've been taking the morning (semi) Express, #563, 1-2 times a week to LA.

The train it replaces, #565, was reliably ALWAYS late -- and seriously late, frequently by 20 minutes or so. I was acutely aware of how late this train was (scheduled arrival at 9.50), because I have to catch a shuttle in LA to get to work, which runs infrequently after 10am. And too often I had to resort to the Red Line and the Dash to make it to my office.

The good news is that 563 has been much more reliable. They did this not only by dropping a few stations but by putting it in front of, rather than behind a metrolink. It's scheduled into LA at 9.35 and most mornings, it has been on time.

Today, alas, was an exception. But generally the experience has been much better than expected, and I can make it to work by 10.