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BCL

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  1. I thought about taking the Cascades to Vancouver, BC. I thought on Maple Leaf they send agents on board, while in Vancouver they have an entry station at the Pacific Central Station. Also US CBP pre-clearance (I've done that at the Sidney, BC ferry terminal) there too. Might make a difference compared to holding up a train. I got asked a lot of questions by Canada Border Services. They actually seemed pretty reasonable, although US CBP on the way back kind of got crazy asking questions. We went overnight without any luggage (just my computer bag) and only brought back a couple of food items. My wife has a Chinese friend living near Seattle asking if we could bring back duck heads, but the only thing I could find were seasoned duck tongues. Strangely enough CPB didn't even bat an eye when I said we were bringing in duck tongues.
  2. BCL

    California Trains?

    No outlet mall though. I used to spend a lot of time there during my college years. I grew up near Berkeley and Emeryville had a movie theater and the EmeryBay Public Market, plus I had a car to drive. I'd go there and as a starving college student there was a place with a massive $2.50 beans and rice burrito. I also remember the Emeryville station being built and the neon sign once the station opened. The other shopping starting coming along gradually. The big strip malls came in the mid 90s, then Ikea, then Bay Street. That was about the time Pixar moved from Point Richmond to Emeryville. As a kid growing up in the area, Emeryville was a pass-through town other than the strip of reclaimed land where there were several tall office buildings, a harbor, and some restaurants. I think where Ikea is now was where Judson Steel used to be. I remember they had this hangar-like building where one could see molten steel being poured from the freeway. And the most fascinating thing was the Emeryville Mudflats with various driftwood creations. Right now it looks totally natural, but eventually those "sculptures" were removed where they weren't allowed any more.
  3. Having done that, I do remember being asked a lot of questions. They seem friendly but professional. Stuff like "where are you going", "where are you staying", "are you meeting someone you know"? Once I was asked where we were from and (won't apply to a train) if it was our car. That time it was a rental from SeaTac that had Oregon plates. I don't know exactly how that would work on a train though. At the vehicle crossing they just take people as they arrive and can't really help it if there are lines. One a train how long would they hold up the train?
  4. I've heard of some people who have a passport card simply as a wallet-sized proof of citizenship. There are some cases where I could see it being extremely helpful, even if it's not used for international travel.
  5. No. I've done it several times by land and know people who did it by air. A US citizen (or permanent resident with a green card and passport) isn't required to have a visa. They do sometimes check for criminal records and have been known to deny entry if someone has a DUI or conviction for another serious crime.
  6. BCL

    California Trains?

    My only visit to Boston was when the Big Dig was still going on. How long did that take? I've definitely seen lots of incomplete freeways. It seemed to take forever for CA 237 to be finished.
  7. BCL

    California Trains?

    Not always dedicated. I suppose they're dedicated bus lanes most of the time (including commercial buses with a permit) but during commute hours they double as 3+ HOV lanes. They've got that electronic sign that says "BUSES ONLY" most of the time. For a while it got confusing because they didn't add "CARPOOL OK" to the electronic sign, although they eventually found a way to fit it all on the same display.
  8. BCL

    California Trains?

    Also forgot about SMART. The only system in California that I've heard is currently running diesel multiple units. What about all the tourist and excursion trains?
  9. BCL

    California Trains?

    There are 5 mid-sized hotels in Emeryville: Hilton Garden Inn San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge (formerly the Holiday Inn Emeryville) Courtyard Oakland Emeryville Four Points by Sheraton San Francisco Bay Bridge Hyatt House San Francisco Emeryville/San Francisco Bay Area Hyatt Place Emeryville/San Francisco Bay Area You're right to some degree because they'd love to associate with Oakland or Emeryville for simple name recognition. Still it's not as wacky as some other weird stuff. There's an outlet mall in Livermore that calls itself "San Francisco Premium Outlets". Stockton Airport hired a consultant that recommended renaming the place to San Francisco-Stockton Airport.
  10. BCL

    California Trains?

    Caltrans basically started Caltrain after Southern Pacific basically wanted out of their obligation to run commuter service on the Peninsula. I remember after Caltrans took over, SP was contracted to provide operations until Amtrak took over in the 90s. A lot of the conductors on Capitol Corridor used to work on Caltrain. At least initially Caltrain livery included the Caltrans logo. This photo is supposed to be from 1985: There are other commuter rail services in other parts of California, such as Metrolink (Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange Counties), Coaster (San Diego County), and Altamont Corridor Express (San Joaquin, Alameda, Santa Clara Counties). ACE is a very limited commute-only operation. Basically just a commute to Silicon Valley in the morning, and back in the late afternoon/early evening. They also do special event trains to Levi's Stadium. This is the ACE map. 4 of the stations overlap with Capitol Corridor service, while 2 overlap with Caltrain.
  11. BCL

    California Trains?

    I'd think that a lot more people these days would have heard of Emeryville because of Pixar. Emeryville is really big on shopping though. They let a lot of the former industrial business space go to strip malls, IKEA, an upscale shopping center, etc. Still a lot of industrial businesses though. But they take in a lot of sales tax revenue from all the shopping.
  12. Since nobody mentioned it earlier..... There is one benefit to having your own room which wasn't mentioned, which is that you're allowed to consume your own alcoholic beverages in a roomette. One is allowed to consume alcoholic beverages pretty much anywhere on the train if such beverage was purchased onboard. I've heard some crews say they don't worry too much about outside alcoholic beverages being consumed if the passengers are behaving, but there are no guarantees. And since I mentioned alcoholic beverages, be very careful bringing alcoholic beverages into Utah. If you were on board the train and completely passing through, I don't believe they can really do anything about, but Utah has some of the most ridiculous laws in the United States on alcohol. It's generally illegal to bring in alcoholic beverages for personal use from outside of the state unless it's a commercial transaction. There are some rules that allow it, but they are bizarre, such as only the duty free limit with a flight directly (no connecting flight from the United States) to an airport in Utah, or an inheritance. There are also restrictive laws on where alcoholic beverages can be purchased, including state-owned liquor stores. I won't get into the details, but it can be frustrating. They've even been known to run police operations where they look for people buying alcohol across the state line where they follow drivers into Utah.
  13. Yes. The definition Amtrak has for "carry on" baggage is fairly generous, similar to the size that US domestic airlines would allow for checked-in baggage. However, Amtrak's maximum size for standard check-in baggage is 75 linear (add height, length, depth) inches. Also - Amtrak personnel generally aren't that strict about what you bring on board. Worst case might be they charge an oversized fee. However, I'm not sure you're going to be able to fit what you're bringing in a single roomette, but there might be storage space elsewhere in your sleeper car. You'll have no issue with that in coach. I've seen luggage piled at a bulkhead and lots of luggage kept downstairs near the door. I had a child stroller and that's where the conductor suggested I store it. This is what the upper level of a Superliner coach car looks like: There are open racks above the seats, and as you can see they should accommodate very large items. I understand that they can even accept skis.
  14. Here's a full schedule for 2019: https://sfport.com/sites/default/files/Cruises/Docs/2019.pdf Jan 17 will be a Thursday, and the Grand Princess will be at Pier 27. And the schedule is pretty evenly spread out.
  15. BCL

    Amtrak Conductors in Los Angeles

    Not quite sure how it worked in Northern California back when Amtrak was contracted for Caltrain operations. I do remember talking to quite a few conductors on Capitol Corridor who said they used to work Caltrain, and that maybe in the future Amtrak would bid again. Mostly they said they wanted to stay in the area and maintain their seniority rather than go to work for the new operator.
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