Sunday, March 25, 2012

Get With the Program, AmTrak!

Camille and I took Kyle to the train station in San Juan Capistrano to catch the 1:30 AmTrak Pacific Surfliner to San Luis Obispo.  We were about 20 minutes early so we crossed over the tracks into the old town part of San Juan Capistrano.  The train station originated in 1894 as a Santa Fe Railroad depot.  It is part of the historic old town of San Juan Capistrano, close to the mission.  There was a little cafe and we ducked inside, as it had started to rain.  We ordered sandwiches to go so Kyle could eat his on the train.  With our bags of sandwiches in hand, we trekked back across to the line of 40+ people waiting to get on the train.  Kyle had a couple backpacks, a duffel bag, and a plastic container with the rest of his birthday cake.  We hugged Kyle goodbye and then Camille and I crossed back over the tracks and sat at a little table outside the cafe, under an overhang so we were dry, and ate our sandwiches while watching for the train.

Photo from Wikipedia

The train pulled in right on time.  We heard the loudspeaker saying something about "full" and "standing room" and "not boarding."  I said to Camille, "Poor Kyle.  He's going to have to stand.  Hopefully people will get off at Union Station in LA and he'll get a seat."  Then the train pulled out.  All 40+ people, including Kyle, were still standing there.  He told us that they didn't allow anyone to board.  We marched over to the ticket office and stood in line with the other passengers.

The train originated in San Diego and the last stop was San Luis Obispo.  From Imperial Beach in San Diego County onwards, the train was full and no one was allowed to board.  This is the last day of Spring Break for the Cal State schools.  What were the AmTrak people thinking??  According to the ticket agent, they commonly oversell and just assume that a (large?) number of people won't show up.  Kyle's ticket was $50 -- there was no way we were not going to show up and I'm sure that was the same for the other passengers.  How many train stations did they go through leaving people on the platforms? San Juan Capistrano is a tiny little station with just a small ticket office, no indoor seating and a small area to line up next to the train tracks.  I can just imaging the large crowds at some of the other stations.  We booked Kyle out of San Juan Capistrano, instead of Fullerton which is closer to his dad's house, because it was at the beginning of the line and we figured he would have a better chance at getting a seat.  Wrong.

Meanwhile, Kyle was getting very nervous.  He has class tomorrow morning at 8:00.  I was getting angry thinking about driving Kyle to San Luis Obispo -- which is a good five hours away and it is raining -- and then driving back home in time to get to work tomorrow.  Of course, I have a 9:00 meeting that is not optional.  I thought it might work to drive him to Santa Barbara, only three hours away, and have him catch the train there.   Hopefully, that close to the end of the line there would be seats.

While I was trying to formulate a plan, I was vaguely aware of a man talking to some other people about having a van and that he was going to drive.  Then I heard Kyle pipe up "Did you say you are going to Cal Poly?" Yes. "Do you have room for one more?"  Yes, I have one seat left.  "Can I have it?"  And a few minutes later it was all settled.  Kyle got a ride to Santa Barbara with a van full of Cal Poly freshmen.  The dad said that if the train was still full at Santa Barbara, he would take them the whole way. 

Kyle sent me a text at 5:00 and said that they had just passed the train.  I asked him if he had flipped it off.

At 6:00, he sent another saying he was on the train in Santa Barbara.  The other passengers told him that it had been crazy crowded until Ventura with people standing and sitting in the aisles.

Why can't we have trains like the ones in London and France?  They are on time, reasonably priced, and when you buy a ticket you get a seat.  AmTrak complains that its ridership is down.  I wonder why.  If this is common practice, which the ticket agent implied, I will try every other mode of transportation first before taking the train again.


  1. Hi Annette! Thank you for checking in. *Whew* This life is exhausting, but I am not beat yet! Not even down. :-) I so love the picture you have at the top of your blog. I so love that my horse friends are writing! XO Many blessings and successful days to you. (p.s. I have heard of the wonderful-ness of the trains across the Atlantic.)

  2. Bummer. Can't imagine the inconvenience this train caused so many people. Glad he finally made it.

  3. That is WRONG!! I hope they refunded your ticket or he was able to use it at the station where he did finally get on. That would make me so angry!


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