Running Trains at the Right Time

Planners of a train between San Juan Capistrano and Los Angeles have found out just what it means to be in the new business of providing a train designed specifically for commuters. The name of the game is tailored service, sometimes within a matter of minutes, to the routines of commuters who must make a daily series of connections.

The planners had their own set of scheduling questions to answer before the planned April 30 start-up date. It began with the fact that there already are existing Amtrak trains running between Los Angeles and San Diego that commuters regularly use. One problem was that to make a special Orange County trip in the late afternoon out of Los Angeles, it was necessary to turn that train around to be back in Los Angeles to run again as the regular southbound 9:10 p.m. to San Diego. To do that, the Orange County Transportation Commission proposed pushing a regular Amtrak 5:50 p.m. run back to 6:20 p.m. and inserting a commuter train at 5:30 p.m. that could successfully make the turnaround.

In the real world of people's schedules, however, the change meant that some current commuters who took the 5:50 p.m. home would now have to take a train 20 minutes earlier or wait until 6:20. Disgruntled passengers with long days and tight schedules walked the train to gather signatures. They argued for a train closer to the time they were used to.

Credit the commission with listening, and luck. It managed to lease another commuter train. It's an answer to a commuter prayer: It will run as a 5:45 p.m. out of Los Angeles, at a cost of $300,000 in annual leasing, but at convenience to all. Here's an editorial that has a happy ending.

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