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

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ride and learn

The transitarian derivation of the adage "live and learn."

Tuesday I needed to get from 21st and Q streets to Watt and Whitney avenues for a 7 p.m. appointment. After a little checking at I found I had two choices: Leave at 5:41 p.m. and arrive 17 minutes early or leave at 6:11 p.m. and arrive five minutes late. Hey, at least I had a choice.

The online trip planner does a nice job, but I still like to look at the actual bus routes just to see if there might be middle option, and in this case there was. Or at least it appeared there might be.

I figured arriving early was a better option. That meant taking the 5:41 p.m. light rail train heading for Folsom and getting off at Watt and taking the No. 80 bus to Watt and Whitney. The train arrives at Watt at 5:55 and the No. 80 departs at 6:10 p.m. Simple and straightforward.

But then I looked at the 5:56 p.m. train. It is scheduled to arrive at Watt at 6:10 p.m., the same time as the bus departs. Could I leave 15 minutes later and thus shave 15 minutes off the trip by making that connection?

I have enough experience with RT to know that "better safe than sorry" might as well be RT's motto. So Tuesday I took the 5:41 train and made the connection to the No. 80 bus. But then I discovered that the bus makes a second connection with the train.

The bus follows the train tracks along Folsom to the Starfire station before heading north on La Riviera Drive and eventually to Watt. Tuesday night, the No. 80 bus stopped at Starfire and waited long enough to meet the train and board a passenger. This presented an intriguing possibility.

On paper, the train arrives at Starfire at 6:11 p.m. and the No. 80 bus isn't scheduled to arrive until 6:14 p.m. Now that's a tantalizing connection.

Since I need to make the same run next Tuesday, I decided to test just how reliable RT's schedule is.

I should underline at this point: I did this on a day when it didn't matter if I didn't make the connection.

And so I was out at the 23rd Street light rail station in time to catch the 5:56 p.m. train to Sunrise. Well, I was in time if the train had been on time. Instead, I had to wait until 6 p.m.

The train cruised into the Watt station at 6:13, three minutes late. On paper, the train takes just a minute to get from Watt to Starfire, so there was a theoretical chance of still catching the No. 80 before it departed at 6:14 p.m. But there is a place called reality that lives between the official schedule and the theoretical connections.

I got off at Starfire at 6:16 p.m. and walked over to the street and looked east on Folsom. There, just beyond the Highway 50 overpass, was the No. 80 bus waiting in the turn lane heading for La Riviera.

Missed by that much.

OK. So now I needed to get back to 65th Street to catch my regular No. 82 bus home. The next No. 82 was scheduled to depart at 6:28 p.m. But -- yes, you know what's coming now -- the next train downtown doesn't arrive at 65th Street until 6:33 p.m.

Missed by that much -- again.

So when I arrived at 65th Street, I sat on the ground and leaned against the No. 82 bus stop sign and read my book, "California Rising: The Life and Times of Pat Brown," by Ethan Rarick. It's a good book. One of those educational books. I'm in a learning mood after weeks of Richard Brautigan.

Know your limits. Know RT's limits. Get smart.

The No. 82 arrived at 6:46 and I got to wait in the air conditioned coach until finally leaving for home at 6:58.

Ride and learn.


Hearten Soul said...

By George - I think you've got it!

"Know your limits. Know RT's limits. Get smart."

Make it a billboard at every light rail station and bus stop.

John said...

Being smart when riding RT unfortunately means planning for the worst. The train is scheduled to get to a stop two minutes before the bus, but the smart RT rider knows the chances of that actually happening can't be counted on. Sure it will happen some days. Maybe even a lot of days. But the smart RT rider knows that if it is important to arrive at a certain time, you can't count of RT making a connection that is that tight.

I can understand why people who don't share my enthusiasm for riding the bus want to keep their cars. A lot of compromises are required in order to be a regular RT rider. Being a transitarian takes a lot of work.