As is the case in most of the United States, Amtrak is the primary operator of intercity rail service in California. There are seven routes throughout the state – three of these are intrastate routes partially supported by Caltrans and are branded as the Amtrak California system, while the other four are interstate routes.
Caltrans began its partnership with Amtrak in the late 1970s by forming the Division of Rail. In the 1990s, voters approved two propositions that further expanded the Caltrans Division of Rail – as a result, new rolling stock was purchased with special “California Color” branding (pictured), routes were expanded, and the Capitol Corridor route began operation. In addition to the train routes, connections are available to destinations throughout California via the Thruway Motorcoach service.
Amtrak California routes
Capitol Corridor – The Capitol Corridor connects Silicon Valley and the Bay Area to Sacramento and functions primarily as a commuter line. The route averages about 4,800 riders on about 32 trains each weekday.
Pacific Surfliner – The Pacific Surfliner connects San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara to Los Angeles and San Diego. The route carries over 7,000 people on 24 trains each weekday, and is a popular line for Southern California commuters.
San Joaquin – The San Joaquin connects Bakersfield to Stockton on 12 trains daily. From Stockton, trains continue to either Sacramento or Oakland. Each weekday, the route carries about 2,700 passengers.
Interstate Amtrak routes
Coast Starlight – This route travels from Los Angeles Union Station to Seattle, Washington. Popular stations served in California include Sacramento, Emeryville (with bus connections to San Francisco), Oakland, San Jose, Santa Barbara, and Oxnard. There is one train daily in each direction.
Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle – The Sunset Limited travels from Los Angeles Union Station to New Orleans. There are three departures each week in each direction. Popular stations in California include Pomona, Ontario, and Palm Springs. From Los Angeles to San Antonio, the Sunset Limited and the Texas Eagle are coupled together – at San Antonio, the Texas Eagle continues to Chicago and the Sunset Limited continues to New Orleans.
Southwest Chief – This route travels from Los Angeles Union Station to Chicago with one departure daily in each direction. Popular stations in California include Fullerton, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, and Barstow.
California Zephyr – This route travels from Emeryville to Chicago with one trip daily in each direction. Popular stations in California include Richmond, Davis, and Sacramento.
Thruway Motorcoach service – Amtrak passengers can book bus connections to locations statewide via the Thruway Motorcoach service. Tickets can only be purchased as part of an itinerary that includes rail. One of the most popular routes is Bakersfield to Los Angeles via the Tehachapi Pass.