Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Public Transportation Adventures, Part 2

Gas is getting really expensive. I had my first >$60 fillup the other day. So it seemed like a good time to save some gas and ride the trains back from San Diego again.

The more I try to understand the Metrolink trains, the more confused and frustrated I get. As you may recall from my previous post on this subject, I thought I just needed to get on an earlier coaster to make an earlier Metrolink train. But, as I discovered last night as I was figuring out how early we needed to get up this morning, the latest Metrolink train from Oceanside that goes all the way to LA Union Station leaves at 6:41am. The first Coaster doesn't get to Oceanside until 7:33am. This is kind of a problem... so much for taking the trains in the morning. It turns out there is only one train after noon that goes all the way from Oceanside to LA. One.

As I discovered this strange phenomenon of utter disharmony between the San Diego (e.g. Coaster) and Metrolink train systems, I figured there MUST be some way that you can easily ride trains from San Diego to LA. I figured that maybe I just needed to catch a different train from an intermediate location (because more trains do leave Oceanside, they just don't reach LA). The trains leaving from Oceanside are all on the "Orange County Line" route. Most of them reach an intermediate station in Orange. This station is also on the "91 Line", which runs from San Bernardino (which is out east, for LA neophytes) to Union Station. Theoretically, one could catch one train to Orange and another to LA from the Orange Station. But the latest train one can take from Oceanside is the same 6:41am train that goes directly to Union Station. The same train that is too early to catch with a Coaster.

Ok, I could understand why maybe trains operated by different systems might not run in perfect harmony (e.g. Coaster and Metrolink trains). But even different Metrolink lines clash with each other. Here's a good example: Train 850 leaves Oceanside at 7:30am and arrives in Orange at 8:32am. Train 685 starts in Orange and heads for Union Station. Logic might have these trains leave and arrive at times so one could make the connection. But instead, Train 685 leaves Orange 10 minutes before Train 850 arrives. So if you were unlucky enough to get on Train 850 to Orange, you'd be stuck there until 4:38PM waiting for the next train to Union Station.

It just seems a little ridiculous to have a train system and not have it scheduled such that it's easy to use and transfer to different locations. It seems that in the future, I may just have to bite the bullet and buy Amtrak tickets. If I think I will be going back-and-forth enough, I can buy a 10-ride ticket for $150, which is a $7 discount per ride, with a $70 total savings. The only problem being that it's only valid for 45 days.

I can only hope that as (if) more people start to use public transportation as fuel prices are rising, they'll take another look at their infrastructure and improve a few things.

However, to avoid being totally negative, the LA Metro system, which includes 4 light rail lines and all the buses, is pretty good. The light rail lines run pretty often (often enough that I don't need to worry about the schedule) and serve a lot of the greater Los Angeles area. Too bad everything couldn't be this easy.



No comments: