Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Riding The Pacific Surfliner

Travel: Riding the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner from Santa Barbara to San Diego affords some great views and actually is more affordable than driving a car for many solitary riders, but there are some flaws.

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

Let me make this short and as to the point as possible… I love riding trains. Even with all the imperfections in Amtrak and the other train services in this country it is still one of the things that make me happy. I love having the freedom to read, work, sleep, visit, and enjoy the scenery as I travel even as I am frequently running behind schedule. But as most Amtrak riders know…it goes with the territory. You always prepare for the worst.

That being said, I decided to take the train south to attend a Lean and Green Seminar in Del Mar. (I live in Fullerton in Northern Orange County, CA…and picked up the Amtrak in nearby Anaheim by Anaheim Stadium after taking an OCTA bus to get to the station.) It was a beautiful Southern California day…a perfect day for being by the beach and for a train ride.

As a side note, since I was going to a Lean and Green seminar I would have though that my colleagues and people that attended the seminar would have made an effort to get into the spirit of the day. I thought I would have more company on the train. I thought I would see more alternative fuel vehicles and bicycles and backpacks in the parking lot of the Country Club where the event was held.

But no dice. A lot of gas guzzling SUV’s and luxury cars.

Ok, Rome wasn’t built in a day. To be honest with you…I diverted back slightly when I was running behind and couldn’t get a North San Diego County bus up to the seminar site right away…I ordered a taxi which was not run on bio fuel. But that was my only slippage on the environmental front. But if I didn’t do that I wouldn’t have met this wonderful man from Somalia who was driving the taxi. We had conversation about how happy he was to be here in America away from the Civil War and strife in his home country. I learned more about the situation and about the geography of Somalia and the neighboring countries.

The train to San Diego is called the Pacific Surfliner. This route from Santa Barbara to San Diego is in the top ten of the Amtrak routes for beautiful scenery in my book. So one problem with this route is the fact that the windows are not cleaned regularly and you can not enjoy this beautiful scenery, especially from San Juan Capistrano on south where the Pacific Ocean and coastal communities are your constant companion. The other problem is, as is the case in a lot of long distance trains, that the train is older. There are not many outlets for your laptop or charging portable devices.

The Cascades train from Eugene, OR to Seattle, WA is the best in this regard. Amtrak and the states of Oregon and Washington co-op recognize that this route is frequented by business people. Another minor point of contention is the CafĂ©. The staff was kind and courteous but there really should be a dining room on this route – helpful if you are going from Santa Barbara all the way down to San Diego. It's a long enough trip to warrant one.

I loved the Solana Beach Station. Didn't catch the architect but reminded me of a Frank Gehry-designed building with a bridge across the tracks to Highway 101. Great modern architecture mixed with the beautiful atmosphere of the shops and restaurants along famed Highway 101 and the Pacific Ocean. A quaint and wonderful seaside community.

I also loved the fact that I figured that I actually saved money yesterday from driving my car with the price of gas. I took a car off the road. This is one of the few routes that the timing from LA to San Diego beats the automobile especially in Rush Hour. The 5 freeway from LA to San Diego can be very congested.

After my seminar in Del Mar, I got on a North County bus and took it back to the station. Hopped on another Amtrak and went to the old downtown station in San Diego. I took the trolley out to San Diego State University for a night game at Tony Gwynn Stadium between the Aztecs and Long Beach State. The new trolley, not to be confused with the old trolley, is more like the Metrorail system trains in Los Angeles and is a wonderful way to get around. San Diego’s transportation system doesn’t earn enough respect. Can’t wait for fall where I can ride the blueline to the Green line from the Amtrak station to Qualcomm Stadium to see the Chargers or San Diego State football.

No comments: