17.5.16

THE RETURN OF THE SECTION SLEEPER?

Insta Pundit picked up a story about a budget service called SleepBus, which, for $48, will get a rider from the Bay Area to Los Angeles overnight.  Departures are at 11 pm,  with riders allowed (in a nod to a traditional railroad practice) to occupy their bunks until 7.30 am, against a scheduled arrival of 6 am. The vehicle looks a lot like the crew accommodation on a travelling circus.

Travel and Trains ask, Did They Find a Need and Fill It?  " It’s called the SleepBus and the people behind it may have found an answer to a need no one knew we had: cheap, comfortable, overnight transportation between Los Angeles and San Francisco."  Cheap, yes.  Comfortable?  The accommodation look only slightly less private than those of a World War II troop sleeper.
There are also some cozy seating areas with tables and chairs. There’s a restroom on board and an attendant who’s there to keep an eye on things. And—most important given the young demographic to which it’s appealing—there’s WiFi which, they say, will work for the entire journey.
It offers, to mixed reviews, a service that Amtrak currently do not.
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight—I knew you would want to know this—will take you from L.A. to Emeryville (across the Bay from San Francisco) in a coach seat for $63. The trip takes 12 hours and is in daylight most of the way in either direction.
Yes, the Coast Starlight began its Amtrak existence as the Coast Daylight Starlight, running on roughly the schedules of the Coast Daylight south (timetable east) of Oakland.  Years before Amtrak, Southern Pacific offered an overnight service, the Lark, with roomettes, bedrooms, compartments and drawing rooms for Pullman passengers, a full lounge car and dining service for Pullman passengers, and a snack lounge car for chair car passengers.  All that lounge and meal service was offered in a triple-unit car called Lark Club.  Toward the end, in the late 1960s, the accommodation was less plush, and yet less claustrophobic than the Sleep Bus.  On the other hand, the running times were ten hours plus, and the intrastate jets of the day offered good value for money without the outrageous security screening delays we experience, and Southern Pacific were able to discontinue the Lark well before Amtrak.

These days, even if Union Pacific were amenable to operating an overnight train between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, Amtrak's political masters, who are hostile to anything resembling first class service, would have none of it.

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