Monday, May 16, 2011

Early rising: the Metro link option

I had to get to LA very early one day last week, earlier than the first Amtrak of the day (my usual #763). So, I left the house at 4.30am and drove 30 minutes to Oceanside, which is the southern terminus of the Metrolink commuter service that links Orange, LA, Riverside, and Ventura counties. The first train out of Oceanside on Metrolink is at 4.40 but I caught the 5.16, which arrived in LA Union Station at 7.10. I had to wrestle with the automatic ticket machine, which did not like my $20 bill and insisted I use a credit card for the $14.50 one way fare. As with Amtrak, the significant savings are for multi-ride or monthly tickets, and single riders pay a premium, but this was still cheaper than Amtrak.

However, you gets what you pays for. Metrolink is much less comfortable than Amtrak. The suspension is rough, the seats very narrow and pitched too closely. They mostly face each other so your knees knock and your feet entangle with the person sitting opposite. There are no power outlets for your computer. The train stops at every station (Amtrak only hits a subset). I sometimes call this the dog-and-lamppost style of rail scheduling.

There were few people getting on at Oceanside but as usual things got crowded after Irvine. It was still so early, though, that many of them slept, except for an annoying man next to me talking on his cell phone. However, since he spoke Chinese, it was less distracting than if I'd been able to understand the conversation.

My return home, I took Amtrak; I just had to remember to get off in Oceanside where I left my car!

Conclusion: on days when I have to be in LA early, this is a viable, though tiring option.