The Coast Starlight train, which my son just took to return to UCSB, could reasonably be called the “college train” because of the number of large universities along its route. I’m really surprised that Amtrak does not do more marketing of the train to college students and their parents. They do have a 15% discount for students aged 13–25, no longer needing a special “student advantage” card, but marketing the Coast Starlight route still seems to be aimed mainly at summer tourists.
Here is a list of the stops on the Coast Starlight, and some of the nearby colleges and universities (found using Google Maps), with times by public transit from the Amtrak stop to the college. The listing of colleges is not intended to be complete, nor to be recommendations for the colleges—I just tried to pick a few of the colleges that I thought might attract students from far enough away to generate Amtrak customers.
I relied on Google Maps for transit timings, but did not attempt to synchronize to the Coast Starlight schedule—some of the connections may be awful. You don’t want to rely on a tight connection to Amtrak, though, as the Coast Starlight is often an hour or more late. Many of these universities are close enough to the Amtrak stations that a taxi ride or Uber from the stations to campus would be a reasonable cost—still cheaper than flying in most cases. My son took public transportation from Santa Cruz to the Amtrak station in San Jose, but got an Uber ride from the Santa Barbara station to UCSB, to save hauling his luggage to the bus station there.
(Note: Greyhound is often cheaper and faster than Amtrak, but it is a lot less comfortable. BoltBus and other private bus services might also be worth checking.)
University of Washington is 35–55 minutes from SEA; Seattle University is 25–35 minutes; Antioch University Seattle, 19–22 minutes;
University of Washington, Tacoma is 10 minutes from TAC; University of Puget Sound, 47 minutes
The Evergreen State College is 1:24–1:40 from OLW.
Washington State University Vancouver is 1:06–1:27 from VAN.
Reed College, 15 minutes from PDX; Concordia University, 28 minutes; Multnomah University, 34–38 minutes; University of Portland, 13 minutes; University of Western States, 1:04–1:07; Lewis and Clarke College, 1:04–1:08; Pacific University, Forest Grove, 1:37–1:50.
Willamette University, 6 minutes from SLM (10 minutes on foot);Western Oregon University, 0:58–1:40; Corban University, 57 minutes; Northwest University Salem, 0:49–1:30; George Fox University: Salem 0:44–1:26.
Oregon State University, 0:33–1:38 from ALY.
University of Oregon, 23 minutes from EUG, 31 minutes walking.
Klamath Falls, OR
Oregon Institute of Technology, 21–25 minutes from KFS; Southern Oregon University (Ashland) 2:44.
Dunsmuir, CA (Mt. Shasta)
CSU Chico, 13 minutes from CIC.
CSU Sacramento, 37–41 minutes from SAC.
UC Davis 27–33 minutes from DAV.
Cal Maritime, 1:27–2:30 from MTZ
(Although Emeryville is closer to UCB than Oakland is, transit is better from Oakland.)
Oakland, CA–Jack London Square
UCB 37–59 minutes from OKJ; Mills College, 47–55 minutes; SFSU 0:56–1:03; CSU East Bay (Concord) 1:30
San Jose, CA (Caltrain)
San Jose State 11–14 minutes from SJC; Santa Clara University, 7–26 minutes; Stanford, 0:46–1:27; UCSC, 1:34–1:55
CSU Monterey Bay, 23 minutes from SNS.
Paso Robles, CA
San Luis Obispo, CA (Morro Bay)
Cal Poly, 17–24 minutes from SLO.
Santa Barbara, CA
UCSB, 41–55 minutes from SBA.
CSU Channel Islands is nearby (11 miles), but Google Maps can’t find any public transit—the Vista bus is 25 minutes (perhaps Google Maps is missing the VCTC transit information).
Simi Valley, CA
CSU Northridge, 44–56 minutes from SIM.
Van Nuys, CA–Amtrak Station
CSU Northridge, 42–44 minutes from VNC; American Jewish University 0:55–1:09; Pepperdine 2:00–3:00
Burbank-Bob Hope Airport, CA
Woodbury University, 22–35 minutes from BUR;
Los Angeles, CA
Cal State LA, 19–31 minutes from LAX; Caltech 48–60 minutes; CSU Dominguez Hills 1:03–1:09; CSU Fullerton 1:06–1:15; UCLA 1:14–1:45; Claremont Colleges (Harvey Mudd, Pomona, Scripps, Pitzer, …) 1:20–2:00; CSU Long Beach 1:41–2:07; Cal Poly Pomona 1:47–2:06