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

Friday, September 28, 2007

Riding light rail to Folsom Live concert Saturday

Going to "Folsom LIVE! Music on the Street" on Sutter Street in Historic Folsom on Saturday? The Sacramento Regional Transit District will be providing extended light rail service to Folsom. The trains will be running every 30 minutes, and the last train will leave Folsom at 11:30 p.m.

In addition, RT will operate continuous bus service (approximately every 15 minutes) from the Glenn light rail station to the Historic Folsom light rail station from 3:35 p.m. until 10:35 p.m. Passengers can park free of charge at any of RT's 18 park-and-ride lots, including the Glenn light rail station.

Folsom LIVE! attendees can show their pre-purchased admission ticket and ride RT buses and light rail trains free to the event.

Note: According to RT, "The Folsom LIVE admission tickets can only be used on the light rail trains and shuttle buses from the light rail stations to the event."

Transit mental health (continued)

Last week, I queried the Sacramento Police Department's handy "Ask Officer Michelle" about the guy I describe here.

Today I encountered someone screaming profanities and banging with his fists on the side of a bus shelter, clearly fighting his personal demons but not directly threatening anyone nearby.

The man was pounding on the glass of the shelter with enough force to shake the structure. It was possible he could break the glass and thus damage private property and in the process hurt himself, but it wasn’t likely.

Is this something worth calling 911 about?

Dear JHughes,

You would be perfectly justified in calling 911. Not only was this man acting aggressively, he could have hurt someone or himself in the process of his rampage. This would have come out as a suspicious person call and or a vandalism-in-progress call. We would have contacted the subject and detained him to investigate further.

People always ask me if they should call 911. I always tell them that if they feel that it would be justified, then go with your gut feeling.

I posted the Regional Transit response with the original post in the comments.

Sputnik on the bus

Finished reading Paul Dickson's "Sputnik: The shock of the century," the story of the first man-made object to orbit Earth, the shot that launched the Space Age.

"Listen now," said the NBC radio network announcer on the night of October 4, 1957, "for the sound that forevermore separates the old from the new."
That's how the book starts, and since I'm not limited to the boundaries of paper, I offer you the opportunity to " listen now ."

I need to explain why I picked this book up when I found it in a discard pile at work.

"That's the only time I ever saw your father drunk," my mother would explain whenever the topic of drunkenness came up. Since I had never seen my father drink, let alone get drunk, it was always an interesting tale. My parents divorced when I was 9.

"We were at a party," she would say, "and he was three-sheets to the wind." This was a term for nautical inebriation that confuses me to this day, having done my drunken sailoring in the days of turbine-powered propulsion, but maybe it explained what drunkenness looked like in 1957 before the night sky was full of real flying objects.

"Your father," my mother would say with great delight, "was holding his tie out in from of him and spinning around, going 'Beep. Beep. Beep. I'm Sputnik.' "

Sometimes she would embellish the tale and put a lamp shade on his head, but my father saying "beep, beep, beep" has echoed over the years.

Dickson's book was originally published in 2001, but it is being re-issued this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Space Age. The book is an easy read, covering the history of rocketry from the black powder fireworks of China through the German war machine to America and the Soviet Union with just enough physics to appreciate why satellites don't just fall back to Earth:
"Newton believed if the apple could be thrown fast enough, the downward curve of the apple's path would match the curve of the Earth's surface. In a sense, the Earth would be a moving target, continually dropping away before the apple fell far enough to hit the ground. Sputnik stayed up for the same reason the Moon does -- the pull of the Earth's gravity and the velocity of the satellite were perfectly balanced. Like the Moon, Sputnik had too much velocity to fall to Earth but not enough to break away from Earth's gravity."
Or as Buzz Lightyear might explain, we can call this "falling with style."

One aspect of the Sputnik history that surprised me was the role President Eisenhower played. At the time, of course, he was blamed for America's failure to be first in space. But it turns out that in the climate of the Cold War it was very important that the Soviets launch first.

It is hard to imagine now, when we have thousands of satellites orbiting Earth, but there was a very real question of whether the space above a country could be held off limits in the same way aircraft can be prohibited from overflying countries. And the issue was of critical importance to the United States since the year before, on July 4, 1956, America had started its super-secret high-altitude U-2 spy plane flights over Soviet territory. The United States needed to establish the concept of "open skies," the principle that a satellite orbiting Earth didn't violate anyone's sovereignty. And the president felt America needed to allow the Soviets to establish that principle more than America needed to be first in space.
"Sputnik gave President Eisenhower his 'open skies,' paving the way for reconnaissance satellites that later played a major role in the U.S. commitment to nuclear disarmament. Eisenhower was not the do-nothing president he often has been portrayed to be. Instead he was the quiet unsung hero of the Sputnik crisis, calmly leading the nation through a period of intense uncertainty, Cold War escalation, and rancorous rivalry among branches of his own armed forces."
The next time you get help with turn-by-turn directions from your in-car GPS navigation system while listening to XM satellite radio, remember that it all started with "beep, beep, beep."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Those people on the bus

I'm trying. Really, I'm trying hard. It's not like I don't want to see the problem. I just don't see it.

Today, two high-school boys, both black, were sparring, their pugilistic choreography swirling about in a cloud of flailing limbs. A half-dozen high school kids -- one girl, the rest boys; all black -- formed an elastic ring that floated around the fighters.

The blur of activity quickly attracted the attention of the other people waiting for the next light rail train at the 65th Street station.

I looked up from my book, but before I could decide whether something needed to be done, the "fighters" were transformed into a couple of kids just joking around. They embraced and then shook hands, all smiles. The crowd of high school kids milled around next to the light rail tracks. I went back to my reading.

"There are some pretty scary folk on board," goes the complaint. "Gang member looking people."

Maybe it is because I have a kid in high school. I've become inured to the overwhelming air of defiance that hovers around teenagers. But I just seem to lack the talent to turn every black or Asian or Hispanic male into a gang member.

I can't even manage to find enough "smelly street people. Intoxicated/drugged up people" to comment on the problem.

Last week, on the day I saw the crazy guy, I rode to work on light rail with a homeless guy. I assume he was homeless. He was dirty. He appeared to have soiled his pants at one time. The man was standing in the back of the train with his bike. I was in the middle. I couldn't tell if he smelled. But as passengers got on and off, he courteously made room. Beyond the dirt, he was just another of the 50 or so riders in the car.

I've been looking for some more homeless. One reason I was particularly enthusiastic about the trip downtown to the IMAX Theater on Saturday was the opportunity it presented. With all the suburban commuters at home, the remaining bus and light rail riders should have been "those people" who scare off people who could be choice-riders, my neighbors who could catch a convenient bus, but choose instead to stick with their personal autos.

According to the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance, 5,257 transit passes are handed out on average each month with the General Assistance grants to the homeless. The county has been handing out the free passes since the early 1990s. One would expect the homeless to be an unavoidable presence, especially on the weekend. But all I saw on my ride downtown last Saturday were just people -- men, women, families -- none of whom appeared to have slept on the street the night before.

On my way home Saturday, I was waiting on J Street for the No. 30 bus to Sacramento State. I had been reading a copy of "Homeward," the newspaper that proclaims itself to be "A voice for the Sacramento Area homeless community since 1997." I had purchased the newspaper near the IMAX theater from a man wearing a badge that indicated he was an authorized distributor.

I suppose the guy was homeless, although his appearance was neat and clean and his manner quite friendly. He wasn't pushy at all as he asked if I would like to buy a newspaper.

While I was standing at the J Street bus stop, a man walked up to me. He was casually dressed, clean. He took a drag from his cigarette and exhaled. He looked around, and then asked me: "Hey, you want to buy a bus pass for the rest of the month? Say six bucks?"

I smiled and showed the guy my bus pass. "No thanks," I said.

My bus arrived before I could decide whether this was a homeless guy who was selling his free pass to raise money for food, or a dissatisfied Sacramento Regional Transit monthly pass holder.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A modest proposal

Wherein the author offers a Swift idea for enticing more people to ride Sacramento Regional Transit.

With a special thanks to History from 1729 to 1954.

* * *

It is a melancholy object to those who drive alone through this great town or travel in the county when they see "pretty scary folk; gang member looking people; smelly street people; intoxicated/drugged up people" on a bus or riding light rail.

I think it is agreed by all parties that the prodigious number of "those people" is in the present deplorable state of the region a very great additional grievance; and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of coping with the problem posed by "those people" would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the region.

As to my own part, I shall now humbly propose my own thought, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

Our nation was founded on the principal that all men of property were created equal, and the right to make property of men (and women and children) was every bit as necessary to the well-being of our nation's economic vitality as ownership of cows and goats.

Today, we face a global environmental catastrophe that can only be met by a shared sacrifice by all of Earth's inhabitants. Something must be done, and I propose a modest proposal necessary so that more people will choose to ride Sacramento Regional Transit. As I have said before (see this article), choice-riders are the key to our salvation.

Clearly, we cannot ask people who already pay a hefty financial premium in order to separate themselves from "those people" to leave their personal vehicles behind in their gated communities without some effort to ease the discomfort they must necessarily experience when once again forced to acknowledge the inconvenient existence of "those people."

To create more choice-riders we must go back to our historical roots, to the original thoughts of our founders.

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court established the justice of "separate but equal" and in that ruling will we find the answer. The majority of the court rejected the view that a law requiring separation implied any violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead, it contended that the separation was only a matter of public policy.

By going back to our founding principals, we can make it possible for more people to become choice-riders of transit.

Here's a copy of the model for this proposal:

It only takes a few very cosmetic changes to see the beauty of this proposal:

Separation of riders -- Required

Every person operating a bus line in the city shall provide equal but separate accommodations for choice-riders and "those people" on his buses, by requiring the employees in charge thereof to assign passengers seats on the vehicles under their charge in such manner as to separate the choice-riders from "those people," where there are both choice-riders and "those people" on the same car; provided, however, that "those people" who are nurses in charge of choice-rider children or sick or infirm choice-riders, may be assigned seats among the choice-riders.

Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the operators of such bus lines from separating the riders by means of separate vehicles if they see fit.

Were it not for the misguided opinions of a noisy rabble, this system would still be in effect today in many parts of this country and transit would still be a choice for more than just "those people."

I think the advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as well as of the highest importance.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Transformers on the bus

Friday, I was making my way to the comics in the back of the Scene section of The Bee when I stumbled upon the ad for the IMAX version of the movie Transformers. This seemed like an interesting idea for a Saturday outing.

Both the wife and the kid, however, had other plans, so that evening I purchased the ticket online for myself and then checked for my transit options. After more than six months of weekday riding, I am familiar with how to get downtown from my home, but the question was how Sacramento Regional Transit's reduced weekend schedule would affect my ability to reach Cathedral Square around 10 a.m.

Think good thoughts; get good karma. And there it was: I could walk across the street from my front door before 8:49 a.m. and catch the No. 82 bus to American River College. At ARC, I would have a short wait for the No. 1 bus to the Watt/I-80 light rail station. From the station, I would catch a train downtown and arrive at Cathedral Square at 9:51 a.m.

I can hear the transit pessimists already: "Why would you take a bus and a train that takes 62 minutes for a trip that would take less than 15 minutes on a Saturday morning?"

Society today puts far too much emphasis on the time it takes to get somewhere and not enough on how we get there. This is a reflection of our personal poverty. We are so crushed by the burdens of making ends meet and accomplishing the everyday tasks of life that we can't afford to "waste" a minute.

This overriding grip of time pushes away all other considerations and separates us from the greater community. Even in those rare cases where transit is readily available, people reject it because it would take a little more time out of their day. When they do this, they discard any responsibility for the consequences of driving alone to work, consequences that pile on top of other consequences and affect everyone in the community. Our message: I am more important than you. Easing my poverty is more important than the community's general welfare.

Driving solo has consequences, and taking transit just one day week has benefits. According to the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, a daily commuter who leaves a car at home and takes transit just one day a week prevents 55 pounds of pollution from being emitted into the air each year.

The community has value, and thinking about our community is the first step away from our destructive obsession with self.

I'm writing this in my steno notebook on the table in the back of the Starbucks at J and 19th streets. It's 1:20 p.m. on Saturday. Outside it is wet but not raining. Inside it's warm and crowded. I find the number of children in the coffee shop odd. Two elementary school age children sit at the window bar. One of them appears to be writing in a journal. A baby in a stroller has been positioned in front of a window for its amusement while the adults chat nearby. This is all part of the midtown of families that I don't see during my weekdays. I feel like a tourist, which I guess I am.

It is nice to be rich enough to be able to afford a day like today.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Transit mental health

Looking at the guy beside the bus stop shelter across from the 65th Street light rail station I couldn't shake the image of Woody Allen in his younger years. The guy was the same slight build, a mousy little man.

He was far enough away that I couldn't make out more than his general appearance. He wore jeans and a white shirt with writing in red across the shoulders and in the middle of the back. He wore thick glasses and a blue ball cap pulled down. His clothes looked freshly laundered.

The guy would have been completely unremarkable except for the way he shook both hands above his head with middle fingers extended while screaming profanities at the sidewalk in front of him. Occasionally, he would pause and look up as if to see if anyone noticed, and then he would continue. When he finally became exhausted by his exertion he lowered his arms and leaned against the side of the bus shelter. But then he turned and banged his fists on the glass wall of the shelter with enough force to shake the structure.

I was happy to be too far away to discern more than the general tenor of his complaint. A couple of women were sitting in the bus shelter, unmoved. A man walked to the other side of the bus stop and away from the guy, shaking his head. A few people at the light rail station with me watched.

The cycle of screaming, exhaustion, pounding, screaming, exhaustion, pounding continued until my train arrived. As I left for downtown, the man was still at the bus stop waiting for Sacramento Regional Transit to pick him up.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A return to optimism

It will forever be referred to as the Hershy pall, the thick despair that nearly extinguished my transitarian optimism. The dark effects of Seymour Hersh's book evaporated tonight on a crisp fall evening.

One recurring criticism of transit is it's lack of flexibility. Go to work and go home, but woe be unto the transit rider who wants to run an errand. So when running an errand is not only possible but amazingly easy it is worth taking note.

The other day the wife gave be a Borders gift card, and tonight I decided to put it work.

Borders Books is on Fair Oaks, just east of Howe. I have a friend who works there, so I'm familiar with its location. According to, it is a short 0.4404 miles from the No. 82's stop at Howe just north of Fair Oaks to the Borders store. With a half-hour between runs I expected to have plenty of time to take care of my errand and catch the next No. 82 bus.

The bus arrived at the stop at 6:42 p.m. and I set off walking. The clouds were threatening rain, but nothing was going to dampen this outing. I made it to the store, got help finding the book, purchased the book and still had enough time to get coffee next door at the Pavilions shopping center's Starbucks before heading back to the bus stop.

I was back at the bus stop by 7:02 p.m. and I was on the next bus home at 7:09.

You couldn't ask for a better transit experience.


I need to add a postscript here to my Dark Side of Camelot post.

The book I'm reading now (not the one I bought tonight, by the way) is "Sputnik" by Paul Dickson, which retells the story of the Soviet's successful orbiting of the first man-made satellite and the beginning of the Space Age on Oct. 4, 1957. Having just finished Hersh's book on Kennedy and having been so disappointed by Hersh's portrayal of Kennedy, it was more than amusing to find this account of then-Sen. John F. Kennedy's reaction to the news:

"Kennedy was a frequent closing-time visitor to the men-only bar at Boston's Loch Ober Cafe, where Freddy Hamil was maitre d' and bartender. Hamil was smitten by space and was a devotee of Wernher von Braun, who was already a household name by virtue of his television appearances on the Wonderful World of Disney. Immediately following the Sputnik launch, Hamil introduced the future president and his brother Robert to Charles Stark "Doc" Draper, an MIT professor and pioneer in rocket guidance. A timely late-night bar conversation ensued on the meaning of the Russian feat. Many years later, Draper told aerospace historian Eugene M. Emme that it turned into an argument, with John Kennedy insisting ironically that all rockets were a waste of money and their use in space even more so. In retelling this story, however, Emme added, 'But then the Kennedys were known to pick arguments just for the education of it or for the entertainment.' "

The Dark Side of Camelot on the bus

Perhaps you noticed. I would expect regular readers to realize something was different. It has been pronounced, hardly subtle.

A darkness has crept into my posts, a cynicism has replaced my once buoyant transitarian optimism.

Blame Seymour Hersh and his dark and dreary effort to compile every possible bad thing that could be said or at least whispered about President John F. Kennedy and his family.

I have a neighbor who periodically takes a bookcase out of his garage and sets it up next to the curb in front of his house. He then brings a box or two of books from inside his house and fills the bookcase. When he is done, he puts a "Free" sign on the bookcase and goes back inside. Throughout the day, people will stop and take the books. I can't get the wife to stop falling for this ploy.

"It's nothing but trash," I tell her. "If it wasn't trash, he wouldn't be giving it away."

And that's how I came to read "The Dark Side of Camelot" while riding to and from work on the bus.

I suppose the meticulous research Hersh did over five years explains the acclaim the book received when it was originally published in 1997. Hersh names names and cites on-the-record interviews. Over and over, people "recalled in an interview for this book..." and facts from unpublished manuscripts "made available for this book..." revealed secrets hitherto kept from the public.

"Richard Bissel never told it all.

"The patrician Bissell, with his academic background and his passion for sailing, was the prototypical CIA man in the early 1960s, as America began its love affair with the novels of Ian Fleming and his dashing British spy hero, James Bond, the martini-sipping Agent 007. Bissell, handsome and tall, was the man in charge of the CIA's get-Castro planning. He also helped elect John F. Kennedy by meeting with him before the 1960 election and briefing him about the CIA's ever-expanding plans for the overthrow of the Castro regime."
And on and on. From the political corruption of Kennedy's maternal grandfather, John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, to the rum-running of Kennedy's father, Joe, to the payoffs in the West Virginia primary to the Chicago theft of the national election, to Kennedy's obsession with assassinating Castro -- all the skeletons are torn from the closet and the bones tossed on the floor.

Much of the book makes an awful -- truly awful -- lot about John F. Kennedy's sexual appetite and the necessary efforts made to make sure it was kept from public view. In hindsight, it's not difficult to imagine what would have happened if the details Hersh unveils had been even hinted at before the 1960 election. All one has to do is recall what became of Democratic Party presidential candidate Gary Hart in 1988.

One of Hersh's sources of information was a transcript of what he describes as a "stream-of-consciousness tape recording [Marilyn] Monroe made at the recommendation of her psychoanalyst." I found the quote he used in the book fascinating:
"Marilyn Monroe is a soldier. Her commander-in-chief is the greatest and most powerful man in the world. The first duty of a soldier is to obey her commander-in-chief. He says do this, you do it. He says do that, you do it. This man is going to change our country. No child will go hungry, no person will sleep in the street and get his meals from garbage cans. People who can't afford it will get good medical care. Industrial products will be the best in the world. No, I'm not talking utopia-- that's an illusion. But he will transform America today like Franklin Delano Roosevelt did in the Thirties. I tell you, Doctor, when he has finished his achievements he will take his place with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt as one of our great presidents. . . . I will never embarrass him. As long as I have memory, I have John Fitzgerald Kennedy."
I remember President Kennedy's assassination. I was in sixth grade. I had been excused early from class to go to the milk room, where I worked at lunchtime. I was halfway there when the principal announced over the school public address system that the president had been shot and killed in Dallas. I didn't know whether I should continue to the milk room. Would there still be lunch? I decided to ask my teacher. I walked back to my classroom and found my teacher sitting in the front of the class crying.

Hersh makes absolutely no effort to explain why that teacher cried, why America cried on Nov. 22, 1963. His book is unrelenting in its effort strip Kennedy of any redeeming quality and in the process to belittle the nation's love and admiration as simply the product of hype and lies.

I am fearful that someone will stumble upon this book before they have read any other book about John F. Kennedy. That would be a real tragedy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The fate of transit riders

"Oh, you dirty dog," said the driver

Everyone on the bus agreed. I certainly did.

The No. 82 morning run started out slowly and ended in a rush, and I'm wondering which shade of Pollyanna lipstick to apply to this pig.

There was just one rider when I boarded the bus. Did the other regular riders know something I didn't? I always feel as if I'm not being told everything. But stop by stop the bus added more passengers and that was comforting.

And then the bus stalled.

Dead. The driver was attempting to leave the Watt and Kings Way stop. There was at most a minute of collective silence as everyone on the bus held their breath, and then the bus roared back to life and we were on our way again.

OK. Better than the mystery door problem. And this bus didn't have the screaming alarms that the newer buses sound when they lose power.

The bus made it around the Wal-Mart/Sam's Club complex and past Kaiser Hospital. Everything was looking just fine. Every seat had at least one rider and the guy who chases co-eds had found a co-ed who didn't immediately try to toss him into the aisle.

And then the bus stalled.

This is where the "dirty dog" comes in. The driver's mike was live when the bus stalled just before the Morse and Northrop intersection. Those of us who had been on the bus for the first stall crossed our fingers, chanted magical spells under our breath and generally held good thoughts in the hope that this would influence the unhappy transit gods.

The bus started. An audible sigh was heard over the roar of the engine.

Stalling twice and filling up with Sacramento State students was having a measurable effect on the ability of the driver to keep the bus on its schedule. By the time we were stuck in traffic at the entrance to Sac State, we were late enough to watch the No. 30 bus departing for downtown. There went my first option for getting to work. I comforted myself with the knowledge that the bus still had time to catch the regular light rail train if all went well.

And then the bus stalled.

We were in the bus-only lane about to turn into the bus stop at Sac State. All of the students got out of their seats. Either the bus started or the passengers were going to storm the exits. Fortunately, the bus started.

I didn't look at my watch. I was resigned to my fate. Getting anxious about whether we would make the light rail connection would, at best, be a waste of time. I went back to my book. I did my best not to worry when the bus stopped and let off a passenger on its way to 65th Street. I was even getting a little -- just a little -- optimistic when we managed to arrive at the bus park at 65th Street light rail station. But as we approached the No. 82's bus stop, we could see the train pulling into the station. This would be close.

Everyone was up and crowding the exit. The bus doors opened as the train came to a stop. I dashed down the stairs and across the street that separates the buses from the train station. I ran to the train in time to open the door. For my good deed of the day, I stood in the doorway to prevent the train from leaving so that an elderly man dragging a piece of luggage would have time to board. Once he was on, I cleared the door and found a seat.

So my Pollyanna persona suggests it was a good day. I made my connection. But the realist wonders about the role of fate in the grand transit scheme of things.

Some days you ride the bus, and some days the bus rides you.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Corporate sponsors on Driver Appreciation Day

My morning bus made its regular stop at Butano and Sam's Club, just around the corner from the Watt and Wal-Mart stop. Perhaps Sacramento Regional Transit could parlay its stop locations into corporate sponsorships. My bus could become the "Wal-Mart 82," to distinguish it from the "Wal-Mart 23" that drops riders off on El Camino. The front of the No. 82 buses could announce "Wal-Mart, CSUS, 65th Street" going south and "CSUS, Wal-Mart, ARC" when leaving the 65th Street station. In exchange for the corporate product placement, RT could pick up some extra cash and maybe improve the frequency of bus runs.

That wasn't what was on my mind this morning. I was reading my book. The bus had stopped to let off a couple of riders and then picked up a couple. Just another stop. Nothing out of the ordinary. The bus pulled away from the curb and proceeded down Butano.

And then it stopped.

The driver opened the front door and waited. Everyone on the sidewalk side of the bus looked out the window. After a moment, all of the heads turned in unison, matching the progress as a runner approached the bus.

When the runner was even with the door, the driver called out, "Need a ride?"

"No thanks," said the runner. He waived to the driver as he continued jogging down the street.

I've written before about drivers who won't stop for runners. Courteous drivers deserve some recognition. I doubt anyone on the bus was particularly put out by the short delay.

Well, maybe only the Sacramento State co-ed who found herself trapped in the rear of the bus with the guy who chases co-eds. She really needed to study, she told him. When that didn't make him disappear she tried, "I'm having trouble in school."

I resisted turning around so I could watch what was going on. Eventually, the guy got the message and moved to a seat by himself near the front of the bus. Who knows, maybe he's brighter than he appears.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The ghost of airport light rail service

At every light rail station today, Sacramento Regional Transit has set up easels advertising the 20th birthday of light rail. Free rides for everyone.

But I'm wondering about the choice of artwork. There between the start date -- '87 -- and today -- '07 -- and sandwiched between "20 Years" and "of Light Rail" are three vehicles.

The first appears to be an old-fashion trolley, perhaps reminiscent of historical cars from before 1987. And that is here because? Unfortunately, it looks like the downtown tourist shuttle threatened with extinction by recent budget cuts.

In the middle is the familiar vehicle that seemed so modern when it was first introduced in 1987.

Finally, we have the modern train that joined the system with the south line addition and the Folsom extension.

I could live with the anachronism on the left. That didn't bother me. But when I saw a blowup of the picture today I was miffed. There on the "modern" vehicle was the destination: Airport

The light rail system has returned trolleys to the city. Over the 20 years since, it has been modernized and expanded. The three cars can represent that image. The "modern" car could have said "Meadowview" or "Folsom." But instead it says "Airport." The artist who put "Airport" as the destination and the RT managers who approved the idea have rubbed salt in the wounds of every transit rider who wonders what became of the can-do spirit that once inspired confidence in a future of modern, reliable transit service in Sacramento.

Airport on light rail? In our dreams.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fishing from the bus

"That's a 30-pound female salmon, full of roe," the man said, pointing at the large plastic bag on the sidewalk beside the No. 87 bus stop at the 65th Street light rail station. "The other salmon was a good 25 pounds before it was cleaned."

I was waiting for the No. 87 bus rather than my normal No. 82 because I had been forced to work late by the president of the United States. To say I'm not a big fan of the president would be an understatement.

Leaving for home an hour later than I normally leave therefore became something of a transitarian adventure. I asked what my options were if I left 21st and Q streets at 8 p.m. for my home. I was hoping to leave earlier, but 8 was the most likely when I checked. The first choice came back as a 68 minute trip leaving the 23rd Street light rail station at 8:11 p.m. and meeting the No. 82 at 65th Street. I would get home at 9:19 p.m. But the second option, which required that I get to the 23rd Street station by 8:41, said I could get home by 8:49 p.m. However, I would need to take the No. 87 from the 65th Street station to Sacramento State, where I would catch up with the No. 82. This didn't make any sense. The No. 82 bus goes to 65th Street before Sac State. If I'm catching the No. 82 at Sac State, I should have been able to just wait for it at 65th Street and skipped the extra transfer.

When it finally came time to leave and I realized I could get to the 23rd Street station by 7:41, I decided to take at its word and catch the No. 87 bus.

So there I was chatting with the fisherman. He said he had been fishing above the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. I'm not a fisherman, as evidenced by this tale. I asked if he considered his catch big fish. No, he explained, those were just middling. They were quite impressive middling to my untrained eye.

The conversation went from salmon to their eggs. When my son was stroller age, I would push him to our neighborhood park. I would often run into immigrants from the former Soviet Union watching their kids play. One guy I would meet regularly supplemented his county welfare checks with the proceeds from harvesting salmon roe, which he would turn into caviar and sell.

I asked the fisherman whether he sold the roe from the fish he caught, and it turned out that he too knows an immigrant from the former Soviet Union. My acquaintance was Russian; his is Ukranian. The fisherman takes the row to the wife of his Ukrainian friend, and she in turn gives him a jar of her homemade caviar. The fisherman tried to engage me in a conversation about the finer points of difference between caviar made from salmon roe and caviar made from sturgeon eggs. That was a conversation too rich for me.

When the No. 87 bus boarded, I took a seat near the back and the fisherman stayed up front. He was a real hit with the other riders, especially one man who apparently is a recreational fisherman -- never catches anything but has fun trying.

Besides the tall fish stories, the most impressive thing about the trip was the number of passengers. When I finally caught the No. 82 bus at Sac State the bus had at least one rider in every seat and for a good portion of the ride I shared my seat. I suppose this explains why the bus route that goes by my house runs as late as it does.

I arrived home at the predicted time, the ride having passed quickly as I read my book. The real mystery of's recommendation for my route was revealed when I got home and went back online to find out why I couldn't have just met the No. 82 at the 65th Street station.

Forgetting that I had originally used an 8 p.m. departure time, I asked for options leaving at 7:30 p.m., which was when I was actually ready to go. The second option on the list was again light rail to No. 87 to No. 82 and leaving at 7:41. But now the first option was my standard light rail to the No. 82 leaving at the same 7:41 time. Nowhere to be found was the suggested 8:11 p.m. departure.

I will add this to my cautionary tales about You need to experiment with the time parameters. The results can vary greatly.

Still, it didn't take any longer to take two buses rather than one and I did get to talk fish on a cool, fall evening. Not a bad night, despite the president of the United States.

Where will Sacramento transit be in 2035?

Friday, Sacramento Regional Transit celebrates light rail's 20th birthday with free rides, a concert in Capitol Park and a gaggle of speeches from elected officials.

But what have transit officials done for riders lately? Fare hikes and a decline in ridership, and plans for service cutbacks in the coming year. Certainly not the stuff for fanfare. Now RT's general manager, Beverly Scott, is leaving to take a job with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, an agency that announced last month that it had "achieved an operating budget surplus for the second year in a row."

A comparison of RT's fate with that of MARTA is illustrative: "As a result of its financial success, MARTA has focused on reinvesting funds into enhancing the quality of service for customers and sustaining upgrades and maintenance to the system," MARTA announced Aug. 29. "MARTA has increased bus service, added security, cleaning and customer service personnel, and invested in capital improvements. ... These service improvement efforts have contributed to a 4.3 percent increase in passenger revenue over the last year - helping the authority to maintain its financial stability."

Sacramento Council of Governments transportation planners are working on a comprehensive metropolitan transportation plan that looks ahead to 2035. A draft project list contains 130 transit projects in Sacramento County, including light rail lines north to the airport and an extension south to Cosumnes River College. (The last day to comment on the draft project list is Sept. 19.)

But if they build it, will riders come?

As part of the preparation of the MTP2035, SACOG has solicited community input. A focus group study reported these results: "When prompted to think of what could be done for the region's transportation problems, their minds jumped right away to different forms of public transit. ... But when posed a slightly different question, which asked what participants could personally do to reduce their car use, using public transit was not what first leapt to mind for most."

The next Regional Transit general manager will face a chicken and the egg dilemma: Can RT hatch a real choice that gets drivers out of their cars and into buses and light rail before the chicken becomes roadkill in a transit system spiraling toward irrelevance?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

20 years of light rail. Where to next?

Sacramento Regional Transit will celebrate 20 years of light rail service Friday with free rides on light rail all day, a concert by Mumbo Gumbo at 11th and L streets and interminable speeches from public officials at a press conference at Cathedral Square. (See RT's press release here.)

Here's a toast to the advances of the past 20 years. Happy birthday light rail. But what about the future? Look at this map:

I want to hear someone at Regional Transit talking about the next 20 years in ways that envision changing this map from pie-in-the-sky into real transit advances on the ground. Is it even possible to discuss such a future without being brushed off as being hopelessly naive?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The laying on of horns

The laying on of horns* is a transit practice found throughout the world in varying forms. In urban settings, this practice is used as both a symbolic and formal method of invoking spiritual awareness during sacraments and holy commutes.

In early times, the laying on of horns was an action that conferred blessing or authority. To wit, a loud blast of a horn conferred awareness of the horn owner's authority and the knowledge of the blessings of getting out of the way. Finally, in the Old Times bus drivers were ordained by the laying on of horns.

There is no other explanation. Last night, I rode home on a bus with a horny driver. We didn't get out of the 65th Street bus lot before the driver was standing on her horn, apparently displeased with the lack of respect shown to her bus, and by extension to her, by an automobile and its driver. We're not talking a little tap-tap on the horn to caution an errant sinner. No, we're talking a real hellfire and damnation blast. This was repeated several times on my 45-minute ride home.

I was ready to ignore last night's laying on of horns as a rare excess of spirituality but then a similar outburst occurred on the way to work this morning. As the bus was approaching the bus-only lane at the entrance to the Sacramento State campus, the bus horn blared "YOU ARE GOING TO BURN IN HELL FOREVER!" or something else intended to be equally frightening. Immediately, a big black SUV in the bus-only lane ran a stop sign and scooted away toward the parking lots.

Maybe with some more laying on of horns Sacramento Regional Transit can save the sinners riding alone in their cars or at least awaken the sleepyheads to the error of their ways. Hate the sin, but love the sinner, and all that.

* With apologies to Wikipedia

Monday, September 10, 2007

Between Sacramento to Atlanta

And so I was reading the news that the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority made the long-expected decision official:

After a year-long national search, MARTA's board of directors on Sept. 10 named Beverly Scott, general manager of the Sacramento Regional Transit District, as MARTA's new GM.
I went to the MARTA Web site looking for some more information. There wasn't anything on Scott's hiring. But I was fascinated by this:

Press Releases

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

MARTA announced today that the Authority has achieved an operating budget surplus for the second year in a row – recording $12.1 million in additional revenues for FY07. This marks only the second time in 20 years that MARTA has recorded an operating budget surplus for two consecutive fiscal years. MARTA also ended FY07 with $117.4 million in capital reserves. The capital program funds additions and improvements to infrastructure and supports the Authority’s bonding capacity.

“Thanks to a strict fiscal management plan, strategic cost containment measures and improved financial performance in recent years, MARTA has achieved this significant accomplishment,” said MARTA General Manager Richard McCrillis. “We will continue to reinvest surplus revenues into system improvements and sustaining our strong financial outlook for the future.”

As a result of its financial success, MARTA has focused on reinvesting funds into enhancing the quality of service for customers and sustaining upgrades and maintenance to the system. MARTA has increased bus service, added security, cleaning and customer service personnel, and invested in capital improvements such as the Breeze fare collection system and rail car rehabilitation program. These service improvement efforts have contributed to a 4.3% increase in passenger revenue over the last year – helping the Authority to maintain its financial stability.
Budget surplus? Increased bus service? Additional security? Capital improvements? Can we hire the guy who is leaving Atlanta to replace Scott? Please?

Sparing the air on the bus

On Sunday, the Sacramento Air Quality Management District was predicting a poisonous day today. The air was going to be so unhealthy that residents were cautioned to leave their cars at home today and take transit. In response, the Yolo County bus companies -- Unitrans, the University of California, Davis, service and Yolo Bus -- offered free rides.

When I traveled to the Bay Area on Sept. 2 I learned that all of the transit services offer either free rides during air quality alerts or what is, in effect, half-price fares by allowing riders to board for free until 1 p.m.

And so it occurred to me that I've never heard any mention of Sacramento Regional Transit's role in helping out on bad air days. I contacted RT's customer service people who answer the mail at and received this response:
RT does not receive additional funding to participate in Spare the Air Day. The other transit services receive funding to offer free service.
Recently I've been complaining about how environmental groups abandoned transit riders when they refused to help stop state cutbacks in transit funding. Obviously, the one local agency that can do something about air pollution is transit, but only if it receives enough support to provide a service that can entice people out of their cars. Environmentalists should be transit riders or at the very least transit supporters.

But now I'm wondering whether RT understands its place in the environmental movement. Does RT only see itself as a mobility service for the poor and disabled?

I was looking forward to grumpily choking while I fumed about RT and its failure to help fight dirty air, but then the air today wasn't as dirty as expected. The Sacramento Air Quality Management District removed its alert. At 1 p.m., the current regional air quality status was healthy everywhere for ozone and, at worse, just "moderate" for particulate matter in a few locations.

So I can breathe easier, but I'm still grumpy. I want to hear that Regional Transit has pursued state and federal air quality dollars to pay for the very real effects that would be brought to the region if people left their cars at home. It's not like we're talking about months of free rides, as this graph of this year's air quality shows.

Sacramento Regional Transit can do more to promote the environmental benefits of its service.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Watching the hunt from behind a blind on the bus

I'm watching wild game from behind a blind, observing the natural order of things, the hunt and the kill, the feeding -- all of it.

A young Sacramento State co-ed is seated just in front of my elevated position in the rear of the No. 82 bus. All of the seats have at least one rider as the bus arrives at the Watt and Wal-Mart stop.

The guy who chases co-eds boards, shows his pass to the driver and starts down the center of the coach. He walks past several seats -- past the young lady with an infant, past a guy on his way to Sac State, past another guy who will stick around until the bus arrives at the 65th Street station -- until he reaches the seat with the young co-ed.

He looks down and then he looks around, wary. He doesn't see me behind my blind. I'm still, silent as I watch. The guy then asks the co-ed if he can sit next to her.

She quickly agrees and rearranges her backpack and an open textbook on her lap so that the guy can sit.

From my position behind the blind, I'm able to hear the guy who chases co-eds for the first time.

The guy talks in a slow, awkward way. I imagine the woman has a limited choice of reactions: be insulted that this weirdo wants to chat, perhaps frightened by his obvious diminished capacity, or play along and assume he's just another harmless guy, albeit one with a valid excuse for sounding slow-witted.

He manages to get the co-ed who is reading a textbook to admit she is a student at Sac State. He tries moving the conversation to something about religion but starts getting single-word answers. Our hunter is clearly losing the game. His prey is slipping away, putting her nose deeper into the textbook to signal her displeasure.

I'll give the guy credit, he tries. It is early in the hunting season, and the summer was particularly harsh. Puzzled about where to take the conversation next, he rubs his scalp slowly. His hair is cut in a classic flattop, a fashion I thought went out of style for young men back in 1959. Still, it fits his work uniform -- black casual shoes, ecru Dockers with a black apron tied at the waist and a white, short-sleeve shirt with the collar askew. His plastic travel coffee cup is also apparently part of the uniform. The only post-1950s part of his attire are his glasses, which are a stylish widescreen model, the lenses narrower than they are wide.

The bus is standing room only by the time it nears the guy's stop on Howe Avenue. As he leaves the bus, a tall, handsome young man takes the vacant half of the seat next to the co-ed. There is no conversation between the co-ed and her new seatmate. It is all a delicate silence masked by the rattling noise of the bus and the conversations among the regular riders.

Then when the bus is stalled in the turn lane from J Street to the Sac State campus, the guy points to the cars stuck in traffic and the pair start an animated discussion, presumably about the joys of not driving to school. The co-ed has put away the distraction of her textbook. Her hands are now an active part of her communication, gesturing and cheerfully flying about.

A woman, having endured the confines of a conversation with a child, experiences the joy of adult communication.

I turn the page in my notebook and continue to scribble my observations.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Antisocial Commentary on the bus


  1. A product or service that is overpriced or of poor quality.
  2. Something, such as a film or story, that is clearly imitative of or based on something else.
  3. A theft.
  4. An act of exploitation.

  1. A general law city, governed by the statutes of the State of California, located in San Joaquin County.
  2. The home town of Robert "Diesel" Kroese, who wrote "Antisocial Commentary from the secret files of the Mattress Police."

There's no connection. Just like there's no connection between the Mattress Police and this book. In fact, as Diesel explains in the preface, this collection of short stories doesn't have a single story about the Mattress Police.

"Antisocial Commentary" has an introduction to go with the preface and even "A Note on Coarse Language" for the family values set.

But no stories about the Mattress Police.

The book has 11 stories about the author -- "Enough About Me (for now)" -- and nine about "The Family" (who appear to have been transplanted from Lake Woebegone, where all the children are above average, and the wife is a perfect helpmate) -- and seven stories about "Driving" (this is a book from California, after all) -- and 10 on "Culture, Pop and Otherwise" -- and 11 stories on "Politics and Current Events" -- and seven works of "Fiction and Unabashed Hyperbole."

But no stories about the Mattress Police.

Many of the stories were a lot of fun. I particularly liked "Bills and Other Pests," wherein the author explains:
Another thing I don't like about the spiders in my house is that they all share my name. I don't even know how my wife knows their names, but without fail every time she sees spiders she screams the same name -- mine. Even the girl spiders who erupt into a flurry of little baby spiders when you smash them are apparently named Diesel. It's especially confusing because this is also what she yells when she comes across credit card bills with unexplained purchases on them. I've tried to get her to shriek "Tally Ho!" or "Timber!", but she insists on sticking with "Diesel!" So it's hardly my fault when I rush into a room where she's paying bills and crush the Visa bill with a phone book.
According to Diesel, most of the content of the book was first published on his Web site, (which doesn't have anything to do with the Mattress Police, either). And if you like to read well-written, humorous blog posts, you will enjoy Diesel's book. If you don't like to read well-written, humorous blog posts, then what are you doing reading this? Go somewhere else for self-abuse.

Anyway, here's the bottom line: Click here and buy this book! Why? Because if you click here and then buy the book, I get $2. Simple, yes? Diesel even offers to sign your book.

Before we go any farther, let's try it: Click here and buy the book. Do it! I'll wait until you get back.

(Sound of humming to myself as I wait.)

This is all the Queen of Dysfunction's doing. If not for her, I never would have heard about this book. I think I'll go comment spam her blog now.

Buy this book
No kidding

Antisocial Commentary: From the Secret Files of the Mattress Police

Antisocial Commentary

By Diesel

Buy New $11.95

Buy from

Guy things

Are American flags a guy thing?

At the Watt and Whitney stop this morning, the No. 82 bus picked up -- literally -- a heavyset guy in a motorized wheelchair and deposited him in the coach. As he was maneuvering his chair using his tiny joystick, I noticed the American flag on a stick planted in the top of his seat back. It wasn't a big flag, certainly nothing like the guy I wrote about back here. No, the flagpole was about a foot tall and the flag a fitting size. If the flag were hair on a woman, it would be said to fall to her shoulders.

This puzzle only temporarily distracted me from my book, but a few minutes later something captured unconsciously in my peripheral vision prompted me to look up. There on the northeast corner of Alta Arden and Morse was another guy riding in a motorized wheelchair. And he had the same size American flag flying from a foot-tall wooden stick stuck in his wheelchair seat back.

Now even this coincidence would not have troubled me much if it had not been for what I saw at the 16th Street light rail station. I had taken the train past my normal 23rd Street stop so I could go to Safeway on my way to work. As I walked past the handicap boarding ramp, I saw a woman in a motorized wheelchair waiting for the next train out of town. Without staring, I studied her and her chair. As I walked around the ramp and down 16th Street, I turned and looked back.

No flag.

Perhaps guys reduced to relying on a tiny joystick to maneuver feel compelled to compensate with flag-waving bravado.

Yes, we'll rally round the flag, boys
Rally once again,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom
We will rally from the hillside
We'll gather from the plains,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
Some guy things are a puzzle even to guys.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Hunting season has opened

California State University, Sacramento, is open for business again, and the guy who chases co-eds was overwhelmed. After being warned off the endangered summer prey, he was suddenly presented with the rewards of a new hunting season.

Earlier a young woman and a young man had boarded. She sat in a seat by herself; he sat across the aisle in a seat by himself. The guy tried to strike up a conversation. By necessity the conversation was loud enough for pieces to reach me in the first elevated row of seats in the rear of the bus. Mostly they discussed the start of the new school year at Sac State. This cross-aisle communication was as intimate as the co-ed wanted to get.

By the time the bus arrived at its Watt and Wal-Mart stop all of the seats had at least one rider. The guy who chases co-eds showed his pass as he boarded and then gazed over the field of prey. He walked past the seat next to the elderly gentleman and past a couple of full rows. Then at the row with the Sac State students on either side, he paused to look around. He sat down next to the co-ed.

If questioned, the guy who chases co-eds would defend his choice as reasonable. Nothing meant by it, he would say. The alternative, to sit next to the guy across the aisle, disappeared a moment later when a very large woman who really needed a seat for herself sat down. After some adjustment she rode the rest of the trip a half-cheek into the aisle.

The guy who chases co-eds appeared to be on his best behavior. Perhaps the hunting season's arrival caught him by surprise. Perhaps the warning he had received from the driver during the summer had a lingering effect. As far as I could tell, he was a perfect gentleman: silent. The co-ed, for her part, had flattened herself against the wall in an effort to maintain some space for herself. Across the aisle, the guy from Sac State was engaged in an animated conversation with the woman taking up three-quarters of their seat.

The No. 82 bus was standing room only today by the time it arrived at Howe Avenue. And then it was pretty much just standing. The traffic on Howe was caught in the backwash from the flood of Sac State students driving alone to school for the first day of fall classes. At least one bus rider used her cell phone to call and say she would be late.

The bus inched along Howe to Fair Oaks and then inched toward the J Street bridge. There were no accidents or construction delays. No, it was just hoards and hoards of single-occupant cars cheek by jowl crawling like a long segmented metal snake to the Sac State parking lots.

The No. 82 bus that leaves American River College at 8:09 a.m. is scheduled to arrive at Sac State at 8:45 a.m. Today, the bus arrived at 9:06 a.m.

Since a No. 30 bus downtown was waiting at Sac State I decided to take that to work rather than to rely on the No. 82 bus making its light rail connection.

A young woman carrying in-line roller skates boarded the No. 30 bus ahead of me.

"Does this bus go straight downtown?" she asked the driver.

"There are a few stops along the way," he replied. He paused a moment and then added, "But it does go downtown."

She paid her fare and took a seat. I tried to imagine what the young woman planned to do with in-line skates in downtown Sacramento. I was still considering the concept when I got off at 22nd Street and walked to work.

The fall season at Sac State is going to be fun.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The day after the transitarian Summer of Love

From a transitarian perspective, the 40th anniversary Summer of Love free concert in Golden Gate Park was a real trip, man.

Sorry, I'm still coming down off the second-hand smoke high from the five and a half hours we spent in Speedway Meadows on Sunday.

The wife, the kid and I started the trip driving to the Amtrak station. Sacramento Regional Transit just couldn't get us to the station before 7:40 a.m. from the No. 82 bus that runs in front of our house. So we had a choice of driving to Watt/I-80 and paying $10 in roundtrip fares for two adults and a kid, or we could leave a half-hour later and drive downtown in Sunday morning traffic -- you could count on one hand the number of cars on the road at any one time -- and pay just $6.50 for all-day parking.

We arrived at the Amtrak station with enough time to find a Park and Pay machine that worked. The first one didn't. We had ordered the Amtrak tickets on-line -- two adults and a kid (15) roundtrip for $105 -- and picked them up at the station.

As we waited to board the train to Richmond it was apparent we weren't the only passengers heading for the concert, if tie-dyed shirts and peace symbol earrings were any indication.

The train left on schedule and by the time we reached Davis the kid was asleep and the wife was across the aisle, stretched across two seats, reading. The view from the train is mostly industrial but between Martinez and Richmond it was quite picturesque.

We arrived at Richmond at 9:08 a.m. To get to the BART station you just walk downstairs and across a lobby to the BART ticket machines. Unfortunately, I'm such an amateur with the BART machines that we missed the 9:15 train to Oakland and had to wait for the next one.

We boarded a Fremont-bound train at 9:35 a.m. with a few dozen other riders. But with each stop the train filled. By the time we reached MacArthur station in Oakland the train was standing room only. The switch from the Fremont train to the Daly City train was painless, with the connecting train arriving within two minutes. But the train was crowded and I ended up pressed against the door. I nervously watched the door jump around as we barrelled under San Francisco Bay.

At our stop at the Montgomery station in San Francisco we exited the train and walked up the stairs to Market Street. The No. 5 Muni bus stop was just beyond the BART station on Market Street.

At this point we joined a growing number of people excitedly heading to the concert. As we waited, several were discussing where to get off on Fulton Street on the north side of the park.

When the No. 5 bus finally arrived, a long line of riders queued to get on. By the time everyone was on, the bus was more crowded than I have ever witnessed in Sacramento. At the next stop, an equal number of people boarded and now the bus was so crowded that the concept of personal space had been squeezed off the bus entirely.

The driver started skipping stops, leaving behind many people who wanted to board, but then he had to let a lady off. When he opened the rear side door, a crowd of people rushed the bus. About a half-dozen managed to board, but we were stuck there until another half-dozen abandoned their attempt to get on and cleared the door.

Squeezed in the rear of the bus with an unbelievable number of riders, I tried to imagine this happening in Sacramento.

In your dreams, I thought. Sacramentans whine loudly if they have to stand, let alone stand touching other riders.

Actually, it wasn't that bad. The wife and I ended up striking up a conversation with a woman who is the academic director for fashion design at the Art Institute of California at San Francisco and her husband, who were also on their way to the concert. My son is an art major, and we spent much of the ride discussing admissions policies.

Eventually the bus arrived at Fulton Street and 24th Avenue and everyone going to the concert got off. We had planned to get off at 30th, but this appeared to work just as well. It was a short walk on a dirt path to the boundary of the meadow at John F. Kennedy Dr.

We found a place to sit at just before 11:30 a.m. We were probably 200 yards from the stage, maybe a little more.

As expected, the crowd had a significantly higher percentage of paunchy, gray-haired attendees. The kid was given an opportunity to wander and take photos. You can see his photos here. It occurred to me that I was his age when the original concert was held. That was the symmetry of the trip to the concert.

The wife created this clip during the Jefferson Starship performance (with a young stand-in for Grace Slick):

The trip back worked just as well in reverse. Forwarned of the crowded conditions on the No. 5 bus, we walked to 30th Avenue to board, rather than 24th Street. We got on; people waiting at 24th didn't. The bus was mobbed at the next stop when someone got off. Again we had to wait until people rushing the bus gave up. BART to Amtrak and Amtrak home was a smooth, uneventful experience.

On the Amtrak ride home I napped. Try that on Interstate 80 after a long day in The City. The rocking motion of the train and the moaning of the horn were very relaxing.

We were in Sacramento at 8:45 p.m., 13 hours after we left.

"Well, you pulled it off," said the wife. "It worked really well."

We were all, including the kid, glad we made the trip.