By Noel T. Braymer
Summer, particularly in August up to Labor Day is one of the busiest travel periods in this Country. The Pacific Surfliners has its busiest month in August. The reason for this is no secret. Summer is the time for vacations and leisure travel. People like to travel. Thomas Cook understood that as early as 1841 when he organized the first rail excursion. Much of the extra travel in August on the Surfliners is from passengers going to the the Del Mar Racetrack for a day at the races. Metrolink has good ridership with beach trains and special trains for County Fairs, the Rose Parade and baseball games. Both Metrolink and the Surfliners get ridership for people visiting coastal cities like San Diego, Oceanside, Ventura and Santa Barbara. But there is still plenty of potential markets untapped just in Southern California for leisure travel by train. A major example of this is travel to Disneyland. And not just Disneyland, but many major travel destinations in Southern California, many of which are near Disneyland.
Why don’t more people take the train to places like Disneyland? Often what is missing are good connecting services from the stations to many leisure destinations. Also trains don’t always run at times when people want to arrive or depart from places like Disneyland. Many people on a day trip to Disneyland arrive in the morning and don’t leave until late in the evening. The last Metrolink train on Weekends is at 5:21 PM southbound leaving Anaheim, it is 10:19 PM on weekdays.This would be a tight connections on weekdays for someone staying for the firework show starting at 9 PM.The last weekday northbound train from Anaheim has a connection to Los Angeles at 6:35 PM weekdays and 6:45 PM on weekends.On the Surfliners southbound from Anaheim there is a departure at 10:49 PM and northbound at 11:04 PM.
For my recent trip to Disneyland I took Metrolink 641 north from Oceanside to Fullerton. This is the first direct northbound Metrolink train from Oceanside to Anaheim after the departure of of the 607 at 6:39 AM. There are 4 Metrolink trains from Orange County to Anaheim between the 607 and 641, but there are no connections south of the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo station. Many of the passengers on the 641 are people transferring to the 808 at Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo to the Inland Empire. Oddly enough the next Metrolink train from Oceanside after the 641 is the 609 to Los Angeles leaving only 26 minutes later than the 641. At all stations the conductor on the 641 made announcements for passenger waiting at the station that this wasn’t the train to the Inland Empire or Los Angeles,
At the Anaheim ARTIC station, there is plenty of room for growth. There are plenty of empty bus bays, with only 3 Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) lines now serving ARTIC. These are the 50 which goes near Disneyland on Katella Blvd then out to Long Beach. The 53 starts in Orange, then heads south on Main Street through Santa Ana to the edge of Tustin and Irvine.The 153 goes north of Anaheim to Brea. More bus lines at ARTIC would make it a true hub transit for the region. Megabus and Greyhound also stops at Anaheim.
What was most amazing to me was ART, or Anaheim Resort Transportation. This is a local bus service that serves primarily the “Anaheim Resort district” which includes the Disneyland Resort, GardenWalk, the Anaheim Convention Center and the many hotels in the district. There are 19 ART bus lines, all of which connect to each other at its hub at the Disneyland Resort Transportation Center. The Disneyland Resort is comprised of Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Theme Parks, 3 major hotels and the Downtown Disney District. Many of the 19 bus lines on ART run about every 20 minutes. There are no published timetables for most of these buses and times are subject to traffic. But you can use your cell phone to text TEXT2GO with your Bus and stop number for real time arrival information.
At Disneyland, ART passengers can transfer to almost any place in the Anaheim Resort District. Not only that there is service to Buena Park to Knotts Berry Farm, Medieval Times, Pirates’s Dinner Adventure and other attractions. ART also runs connecting buses to the Metrolink trains at the Anaheim Canyon Station to Disneyland. At ARTIC there are the 14 and 15 buses to Disneyland. The 14 bus arrived first, but the driver suggested that passengers for Disneyland wait for the 15 which was right behind the 14 which takes a more direct route to Disneyland. Coming back from Disneyland I took the 14 bus which came directly to ARTIC. When the 15 bus turned up Harbor Blvd, it was full of ART Buses. Each line had its own distinct graphics on the sides of the buses. The 14/15 buses are mini-buses with 28 seats and a wheelchair lift. But many of the other ART buses were standard 40 foot long buses.
There is a large untapped market of leisure travel on the non-rush hours times that can be served by rail. What is generally missing are trains running at the right times for leisure travel and connecting bus service to get people where they finally want to go. The Pacific Surfliner could carry more passengers to Disneyland. This would need packaging with connections to hotels and local transportation like ART. For people staying at a hotel the time of arrival and departure for the train is not critical when people are staying in Anaheim for a few days. For Metrolink carrying day trip riders to Disneyland would need service in the morning when most people want to arrive. The biggest issue is departures needed at night and having good bus connections to make the last train of the night. Most people leave Disneyland after the fireworks show which starts at 9 PM. So many people leave after the fireworks that it takes some time for everyone to move because of the crowds and catch shuttle buses to their hotels or the parking structures for their cars.
Metrolink has the problems on the LOSSAN Corridor with its other users of bottlenecks on the corridor which limits the number of trains it can run at a time. At least running extra trains a night should be a time with fewer trains than during the day. Extra trains during the weekends shouldn’t be difficult to add to serve Disneyland. This isn’t much different than extra trains for baseball games or County Fairs which Metrolink has experience doing. Such weekend trains can be run to better serve Disneyland, Beach Cities, Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles and other places people want to travel to for fun.
An advantage Metrolink has is it is a regional service with over 500 miles of rail running in 6 counties serving almost 18 million people. These millions of people love to travel to fun places and Metrolink can carry them to all the most popular places in their leisure time. By 2020 with new tracks at Los Angeles Union Station allowing trains to come and go without backing in or out as they do now, which will make it faster and easier for people from Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino and the many valleys of Los Angeles County to get to many of the attractions in Orange County and the rest of the region. At the Disneyland Resort, there are plans to spend to spend a billion dollars to expand and improve the parks to to draw ever more guests there. Will rail service be ready when these new attractions are?