My Amtrak train from San Jose arrived early (as it often does due to the recovery time built into the schedule; if nothing goes wrong, they're early). I found that some of what I was documenting at the station was useless, because due to a track-relocation project taking effect next month, the actual layout of Sacramento Valley Station is going to change. They are moving the tracks farther away from the station primarily to remove a slow curve in the line and thus make it easier for freight trains to transit the station. It will increase inconvenience for rail travelers, which is rather unfortunate. Personally I think they should have just reinstalled the freight bypass that used to be there and left the passenger tracks in place, but that would have left them less land to spend on redevelopment projects.
Anyway, the light rail tracks (located between the mainline tracks and the station) stay where they are now, so I walked over and started taking photos. And because I was trying to carefully document things step-by-step, the light rail train in the station left before I was ready to go. Unfortunately, trains are on 30 minute headways here, so I had quite a wait. I went inside the main station and had a hot dog and sat in the waiting room out of the sun for a while before going back out to the platform and boarding the next light rail train out.
Consult the Sacramento RT Light Rail map (warning: PDF) for reference to the places below.
Light rail trains leaving Sacramento Valley Station are all heading toward Folsom on the Gold Line, so you have to transfer to a Blue Line train heading toward Watt/I-80 to point yourself toward the Hilton. I decided to transfer at the first sort-of common point, that being the St. Rose of Lima Park/7th & K platform. From there you walk a couple of blocks east along the K Street pedestrian mall to the 9th & K platform going the other way. However, that area has become more run-down than I remember it being, and I felt vaguely uncomfortable even in broad daylight. If I had it to do again, I would have gone on to Archives Plaza, which is the first place where the two platforms are adjacent to each other — you get off a train going one way and walk across to the other platform to catch a train going the other way. You do need to make sure the train's headsign is WATT/I-80, because there are two other routes, and it would be silly to end up riding back to where you started at the Amtrak station.
I had previously determined that the nearest light rail station to the hotel was Royal Oaks, located on Arden Way at the corner of Royal Oaks Drive. As I got off the train, I could see the Hilton in the distance, around 2 km away. It would have been an easy walk for me, but I was testing transportation systems, so I called the Hilton and said, "I'm at the Royal Oaks light rail station. Can you come pick me up?"
They said they'd send a shuttle bus, and he'd be there in about twenty minutes. That seemed like a long wait for such a short distance, but I figured the driver might have been out on another call. After about ten minutes, I saw the shuttle go past going the other way on Arden Way. U-turns are prohibited at Arden/Royal Oaks, so I assumed the driver was going up to where he could make a legal U-turn. However, he seemed to be taking a fairly long time about it. Nearly ten minutes later, I spotted the van coming back the other way, just as a Sacramento RT bus was pulling in to the bus stop in front of the light rail station. To my dismay, the Hilton shuttle bus didn't even slow down, and because the city bus was in the way, the driver couldn't see me waving and shouting. I think, but was never able to confirm, that the driver had gone to the Arden/Del Paso station, which is a bit farther down the line.
I called the hotel again, and this time talked to another driver and gave him more explicit directions. There's a Shell gas station next to the light rail station, and the driver knew where that was; furthermore, it's easier for him to access it because he can make a left turn from Arden. The driver came and got me right away and drove me to the hotel.
As we neared the hotel, we spotted Lisa walking the other way along Harvard Street, the street off Arden Way that leads to the hotel. The driver stopped and let her on for the short (about 200 meters) drive to the hotel's front door.
I think that if we really expect people to come to Westercon by this route, we need to talk to the hotel about just which station we should tell people to come to, and make sure that the shuttle bus drivers know where they are headed.