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, April 24, 2008

Wayne's world

The Bee has a letter today from a guy named Wayne Bruns. Wayne is an unhappy former Sacramento Regional Transit customer.

"During my rides, I encountered spaced-out drug addicts, boisterous gangs of youths, ticketless riders, fresh vomit and an overall lack of security presence that became unnerving."
As someone who feels compelled to defend RT, my first response is to disregard Wayne's hyperbole. After all, what magic power does Wayne possess that allows him to know when he is in the presence of "ticketless riders"?

But regular readers of this blog will appreciate why I can't deny that sometimes -- not always, not often, but sometimes -- riding transit can be "too intimidating" -- even for a guy who would be loath to describe himself as an "older person."

Yesterday, I worked at home for the first half of the day. (Go Barça!) At around 2 p.m. I was standing at the 65th Street light rail station waiting for the inbound train. Nearby was a man who was yelling.

At first the guy wasn't yelling at anything in particular. But after a few minutes he started yelling at a guy all dressed up in a cycling outfit who was eating a sandwich next to his bike. The more the cyclist ignored the guy, the louder the guy got. He was hoping up and down and back and forth and gesturing, but he wasn't approaching the cyclist or making any other hostile moves. He was just yelling. (I suspect he's the same guy I met here.)

Eventually, the cyclist finished his sandwich and walked across Q Street to where a guy wearing a security guard uniform was waiting for a bus. The guard wasn't one of RT's contract Wachenhut guys. This was just some Joe heading home. But he was willing to help out the cyclist. He walked over and calmed the yeller down.

The train arrived and I didn't get a chance to see the end of the story. But that night on my bus ride home I got to share the ride with a boisterous guy who let everyone know he was from Detroit. He was seated with a woman. In the seat in front of him was a sleeping bag and backpack. He wasn't in the same league with the teen girls from Friday, but I think Wayne would have had an issue with riding with this guy.

The Bee uses Wayne's letter to segue into a discussion of Sacramento Regional Transit's efforts to get a law passed that would give them the authority to ban habitually misbehaving riders for as long as a year.

The Bee explains that RT's legislation was derailed by "civil libertarians, who feared it would be used by transit districts to target the mentally ill or homeless."

I consider myself a liberal guy, the sort of person who feels the homeless and the mentally ill deserve a break. Generally, I feel those "uncomfortable" riding with people different from themselves should just get over it. But as a daily rider of buses and light rail I don't see why disruptive behavior must be tolerated as some sort of civil right.


Brian Goldner said...

you should also read the comments to the Bee's article online much RT bashing

seriously though, as someone who grew up in NYC, none of the ppl who complain about RT know how sweet they really have it...

The Derek said...

I once had this happen to me at 16th street, with a security guard on the other side of the platform not doing anything. I did come very close to taking his cane and giving him a good whack...