The Amtrak report

I just had my first Amtrak experience over Thanksgiving. I was not looking forward to being stuck in traffic for hours on end driving to Sacramento for Thanksgiving, so I had the brilliant idea of taking the train. I’ve become quite the train fan this past year, so I thought I’d give it a try. Plus, I am toying with the idea of going carless, so this would be a good experiment to see if long-distance trips are doable sans auto.

The train ticket is only $28 each way, and the trip time is three hours from San Jose to Sacramento. This seems to be in the same ball park for time and money. But, the only thing I didn’t take into consideration was the time it takes to get to and from the train station on either side. Since San Jose’s light rail does not directly connect to the train station, I had to give myself over a half hour to get there. I got there way too early this time, and it turns out that 10-15 minutes early would be plenty of time.

I was hoping to sleep on the train, but it makes frequent stops, and with those stops are frequent announcements and people shuffling by. I might have dozed off eventually, but we were stopped in Emeryville for an hour and a half due to a freight train derailment ahead of us. With the delay three times longer than the original 25-minute estimate and my severe lack of sleep, I was craaaan-ky.

But the ride back to San Jose was much less eventful. Thanks to my two adorable nephews waking me up early for two days, I was so sleepy that I slept most of the way back. This was so much better than past drives home where I’ve had to stop in a parking lot for a nap because I was so tired. So was the train better than driving: hell yeah. Definitely the way to go if you are faced with a solo drive to the central valley.

I bit about the train: The seats are much more comfortable than Caltrain. They recline and have footrests.  It was fairly full, but most people each had the two seats to themselves. There is food available on the train, but I don’t recommend it. It makes an annoyingly large number of stops, and I don’t understand why there isn’t an express at least between SF and Sac.

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5 responses to “The Amtrak report

  1. Just a quick note — if it helps you, VTA light rail does indeed have a stop at San Jose Diridon station, on the new Winchester line (Mountain View to Winchester). I’ve taken it myself.

  2. Yes, there is that line, but it takes way more time to take the Santa Teresa line into downtown and wait over ten minutes for the Winchester line (or DASH). It is much faster to just walk from the Children’s Discovery Museum stop.

    I just think it is silly that the Santa Teresa line (which I am guessing is a lot more popular than Winchester) goes so close but not quite to the train station. Very annoying.

  3. I was so happy taking the train along the eastern seaboard, and I was comparing it to flying. So great to just be idle and sit there, and have room to stretch your legs, and be able to be autonomous and (gasp!) go to the cafe car. Trains make me drowsy and sleepy too. I too am thinking of giving up the car.

  4. Do it! We need to create the carless culture! Too many people even in the city depend on their cars too much!

  5. Oh, and another thing I meant to mention. The train feels so *civilized* compared to flying or driving. The train stations are so old and pretty (except Emeryville). You just walk up to the counter to get your ticket, sit down on a wood bench, and then walk out to the train. There’s no screening, no huge lines, no stinky fast food.

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