By Noel T. Braymer
I got up early Friday morning in time to catch the last morning Metrolink train out of Oceanside. I’ve been feeling run down for the last few months so haven’t been to Los Angeles by train for a while. When I got to the Oceanside station I noticed the ticketing machine by the tracks wasn’t working. I remembered that last week when I took a short ride to San Diego that a person complained that the same ticket machine wasn’t working then. I went over to the other Metrolink ticket machine across from the Amtrak ticket office. Luckily for me there was only one person in line in front of me at this machine. The people who were taking Metrolink this morning seemed to be pass riders not needing a ticket. This guy was taking forever on this machine. Seems he was down to his last dollar which the machine kept rejecting. He turned to me and asked I would swap dollar bills with him. Instead I gave him a dollar coin, which worked on this machine.I got my ticket with no one behind me and got on the train with time to spare.
The trip was pleasant to Los Angeles. With the recent heavy rains the hills are still very green. What I mostly noticed was there seemed to be slow orders and the train was often going slow. We were running 4 to 6 minutes late at most of the stations. We even got into Los Angeles about 6 minutes late even with the padding in the schedule which usually gets late trains arriving early into Los Angeles Union Station. Again when we arrived we shared the platform with the Coast Starlight which was loading passengers. I first went to the south end of the platforms where the freeway runs next to the station. I took some pictures of early construction of a new bus station for the El Monte busway which will include a walkway for passengers to get to Union Station. When I went into the station I noticed lines of people waiting to use the bathrooms at the east end of the station. This happens when the main bathrooms are closed for maintenance at the westside of the station. The bathrooms at the eastside are much smaller than the ones on the west end, so there were lines of people waiting to use the bathrooms when the larger bathrooms are closed. The reality is there are not enough bathrooms now for the much larger crowds of people using the station. Yet no efforts can be seen to build more at the station any time soon.
After checking out things to take pictures of around LAUS, I decided it was time to go to Burbank. Why Burbank? I wanted to get pictures of the new 2 mile long elevated grade separation on the Metrolink Antelope Valley line along side the Burbank Airport. This is near the second Burbank airport train station where construction is now starting. It will later be a shared station for Metrolink and High Speed Rail. I decided to take the LA Metro 794 Rapid bus to Burbank because I could use the TAP card on my Metrolink ticket for no extra to Burbank. Also most of this bus’s route was next to the railroad. To catch the 794 in Chinatown, I decided to take the Gold Line from Union Station to the Chinatown Station, them walk to catch the bus. As luck would have it I arrived at the Gold Line platform at Union Station as the northbound train arrived. As I went over to get on the doors closed and the train drove off. It was a 12 minute wait for the next train. I had arrived at LAUS at little after 10 AM. By the time I caught the 794 it was just after 11 AM. The 794 buses run every half hour and I must have just missed a 794 and had to wait almost 30 minutes for the next bus. It seems odd that the 794 doesn’t stop at Union Station or the Chinatown Gold Line Station. In fact I didn’t see any signs that any buses stopped at the Chinatown stations.
When the 794 finally arrived at Chinatown it was just after 11 AM. The 794 is called a Rapid bus and it did have fewer stops than local buses. But traffic was heavy and to go the roughly 12 miles between Los Angeles and Burbank took at least an hour. But this bus got me very close to the tracks and I got off the bus not far from Burbank Airport and the new elevated, long grade separation on the Antelope Valley Metrolink line. For once I was in luck. Not long after I got up near the near elevated grad separation, a Metrolink train came by. A train in the picture makes for a better picture. I was a little disoriented being at a place near Burbank Airport I hadn’t been before. I did notice a Pacific Surfliner train on a dnearby track, so I knew I was near the junction of the Antelope Valley and Ventura County rail lines and I knew I was close to the Burbank Airport. I walked in the general direction of the Ventura County Metrolink line and got to the airport terminal area. Before I left Burbank I got something to eat since it was after 12 by this time.
After eating, I walked to the nearby transportation center at Burbank Airport which includes the new consolidated car rental center. It is also right across the street from the train station at Burbank Airport. As I walked to where the bus stop was for the Burbank Bus shuttle to the North Hollywood Red Line Subway/ Orange Line Busway station use to be, the Burbank Bus drove right past me. I couldn’t find the old bus stop. I walked around some more and found the new bus stop which was closer to the main entrance of the airport transportation center and train station. I wished I had caught the bus that went past me. I was able to use my Metrolink ticket to ride the 794, the Burbank bus and the Red Line. This trip on the Red Line was a bit rowdier than usual. As the Red Line left North Hollywood station a small group of young men played recorded music and danced to it. Before we got to the next station, they finished and passed a hat around to collect money. I was not entertained. They then got off the train. I think they shuttled back and forth between stations hoping to make some money. Later on there was an upset rider, who was upset with an other rider which became annoying.
I got off the Red Line at the 7th and Flower Station. I wanted to see work on the Regional Connector which will be a subway for extending the Blue Line from Long Beach to Union Station, Pasadena and Azusa. It will also connect the Expo Line from Santa Monica to downtown out to East Los Angeles. I wanted to find the nearest Regional Connector Station to the 7th and Flower Station which is a joint Heavy Rail/Light Rail station with separate tunnels for Heavy and Light Rail trains. I saw some road work for the Regional Connector on Flower by 5th street. But I found the nearest station was at 2nd and Hope Street. Hope Street is only a short block from Flower. But the road looked blocked past 4th street so I decided to go back to 7th and Flower and go back to Union Station.
I got on the next train, which was a Purple Line Train and got off at Union Station. By this time it was almost 3 PM. I decided not to overdo things and take the next next train home. I looked around Union Station for other things to take pictures. I noticed sitting in the station that the brass fixtures and wall tiles had been cleaned and the brass polished. This is the cleanest they have been since 1939. The train trip home was smooth and uneventful. I noticed the City of Commerce Metrolink Station had a new, free shuttle and the station spruced up with new signs. I noticed more cars in the parking lot this time too. This time the train was on time. Even at the south end of Sierra siding it was a short wait for the northbound Metrolink train to San Bernardino. This train was usually late, but it was more or less on time this time. I enjoyed watching my train flying past stop and go traffic on the I-5 north of Oceanside. I believe the train was a few minutes early. But I didn’t want to get stuck in the traffic of cars leaving the parking lot after the train arrived. So I took my time getting to my car.