Thought I'd post a review on my recent adventures on the Metrolink commuter train service that runs throughout Southern California. Their Internet presence may be found at http://www.metrolinktrains.com/
First off, don't do what I did: don't purchase your travel ticket without ensuring that the travel date you desire is the one they sell you. I went to the ticket kiosk in Palmdale to purchase my ticket a day early. Bad move! They *don't* refund tickets, even ones where you made a mistake on. You need to ensure that you either purchase your ticket the "day of" travel, or *carefully* check the button selections and tell it to make the date of travel for a date in advance of your desire and choosing - one in the future - before selecting the "buy now/purchase" button. If you so much as sneeze on the "buy now" button before you have exactly what you want, you lose. Buying tickets the evening before travel does not automatically get you the next day's date printed on your ticket. You would think otherwise, but you'd be wrong. I now know the hard way.
The trains really do run on time, and are clean, modern, and well equipped. If you need to use the restroom, there's no need to fear. . . each car has one, with running water and paper. Older cars have just these features, while newer cars - some as new as 2011 - have a paper cup dispenser and water spigot on the outside of the restroom door. Very handy. Not so handy on the older cars. . . I used my trusty small plastic store water bottle to get a refill, and it was a tussle to get the water to go into the container, though it did get done. So don't expect to refill anything other than a very small water container. . . the distance from the sink faucet to the sink is not much.
Seats do not recline. They sit straight up. Some have tables - typically four to a car - and these locations typically have electric plug outlets where you may plug in a laptop computer or cell phone charger or other device. There are fabric straps to put bicycles into, as some riders ride bikes to their destination, and there are wheelchair locations where the seat lifts up out of the way near the car's entrance.
There are two (and a half) levels to each car: the bottom level, the midlevel at either end - not many seats there, though - and the upper level. The upper level is great for sightseeing and seeing where you are - recommended for tourists who need to know where they are as they travel. The Public Address system lets passengers know where they are approaching, and where they are headed to next at each stop.
Lights for each car's cabin stay on all the time. This is more obvious at night in the early morning or evening, when many people desire some shut eye time. I noticed it, but as I am a heavy sleeper, I didn't have a problem with it. Others who are light sleepers might want to bring sleeping goggles or similar.
To help passengers who desire rest and sleep while traveling, Metrolink has a "Quiet Car" system in place: the second car from the locomotive is the Quiet Car, where no talking on cell phones, etc. is allowed. In all cars, no music boom boxes, rowdy behavior, or boisterous talk is allowed. I witnessed the good behavior of passengers in this in 98 per cent of the passengers I saw. The one really "bad apple" character that looked to be cursing every half second and couldn't keep quiet got on at LA Union Station and left at the next station up at Glendale. . . so not so bad when you get down to it. Even tatooed gang member types with the shaved heads and gang talk were circumspect onboard in my travels, keeping quiet. Good show.
Union Station Los Angeles, in the Downtown LA area on Alameda Street, is the terminus of all of the Metrolink lines that emanate from it, as well as the Metro Rail subway lines such as the Red Line and the Gold Line. This is an architectural treasure of a building, and is beautiful to see on the inside, if not the outside. Restrooms, newspaper vendors, Starbucks, Subway sandwich restaurant, Famima!, and even a See's candy kiosk is there in the traveler area adjacent to the lobby. Traxx, a sit down restaurant, is in the lobby itself. Travelers who need help with their schedules will find an Amtrak readerboard of arrivals and departures. Metrolink's is just to the right of Amtrak's in the traveler area next to the main lobby. Travelers with questions may obtain help at either the Amtrak counter, or the Metrolink counter. Metrolink has several automatic ticket vending machines at this traveler's area next to the main lobby.
I checked the baggage area while there in person to see if a Metrolink passenger could leave baggage, etc. with the station agent at the baggage claim area. Not allowed for Metrolink passengers. Amtrak passengers, on the other hand, may use this service. Now you know.
Ticket prices are reduced for travel on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. Ticket prices are also reduced for senior citizens and the disabled. That includes anyone holding a valid Medicare card. The disabled fare is 50 per cent of the regular fare. . . a bargain, and why I chose Metrolink for my most recent trips to Downtown Los Angeles. With gasoline prices going up, and forecast to go up through this Summer, it's good to know of a reliable alternative to using the car. I'd say Metrolink does an outstanding job for what it does. Just don't do what I did and make a mistake on buying your first ticket.
Metrolink travels as far north as Lancaster (Antelope Valley Line), as far south as Oceanside (Orange County Line), as far west as Ventura (Ventura County Line), as far east as San Bernardino (San Bernardino Line) and Riverside (Riverside Line). There is an additional 91 line that extends east to Riverside that also stops at Fullerton along the way before traveling to LA Union Station.
Thought this might be a help to travelers here using TripAdvisor. Your helpful additions and corrections - and comments - are welcomed.