Starlight’s Timetable Is Eclipsed.
On Tuesday of this past week, Amtrak’s southbound Coast Starlight finally reached Los Angeles a staggering nine hours late. The reason? Believe it or not, we can blame it on the solar eclipse. Yes, we can. Seriously.
As I’m sure we all know, there was a total eclipse of the sun and a swath through the middle of the State of Oregon offered some of the best viewing conditions anywhere in the country. Literally hundreds of thousands of people came to rural Oregon for the event.
Some showed up days in advance and others appeared at the very last minute, but as soon as the eclipse ended, all of those people piled into their cars and trucks and camper vans and headed home . . . all at the same time. The result were traffic jams of cosmic proportions that essentially paralyzed traffic on narrow rural roads all over the the state.
Caught in that mess was a fleet of Amtrak buses that link dozens of small towns like Hood River and Bend and Coos Bay with the Coast Starlight, Amtrak’s daily train running between Seattle and Los Angeles.
Let’s say, for example, you’re in Gold Hills, Oregon, and you’re heading for Los Angeles. You can board an Amtrak bus in Gold Hills that will get you to Klamath Falls in plenty of time to connect with the Coast Starlight for the overnight ride down to Los Angeles. Those Amtrak buses make the Coast Starlight a viable mode of long-distance transportation for hundreds of thousands of people living in remote areas of the state.
Here’s the problem: those people are ticketed all the way from those little towns to their ultimate destinations on Amtrak—on an Amtrak bus connecting with an Amtrak train. But, thanks to the eclipse and the monumental traffic jam that was generated when it was over, many of the Amtrak buses arrived at the railroad stations an hour or more late. And because those passengers were ticketed all the way through–on both bus and train—and because the Coast Starlight only operates once a day, the train waited at each of those small stations for the Amtrak buses to arrive.
I thought I had seen or heard of just about every possible reason why a long-distance train arrives at its ultimate destination many hours late. This time, however, passengers on Train 11 could legitimately claim that they were late because of a total eclipse of the sun.