Amtrak California gets to the Coachella Valley

RailPAC Report by Russ Jackson, Robert Manning, and from the Amtrak.com timetable. Photo by Robert Manning.
In its revised schedule dated December 5, 2011, Amtrak California quietly added a new train-bus service finally recognizing the importance of travel from Palm Springs, Indio, and the Coachella Valley to/from Los Angeles. Until then the only Amtrak service was the tri-weekly Sunset Limited long-distance train, and connecting buses to/from the San Joaquin trains. These new buses do not go to the Palm Springs train station, but go to the downtown Airport station and other cities enroute.

On Friday, February 10, RailPAC’s Coachella Valley-based Director, Bob Manning called this writer from the Sightseer Lounge of that afternoon’s Sunset Limted, saying he had ridden the morning bus from Palm Springs Airport station to Fullerton and the train into Los Angeles, but was returning home on the long-distance train that afternoon. He said there were only a handfull of folks on the morning bus, but Amtrak officials had told him the bus service was already breaking even. That, without a hint of publicity that either of us had seen. While RailPAC and Valley folks would rather have train service, this is a good beginning!

Retired RailPAC Executive Director, Richard Silver says, “I rode it the first day and twice since. Drivers tell me ridership is between 15-17 per day. One reported a day with 27. By far the busiest stop is Palm Springs airport. So busy infact that Amtrak should add a ticket machine there. Remember the San Joaquin Buses stop there (and Indio, La Quinta & Palm Desert) also.”

Trainweb’s Steve Grande is disappointed that the new buses are not timed so someone can spend a day in the desert communities or at the casino where the buses now stop in Cabazon. The bus schedules are timed for riders coming from the Valley stops into Los Angeles.

This writer notes that the buses stop at Fullerton for a train transfer, so it can include riding on the Pacific Surfliner to/from Oceanside and San Diego, also. A check of the Amtrak.com timetable shows that routing is possible, opening a very large matrix of transportation choices.

With this new service, and the requirement that any Amtrak California bus ticket must connect to a train, there are now two daily bus round trips. Below the photo is the Monday-Friday schedule. Weekend schedules are slightly different. Adult one-way fare from Palm Springs is $18 from Palm Springs, $20 from Indio, and $27 from Oceanside.

Palm Springs Amtrak station for the Sunset Limited, but not for the Thruway buses

Eastbound
Train 572 Departs Los Angeles Union Station at 11:10 AM, arrives Fullerton 11:39.
Bus 4968 Departs Fullerton at 11:50 AM, arrives Palm Springs Airport at 1:50 PM

Train 784 Departs Los Angeles at 5:10 PM, arrives Fullerton 5:39.
Bus 4984 Departs Fullerton at 6:20 PM, arrives PS 8:15, Indio at 9:15

Westbound

Bus 4969 Departs Indio at 8:05 AM, Palm Springs at 9:00, Ar Ful 11:21 AM
Train 769 Departs Fullerton at 11:33 AM, arrives Los Angeles at 12:10 PM

Bus 4985 Departs Palm Springs at 3:10 PM, arrives Fullerton at 5:25
Train 785 Departs Fullerton at 6:16 PM, arrives Los Angeles at 6:55 PM

Note: Only one bus goes to/from Indio

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