Riding from Albany to Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight takes 29 hours, give or take an hour or two if there are delays.
Cutting travel times on the route is one of the goals of the Coast Starlight Communities Network, a California-based coalition of groups interested in promoting West Coast train travel.
The network has just issued a report calling for improvements in tracks and equipment. It also calls for upgrading the amenities on the cars — such as adding Wi-Fi and menu holders — and signage at the stations, especially smaller ones that are not staffed all the time, such as Albany’s.
The Starlight trains run between Los Angeles and Seattle, a distance of 1,377 miles.
When Amtrak started in 1971, trains covered the entire route in about 31 hours. Now they take about 34, according to a graph in the network’s report based on timetables from each period.
“Improving on-time performance and shortening travel times is essential to increase ridership,” says the report, titled “Improving America’s Premier Long-Distance Train.”
It suggests that Amtrak start making incentive payments to railroads on whose tracks it operates if they enable the Starlight to be on time at least 90 percent of the time.
The report recommends several operating changes to save time, all of them in Washington and California.
The train travels on track owned by the BNSF Railway in Washington, the Union Pacific Railroad in Oregon and most of California, and a regional rail authority called Metrolink near Los Angeles.
In parts of California, the track still operates with block signals from the 1940s, and when trains must be put on a siding to let another pass, the train has to stop so the crew can manually operate the turnout switches, according to the report.
Among other things the group wants electrical plugs at each seat.
It also suggests that the train windows, often grimy after passing through the Cascades and along the California coast, be washed mid-route so that passengers can better enjoy the scenery.
As more travelers use the route, the report says it would be better to add a second train than to make the trains longer.
Jarrod DellaChiesa, project coordinator for the network, says the report is being mailed to top Amtrak officials and Congress.