Crazy Amtrak Rule of the Day

My itinerant brother, presently in Tucson, Arizona is trying to visit my less-itinerant brother in Tahoe, California. (The latter is an editor and photographer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, now available online in full print-like layout). Later this week, the itinerant brother flies from Tucson to Sacramento, the least expensive airport closest to Tahoe.

Amtrak has a route from Sacramento to Tahoe (actually nearby Truckee), but it is actually a bus. Having made his plane reservations, my brother waited until today to order his Amtrak tickets online, only to discover the following:

You can't take a bus without taking a train.

Yes, it’s true, you can’t actually board that bus (the only way to get to Tahoe after my brother’s plane arrives), unless you’ve at least set foot on a train first.

Some research suggests that California State Law prohibits Amtrak from offering bus-only services within the state, apparently so it won’t compete with bus companies.

I did figure out what I hope is a clever workaround: the next closest train stop on one of the lines to Sacramento is Davis. Amtrak allows you to buy a ticket from Davis to Truckee via Sacramento for basically the same price as the bus from Truckee to Sacramento. Hopefully no one will check to make sure he actually traveled from Davis to Sacramento before getting on the bus to Truckee.

There must be some profound lesson here. I would love to have been a fly on the wall during the floor debate in the state legislature when this law was enacted.