|Service type||Inter-city rail, higher-speed rail|
|First service||June 1, 2000|
|Current operator(s)||LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency, in partnership with Amtrak and Caltrans|
|Annual ridership||1,634,087 (FY22) 94.3%[a]|
|Termini||San Luis Obispo|
|Distance travelled||350 miles (560 km)|
|Average journey time||8 hours, 52 minutes|
|Train number(s)||562–595, 761–794|
|Class(es)||Coach Class, Business Class|
|Rolling stock||Siemens Charger locomotive|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Operating speed||41 mph (66 km/h) (avg.)|
90 mph (140 km/h) (top)
Like all regional trains in California, the Pacific Surfliner is operated by a joint powers authority. The Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) Rail Corridor Agency is governed by a board that includes eleven elected representatives from the six counties the train travels through. LOSSAN contracts with the Orange County Transportation Authority to provide day-to-day management of the service and with contracts with Amtrak to operate the service and maintain the rolling stock (locomotives and passenger cars). The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) provides the funding to operate the service and also owns all of the locomotives and some of the rolling stock; with Amtrak owning the rest.
Portions of the line in southern Orange County have been suspended three times in 2022 and 2023 due to coastal erosion.
The 350-mile (563 km) San Luis Obispo–San Diego trip (LOSSAN Corridor) takes approximately 9 hours with an average speed of 38.9 miles per hour (63 km/h); maximum track speed is 79 to 90 miles per hour (127 to 145 km/h). Much of the Pacific Surfliner's scenic route follows the Pacific coast, with the tracks being less than 100 feet (30 m) from the ocean in some locations. However, trains travel inland through expansive farmlands in Ventura County and industrial backlots in the Los Angeles Basin, San Fernando Valley, and parts of Orange County.
As of October 2023[update], the Pacific Surfliner operates ten daily round trips between Los Angeles and San Diego. Five round trips continue north of Los Angeles: two run all the way to San Luis Obispo, and three run to Goleta (near Santa Barbara), with Amtrak Thruway motorcoach service over the rest of the route to San Luis Obispo.
Because the stations at the ends of the line do not have wyes to turn equipment, trains are operated in push-pull mode. The locomotive is at the rear of the train, pushing the train from Goleta, San Luis Obispo or San Diego to Los Angeles. At Los Angeles, the train reverses at the station, and the locomotive pulls the train to San Diego or Goleta/San Luis Obispo, respectively. Run-through tracks are under construction at Union Station in Los Angeles to ease congestion and reduce time spent waiting to enter or depart the station. The ongoing North Coast Corridor project plans to increase rail capacity on the route of the Surfliner in North San Diego County.
LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency
Local agencies along with the host railroads formed the Los Angeles–San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency (LOSSAN) in 1989. The Pacific Surfliner is operated by Amtrak under the Amtrak California brand with funding provided by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Serious discussions were held in 2009 regarding the local agencies administering the service rather than Caltrans. California Senate Bill No. 1225, passed in 2014, allowed LOSSAN to amend the joint powers agreement and become the sponsor of state-supported intercity passenger rail service in the corridor. In mid-2015, LOSSAN assumed oversight for the Surfliner. They are also working with Caltrans to assess rail operations from Los Angeles to San Diego to develop better connections, close gaps in the schedule, and optimize the assets of the railroad.
The LOSSAN board consists of eleven members from various planning agencies as follows:
- North County Transit District has one seat
- Ventura County Transportation Commission has one seat
- San Luis Obispo Council of Governments has one seat
- Santa Barbara County Association of Governments has one seat
- Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has two seats
- Orange County Transportation Authority has two seats
- Riverside County Transportation Commission has one seat
- San Diego Metropolitan Transit System has one seat
- San Diego Association of Governments has one seat
The route is the successor of the San Diegan, a Los Angeles–San Diego service operated since 1938 by the Santa Fe Railway. It had been one of the Santa Fe's premier routes until Amtrak took over operations in 1971. Initially there were three daily trips, but the schedule was expanded to six round trips during the 1970s with funding from the state of California. In 1988 the service was extended to Santa Barbara to provide the Central Coast with an additional train to Los Angeles, followed in 1995 with one trip a day going all the way to San Luis Obispo. To better reflect the route's extent, it was renamed the Pacific Surfliner in 2000. The route is named after the Surf Line, which now comprises the route's busiest section from Los Angeles to San Diego.
A stop at Old Town Transit Center was added in 2004. Stops at Orange and Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo were added in 2007 but dropped in 2012. On October 7, 2013, stops were added at Coaster stations at Carlsbad Village, Carlsbad Poinsettia, Encinitas and Sorrento Valley. The Carlsbad Poinsettia and Encinitas stops were dropped on October 9, 2017, due to low ridership. The Carlsbad Village and Sorrento Valley stops were dropped on October 8, 2018, due to changes with the cross-ticketing arrangement with Coaster.
A 13th daily round trip was added on October 14, 2019.
On September 30, 2022, all rail service between Irvine and Oceanside was suspended due to coastal erosion under the track in San Clemente. Emergency repairs were expected to take at least 90 days. Full Pacific Surfliner service resumed on April 17, 2023. Service south of Irvine was again suspended on April 27 due to further erosion at Casa Romantica. Service resumed on May 27, 2023. Service was suspended again on June 5 due to continued erosion at Casa Romantica and resumed on July 19.
The Pacific Surfliner runs on track owned by several private railroads and public agencies:
- Union Pacific Railroad (Coast Line): San Luis Obispo – Moorpark
- Southern California Regional Rail Authority: Moorpark – Los Angeles
- BNSF Railway: Los Angeles – Fullerton
- Southern California Regional Rail Authority: Fullerton – Orange County/San Diego County line
- North County Transit District: Orange County/San Diego County line – San Diego
Carlsbad Poinsettia, Carlsbad Village, Encinitas and Sorrento Valley stations were previously served under the "Rail 2 Rail" reciprocal pass program with Coaster, while Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo and Orange were served under a similar program with Metrolink.
The Pacific Surfliner uses push-pull trainsets with a diesel locomotive at one end and a cab car at the other. Eight of the nine trainsets used for regular service use a fleet of 49 bilevel Surfliner coaches (39 owned by Amtrak and 10 by Caltrans), plus nine leased Amtrak Superliner long-distance coaches modified for push-pull operation. A typical six-car set has a business class car; three coach cars; a coach/café car with food sales on the lower level; and a coach/baggage/cab car equipped with coach seating, a checked baggage space on the lower level, and engineer's operating cab. The ninth trainset consists of leased Amtrak equipment: Horizon or Amfleet passenger cars plus a Non-Powered Control Unit. The Surfliner cars will be supplemented and partially replaced by new Siemens single-level cars beginning in 2020. In 2018, to provide additional capacity before the new cars arrive, LOSSAN began negotiating with the Great Lakes Central Railroad to lease bilevel railcars previously refurbished for a never-opened commuter railroad in Michigan.
The Surfliner cars were introduced in 2000–02, and were designed specifically to handle the demands of the nation's third-busiest rail line. They replaced the California Cars which had been introduced on the then-San Diegan in 1996, and had been fraught with problems in the latter part of the 1990s.
A dedicated fleet of 14 Caltrans-owned Siemens Charger locomotives began pre-revenue testing in October 2018 and entered revenue service later that year. The Chargers replaced a fleet of 15 Amtrak-owned EMD F59PHI locomotives (built in 1998), which were sold to Metra on March 2, 2019. Amtrak-owned GE P42DC locomotives (which are also used at other times) were temporarily used as motive power until the Chargers were ready for service. The Surfliner cars and Charger locomotives (and previously the F59PHI locomotives) are painted in a blue and silver livery that is unique to the Pacific Surfliner.
Additional Amtrak-owned cars are added (up to 12-car consists) during periods of high demand, including the San Diego Comic-Con, the San Diego County Fair, events at the Del Mar racetrack, and after the 2018 Southern California mudflows closed Highway 101. Amtrak Great Dome car Ocean View was occasionally used as an additional business class car prior to its retirement in 2019.
A typical single-level consist in 2010
Lower-level seating on a "Pacific Business Class" car in 2012
A Pacific Surfliner train hauled by a P42DC locomotive in 2012
A Superliner car used in 2016
Ocean View on the Pacific Surfliner in 2017
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- Amtrak's Fiscal Year (FY) runs from October 1 of the prior year to September 30 of the named year.