Thinking of Taking a Train or an Uber to Orange County?

by on June 14, 2019 · 11 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Judi Curry

So … my Great Grandson was going to celebrate his first birthday last week.  Of my three daughters, two live in San Diego and one lives in Orange County, along with her family of ten.  The party for “Wiley” was going to be in a restaurant in Huntington Beach at 6:30 pm on a Sunday evening.

My two daughters that live here and I discussed driving to HB, but there were a lot of factors against that drive: We would have to leave here by 4:00pm to make sure that we arrived in time; we would probably hit a lot of traffic going up – and back -; none of us really wanted to buck that traffic; dinner would probably take1 1/2 hours and we’d be on the road again, etc.

“Why don’t we take a train?” the wise mother said.  To entice them a little further, the wise mother told them that “I have an account with Amtrak and I’ll just put the bill on that tab.”  They agreed that it would be an easy trip and we could all have a celebratory drink and not worry about driving. (It’s taken me 50+ years to figure out how to get them to agree with me!)

I made the reservations on the 3:30pm Surfliner and we would arrive in Santa Ana at 5:59pm.  We were going to take an Uber from the train station to the restaurant and get there in plenty of time to enjoy a margarita – or two – before we ordered out dinner.

Great plan.  Right?  Except that the train was 26 minutes late getting from Santa Fe to the Old Town Trolley station, and I think it was the slowest train I have ever been on in my life.  We arrived in Santa Ana at 6:45pm!  It took us 22 minutes to get from the station to the restaurant AFTER the Uber driver showed up.  Everyone was finished with their drinks, and of the three tables one had already ordered.


But it was okay.  Wiley didn’t know the difference.  He had smiles for everyone and we enjoyed being with him.  Our drink order was brought at the same time as our food order, but that was fine also.

And then … I received the first text message from Amtrak:

“Your train has been delayed 1/2  hour.  It will arrive at the station at 9:30pm.”

There wasn’t much that we could do, so we just enjoyed the time with the family.  And then, as the rest of the guests were getting ready to leave I received another text: “Your train has been delayed one hour. It will arrive at the station at 10:00pm.”  Wonderful.  We didn’t have much choice but to say goodbye to the guests, call an Uber, and go to the depot.  And…by the time we got there I received another message – yeah – another half hour delay.

We began talking about taking an Uber home.  We couldn’t help wonder what an Uber from Santa Ana would cost.  We talked to the ticket seller at the depot about the delay and I told her we were thinking of “Ubering” home.  I asked her if we could get a refund on our tickets, and she said “yes”, but if the train should come before Uber did, we would not have any tickets on the train and might not be able to find a seat.

I checked with Uber to see how much it would cost and the fare was $96.  Considering that I would be getting a $86 refund from Amtrak that didn’t seem all that much, so we called for an Uber and soon we were on our way home.  Great plan, right?  Wrong.

It seems that they are putting in a bridge from San Juan Capistrano to Oceanside, and all of the traffic on Highway 5 was being diverted from 4 lanes into 1.  When we reached San Juan all we could see were taillights – forever.

Our Uber driver kept telling us how happy he was to drive us to San Diego; how much money he would be making on the trip.  And then he said to me, “would you like to hear some Christian music?”  I quickly answered “NO”.  Then he asked me if I would like to hear some Bible stories.  I think I answered “NO” even faster than before. He said to me, while my two daughters giggled in the back seat, “ do you believe in Angels?”  I told him that we have an Angel watching over us all the time. He then asked me if I believed in the Judgement Day.  I told him “no” and I didn’t think I needed to have this discussion with my Uber Driver.  He quickly stopped talking to me.

By now it was past midnight; we were still stuck in traffic, and although Michele and I had a car at the trolley station, Stephanie had been dropped off and would need to get home.  I hated the idea of her driving with the Uber man by herself, but as fate would have it Highway 5 was closed at the 805 junction and we had to take Highway 805 to Old Town.  She just happens to live off of 805 so we were fortunate that she could be dropped off first.  Of course that meant that there was a “second stop” and I had no idea how much it would be until later on that morning when I received an Uber confirmation for $131!

Michele and I arrived home shortly after 1:00am, and I suspect that the train arrived in San Diego about the same time.  (It had hit a pedestrian in Van Nuys and that was the reason for the delay.)

So … June 29th one of my grandsons and his fiancé are having an Open House to celebrate their purchase of a home.  And, of course, they are part of the “Orange County” gang.  We have already begun our discussion of how we are going to get there.  This time the party begins at 1:00 pm on a Saturday afternoon.  Are we going to drive? Take a bus? Take the train???  So far, I am managing to keep my mouth shut!

Editordude: Judi had another experience with trains a couple of years ago. See this.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael June 14, 2019 at 1:49 pm

There are suicides all the time on the train tracks. They’ll call it a trespasser but that’s what it is.


judi curry June 14, 2019 at 3:40 pm

You would think with so many suicides on the tracks they would have a procedure ready to go when the train cannot continue with the journey. We were told that they would be getting a train ready to go from Los Angeles, but after the 3 hour wait the train was still not ready to go.


Angel June 14, 2019 at 3:54 pm

First World Problem Judy – welcome to 2019


Arthur Dean June 15, 2019 at 12:38 pm

I had a similar situation when trying to go from Irvine to LAX for an international flight back in March. My original train from Irvine to LA Union was delayed over an hour, which caused me to miss 2 of the LAX Flyaway busses. It wound up taking me almost 4 hours to get from Irvine to LAX. I was sure I was going to miss my flight but then I made it through security in 15 minutes and managed to catch it in time. It was incredibly stressful though. I won’t be doing this again.


Chris June 15, 2019 at 7:40 pm
Christopher Thomas June 15, 2019 at 7:41 pm

Edit: Train


Chris June 16, 2019 at 1:04 am



Cliff B June 15, 2019 at 8:09 pm

Great story! Just goes to show that, in life, things rarely go exactly according to plan!

Sorry to hear about your bad run of luck on this trip. Under normal conditions, your plan should have been the right choice! Take the train for the long haul and an Uber/Lyft on either end. Did you do something to offend the transportation gods? ;-) Unfortunately, we don’t have control of delayed trains or traffic disruptions.

As for your overly religious driver, that’s an entirely different story. Hopefully you downrated him and reported him. I’m a driver myself and would NEVER try to preach to a passenger! In fact, in their driving tips, both Uber and Lyft tell their drivers not to engage in controversial discussions, particularly politics and religion.

Most drivers agree completely! We’ve had discussions on our forums about this. Almost everyone agrees that the best strategies are neutral music (my choice is soft rock from the 60s and 70s) and gauge the conversation to the passenger. After all, the passenger is paying for the trip, and certainly not paying to be lectured or preached to!

Unfortunately, there are those that feel compelled to force their beliefs and tastes, or to preach to their paying passengers. While “My car, My rules” always applies, it can certainly be taken too far. There has to be a balance. It’s called the “Social Contract”.

BTW, when deciding between the train vs. rideshare, always take into account the TOTAL cost. Almost always worth it to take the train for 1 person, but if you’re talking 4 people, it’s a question of total ticket costs vs. 1 car, and about the price of comfort! (I’d still lean towards the train, if I were a passenger!)

Oh, and always check state highway construction plans when traveling late at night! There have been a LOT of freeway closures for construction and maintenance all over SoCal at night lately. Roadbed fixes and line painting???


Rufus June 16, 2019 at 5:40 am

Back when I was a wage slave, I’d have a monthly meeting in downtown LA starting at 8:30 am. I tried Amtrak from San Diego to LA, but I could never make it to my meeting in time. Then I drove to Oceanside to get on the MetroLink (the furthest south they go) and that train couldn’t get me to LA on time. Then I gave up and drove. I’d leave at 5 am, get to LA at 7 am, then eat breakfast. It was a huge waste of time, but I was never late to my meeting again.


ziggy June 16, 2019 at 10:18 am

I’ve taken the Surfliner many times from Anaheim to various stops in and near San Diego. Never late, in fact so on time I almost missed it a couple times. The last time tho, the Business class which you pay more for, the car looked totally trashed and worn. No “Class” at all. Yuck!


judi curry June 16, 2019 at 8:36 pm

Thanks all for your comments. You are right that the train for 1 person vs several might be best to take a driver. That’s what I thought would happen when I returned my ticket to Amtrak. Getting ready to go again on the 29th, and we are spending hours (!) talking about how we are going to get there. This time, though, there are 6 of us going; we won’t hit night construction but….

And one more thing – when it came time to “evaluate” the driver, I never got the chance. It came up, and disappeared before I had a chance to say anything. I felt gypped!

Appreciate everyone’s comments and understand. I wrote it sort of “tongue in cheek” and I am so glad that it was taken that way! Judi


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