Pacific Surfliner Expects Heavy Ridership Later This Month
Passenger rail is quickly becoming a major travel choice between the Los Angeles area and San Diego. It makes sense, given the regular traffic jams on Interstate 5 and the reliable, comfortable service on the Pacific Surfliner. On days where freeway traffic is bad, the Surfliner is often faster than the car when going from a station in LA or Orange County to San Diego.
As a result, the Surfliners are seeing not only steady ridership growth – they are beginning to sell out even on non-holiday weekends. Later this month Amtrak California will require reservations for all Surfliner trips from July 19 to July 21. Reservations are a way of managing high ridership demand.
The San Diego Comic-Con is that weekend, along with the opening weekend of racing at Del Mar. But it’s Comic-Con that is the bigger draw. With the Convention Center a short trolley trip away from the San Diego Amtrak station, it makes sense that LA and Orange County residents heading to the Comic-Con would take the train.
As the benefits of train travel in Southern California becomes clearer, we can expect the Surfliner to begin approaching its capacity more often. Whereas reservations are currently only required around the winter holidays and at times like Comic-Con weekend, before long they’ll be required on weekends throughout the year.
It’s a clear argument for further investment in the LOSSAN corridor to allow for increased passenger rail service, from higher speeds to more frequent trains. That needs to be part of a broader statewide investment in passenger rail for everything from local streetcars to the bullet train. Californians are making it clear that they’ll take the train if the option is there for them. Let’s make sure they can continue to do so for decades to come.