Amtrak should have an overnight LA-Bay Area train

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,558
Honestly, CalTrans and my legislature should put up or shut up when it comes to Amtrak California. California should have 200+ Intercity train trips per day including a handful of overnight trains. I'm ok with paying a little extra in taxes if it means we have an intercity rail network to rival countries like Poland. And that's something that most people would be fine with if someone made the case for it.
Depending on how you define it, 200+ might be overkill, but I think that "clock" service on most of the major routes and significant north-south connectivity without forcing a mode shift (namely plugging the hole with buses). The main problem, at present, is that you have two ways to do that and both involve major time-killers (Tehachapi Pass is beautiful but slow, and so is the Coast Line).

A pair of north-south overnight trains (one on each line) would be nice. But it's got practical issues in both cases. I guess the question is what the economics of a "baseline" overnight train with a significant complement of sleepers (the Spirit of California was notably mis-equipped...it had two sleepers that apparently had a tendency to sell out and a batch of coaches that went empty for much of the route; anecdotally, the train seems to have needed another few sleepers since there are only so many pax who are going to willingly go overnight in an Amfleet I) and a cafe.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
25,556
The problem in the US is a shortage of Sleeping Car inventory.

Another problem is the inevitable desire to dress up a Sleeper service like a Christmas Tree, with progressively more features that are really quite unnecessary for just an overnight trip, thus unnecessarily increasing the cost of the service.

Once we can start addressing both of these problems it might get easier to deploy more single night overnight service where trackage access problems can be resolved cost effectively. That problem hangs over all service whether overnight or day time.
 
Joined
Nov 11, 2016
Messages
2
I agree that an overnight train from SF to LA (as well as DC to Boston) would be great. In terms of the sleeping cars, Amtrak should put in a bunch of airline business-class style lie-flat seats in first class without the separate bunks or showers. They could comfortably fit many more of these into a coach than roomettes, and they could retrofit an existing coach quickly at reasonable cost. It would make overnight trips desirable for business and other travelers. Having an 8 to 10 hour trip would allow enough time for a good night sleep.
 

seat38a

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2014
Messages
2,025
If I was a Californian, I'd trade a few San Joaquins for an overnight LA-Bay Area train along the CS route.
But your not, and I'm pretty sure a super majority of voters in California, including myself would not agree to get rid of couple of San Joaquins which benefit the San Joaquin Valley, and also a service that I also use, plus agree to more taxes so we can have random visitors have a joyride on our dime.

The problem in the US is a shortage of Sleeping Car inventory.

Another problem is the inevitable desire to dress up a Sleeper service like a Christmas Tree, with progressively more features that are really quite unnecessary for just an overnight trip, thus unnecessarily increasing the cost of the service.

Once we can start addressing both of these problems it might get easier to deploy more single night overnight service where trackage access problems can be resolved cost effectively. That problem hangs over all service whether overnight or day time.
Oh but you know everyone is going to want a dining car with fresh cooked eggs delivered to their beds, somewhere near Burbank. Plus also be allowed to stay in bed after arriving at LAUS until they are ready to leave on their time.:D

I agree that an overnight train from SF to LA (as well as DC to Boston) would be great. In terms of the sleeping cars, Amtrak should put in a bunch of airline business-class style lie-flat seats in first class without the separate bunks or showers. They could comfortably fit many more of these into a coach than roomettes, and they could retrofit an existing coach quickly at reasonable cost. It would make overnight trips desirable for business and other travelers. Having an 8 to 10 hour trip would allow enough time for a good night sleep.
I'd be happy with Delta One or Polaris style seats, with maybe curtains like the open sections used to have.
 

sttom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
369
Depending on how you define it, 200+ might be overkill, but I think that "clock" service on most of the major routes and significant north-south connectivity without forcing a mode shift (namely plugging the hole with buses). The main problem, at present, is that you have two ways to do that and both involve major time-killers (Tehachapi Pass is beautiful but slow, and so is the Coast Line).

A pair of north-south overnight trains (one on each line) would be nice. But it's got practical issues in both cases. I guess the question is what the economics of a "baseline" overnight train with a significant complement of sleepers (the Spirit of California was notably mis-equipped...it had two sleepers that apparently had a tendency to sell out and a batch of coaches that went empty for much of the route; anecdotally, the train seems to have needed another few sleepers since there are only so many pax who are going to willingly go overnight in an Amfleet I) and a cafe.
My definition of trip would be round trip, sorry I didn't put that. But the legislature needs to put money where it's mouth is.

To have hourly service along the busier parts of the existing lines would lead to about 20 round trips per day on the Capitol and Surfliner along with 40 along the San Joaquins if there are 20 trips to each end of the line. That's 80 trips right there.

Add in 12 for service to Redding, 12 down the Coast, including a couple overnighters, 12 down Tehachapi, 5 Reno trains, 5 Salinas trains, 10 Del Montes, 3 over the Shasta routew add 59 more (total 139) This doesn't include a Redwood route which could become a reality of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge gets rebuilt with a rail link. That could easily become another hourly corridor over some segment of it.

Adding another 60 wouldn't be hard if we through in express service, limited stop trains and locals like what are planned on the NEC to lines like the Surfliner or Capitol.

I get that this can't happen overnight (pun intended) but this state needs a bold push for rail. It's already faster to take the Capitol from where I live to Sacramento than it is to drive. As time goes on this problem will only get worse. The state needs to get off it's collective backside and live up to its its talk.
 
Joined
Feb 19, 2020
Messages
1
Amtrak operated a California-funded overnight train between Sacramento, the Bay Area and Los Angeles between 1981 and 1983 called the Spirit of California. Here's what Wikipedia says about it: "The new train departed Los Angeles at 8:25 PM, arriving in Sacramento at 9:30 AM the next morning. The southbound train departed at 7:55 PM and arrived at 9:00 AM the next day. "
 

west point

Conductor
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
2,039
Once enough equipment becomes available what would be idea for a Lax departure at 1900. Arrive at a leisurely pace at San Jose at 0600. At San Jose split the train and front part continue to Sacramento arriving at 0930. Back a Caltrain to rear portion and arrive San Fran at 0800. If not Caltrain back one of the Amtrak AEM-7s to the rear portion. If traffic warrants run two sections one each to san Fran and one to Sacramento.

Reverse SFO section dropped at SJC and Sacramento section backs onto that section. Could even run separate sections at high travel times and combine at low season.
 

Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,558
What's your proposed SB timing? I ask because the desirable arrival slots are a bit narrower than desirable departure slots...you probably have a 4-5 hour range for after-work departures [1700 or 1800 to 2200 or 2300] whereas arrivals are a somewhat tighter fit [0600 can be pushing it, as can 0900].
 

west point

Conductor
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
2,039
South bound leave San Fran 1900 , Sacramento 1700, San Jose 2100, Arrive LAX 0800. San Diego does not appear necessary for thru cars. That would really prevent proper servicing of the rail cars in LAX.
 
Last edited:

Tom Booth

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 5, 2019
Messages
148
Once enough equipment becomes available what would be idea for a Lax departure at 1900. Arrive at a leisurely pace at San Jose at 0600. At San Jose split the train and front part continue to Sacramento arriving at 0930. Back a Caltrain to rear portion and arrive San Fran at 0800. If not Caltrain back one of the Amtrak AEM-7s to the rear portion. If traffic warrants run two sections one each to san Fran and one to Sacramento.

Reverse SFO section dropped at SJC and Sacramento section backs onto that section. Could even run separate sections at high travel times and combine at low season.
The key is SF arrival and departure.
 

Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,558
The key is SF arrival and departure.
I agree that it is important, but in the scheme of things I think the handling of the "whole" Bay Area is important, San Francisco proper "only" has 885k-ish residents. You've got more people living in the East Bay than on the Peninsula, and San Jose is bigger than San Francisco (Oakland is smaller, but I believe that has as much to do with being a relatively less consolidated jurisdiction as anything). This isn't to say that your path for getting from the East Bay to the Peninsula is particularly smooth (that really leaves something to be desired in terms of some transit connections)...but I don't think you can take arrival/departure times at 4th and King as being the end-all/be-all here.

(Also worth considering in this is how ridership between LAX and Santa Barbara will play here. I seem to recall that such was a mixed bag for the Spirit of California: It generated a lot of sales but also caused a few capacity issues.)

Likewise, I suspect that having a set of stops en route from downtown SF to San Jose would generate significant ridership.
 

Tom Booth

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 5, 2019
Messages
148
I agree that it is important, but in the scheme of things I think the handling of the "whole" Bay Area is important, San Francisco proper "only" has 885k-ish residents. You've got more people living in the East Bay than on the Peninsula, and San Jose is bigger than San Francisco (Oakland is smaller, but I believe that has as much to do with being a relatively less consolidated jurisdiction as anything). This isn't to say that your path for getting from the East Bay to the Peninsula is particularly smooth (that really leaves something to be desired in terms of some transit connections)...but I don't think you can take arrival/departure times at 4th and King as being the end-all/be-all here.

(Also worth considering in this is how ridership between LAX and Santa Barbara will play here. I seem to recall that such was a mixed bag for the Spirit of California: It generated a lot of sales but also caused a few capacity issues.)

Likewise, I suspect that having a set of stops en route from downtown SF to San Jose would generate significant ridership.
More stops between SF-SJ would also be more time consuming and it's pretty easy to get from any town in between to either SF or SJ on Caltrains. I get your points on demographics in the Bay Area but San Francisco (and the peninsula) has vastly more visiting business people and tourists. Because of that I think an SF stop is essential to a successful Bay Area-LA train.
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
1,663
More stops between SF-SJ would also be more time consuming and it's pretty easy to get from any town in between to either SF or SJ on Caltrains. I get your points on demographics in the Bay Area but San Francisco (and the peninsula) has vastly more visiting business people and tourists. Because of that I think an SF stop is essential to a successful Bay Area-LA train.
The last time I went to San Francisco, I flew to Oakland. Even if you fly to SFO, it's not exactly in the heart of the city, in fact, it's a pretty long ride, even if shorter than the trip from the Oakland Airport. The Bay Area is so spread out, no matter where you let people off, it's going to be inconvenient for somebody. The same is true for the LA area. In fact, come to think of it, an overnight train to the Bay area really should start in San Diego. Not only do you get additional business from San Diego, you can give the people in Orange County a one-seat ride to the Bay area, too.
 

Tom Booth

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 5, 2019
Messages
148
The last time I went to San Francisco, I flew to Oakland. Even if you fly to SFO, it's not exactly in the heart of the city, in fact, it's a pretty long ride, even if shorter than the trip from the Oakland Airport. The Bay Area is so spread out, no matter where you let people off, it's going to be inconvenient for somebody. The same is true for the LA area. In fact, come to think of it, an overnight train to the Bay area really should start in San Diego. Not only do you get additional business from San Diego, you can give the people in Orange County a one-seat ride to the Bay area, too.
San Francisco is one of the smallest (49 sq miles) and densest (885,000) cities in the U.S. It's nothing at all like LA.
 

sttom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
369
I personally wouldn't say having a one seat trip from San Diego to San Francisco/Sacramento would be necessary or even advisable at the start of an overnight service. Right now, a bigger drain on ridership is having to take a bus most of the way. California could sustain way more trains than it presently has, but local politics isn't friendly to big projects here.
 

toddinde

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 23, 2015
Messages
81
Cabin

There's now on overnight bus from LA to San Franfrisco at a moderate price. It's time for Amtrak to step it up and bring back the Spirit of California. Preferably from San Diego to Sacramento along the coastal route.
Yes, this makes a lot of sense. Night trains are returning and expanding throughout the world. For those interested in the concept, google the Caledonian Sleeper which runs from London to Scotland overnight. Many are tired of air travel, and an overnight train could make easy connections to Napa, Sonoma and the Sierras. People are looking to lessen their carbon footprint and also avoid the stress and hassles of flying. A night train from San Diego to Sacramento via the coast line, with great service, would be very popular. Of course, until the late ‘60s, the Southern Pacific has its luxury overnight Lark from LA to San Francisco. While the SP downgraded service in the mid-sixties, the Lark was luxury and popular through the 1950s, and was the way to travel overnight along the Coast Line. With the many rail and thruway connections including CalTrain, this would be a winner. A sleeper bus is a poor substitute for a train, but illustrates that there is a market for those who want to sleep while they travel to have a full day at their destination.
 
Group Builder
Top