Friday, May 7, 2010

Do You Still Love Riding the Rails? Then All Aboard Amtrak's National Train Day

About 2 weeks ago, the Washington Post came out with a scathing in-depth look at Amtrak. The article asserted that although ridership is up, "the romance went out of it a long time ago" and that our national rail system is "freighted with problems," most notoriously delays. While the Post's staff writers make some valid points, I have to disagree that our nation's love affair with trains is over, at least not for me and not in California.

Maybe the negativity resulted from the Post's focus on the Eastern seaboard, while on the West Coast trains are less about commuting than a scenic vacation. Sure, the Coast Starlight train can run late (although last month, its on-time record was an impressive 96.7%). In fact, it once took me 16+ hours to get from Oakland to LA, a 12-hour scheduled trip! But the gorgeous coastal scenery, some of it inaccessible by road and only visible when riding the rails, made it worth it.

My partner and I still ride Amtrak whenever we can. We live near the northern terminus of the Pacific Surfliner route, which connects us to Santa Barbara, LA, Orange County and San Diego. Not only is it a greener way to travel than driving ourselves, we love not getting stuck on the I-405 for hours as we head down south. Instead, we can kick it with Wi-Fi in business-class seats, or just lazily stare out the window for hours and dream.

Which brings me to Amtrak's National Train Day tomorrow, May 8. Get out there and show your support for this eco-friendly and yes, romantic way to travel. Celebrations at LA's historic Union Station include exhibits on railroad braceros (Mexican laborers) and Amtrak's 'Trails & Rails' national parks initiative (and new online trip planner, Amtraktoparks.com), model trains and more fun stuff for kids. There are festivities happening at Amtrak stations all around California, and across the country, too. Check the website for details, then go have fun!

Are you a fan of railway travel? What's your favorite train trip that you've ever taken, either in the USA or abroad? Tell us by leaving a comment below.

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