The Capitol Corridor Rocks
There exists a really great Amtrak train that goes from Sacramento to San Jose - right by my house. It is the fastest way to get from my home to downtown San Jose - way faster than driving in most traffic conditions. (Only a little faster than driving when traffic is really, really, light.)
I love national rail trains. This one is a good example because it has a cafe car that sells coffee, tea and beer and snacks and discount BART tickets (20% off). All of the trains have a bunch of electrical plugs so you can use your laptop. Most have wifi. I dig sitting in a train car, sipping tea and checking my email while speeding towards my destination. Or I can stare out the window (at a real ghost town in the south bay (see picture)). It's really low stress.
And once I get to Diridon in San Jose (or Great America in Santa Clara, I usually get on my bike. The trains have a couple of bike cars, each of which can fit at least 4 bikes. I've never seen these filled up. It stops at a couple of BART stations, one of which is the Coliseum in Oakland (the other is north of Berkeley). And the final stop in San Jose is a light rail station as well as a Caltrain station, so you can continue on to Gilroy, head back up the Peninsula towards SF, get on a bus to Santa Cruz or to Santa Barbara - Diridon is a major transit hub, as is the Emeryville station and a few others on the route. When I was a kid, the public transit in the South Bay sucked, but it has gotten a whole lot better. I could live down there without a car now.
You can buy Capitol Corridor tickets with credit or ATM at any station and get a substantial discount if you buy a 10 ride pass. Or, if you want to pay cash, you have to go to a station with an office, like San Jose or Emeryville.
I want to tell everybody I know about this train. You can get to San Jose in an hour! with your bike! And lunch! And beer! It's so civilized! I started a facebook group for the route (shut up, you're a geek too).
Of course, nothing is perfect. The train should come more often. There are only around 7 trains a day between the East Bay and South Bay. Increased ridership would help with this. And, of course, more trains would increase ridership. The board is rumored to be responsive to rider concerns, so asking for more trains may well cause there to be more trains. So give it a ride and ask for more!
The route is a joint project between Amtrak, the state of California and the counties which it passes through, so it has it's own governing board made up of representatives from all these groups. Ok, every other (foreign) rail that I've ever ridden allows people to take dogs - sometimes making them buy expensive dog tickets. Dog owners shouldn't be trapped in cars any more than anybody else. They should start selling dog tickets for this train too. Since it's run by a representative government and whatnot, they will allow dogs if enough people ask for it.
In summary, the Capitol corridor is awesome and I only wish I could use it more. You should ride it too.