In 2021, we published our first Rider Profile, which described how the coronavirus has impacted our riders’ travel, their health and safety concerns, and why—despite a world-wide pandemic—they chose to ride the train.
Throughout the pandemic Capitol Corridor has continued to be a transportation asset to Northern California. Like other public transit options, ridership dramatically dipped since COVID-19 and its variants spread; however, through it all we still have loyal as well as new riders who make Capitol Corridor their preferred travel option.
Pushpraj G. has been a faithful rider for 28 years and says, “It has been the best 28 years of my life.” Find out why in this edition of Capitol Corridor’s Rider Profile.
MEET OUR RIDER: PUSHPRAJ “PUPLA” G.
Pushpraj, fondly known as Pupla, began riding Capitol Corridor in 1994. At first, he rode Capitol Corridor five days a week roundtrip from Sacramento to San Francisco; after the year 2000 his route was Sacramento to Fremont and back. Now he rides two days a week between Sacramento and Oakland Jack London Square.
On his very first train ride the conductor greeted him with a predictive welcome, “Listen, Pupla, you’ll not go back to driving again.” He turned out to be right.
“Those were very prophetic words,” Pupla said. “I would never drive to San Francisco on a regular basis.”
WHY HE RIDES
Pupla used to drive every day to San Francisco, but it was a grueling five-hour commute that prompted a different way to travel. That trip was so stressful, he seriously considered handing over his resignation that day. “I can’t do this anymore,” Pupla told his brother, with whom he worked. It was his brother who suggested Pupla check out Capitol Corridor instead of driving. The very next day he did, and what began as a new way to commute turned into an opportunity to be a part of a remarkable camaraderie, where he, and others Capitol Corridor dubbed the ‘CC Riders’, created memorable experiences and built enduring friendships.
Why does he describe his years on Capitol Corridor as his best? “I got to make a lot of friends on the train—and they became lifelong friends,” Pupla said. “Long-time riders used to say they only went to work for the train ride to enjoy the on-board camaraderie. They were able to socialize hour for two hours each workday. How many people can afford to do that in their regular lives?”
Pupla coined his own phrase for the phenomenon of interacting with people on trains, fellow passengers or train staff whom one would normally not have the opportunity to meet. He calls it ‘Amtrakism’.
YEARS OF REMARKABLE MEMORIES
Like all of us who have had a joyful and lengthy connection, Pupla remembers his years onboard with pleasant memories: from Capitol Corridor train events (he won three Cappys In one year!) to gatherings with CC Riders onboard or fun with its alumni at venues along the route. As he reminisced of the many activities his with his train friends, he shared many ‘small world’ incidents—experiences he only had because he was a passenger on our trains!
For example, the CC Riders, who typically rode in the first car, often played bridge while commuting. Conductors would reserve two tables for their bridge game and if they were ever short players the conductor would make an announcement on the train intercom inviting other bridge players aboard to fill in. On one such ride, an elderly woman who accepted the invitation turned out to be the former school librarian at Goswami’s high school in India.
Another time, Estelle S., who Pupla affectionately called the “Queen of the Train”, once introduced him to a passenger who was also from India. After several minutes of conversation, he learned his cousin, an obstetrician, was the doctor who delivered the young lady 18 years before.
Pupla also recognizes the love of trains is expansive. Coincidentally, when meeting his son’s future father-in-law in Arkansas, Pupla learned he was a fellow train fan who once flew to San Francisco just to ride the Capitol Corridor!
The pandemic, retirement, as well as the work-from-home scenario has broken up the group. Only one other passenger of his original cluster of train friends remains. She brings food, lays out a linen tablecloth and they celebrate the old days each Friday on their ride home to Sacramento.
Yet, despite the pandemic Pupla will not go back to driving to the Bay Area. “I still wear a mask in the mornings, I’m vaccinated and boosted, so I’m not worried about catching the virus,” he said.
Lately, he’s noticed more and more passengers riding the train and he’s sure the skyrocketing gas prices have much to do with more riders on his route. “Last week I filled up my tank and it cost $108! I suggest people get on the train–help support the train! Support Amtrakism!”