Saturday, June 18, 2011

What the Hell is Wrong wih the 784? Making the case for the 582

A guest post by DLD

Now I don’t consider myself an investigative reporter (so this should be considered one of the investigative report series), but I would like to give anecdotal support to GNS’s premise that the 784 is going downhill and the 582 is now the preferred train. I am the ex-daily hour-each-way commuter that is now a some-weeks Monday north, Friday south commuter that is also in the hall of fame. Can you follow that? If not, go find my previous guest post to figure what it all means.
A year or more ago (back when I was a daily regular) I would argue with GNS that the 582 was a better choice than the 784 on Friday nights. We did some experiments, and Greg was unconvinced. I will admit that we had some bad experiences on the 582 and some good ones on the 784. But now it looks like I was right after all.
Recently my schedule has pretty much required that I take the 784 from LA to my normal stop in San Diego County. But today I got to LA in time to catch the 582, and what a joyous experience it has been. My good friend ALH was on, which was a pleasant surprise. Plus the rest of the people hanging in the Café were a hoot.
Let’s compare:

It looks to me like GNS’s premise is correct. The 582 is a better choice. I hope I can start making it more often.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What the Hell is Wrong wih the 784? Introduction

In the last couple weeks the on-time performance of this once proud Surfliner has gone spiraling downward like - a slow motion train wreck. The status page below contained only a hint of reality. Arrival time in Solana Beach yesterday was more than one hour behind schedule. Passenger morale is down to the point where people are fleeing to their cars, to other trains, even the Metrolink.

Join us as we launch an investigative series  into the operational issues with Amtrak Pacific Surfliner #784.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Social Rejects on the Train

Most of the train passengers are made up of ordinary tourists and commuters. But it unfortunately attracts a small set of people with "issues". These are people that have a hard time interacting in society without confrontations. Perhaps once every three months these escalate to a point where the problem person gets evicted from the train. Today we saw two of these cases occur within just one hour! On the 784 of course.

Case #1. So this guy is flirting with the LSA. Its quiet conversation and most of us regulars don't notice much except that he's standing at the cafe counter for maybe 15 minutes chatting. He walks away and we hear "CONDUCTOR TO THE CAFE CAR" - the distress call of an LSA needing security assistance. Apparently he punched the next male customer that walked up to the counter (jealous?). And tried to kiss the LSA twice. They threw him off. Strange guy. He looked nervous as the conductor explained this was a "federal train" and he was lucky the guy he punched wasn't pressing charges.

Case #2: This one (photo below) is  a more typical (social reject). Guy walks up to the LSA and asks for information including how many cars are on the train. She knows the Cafe car is #2 but not the exact number of cars.He gets belligerent and throws out the word "bitch".  "CONDUCTOR TO THE CAFE CAR - AGAIN". He's gone.

Case #2: (guy with glasses and shorts)

The good news? 784 was actually on time today.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cell Phone Lady Kicked off Train

I caught this story on CNN. How would we handle this on the 763?

Woman feels 'disrespected' after being kicked off train


Lakeysha Beard said she didn't understand what all the fuss was about when she was escorted off an Amtrak train. Police said she yelled at passengers who asked her to stop talking so loudly on her cell phone.
Story Published: May 16, 2011 at 4:54 PM PDT
Story Updated: May 16, 2011 at 7:49 PM PDT
Woman feels 'disrespected' after being kicked off train
Lakeysha Beard being escorted off an Amtrak train by police.
PORTLAND, Ore. – A woman who got pulled of an Amtrak train by police after passengers complained she was speaking too loudly on a cell phone said she felt “disrespected” by the entire incident.
Lakeysha Beard of Tigard was charged with disorderly conduct after police said she got into a “verbal altercation” with train passengers on Sunday. Passengers complained she refused to put down her cell phone and conductors had to stop the train in Salem, where police got involved.
Beard told KATU she was indeed talking on her phone, but said she didn’t understand why she had to be escorted off the train.
She made the comments during a brief phone interview. Beard declined a more extensive on-camera interview, saying she didn’t feel well.
An Amtrak official said a number of passengers complained Beard was being disrespectful during her prolonged phone conversations on the train. Salem police reported she had been on the phone non-stop since the train pulled out of Oakland, Calif. 16 hours earlier.
While this is an extreme example, social etiquette expert and instructor Jodi Blackwood said too many people don’t exercise basic courtesy when it comes to using their phones.
She said when people speak too loudly and have personal conversations in public places they don’t always realize the message they’re sending.
“What does that say to them? It says that you’re only thinking of yourself and that you are only aware of what you need and what you are doing and you are a less considerate person,” Blackwood said.
Amtrak does have a policy that riders can’t use cell phones in designated “quiet cars,” like the one in which Beard was riding.

Raw video of the incident on Sunday:

More to Explore

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tale of Two Amtrak Songs

A regular on the train alerted us to the existence of the "Amtrak Song". But I found two. First this very happy song on YouTube.


And another one I prefer because it captures more accurately  the mood of a bad day on Amtrak . Unfortunately we only have lyrics. Any musicians out there who can record it for us?


by Unknown - Sing to the tune of 500 Miles

If you miss the train I'm on,
And you doubt that I'll be back,
You will know the train I'm on
Is called AmTrak.
Lord, I'm one; Lord, I'm two;
Lord, I'm three; Lord, I'm four;
Lord, I'm five hours late
To New York.
Not a seat on the train,
Not a place to put my pack,
As the train crawls along
Decrepit track.
Lord, there's one; Lord, there's two;
Lord, there's three; Lord, there's four;
Lord, there's five wrecks a month
On this line.
Warm flat soda to drink,
Stale sandwiches to eat,
And I'd hate to see the cow
That gave this meat.
Lord, there's one; Lord, there's two;
Lord, there's three; Lord, there's four;
Lord, there's five strains of mold
On this bread.

Four O'Clock in the morn,
And a blizzard at my back,
As I'm standing by the track,
In Buffalo.
Lord, there's one, maybe one,
Only one, surely one,
Lord, there's one train a night
On this line.
There's a train going here,
There's a train going there,
But you can't get there from here
On AmTrak.
There's just no train at all,
Yes, there's no train at all,
'Cause they've cut the train that goes
From here to there.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A little perspective, please : A guest post by DLD

A little perspective, please

While I don’t ride the Surfliner every day anymore, I am a member of the Rider Hall of Fame. So hopefully my words carry some weight.

First, a little background… I spent almost three years riding the Surfliner about an hour north in the morning and an hour south in the evening—when things were running smoothly. Some days, it was several hours one way or the other. That’s sort of the way things go on the train. The longest delays, in my experience, were caused by people committing suicide by jumping in front of a train.

Now I ride a few times a month, but I go a heck of a lot further. I take a train, a bus (an Amtrak bus, but it’s still a fricken bus), and another train back and forth to the Central Valley.

This evening I caught my first train in the Central Valley at 5:56 pm. By 9:30, a train and a bus ride later, I was in Union Station. Somebody was filming something in the station (a commercial, I think?), but that’s another story. Only in LA, eh?

More importantly, Traxx was closed. I had to wait ‘till 10:10 pm, when my Surfliner left, to get a Stone. I survived.

Shortly after leaving LA I was happily ensconced in the Café car, working on the computer I am typing this on right now, enjoying my first Stone of the night (I am now on my second, and a third may be necessary). Everything was going fine. Stations were passing by: Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine (almost brought a tear to my eye), and then, well, you regular riders probably know what’s coming.

First I felt the brakes. They were on hard. Then I heard something rattling around under the train. Then I smelled the brakes. They were on hard. We stopped. I’ve been through this before and I was pretty sure I knew what was coming. Less than a minute later, Javier, one of the really good conductors on the Surfliner, was on the horn talking about trespassers and coroners. Yup. I was right. Somebody died. My prediction is it will be ruled a suicide (I’m speculating, here, but I have at least a 90% chance of being right).

Before we get to the meat of my post, let me give my opinion on the selfishness of killing yourself by jumping in front of a train. I’m a pretty easy going guy, so I won’t talk about the interruption of my life. But let’s talk about the other ~79 people on this train (according to Javier). It’s 12:13 am, and every one of those ~79 people is currently an hour late for whatever plans they had when they were supposed to arrive where they are going. And it’ll be at least another hour, maybe two, before we start moving again, if my previous experience is any gauge. Meanwhile, there are other trains waiting for the “accident” scene to be cleared. I have no idea how many people (and freight? There’s probably a freighter or two out there sitting idle, as well) are on those other trains. So, somebody who decided to end it all has just ruined possibly several hundred people’s nights. And then there is the Conductors and Engineer to consider. See below for a discussion on the Conductors’ situation, but let me address the poor Engineer here. The story is that some Engineers can never work again after their train hits a suicide (can you blame them?). And those that can get over it are required to take several months off.

So, PLEASE, if you intend to kill yourself, PLEASE do not jump in front of a train. At the very least, consider the pain factor. Those last few seconds must be excruciating. I heard it, tonight. I know. Pills or booze has got to be a better way to go.

Anyway, back to the real point. I felt pretty unsettled as I realized what was happening. The sound of various body parts rolling underneath the Café Car may keep me awake at night. And when Javier got on the horn, he sounded pretty upset. He apologized for the delay (as if it’s Amtrak’s fault that someone wants to commit suicide) and suggested the Café Car for some solace. Many people took his advice, and my once productive night turned into writing this blog as the line formed, and chaos encroached.

There was one character in particular, “The Hippy” that caught my attention. Shortly after we stopped, he started storming up and down the stairs between the Café and the normal seating area, looking very agitated. There were three or four other “Clowns” dressed for a Night Out on the Town that were acting similarly, though to a lesser degree. The Hippy and the Clowns kept looking longingly out the exit doors of the Café Car, apparently hoping they would inexplicably open and free them from their perceived servitude.

Eventually I noticed flashlights going by outside the car and I could make out Javier and Scott—another conductor that is extremely high on my list of good ones—investigating the carnage, a job I do not envy them for. Next thing you know, they were coming back onto the train via the Café Car doors, and The Hippy and the Clowns immediately accosted them, asking if they can get off for a cigarette. A fricken cigarette? Are you kidding me? The Hippy continued to be quite agitated. Can you say “addiction”?

Someone just died (admittedly, I don’t have a lot of compassion for the selfish suicide), Javier and Scott are on the tracks looking at small pieces of meat that used to be said human being, and now they have to tell several idiots that, “No, you cannot get off the train and have a cigarette.” They handled it way better than I would have.

I believe Conductors have Police Powers on the train, which means they can have people arrested if they have probable cause. If it had been me, I would have arrested the MoFo’s. The Hippy looked like he was on something more potent that Marlboro, probable cause enough for me. Even as a civilian without any police powers I wanted to get up, grab The Hippy by the scruff of his neck, and shout in his ear:

“A little perspective, please! Somebody just died. Scott is taking a pair of gloves off that he had to wear to protect himself against blood born diseases because he was handling detritus of a type that hopefully you and I will never have to be close to. Don’t you think your fricken cigarette can wait?”

But I didn’t. And Scott and Javier were, as always, calm and pleasant. That’s grace under pressure, if you ask me.

It’s now 12:37 am. I have not seen hide nor hair of The Hippy in quite some time, and I will concede that the Clowns have now settled down and appear to be washing away their nicotine urges with alcohol. More power to them. In fact, I think I might join them (time for that third Stone… good thing the wife is picking me up tonight… errr… this morning).

But I won’t forgive the Clowns—and most certainly not The Hippy—for making Javier and Scott’s job a little bit harder on an already awful night. A little perspective, please.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Sense of Scents

We regulars on the 784 encounter many pleasant aromas during our nightly travels: a warm pepperoni pizza-for-one and the simply awesome jalapeno cheeseburger that recently made a comeback spring to mind. Tonight, we were assaulted by a completely different olfactory experience: broccoli.

Now, you may be thinking "Broccoli? Heh?" But it begins to make sense if you consider how many passengers enter and exit the lavatory between LA and San Diego. According to one of my comrades, this foul odor made its way into the cafe car starting at Fullerton. Of course his first instinct told him the city of Fullerton itself was the culprit.

As said comrade covered his nose and mouth to ward off the pungent stench, I began to ponder the unknown traveler sitting directly across from me. At first glance, he reminded me of Matthew McConaughey's character in "Dazed and Confused": longish hair, mustache, a mid-70s vibe. He appeared to be the kind of guy who would hug a tree every so often and was quite possibly a vegetarian, particularly fond of green vegetables.

Suddenly, my comrade muttered from behind the hand still covering his face, "What smells like broccoli?" The unknown traveler promptly stood up and marched out of the cafe car.

Case solved.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Good Job Amtrak

Lest one think all we do is complain on this blog, I thought it only fair to point out some positive news. The 784 has been on time pretty much the last couple of weeks. (I hope this doesn't jinx it). This photo shows the train flying into the Irvine station at 6:09

And another thing to appreciate - as gas rapidly approaches $5/gallon, Surfliner tickets have not gone up one cent. With any luck Amtrak corporate won't have time to react before fuel prices start going down again.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Last Call?

Frequent commuters get to know the rules and procedures (some unwritten) better than "newbie" employees on the train.Here are a few of them:

1.Commuters  in the cafe car  should buy the products, and tip the LSA well.
2. Don't bring your own food or drinks.
3. LSA should reciprocate with "free refills" on coffee - even  if it that's not written in the Amtrak handbook.
4. As you head up to LA in the morning , somewhere around Del Mar,  call in the order for drinks and food required for the ride back to San Diego that evening.
          Hint: Fridays and holidays sell more.

The photo to the left is the cooler on the 784 just north of Solana Beach, on  Friday April 15 at 7pm.  I was alerted to this sad condition when I heard the odd announcement on the PA of "Last Call".

Last Call? WTF? Last call should be reserved for 2AM at your local bar. The riders on this train had 37 minutes left to go.

Newbies - reach out to us. We'll be happy to help We don't want to resort to breaking rule #2.

PS: Do they put up with this on the Acela? More about that in future posts....

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Increased Ridership Can Be Bad For Business

Amtrak is on pace to set a new ridership record this year based on it's latest press release. This is good news from the standpoint of overall interest in the rail system. Hopefully it spurs a new era of track improvements and system efficiency. In the meantime, it means more crowded trains and complaints from both regular riders and tourists.

The following photos document a rare, but increasing problem. This is the record of my horrific ride home on 3/18/11.

Picture #1 could be a shot of a Tokyo commuter train (not actually, but you get the point). There were not enough seats for riders. There was not enough standing room either.

Picture #2 shows the riders who were fortunate to make it on the train, but unfortunate enough to have been stranded on the stairwell.  I was shocked to see a conductor make his way through this to punch tickets.  So were some of these people who voiced their displeasure.

Then to add insult to injury, I made my way to the bar only to find it had no beer!

Not a happy commuter...

This particular train did not accept new passengers till Irvine, so I am sure the next one (2.5 hours behind it) was just as joyful.

How Will Amtrak Be Impacted By A Government Shutdown?

With all of the news floating around about the potential for a federal government shutdown, a question came to mind. How will Amtrak be impacted by a government shutdown?

Although Amtrak receives significant government subsidies, the expectation based on a brief article in the USA Today is that the system will continue to operate as normal with ticket revenue providing adequate operating cash flow for a short period of time.

Good news for commuters who want to get to work, but you may want to share this information selectively if you plan on using the shutdown as an excuse to "work" from home.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It's Back!

I am shocked to find out that the ridiculously good tasting Jalapeño Burger (I also understand that it is ridiculously good for you) has found its way back into the refrigerator of the Sea View Cafe. I am not sure if this is the result of Amtrak actually listening to the voice of the customer, or if they are simply trying to unload stock prior to expiration. I don't really care what the reason is, all that matters is that it is back.

Please be sure to enjoy the best food on the Amtrak rail system while it is still here. Just be kind enough to leave one for this friendly commuter on Fridays.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

763 Power Spot

The Surfliner Cafe car has 4 tables and seats  11. One of these tables is by far the superior position for the following reasons:
1. Is a single seat with its own table.
2. Has an AC power outlet - the only one available.
3. Good viewing angle  on the coast side of the train.

Like elementary school there is a defacto seating chart on the 763. The power spot goes to a regular with seniority in terms of most miles/year. If that regular is "working from home" on a given day the next senior person  takes it.

One thing that can completely hose this up are non-regulars that get on early in downtown San Diego. Most of us get on in Solana Beach or later. We seldom have the heart to kick out the tourists. Generally speaking they eventually move on their own out of discomfort.

In case you might forget where you are sitting, Amtrak has thoughtfully numbered the 4 tables. And of course the power spot is table # 1. Please respect the seating chart the next time you ride.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Amtrak Salad

The menu at the Sea View Cafe is always changing. Most of the changes involve a shift/increase in price, but every now and then you witness a wholesale change to the menu. Case in point is the recent shift to a more fresh menu that eliminated the infamous Jalapeño Burger and inserted such culinary treats as the Spicy Tuna Ball (I think they have sold 2 to date). Here is a link to the old menu, which is oddly still being listed as the official menu on the Amtrak website.

One thing remains constant throughout these changes, and that is the presence of the building blocks of an Amtrak Salad. It isn't on the menu directly, but if you follow these simple steps, you too can enjoy this healthy treat.

Step 1: Procure one of the cardboard boxes used in the Sea View Cafe to transport large food and drink orders. This box is one of the few free items you will find on Amtrak.

Step 2: Purchase at least 3 bags of snack food. You can chose from such delicacies as Lay's Potato Chips, Doritos, salted peanuts, pretzels, or the hugely popular Cheetos Cheese Snacks. Be sure to also pick up the crouton of the Amtrak Salad, otherwise known as the Peanut M&M's.

Step 3: Open all bags and dump the contents into the cardboard box, mix thoroughly, add M&M's. You should end up with a salad similar to the picture below.

Step 4: Enjoy with some friends.

Monday, March 28, 2011

California Seats Not So Cool

Every once in awhile when we board the 763 train at Solana Beach we are greeted by the depressing site of the California seat. Hope you don’t want to relax or stretch out. Instead of reclining, the lower lumbar portion of this seat will thrust your hips forward, pushing your knees into the seat in front of you! There should be a warning when boarding this train; “If you’re taller than a seven year old, we’re sorry; Thanks for riding the Caltrans \ Amtrak experiment.” After doing extensive research the Surf liner blog has learned that this seat was the result of Caltrans spending your tax dollars to improve on what Amtrak has been doing for years. Why would Caltrans by trains for Amtrak? If it was to subsidize; was it really necessary to turn Amtrak into the Metro?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Amtrak Surfliner Goes Green

The Surfliner cafe car is very small. It holds 4 tables and seats 11 people. The rest of the space is occupied by the food storage/selling area and the humongous ADA compliant restroom. Between the restroom and the first table sits a cardboard trash container. This thing is bulky and gets in the way of people and things.

Recently Amtrak decided to add a second bulky container specifically for recycling. Note the care taken to provide special slots for bottles (e.g. Arrogant Bastard), cans, newspapers and magazines. We guessed the concept was to keep item types  separate and minimize the sorting process for the recycler. That's why we were surprised, after lifting the lid, to find that this is the same old big giant box with no separate compartments.This is so silly it had to be done by committee. Reminds me of another classic invention.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Daylight Losing Time - Yet Another Late Train

The 763 train was late this morning. I have a theory about Amtrak. It operates like a very fragile system. In engineering terms it lacks robustness or redundancy. Or put simply it takes very little to put it out of whack. And with the onset of daylight savings time last night I knew that was all it would take to create a delay, for some reason.

The photo to the left shows  the Solana Beach regulars, at 6:43am, about two minutes before scheduled arrival on a normal day. This morning the picture would appear a bit darker both literally and figuratively as we waited anxiously to see if the train would even show up. These late trains seem to occur in spells in which a week or two with several late trains will occur. The good news is the 763 did show at about 7:02 am. Seventeen minutes late is not too bad. It even made up some of the delay by time it hit Irvine. Let's hope we're out of this spell of late trains for now.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Where's Amtrak

We have had an unfortunate string of late trains on the Surfliner recently. It seems like the train is late more often than not and the list of reasons given is long. Late departure in the morning because the crew slept in, late arrival in morning because of an accident up the line. And to make it even more fun, the train is occasionally, albeit rarely, early! Regardless of the reason on any particular day, these incidents provide opportunities to tell jokes, catch up with friends, and above all complain.

Waiting for the 784 in Los Angeles

The network of regular riders often does a better job of updating each other than the folks at Amtrak do. Texts, emails, and calls go out to riders up and down the line to warn of delays, and to determine how long a delay is likely to be (Amtrak's default reply is that the train will be there in 5 minutes). Alternatives are discussed (carpooling, taking Metrolink, going to Trax) and plans are made. We all eventually make it home safe to try again the next day.

In order to share these updates with the larger group, I have set up a Twitter account under the Rail_Tweet username and will post the status of my trains whenever we are running off schedule. The most recent tweets will also be displayed on the top of the blog homepage. Hope this helps people plan and feel free to send Rail_Tweet your updates as well. Working together is how we will win.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Different Class

It should not come as a surprise that there are different classes of service on the Surfliner. At the ticket counter they offer fares for Coach and, if you are willing to shell out an extra $11, Business - where you get "free" coffee in the morning or a small bottle of wine in the evening. But beyond the published fare categories for seats, there are also different classes of riders.

The Regular always sits in the same seat, usually surrounded by a group of similar Regulars. I would compare it to a blend of a school bus and Cheers. We look out for each other (and each other's seats). If you forget something, call your buddy who rides a bit further and he'll pick it up and hold it for you. Train is late? You will get a text message from up the line letting you know the situation. You will find many of these Regulars enshrined in the Commuter Hall of Fame page on this blog.

In contrast to the Regular is the Casual Rider. It is easy to poke fun at them, but we have to remember that each of us was a Fu-New-Gy at one point in our commuting lives. They are young, old, rich, poor... but most of all, they are clueless. You will find many of these Casual Riders enshrined on the People of Amtrak page on this blog.

Regardless of your class: Regular, Casual Rider, or Business, please let us know the strange and entertaining things you witness on the train. We are happy to share our stories, and to listen to yours.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ponto Station - Why the 784 is usually late.

According to Amtrak's official schedule the 784 arrives in Solana Beach at 7:13pm. This rarely happens. One of the things that prevents this is the lack of a double-track along the entire system.

In some cases one train will have to wait for another to pass before proceeding to single track. The 784 has a special place to stop in between the stops of Oceanside and Solana Beach.

There is a strange dead zone of the Carlsbad coast inhabited by a defunct self-storage site called Ponto Storage. I extracted the Google map and satellite photo to give a feel for this odd locale. I'll try to get some views from the train later next week. The place is truly worthy of a Steven King setting.

On average I think we wait here an extra  ten minutes about four times a week. One idea would be just to incorporate the stop and call it Ponto Station. Perhaps the California High Speed Rail project would be interested.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

In The Dark

The ride home is always entertaining, but sometimes it crosses over the line and becomes strange. Last night was an example of the strangeness that can enter into an otherwise routine commute home.

Everything was normal as we made our way out of Union Station. The regulars were in their standard seating positions and the LSA was doing brisk business. The only items out of place were Big Al and Mark (the banker), who huddled in the corner instead of assuming their normal positions standing in the condiment section of the Cafe Car.

Things deteriorated 10 minutes after leaving the station when the internal power supply cut off. The train got eerily quiet without the normal background noise of the air conditioning fans buzzing. At that point we knew that this trip was going to have issues.

Close your eyes and imagine a 2 hour train ride without lights, air conditioning, flushable toilets... Now think of that ride without beer! The horror! Luckily for us, Big Al was hiding in the corner because he had brought a six pack of beer with him, and he didn't want anyone to see it.

Beer problem solved, we now had to fill the unusual quiet with chatter. I have a limited number of topics to run through in my chat files, so we recycle topics quite regularly. Every now and then you get someone who drops a doozy. Yesterday's tidbit was provided by a random passenger who, after a whole hour of silence dropped this nugget:

"I don't like Swedish people. I'm just throwing that out there"

After the shock of this guy saying something, and after processing just how ridiculous it was, I replied the only way proper. "Me neither... I have always been partial to Norwegians."

Such was the 784 on 2/22.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Express Service

Much marketing is going into the new "express" service (stops below). Strange thing is that it is only one train in one direction. I would rather get home 20 minutes early, so why not run an evening express train south? In any event, I expect this to be a short experiment as the coordination among the Coaster, Amtrak, and Metrolink is poor at best.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What Were They Thinking?

Change isn't always good, and Amtrak recently instituted a couple of major changes to its Pacific Surfliner service that will have nothing but a negative impact to the commuters using its service.

The first and most publicized change is the new "express" train service from San Diego to Los Angeles. The second train (563) north out of San Diego each morning will now be an express train skipping several of the previous stops along the route. It will no longer serve San Juan, Santa Ana, or Fullerton. This will save an entire 15 minutes from SD to LA. That assumes the train is on time, which it never is...

Second, and most resentful, they are changing the menu in the Sea View Cafe. This is more than your standard increase in prices, they are cutting out two items critical to the well being of several of the "regular" commuters. No longer will they serve Courvoisier (sure to force a certain regular onto the Metrolink), nor will they carry the best food served on the rails. Posted below is a picture of the last Jalapeño Burger. Shortly after this picture was taken it was cut into 4th's and shared with a tear in the eye...

The last Jalapeno Burger

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Amtrak Blue Card

When I first rode the train in 2009 there was a plastic rack in the Cafe car that holds train schedules, advertisements, and a special form we affectionately called "The Blue Card". Basically a complaint form to report bad service, bad quality etc.

We used to joke about filling these out every time the cafe car ran out of Stone Arrogant Bastard beer, which happens often on Fridays. But I  think I used this really only one time when a certain person was extremely rude and insulting. It disappeared forever shortly after that.

The image you see to the left is that of perhaps the last remaining copy.