The Amtrak California network map has a gap. The system is made up of three state-supported rail lines, some long-distance rail lines, and a network of buses to connect cities that do not get rail (thruway buses). Many years ago (at least a decade) you could take an Amtrak bus from the Central Valley to San Jose, via Los Banos and Gilroy. Once that bus line was cancelled, Amtrak riders had to take the train all the way up and around the Bay Area.
Greyhound used to provide buses across to San Jose, but they have continued to cut their routes and no longer do so. BoltBus never provided a route like that, but instead of expanding, they cancelled their entire California network. Flixbus only connects Fresno to LA, and Megabus doesn’t serve the Central Valley at all.
Starting in 2020, this will change. The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority has been working to add a new bus line between Madera and San Jose. This would reduce travel time by over an hour, compared to the current train routing that send you up to Stockton and then back down.
Additionally, state legislators have been working to repeal a law that prohibits Amtrak from offering bus service that competes with private carriers. If this law passes, then anyone, not just connecting rail passengers, would be able to board the new bus. This would help the bus to be profitable.
The preliminary schedule shows three departures from San Jose to Madera:
- 6:30am – 9:05am
- 10:30am – 1:05pm
- 2:30pm – 5:05pm
And three departures from Madera to San Jose
- 8:50am – 11:20am
- 2:50pm – 5:20pm
- 6:50pm – 9:20pm
I think these times should be reversed, but it’s something.
Right now they’re aiming to launch this bus with the Spring 2020 schedule change, which should be in late April or early May of next year. The preliminary schedule will change as they continue to tinker with the train schedules.