By Noel T. Braymer
With the start up of the extension of Metrolink service from Los Angeles-Riverside via Fullerton to Perris, I tried to find a way to ride the new service without driving to Perris. It isn’t easy to do. I would like to take the morning train from Oceanside to Riverside to transfer to Perris. From Perris I would like to catch the train there to either Los Angeles and return home on Metrolink. Or at least get to Fullerton and connect south to Oceanside. The problem is there are only 3 round trips from Perris to Los Angeles and back. These are all rush hour only services all going to Los Angeles in the morning and returning to Perris in the evenings. This is understandable given the current capacity problems on the BNSF between Riverside, Fullerton and Los Angeles. To catch a local Perris train at Riverside on the morning train from Oceanside means the train arrives at 9:44 AM in Riverside while missing the 9:10 AM departure to Perris. The next train from Riverside to Perris is at 1:00 PM and the only train from Riverside to Oceanside leaves at 12:40 PM. I thought about riding to Los Angeles to San Bernardino to make connections by bus to Riverside. There is a San Bernardino county bus line that connects the two cities. But it doesn’t stop near either Metrolink Stations.
My best bet will be to catch an early morning Riverside County bus, the 202 that runs between Oceanside and Riverside County. During most of the year there are 7 round trips a day during morning and evening rush hours. This can get me to a shopping mall in Temecula. At this mall I can transfer to bus 208 to get to the new transit center at the new Metrolink Station at Perris. Only one 202 bus connects to a 208 bus in the morning. It is the first bus of the morning from Oceanside leaving at 4:58 AM and getting to the transfer point in Temecula at 5:55 AM. The 208 leaves the mall at 6:30 AM and arrives at Perris at 7:15 AM. There is a local Perris train departing at 7:45 AM and arriving at Riverside by 8:35 AM. I will be able to depart Riverside by 10:18 AM. This train goes as far as Laguna Niguel/ Mission Viejo Metrolink station. I’ll be able to transfer to the Surfliner at Irvine for Oceanside.
This lack of planned connections is an all to common experience for many potential passengers trying to get around Southern California by passenger train. The most cost effective way to fix this problem is to create or use connections with different services. It is not easy to travel between San Diego County and Riverside/ San Bernardino Counties without a car. There are rush hour commuter buses from Southern Riverside County with connections to the rest of Riverside County to Oceanside and to Escondido. Greyhound Bus has a handful of services between San Diego and San Bernardino on the I-15/215 freeways with stops in Escondido and Perris. There are also 2 round trips a day on Metrolink from Oceanside to Riverside with 3 of these 4 trains also serving San Bernardino. This limited service is mostly in the early morning and late afternoon, and with such limited service there isn’t much flexibility planning for travel .
What is available are 8 Metrolink trains between the Inland Empire and Orange County. Ideally if we could extend some of these trains to San Diego this would radically improve service between the Inland Empire and San Diego. But the problem with this is it would need more equipment which Metrolink doesn’t have. That would require start up money which isn’t available. And there is the problem of trying to run more trains between San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano which is mostly single tracked and not able to run many more trains. Then it hit me. Costing almost no money, we can create connections between most of the existing Metrolink Inland Empire/Orange County trains with Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains between Los Angeles and San Diego and with Coaster Trains between Oceanside and San Diego. This would give additional rail service between San Diego County and the Inland Empire transferring at Irvine on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliners to San Juan Capistrano, Oceanside, Solano Beach and San Diego and at Oceanside with the Coaster.
Here are the connections possible with most under an hour southbound at Irvine and Oceanside. These times are all from the most recent timetable as of June 6, 2016
#1. Metrolink train 803 from San Bernardino arrives at Oceanside at 7:03 AM. Coaster train 638 departs Oceanside at 7:13 AM for San Diego.
#2. Metrolink train 805 from San Bernardino arrives at Irvine at 6:55 AM. Amtrak Surfliner train 562 departs Irvine at 7:11 AM for San Diego.
#3. Metrolink train 809 from Riverside arrives at Irvine at 8:13 AM. Amtrak Surfliner 564 departs Irvine at 8:26 AM for San Diego.
#4. Metrolink train 811 from Riverside arrives at Irvine at 8:42 AM. Amtrak Surfliner 566 departs Irvine at 9:40 AM for San Diego.
#5. Metrolink train 813 from Riverside arrives at Irvine at 11:27 AM. Amtrak Surfliner 572 departs Irvine at 12:21 PM for San Diego.
#6 . Merolink train 815 from San Bernardino arrives at Oceanside at 2:53 PM. Coaster train 656 departs Oceanside at 3:32 PM. for San Diego
#7. Metrolink train 817 from Riverside arrives at Irvine at 4:15 PM, Amtrak Surfliner 582 departs Irvine at 5:09 PM for San Diego.
Here are the connections possible in under an hour northbound at Irvine and Oceanside. These are all also from the most recent timetable as of June 6, 2016
#1. Amtrak Surfliner train 763 from San Diego arrives at Oceanside at 7:03 AM. Metrolink 800 departs Oceanside at 7:39 AM for Riverside.
#2. Amtrak Surfliner 565 from San Diego arrives at Irvine at 8:42 AM. Metrolink 802 departs Irvine at 9:23 AM for San Bernardino.
#3. Amtrak Surfliner 573 from San Diego arrives at Irvine at 12:37 PM. Metrolink 804 departs Irvine at 12:50 PM for Riverside.
#4. Amtrak Surfliner 777 from San Diego arrives at Irvine at 1:33 PM. Metrolink 806 departs Irvine at 2:37 PM for Riverside.
#5. Amtrak Surfliner 579 from San Diego arrives at Irvine at 3:14 PM. Metrolink 808 departs Irvine at 4:06 PM for San Bernardino.
#6. Amtrak Surfliner 583 from San Diego arrives at Oceanside at 3:45 PM. Metrolink 812 departs Oceanside at 4:25 PM for San Bernardino.
#7.Amtrak Surfliner 583 from San Diego arrives at Irvine at 4:38 PM. Metrolink 810 departs Irvine at 4:55 PM for San Bernardino.
#8: Amtrak Surfliner 785 from San Diego arrives at Irvine at 5:49 PM. Metrolink 814 departs Irvine at 6:45 PM for Riverside.
No doubt some passengers have already discovered and used these existing connections. But many more would if they knew about them and it was easier to have through ticketing. Right now a person would likely have to run out of the first train to the nearest ticket machine and buy a ticket for the connecting train. This can lead to a person missing their connection. What would be better is buying tickets at one place and one time. This is done for air travel all the time with interline connections between airlines. The details of interline ticketing and joint timetables for this service would have to be worked out between LOSSAN and Metrolink. LOSSAN is the joint powers agency responsible for the marketing of the Pacific Surfliners as well as representing the Counties of San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino. These four counties have a combined population of just over 10 million people. Clearly there is a major potential market for train service between these counties.
Metrolink already has the ability to issue Amtrak tickets. Metrolink recently followed Amtrak and Coaster services in offering online ticketing available by smart phone. It should be possible to connect these online services for seamless ticketing. The main issue would be one of setting fares for a connecting service. There is already the Rail2Rail program which Amtrak honors tickets from both Metrolink and Coaster. Generally this is for commuter pass holders, although in some cases Amtrak already honors tickets for regular tickets for Metrolink and Coaster passengers. One factor that will make this connection popular is that at least in Irvine, passengers will be able to wait at the platform they got off at for their connecting train. This is because both trains will be traveling in the same direction at the Irvine station. Future adjustments can made to improve connections. Additional weekend service with connections to Amtrak would be desirable with more Inland Empire/Orange County trains running on the weekends. Adding to these connections is the possibility of connections at San Bernardino with Metrolink’s San Bernardino Line to stations west of San Bernardino. Connections to stations on the line to Perris is also possible. Bus connections at these stations extends the markets for this service. This could include bus service added at Riverside to the Palm Springs area.