Christmas Day, Coaster Rail Service, Del Mar Bluffs, LA Metro Orange Bus Line, LA Metro Red Line, Los Angeles Union Station, Metrolink, Oceanside Transit Center, Poinsettia Coaster Station, San Diego Trolley Blue Line extension, Van Nuys Train Station
By Noel T. Braymer
With the Christmas Holidays, there is less news reported, particularly about rail passenger service. Well there is news, but it is largely ignored unless something crashes. Since I was overdue for a train ride, I decided to ride trains on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day. Fortunately I didn’t get soaked by rain either day. On Christmas Eve I rode the normal week day train schedule on the Coaster. I took my usual 2:42 PM departure from Oceanside to San Diego on the Coaster. I’ve been riding the bus more lately and am now using a 30 day pass for seniors. This is cheaper than paying cash and less of a hassle. My nearest bus route runs roughly every 15 minutes or 4 times an hour Monday through Friday in both direction most of the day. So this day I used my pass since my bus goes directly to the Oceanside Transit Center. The Coaster Trains had very light passenger counts on Christmas Eve. But I guess NCTD didn’t want to alienate their regular riders who had to work on Christmas Eve.
My plan was to get pictures from the train of the recent work at Del Mar to prevent more of the bluffs from eroding away. I also checked the Poinsettia Station and construction of the San Diego Trolley Blue Line extension up from Old Town through Rose Canyon which will end up at UCSD and University City. I got on the train early and rested and waited.
What I wanted to see was how wide or narrow the bluffs were at Del Mar. Generally the top of the bluffs looked wide enough to support double tracking in most of Del Mar, But the problem area was just south of the grade crossing over Coast Blvd and west of Seagrove Park.
There was heavy equipment in several places along the tracks in Del Mar. Until there is a permanent solution with double tracking in Del Mar, we will likely see the bluffs increasingly patched up with steel and concrete. No telling what will happen with damage from future storms.
Past Del Mar was travel to Sorrento Valley and into Rose Canyon. There is considerable construction for the extension of the San Diego Trolley Blue Line north of Old Town to UCSD which is west of the I-5 freeway. The 2 billion dollar Blue Line extension project is between Old Town and UCSD. At Rose Canyon on the east side of the tracks used by future Blue Line trains are freight trains, Coaster and Pacific Surfliner trains on the west. To get to UCSD the Blue Line will use a flyover which is a bridge to lift the Blue Line Trains over the tracks used by the other trains to get to the west of the heavy rail tracks. At roughly Gilman Drive, the Blue Line will cross the I-5 Freeway and run on an elevated viaduct to UCSD and cross the 5 again to the east to terminate at University City. The current projection is that the Blue Line extension will be in service by 2021.
Rather than wait in the cold at the Santa Fe Depot, I decided to get off at Old Town. There was a northbound Coaster due shortly after my train left Old Town going south. To get to the opposing track I had to take stairs under the tracks and climb the stairs to the other platform. Just as I got to the platform for the northbound Coaster train the northbound Coaster stopped at the platform. Ridership was much lower than a normal work week on Christmas Eve. The busiest Coaster Station is at Sorrento Valley. It is in the heart of the biggest job center in San Diego.
The rest of the trip was quiet. The clouds were getting dark shortly after sunset. I caught my bus home. While on the bus it started to rain, but not enough to get soaked.
Around 5 AM there was rain pounding my roof in Oceanside. Metrolink offered a flat rate of $10 dollars per passenger for Christmas travel. This is also done every weekend with a limited schedule which only covers the more popular routes. This morning I drove due to the limited holiday bus service. There was a 8:15 AM departure from Oceanside arriving at Los Angeles Union Station by 10:30 AM. This time the Oceanside Transit Center was generally empty. Very few people got on the train. My main goals were to take pictures of Union Station at Christmas. And to check out the new double tracked center platform at the Van Nuys Train Station.
After checking out Union Station, I next went out to Van Nuys. With the Metrolink ticket I can use it to take most local transit in the counties with Metrolink service. To get to Van Nuys I rode the Red Line subway from Union Station to the end of the Red Line at North Hollywood. I crossed the street to catch the Orange Line Metro Busway service headed west in the San Fernando Valley, At the Van Nuys Blvd Busway station I got off to catch a northbound local bus to the joint Amtrak/Metrolink train station on Van Nuys Blvd. What I found was the new platform was in service. But there was also more construction work still needed to be done.
Getting back I reversed direction to a local bus, Orange Line Busway and Red Line Subway to Union Station. I thought about taking the last Metrolink train of the day leaving at 4:40 PM from Union Station to Oceanside. But I thought I shouldn’t try it and end up stranded if I missed my train by riding the Expo Line. For some reason some of the powered doors on this train had problems opening. We were held at Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo to let a northbound Pacific Surfliner go by. But the train was still early getting into Oceanside before sunset.