Amtrak to offer express service between San Diego and L.A.

On Feb. 15, Amtrak will be trying something new: a morning express train from San Diego to Los Angeles Union Station that will make the journey in two hours and 28 minutes — about 12 to 17 minutes faster than regular travel times that typically take two hours, 40 minutes. Downtown L.A. and San Diego are 120 miles apart.

Here’s the announcement, via Amtrak’s website:

With less stopping and more going, Amtrak California’s new Pacific Surfliner San Diego to Los Angeles Express (SD to LA) service will help make your commute a little easier to take.

The new SD to LA Express Train (563) begins pulling out of the station on Tuesday, February 15, 2011, and will operate Monday through Friday.

Express Train 563 replaces weekday Train 565 with fewer stops along the corridor. The Express Train departs San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot at 7:05 a.m. with stops in Solana Beach, Oceanside, Irvine, and Anaheim, before arriving at Los Angeles Union Station at 9:33 a.m.

Please note: Unlike Train 565, the new Express Train will no longer stop in San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Niguel-Mission Viejo, Santa Ana, Orange and Fullerton. Train 565 will continue to operate on Saturdays and Sundays (only) with no change in service.

In addition, Metrolink Orange County Line Train 687 will depart Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo at 8:33 a.m. instead of 8:20 a.m., arriving at Los Angeles Union Station at 9:55 a.m.

As the website notes, the express train is a pilot program being overseen by Amtrak, Caltrans (which funds Amtrak in California) and the transportation agencies along the route.

It will be very interesting to see how riders respond. The L.A.-San Diego corridor is one of Amtrak’s busiest in the country, but Amtrak trains have to share the corridor with freight trains and commuter rail and there are long stretches of single track.

Categories: Policy & Funding

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18 replies

  1. This train always ran at least 20 minutes late into LA, while many metrolink trains often arrive 10 min early, so this isn’t really much savings if you’re starting Oceanside or north. I tried to take this today out of Irvine, and the train never came. I took the next metrolink into LA instead. I never saw the Amtrak pass us either.

    It seems likes Amtrak has a train that always gets held up in freight-related traffic, so they decided to stop at only a hand-full of stations to compensate and then marketed it as “express.”

  2. the REAL solution is gondolas… lots of them.
    Ride ABOVE the fray in your own air-conditioned tram car and enjoy the scenic views !!! coffee service in the morning, cocktails at night. special sunset service for young lovers !!!

  3. Until the Pacific Surfliner has its own tracks, or double-tracking through Capistrano, or a faster entrance to San Diego (tunneling, perhaps?) 17 minutes is probably about as good as they can do.

    I do agree with Ken: This is Limited at best. The people making comments are expecting Nozomi service.

  4. This should be called “limited service.” An “express service” should only by LA-Irvine-San Diego.

    Start doing three different runs just like the Tokaido Shinkansen service. Kodama is regular service taking 4 hrs for the Osaka-Tokyo route. Hikari service is “limited service” which takes fewer stops. The fastest Nozomi only stops at the major stations along the way completing the 350 mi journey in just a bit over 2.5 hrs.

  5. Everybody insists on ‘investing’ in HSR instead of this limited-stop service. This new service costs relatively nothing. It actually saves fuel. There is no ‘investment’ Amtrak has made by removing some of the stops.

    Everybody insists on making the point of ‘capital improvements’ and other expenditures that are quite costly. This costs nothing to implement and it saves commuters time. Where is the downside?

  6. i just check their site, prices are the same $31,

    W00T W00T a whole 12 minutes!

    Why not get rid of all routes or just stop at Oceanside or Irvine which ever has more passengers.

  7. 17 minutes?! Wow!!! This is huge!
    Now THAT’S what I call a major improvement!
    Away from sarcasm – 17 minutes “savings” is pitiful. 2 hours 30 minutes (total trip) is still much longer than driving in perfect conditions which currently takes under 2 hours (in perfect conditions).
    I agree with most commenters on this blog; investing in high-speed rail, and being serious about it, is much more prudent than making a big deal out of a tiny 17-minute savings.
    If Amtrak truly wants to impress passengers, and attract more choice riders, the LA-SD trip should take no more than 2 hours.

  8. 17 minutes is not significant time savings. don’t bother. invest in high speed rail instead.

  9. I like the fact that they trying new things especially when limited in the ways they are by the powers that be.

    I took this train for the first time recently and it was pretty quick but it was somewhat annoying stopping so many times in Orange County but the station dwell time was very short.

    This route would benefit from being double tracked where it’s not and having the Positive Train Control (PTC) like implemented (like Metrolink) which I believe they are putting in as we speak for increased maximum operating speeds up to 110MPH in some places.

  10. I gotta say I really do agree that we need some significant capital improvements before doing this. The problem is that the current infrastructure simply is too limited to make this very effective. Upgrading the system to 110mph will still be much faster than this. The trains are still going to be restricted to 80mph max, which may mean that it just reaches the bottleneck at bit faster. However I can see how this is an attempt to test on-the-fence ridership and see if it will increase because of it so it is a small good step forward, just so long as it does not preclude or delay the much needed capital improvements. Also lets not forget LOSSAN north 😉 which serves the highly populated san fernando valley and beyond. Thats going to be very important too and it needs a lot of improvement.

  11. Seems like this express has another purpose that no one has mentioned yet. I for one know the stress of the current train getting into LAX on a tight-schedule when trying to connect with the Northbound Coast Starlight. Shaving 17 minutes off is small, but man would it save the heartache of running the platform to catch your train!

  12. A note about the track. Between LA-Fullerton-Laguna Niguel, the route is double tracked. The OCTA and Metrolink have actually done a good improving the infrastructure between Fullerton and Laguna Niguel. The worst bottleneck in the system in Santa Ana was double tracked years ago.

    Right now, the worst bottlenecks are in San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente in Orange County. In San Diego County, the long and winding stretch of single track around Miramar Rd. is a big time waster.

    It will be interesting to see if this express service gets stuck in a siding and its minuscule time savings lost.

    Capital improvements first. Many are ready to go. They just need some modest funding. But the Surfliner is not as desirable as high speed rail, even though it’s just as important.

  13. Express service on this route is premature. It needs capital improvements, such as double tracking, curve straightening and the Miramar tunnel.

    Get the average speed up, and skipping stops saves more time.

  14. I agree wholeheartedly with Joe. It’s some kind of a start, but the time savings is quite small. It highlights how resistant this antiquated infrastructure is to meaningful improvements. It’s a scandal that one of the busiest passenger rail corridors in the U.S. should have to share a single track with freight trains.

  15. I agree with Joe. 12-17 minutes is insignificant. If it was at least 30 minutes less or even more, that would be better.

  16. I am a huge rail advocate and I commend Amtrak for trying to improve the time but a savings of at most 17 minutes?

    Will the cost for this ticket be more than a standard ticket?