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 6, 2008


My new job requires more flexibility on the hours I work. And that, unfortunately, keeps banging up against the inflexibility of Sacramento Regional Transit bus schedules.

Tuesday night, I was told to work a 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift. That eliminated any chance of leaving the car at home. The last bus connection home leaves 65th Street at 9:43 p.m. But the light rail trains to and from the Watt/I-80 station have two runs after 11 p.m. So I drove to the park and ride lot on Interstate 80 and left my car at the Roseville Road light rail stop.

The crowd on light rail in the early afternoon is not your average sea of gray bureaucrats ebbing and flowing as a tide into downtown office buildings. No, this was quite a lively lot -- and very colorful in appearance and language. And loud. And perhaps a bit intimidating. But I made it to work unmolested, walking from 16th Street rather than waiting for an outbound train to 23rd Street.

By 11:10 p.m. I was ready to head home. The walk back to 16th Street was quiet. The only people I encountered were coming out of Whiskey Wild, the new bar on Q Street next to the railroad tracks.

At the 16th Street station a half-dozen or so people waited for the next train. With the exception of a panhandler I felt compelled to tip a dollar, the wait was quiet. The wife, however, kept calling every 10 minutes to check on my well-being. That was not necessary.

I boarded the outbound Watt/I-80 train at 11:34 p.m. Inside was a burly security guard and three other riders. By the time I reached the park and ride lot, it was just me, the guard and the driver on the car. I was home by 12:15 a.m.

My regular shift is 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. A 9:39 a.m. No. 82 bus makes connections at 65th Street that get be to work at 10:45. That's pretty good. But today I wanted to take a 10:09 bus, which is what should be the next bus on a line with 30-minute interval service. But there is no 10:09 bus. The next No. 82 comes to my stop at 10:24 a.m.

I've written about being "blocked" before. After every four No. 82 buses, there's a 45 minute gap. I realize drivers are due their breaks, but I'm not convinced that disrupting the schedule is the only way to accommodate that.

Having to wait an extra 15 minutes on a line that already only runs every 30 minutes just feels like RT made the easy choice, ignoring or dismissing the interests of riders. It's just another cut from the blade of RT customer service. I lick my wounds and soldier on, ever the loyal transitarian, but I also understand why people with a choice ask "Why bother?"

* * *

As a follow up to my post about the RT sting operation, I realize now that what I thought were Sacramento Police Department black and whites were more likely RT police cars. Still, the effect was the same. The operation had moved down to 13th Street on Tuesday and was back at 23rd Street today. RT really should be publicizing this effort.

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