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Does anyone here have intimate knowledge/experience with Amtrak Pacific Surfliner?

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Does anyone here have intimate knowledge/experience with Amtrak Pacific Surfliner?

Old 07-02-19, 09:09 AM
  #1  
Aznman
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Does anyone here have intimate knowledge/experience with Amtrak Pacific Surfliner?

In a few more months, I might have to commute via Amtrak every day or nearly every day. I live in a place where Amtrak allows you to bring your bicycle onboard (the Pacific Surfliner service).
http://www.pacificsurfliner.com/?gcl...0aAg1QEALw_wcB

I know the basics: by bring the bicycles onboard, you don't have to pay more than the regular passengers but you do need to schedule 'more ahead of time'.

--------------------------------------------------------------------
A video explaining the basics:
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The potential problem I am sensing is that the service seems to be catered for cyclists who are vacationing/touring; in other words, the service may not be ideal for a daily commute.
Do any of you use the Pacific Surfliner daily/near daily? Are there any particular problems when it comes to reserving the bike racks at such frequencies? If I have a small folding bike instead of a full sized one, do I actually need to reserve a bicycle rack space or can I actually just bring it up with me to the seats?

Your help is much appreciated!
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Old 07-02-19, 09:20 AM
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I used to ride that train back in the late 90's.

Times may have changed but the people who ran the train were all super friendly. If you can't get a response here from people who have used the train in the way you intend to, I'd probably go to the station and just ask questions.

Go one morning and see how full the bike storage is on the baggage car. Ask the conductor when he steps off if they fill up, or if they have overflow where they put extra bikes in another car on the train. They might do something like that without advertising it on the website.

Last edited by Skipjacks; 07-02-19 at 01:26 PM.
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Old 07-02-19, 12:21 PM
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^ ^ ^ What Skipjacks said; go to the people on the ground. They know what's what. Good luck!
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Old 07-02-19, 09:59 PM
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Awesome consensus we are having here. Will follow the sensible advice.
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Old 07-03-19, 12:02 AM
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i take the pacific surfliner (always the 4:07am on a mon or tues) from old town (olt) san diego to union station in la (arrives just around 7am)
about 7-8 times a year to ride around the la area or to ride back to san diego or to ride around and leave back to san diego via another station like
anaheim or irvine. i've run into a fellow cyclist-but he's a commuter like (potentially) you-that asked me if there was any way to check the bike in online
like you can (as referenced) if you're daytripping or vacationing like i do. the short answer is no. apparently, he has to check his bike in every
time-there and back-at the desk even as a monthly pass holder. a total waste of time. i feel bad for him and others like him. i suggested he submit a suggestion
on the amtrak app or with the staff he checks in with 10x a week. it works for me but the system is obviously broken for commuters and that's not okay. there's only
room for six bikes maximum which is a low number. on that first train of the day up to union station, it's not an issue. but on later trains, not so much.
there's gotta be a way that the commuter can register a bike 5x a week (or however often) online as "present," either at the time the conductor scans the pass/ticket or beforehand.

the coaster train (super affordable) here in sd county (dtown sd to oceanside, oceanside/carlsbad to escondido) is much more flexible with bikes. you don't have to pre-register them
but there's not a dedicated car for them and it's kind of a keep the bike(s) in the open areas and secure them as best as you can. not sure about la light rail policies currently.
only taken the blue line once from culver city to dtown la five years ago and the gold line from azusa to dtown la a year ago and they were both (at the time) the same as the
sd coaster train. perhaps you can do the metrolink instead of the amtrak pacific surfliner? the amtrak pacific surfliner costs me $35 from san diego to la union station one way.
i've found the non-amtrak trains to be a relative bargain.

the pacific surfliner is relatively dead (on the first train of the day) until fullerton, where the passengers quadruple. on the way back to san diego in the afternoons/early eves,
riders thin considerably in anaheim and by irvine, you've got the train to yourself. not sure where you'll potentially be commuting from but there might be other alternatives.
kudos to you for thinking about rail tho. hope this helped at least a little.

Last edited by ooga-booga; 07-03-19 at 12:24 AM.
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Old 07-03-19, 01:20 AM
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
i take the pacific surfliner (always the 4:07am on a mon or tues) from old town (olt) san diego to union station in la (arrives just around 7am)
about 7-8 times a year to ride around the la area or to ride back to san diego or to ride around and leave back to san diego via another station like
anaheim or irvine. i've run into a fellow cyclist-but he's a commuter like (potentially) you-that asked me if there was any way to check the bike in online
like you can (as referenced) if you're daytripping or vacationing like i do. the short answer is no. apparently, he has to check his bike in every
time-there and back-at the desk even as a monthly pass holder. a total waste of time. i feel bad for him and others like him. i suggested he submit a suggestion
on the amtrak app or with the staff he checks in with 10x a week. it works for me but the system is obviously broken for commuters and that's not okay. there's only
room for six bikes maximum which is a low number. on that first train of the day up to union station, it's not an issue. but on later trains, not so much.
there's gotta be a way that the commuter can register a bike 5x a week (or however often) online as "present," either at the time the conductor scans the pass/ticket or beforehand.

the coaster train (super affordable) here in sd county (dtown sd to oceanside, oceanside/carlsbad to escondido) is much more flexible with bikes. you don't have to pre-register them
but there's not a dedicated car for them and it's kind of a keep the bike(s) in the open areas and secure them as best as you can. not sure about la light rail policies currently.
only taken the blue line once from culver city to dtown la five years ago and the gold line from azusa to dtown la a year ago and they were both (at the time) the same as the
sd coaster train. perhaps you can do the metrolink instead of the amtrak pacific surfliner? the amtrak pacific surfliner costs me $35 from san diego to la union station one way.
i've found the non-amtrak trains to be a relative bargain.

the pacific surfliner is relatively dead (on the first train of the day) until fullerton, where the passengers quadruple. on the way back to san diego in the afternoons/early eves,
riders thin considerably in anaheim and by irvine, you've got the train to yourself. not sure where you'll potentially be commuting from but there might be other alternatives.
kudos to you for thinking about rail tho. hope this helped at least a little.
This is one of the most helpful posts I have ever received. A most exceptional thank you.
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Old 07-03-19, 11:03 AM
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ooga-booga has more experience than me. For the past few years, my group of cycling friends have organized a ride we call port-to-port-to-port-to-port. We convene at Pizza Port in San Clemente on a Friday night, spend the night, and then ride south, stopping at PP Carlsbad for lunch, PP Solana Beach for a beer, and ending at PP OB for dinner.

Some people ride up to San Clemente on the Fri, some get driven (many actually get dropped off on the Saturday morning), but a few of us park in OB, ride to Old Town, and take the Pacific Surfliner up, and our cars are waiting for us when we get back Sat night. We have always very carefully made bike reservations, and there has never been a problem, but this is only once a year. I recognize that bike bay from your picture! I don't recall ever seeing anybody else's bikes there, this was always I think a 4:0something train northbound from Old Town.
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Old 07-03-19, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
ooga-booga has more experience than me. For the past few years, my group of cycling friends have organized a ride we call port-to-port-to-port-to-port. We convene at Pizza Port in San Clemente on a Friday night, spend the night, and then ride south, stopping at PP Carlsbad for lunch, PP Solana Beach for a beer, and ending at PP OB for dinner.

Some people ride up to San Clemente on the Fri, some get driven (many actually get dropped off on the Saturday morning), but a few of us park in OB, ride to Old Town, and take the Pacific Surfliner up, and our cars are waiting for us when we get back Sat night. We have always very carefully made bike reservations, and there has never been a problem, but this is only once a year. I recognize that bike bay from your picture! I don't recall ever seeing anybody else's bikes there, this was always I think a 4:0something train northbound from Old Town.
I love San Clemente

I haven't been back since '97 but damn I loved that town. Do they still have the Ocean Fest?

Is the town still quaint and amazing with that small town feel in the middle of overpopulated southern California?
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Old 07-03-19, 11:36 AM
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It seems cool, all I know of it is riding from the train up to the Pizza Port, and then riding south out of town.
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Old 07-03-19, 08:13 PM
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Sorry this is off-topic, but I am amazed the SoCal train isn’t like the Bay Area ones with no registration walk on. https://www.capitolcorridor.org/bicycles/
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Old 07-04-19, 03:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Skipjacks View Post
I love San Clemente

I haven't been back since '97 but damn I loved that town. Do they still have the Ocean Fest?

Is the town still quaint and amazing with that small town feel in the middle of overpopulated southern California?
me too.

i don't know about the ocean fest. ***edit***still going. july 20th and 21st this year.

yes. the parts squeezed in between the pacific and the 5 freeway are. the area east of the 5 fwy and north of the camp pendleton
marine base boundaries are slowly getting irvinogenated with the whole big homes/big stucco/tiled roofs pandemic. fortunately, between the base,
the cleveland natl forest boundaries and the existing older development, there's not that much room. san clemente (west of the 5 freeway)
reminds me of encinitas in north county san diego 20-30 years ago.

Last edited by ooga-booga; 07-04-19 at 03:59 AM.
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Old 07-04-19, 03:16 AM
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Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
Sorry this is off-topic, but I am amazed the SoCal train isnít like the Bay Area ones with no registration walk on. https://www.capitolcorridor.org/bicycles/
it would be nice. the amtrak pacific surfliner that i've taken super early in the morning or less frequently in the mid/late afternoon only has the one baggage car with only 6 spaces for bicycles.
perhaps the trains that run the route later in the morning or evening have different capacities but i doubt it. i recall past southern california threads regarding bicycles and the streets free of cars "ciclavia"
that runs a half dozen sundays or so in the greater los angeles area. seemed like amtrak added another baggage car or even two after enough pestering/harassing/pleading for those special events.
amtrak is looking to move as many non-cyclists as possible so adding another baggage car and losing 60+ seats to aid 6 more cyclists is unlikely. what they really need are better designed cars that
accomodate wheelchairs/personal mobility scooters/bicycles on every car on the train...not just one car at the end. not holding my breath. the smaller, regional trains get it tho with the price point and accessibility.
times can be a little wacky tho so definitely check the travel schedule beforehand to see if it works for you.
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Old 07-04-19, 03:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Aznman View Post
This is one of the most helpful posts I have ever received. A most exceptional thank you.

you're welcome. anytime i can help.

just to follow up on the non-amtrak trains...it costs me $5.50 to ride the san diego coaster from old town (sea world area) san diego
to oceanside or vice versa. that's less than a third of the same route amtrak train. to ride the metrolink from oceanside to la union station
(or vice versa) is about half the price and the travel times are comparable. the metrolink has a glut of times northbound before 7am from
oceanside north to la, then a glut of times southbound from la after 3pm. if you're commuting outside of a 8am-4pm or 9am-5pm job, the
metrolink may not work for you but at least investigate. take it on a day off to go for a ride or daytrip semi-locally for a feel.
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Old 07-04-19, 03:57 AM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
ooga-booga has more experience than me. For the past few years, my group of cycling friends have organized a ride we call port-to-port-to-port-to-port. We convene at Pizza Port in San Clemente on a Friday night, spend the night, and then ride south, stopping at PP Carlsbad for lunch, PP Solana Beach for a beer, and ending at PP OB for dinner.

Some people ride up to San Clemente on the Fri, some get driven (many actually get dropped off on the Saturday morning), but a few of us park in OB, ride to Old Town, and take the Pacific Surfliner up, and our cars are waiting for us when we get back Sat night. We have always very carefully made bike reservations, and there has never been a problem, but this is only once a year. I recognize that bike bay from your picture! I don't recall ever seeing anybody else's bikes there, this was always I think a 4:0something train northbound from Old Town.
this sounds dangerously fun and decidedly not low-cal.
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Old 07-04-19, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Aznman View Post
Awesome consensus we are having here. Will follow the sensible advice.
Originally Posted by Aznman View Post
This is one of the most helpful posts I have ever received. A most exceptional thank you.
Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
Sorry this is off-topic, but ...
Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
...you're welcome. anytime i can help.
"Consensus", "sensible advice", "helpful post", "thank you", "you're welcome. anytime I can help".

I had to check to see if this was indeed bikeforums....(just kidding).
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Old 07-08-19, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
this sounds dangerously fun and decidedly not low-cal.
Roger that! Although each year at the end of the ~65mi day, that my bucket list does not include riding a century.
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Old 07-09-19, 02:33 AM
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pity. there is a certain satisfaction to riding a century. obviously, mountain centuries are harder/more demanding but hilly and flattish ones are still worthy.
it's also interesting to see how both the mind and body respond when you're out on the bike that long. did you plan the century around a midway lunch stop at a
fave or new bbq place? are you doing a nocturnal century? doing a majority or all of it in a new area? hitting a new stretch of road? mixing pavement and dirt?
doing a long recon for future ride(s)? riding it solo, with a friend or a group? is it in a difficult area without any/much support?
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Old 07-09-19, 08:58 AM
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For me, the body responds to 50 miles with shoulder and neck soreness, as well as hand, foot, and butt numbness. Maybe I need a bike fit, or a new bike
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Old 07-09-19, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
Maybe I need a bike fit, or a new bike
Do it!

Old bike

New bike
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Old 07-09-19, 10:51 AM
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That new one doesn't look like me
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Old 07-10-19, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
That new one doesn't look like me
But it could...
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Old 07-10-19, 10:56 AM
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It would look like a person who is different than me. That's not me
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Old 07-10-19, 03:00 PM
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I haven't ridden Amtrak in CA, but I have on the East Coast (Wilmington - New York), so I will make two comments:

You can bring folding bikes on to any train any time. Amtrak insists they be folded (even with 10 people in a car that holds 80), but the folded bike will fit on the shelves for suitcases, or also in a larger space with no seats (for excess luggage, wheel chairs, etc.)

Talk to the people at the actual station - they can tell you what they really do. I've brought full sized bikes as checked baggage 2-3 times. The last time, the national information (800 Tel) told me it wasn't possible. When I went to the station, the baggage staff confirmed that of course the bicycle could be checked in one of their boxes. Bicycles as checked luggage will be useless for a daily commuter, but my point is that general Amtrak information is uninformed at best - check in person locally.
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Old 09-24-19, 03:09 AM
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so is the op commuting yet? any workarounds? any success? any failure?
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Old 11-02-19, 07:13 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
so is the op commuting yet? any workarounds? any success? any failure?
Hey Ooga, apologies for the late reply to your diligent follow-ups! I've been very busy making big improvements to my life lately.

I was intending to attend UC Santa Barbara this fall as a non-traditional student. I wasn't sure how useful the Federal Student-Work Aide program would be in terms of helping older students find thriving wages while studying and, surprisingly, commuting on the Pacific Surfliner from what is essentially Los Angeles to Santa Barbara is still cheaper than the average rent in the city.

You guys seem most familiar with San Diego, right? Here is a fun fact: I was accepted into UC San Diego for this Fall Semester but I declined the offer because:
1. My heart was always in the ultimate life-changer known as UCLA (however elitist the individuals may be at the selective university).
2. I thought I was going to be accepted into UC Santa Barbara - my very close second choice- again (I've declined their potentially life-changing offers the first time around due to my conflicting feelings with UCLA's continual lack of acceptance).

Anyways, I'm very enthusiastic about UC Santa Barbara and the admissions officers do think that I would best thrive in the institution. In terms of the Pacific Surfliner I am now deciding between a folding bicycle and - sorry if this might offend some cyclists here - a kickscooter. The distance between the Goleta Station and UC Santa Barbara is only 3 miles one way (1-3 miles are considered ideal kick scooter range).

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