Report and Photos by Noel T. Braymer
Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them
I woke up early on December 21st and noticed that the world hadn’t ended so I decided that it was good day to go for a train ride. I arrived at my local station in Oceanside for the 7:35 AM departure of Metrolink 850 to Riverside. I like this train because I can sleep later than the trains going directly to Los Angeles for the morning commute and I can also use it to go to Riverside or make a connection to San Bernardino. The 850 is never crowded and I think that is because few know about the connections with this train. Metrolink doesn’t recognize the connections on its web site or when buying tickets. I’d like to see all Metrolink trains from Oceanside connect with Coaster Trains and in Orange County connect to Inland Empire Metrolink trains. This would boost ridership and increase the places you can go by train at little extra cost.
I got off at Irvine to make my connection to Los Angles on Metrolink 687. I also wanted to see the Surfliner Express the 599. This train for most of the year has been late and usually this forced the holding of 687 so it could pass. Not today because the 599 was on time and so was the 687. For the last few months the 599 has been run with Surfliner equipment instead of older conventional cars. Amtrak has admitted that many of the on time problems with the Surfliners can be traced to trains with conventional equipment which take more time to load and unload. The 599 now has Surfliner equipment and good on time performance. There hasn’t been ridership growth though with better on time service and at Irvine more people got off than on. There still is one trainset of convention equipment on the Surfliners. As for the 599 this day it was using a locomotive for long distance trains instead of the F-59 locomotives which are geared for faster acceleration for corridor service for the LOSSAN Corridor. Speaking of on time the 687 without much effort arrived 9 minutes early into Los Angeles. We would have been in earlier but had to wait for a long train of several trainsets of morning Metrolink arrivals on their way to Taylor Yard.
Once in Los Angeles I took Christmas related pictures of Union Station and headed out first to Sierra Madre. This is the end of the line now for the Gold Line. I was unable to see or shoot pictures of construction of the extension to Azusa on the Gold Line from the station. I made a note of bus service from this station to Claremont which should be close to the construction. I returned to LAUS to ride the Expo Line. I was riding Metrorail this day with a Tap card. I can transfer to Metrorail using my Metrolink ticket but I was planning to ride the Santa Monica Bus from Culver City to Santa Monica to get pictures of construction of the extension of the Expo Line. I got a Tap card which cost a dollar to ride LA Buses and is good for 3 years. I could have loaded a 5 dollar Day Pass on the Tap card but instead bought prepaid cash fares. I read on line that Santa Monica Bus was or is going to accept Tap cards but I wasn’t sure if it would accept the Metro Day Pass. Connections to transit from trains is still confusing and poorly organized for people going to towns they don’t live or work in.
When I got off the Expo Line at Culver City my disappointments started. I could find no information at the station for local transit connections. Neither was there a central bus transfer station between buses or from Light Rail. The parking lot looked unfinished and poorly paved plus didn’t have bus stops near the station. I ended up walking around the perimeter of the station and even saw a Santa Monica Bus on nearby Venice Blvd. Finally at least a 100 yards from the platforms I found a lonely Santa Monica Bus stop sign with a bus schedule on it for Line 5 to Santa Monica by way of Century City. I waited for the next bus but the schedule wasn’t being followed so I gave up and got on the next train. While waiting to leave I could see in the distance a bus stopping at the stop. At this point I just wanted to leave. Since Culver City is the current termius for the Expo Line I expected better bus connections and on site information. Short of driving I would be better off bringing a bicycle with me to follow the construction for pictures. Both Metrolink and Metrorail allow bikes on board.
After I got back to Union Station and had a late lunch I decided to check out Megabus. The Megabus stop is at the end nearest the freeway and next to the LAX Flyaway stop. When I got there, there was a crowd of people, most with luggage waiting for a bus. The wait went on for some time which might be because the bus was late. I don’t know since no schedule was posted at the stop and you need to go online to see one. Finally a bus arrived and it said Grey Line not Megabus which now owns Grey Line. It wasn’t a double deck bus either which is what I wanted to check out. By now I was ready to head out to catch Metrolink 602 leaving LAUS at 3:20 PM. Even this early there were people all over the station and Metrolink Platforms. Getting there early I had a good choice of seats. Since Amtrak and Coaster have WiFi I assumed that Metrolink did too. But I couldn’t get a signal and later checking the website there was nothing about WiFi. The ride was uneventful with no delays until we left San Juan Capistrano and entered Serra Siding. We then received an announcement the the train was going to stop and wait for at least 10 minutes for another train. The train we waited for was Metrolink 808 leaving Oceanside at 4:27 for San Bernardino and due in San Clemente at 4:50 and San Juan Capistranto by 5:03PM. The 808 was late and past us at Serra by 5:04 PM. We had sat at Serra for almost 15 minutes. The happens often between the 602 and the 808 which reflects the bottleneck between Serra and San Onofre sidings. But the irony of this is my train still got into Oceanside just about on time. It will be nice once we get more track work finished and can take 10 to 15 minutes out the running times of most trains between Los Angeles and San Diego.