Riders from the Bay Area said their Amtrak train was sold out as they headed south to Fresno Monday evening. Kenya Van Arsdale arrived in Fresno to work and said he uses the train to save money. "It would cost me a fortune, driving back and forth, especially twice a week from the Bay Area to Fresno -- you're looking at more than $4 a gallon," said Van Arsdale.
Last month, ridership on the San Joaquin trains hit about 85,000 -- compared to about 75,000 in February 2011. Monday night, we found some Amtrak first timers planning a Spring Break getaway. Initially, it was for the experience. "Just the fun, the enjoying the sights and not having to put up with the traffic -- then as we go along we realize it might be the best financial decision to make too, because the way gas prices are, it might be just as cheap to take the train versus drive," said Rob Lowder of Clovis.
Of course, how much you save depends on where you're going. Aaron Breeze and Linda Saldana are in a long distance relationship and travel regularly from Fresno to Bakersfield to see each other. Breeze estimates the cost of a train ticket is half of what he'd pay in gas money. "Round trip, it costs at least a hundred dollars. I drive a 1997 Chevrolet Suburban. It's expensive," said Breeze.
The young couple uses the train enough to notice an increase in riders in the last couple of months. They even know how to get the best fares. "Once they start running out of seats they do bump up the price so it's always better to get your ticket at least a week in advance," said Saldana.