By Noel T, Braymer
I got up early and left the house a little sooner than usual in order to get my Metrolink ticket on time. I was able to get my ticket at least 5 minutes before departure at 7:37 AM. A major factor that makes buying tickets for Metrolink difficult is the Ticket machines are so slow because their card readers aren’t very good. They reject many good cards which is a major reason the lines are often so long to buy tickets. Some people in front of me had learned that if you try, try, try again the card reader will finally read your card. I paid cash this time. When I first parked my car I noticed the morning train from Oceanside to Riverside didn’t have a BNSF locomotive behind the cab car. I also noticed several people in Oceanside with luggage going on the same Metrolink train I was going on. Metrolink is now promoting their new On-Line Ticketing app that can be used on most Smart Phones. So far the On-Line Ticketing only works for rides on Metrolink. For my trips to Los Angeles I usually transfer to LA Metro Trains and sometime buses. I can use my Metrolink Ticket as a day pass “TAP” card to ride LA Metro service. Such transfers are not available yet with Metrolink’s On Line Ticketing. Metrolink is paying LA Metro to install bar code readers on their turnstiles to allow transfers with their Phone app on LA Metro in the near future. What would help is if Metrolink placed information at their ticket machines on how to get their new On-line Ticketing App to encourage more people to use it and not miss their train.
The Metrolink Train in Oceanside, no locomotive by the Cab Car. Photo by the author.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. When I got to Laguna Niguel/ Mission Viejo , the Orange County Line trains had a BNSF Loco in the front. It was clear from the announcements from the conductor that there were ticket machine problems at Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo. Several times he used the PA to tell people at the ticket machine that he knew there were problems with the machine and just get on board the train. What was different on this trip was by the time we left Orange County this train was almost full. I rarely see a non-rush hour Metrolink train running out of seats. But you could see people walking up and down the aisle looking for spare seats. We got into LAUS almost 10 minutes early. For once we didn’t get held up coming into Fullerton by a long Freight.
The Cab Car missing the wheelchair ramp because of the BNSF locomotive blocking the way. Photo by author.
Once at Union Station I went out to get pictures of the BNSF locomotive in front of the Cab Car. I discovered that with the locomotive in front of the cab car, the cab car couldn’t reach the wheelchair ramp at the platform, The crew had to use an old fashion wheelchair lift to get one person off the train in the cab car. The bathrooms are fixed now at Union Station, so the lines for it are now gone. I soon headed out to catch the Gold Line all the way to Azusa. That went fairly smoothly. I notices the trains heading towards LA in the late morning were almost full, while the trains to Azusa where less crowded. The Azusa station looked a little pretentious, but there were good bus connections to the Gold Line. I noticed the freight only track was rebuilt and separate from the Gold Line between Azusa and Irwindale. The Miller Brewery in Irwindale still uses the railroad for deliveries.
The new downtown Azusa Station next to the the old ATSF station on the right hand side. The third track to the right connects to the Miller Brewery with the BNSF. Photo by author.
I decided to head back to Union Station and then take the Expo Line. When I was waiting at the Wilshire and 7th Street Metrorail Station to catch an Expo trains to Culver City, I saw a one car train that said test train on the platform opposite from where I was waiting. They were running test Santa Monica Expo Trains all the way down the line without passengers. Service opens on May 20th. Ridership wasn’t that heavy heading to Culver City. Lots of people traveled between downtown and the USC/ Exposition Park area. When we got to Culver City, after all the passengers got off, the operator continued on to Santa Monica for training. I looked around for bus connections to Santa Monica. But I thought it best to get something to eat and then head back to LAUS . I wanted to catch an early train back to Oceanside with rushing or missing it. While I was waiting for my train back to LA, I saw a train coming from Santa Monica. I saw headlights that is. This turned out to be a test trains running the whole distance without passengers. A few minutes later another train came from Santa Monica. It was the train I took to get to Culver City going back to LA. I wonder if LA Metro is planning to double the level of service on the Expo line after it is extended to Santa Monica.The extension to Santa Monica should bring ridership up to the levels of the Blue Line to Long Beach.
This is a Test Train stopping at the Culver City Expo Line Station. Carrying no passenger, it has just arrived from Santa Monica and soon left to continue to downtown Los Angeles. Photo by author.
My train home was scheduled to leave at 3;20 PM. I got to LAUS by 2:40 PM or so, so I had time to kill. I finally went up to the platform around 3 PM and there were plenty of people waiting to board. We boarded by 3:05 PM and by 3:15 the conductor was giving the 5 minute departure announcement. I wasn’t paying attention to the time, but a few minutes after 3:20 PM there was an announcement that there was a problem with this train and we had to go from track 8 to track 13 to get on another train. I was nice and settled in a seat I got there early for. I followed the crowd and got on the new train. I was able to find a seat with few problems. As we left LA around 3:35 PM this train wasn’t as crowded as the morning train coming up. The train got more passengers at Norwalk. But by the time we left Fullerton the train had lots of room. Traffic southbound on the I- 5 was another matter, At least from San Juan Capistrano to Oceanside the freeway was stop and go, maybe even further than that. I know the train was going faster that the cars on the freeway even with station stops from passing the same trucks over and over. We didn’t get stuck for once at Serra siding by the always late Metrolink train #812 for San Bernardino from Oceanside. This time it waited at Serra for us, We got into Oceanside by 5:38 PM so we were only 8 minutes late into Oceanside. But they stopped the train way up at the north end of the platform, so there was a longer than usual walk to get to the tunnel to the east side of the station and my car. I might start taking a later train home. I got stuck in local rush hour traffic driving home.