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The Pacific Surfliner is a 350-mile (560 km) passenger train service operated by Amtrak, serving the communities on the coast of Southern California between San Diego and San Luis Obispo.

Pacific Surfliner
Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Logo (2016).png
Pacific Surfliner @ San Clemente CA..jpg
A Pacific Surfliner enters San Clemente, California.
Service type Inter-city rail
Status Operational
Locale Southern California
Predecessor San Diegan
First service June 1, 2000
Current operator(s) Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency, in partnership with Amtrak and Caltrans
Ridership 2,924,117 (FY16)[1]
Website Pacific Surfliner
Start San Luis Obispo, California
Stops 27
End San Diego, California
Distance travelled 350 miles (563 km)
Average journey time 8 hours 15 minutes
Train number(s) Southbound: 562, 564, 566/1566, 768, 572, 774, 580, 782, 584, 1588, 590, 792, 796
Northbound: 761/1761, 763, 759, 565, 567/1567, 769, 573, 777, 579, 583, 785, 591, 595
Thruway bus: 5804, 5818, 5801, 5811[2]
On-board services
Class(es) Unreserved Coach Class and Reserved Business Class
Seating arrangements Surfliner bi-level cars
Catering facilities Seaview Café Car
Rolling stock

EMD F59PHI locomotives
GE Genesis locomotives

"Surfliner" Cars
Superliner I/II coaches
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Operating speed 90 mph (145 km/h) (top)
41.2 mph (66.3 km/h) (average)

The service carried 2,924,117 passengers during fiscal year 2016, a 3.4% increase from FY2015. Total revenue during FY2016 was $73,020,267, an increase of 3.6% over FY2015.[1] The Pacific Surfliner was Amtrak's third-busiest service (exceeded in ridership only by the Northeast Regional and Acela Express), and the busiest outside the Northeast Corridor.[1]

The route is the successor of the San Diegan, which had been one of the premier trains of the Santa Fe Railway until Amtrak took over operations in 1971. Initially there were three daily trips, but in 1976 the schedule was expanded. In 1988 the service was extended to Santa Barbara, followed in 1995 with one trip a day going all the way to San Luis Obispo. As the name "San Diegan" no longer reflected the extent of the route, it was renamed the Pacific Surfliner in 2000.[4] The route is named after the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway's Surf Line.

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 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 some of the rolling stock.[5]



The 350-mile (563 km) San Luis Obispo-San Diego trip takes approximately 8½ hours with an average speed of 41.2 miles per hour (66 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 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. The Pacific Surfliner operates 24 daily trains between LA and San Diego.

On the northernmost part, there are two trains per day in each direction. Thruway Motorcoach connections are available between Santa Barbara, California and Paso Robles during hours when that part of the Coast Line track is in use by freight trains.

The 500 series trains go from LA to San Diego and two of the 700 series trains go onto the northernmost part of the route, with all 5 of the 700 series trains serving the entire route up to Goleta. For trains 761, 566, 567, and 790, they operate slightly different schedules on weekends and they are recognized by having a 1 in front of their number (i.e. 1761). As of the April 3, 2017 schedule, Amtrak also created slightly different schedules for trains 768, 572, 583, and 591 for the weekend but didn't add a 1 to the front.

Because the San Luis Obispo and Goleta stations are not equipped to turn equipment, and the San Diego station requires a time consuming non-revenue movement into a wye located about 16 miles to the north in Miramar, 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. A project is currently being prepared for run-through tracks at Union Station in Los Angeles.[6] As of 2007, the route recovers 63% of its operating expenses through ticket sales.[7]

Stops at Orange and Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo were added in 2007, but later dropped. On October 7, 2013, stops were added at Coaster stations at Carlsbad Village, Carlsbad Poinsettia, Encinitas and Sorrento Valley.[8] The Carlsbad Poinsettia and Encinitas stops were dropped on October 9, 2017 due to low ridership.[9]


Local agencies along with the host railroads formed the Los Angeles–San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency (LOSSAN) in 1989.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] In mid-2015, LOSSAN assumed oversight for the Surfliner.[13] 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.[14]

Stations servedEdit

Rolling stockEdit

Sample consist
April 27, 2013
Location San Diego, CA
Train Southbound #572
  • P42DC AMTK #167
  • Surfliner Pacific Business Class #6852 "Elysian Park"
  • Surfliner coach/café AMTK #6302 "Carbon Canyon"
  • Surfliner coach AMTK #6406 "Laguna Beach"
  • Superliner I coach AMTK #34960 "Sequoia Grove"
  • Superliner II coach AMTK #34105
  • Surfliner coach/baggage/cab AMTK #6904 "Point Sur"
April 8, 2013
Location Los Angeles, CA
Train Northbound #761
  • P42DC AMTK #10
  • Amfleet I coach AMTK #82710
  • Horizon club-dinette (business/café) AMTK #58108
  • Horizon coach AMTK #54552
  • Amfleet I coach AMTK #82570
  • Amfleet I coach AMTK #82580
  • Amfleet I coach AMTK #82620
  • Non-Powered Control Unit (cab/baggage) AMTK #90230
Coach/baggage/cab car (AMTK #6905) leading the Pacific Surfliner in Lake Forest, CA.
Lower-level seating on a Pacific Surfliner "Pacific Business Class" car.

The Pacific Surfliner uses a fleet of fifty "Surfliner" bi-level, high-capacity passenger cars owned by Amtrak (AMTK) and the California Department of Transportation (CDTX). Each trainset 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 and headlights on one end, allowing the train to be operated in push-pull mode.[15]

Before 2005, all Pacific Surfliner trains had the locomotives facing north towards Los Angeles, while the cabcars faced south towards San Diego. This was identical to the previous San Diegan trains. In 2005, Amtrak changed to the current arrangement in which all the locomotives face south and the cabcars face north on 500-series trains. North of Los Angeles on 700-series trains, locomotives face north, while cabcars face south. However, some trains use two locomotives, in which case a locomotive would face north and the other south at all times. This practice is common when trains run longer than usual, such as during the holidays, the summer, or during emergencies. In March 2018, the Santa Barbara area experienced severe mudslides which shut down the 101 Freeway. This left the Pacific Surfliner as the only mode of transportation in the area for commuters and residents. As a result, equipment was temporarily leased from CDTX in northern California to support the surge in ridership. During the Del Mar racetrack seasons and at the San Diego Comic-Con, Amtrak expands its trains from the normal six car arrangement to up to twelve cars if needed.

The "Surfliner" cars used on the route are painted in a blue and silver livery that is unique to the Pacific Surfliner. "Surfliner" cars are equipped with overhead luggage racks, reclining seats with tray tables and footrests, reading lights, restrooms, AmtrakConnect WiFi, 120v power outlets, and a wheelchair ramp.[16]

High ridership on the Pacific Surfliner led officials to add a third coach to most trainsets. But due to a lack of "Surfliner" coaches, Superliner coaches from Amtrak's long-distance fleet are often used on the route. From 2005 up until early 2017, these Superliner coaches were usually placed between the cab car and "Surfliner" coach car but were soon rearranged next to the Pacific Business Class car and first coach car because of the extra business class car added in 2017.

Car shortages have also led Amtrak to operate one or more single-level trainsets which vary in equipment. The most common configuration is a GE P40DC, GE P42DC, GE P32-8BWH, or EMD F59PHI as power, a Budd Amfleet I Businessclass coach, a Bombardier Horizon Dinette/Cafe, 4-5 Bombardier Horizon Coachclass coaches, and an NPCU. During peak periods, a special car makes appearances. Amtrak's only remaining single-level full dome car, #10031 "Ocean View", runs as an extra Business Class car. The car was originally built in 1955 for the Great Northern Railway, and was conveyed to Amtrak in 1971. Seating is first-come, first-served.

Amtrak locomotive #507 pushes southbound Pacific Surfliner train #792 over the crossing at Sonora Street in Burbank, California.

All Pacific Surfliner trains are pulled by Amtrak-owned locomotives. Amtrak maintains a dedicated fleet of EMD F59PHI locomotives painted to match the livery of the "Surfliner" cars. This fleet is slated to be supplemented and eventually replaced by a new order of 20 Siemens SC-44 Charger locomotives that will be delivered from 2018-2020.[17] In February 2018, Chicago commuter rail operator Metra announced that it had reached an agreement to purchase 21 F59PHI locomotives from the Pacific Surfliner pool.[18]

Route notesEdit

A southbound Pacific Surfliner train in 2005 at Carlsbad, south of Oceanside.

Amtrak's Thruway Motorcoach bus service connects passengers from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo to Solvang, Buellton, Lompoc, Grover Beach, Atascadero and Paso Robles.[2]

Track hostsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Amtrak FY16 Ridership and Revenue Fact Sheet" (PDF). Amtrak. April 17, 2017. Retrieved February 21, 2018. 
  2. ^ a b "Pacific Surfliner Schedule" (PDF). Amtrak. October 9, 2017. Retrieved February 21, 2018. 
  3. ^ "Light rail approved by Metro Board for Van Nuys to Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station transit line". Metro. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved 28 June 2018. 
  4. ^ Gabbard, Dana (September 24, 2012). "History of the Surfliner, LOSSAN and a Look at Pending Legislation". StreetsBlog LA. OpenPlans. Retrieved April 11, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Amtrak California". Wikipedia. December 11, 2017. 
  6. ^ "SCRIP - The Southern California Regional Interconnection Project". Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on April 17, 2016. Retrieved May 8, 2016. 
  7. ^ Lam Nguyen (September 23, 2008). "FY 2007-08 Rail Operations Report" (PDF). State of California Department of Transportation. 
  8. ^ "Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Adds Four New stops" (Press release). Amtrak. September 18, 2013. 
  9. ^ Diehl, Phil (September 21, 2017). "Amtrak to discontinue two stops, add one". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved September 30, 2017. 
  10. ^ "LOSSAN Corridorwide Strategic Implementation Plan, Final Report (April 2012)" (PDF). San Luis Obispo Council of Governments. Retrieved April 24, 2018. 
  11. ^ "LOSSAN Board discusses JPA and the Future Governance of Passenger Rail in Southern California". Rail Passenger Association of California & Nevada. Retrieved December 6, 2009. 
  12. ^ "Senate Bill No. 1225" California Secretary of State (September 29, 2012)
  13. ^ Sheehan, Tim (June 26, 2015). "Valley agency takes control of Amtrak San Joaquin trains". Fresno Bee. Retrieved February 11, 2016. 
  14. ^ Weikel, Dan (January 27, 2015) "Little-known agency keeps commuter rail network on track" Los Angeles Times
  15. ^ a b "Amtrak - Pacific Surfliner". Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Inside the Pacific Surfliner". Retrieved June 30, 2013. 
  17. ^ Palminteri, John (November 10, 2015). "Cleaner Train Engines Coming to the Central Coast". 
  18. ^ "Metra to buy 21 former Amtrak locomotives". Global Rail News. February 27, 2018. Retrieved September 17, 2018. 

External linksEdit