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

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.

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