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, November 13, 2007

Sometimes relying on transit just sucks

If I am going to be an advocate for transit, especially someone who encourages people to leave their cars at home and rely on Sacramento Regional Transit, then I feel I must be honest: Sometimes relying on RT just sucks.

It's not that I don't get to work. It's the little things, the thousand cuts I endure.

This morning I boarded my regular bus, the No. 82 that leaves American River College at 8:04 a.m. I had a substitute driver. Or maybe they've rotated drivers and this is my new driver. I can never tell. Anyway, I took my regular seat in the first elevated row in the rear of the bus and settled in to read my book.

The ride was uneventful until we reached Morse and Hurley. We stopped and picked up someone waiting at the stop. As the bus started to pull away from the curb I could see a young man running across Hurley, waving that he wanted to catch the bus.

"Hey, you have a runner there," I called out. Maybe, I thought to myself, the driver didn't see the guy. At least I tried.

The bus was no more than three feet from the curb and moving very slowly when the guy reached the bus. He was standing in the street right outside the door asking the driver to open the door.

The driver ignored him and drove off.

Several riders near me commented that the driver could have stopped -- should have stopped. It always bothers me when a driver does that. It left a dark cloud over me for the rest of the trip.

And then the driver rammed an exclamation point into my miserable bus ride.

The No. 82 is scheduled to arrive at the 65th Street transit center at 8:53 a.m., leaving plenty of time to catch the 9:03 train downtown. But today the bus pulled into the center at 9:04, just in time to allow the passengers to watch the train arrive and depart the station before the bus reached its stop.

If the driver had picked up the guy, I could have written off the extra 15 minutes that missing the train added to my commute. I would have considered it a fair trade, an example of transitarian values. But to have a driver abandon someone who wanted to ride, and then still arrive late was just too much.

But that wasn't the worst of it. Not from my transitarian view.

I walked over to where I normally wait for the downtown train. I had just pulled out my book and was preparing to read while I waited for the next train when my cell phone rang.

It was my son. He was calling from El Camino High School. He couldn't reach his mother, who works in Rancho Cordova. He was sick and needed to go home.

And what could I do standing at the 65th Street light rail station without a car?

The Sacramento Transportation Management Association offers an emergency ride home program. The TMA will pay taxi fare or rental car if you have an emergency or are sick and don't have a car at work to get home because you came to work by transit. But my employer doesn't participate, and therefore I was stuck.

This experience -- get a call from a sick kid at school, have to drop everything and take him home -- is one reason why I stopped riding transit back when my son was in elementary school. Now that he's a teenager, I figured it would be less of an issue.

It's a little more than 2 miles from the school to our house. I told my son he would have to walk.

I wasn't a happy transitarian.


qofd said...

Bah on that bus driver. He should have stopped and I agree it would have made missing the train a little more bearable.

How is your son doing?

John said...

Thanks for asking after the kid. He made it home fine. As for his illness, he's a teenager, and it is always difficult to separate the attitude from the actual illness.

His mother took him to the doctor, who suggested he just had a cold. He then lectured him on the need to get more than seven hours of sleep.

On the way home, he complained to his mother that the doctor gave him the same lecture she and I give him. I think he expected the doctor to me more enlightened.