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, February 28, 2007

What I read while riding the bus

Finished my third book while riding the bus and light rail. This time I had the good sense to pick up a book I already owned instead of squandering my bus-riding savings on reading material.

"Breaking the Ring: The bizarre case of the Walker family spy ring" is a 1987 book I picked up from a friend who was unloading her book collection. It's been sitting around for a few months in one of my to-be-read piles.

I've always been a fan of spy novels. I own all of John Le Carre's books. (See postscript here.) This real-life adventure was as engaging as any novel. The fact that one of the spies -- Jerry Whitworth -- lived in Davis when he was arrested makes it something of a local tale. In addition, I served in the Navy during part of the time that Whitworth and Walker were giving the Soviets the means to decipher the U.S. government's secret communications.

Before I read this book I had no idea of the extent of the damage done by Jerry Whitworth and John Walker.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The spoiled rider pouts

I was pouting. I was spoiled, and I didn't want to face facts. Pooh on facts.

For the second day, the bus arrived at the 65th Street light rail station as the downtown train was leaving. I looked at my cell phone clock. The time was 9:18 a.m.

As the train pulled away I walked over to the kiosk where the light-rail schedule is posted. Departure from 65th Street was supposed to be at 9:18 a.m. Ah, hah! I have been robbed by timely train service.

At least that's what the pouty, spoiled rider mumbled to himself.

But facts keep getting in the way.

If the bus actually adhered to its schedule, it would never meet the 9:18 a.m. train. The bus isn't scheduled to arrive until 9:23 a.m., which would be a fine fit for the 9:33 downtown train.

Riding the bus and train and depending on the vagaries of traffic and passenger load creates a certain ambiguousness where order is desired. Put another way, there's always going to be a certain tension between my personal convenience, and RT's need to serve the broader community.

I have never complained about the timing stops that the bus makes on most nights on my way home. When the bus gets too far ahead of schedule the driver waits. On some nights the bus does this more than once. I can easily imagine what it would be like to be hurrying to a bus stop only to watch the bus speed past 10 minutes before it was scheduled to arrive.

Today, for the first time in my month of riding to work on the bus, we waited at Watt and El Camino to catch up with the schedule. The sound of the bells announcing a departing train echoed in my imagination as we waited.

Yes, it is all for the greater good of the community of bus riders. Pooh, my spoiled self retorts. I want my train connection. Boy, it's hard to be adult about this.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The dashing young transit rider

I looked up from my book to see a young man, no older than 25, walk past me to take a seat on the bench at the back of the bus. What attracted more than passing interest was his suit. He was wearing a pinstripe, navy blue suit, white shirt and stylish pastel tie.

You don't see a lot of suits on the bus -- on light rail, maybe, but not the bus I ride from home to the 65th light rail station.

He was a big man, both in height and weight. He wasn't fat, just big the way a football lineman is big. The suit looked new. It fit OK, but he had an air of someone who didn't wear a suit every day to work. The bright-colored umbrella also suggested that this was not a regular day.

In one of those odd ways my train of thought wanders, I was reminded of something I read in Sammy Davis Jr.'s autobiography, "Yes I Can." In the book, Davis talks about how he and his dad would take the train (or bus or something) to their jobs as vaudeville dancers. In an effort to keep the creases in his pants showman sharp, Sammy stood all the way to work. (The only other part of the book I remember is the gruesome details of how Davis lost his eye in an auto accident.) The guy in the suit wasn't standing, but I imagined him all dressed up on his way to an important rendezvous.

When we pulled into the bus stop at 65th Street, the downtown light rail train was already in the station. The young man rushed from the bus as soon as the doors opened and dashed across the street to the train, his umbrella waving at his side. As he reached the train he pressed the door button and it opened. He was in luck. The train operator had been busy boarding a wheelchair passenger.

By the time I walked across the street, the train announced that it was departing. I raised my hand to try the door button, but then I decided to wait for the next train. I have a good book and I don't have an appointment to make.

I was happy, though, that the young man made his train. I hope his job interview, or whatever he was dressed for, goes equally as well.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Audacity of Hope

When I started commuting using RT on Feb. 1, I understood that there would be trade-offs. For instance, driving solo after the commute hour (my workday is basically 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) took about 20 minutes. Riding the bus with a perfect connection to the train gets me to work in a little more than an hour.

But the extra time it takes to get to work is not lost time. Instead, it is an opportunity to read. Before I switched to RT, I seldom had time to read, or at least I seldom found the time. Always, something else took priority. Now I get at least an hour and a half total of "recreational" reading. (As a copy editor, I get all together too much reading done during work.)

The other day I finished my second commute book. It was Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope, Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream." I picked the book because I knew nothing about Obama. By the time I finished the book I was simply in awe of the man.

I hate to use the jacket cover quote to explain what I mean, but John Balzar, the Los Angeles Times political reporter, really hit the spot with this:

"[Few] on the partisan landscape can discuss the word 'hope' in a political context and be regarded as the least bit sincere. Obama is such a man, and he proves it by employing a fresh and buoyant vocabulary to scrub away some of the toxins from contemporary political debate. Those polling categories that presume to define the vast chasm between us do not, Obama reminds us, add up to the sum of our concerns or hit at where our hearts otherwise intersect."
To speak of hope and sound sincere reminds me of John F. Kennedy. More accurately, it reminds me of the hope I felt was lost in the vacuum left by Kennedy's assassination. Unlike John Kerry, who tried much too hard to model his life to be an image of Kennedy, Obama is Kennedy, the leader with hope. In a way, Obama is the liberal twin of Ronald Reagan's Morning in America.

I cannot recall a book written by a candidate for president that spoke so clearly. If you only have time to read a chapter while having coffee in Borders, look at the chapter on family, or the one on race.

My biggest complaint about every politician I am familiar with is that each behaves as if a poll or a campaign contribution guided every action. Obama, on the other hand, appears to have a genuine set of beliefs that guide him. He is not an ordinary politician.

I certainly hope that is true.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Rap on the train

I am old enough to remember when transistor radios were all the rage. Imagine, a radio you could hold in your hand. In much the way smaller is better today with cell phones, the transistor radios shrank and shrank until they nearly disappeared. And then ... along came the boom box.

The bigger the boom box the better. Teenagers who had discretely listened to music from transistor radios were now sharing their music with everyone within a mile radius, often while walking down the street with the huge entertainment center perched on a shoulder.

The disturbance became so pervasive that signs warning against the playing of loud music became commonplace, especially on buses.

Which brings us to today's commute.

I left a half-hour early so that I could swing by the SuperCuts on 16th and P streets and get a haircut. The commute went well, but what a difference a half-hour makes in the bus schedule.

The bus I regularly take gets about a dozen passengers while I'm riding. Most are headed for Sac State. The earlier bus I took today had every seat taken and the aisle filled with standing riders by the time we arrived at Sac State.

But back to the story. From the bus I boarded a downtown train, planning to go one extra stop and get off at 16th Street. I got my book out and started to read.

At 29th Street four young black men boarded the train. Three of the men took seats on either side of the train and the fourth stood between them in the aisle. When the train pulled out of the station the guy in the middle started to sing an improvised rap song -- very loudly.

Now, I've got some previous experience with transit rappers. Not long ago, on the way home, a young man started rapping as a friend accompanied him using a cigarette lighter to tap out a rhythm on the wall of the train. It was a very impressive improvisational display, and it was appreciated by the riders on the crowded commuter train.

This guy was just annoying. There was a lot n-word this, and n-word that. There was something about women and slang that had obvious implications even if the explicit meaning was lost on me. He rapped about shooting and killing and all sorts of general mayhem.

I kept thinking if this guy was playing a boom box, someone would have asked him to turn it down. But somehow it just doesn't sound the same to say, "No singing on the train."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The perfect world

Riding to work this morning I was reminded of the vagaries of making connections. A day like today spoils a transit rider.

The 82 bus pulled into the 65th Street station as the downtown train was descending the bridge over the rail tracks in the distance. By the time I walked from the bus to the train tracks -- looking both ways while jaywalking across the street that separates the bus stop from the light right station -- the train was just coming to a stop. I pressed the door access button, climbed the steps into the car and sat down on the first seat inside.

Damn that was easy. Alas, it cannot always be.

In my 20 days of commuting to work I have come to realize that if the driver has to delay for any reason -- wheelchair rider who needs to be secured, very elderly passenger who needs extra time -- the bus will miss this perfect moment and the commute will become just ordinary, with an extra 15-minute pause inserted in the middle.

Here's to the perfect moment and appreciation for its rareness.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bus rider's holiday

The Wife
Overcoming the "old people" image, the wife agreed to explore the idea of getting from our house to Old Town Folsom, the end of the light rail line, on President's Day.

We boarded the bus at 10:23 a.m. I flashed my monthly pass and the wife paid $5 for an all-day pass, expecting that we might decide to stop at the outlet mall at Iron Point either before or after touring Old Town Folsom.

On the bus I broke out my book and started to read, but this was all new for the wife so she watched the familiar sites from her unfamiliar view inside the bus as we headed for the 65th Street light rail station.

While light rail trains head east out of 65th Street every 15 minutes, only every other train goes all the way to the end of the line at Sutter Street in Folsom. We arrived at 65th Street just as the Sunrise train was leaving. After a somewhat chilly 15 minutes we boarded the Folsom light rail train at 11:19 a.m. for the 33 minute trip to the end of the line.

There were maybe a half-dozen people who got off the train with us at end Sutter Street. Old Town Folsom looks a lot like Old Town Placerville and Old Town Sutterville and all of the other Gold Rush era towns turned into shopping districts. The wife and I believe we must have visited old town Folsom before, but we couldn't remember when.

I was surprised that the museum and so many of the shops were closed. But we enjoyed window shopping. We purchased a small bronze Buddha for our son's collection at Snyder's House of Jade and the wife picked up some note cards at the Fire and Rain Gallery. We topped off our tour with lunch at Season's on Sutter, a artfully decorated diner with an extensive menu and friendly staff.

On the trip home we got off at Iron Point to see how much we could do in the outlet mall between half-hour trains. It turns out not much. First, the RT station is fenced off from the shopping complex, requiring that train riders take a walk to the street and through a pedestrian-unfriendly parking lot to get to the stores.

Memo to RT and outlet mall: Create an opening in the fence and some stairs up to the mall.

The Bus Rider's Holiday
The wife had time for one store while I got a cup of coffee before we decided to head back to the train station.

Now at this point in the tale I need to explain the meaning of assume. That's how, by not checking or asking questions (the male-never-asks-for-direction syndrome), one makes an ass of u and me. Or just me.

When I first mapped out the day I _assumed_ President's Day was a holiday and that buses would be running on the holiday schedule, which meant one every hour. At the Iron Point station I was expecting to catch a train that would arrive at 65th Street a few minutes before the 3:15 p.m. holiday bus for home.

Sure enough we arrived a little after 3 p.m., with time to sit down next to the 82 bus stand, drink coffee and eat snacks. Buses arrived and departed, but not the 82. At 3:30 I finally decided to call 321-BUSS and find out what happened.

"The bus is scheduled to arrive at 3:42 p.m.," the lady told me.

OK. I was not on my best behavior, and I'm sure the RT lady is not paid enough to cover the aggravation of dealing with asses who assume.

The fact that the bus we boarded to in the morning coincidentally arrived near the same time as the holiday schedule had the unfortunate effect of validating my holiday assumption.

I can imagine how inexperienced RT riders (and, in particular, inexperienced male riders who never ask for directions) would see this as a demonstration of the ineptitude of RT and why Sacramento residents will never learn to leave their cars behind.

Personally, I think it just underlines the definition of assume.

The wife enjoyed the day, even with the delayed return. Both of us found the trip to Folsom much more enjoyable for not having to drive, deal with the traffic and parking.

Perhaps we'll do this again.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Things to do on the bus

Back in the day. That's how my teenage son describes the historical events. Say, back in the day before iPods. These are time perspectives severely constrained by the speaker's experience.

So, I begin this post with the observation that, back in the day when I would climb into my car and join the lemmings on my daily commute, I would marvel at the women who could use the brief stops and starts of commute traffic to apply makeup. When you consider the requirements of success, it all seems too dangerous to risk in traffic.

On the bus today I watched a young woman perform the feat of applying mascara, complete with application of eyelash curling appliance, while the bus bumped along its route. Not only did she successfully finish the job without poking her eye out, but the results were quite presentable.

Were I to try to trim my beard on a moving bus I am certain the results would at best be described as weird.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Weathering transit

It wasn't pouring rain as I stood waiting for the bus at 8:36 a.m. But it was raining enough to make me look at my watch to see how long I would have to wait. With a ball cap and hooded parka, I wasn't getting wet. In fact, it was more tolerable than the morning the week prior when the temperature was less than 40 degrees.

The bus did arrive, although a minute late. I boarded and was still shaking off the rain and getting settled when the bus stopped outside medical offices around the block from my home.

A woman in a wheelchair requested the stop. I watched as the driver unlatched three anchors that secured the chair to the floor of the bus. This was a "kneeling" bus. With the bus bowing and the ramp down, the woman glided out of the bus, but the rounded curb to the sidewalk presented a problem. She struggled with the wheels of her hand-powered chair and finally reached the sidewalk.

As the bus rolled away I watched as the woman pushed the wheels of her chair, rolling along the sidewalk toward the medical offices.

It wasn't pouring rain . . .

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Traveling with the Defiance

Got to take the kid to work today using Regional Transit. Since I was dealing with a teenager who had been given a day's suspension for "DEFIANCE" (teenager, defiance: by definition redundant), my first chore was to convince the kid that when I said, "Time to go," it REALLY was time to go. And I will give him credit for being ready to walk out the door when it was time to catch the bus.

It was another ideal transit day. The bus meet the train and we arrived at work as scheduled. During the trip, however, I was listening to the radio and thanking my lucky stars that I wasn't on the coach that had two women apparently assaulting each other. The police had to be called and the less violent passengers provided with an alternate bus. I think it would make a great feature article to do a day in the life of the control room for regional transit.

On the trip home last night, I had the distinct displeasure to be on a bus with a very loud young man who took offense -- loudly -- when the bus driver made a brief, unscheduled stop to get a cup of coffee. In the course of his loud exclamations about how BIZARRE and OUTRAGEOUS it was for a driver to leave the bus, he mentioned that he had had his driver's license suspended. Those on the bus were left to wonder if the man was under the influence of whatever had caused him to lose his driver's license in the first place.

Passengers on a bus are like family. You don't get to choose who you ride with.


Postscript: Finished John Le Carre's "The Mission Song" (great book; highly recommended) and started Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope." The book tax for riding transit is definitely going to eat into the fuel-saving profits.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

When the stars align

And then you have a morning commute that's made in heaven and all of the bitter memories from the day before are washed away.

OK. Maybe not all. But I can't complain. Even the weather cooperated. The drizzle that had created me when I walked by dog at 6:30 a.m. was gone at 8:36 a.m. as I waited for the bus.

The bus was right on time and the trip to the 65th Street station was completely unremarkable.

That is, unremarkable until I walked off the bus and found the downtown train in the distance headed for the station. I didn't have to break stride. I walked right on the train from the bus. Didn't even have time for my wait-for-train coffee break.

Ah, that was just soooo relaxing.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A rookie mistake

Please read the post about my trip to work before reading this post about my trip home.

Call it a rookie mistake. I thought I could just guess the right time to leave without checking. Trains run every 15 minutes; buses every 30 minutes. No biggie.

I left my office at 6:35 p.m. I assumed I had plenty of time to catch the train at 23rd Street. Instead, I watched it glide away as I reached the station. I didn't try to run to catch it. I'll just get the next train, I said to myself. Relax. That's what this is all supposed to be about.

I should have run. It wasn't until I got home (a story I will get to in a minute) that I discovered trains run every 15 minutes until 6:39 p.m. and then it's every 30 minutes.

So I read my book and waited and fretted as I watched not one but two trains going downtown. My train finally arrived at 7:20 p.m. -- a good 10 minutes late.

Well, I think to myself, this will be the train that meets the bus. I'll just go straight on and home. But when I arrived at the 65th Street station at 7:28 p.m. there was no bus. This time I had a bus schedule and I checked my watch. Right time; no bus. About 7:40 p.m. I walked over to an RT supervisor who was gabbing with a driver and asked what had become of the 7:28 No. 82 bus.

"It left at 7:28 p.m.," he said.

"Did not," I said.

I tried to get him to admit the bus had left early but he wouldn't buy it.

Fine. I returned to my light standard and went back to reading my book.

At 8:07 the No. 82 arrived and I climbed aboard. The bus left the station at its scheduled time -- 8:15 p.m.

So, let me recap: I left my office at 6:35 p.m. and here it was after 8 p.m. as I started the 40 minute bus ride home. I went back to reading. I'm near the end of the book and its a real page-turner. In fact it's so spellbinding that I didn't realize the bus had passed my stop until it was several blocks past my house.

At 9:09 I called my wife from American River College and asked her to come retrieve me.

This was not a good transit night.

The morning commute

The bus driver carries no change. That's what the sign says and that's what the driver is telling the man standing next to the fare collecting machine. The man needs an all-day pass, which costs $5. He's got a $10 bill and four $1 bills.

"Anyone got a $5?" the man asks the passengers. "Can anyone loan me a dollar?"

There are four of passengers. A guy next to the front door says no; the rest of us are silent.

"Can you spot me a dollar?" he asks the driver.

The driver points across the intersection to a mini-mart. He tells the guy to get some change. "I'll wait here for you," he says.

The man says thanks and dashes across the intersection and into the store. He is back just as quickly, pays the fare and pockets his all-day pass.

All in a day's work for the driver, I assume.

A little while later the bus is at a stop on Watt Avenue. My head is buried in my book as we take on passengers. I hear the bus honk and look up. There is a gentleman sitting on the bus stop bench asleep. His chin is on his chest. His hands are folded in his lap, holding a small bag of belongings. The bill of the ball cap he is wearing covers his face. The man is unmoved by the bus driver's attempt to wake him. We move on.

I take that as another kind gesture and return to my book.

Buses are radio equipped. The drivers keep the volume loud enough for everyone to hear. On evening rides home I have heard bus drivers calling to see if they can arrange to meet another bus so a passenger can make a connection. This morning, though, I hear something about Fair Oaks and Cadillac Drive. An accident. I look up from my book. We're on Howe Avenue now and the bus is stuck in traffic. The man talking on the radio explains that Fair Oaks is blocked at Cadillac, just east of the bridge. From my seat I can see the intersection of Fair Oaks and Howe. It's gridlocked. The radio makes a "This Is An Important Announcement" series of beeps and then alerts all 82 (mine) and 87 buses to hold at their current positions and await instructions. That's no problem for our bus. We're already stopped, along with several hundred commuters trying to get through what is one of Sacramento County's busiest intersections. The alert sounds and I hear the drivers of buses 82 and 87 instructed to detour around the accident and go directly to the 65th Street light rail station. Passengers on their way to Sac State will have to ride to light rail and then return to Sac State on the 82's return leg.

The driver acknowledges his instructions, and then, without getting up, asks if anyone is going to CSUS. About a half-dozen hands go up. The driver explains that Fair Oaks is closed by an accident and the bus won't be able to stop at Sac State. Passengers heading for Sac State can stay on the bus when it arrives at the light rail station. The bus will then go to Sac State.

Traffic eventually opens up enough for us to get past Fair Oaks. Behind me I hear a man explaining to a girl everything the bus driver had just explained. The girl is sitting with her iPod ear buds in her hands as she listens.

I think to myself, if she missed the radio traffic and missed the driver's explanation and didn't figure out anything was amiss until after we missed our turn on Fair Oaks, then she really needs to turn down the volume on that iPod.

The traffic accident delayed me about 15 minutes. I was at my desk by 9:49 a.m. Since I'm not on a clock, it was no big deal. But I am sympathetic to the plight of students who may have missed their first class of the day.

This delay wasn't RT's fault. Clearly, RT did everything it could to keep to its schedule. But this is another example of why people who don't have to rely on buses feel better in their own cars. If the girl had been driving in a car behind the bus instead of riding in the bus, she would not have made it to school any sooner, and might have been delayed further if she tried to use Fair Oaks to get to school. But as the driver of her own car, the girl would have felt in control. She would not have felt helpless to change the situation. That's what hurts transit. Each time a passenger feels helpless that's another reminder that having your own car is better. Even if that's illogical.

A new week of transit

In my ongoing effort to ease my panic about missing my transit connections I decided to use my cell phone's alarm clock. This morning I set the alarm for 8:34 a.m. The bus is scheduled for my stop at 8:39 a.m. Since I'm only two stops from the start of the route I am fairly certain of ontime service.

When the alarm went off this morning I managed to grab my coffee thermos; put on my shoes, coat and hat; grab my backpack; lock the front door and walk to the bus stop -- all before 8:36 a.m. (Yes, I'm that close to the bus stop.)

The bus arrived at 8:40 a.m. While I was settling in with my book I was reminded of an old WWII movie about prisoners who didn't have watches but needed to coordinate their escape plans. They taught themselves to become clocks, able to tell how much time had passed. That's a trick I could use. It would go a long way to easing my "Oh my God, I'm going to miss the bus!" anxiety.

If nothing else, riding transit to work will teach me to relax.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Old bus riders

It's the weekend and I'm wondering what to do with my new bus pass. After all, the more you use it, the more valuable it becomes. It occurred to me that there is a Strings Restaurant and a Dos Coyotes (not to mention a Starbucks) near the 65th Street light rail station. That would be an excellent weekend outing: 40 minute bus ride, an hour (or a little less) for dinner and then the bus back.

"Hey," I said to the wife, "let's take the bus to Strings or Dos Coyotes across from the 65th Street light rail station."

"Gee, that sounds like something old people do," she said.

OK. How do you respond to that? That's like the question, "Does this dress make me look fat?"

So I took a walk -- 2 miles each way -- and enjoyed the exercise. I can walk for an hour and a half with little difficulty, but when I try to use a treadmill I die of boredom in less than an hour.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Day 2 and the riding is easy

Left the door at 8:31 a.m. and the bus was on the mark at 8:39 a.m. Another month or so and maybe I'll lose a little of the panic that grips me whenever I'm getting ready to leave. Arrived at my desk at 9:34 a.m. I left for the evening at 6:26 p.m. and I was walking around the corner from Q Street onto 23rd Street when I heard the train crossing gates begin to chime. I dashed down the street toward the station unable to tell whether it was my train or the one going downtown. More unnecessary panic. It was train downtown. I arrived home at 7:40.

The book reading is going well. In the first two days I've managed 120 pages of John le Carre's "The Mission Song." If I keep going at this pace I may end up spending more on books than I save on gas.

I'm finding the people watching fun. My bus runs from American River College to Sac State and then on to the 65th Street light rail station. On both days, we dropped off a half-dozen young students and one elderly person at Sac State -- a man Thursday, a woman Friday. Odd coincidence. The bus ride home picked up five young men at Sac State who appeared to be South Asian -- Indian, Pakistani; don't have enough experience with the language to tell -- but obviously on their way for a Friday night out.

In my years of editing letters, I would regularly receive complaints about the peril of riding light rail. The danger, invariably, was a rider with obvious mental health issues. I had my first experience with that on the trip home.

When I got on the train at 23rd Street I took a vacant seat in the middle of the car, across from a guy seated by himself. I got my book out and started to read when I heard the guy cursing, saying, " Jews, Jews, F...king Jews, Jews." He didn't appear to be addressing anyone on the train. I've seen guys (and gals) like this before, barking at the moon (which was full tonight). He was about my age, maybe a tad older. He had very thick glasses and wore a dark brown Gap ball cap. His clothes were clean and appropriate for the weather. I would be willing to bet he wasn't homeless. After his outburst subsided, he continued to mumble while his left hand fidgeted with something inside his coat. I had images of mad bombers as I watched him out the corner of my eye. When the 59th Street station was announced he got up and walked away from the door in front of him and instead stood next to the door closer to the front of the car. But when the train stopped he sat down. All very odd, but all part of the joys of riding transit in Sacramento.

Friday, February 2, 2007

A Regional Transit diary: Day 1

I've decided to start a second blog in order to write about my latest self-improvement project.

I've decided to leave my car at home and use RT to get around. I have a bus stop less than 50 yards from my front porch and my employer offers half-price monthly passes. The gas saved by parking one of the family cars should more than cover the monthly pass. And I'll have all that commute time to spend catching up on my reading.

Why do this?

My New Year's resolution was to walk every day, and I've been doing it every week day and most weekend days. Since there are four Starbucks within a half-hour walk from my office, I've got the entire midtown grid to wander about.

With my walking resolution success it occurred to me that I didn't need to drive. My son is now in high school, and I no longer have to drop everything and ferry him around. I also have been wanting to do more reading, but finding I'm unable to set the time aside. Since my workday runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m., I don't have to compete with the morning crush of commuters.

Here's what Day 1 looked like:

8:30 a.m. leave the house.
8:40 a.m. bus arrives (scheduled 8:39 a.m.)
9:22 a.m. arrived at light rail station.
9:35 a.m. boarded train.
9:43 a.m. arrived at 23rd Street station.
9:50 a.m. reach my office desk.

That's an hour and 20 minutes. I can drive to work in less than a half-hour if there isn't any traffic. So using transit has to be about something other than time.

The trip home started at 6:15 p.m. when I left my desk and ended at my doorstep at 7:39 p.m. If I had left work 15 minutes later, I would have had a shorter wait for the bus, but I'm the sort of person who frets if he can't wait around. I love the new requirement that you get to the airport two hours before your flight.

I"m looking forward to the challenge of focusing on the benefits of riding transit and letting go of the concept that time is money and every second that isn't productive is somehow wasted.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Books on the bus

Alan Friedman, "Spider's Web" (July 9)
Michael Yon's "Moment of Truth in Iraq" (June 21)
Ahmed Rashid's "Descent into Chaos" (June 12)
Benjamin O. Davis Jr.'s, "Benjamin O. Davis Jr.: American" (May 26)
Willie Brown's, "Basic Brown" (May 8)
Tim Pritchard's, "Ambush Alley" (April 27)
Eric Lichtblau's, "Bush's Law" (April 19)
Douglas E. Schoen's "The Power of the Vote" (April 5)
Amy B. Zegart's "Spying Blind" (March 19)
Steven Gillon's "The Pact" (March 9)
Harrison Salisbury's "Heroes of My Time" (March 2)
Barack Obama's "Dreams from My Father" (Feb. 21)
Daniel Weintraub's "Party of One" (Feb. 5)
George Crile's "Charlie Wilson's War" (Jan. 27)
Joseph Cummins' "Anything for a Vote" (Jan. 8)
Bill Boyarsky's "Big Daddy" (Dec. 30)
Valerie Plame Wilson's "Fair Game" (Dec. 16)
Bob Drogin's "Curveball" (Dan. 7)
Marcus Luttrell's "Lone Survivor" (Nov. 29)
William Burg's "Sacramento's Streetcars" (Nov. 22)
David Halberstam's "Coldest Winter" (Nov. 19)
Terry Jones' "Douglas Adams's Starship Titanic" (Oct. 23)
William Burg's "Sacramento's Southside Park" (Oct. 16)
Kirsten Holmstedt's "Band of Sisters" (Oct. 12)
Paul Dickson's "Sputnik" (Sept. 28)
Seymour Hersh's "The Dark Side of Camelot" (Sept. 19)
Robert "Diesel" Kroese's "Antisocial Commentary" (Sept. 5)
Mariane Pearl's "A Mighty Heart" (Aug. 26)
Barbara W. Tuchman's "Bible and Sword" (Aug. 16)
Philip Caputo's "Means of Escape" (Aug. 3)
J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" (July 26)
P.D. James' "The Children of Men" (July 19)
Genichiro Takahashi's "Sayonara, Gangsters" (July 17)
Walter Isaacson's "Einstein" (July 8)
Ethan Rarick's "California Rising" (June 21)
Richard Brautigan's "So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away" (June 10)
Richard Brautigan's "The Abortion" (June 6)
Richard Brautigan's "Revenge of the Lawn" (June 4)
R. Harris Smith, "OSS" (May 30)
Richard Brautigan's "In Watermelon Sugar" (May 19)
Richard Brautigan's "The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster" (May 17)
Richard Brautigan's "Trout Fishing in America" (May 17)
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s "The Crisis of the Old Order" (May 13)
Ishmael Beah's "A Long Way Gone" (April 30)
Rick Newman and Don Shepperd's "Bury Us Upside Down" (April 22)
Keith Lowell Jensen's "Oh Holy Day" (April 5)
Joe Mathews' "The People's Machine" (April 5)
George Black's "No Other Choice" (March 19)
Eva Rutland's "When We Were Colored" (March 4)
John Barron's "Breaking the Ring" (Feb. 28)
Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" (Feb. 24)
John Le Carre's "The Mission Song" (Feb. 8)