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Santa Fe Depot
Santa Fe Depot

San Diego's Santa Fe Depot is the southern terminus of Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner Corridor and has received passenger train service continuously since the historic depot was first constructed from 1914 to 1915. It is one of the few major spoke terminuses on the Amtrak system where all trains terminating coming in from the same direction, Los Angeles. Most other major Amtrak terminal cities (the other similar example would be Miami, the Silver Meteor/Star all run north to New York only, or the ends of many state-supported short-distance trains) see service coming in from multiple routes in different directions. Amtrak service to the station has not been continuously decent but has always existed.

In 1971 with the invention of Amtrak it was extremely low with just three round-trips per day to Los Angeles on the namesake San Diegan trains. One of these trips was provided by the Coast Daylight/Starlight to Oakland daily, extended to Seattle triweekly. Starting with the May 1974 timetable this through service was replaced with a train connection with the Coast Starlight terminating in Los Angeles as it does through this day. A few through cars were last attached to the last San Diegan of the day in the 1990s but if the southbound Coast Starlight is late enough (only an hour and twenty minutes is the present, January 2020 timetable as scheduled connection time) connecting passengers will be bused down to San Diego. Amtrak service has slowly increased over the years, was renamed the Pacific Surfliner in 2000 (for its more regional nature), and today there are 13 daily trains running north to Los Angeles, with five continuing to Santa Barbara and two all the way to San Luis Obispo (One fewer extended trips northbound, the first train of the day north of Los Angeles originates there).

Local train service to the depot was restored as the northern terminus of the opening day route of the San Diego Trolley on July 19, 1981. Modern-day Commuter Rail service north to Oceanside via the Coaster began on February 27, 1995 and today it runs daily including a few trains with connections to Metrolink in Oceanside allowing passengers to take Commuter Trains all the way to Los Angeles (as of January 2020 fares) costing $6.50 plus $16.75, $23.25 instead of the standard $36.00 for Amtrak.

1981 to 2012
Santa Fe Depot
2012 to 2018
Santa Fe Depot

On September 2, 2012 Trolley service was completely reconfigured with the Green Line extended south form Old Town Transit Center to 12th/Imperial via the Waterfront route replacing the northern portion of the Blue Line and end of the Orange Line. Until April 11, 2018 Orange Line trains still terminated at Santa Fe Depot on the southbound track (shared with Southbound Green Line trains) while Blue Line service terminates across Kettner Blvd from the depot at America Plaza, on this date Orange Line trains were pushed back to America Plaza, before being relocated two blocks further from the station to the new Courthouse Station. The two stations are now branded as the Santa Fe Transit Center with a walking connection between the Blue and Green lines across Kettner Blvd, once the Mid-Coast Trolley extension enters service in 2021, the Blue Line will be re-extended to Santa Fe Depot.

The tour of the station begins inside the mission-revival style depot which rests between Kettner Blvd and train tracks. The station is one of the few where Amtrak passengers are led across light rail tracks at a grade to board their trains from the station's depot. The only other stations are San Diego-Old Town and Dallas's Union Station, although both of these also have usable underpasses. Inside the depot are arched ceilings along with historic benches and light fixtures and mosaics of the Santa Fe's iconic cross logo. There are wooden benches for waiting passengers along with an Amtrak ticket window (beneath 1970s Helvetica-text reading tickets), an information kiosk and a small cafe/newsstand called the Silver Streak Cafe. There is still a blue Santa Fe sign on the top of the depot, and the southern end leads to an outdoor area with a fountain and there are two taller towers with domes at this main entrance. The white walls above the doors still read Waiting Room and Ticket Office above Green and glass doors.

Going out platform side, first are the two light rail tracks used by the Green Line. These have side platforms. The northbound platform has no canopies of its own but just large exterior arched porches that radiate from the station over this track. It is in a central area beneath these arches that Amtrak does its line-ups for the kindergarten walks across the trolley tracks to its trains.

The southbound platform is shared with the first mainline train track normally used by the Coaster, there are four tracks for Amtrak and Coaster in total. This platform has TVMs facing different directions for the two different systems and even different Compass Card Readers. A fence with gaps runs down the middle of it separating the two sides and it has a line of iconic palm trees. At the northern and southern ends of this long platform, beyond the length for trolley cars, the fence runs directly alongside the trolley tracks as it extends all the way from Broadway to Ash street, almost a third of a mile long, running alongside switches from the middle two train tracks. There three simple grey canopy structures for waiting passengers. The middle mainline platform is significantly shorter and its only legal access is from the three pedestrian grade crossings that connect all the platforms. This platform has 4 small canopies along it. The final track is served by its own side platform which also reaches the full length from Broadway to Ash Street. It though has an unusual canopy structure of a colonnade holding up a wooden truss roof (that does nothing for protection from the elements), designed for ivy to grow up over it. The ivy has already made some progress up the columns.

All main line platforms have mini-high platform at their southern ends for Coaster trains, have tactile warning strip on their edges, and allow for level boarding to the doors of all Double-decker Amtrak Surfliner Cars and Bombardier Bi-Level Cars used by the Coaster, a mobile lift is available somewhere in the station for when the one Pacific Surfliner single-level trainset that rotates around the system ends up in San Diego.
Photos 1-25 taken on 15 March, 2008, 26-63 on 20 March, 2011, 64-69 on 21 March, 2011, and 70 on 23 March, 2011, 71-96 on 22 June, 2013; 97-120 on 23 June, 2013; 121-136: 28 December, 2019

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Last Updated: 25 January, 2020
All photos are by Jeremiah Cox
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