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

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fortune smiles. Or it doesn't. So it goes.

Fortune smiles. Or it doesn't. So it goes.

My cellphone alarm went off at 6:05 p.m. and I walked out of my office. I was at the 23rd Street light rail station by 6:09. In two minutes I'd be boarding the Folsom-bound train.

Or not.

Two minutes later, I watched the downtown train arrive and depart. OK. That happens. Sometimes they pass on the bridge.

Not tonight.

And then it was 6:15. And then it was 6:17 and 6:19. I started to worry about making the 82 bus connection at 65th Street at 6:28. In the three and a half months I've been using this route home, I've never missed the bus. On most days, the bus is waiting at the station when the train arrives.

So, at 6:20 I became so desperate I tried calling 321-BUSS. Maybe RT would have a recorded announcement saying trains were being delayed because of such or whatever.

No such luck. Instead, I was told to press zero if I wanted to talk to an operator, and after I pressed zero I was told I would have to hold my breath for six minutes. I hung up. I haven't had much good to say about 321-BUSS. (See this post.)

There is a tiny, tiny message board at the 16th Street station near the boarding area for the Meadowview Line. I understand that it is part of a prototype message system. Right now all it says is the date and time. At least that's all it said the last time I was taking the train out to Watt. Why can't RT have a message system like BART's, where the current time and the time of the next train are displayed? What's so hard about that?

The Folsom train finally arrived at 6:24, 13 minutes late, and it didn't arrive at the 65th Street station until 6:32, still 13 minutes late.

No 82 bus. It was long gone.

Fortune smiles. Or it doesn't. So it goes.

As I settled in to wait for the next 82 bus, the 26 line bus pulled into the station. When I saw the Fulton/Watt I-80 sign on the front of the bus it occurred to me that the wife was on her way to Town and Country Village and I could take the 26 to Marconi and meet her.

I walked over to the 26 bus and confirmed with the driver that she was going to Fulton and Marconi. I took a seat near the back and had just opened my book when the driver announced that our 6:42 p.m. departure would be delayed a minute or two while we waited for a connecting bus to arrive.

"As soon as we get these transfers, we're out of here," she told her passengers.

And that's another thing RT could work on. More than once I've heard radio traffic between buses trying to arrange a passenger transfer, especially in the evening. Why can't RT notify buses waiting at light rail stations when a train has been delayed?

At 6:44 the 26 bus was on its way. And somebody on that bus was having a real lucky day. The bus made one light after another, racing through its route as if it was on an express schedule. In fact, we were traveling so fast that we overtook the earlier 26 bus. That's when it became apparent that one reason our bus was going so fast was because the slower bus was picking up all of our riders.

Our driver stopped and offered to take some of the slower bus's passengers, but the other driver declined the offer. We sped off.

I met the wife at Pick Up Stix at 7:05 p.m.

Fortune smiles. Or it doesn't. So it goes.

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