Monday, June 2, 2008

A Public Transportation Adventure

Gas prices just keep getting higher. And although my beloved RAV4 has pretty good gas mileage for how much stuff you can cram into it (~25 mpg), the cost of gas adds up with all the driving to and from climbing areas or San Diego.

There has got to be something better than sitting in traffic on I-5 burning up gas and not get any work done, right?

So this weekend Luke and I decided to experiment. He drove up here to Pasadena on Thursday afternoon because work got cancelled. Then we headed out together (in Luke's car) to Idyllwild for some high-elevation trad climbing (more on that it another blog), returning to San Diego on Sunday night.

Then, this morning (Monday), he dropped me off at the Coaster station in Sorrento Valley. The Coaster is a train that runs between San Diego and Oceanside along the coast. The ride was fairly short and cost $5 for a one-way ticket. In Oceanside, I had to navigate the transit center to try to get a Metrolink train to Union Station. Unfortunately, this was not as easy as the Coaster had been. There were only 2 ticket kiosks at the transit center and both were broken (there was no alternative method to buy Metrolink tickets). Furthermore, the schedule on the website had made it seem like one could ride most Amtrak trains with any Metrolink ticket, but in fact you need the nearly $400 monthly Metrolink pass to ride Amtrak trains.

So, I missed the earlier train due to general confusion and ended up buying a $22 ticket for the next Amtrak train (and waited for an hour). The next Metrolink train wasn't til after 3pm and the earlier one had been at 7:30am. So not great service.

However, once I got on the Amtrak train, the ride was fine - the seats were comfortable, the views were nice when we were on the coast.

Once I arrived in Union Station in LA, it was easy to find the platform for the Gold Line rail to Pasadena. A one-way ticket cost $1.25 and the ride was fast and easy. It left me a short walk from my house.

Overall, the trip coast $28.25, a bit more than gas for the one-way drive from San Diego, but less than if I had brought my car to Idyllwild and back in addition to Luke's car. I also got a ton of reading done, which was really useful. The Metrolink system seemed to be most lacking in terms of regularity of trains or ease of use (like, no way to buy a ticket...), but in the future (now understanding the schedule), I will hopefully be able to better plan around its challenges and lower the overall cost of the trip to $17.75, which, as gas prices increase, starts to be very economically favorable.


Julie said...

ooh i like this. thanks for the info!

Kate T-C said...

Sounds like it was an adventure! Kudos to you for not getting angry or frustrated and just taking the traveling as it comes.

I hear so many complaints about how the public transit in So Cal sucks, but it sounds like a little patience and creativity can go a long way.