Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Revamped Amtrak train christened


Like a scene from an old western movie, Mayor Marty Blum crushed a bottle of Champagne over the undercarriage of an Amtrak train as it rumbled to a halt yesterday at the Santa Barbara Train Station.
The only difference was the bottle of booze was faux Champagne in a breakaway bottle that was wrapped in a net to prevent glass from flying in the eye of an unsuspecting spectator. And the train, the daily Coast Starlight that makes the 1,377 Mile journey between Los Angeles and Seattle, wasn’t new, just improved.

Amtrak officials and local leaders were on hand to promote a series of upgraded amenities on the Coast Starlight, which include an arcade car for children and a parlour car, where wine, cheese and a small theater are available.
“It’s very impressive,” said Joseph Yannuzzi, general superintendent for Amtrak’s Southwestern Division, adding that he hopes the improvements become an expectation and not an exception to American train travel.
He said the train’s staff has received special training as well to better tend to the needs of riders. Yesterday’s trek up the coast marked the first time the improvements were offered to the public.
At the moment, the Coast Starlight, which Yannuzzi said is Amtrak’s most popular long-haul train, is the only in the nation that offers the upgraded services.
He said the once-daily train, which departs from Los Angeles at 10:15 a.m., rolls through Santa Barbara at 12:48 p.m. and arrives in Seattle 32 hours later, offers a rare look at the west coast that can only be experienced by train.
“[If offers] views you can’t get from a car, you can’t get from an airplane or a hotel room,” he said.
As of yesterday, one reserved, roundtrip seat for an adult on the Coast Starlight cost $358. Yannuzzi said fares increase periodically, but have not yet jumped in recent months since the cost of diesel fuel has skyrocketed, though he said Amtrak’s budget has been impacted just like other travel providers.
Santa Barbara Car Free, an organization created by the county’s Air Pollution Control District to promote car free travel and tourism, sponsored yesterday’s re-launch of the train.
Mary Byrd, project manager for Car Free, said Amtrak has been a valuable partner in promoting such travel in the Santa Barbara area.
She said Amtrak offers a 20 percent discount on its Surfliner train, which passes between San Diego and Santa Barbara with limited trains going through San Luis Obispo, for people who sign up for the savings on the Car Free Web site. She said Amtrak and Santa Barbara MTD offers free one-day transit passes to use the city’s public transportation. More than 40 hotels, restaurants and other local businesses offer discounts to car-free travelers.
“Santa Barbara’s a great place to promote coming to town without a car and getting around without a car,” Byrd said. “It’s all about reducing our impact on the environment.”
More information about Car Free is available at www.santabarbaracarfree.org.


allegro805 said...

Coast Starlight is an excellent, relaxing, beautiful way to travel partly or all the way up the coast ... let's hope that the track delays are kept in check. Easiest way to ruin a good product, really though no fault of Amtrak's, but rather the fact that we have one coastal track to service all freight and passenger traffic.

Anonymous said...

I love train travel, but Amtrak will need to do better than an average of 43 MPH to be competitive with other modes of transport and to attract more riders.