It is still dark outside. A few people have gathered along the platform shaking off the sleep that ended too abruptly. It is quiet at that time of the morning. In the distance the faint sound of a train can be heard, almost lonely at first. Gradually it grows louder and soon a fierce light rounds the bend.
It’s the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train bound for Sacramento, the first of over a dozen for the day that will make the run between San Jose and Auburn. Set up as a commuter train, the Capitol Corridor is efficient, and in my experience, very timely. It’s also quick—even with the train making two stops between Martinez and Sacramento (Suisun and Davis), I would be hard pressed to get there faster by car.
One of the best parts about taking the train is the route. With no concern for the needs of modern drivers, the train speeds along on rail beds that were established years ago. After you leave Martinez, you soon find yourself far from the freeway, speeding across stretches wetlands and farmland. As you pass through small farms and communities on the outskirts of Vacaville and the middle of Dixon, you’ll travel at a smooth 70+ miles per hour.
It’s also a surprisingly quiet and clean ride. While BART and the local ferry systems seem like they do the bulk of the people-moving, it’s interesting to note that the Capitol Corridor service (San Jose-Oakland-Sacramento-Auburn) moved over 1,701,185 people in fiscal year 2013 (Amtrak.com). The number is not surprising, given the onboard amenities.
The interior is roomy with large windows, and there’s a snack bar that also serves beer and wine. Each car has several tables for up to four passengers, where some riders take advantage of the free Wi-Fi to get some work done along the way. For those who need it, there are transfers available for some local transit systems, and bicycle accommodations. Each train has at least one car with hooks for hanging up your bike at no extra charge. This is great for commuting, but can also make for a fun weekend outing with new areas to ride and explore; and old Sacramento is just a 5-minute walk from the Sacramento station. For convenience, comfort and a pleasant alternative to freeway driving, the Capitol Corridor comes highly recommended.