Metrolink Service to San Diego Contemplated

One of the staff reports presented during the monthly cycle of Metro Board committee meetings I try to read conscientiously is the Regional Rail Update.

The report presented at the Oct. 17th Planning and programming Committee contains a fascinating tidbit on page 2: “Staff is working closely with Metrolink on two new initiatives that would increase Metrolink service. The first is the introduction of additional service, using Metrolink equipment, which would go from Los Angeles Union Station beyond Oceanside to San Diego. The second is to increase peak hour service on the 91 line, which travels from Riverside to Los Angeles, via Fullerton.”

As you can imagine I was especially intrigued at the notion of through service to San Diego. Seeking more information, I discovered  Power Point presentation via the Metrolink Board Sept. 14th Legislative and Communications Committee  was made on the proposal which the minutes indicate provoked comments by one of the Directors:

Mark Waier addressed the recent discussions with North County Transit District (NCTD) for extension of Metrolink service into San Diego. Those discussions are still ongoing and staff will keep the committee informed once the market analysis on prospective weekday and weekend schedules is completed to see what type of demand there is for this service.

Director Millhouse inquired as to how these trains would interact with Amtrak service, and also noted that the comfort of Metrolink’s trains, which were designed with a focus on safety, could hinder the success of this potential service. He noted funds had been recently received for the rehabilitation of equipment in the Bombardier cars. In implementing those funds, he suggested considering taking five or six cars and upgrading them for use on longer trips where customer comfort is a premium.

Robert Turnauckas stated that staff is unsure what Amtrak’s response will be to Metrolink adding this route. He noted that Metrolink’s weekend pass has had an impact on their market share. Director Millhouse suggested engaging in talks with Amtrak to discuss our plans and try to work in greater partnership with Amtrak.

The Power Point (not posted online) indicates that for weekdays, they are looking at a commuter schedule starting mornings in downtown San Diego while making all stops to Los Angeles; in addition, they’ll be doing the reverse for the afternoon commute along with southbound service from Fullerton to San Diego in the morning and returning in the evening.

Weekend service would start in San Bernardino on the IEOC line to San Diego making all stops (reverse service included) along with service starting in Los Angeles on the Orange County line to San Diego making all stops (reverse service included) .

Metrolink would operate service to/from Oceanside Transit Center. North County Transit District (NCTD) would operate the Metrolink train south of Oceanside. All conductors, crew and engineers would be under the control of NCTD south of Oceanside. Trains would be required to double spot for disabled passengers south of Oceanside until permanent ramps are built to accommodate Metrolink trains.

The proposed Ticketing Structure on weekedays would be combining the fares of Metrolink and NCTD, keeping both parties whole. The same for the weekend except for the snag that NCTD does not have a Weekend Pass (NCTD has a Saturday Day Pass and a Sunday Day Pass). Other Outstanding Fare Issues include the difference in how the agencies define seniors (Metrolink- 65, NCTD- 60).

There also are a number of technical issues that need worked out: integration of the Coaster timetable into Metrolink’s schedule processes, how to handle individual agency schedule changes, and fare adjustments.

Scott Johnson, Assistant Public Affairs Officer at Metrolink, tells me that currently the “North County Transit District is performing an analysis to determine if the plan is viable.”

How this dovetails with the transition of the Surfliner to local management should be interesting. I am also curious what reaction Caltrans and Amtrak have to this concept.

  • Erik Griswold

    But will I be able to drink Martinis on Metrolink until 9pm like I can on Coaster?

  • BTW, Don Sepulveda who is Metro’s point person on regional rail (LOSSAN, Metrolink, Amtrak, high speed rail) is making a presentation at Metro’s Citizen Advisory Council meeting tonight at the Metro Headquarters Building, 3rd floor Union Station Conference Room, starting at 6:30 p.m.

  • Irwinc

    So this just duplicate the Amtrak service? Obviously the combined Amtrak and Metrolink service will increase frequency, which may in term grow the market, but I have to think there is better use of Metrolink resources elsewhere.

  • Erik Griswold

    Not really in that these trains will stop at stations like Orange, Tustin, Laguna Niguel, San Celemente, Carlsbad (both stations), etc. that are not (usually) served by Surfliner.  

    Surfliner can become the express service it should be, while a coordinated Metrolink/Coaster becomes the local or “stopping” train.  This is how railroading is done in much of the western world.

  • David K

    What needs to happen long term is Amtrak should convert the 500 series Surfliner trains to an express service. Stops should be only in San Diego, Oceanside, Irvine, Anaheim and Los Angeles, while the combined Metrolink/Coaster can provide local service to all stops between LA and SD. While Metrolink is entering their territory at a lower fare, Amtrak can still charge their higher fares for a faster, premium service between the major cities on the LOSSAN corridor.

    As an LA native who moved down to San Diego a few years ago, I have dreamed of faster rail service between LA and SD (mostly while sitting in traffic on the 5 in south OC). If track improvements and express service can (in the near future) make the Surfliner a reliable 2 hour trip between LA and SD the market share would increase dramatically.

  • Paul Druce

    I’m not 

  • Paul Druce

    The biggest gain, in my opinion, will come from the IEOC to San Diego trains since that opens up an entirely new market. Amtrak will probably get nailed when it comes to OC-SD area boardings such as Irvine-Solano Beach.

  • Gene

    I wish they would update all the cars to Hyundai Rotem first, and add some WiFi. I know… I’m selfish like that, but forgive me for pointing out how much certain parts of the body hurt after sitting on those outdated seat cushions. 

  • DanaPointer

    This would be great, but the lack of track between south OC and north SD county needs to be addressed ASAP!

  • DanaPointer

    To clarify, need more parallel tracks in South OC, there seems to be constant hold up while one train waits for another to pass.

  • calwatch

    Here is the document:

    The Amtrak service between San Diego and Los Angeles can be reduced to six or seven roundtrips from the current 11, comparable to service on the San Joaquin, Hiawatha, north Surfliner, and Lincoln Service, and converted into express trips (although the trip that makes a direct connection to the Southwest Chief should also stop in Fullerton). The slots freed up can go for interlined Metrolink/Coaster service making all stops from LA to San Diego. Right now you have a weird service pattern on Amtrak that is confusing to the average rider, as some but not all trains stop at Orange, Laguna Niguel, San Clemente Pier, and Old Town San Diego. 

    In addition, the existing OC only Metrolink trips need to be extended to LA via an express bus connection, at the minimum. You could run a bus down the 91 and 110 carpool lanes, ending at Union Station, pretty reliably. If you look at the presentation, the North County TRANSporter is doing quite well, and this would be a similar service.

  • Anonymous

    If it’s priced similar to the metrolink/coaster combination (Which is cheap but horribly inconvenient) this would be AWESOME. I go to San Diego with the GF every 6-8 weeks and it’s a terrible drive, but at $148 r/t for two I end up driving.

  • Erik Griswold

     I’d jut like it if they could keep that bathrooms on the “new” Hyundai Rotem cars working!

  • Erik Griswold

    I thought all Surfliners were stopping at Old Town now.  Makes sense given the connection to the MTS Green Line.  Serves travellers well for connections just like the Chatsworth stop can do with the Orange BRT Line now.

  • Wanderer

    The New York-Philadelphia segment of the Northeast Corridor has the local/express pattern some people have proposed. The “expresses” are the Amtrak trains, both Acela and regional, which make only a few intermediate stops. The locals are commuter rail trains, one from New York to Trenton (New Jersey Transit), another from Trenton to Philadelphia (SEPTA). The New Jersey Transit trains and SEPTA trains are timed to meet at Trenton. Traveling on Amtrak is faster, but much more expensive. If something like this pattern could be replicated beween San Diego and Los Angles it would be a good thing, it would give passengers better service and more choices.

  • Thanks for posting the Power Point. Some agencies are better than others at making such presentations available and often even when they accompany a staff report contain details otherwise unavailable.

    Comments contain some excellent suggestions and I can assure you there are agency staffers and others who read this blog so there is some hope we can influence the process as it goes forward. I have heard second hand my Metrolink TAP piece was actually mentioned at the Metrolink Board meeting!

  • At the last minute Sepulveda had an emergency, so he will be rescheduled for a future meeting. Instead we heard an update on the status of the mid-life rebuild of the Breda Red Line cars (the 74 option vehicles) for which an RFP is about to hit the streets. The original 30 Bredas are also to have a re-build but that is a separate effort by a different Metro staff work group. BTW, one thing that distinguishes the two groups of cars are that the original cars use DC for their tractions motors while the 74 use AC. DC is prone to breakdown versus AC which is why while newer the option vehicles generall have more miles of wear than the base order 30 vehicles.

  • Alan Fishel

    I feel just the opposite, the Rotem cars are terrible. The seats all face one way, they are way too close together,the seats are hard and uncomfortable. I always take a Bombardier car whenever I can. I strongly hope that the terrible Rotem cars never replace all of the superior Bombardier cars. As for WiFi, that would be great and I can not wait. 

  • MarkB

    The big question about express service is: where are the passing tracks? Without them, the best you can do is start the express with a big time gap behind the local then watch the gap become smaller as the trip progresses, until the two trains end at the terminus only minutes apart.

  • calwatch

    You can pass on a two track main. The San Bernardino Line expresses do so.

  • Commuter

    They need more two main trackage in spots like San Juan to San Onofre and over Miramar hill before any more service is added

  • Commuter

    BNSF would want a third main track before more trains would be allowed

  • Taxpayer

    They should take the money from Moonbeams Crazy train to build more main trackage

  • HSR is awesome

    That is a possible funding source, assuming you mean CaHSR, since 10% is available for connecting/supporting services. I’d rather, however, they divert money from the endless and insane widenings of the 405/5 etc.

  • Metrolink SCRRA

    When is the Metrolink’s New Pomona Valley Line Extension from Los Angeles Union Station to San Bernardino including Downtown Pomona, Downtown Ontario and Ontario Airport Train Station is coming soon in year 2020?


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