As Americans, when we think about going somewhere by train, it usually means we’re vacationing in Japan, France, Germany, Spain or China and traveling by high-speed train. The truth is, these same countries and so many others alike have traditional “low-speed” rail systems that millions of people use everyday. These are their versions of Amtrak and VIA rail.
Believe it or not, the United States and even California has a fairly reliable and expansive rail system. Some of the biggest US Cities have great transportation systems that have withstood the test of time. New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago are the big winners in my eyes. One could easily live in and around these cities without owning a car and still get around with relative ease.
Here in Southern California, many coastal communities between Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego are served fairly well by Amtrak, Metrolink and Coaster trains. Northern California has reliable commuter service on the Peninsula in Caltrain, the Capitol Corridor connects Silicon Valley with Sacramento and BART reaches many communities around the Bay Area.
Click on a page to view a summary of each service. I give you my opinion of each system, where it succeeds and what needs improvement. Keep in mind, my goal is not to pick winners and losers. I feel every system has its place and can succeed by providing the right service to a particular market. Ground transportation is about collectivity, not competition!