San Jose, California
San Jose, California - a stop along the Amtrak and Caltrain rail routes.
San Jose is a very popular spot for conventions, events, sports, and
business travel. The city of San Jose is fairly close to the southern
end of high tech Silicon Valley. It is right at the southern most end
of the San Francisco Bay where the rail lines and highways of both the
San Francisco Peninsula and the eastern side of the bay meet. The
San Jose Diridon Station is the ONLY station that is served by both Amtrak
Heading north out of the San Jose Diridon Station, Amtrak heads up the
eastern side of the bay up to Oakland. Heading north out of the San Jose
Diridon Station, Caltrain goes up the peninsula to San Francisco. Thus, if
you want to get to any of the peninsula cities, this is the place to
change trains! However, if you want to get to San Francisco proper,
Amtrak will provide you with connecting bus service out of either
Oakland - Jack London Square or out of Emeryville.
Whenever I attend a convention in San Jose, I always stay at a motel
that is along the light rail line. Some of the hotels near downtown
San Jose are fairly expensive. For example, the last convention that I
attended was held at the Fairmont Hotel and their discounted
convention "special" rate was over $165 per night (1998)! A few miles
up the light rail system, the motels range between $50 and $70 per night.
Below is the Best Western of San Jose at 1414 North First Avenue. The
rack rate was $69 per night, but I got it for $62.50 with my Auto Club
discount. Although I'm sure it doesn't have the amenities of the Fairmont,
I don't mind missing them for a savings of about $100 per night! The Best
Western is a very clean and comfortable motel.
Below is the picture of the VTA Light Rail
vehicle which was going right by the front of the Best Western.
Directly next door to the Best Western is a Denny's Restaurant that is
open 24 hours. The Vagabond Inn is next to the Denny's, an E-Z8 Motel
is next to the Vagabond, and then the Homestead Village which rents
weekly studio apartments is across the street from that. So, there is
quite a bit to select from right in this area if you are seeking
If you'd like accommodations that are a step up from these motels, then
there is a Wyndam Hotel also right across from the same VTA Light Rail
station! One additional inexpensive motel that is immediately next to
the south side of the Wyndam Hotel is the Executive Inn.
If you would like somewhere different to eat other than Denny's, there are
a lot of restaurants either in the area or along the light rail system.
If you walk south along First Street until you get to the end of the
block of the above motels and then cross at the light rail station, you
will find both Chinese and Japanese restaurants. There is also a very
interesting Moroccan restaurant on the same side of the block as the motels.
So, how do you get from Amtrak to these motels? The San Jose Diridon
Station is served by both the Amtrak Coast Starlight and the Amtrak
Capitols. The northbound Coast Starlight arrives in the early evening
and the southbound Coast Starlight arrives mid-morning. There are
several Amtrak Capitols and they serve the station throughout the day.
The following comments are retained here for historical purposes only.
The VTA Winchester Light Rail Line 902 now goes right into the
Amtrak San Jose Diridon Station.
To get to the light rail system, you need to take the Caltrain once
stop south to Tamien. The Caltrains pretty much run all day with about
30 minutes to an hour between each train. The Caltrain operates until
about 11:30pm in the evening, even on Sundays, so you should usually be
able to catch the Caltrain even if the Coast Starlight is running a bit
late. The fare on the Caltrain is $1.25 to get to Tamien. If the Coast
Starlight arrives real close to the departure time for the Caltrain, then
don't bother to go into the station to get your ticket. Just board the
Caltrain and pay the $1 surcharge for buying onboard at a staffed station.
I don't think it is worth the wait of 30 minutes to an hour if you miss
Once you get to Tamien, you can purchase a one-way ticket for about $1.25
or an All Day Pass for $2.50. Except for the day of my arrival, I usually
purchase an All Day Pass every day and am then free to travel wherever I
need to go on the light rail all day long! Don't worry about the times on
the light rail system. As of January 1998, it now runs 24 hours a day!
Take the light rail 8 stops north to Gish. Once you get off the light
rail vehicle, look across the street and you will see the Best Western!
Look one building to the north and you will see the Vagabond Inn and
the Denny's. Look beyond that for the E-Z8 Motel. One block to the south
of the Best Western you will see the Wyndam Hotel.
An alternative way to get from the San Jose Diridon Amtrak Station is
to take VTA bus #68. This bus serves
both the San Jose Diridon Station and the VTA Light Rail Paseo De San
Antonio Station. The bus runs about every 20 minutes during the day and
about once per hour in the evening. Alternatively, you can walk from
the San Jose Diridon Station to the VTA Light Rail. It is about a one
mile walk. To do this, take a left and head north on Cahill Street as
you leave the San Jose Diridon Station. Take a right onto Santa Clara
Street. You'll walk quite a way down this street first passing the
San Jose Arena, then the Guadeloupe 87 Freeway, and then Hotel De Anza.
Take a right and walk just a few steps when you get to First Street.
You will find the Santa Clara VTA Light Rail Stop right there.
More Information (added 08/19/98): I was just looking at the VTA bus map
and found additional ways to get to First & Gish Streets, where these
hotels that I mentioned above are located. If you arrive into the San Jose
Diridon Station between 8:30 AM and 2:30 PM on a weekday, Bus Route #11
serves the San Jose Station and terminates right at First & Gish Streets!
You can't get more direct than that! Unfortunately, this bus only operates
between 8:30 AM and 2:30 PM weekdays. Another option is to that Bus Route
#180 from the San Jose Diridon Station. This is the bus that goes to the
Fremont BART Station. However, it also goes up First Street until it gets
to the freeway, which is just a couple of blocks south of Gish Street.
You can either walk the last two blocks or transfer to the Light Rail
anywhere along First Street.
If you will be arriving or leaving the San Jose area by airplane, the
San Jose Airport is very close to this area. The very next stop on the
Light Rail is the Metro/Airport Stop! To travel between the airport and
the Light Rail system, take Bus Route #10. You will find bus stops at the
airport and at the Metro/Airport Light Rail Station. It is several blocks
between the Metro/Airport and the Gish Street Light Rail Stations, but it
is not a very difficult walk. If you plan to purchase a Light Rail Day
Pass anyway, then you might as well just take the VTA Light Rail one stop
To get to downtown San Jose from any of the hotels that I mentioned above,
just take the light rail south. With the light rail running about every
10 minutes for most of the day and the journey to downtown only taking
15 minutes, you should be able to reach most of the important locations in
San Jose from those motels in under 30 minutes. There are many light rail
stops located convenient to downtown, the convention center, and other
points of interest. If you were to take the light rail north, it would
take you to Great America Amusement Park, Old Ironsides, and the Santa
Clara Amtrak Capitols Station.
Along the light rail route there are bus connections to points throughout
San Jose and surrounding cities. There is even a bus from San Jose Diridon
station that can take you to the Fremont BART station which is the
subway system that serves the East Bay area and San Francisco.
Now that you know how to get from these motels to the San Jose Diridon
Station, you can get to just about anywhere in the Bay Area! As mentioned
above, you can take a bus from the station to BART, the Caltrain up to
San Francisco, or the Amtrak Capitols up to Oakland - Jack London Square,
or even all the way to Sacramento, the home of the California State Railroad
Museum! Amtrak also provides a bus that connects the San Jose Diridon
station with the Amtrak San Joaquins at the Stockton Station. And ... the
Altamont Commuter Express will be running soon that will provide rail
service between San Jose Diridon Station and Stockton during commuter
Just a little side note: The Caltrain does not quite make it all the way
up to downtown San Francisco. But, there is another light rail station
directly across from the northern most end of the Caltrain line that
will take you right into the heart of San Francisco. From there you can
make an easy connection with the BART system or the ferries (including
a ferry over to Oakland - Jack London Square!).
For further information, see:
The photographs below are of the San Jose Diridon train station, inside
the waiting room and outside the front of the building and outside
on the platform. You can see a number of Caltrain trains from the
station and one Amtrak California train.
There is a small store inside the station that serves beverages and
food in addition to newspapers, magazines and a number of useful travel
items. From the front of the station you can see the old baggage section
of the station that is no longer used for that purpose. There is almost
always a number of Caltrain trains that can be seen from the platform.
When I had a chance on my trip to San Jose the week of August 16, 1998,
I did some exploring of the VTA Light Rail System. They are still adding
more track and stations, but I traveled every bit of every route that is
operating currently. If you want to travel the whole system, just get on
at any station and head north until you get to the end of the line at
the "Old Ironsides" Station. Then, head south until you get to the
"Santa Teresa" station at the other end of the line. To cover the entire
system, you will have to get off at the "Ohlone/Chynoweth" station and
transfer to the Almaden Shuttle for a quick round trip down to the
"Almaden" Station and back. Then, reboard the northbound VTA Light Rail
Vehicle at the "Ohlone/Chynoweth" Station and get off at your point of
origin. You've now covered the entire system!
The VTA map shows that they are working on extending the northwestern
section of the rail line out to the Mountain View Caltrain Station.
They are also building a new line that will head northeast out of the
Tasman Station. I would also assume there are some plans to extend
the very short Almaden extension at some time in the future.
Along the VTA light rail line I discovered additional lodgings and
places to eat. There is a Hyatt Hotel at the Airport/Metro Station and
a Westin Hotel and Hanford Hotel at the Great America Station. There
is a CoCos Restaurant at the Airport/Metro Station and a number of
places to eat such as a Subway Sub Shop, a Carl's Jr. and an Indian
Restaurant at the "Lick Mill" Station. There are also a few eating places
at the Bonaventura Station. There are a LOT of hotels and places to eat
near the downtown San Jose area that the Light Rail serves, but if you
want to find something outside the downtown area, then the places that
I mentioned above are about all that are convenient to the Light Rail.
It seems the area around First and Gish Streets has the greatest number
of hotels and places to eat along the Light Rail Line outside of the
downtown area. There is even a place just a couple of blocks from here
with a sign that says: "Light Rail Lounge / Pool & Darts!"
I found the shuttle between the "Ohlone/Chynoweth" and "Almaden" station
pretty interesting. They use just a single VTA Light Rail Car. The train
just goes back and forth between the 3 stops on this line all day long!
There is just this one light rail car on this route. When the car gets
to the end, the driver comes out of his booth, goes to the booth at the
other end of the car, and heads back again. I asked him if this was what
he did all day. He said: "Yes, a pretty easy job." I hope they rotate
the drivers on this route. It must get pretty boring after a while!
The VTA light rail cars themselves look very new and clean on the
outside. However, on the inside, the windows of every car in which I
have been so far has been covered with graffiti! The graffiti is not in
pen or paint, but rather is scratched into the plastic windows. I have
as yet to see any window on any of these light rail cars that wasn't
greatly covered with these scratch marks. Surprisingly, I have yet to
see any graffiti on any other part of the car! I have never seen any
graffiti on any of the walls in the car nor have I seen any vandalized
seat cushions. All the vandalism seems to be restricted to just scratching
onto the plastic windows.
There seemed to always be plenty of seats for everyone on the VTA Light
Rail Trains, even during the rush hour. If I were to take a rough eyeball
guess, I'd say they ran at close to 80% capacity during peak commute hours
and close to 50% capacity during the off-peak mid-day hours that I used
them. This is quite a change from my trip to this area a couple of years
ago. There seemed to be "standing room only" every time I took the VTA
Light Rail! But, since then, they have increased service to operate every
10 minutes during most of the day and to operate around the clock. This
added capacity seems to have solved the overcrowding problem quite well!
Even though I saw a lot of people, especially kids, dressed in what appeared
to be "gang clothing," I never saw a hint of trouble in any of my travels.
I have a feeling that this manner of dress is more of a style or a fad.
Although the graffiti is rampant on all of the glass surfaces of the Light
Rail Vehicle, I never saw anyone bothering anyone nor causing any kind of
trouble. The only hint of illegal activity that I ran into was a group of
kids, dressed in gang attire, discussing where it was easy to get away
from the police when they got spotted using their skateboards in a "no
for a few photos that I took from the corner of Gish and First Streets, plus
a number of additional photos that I took in the San Jose Diridon Amtrak /
Caltrain Station. A couple of the photos show the VTA Light Rail Vehicle
right in front of the Best Western San Jose Lodge. You can see the motel
sign right above the top of the LRV. Another photo displays the #11 Bus
Stop Sign clearly showing the "Caltrain Station" destination! There is
also a photo of the Chinese and Japanese Restaurant signs that are also
right at the corner of Gish and First Streets.
for additional photos. These photos were taken in Sunnyvale and include a
few pictures of the Caltrains and the Sunnyvale Caltrain Station. Sunnyvale
is just a short distance up the Caltrain line from San Jose.
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