There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Celebrating the one month anniversary

The bus arrived at the 65th Street station at 9:16 a.m. I smiled to myself. As an experienced transit rider I knew my schedules by heart, and I knew I would have plenty of time to catch the 9:18 a.m. downtown train, shaving more than 20 minutes off my regular commute time.

It's amazing what a difference a month makes.

Well, OK, it was the shortest month of the year, but I managed to commute to work every workday, rain or shine, and even talked the wife into taking a bus rider's holiday trip to the end of the Folsom line. I managed to run errands after work and before work and still leave the car at home.

Along the way I have picked up an interesting perspective on the demands of relying on public transit. Of course, voluntarily relinquishing control over one's commute, as I have done, is more liberating than finding oneself suddenly dependent on regional transit. I'm sure the bus riders who have no choice would laugh at my esoteric ruminations on the joy of being a responsible, transit-using citizen. After all, I can laugh at missing the train because I went back to get my coffee cup, which happened the other night. I can experience a certain personal enlightenment when I realize that giving up "freedom" and accepting structure can be liberating.

For me this has all been a positive experience. Between my daily walks in the afternoon, something I started on Jan. 1, and giving up solo commuting to work, which I started on Feb. 1, I have found I have a great deal less stress in my life.

When I read rants such as this one, which I came across while monitoring regional blogs, I just shake my head. Sure I've been frustrated. Take the night that I confused the train schedule and then missed my bus stop on the way home (see my A rookie mistake post), and didn't get home until two hours after I left work. Or the holiday that wasn't a holiday and therefore the bus schedule wasn't what I expected. There were ingredients for a real loud rant about the failures of public transit. Damn it, why do trains suddenly shift from once every 15 minutes to once every half-hour? And if a holiday doesn't mean holiday schedule then when does a holiday occur?

By surrendering my ability to jump into a car on a whim and dash to and fro, I have taken on the responsibility for making the transition to relying on public transit work. The train schedule is printed and posted online. It can be checked. Same for the bus schedule. A call to 321-BUSS can answer what effect a particular holiday has on the schedule.

Sure, Sacramento Regional Transit could be more convenient, more like the fabulous transit system that makes cars unnecessary when visiting San Francisco. But the system works. At least it works for me and my rather ideal situation.

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