Editor: It has been a week since the passing of our good friend, Jon Christensen, who wrote on occasion for both the OB Rag and the San Diego Free Press, writing under his initials, JEC. Here, below, we repost his two-part series on “Riding the Rails in the West – The State of Amtrak”:
Part I: Are We There Yet?
Its 6am – still dark with a morning fog when we board the Pacific Surfliner in San Diego. While there is a train leaving at 6:35 am, Amtrak urges passengers booked on the Coast Starlight to take the first train out at 6 am, likely based on experience with frequent delays. But today’s train leaves on time with a few dozen blurry eyed passengers. We were bound for Chicago via Oakland.
Days before we departed, I had mentioned to my doctor I was about to leave on a train trip, from San Diego to Chicago via Oakland. He looked up, surprised, “what, you can do that, take a train from here to Chicago?”
A more common response – why would you want to? Ask yourself, to get from one city to the next; to go from LA to the Bay Area or Sacramento, or San Diego to Phoenix – does Amtrak come to mind? If you’re like 96% of the population the answer is a simple no. In California only 5% rely on public transportation to get to and from and Amtrak accounts for only a small portion.