Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rail Fever

Pacific Surfliner arriving at the Santa Ana Amtrak station
A couple weeks ago, I took the train (Metrolink & Amtrak) for the first time to visit a friend in Orange County. In the past, since I moved to Pasadena and went carless in November, I had always rented a Zipcar for such trips. Somehow, it never occurred to me that taking a quick, clean commuter train to Orange County might be the better, and cheaper, option.

Now I'm hooked. Rail is such a relaxing way to travel -- I already take the Metro Gold Line for my daily commute -- and it completely bypasses the usually torturous traffic clogging the various routes from L.A. to the O.C. And when I return to Union Station, it's an easy transfer to the Gold Line. From now on, I'll take the train to Orange County as much as possible.

I've even incorporated rail travel into a planned weekend trip to the Bay Area. I'll be flying up late Friday afternoon, after work, to make an 8:30pm concert in Petaluma, but for the return trip I'll be on Amtrak's Coast Starlight train. The trip from Emeryville to L.A. will take more than 12 hours (please hurry up that high-speed rail project!), but I'm looking forward to the coastal scenery along the way and ample time to read one or two books.

Rail Travel Pros
  • Direct Routes into the Heart of Cities (versus airplanes that land at cities' peripheries)
  • No Traffic
  • Safe (safer than automobiles, at least)
  • Scenery
  • Historic Rail Stations (I was completely charmed by the Santa Ana depot.)
  • Inexpensive ($55 for Bay Area to L.A. vs. min. $100 by airplane)
Rail Travel Cons
  • Slow (until the California High Speed Rail network and Desert Xpress are completed)
  • Limited Connectivity (no rail service to Las Vegas or San Francisco)
  • Expensive (for longer trips where sleeper cabins are necessary)


  1. I haven't taken Amtrak since I was a kid. I'd love to take it again--it seems so romantic and fun! Something to consider for your next trip to Chez Brennan-Johnson: there's an Amtrak depot pretty close to us!

  2. I took the train back to LA from San Diego and loved it! Just wish it was faster like the EuroStar. Now THAT WAS fast (from London to Paris). I could FEEL the speed and loved every minute of it.

    Now I just have to try the high speed trains in Asia to compare...