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, June 5, 2008

Transit envy

Google has rolled out its new Google Transit for mobile devices at Sure makes me wish I had a Blackberry phone. But beyond that watch this video and pay close attention to the "Last available train" option.

Did you see that? The guy can go to a concert and party until 3 a.m. before the last train takes him home. Size matters and looking at the size of the Bay Area's transit options makes Sacramento Regional Transit look pitifully small.

This coming Second Saturday, the wife and I plan to ride the No. 82 bus from our house to Sacramento State and a No. 30 bus to midtown. We did a variation of this last month. Since we both have bus passes this is a freebie. Why hassle with parking?

The problem is that Second Saturday runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The last No. 82 leaves Sacramento State at 9:18 p.m. The closest connecting No. 30 bus outbound from midtown doesn't arrive at Sacramento State until 9:21 p.m. That's not going to work. And the next earlier No. 30 leaves midtown more than an hour earlier. So we would have to leave the festivities at 8 p.m. , when things are just starting to get going.

Yeah, I know, we could drive to the light rail park and ride lot at Watt and Interstate 80 and take light rail home as late as midnight, but that just illustrates the shriveled options that pass for transit in Sacramento.


The Derek said...

thats awesome!

stay away from blackberry, they have shoddy keyboards that arest covered under warranty. Wish I knew this before I bought mine, keyboard busted after 2 months. $20 to fix myself :(

The Derek said...

I downloaded this and started playing with it, and its pretty cool. You actually dont need GPS to use it (but you need a web enabled phone). If you dont have GPS, or you are not receiving a signal, it triangulates your approximate position based on nearby cell towers. not suitable for turn by turn driving directions, but it will work well with transit or directory service. Plus the amount of detail you can get when you zoom in is insane ;)

I dont drive much, but the traffic overlay similar to is worth mentioning.

Mattie said...

I'm having the same problem trying to find a way home from Second Saturday. I've even considered walking home...all five miles of it. :(

It's ridiculous. Sacramento keeps trying to live up to the "world-class city" moniker and it can't even provide transportation around a popular monthly event.

John said...

In a more perfect world, the Second Saturday businesses and RT would get together. It is in the interests of the midtown business community to make the evening's activities more attractive and one way to do that is to make transit a viable alternative -- both for parking and for those who drink.

How much would it cost for RT to add a handful of extra bus runs?

The Derek said...

According to RT's monthly performance report it would cost them about $142/hr per bus ;)

Brian Goldner said...

I'll be biking the roughly 4 miles to 2nd saturday!
Being born in Brooklyn, I got so used to having a 24 hour subway system (although it's quite sluggish at night) that I can actually recall being PO'ed that BART only ran until 3 when I lived in SF.

Now that I live in Sacto, I couldn't be happier. Sure, the light rail may only run until midnight, but there are no hills and hundreds of miles of bike lanes. It's perfect for biking.

Perhaps what Sacramento lacks in transit, it more than makes up for in being a great town for biking. Better yet, with bike racks on all RT trains and buses, plus bike racks on the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquins, Sacramento is a great place for combined biking plus transit!

Jesse said...

The one I invariably hear of Regional Transit is trying to make the comparison between San Francisco's MUNI agency and RT. I'm very tired of this argument because it's simplistic and not even remotely the same, for two very basic reasons. In San Francisco, taking the bus or rail makes a lot of logistical sense even without figuring in the cost of gas. Parking is a nightmare in S.F., and with the topography of the region ensures a great deal of wear and tear on a vehicles transmission, brakes and alignment. Ergo, using somebody else's ride makes sense.

Sacramento, on the other hand, is relatively easy for parking (compared with many metro areas) and flat as a board. Your car will survive in this environment much longer without major repairs here than it will in the Bay.

What this does is create a mentality where in S.F. people "choose" to ride public transit, as opposed to basically being forced into it due to a lack of funds or loss of a license or vehicle.

Since San Franciscans choose transit as a (relative) whole rather than a niche group who depends upon it, the voting record for funding public transit in the city reflects this, while in Sacramento the citizenry talks a good game about supporting public transit with their tax dollars and then shows their true colors in the voting booth.

We *could* have a system as expansive and exhaustive as MUNI, yes. Any city can. The amount it would cost, however, ensures that this does not take place. That may change now that gas is going to continue rising in price, but S.F. had a big head start on Sacramento, and the price tag involved in closing that gap is extremely prohibitive.

John said...

Jesse, I agree that parking in San Francisco is a prime motivator for riding transit for commuters. And that "since San Franciscans choose transit as a (relative) whole rather than a niche group who depends upon it, the voting record for funding public transit in the city reflects this." (See my earlier post here.)

The city and the region should do their part promoting transit by making parking less attractive. My favorite fantasy is a parking place tax applied to all businesses. The money raised would be used to create bike lanes, more walkable neighborhoods and for transit improvements.

In the meantime, however, RT has failed to even attempt to attract riders who have a choice. Now, with the price of gas so high so quickly, RT should be promoting its service.

Brian Goldner said...

"parking tax?"
excellent idea! Raising parking taxes in a certain zone is how the Portland streetcar was funded! The truth is that parking is a hugely expensive commodity, like freeways, that cost us billions of dollars a year in tax subsidies, but which we get to use on a daily basis for next to nothing. Part of the problem is laws which actually mandate new developments to have at least a certain number of parking spots, with less than 6% allowed to be cut if the spot is located near transit or has good bike facilities!
Interesting read on the cost of parking:

Brian Goldner said...

Doesn't your hilly landscape argument fail in some places? I mean, Atlanta is really hilly and LA has a few hills, and both of those cities suck for public transit. Also, NYC is fairly flat and they're pretty good. Even Portland seems pretty flat and not hemmed in by the geographic boundaries like what gives?
I think the parking vs. transit thing is a little like the chicken vs. the egg. It's probably more the case that parking became really expensive after transit because transit attracted such a high density of commercial and residential development (and btw not all San Franciscans go without cars!) They also fund MUNI with parking ticket fees.

And do I think Sacramento can become just like SF in terms of transit? I think we can be better!