Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com

 

The South Shore Line to the CTA Blue Line to Spirit Airlines to the Metro Green Line to an Uber to Dinseyland

This past April Louise and I had already paid for days at Dinseyland and again headed off to Anaheim for a quick weekend at Louise’s Happiest Place on Earth. Unlike last year when the trip ended with us getting home at 4:00am Monday morning we planned this trip with the goal of “staying on Eastern time” and flew back on a just post-curfew morning flight from Orange County. For the flight out there wasn’t anything cheap out of Orange County but Spirit Airlines had less than $100 each one-way fares out of Chicago O’Hare, and for this short a trip, we had no need for any carry-on or checked bags.

I took 2.25 hours of vacation to do this trip and it began with me hailing an Uber at my desk for $9.28 and meeting Louise downstiars at 12:15pm for a short ride to the South Bend Airport. The Transpo Route 4 bus we like to take but it arrives at 12:43, and this feels uncomfortably short before a trip. Having less than 6 minutes to catch the 12:49 South Shore Train, requires taking the 11:50am bus and my vacation time feels more valuable than this. The Uber follows a Coach USA Airport Supersaver Bus that originated at Notre Dame at Noon and is heading to the Airport for it’s 12:30pm trip to O’Hare (with a connection to Midway). It’s scheduled arrival time is 2:35pm and but would cost us $42 each instead of the $13.50 for the South Shore Line and $2.50 for the Blue Line. Louise also gets motion sickness on buses.

We get to South Bend Airport(2 Photos) in plenty of time to our awaiting South Shore Train.

 

The ride into Chicago is largely uneventful, although we arrive at Van Buren Street in Chicago 15 minutes late at 2:30. We arrive as a train of BiLevel cars is going the other way, on an Eastbound South Shore Line trip only as far as Michigan City. Our train is on the middle track and blocks my view to finally get some photos of the South Shore’s Galley BiLevel cars in service. The reason for the delay seems primarily due to some work on a grade-crossings before Michigan City that I don’t really notice while taking a nice and short train nap curled up against the train window.

On the train Louise and I decide to see if we can download and watch a movie on my iPad on the Spirit Flight. We realize we have problems, Louise only has Bluetooth headphones and forgot the cord to use to them outside of airplane mode, we also don’t have a headphone splitter. We figure out a solution and make a bee-line to Target on State Street to buy a cheap pair of headphones and a splitter for less than $15. We then bee-line it to Moroe Street-(2 Photos) to wait for the Blue Line.

The Blue Line soon comes and we have usual long and slightly jerky  ride because of the short CTA cars out to O’Hare.

At O’Hare we have an easy PreCheck security line and stop at Burrito Beach for some dinner before boarding our plane. The plane is at C9 which does have a Jetbridge (Spirit flights are sometimes forced to a different O’Hare gate C12 that requires passengers to take stairs down to the tarmac and a ramp up into the plane).

On my two previous Spirit flights between Chicago to the west coast we’ve gotten Big Front Seats for as low as $35, money well spent, but the seats are all taken on this flight when we book. I settle in for my first Spirit flight on their “pre”-reclined seats. The big problem with them for me is their lack of padding that makes my back sore, Louise who is tall and has broad hips actually finds Spirit seats (and Frontier seats) often more comfortable than normal airline seats, also since recline can be deadly to her, so flights like these are sort of a compromise in comfort for us as a couple.

The plane leaves the gate a couple minutes early at 5:03, after we wait to finish fueling. It’s the usual long O’Hare Airport taxi and we take off at 5:19. Our stop at Target works well. We watch UP! which I hadn’t seen before on my iPad is the perfect inflight entertainment for us and helps pass the time. We finally land in L.A. at 7:15 and have a quite long taxi to our gate where we arrive at 7:28 Pacific Time.

The time we did this trip last year we arrived later and took a Prime Time Shuttle down to Anaheim which cost $31.95 for two tickets but required waiting a good half-hour to 40 minutes for a shuttle with enough seats for us to show up. This time I figured out a new idea, an Uber all the way from LAX to Disneyland costs about $50, but about half of the journey is in the median of the Century Freeway and an Uber from Norwalk would only cost about $25. We arrive and Louise is okay and not too tired for the idea so we find the right curb for Bus Route “G” (only passengers with TAP cards arriving at the airport are allowed on board, I would think LAX would be happy letting people get dropped off at the Green Line station and reduce curb congestion) and wait about 10 minutes for the bus. The LAX Airport Shuttle’s use Ride Systems the same system I’m used I help manage for work. They’ve programmed there’s in a way so there a bunch of idling shuttle icons sitting in their bus garage, and its a bit confusing.

We have an uneventful bus ride to the Aviation/LAX Station-(3 Photos) where I notice the guideway built for the Crenshaw Line that’s going to open in a couple years. I buy us TAP cards loaded with a single ride for $2.75 each ($5.50 total). There definitely not enough TVMs at the Aviation Station entrance for the busiest of an airport connection station. The Transit App is giving inaccurate data saying a Green Line will be there in 6 minutes (it’s frequency is sadly every 20 minutes at this hour) before live tracking goes blank, soon we see the lights of a train arriving in the distance and we get on.

 

The Green Line ride east in the middle of the Century Freeway is a bit eventful. Yet again I overhear some random strangers getting into a deep conversation with one another on Metrorail. This seems to be something that I witness a lot more when riding transit in California than back in New York City. We get to the last stop at Norwalk Station(8 Photos) and leave to the west exit plaza.

   

At the west exit plaza we wait by the Bumble Bee sculpture for about 15 minutes for our Uber down to Anaheim. We see Metro Bus route 460 that goes to Disneyland from Downtown Los Angeles and the Norwalk Green Line Station, it’s a 67 minute ride making lots of stops that is just not feasible for us (although costing just a 75 cent upcharge).

Our Uber driver is a Disneyland season pass holder and a bit chatty. The cost of the ride is ideal at just $22.35, so the total cost from the airport is $25.85 (plus the $1 per new TAP card which is a one time cost). This is a price I can get behind, and $5 cheaper than the unreliable primetime shuttle (it’s also cheaper than )

We arrive at the Courtyard Anaheim Convention Center, that feels like a Courtyard that could be in any city. It’s chosen because it’s a Category 5 hotel that I can use a free night certificate that we earned by staying in Marriott Hotels on our roadtrip to Syracuse for Thanksgiving.

We’re in bed before 10:00pm Pacific Time and soon fall asleep on this trip where the goal is to keep our bodies on Eastern Time. We wake up the next morning at 6:00am naturally. We walk up Harbor Blvd, stopping at CVS for last minute items and are inside Disneyland on Main Street at 7:30, forth group through the turnstile. We grab breakfast at the now Starbucks on Main Street and head outside and enter the park with the rope drop.

I’m not going to go into details about are fun day at Dinseyland with some brief hopping into California Adventure but might as well include some rail-based transportation photos. We had an interesting ride on the Disneyland Railroad that was in the process of temporarily going out of service to fix something on the tracks (is it real transportation? I don’t know and can’t decide).

The Autotopia, stinking of diesel fuel from it’s lawnmower engines

We went for a ride on a horse-drawn streetcar, pulled by horse Finn (with a normal cast-member name tag). I think this and Dinseyworld are some of the few places you can ride a horse-car.

We we’re planning to ride the monorail back into the park from Downtown Disney but it was “Temporary Closed due to heat since the cars lack air conditioning.” I didn’t fully believe the cast member here either.

We head back to the hotel after a terrible Toy Story Fireworks/Projection show that’s really hard to see, not waiting until Midnight park closing time to keep our bodies on Eastern Time.

Continue reading: Flying Home from Disneyland with my first ride on Amtrak’s Blue Water to Niles.

 

Heading back from Vancouver via SkyTrain, United Airlines, the Lake Shore Limited and 2 Ubers

This is the final post of my Pacific Northwest Up to Date trip. It’s a bit later than I’d like but I wanted to rebuild Chicago-Union Station first to get those 2 photos properly processed with the station.

Me and my Dad have four excellent days skiing at Whistler. We head up there on the 6:00am Friday morning Whistler Express bus (it was a very short night after my Amtrak Cascades day in Portland and then Seattle) and headed back Monday afternoon after skiing. Louise flew into Vancouver on a red-eye Saturday morning from a conference in Honolulu, took the YVR Whistler SkyLynx bus and met us in Whistler. Louise doesn’t ski but had a great and productive two days writing and working in the condo we rented off of AirBNB. We spent Monday night at the nice Delta Hotels Vancouver Downtown Suites.

Tuesday morning our flight wasn’t until 2:00pm. I thought about getting up early and riding the new SkyTrain Evergreen Exteinsion, but decided to take it easy and spend a portion of this vacation exploring some with Louse. I think the best way to fully do the Evergreen Extension is to start with a scenic ride out to it on West Coast Express, which only runs outbound during the afternoons. We awoke to amazing views in our corner hotel suite, and seagulls making noise that we could hear inside the room.

We then headed down to a nice breakfast in the hotel restaurant that was complementary because of our Marriott Gold status courtesy of the AMEX Platinum Card (this amazing benefit at Marriott hotels is sadly ending). We then took walk and ended up getting some views of the Waterfront West Coast Express Station(7 Photos) from the plaza in front of Waterfront Centre.

 

We also passed through Waterfront Station(5 Photos) with it’s complicated faregate situation (you have to pass through faregates entering and exiting to transfer between the Canada line and all other rail and SeaBus services at the station)

 

We eventually end up back at our hotel room to pack up our luggage and at 11:50, 2 hours before our flight, we walk through this alley with a unique mural.

We then arrive at the southern entrance to the Canada Line’s Waterfront Station(5 Photos). There I buy two more single use Compass Tickets in one transaction, getting the right setting on the machine to accept my debit card as Chip and Pin.

 

We get onto the Canada Line, waiting for a Richmond train to leave before the next train arrives going to YVR Airport. It’s an uneventful ride as it starts to rain once were on the outdoor stretch.

We get to the YVR Airport(5 Photos) at 12:25. I have an awkward moment. As we approach th faregates to tap out of the SkyTrain System, a woman, I assume a tourist with luggage, approaches me from behind, and as I tap my Compass Card, says I didn’t know I needed to keep my card and follows me through the faregates. This doesn’t sound any alarms so we head down the stairs towards the US and International departures area.

  

We scan our passports for paper boarding passes and head into the US Customs, and pre-clearance area. The first step is security. Luckily I have my physical Global Entry ID card that gets us in a line that doesn’t seem to be moving any faster than the regular line. In Canada there is only PreCheck light, shoes can be kept on but laptops need to be taken out of their bags. The line gets long enough that an additional line is open, although this one is part of a normal line so an employee gets the job of saying “Shoes on, shoes off pointing” to the two lines. All passengers just go through metal detectors with millimeter-wave scanners as a back up in Canada. We don’t mind and choose the “shoes off” line. At the metal detector, I get an odd beep, and an employee tells me I’ve been randomly selected for either a full pat down or a body scanner. I opt into the body scanner which seems easier. The sweat of carrying my ski bag backpack shows with suspicion under my armpits (this has happened on other trips when I’ve been sweaty). The guy barely pats me down and figures it’s just sweat.

We continue to the Global Entry kiosks, these are quick with our fingerprints. Pre-Clearance still requires you to talk to a customs official, so after a couple questions we’re free to enter the not all that big but quite pleasant US Pre-Clearance Area. It’s strange looking into the World-International Departures area across the way, an area we are not allowed in, past different immigration lines.

We end up heading to the Plaza Premium Lounge for 20 minutes where we have some quite decent but simple rice and curry for lunch. Another free meal. The lounge is crowded with the staff warning us there are not too many seats available but we find some.

We see boarding is at 1:20 but since were in group 4, we’ve decided to leave the lounge at 1:30. At 1:25 (a fill 30 minutes before departure of this narrowbody plane), we overhear, over the entire Transborder departure area, that United Flight #298 is ready for departure. We board and find an empty row to ourselves (I’ve done the aisle, leave an empty middle seat, window trick when booking our two separate tickets that Louise needed done for reimbursement purposes). We wait for a few stragglers, but no one for our empty middle seat towards the back and push back at 1:52pm, taxi and take off at 2:16.

The flight is productive. I help Louise talk through part of her dissertation proposal, the extra seat really making this possible. I get some out the window photos of the mainly slow covered Rocky Mountains, and get sad when they fade into the Great Plains.

The flight is overall decent, except Air Traffic Control Delays on our approach into Chicago delay us a bit. We finally land at 7:53 and a long O’Hare taxi gets us to the gate at 8:09pm. We are off the plane and in the terminal at 8:20pm. Just too late to reliably take the Blue Line down to Union Station for the Lake Shore Limited home to South Bend so rideshare it is.

I have a monthly $15 Uber credit from my AMEX card. An UberPool is only $25 but an ETA into Union Station too late for us. LyftLine seems more promising, but after hailing one I immediately hit cancel when the dispatched ride share is over 20 minutes away (there’s no fee when it’s immediate). We end up hailing an Uber for $43. The Uber takes 15 minutes to arrive but we have a decent, professional driver. It’s an uneventful ride down the Kennedy Expressway to Union Station(2 Photos) where we arrive at 9:05. We have plenty of time to hit up the Pret and McDonalds for Chicken McNuggets (during weekends only the McDonalds is open this late, and these are now a post-trip joke between us).

We then head out to board the Lake Shore Limited after most of general boarding has happened.

As we board the last Hiawatha train of the night is detraining on one of the through tracks on the south concourse in push mode so it can head into the yard for the night. I get some photos of the Midwest painted Charger unit as we board, I also notice the logos of the various departments of transportation that jointly funded them.

 

The Lake Shore Limited leaves a few minutes late. It seems like the slight delay is that their trying to fix a PA issue. The conductor comes to our car to ask if anyone had heard her announcement. I say no and she goes back to the vestibule to give a long safety sphael. I should have said “Yes we did”.

We’re both still hungry and head to the cafe car to grab a Pepperoni Stromboli to split in the cafe car. We first ask for a pizza but the attendant says they are too frozen for consumption. It’s fairly good. We sit in the “observation car,” as the attendants/conductor announce it although the Amfleet I Business/Lounge car has smaller windows than the regular coaches. We stop a few times for freight trains and arrive in South Bend more than 25 minutes late at 12:24am.

I hail another Uber for the short $6.18 ride down Washington Street home. It’s a 25 minute wait for this Uber because he’s coming from the south and delayed by two long freight trains that block the grade crossing, creating at least a 10-15 minute delay.

We still get home by 1:00am, when the alternative the 9:15pm Supersavor Bus would have dropped us off at the South Bend Airport.

Chicago-Union Station is Rebuilt with Tons of New Photos

I made a page for Chicago-Union Station, way back in 2008 in an old format that didn’t acknowledge Metra, and pretty much stopped updating it. I got into the bad habit of embedding photos from trip reports through Chicago-Union Station (I plan to continue to do this in trip reports of photos such as lines and destination boards, when adding a photo to the photo page doesn’t make sense out of context). With a number of trips through Chicago-Union Station this past year, I decided it was time to rebuild Chicago-Union Station(117 Photos added) into my  current Metra station format and stop letting photos of the station pile up in my archive.

The Great Hall, from empty to the current boarding area:

  • 2013:
  • 2015:
  • 2017:

Old and New Metropolitan Lounges:

 

The page is now easy for me to update so on further trips through Chicago-Union Station, I can easily directly upload my new photos and not have them sit in my archive for years until I do posts like this.

Finishing the VTA Light Rail Stations

About 4 years ago I did an experiment with writing up the VTA Light Rail, that I think ended up failing. I typed up all my station summaries and decided which photos to use, but didn’t actually process the station. I decided to ‘save’ processing for when I wanted mindless SubwayNut work. The time came about a year ago when I got very close to finishing, but didn’t quite. Over the past month (between my other website updates), I finally found time to finish the VTA Light Rail:

Enjoy! I realize a few stations may have slipped having a blog post written about them but I assure you every station has at least a few photos for a photo essay.

Metra La Salle Street and the new White Sox Station

Here’s another Chicago Metra update, getting Chicago area stations out of my archive, that brings another Downtown Chicago terminal onto the web:

Enjoy!

 

Quiet, Sleepy Amtrak Cascades Train #518 to the Frequent Vancouver SkyTrain

This is Part 4 of my 2018 Pacific Northwest Up-to-Date Trip.

I return to King Street Station at 6:12, after getting the 3 new Link Stations, a little early by my standards. I’m feeling a quite tired (my body thinks its 9:12) and my technology is starting to die. I eat the Gyro plate I’ve purchased and wait for boarding instructions to head to Vancouver. At 6:25 they ask us to line up to get our tickets scanned and seat checks that do have seating assignments. I notice I get a window! I then relax on an old fashioned wooden bench, as my camera battery charges across from me in one of the few scarce outlets in King Street Station.

Boarding starts 15 minutes before departure at 6:45pm (my train arrived in Seattle from Portland at 6:39pm, 9 minutes late). I head outside getting some photos of a Charger attached to some Superliner cars (used temporary on Amtrak Cascades because of damage from all the recent accidents) saying “Not In Service” on its sign.

I board my car and take my assigned seat, every row in the car fills up but since it’s going to be a less than half-full train everyone has been assigned two seats to themselves.

We get a friendly announcement from the bistro car that their currently closed, restocking with lots of new food from our stop in Seattle. The bistro car needs a full round-trip of food to and from because customs regulations prohibit it from being restocked in Vancouver.

The train leaves for Vancouver at 7:02, two minutes late and we head into the railroad tunnel under downtown Seattle, were through at 7:06, and get another bistro attendant announcement that “I’m open, done restocking from the commissary.”

We have another conductor who’s very good at keeping us informed about unexpected stops as it’s slow running into Everett due to freight trains. I notice the electric fence in the dark that notifies BNSF (and issues a 48 hour moratorium on passenger trains) when a branch or rock slides down this mudslide prone portion of tracks. We stop in Edmonds at 7:31, 6 minutes late, and I notice additional Sounder platforms before the Amtrak platform area.

We continue north and pass through Mukilteo at 7:55, the only stop we bypass on Sounder North. This station has been rebuilt since I visited with more permanent platforms for the two tracks and even a pedestrian overpass, the train is running full speed. The nightime lights of Pudget sound feel calm on my nice quiet car.

The rest of the ride north is a bit of a blur. I step into the vestibule to call Louise and talk to her for awhile who’s in Honolulu at the moment presenting at a conference. She will take a red-eye to Vancouver in a few days time and meet up with us. I have my laptop and try and do some website work but am too tired.

I get the usual Canadian entry card after we stop in Bellingham and fill one out, it has a place to say your arriving by train, unlike the awkward US customs card where you simply write Amtrak (and the train number) under flight number/vessel name. I fall back asleep again around 9:50, after we cross the Peace Arch without delay into Canada.

At 11:00am, I wake up again and wonder how close we’ve gotten, I see the Millenium Line and that we’re nearly past the VCC/Clark Station and about to arrive in Vancouver. We are just a few minutes late. It’s the usual stop and go, getting switches set to enter Pacific Central.

At 11:06 I see the train wash, people have gotten up to prepare to get off, although we’re told to wait in our seats and that the crew will release us to go through Canadian customs car-by-car. There is one woman in my car who’s phone has been buzzing with a really annoying ring tone almost non-stop since we’ve entered Canada. We then pass the VIA/West Coast Express Maintenance facility.

At 11:09 I see the security guard holding an umbrella opening the gate to let us enter the gated secured paddock for us all to clear Canadian Immigration and customs. We come to a stop on the platform at 11:10 for good.

It’s a bit of a wait for my car (one of the benefits of a business class upgrade is there released to Canadian customs and immigration first, although their car is on the opposite end of the platform from the baggage car which is always at the front of the train northbound into Vancouver), but very shortly I head out to the platform. I get to the baggage car and find my backpack sitting as expected just outside of it. I ask a friendly VIA employee – who seems almost familiar from my previous trips through Pacific Central Station – if he wants to match my bag tags. He says “No it’s on the honor system.”

I head into customs, the line moving relatively briskly and have an amusing conversation with the CBSA agent:

CBSA Agent: “What Brings you to Canada?”
Me: “Skiing at Whistler.”
CBSA Agent: “Are you meeting anyone?”
Me: “Yes, my Dad.”
CBSA Agent: “Is he meeting you at the station?”
Me: “He’s asleep already at our hotel, I’m taking the Skytrain over to the hotel”
CBSA Agent: “Very good, enjoy your stay!” 

I walk out am through customs at 11:21, just 11 minutes after the train’s arrival, not to shabby.

I exit Pacific Central Station and cross Thornton Park to Main Street-Science World(6 Photos). I purchase my first ever Compass Ticket, it’s too late at night to figure out how much money to load onto a permanent compass card, although Compass Tickets I know have a single-use ticket fee. It takes me a few tries since it’s a modern chip and pin machine. My AMEX credit card doesn’t work, but my chip and pin US debit card luckily does, on the second try when I select Credit not Debit and enter my pin number.

 

I then head up to the platform admiring the new signage with the Evergreen Extension on the Millennium Line now opening. I just miss one SkyTrain but another comes within 5 minutes. Not too many cities can boast of a transit line running that frequent at 11:30 at night.

I get off at Burrard Station (I don’t get any decent photos) as I walk the few ways to the hotel. I pick up the key that my Dad’s left me at the front desk and our in our room at Midnight, with a 5:00am wake-up call, before the 6:00am bus to Whistler.

Seattle has a Crowded Subway – the new University Link and Angle Lake Extensions

This is Part 3 of my 2018 Pacific Northwest Up-to-Date Trip

I take King County transit Rapid Ride Bus Route F, the relatively short ride to Tukwila International Blvd(15 Photos). There I head up the escalators to the Angle Lake-bound platform. I notice new Got Wheels? take the elevators disks painted on the ground, and signs that there’s a discount on ubers from the station (probably trying to help solve the station’s full park & ride lot).

   

Getting on the next Angle Lake-bound train, I notice the new system maps have the link line as Red, part of the new color branding when the link finally needs two branches when the line to Bellevue opens in 2023.

I stop at Sea-Tac Airport and enter new trackage heading south to Angle Lake(37 photos), which is an elevated guideway extension, designed to serve a large over 1,000 space parking garage. While I’m at Angle Lake I notice Sound Transit has changed the format of their signs removing the teal line, so their now all one color. I’ve changed the format of the signs for the new stations.

  

I get my photo essay, and get on another Link train heading northbound. At Sea-Tack I get a photo of the now Angle Lake-bound, not for terminating trains platform, and see the Alaska Airlines Disneyland plane parked at the terminal.

I continue north on the Central link alignment I’ve photographed back in 2011, at Columbia City–(1 Photo), I get a decent photo out the window of a platform sign that has been changed.

We continue through the Beacon Hill Tunnel, and as we go through it I notice that I loose cell phone service, this tunnel hasn’t been wired yet. We continue to follow the busway towards the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel where the Link train gets more and more crowded. After we stop at Westlake and I enter the new “University Link” trackage and tunnel I feel like I’m on the New York City Subway. I notice that the Downtown Transit and University Link tunnels have all been rigged for cell phone coverage.

At Capitol Hill(8 Photos) I notice nice large LCD screens showing next departure signs, make it clear that my two car train is running a few minutes late and bunching so it’s crowded with another northbound train to the University of Washington 2 minutes away so I decide to get off.

 

I take a much less crowded train to the University of Washington(41 Photos). I arrive and see a crowd of people (some with bicycles) from the crowded train I got off of at Capitol Hill still waiting for the elevators up to the surface at the 95 foot deep station. I get some photos of the platform and then head up to the surface to get photos of the station house before heading back down on the set of escalators that lead down to the surface in the opposite direction.

     

After spending 15 minutes there I get on the next train to depart, noticing a PSA sign that I quite like that seats are for butts, not bags.

As we leave two fare inspectors working as a team come on. My ORCA card with my overpriced day pass (which I’ve been diligently tapping on and off with at my 2 stops), passes the test. One person, the first person one fare inspector talks to isn’t so luckily and I find it interesting how the 2nd fare inspector has time to get everyone in my car (which has most seats taken) in the time it takes for the first fare inspector to write the fare jumper a summons. I get off with the fare inspectors (but not the person who has cooperated and gotten a summons) and a surprising to me number of other people at Capitol Hill(35 Photos). I get off and start my photo essay of this extremely urban 3 entrance subway station.

    

As I approach the final entrance I see the last stop on the First Hill Line of the Seattle Streetcar. This streetcar line is new and one I would like to ride at some point. I just miss a streetcar, and still want to finish the last entrances to Capitol Hill so I don’t get on.

I head back down to the Link platform and get on another link train at 5:49pm, with a little over an hour before my train up to Vancouver that leaves at 7:00pm.

I take this train to Pioneer Square(3 Photos), not the closest stop to King Street Station, but I want to pick up some dinner for my journey to continue north into Canada.

 

I start walking south and stop at a hole in the wall for a gyro plate. I approach King Street Station(14 Photos) at 6:15, a little early and wait for a First Hill Streetcar to pass me, that I think is the same streetcar, now completing its trip that I watched leave the Capitol Hill Station while I did my photo essay!

I then enter King Street Station to wait for Amtrak Cascades Train #518 that will take me into Canada.

Amtrak Cascades from Portland to the rebuilt Tukwila Station via Port Defiance

This is Part 3 of my 2018 Pacific Northwest Up-to-Date Trip

I leave the Society Hostel at 11:15 with my luggage and started walking north the few blocks to Union Station. I pass Union Station/NW 5th & Gilsan(2 Photos) and then some northbound trains curving around the curve just north of Union Station/NW 6th & Hoyt(3 Photos).

 

I get to Union Station-(14 Photos) at about 11:20 and head to the baggage office (which is separate from the regular ticket office). I’ve purchased a multi-city PDX-SEA-VAC ticket for $49. I explain to a very friendly baggage agent that I would like to check by bag to Vancouver after a stop in Seattle. He understands exactly what I’m asking and says my bag will be checked from Portland directly on Train #518, the train I’m crossing the US border on.

 

Next I’m told to head to the ticket office to ‘check-in’ for my train. Here I’m handed a seat check and am originally told for Seattle to board train cars 7, 8 or 9. I explain I think I’m going to get off at Tukwila, and she says in that case board cars 3 or 4, she writes this on the back of my seat check since only the doors near that car will open. Unlike on previous Amtrak Cascade trips they don’t hand me an exact seat assignment.

 

I wander around Union Station some more and soon they announce priority boarding, followed by boarding for parties of two or more for Amtrak Cascades Train #504. I head outside, get some rainy photos of a Charger sitting on another trainset, and notice that my train is being pulled by a charger, so no decent photo of it in Tukwila.

 

I then board the ADA car #3 that has 2 x 1 seating and select a seat in the single 1 row for the novelty. The train isn’t that crowded so I probably would have gotten two seats to myself anyway. At 11:58 we get an announcement that the bistro car is already open and serving, and instructions to line up along the wall towards the lounge car and not form the line into the vestibule of my car #3

At 12:03, 3 minutes late as it stops raining and the sun comes out, with a BNSF freight train passing in the opposite direction, we leave Portland-Union Station.

We leave Portland, and follow trees and bridges on a ride that feels oddly familiar, although I was last here back in 2013. The conductor comes and I explain I want to get off at Tukwila as he scans my ticket, saying “Getting off early, won’t be a problem.” We soon cross the Columbia River bridges.

Almost immediately we enter the Vancouver, WA station, where we arrive at 12:22pm and leave at 12:24pm, 6 minutes late. I notice that a new platform has been built for the Empire Builder across Hill Street from the main station, with a few shelters, looking at Google Earth I notice a third track has also been added along the switch the Empire Builder takes just before entering this station so their isn’t space next to the platform.

We continue north, following the Columbia River’s wide estuary, and then I-5 (briefly running between the lanes of the freeway) before it follows alongside us.

At 1:03 we stop in Keslo-Longview that seems exactly the same, with a volunteer station attendant standing on the platform as when I visited it nearly 7 years ago.

I then head to the bistro car for a light lunch. I due love the Amtrak Cascades menu, compared to the normal AmCafe menu on most routes (the Downeaster has a similar special menu). I order what else but clam chowder, and head into the Lounge Car. As I head into the lounge car we stop for a moment “To get instructions, because some men are working on the tracks ahead” according to a detailed announcement from our conductor. We then head into Centralia where we make a one minute stop at 1:50, leaving 19 minutes late.

I return to my seat as we go through the woods of the Pacific Northwest at 80mph speed. At 2:11 we enter the Centennial Station in Olympia-Lacy where I watch the volunteer opening the electronic gate as our train enters. I also notice bus route 64 waiting to whisk any railroad passengers into Olympia waiting for us at the station, and a big banner on the station for “Champions of the Rails – Volunteers”

We leave the Centennial Station. I keep my eyes glued to the windows, at 2:23 I see a track turning north, just before we cross over I-5, this is the start of Port Defiance Bypass, out of service until PTC is certified (the current route doesn’t have PTC turned on also, after the awful accident on opening day).

Within just a few minutes the ride gets scenic as we start to follow the Southern Pudget Sound.

Next we pass Union Avenue and the Steilacoom Ferry Port where all traffic needs to cross the rail line for the ferries to Anderson, McNiel, and Kentron Islands.

The decent water views continue, as we switch tracks at 2:23 at Pioneer Siding passing the Chambers Bay Golf Course. I’m assume that this will be my last trip on Amtrak Cascades using the old route, and can’t believe all of the scenery that will be skipped when the new route enters service once PTC is enabled. It will save time and improve reliability!

We cross under the twin Tacoma Narrows Bridges continuing north at about 2:39.

We curve around into the single-track tunnel under Point Defiance at 2:41 and head south in wrong direction, continuing to follow Pudget Sound towards Tacoma.

We continue through another short tunnel and into Port Restin and additional water views.

We go around the curves and pass below downtown Tacoma, passing a large BNSF freight yard. BNSF will definitely be happy to get rid of Amtrak once the court of PTC public opinion decides the Port Defiance bypass can be opened.

We arrive into the old Tacoma AmStation at 2:51pm, and depart at 2:53.

At that point it’s the blur of passing the Sounder Stations I’ve visited:

  • 2:58pm – pass Train #504 heading southbound using one of the new ODOT-owned Talgo trainsets with the unique cab cars I still haven’t photographed
  • 3:02 – Puyallup
  • 3:04 – the blur of Sumner station
  • 3:08 – Pass the first Sounder southbound train of the PM rush hour as we go through the large yard.
  • 3:09 – Pass Auburn

I miss the Kent Sounder Station’s time as I get off at Tukwila(33 photos). There I see passengers on the opposite platform waiting for the next Southbound Sounder train.

   

I get my photo essay, staying on platform 1, including of the new bus loop and parking area. I decide to just purchase an ORCA Day Pass for $8, plus the $5 ORCA card fee since mine didn’t seem to move to Indiana.

The Sounder train I expect to arrive at 3:28pm but it’s clearly running late. At 3:34 I see my King County Transit Rapid Ride F bus and decide to get on. I want to give myself plenty of time to do the new Link Subway.

Sunrise over the Tilikum Crossing – The New MAX Orange Line to Milwaukie

This is Part 2 of my 2018 Pacific Northwest Up-to-Date Trip

With the time change I wake up at the Society Hotel early, a little before 6:00am. I have my room until 11:00am (I’m taking the Noon Amtrak Cascades Train northbound) and decide to just get dressed, eat a granola bar and go since according to my calculations I should finish the Orange Line by 10:00.

I walk west to the Transit Mall Orange Line Station at SW 5th & Crouch and immediately notice the Orange Line bullets, on the signs.

I just make the 6:17 Orange Line, and sit in my favorite place on the MAX Siemens Type 4 and 5 LRVs. These are S70s, used by many transit agencies, but I really like the way that MAX turned a cab onto each car into ‘domed’ seating in the middle of the two, ‘always’ married pairs of articulated trainsets. I get a really decent photo of a sign now with an Orange Bullet at SW Oak & 5th(1 Photo)

We continue down the transit mall and I enjoy ‘racing a streetcar in short section’ where they both run along 6th Street.

 

I hit new MAX trackage after PSU Urban Center (I did walk around the PSU South Station and look at the layover area when it was under construction) and then head onto the Light Rail only SW Harbor Viaduct, descending onto the streetcar line below that is the ‘local’ running in the middle of the street, making many more stops. I get my first glimpse of the sunrise over the Light Rail, Streetcar, Pedestrian, and Bus only  Tilikum Crossing.

 

I get off at South Waterfront/SW Moody-(28 Photos), with it’s unique four track design although streetcars don’t share the platforms.

 

I then start walking over the Tilikum Crossing(40 Photos) where I thoroughly enjoy the sunrise. There’s something really neat about experiencing the first modern large crossing in North America built just for people and transit vehicles at sunrise.

   

I hustle more than I might thinking I might be able to make it across in just over 15 minutes and not have a Milwaukie-bound train pass me, but this is false. The next inbound train passes me when I’m still some distance from OSMI/SE Water(60 Photos) and have 14 minutes to get plenty of photos, and discover the Oregon Rail Heritage Center across from the station, which I would be curious to visit on a future trip.

  

I realize there’s one of the rush hour ‘extras’ coming southbound. These are trains that run outside of the 15 minute clock-face Orange-Yellow Line frequency which means I take the next 2 trains just 1 stop each to spend 7 minutes at both the Clinton St/SE 12th Ave(27 Photos) and SE 17th Ave & Rhine St(24 Photos) Stations.

    

I look at the schedule and see that there’s a similar of the ‘extra’ train (the train I just got on returning north) heading northbound so I take my next train all the way to SE Tacoma/Johnson Creek(13 Photos)

 

From there I double-back to SE Bybee Blvd(14 Photos). There I realize that the Union Pacific line used by Amtrak from Eugene is the rail line the Milwaukie Line follows when a northbound Amtrak Cascades train passes.

 

I backtrack one more stop to SE 17th Ave & Holgate Blvd(24 Photos)

 

The next southbound train is another one of the rush hour extras using just one LRV, and although I technically have one intermediate stop left, I ride it all the way to the last stop SE Park Avenue(32 Photos). There I explore a bit, including of the plaza that leads to the Trolley Trail next to the platform and soon the regular every 15 minute train arrives for it’s 8 minute layover, Passengers are informed by the next MAX monitors listing the single car train as heading to City Center/PSU, and the normal frequency train as to City Center/Expo Center. The drivers also tell some passengers (particularly on the single LRV) to cross the platform for the next train out. There is a bit confusion with people transferring from the single car train to the two car train. This could all be fixed if the station had a next train here sign, something that I find legacy transit systems tend to do much better than more modern ones.

  

My next stop is Milwaukie/Main St(16 Photos), where I’m getting hungry and it’s time for breakfast.

 

Grandma’s Corner Restaurant for a large portion of eggs (including the early bird special discount since it’s not 9:00am yet) suits me well. I head back to the Light Rail Station about a half-hour later, and notice that a number of Max buses are still meeting up at what the bus map calls Milwaukie City Center, on Jackson Street and 21st Avenue and not at the Train Station since it wasn’t built with bus loops to make it a Transit Center (none of the stops on the Milwaukie Line are). I then get back on MAX to head inbound.

 

As I head back to Downtown, I realize I have time and the schedule allows me to use the doubling-back trick (so the stopover takes 15 minutes with trains in opposite directions not passing between the stations) to re-visit SE Bybee Blvd(29 Photos) where I double-back to SE Tacoma/Johnson Creek(17 Photos). I feel that my additional photos from these extra stopovers gives a much more complete photo essays of these unique stations.

   

I head towards downtown and over the Tilikum Crossing on a train, and get off at my one remaining Orange Line Stop, Lincoln St/SW 3rd Ave(17 Photos)

 

From there I start walking along the railroad line and to the now finished (they were under construction because of the adjacent building when I was last in Portland back in 2012) PSU South Stations. I first pas a Green line sitting in the turnaround loop, stopping at the Southbound PSU South/SW 5th & Jackson(14 Photos)

  

I then walk around to the other side of the PSU Building to Northbound PSU South/SW 6th & College-(9 Photos). Where I board an originating Green Line train and sit in my favorite seat in the middle of the car where the cab was never added.

 

I get off at NW 6th & Davis(2 Photos), as it starts raining again getting back to the Society Hotel before 10:00am, feeling happy and a little tired.

I shower and take a little rest, and although check-out time is posted at 11:00am, my first text (without an immediate response) followed by a phone call at 10:45 to request late check out for 11:15 is granted with “Let’s make it 11:30.” I leave the hotel at 11:15 to head to Union Station.

A final note, I realize I’ve neglected the Portland Streetcar. I rode the entire North-South Line and I think photographed as it existed on my visit in 2011 but am still having a hard time deciding how to organize and publish those photos, I think I’m just going to make a single webpage for the streetcar selection. If I had more time I would have liked to have ridden the new streetcar loop but the goal of this trip was getting non-streetcar transit in Portland and Seattle up to date using one single vacation day.

Flying SBN to MSP to PDX to get the Pacific Northwest up to date, and go on my annual ski trip with my Dad

This trip report is part of the series 2018 Pacific Northwest Up-to-Date.

Introduction

This past March, my Dad and I planned 4 days of skiing at Whistler in British Columbia four our annual ski trip. Louise it turned out had a paper accepted at a conference in Hawaii, just near our ski trip dates and the way flights are priced to Hawaii buying four one way tickets Chicago to San Francisco (she spent the night with a friend) to Honolulu to Vancouver to Chicago, was cheaper than buying a normal round-trip ticket from Chicago to Honolulu, so she would join us for part of our ski trip (and work in our AirBNB) and we would fly home from Vancouver together.

I still needed to get out to Vancouver alone and was planning to simply fly Chicago to Vancouver non-stop or with a connection from South Bend (my home airport SBN is my preference if all prices are the same, much easier than the South Shore Line to the ‘L’ slog), unfortunately I snoozed too long on booking my ticket out there and all of sudden there was no real South Bend/Chicago to Vancouver option that was less than $400 one-way. I evaluated flying to Seattle Thursday morning and taking the bus or train up that evening (I really wish there was a midday SEA to Vancouver train) but in the end, I found a reasonably priced ($200 one-way ticket) out of South Bend Wednesday Evening to Portland with a 3 hour layover in Minneapolis, giving me time to see an old friend who lives there (not )

This gave me the opportunity, by booking a multi-city Amtrak Cascades ticket (stopovers of less than 24 hours are still free even if you no longer earn 100 bonus AGR points for stopping)  to get Portland and Seattle ‘up to date’ (except for their streetcar expansions that I still need to figure out the best way to incorporate) with the recent MAX Milwaukie Line and Link Light Rail University of Washington and Angle Lake Extensions. Another reason to start with an evening in Portland for this strategy was to avoid lugging my heaving ski beat boot bag with me while getting stations, which would have happened with a same day plane to bus (or late evening train) connection in Seattle, assuming that Amtrak’s generous baggage policy would let me check my bag in Portland early with me just reclaiming it alongside the evening  Vancouver Amtrak Cascades train before clearing customs.

Flying SBN to MSP to PDX to bring the Pacific Northwest Up to Date

The day began and with a 3:40pm flight from SBN to MSP. I took a half hour extra of vacation time (my office has a flexible schedule so I can work 7:00am to 3:00pm sometimes), hailed a Lyft from my desk around 2:30, and for $6.00 (had a 50% promo) had an uneventful ride to the Airport. Bus Route 4 to the Airport makes a deviation that’s quite slow to the Amtrak station, so if vacation time is involved I take an uber. Security at the South Bend Airport was it’s nice easy self and I found myself at the gate with about 20 minutes to spare.

The 50 seat Regional Jet boarded on time. I asked the gate agent if I could check my ski bag all the way through to Portland instead of valet checking to MSP but was given a direct No, so there would be dealing with luggage on my layover.

I settled into an uneventful hour and a half gate to gate flight – with enough time for a ginger ail and snack mix – and me me getting some photos from my window seat of the Frozen Landscape.

 

We taxi into a gate C13 in Minneapolis, where we arrive at 4:08pm CT, is right near the Skywalk security entrance/exit, which provides faster access to the light rail station and public bus loop than going around to the main terminal exit (if you need to visit baggage claim you have to.

I text my friend who’s driving to come meet me and am told to come to the main arrivals area because the Skyway entrance is for public transit users only and she doesn’t know how to drive up there kerbside. I could walk or use moving walkways to head up to this area of the airport, but a ride on the Concourse Tram is a lot more fun (and probably faster)! This tram I find particularly neat because the two cars run on largely a single track but have a passing siding where the trams passes, with trams going to the Baggage Claim and central area stopping a short ways north (on the passing siding) of the stop for trains going the other way to the A and B Concourses, which stop beyond this passing siding. I first pass the A and B gates stop before walking to the Baggage claim stop where my tram arrives, while I get photos of the other tram entering the passing siding using a switch.

 

It’s then uneventful short ride to the main terminal.

I leave security and find my friend. We end up going to the Mall of America because it’s the closest place to take a little walk and sit and chat (neither of us buys anything).

Our time is short and sweet catching up, before she drops me off at the airport around 6:00pm, I have preCheck now and getting back through security is a breeze so I have some extra time. Luckily the Escape Lounge provides a fabulous place to have a nearly proper free dinner courtesy of my AMEX Platinum Charge Card. I leave the lounge a little before 7:00pm to head to my nearby gate C1.

I get on early enough that my odd-shaped boot bag isn’t gate checked. The flight leaves with quite a few empty seats including a moment when I think I might have an entire row to myself but the final woman to board plops down in the aisle seat (not her assigned seat,  but the flight attendant just tells her to sit down), clearly happy she’s made the flight. I hear murmurs from other passengers about other people possibly missing this flight. This final flight of the evening with me still on Eastern Time catches up to me so I spend part of the flight sleeping and iMessaging Louise since Delta now allows free in flight messaging (we even get pictures to send and be received, although your not supposed to be able to).

We land in Portland at 9:01pm CT and I look at the MAX schedule and decide to take my time. I need a restroom and passing the SkyClub decide to stop in there, I take a moment before the final journey to my hotel for some popcorn and a cookie. I then head to the center of the concourse, where I exit through some automatic gates (definitely not here when I last was airside at this airport in 2006) and find myself at the end of the ticketing hall (the Portland Airport’s new terminal and MAX light rail opened on September 10, 2001 and has had to re-adapt ever since to post-9/11 security needs). I then follow the MAX signs down to baggage claim.

Walking the length of the baggage claim, since I arrive at the D and E gates, I laugh at this add for an airport shuttle to Downtown, the MAX from Portland is just so easy!

I head out towards the Portland MAX Station(13 Photos). I pass the familiar TVMs inside the baggage claim. I take a small detour up the escalators up to the departures level. This is right next to the other exit from the sterile area. The next time I’m in Portland and arriving at a South Gate without luggage to claim I think I’ll use the moving walkways on the Concourse connector, staying within security to have a shorter walk through the crowded ticketing or baggage claim levels.

   

I arrive to the platform to board my train to Downtown as another train is entering on the single-tracked section of the Red Line.

 

I get on the train and immediately notice, the new system map with the Orange Line extension and how the map shows the Orange and Yellow Lines interline downtown.

The ride is largely uneventful, although before Gateway Transit Center our train ‘transforms’ into a Blue Line train to SW 185th. It’s the slow ride over the Steel Bridge and into downtown where I get off at Old Town-Chinatown(5 Photos). 

From there it’s an easy walk to the Society Hostel, the ultimate hipster hostel. There I’ve booked a bunk bed for $40 but decide I’m too tired and will have a very long day tomorrow so I upgrade to a private room (there’s a shared very clean bathroom across from my room, and there even bathrobes) and spend $100 on accommodations for the night, it’s small, really just fitting a queen bed and a washbasin, but perfectly located to the light rail and Union Station, and a place I would not hesitate to stay in again.