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

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A bird in the hand; a seat on the bus

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." By this we mean that the things we already have are more valuable than the things we only hope to get. (The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition.)

That's pretty much how I felt, seated at the bus stop Sunday, waiting for a No. 80 bus that should have arrived many long minutes before. A seat on the No. 82 bus I had been riding was certainly worth two connections that in theory might shorten my trip to Rancho Cordova.

This Sunday I was engaged in a piece of transitarian research. Google Transit continues to insist that the wife could walk to work from the Cordova Town Center light rail station -- would in fact be better off than relying on the bus routes RT suggests and their tight connection schedules.

In the weeks that the wife has been riding transit, she has had no difficulty getting to work. It's been the trip home and, in particular, the reliably unreliable No. 80 bus connection that has proved problematic.

When the wife drove to the office Sunday to catch up on work, I saw my chance to combine transitarian research with a transitarian diet of exercise.

Of course, I must add here that when talking about Sacramento Regional Transit's Sunday schedule, we're really pushing the definition of service. The No. 82 that runs by my house every half-hour during the week, runs just once an hour on Sunday. And only the No. 80 runs on Sunday. The No. 84 doesn't run at all.

When I decided it was time to start my trip, it was more than a half-hour before the next No. 82 was scheduled at my house. So I walked to Watt and Whitney. It is less than 2 miles to the Watt and Whitney stop the wife uses each morning. It was fine exercise, but it was something of a waste of time since the No. 82 was the first bus to reach the stop.

I boarded the No. 82 at 1:40 p.m. It was running five minutes late. As the bus rumbled down Watt, I considered my options. I could ride the No. 82 to 65th Street and then take light rail to Cordova Town Center station, or I could transfer to the No. 80 and catch the train at Starfire. Transferring to the No. 80 would save maybe 15 minutes overall, I estimated.

I was still considering whether the potential 15 minute savings was more valuable than the certainty of my seat on the No. 82 when the bus stopped to pick up passengers at Butano and Park Towne Circle. On the spur of the moment I decided to abandon my seat and wait for the No. 80.

It was 1:45 p.m. The No. 80 was scheduled to arrive at 1:51 p.m. This should have been an easy wait. It's Sunday, I thought to myself. There's no traffic that might delay things. I didn't even sit down. I stood.

And I stood and I stood and finally I sat on the bench and called 321-BUSS. After the 1:51 scheduled stop, the next No. 80 wasn't due until 3:06. It was beginning to look like I might catch the next No. 82, which was scheduled to arrive before the next No. 80.

When I finally got a customer service guy on the phone, I explained where I was and where I was trying to go. He mentioned something about checking e-mails, as if this was something new for him. "It's hard to read all of these," he said at one point. But he did find something.

"At 2:10, the No. 80 reported it was running 30 minutes late," he explained.

"Thirty minutes late," I repeated.

"But its coming, though," the customer service guy reassured me.

The No. 80 was actually more than 30 minutes late as I hung up. And it was 43 minutes late when it finally arrived at 2:34 p.m.

As I boarded the bus I expected some explanation from the driver or at least some acknowledgment of the driver's tardiness. I don't know why. I guess because I've seen some drivers apologize when they get behind. But I got nothing from the lady driver. As far as she let on, there was nothing amiss.

I didn't press the issue. I just took a seat in the back row of the bus.

This sort of spoiled the transitarian adventure. I made it to Starfire at 2:45 and the train arrived on schedule at 2:55. I started my walk from Cordova Town Center at 3:07 and arrived at the wife's office at 3:39. The walk is not something the wife is likely to ever try. For starters, you have to walk in the bike lane on Folsom until you pass under Highway 50 because there are no sidewalks on the south side of the street.

Back home, having considered my adventure, I've decided that RT should simply stop charging full fare for Sunday service. They don't provide full service. At the most, RT should charge its discount fare -- $1 -- for everyone. And they should throw transfers in for free, especially if they can't keep to their terrible Sunday schedule.

It is only fair.


Mattie said...

I've experienced this kind of thing too many times. You're right, RT should charge less on Sunday (and Saturday, too) because the "service" is minimal.

I'm going to RT's open house on the 22nd but I don't expect to hear great things about the future of public transportation in Sacramento.

John said...

QUOTE: I'm going to RT's open house on the 22nd but I don't expect to hear great things about the future of public transportation in Sacramento.

No, you'll hear "great things about transportation," especially that Scenario Map 3.

What you're unlikely to hear is anything that might lead you to believe that RT can translate this "vision" they have into buses and trains.