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

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wishful thinking

Sometimes the truth hurts. Or it is at least inconvenient. I was checking to see if I could get from midtown to a location in Oak Park just off Broadway on the bus. Piece of cake, said Google Transit.

But you will be throwing money away.

I am not going to suggest that Google Transit modify its programming for the convenience of fanatical transit advocates who want to ignore, or at least downplay, any trivial, inconsequential details that might detract from the glorious truth of transit's enduring value.

I am not going to suggest that when the program multiplies the distance times the IRS-allowed auto mileage expense, that it then check that sum against the fare. Shame on me for even imagining that when the fare is more than the cost of driving, that the program cough and knock that piece of superfluous parenthetical data on the floor, never to be missed.

No, it would be wrong to suggest that.

* * *

And in another example of wishful thinking, I checked the same destination and arrival time with Sacramento Regional Transit's online wizard at and discovered that RT offered a shorter, more convenient route to my destination.

Where Google Transit suggested I walk four minutes and then take two buses for a 22-minute trip, infoweb suggested I just catch light rail to 29th Street and hop on the No. 68 or 67, which both eventually go down the portion of Broadway near my destination. Total travel time: 10 or 12 minutes, depending on when I left.

When I checked the details of RT's suggestion I think I figured out why Google didn't offer that choice. The train is scheduled to get to 29th Street just three minutes before the bus is scheduled to leave.

The chance of that happening? Not something I would want to bet my plans on.

This does raise an interesting idea. While I will agree that trains can't be expected to wait for buses to make connections, what's to prevent buses from waiting for trains?

Why not have the bus departure at bus transit centers set to the arrival of a specific train (plus a couple of minutes for people to walk to it)? Sure, that would delay the bus departure several minutes on occasion, but not always.

Promising that the bus will meet the train would be a nice piece of customer service that wouldn't cost a penny to implement.

Don't mind me. Just wishful thinking out loud.


wburg said...

The issue with their calculations is that there's a minimum cost for the bus but not necessarily for the car--below a certain distance threshold, the car is cheaper, but once you've gone past that $2.25 point the bus stays cheap until you need multiple transfers.

And about that route: Bus 51 runs every 10-15 minutes at peak, so even if you missed one connection you could make the next one. A bit late, I know, but still. I still use those little folding paper schedules, which I have been fascinated with since I was a kid on the bus, taking the bus downtown with my mom when we were a one-car family in the seventies--the little columns of numbers and maps were neat, and I'd constantly look for street signs to see if I could figure out where we were.

John said...

Yes, yes, yes! Facts! They exist, but must they be so rude and pushy? Do they not know their place? Can they not understand our position?

We invite facts to do work for us. They should welcome our care, our feeding. They are as if our children. We raise them, protect them.

Is it too much to ask that the inconvenient fact understand and appreciate why we ask that it remain in the closet?

Yes, equality is a grand and wonderful concept. But some facts are truly more equal than others.

There was a day when the facts understood these verities.

Brian Goldner said...

maybe you should mix things up and combine some sort of bike with your RT riding...i can usually bike from midtown to most parts of oak park in under 20 minutes. Of course, it would take even less time if I combined light rail &/or bus with biking

John said...


I agree that bikes in combination with transit are a great team. Certainly getting from midtown to Oak Park would be an easy option. And I should consider that more often. Of course, I'll have to buy a bike, but that's not a bad thing.

Since I live next door to a bus stop and work next to a light rail station, there hasn't been much need to think about the bike option.