Last week, San Clemente became the 10th stop on the 87-mile commuter railroad route between Oceanside and Los Angeles. The occasion was the opening of a new train station at 1850 Avenida Estacion, where residents can park for $1 and ride round-trip to Union Station for $16.
This is a welcome development in the evolving commuter-railroad network of the region. Metrolink, which also has plans to open another station between Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs, and another line between Riverside and Irvine, should be encouraged in these efforts.
The new San Clemente station will serve trains going to Los Angeles three times in the morning and returning three times in the evening. Other stops along the way include San Juan Capistrano, Irvine, Santa Ana, Orange, Anaheim, Fullerton, and the City of Commerce. Officials report the encouraging news that Metrolink ridership in Southern California totaled 58,000 last month, which was an all-time high.
Getting people to abandon the automobile is indeed a formidable challenge in this area. By contrast, rail commutation is a way of life elsewhere, in the New York metropolitan area, for example.
But Metrolink has been trying admirably to create incentives for people to try the train, as must be done to change habits. For example, for San Clemente riders, arrangements were made for the local Route 394 bus to provide free connecting service to and from the station. Metrolink is also putting the word out that rail commutation costs considerably less than all the associated costs that go into operating a car for the same daily trip to work.
The evolving commuter network has made significant strides in the past few years. People still are wedded to the automobile, but even if some switch, the commuter trains from Orange County to Los Angeles will have to be considered a success in alleviating traffic congestion.