Inter-City Travel in the Era of $4/Gallon Gas: Your Solutions?

When I lived in Los Angeles for a short time, and had a few clients up in San Francisco, inevitably I’d have to get in the car and drive up to SF. In the car I had at the time, the gas, even in the pre-$4/gallon era, added up rather quickly. To try and offset the price, I’d often take a rider from Craigslist to share the cost of gas. At the time, it was cheaper for someone to hitch a ride with me than it was to rent a car and go, or take a bus or something.
Today, though I calculated the cost in Today’s Gas Prices, and the cost was astronomical. Airline ticket prices to Southern California are getting higher, what with the fuel surcharge, the federal taxes, and the like. Plus I’ve spoken to more than one person who has taken a plane from SF to LA or Elsewhere and they’ve all reported spending more time in the airport each way, than on the actual journey itself.
So I’m curious, for those of you who travel, either for a vacation or a work-related trip between SF and cities in California, or even on the west coast, which is your preferred method of travel? Time Magazine talks about this new bus service on the east coast that sounds interesting, but at the same time, Megabus announced they’re eliminating their SF/LA route, which to me seemed a bit odd. Other people have taken the train – I’m going to try it out when I go to San Diego next month, and when I’ve had to go to Sacramento, the $15 train from Richmond BART to Sacramento is an incredible, stress-free bargain.
Post your thoughts in the comments section…..

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6 Responses to Inter-City Travel in the Era of $4/Gallon Gas: Your Solutions?

  1. MuniHope says:

    The Coast Starlight is incredibly comfortable, but also slow and often late. I highly recommend it if you have the time to spare.
    The fastest way to SF this way is to change to Caltrain at Diridon in San Jose — unfortunately if the train is very late you can potentially miss the last Caltrain. Booking via the Amtrak bus from Emeryville will always get you to SF, albeit slower.

  2. Kathleen says:

    Greg, you asked for it…
    Typically when I go visit my parents in southern California I fly Southwest from Oakland to Burbank. The flights have gotten quicker since I first moved up here so it’s maybe about 40 minutes in the air. I don’t like hanging around the airport so I always coordinate things so that I’m in a stressed out hurry. Leaving Friday nights, I book a 7:30 p.m. flight and get on BART after work at 6. It’s never been a problem. Driving from Burbank to their house is about a 45-minute drive. Total time: 3.5 hours (approx.) However, depending on the time of year (and how far in advance you book), flights can get pretty expensive.
    I took the Megabus home for Mother’s Day. Megabus was $36. We left at like 11 p.m. on a Friday and got in a little before 6 a.m. to Union Station in LA. From there I took the train and that was about $14. I pretty much slept the entire trip so I didn’t feel as if I lost any time traveling. Bummer about Megabus stopping, it was actually a pretty decent experience.
    One Thanksgiving I took Amtrak, not the Starlight, but the Oceanliner. That involves getting on a bus at the Ferry Building that goes down to Santa Barbara. You can get on the Oceanliner in Santa Barbara. It was about $40 but it was a hellish trip. I tore my ACL the night before so sitting on a bus for eight hours and then a train was excruciating. I’ve taken the train to Fresno once since then. It was ok. I guess it’s good if you’re not in a hurry.
    And finally, this past Thanksgiving flights were crazy expensive and my brother, who goes to school in Fresno, had no way to get home. So I rented a car from Enterprise. It was about $300, gas and miles included. If you have a Visa Signature card you don’t need to get insurance. We hit a bunch of traffic and the car was small but it beat the $200 each way deal Southwest was hawking.
    I wouldn’t say I have a preferred method but I guess flying is the best because it’s the quickest and sometimes if you book way in advance it’s not too bad price-wise.

  3. Greg says:

    @kathleen: that’s good info. I am actually taking the Oceanliner to San Diego next month to go to the Con, only because getting a flight was going to cost a fortune (a problem when 100,000+ nerds wanna go to the Comic Convention) and I had the time. But I figure at least on the train part we can hang out in the club car and watch movies on my computer or something….

  4. brian goldner says:

    there are a few private contractors, including a chinatown bus that’ll get you btwn LA and SF in about 7 hours i think for about $50 each way—much faster than the coast starlight
    Greyhound usually takes more time b/c of stops along the way in various cities
    if you’d rather take a train, I think it’s faster to take an amtrak san joaquin (leaves from oakland) and connect to a thruway bus in bakersfield rather than take the longer traveling coast starlight (altho the starlight route is beautiful)

  5. Greg says:

    @brian: I took the cali shuttle bus a few years ago and I remember it was just fine. I remember paying the base rate and managed to get 2 seats to myself anyway. They also dropped me off literally blocks away from my final destination in Venice Beach too. But I haven’t used them since.

  6. Alex says:

    High speed LA to SF rail anyone?

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