Rail – Plane, Train, Plane (& transit galore)

My long planned trip to experience the new and improved sleeping car service on Amtraks Coast Starlight gets underway tomorrow. In the course of three days Ill be heading south, north and then south again.

If you read my recent post about the detouring Coast Starlight youll know that the trip I originally planned was disrupted due to Union Pacific maintenance work on tunnels around San Luis Obispo. So instead of the train trip originating in Santa Barbara its going to start in Los Angeles, and therefore instead of driving a rental car one-way to Santa Barbara I’m going to fly one-way to Burbank to meet the train.

Here’s my itinerary over the course of the next three days. I’ve embedded links to the airlines and Amtrak so feel free to follow along and check flight and train status to see if I stay on schedule or if my trip gets blown to bits by late planes or trains. I’m already here in Oakland as I write this.

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Wednesday, 29 October:

– BART from Oakland 12th Street Station to the Coliseum Station
– AirBART shuttle from Coliseum Station to Terminal 2 at Oakland Airport
Southwest Airlines, leave Oakland 6:30 a.m., arrive Burbank 7:40 a.m.
– Metrolink train from Burbank Airport station to Union Station Los Angeles (various departures, takes about 20 minutes)
Amtraks Coast Starlight, train 14, leave Los Angeles 10:15 a.m.

Thursday, 30 October:

– Amtraks Coast Starlight, train 14, arrive Portland, Ore. 3:40 p.m.
– Portland Streetcar to my hotels doorstep

Friday, 31 October:

– Portland Streetcar to MAX light-rail to Portland Airport
United Airlines, Portland to Chico via SFO (leave 1:19 p.m., arrive 5:47 p.m.)

Now if youre thinking thats kind of a tight squeeze at the beginning of the trip, youre right.

I get to Burbank at 7:40 a.m., have to pick up a checked bag (still no charge on Southwest for the first bag!) and walk (its that close) to the Burbank Airport station to catch Metrolink or Amtrak for a short commuter train ride to Union Station in downtown L.A. But I like the odds: Department of Transportation on-time performance stats for my Southwest flight show on-time reliability at 90% or higher.

Thats good enough for me!

Because the detour through the San Joaquin Valley is faster than the normal route via the Coast Line, the Coast Starlight will have to wait for a couple of hours in Sacramento in order to get back on schedule heading north so I might have an opportunity to add a mid-journey post. Theres free wi-fi at the train station or at the Starbucks just a hundred yards from the station. Well see.

You might think this trip is an ordeal. I look at it as a blast. Its fun to fit all of these pieces together. Stay tuned for further reports.

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