By Noel T. Braymer
I left the house in the mid-afternoon and got to the Oceanside Station with about 15 minutes to spare to catch the last afternoon Metrolink train of the day to Los Angeles. Traffic was light driving towards downtown Oceanside in the afternoon. But traffic was heavy downtown near the beach on a nice hot day. When I got up to the ticket machines there was a long line of people waiting to buy Metrolink tickets at the lone machine by the platforms. I went over to check the other Metrolink ticket machine over by the Amtrak waiting room and if anything the line of people there was even longer. I pondered what to do, then decided this was as good a time as any to try out Metrolink’s online ticketing. At least on this trip I wasn’t planning to transfer to LA Metrorail, so I could get by without a paper Metrolink ticket which I would need to ride the subway or light rail in LA. I had recently replaced my not so smart phone, with a real smart phone so here is how it went.
I started by getting on the Metrolink webpage for a link to download the app for online ticketing. After going around in circles on the webpage for a few minutes, I finally realized that I would have to go to either the Google or Apple app stores to download the ticket app. By this time it was about 5 minutes before departure, so I decided to get on the train and finish my ticketing there. As I started to go I noticed the line of people still at the Metrolink ticket machine by the Amtrak waiting room with 3 or 4 people tapping away on their smart phones. My guess is they were writing “might miss the train and be late”. I went over to them and told them where to download the app and get their tickets online. We then walked over to get on the train. I couldn’t help but wonder why Metrolink didn’t have signs on their ticket machines saying the same thing I told these people or other passengers waiting in line for tickets.
Well I enrolled and was given a Metrolink ticketing account. I had to tap in my name, email, home address, bank card info, create a password and so on. In the meantime the train was about 5 minutes late leaving for some reason. I was expecting an email with a bar code to be sent to my phone like what the airlines do for paperless ticketing. Instead as part of my Metrolink account I had a “ticket wallet”. The round trip ticket was good until 3 AM the next day. I was disappointed there was no bar code on my ticket. Metrolink paper tickets all have bar codes and conductors have bar code readers to scan them. Instead my online ticket mostly just had my name, destination and fare. I know that in the future LA Metro will be getting scanners to allow Metrolink passengers to get through the turnstiles at Metrorail stations. So my question is: what are these scanners going to scan? I was to nervous to get off the page on my phone with my ticket and not be able to find it again in case the conductor wanted to check my ticket. But no one ever checked it.
The trip was uneventful and relaxing into Los Angeles. There was a good crowd on the train by the time we got to Los Angeles. This train wasn’t carrying many commuters, but mostly discretionary travelers. I notice some people both coming and going traveling with luggage. Since the days now are long there was plenty of sunshine by the time we got into Los Angeles Union Station in the late afternoon. I had over an hour to roam Union Station and I got to see and do quite a lot in the time that I had. One of the first places I went was the east end of the station. There were several signs announcing that the station bus loop would be closed for repairs for most of the summer. I wanted next to check out Traxx Restaurant. I had received an email from a worried train rider saying that it was closed and there was a shortage of restaurants at Union Station. Well at the end of the rush hour at Union Station this afternoon Traxx was very much open and its Bar was quite busy.
I had also recently got an email asking what was happening with the reopening of the old Harvey House at Los Angeles Union Station. Well there still isn’t much to see at the front. Other than modest restoration, the goal will be to keep the dining room and bar of the Harvey House pretty much as is. The problem is replacing a 76 year old kitchen with a modern one which will be needed to have reliable food service. I saw much of the back of the Harvey House was blocked up by work by contractors which is what I expected. While I was checking out the Harvey House, I saw a line of at least 3 buses next to it by the front entrance. They were Dodger Express buses for passengers transferring from Union Station to Dodger Games. I guess there must have been a night game coming that night. I also wanted to get pictures of the new bike rental station at Union Station. The bike rental service starts for downtown Los Angeles in early July. I found the automated bike stands next to the station’s Alameda St. driveway.
I wanted to check out what new food places were opening at Union Station and get some pictures of them. I found Oto-Oto which has takeout Japanese food at the very end of the east side of the station before going outside. There will be plenty of changes coming to Union Station in the next five years or so. I went up to the platform early to get on my train as soon as its doors opened. While I waiting I noticed the Southwest Chief was on a track at the next platform ready to depart. I was able to get some pictures of it at the station and departing. With the long days of June I was able to take quite a few pictures when most of the year it would have been too dark. Finally the train doors were opened and a good crowd of people got on. The train had a fairly full load leaving Los Angeles. But by the time we got to Anaheim the car I was on had plenty of empty pairs of seats. Not many people got on after leaving Los Angeles.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and routine, which is what most passengers want on a train trip. Traffic on the freeways was heavy. The long day meant there was daylight most of the trip through Orange County. That beats seeing only darkness and colored lights. When we got to Serra siding south of San Juan Capistrano we got held up for a few minutes by a late running northbound Surfliner. It was generally dark by the time we got to Oceanside. As I was walking to my car I saw something on the sidewalk at the station. I looked down and there was a roughly 30 inch diameter sticker on the ground by the Metrolink ticket machine by the platform. It was advertising to use the new on-line ticketing for Metrolink. I wondered why I hadn’t noticed it in the afternoon. Then I realize why; there were too many people waiting in line standing on top of this big sticker for anyone to see it. It makes more sense to put signs on the ticket machine which is where most people’s eyes are when waiting to use the ticket machine, not at their feet.