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

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Not even once a week

At last night's hearing, a speaker asked how many Sacramento Regional Transit board members actually use the transit system they govern. Only one board member was willing to respond. Sacramento City Councilman Steve Cohn said he "occasionally" uses it. Even when prodded by a crank in the audience, none of the other board members spoke up. Instead, Board Chair Roberta MacGlashan said the question was out of order.

I can sympathize with the board. It must be hard to sit in judgment of a service they don't use and won't promise to use, even for just one day a week.

Back on Feb. 17 I sent the following e-mail to Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo and each of the RT board members:

On Feb. 12, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa boarded a bus to work with a gaggle of press following along. He was promoting a local drive to get people to make a commitment to ride transit once a week.

"If I said to everybody, `Get out of your car and take public transit,' the likelihood of people doing that isn't great," Villaraigosa told the Los Angeles Daily News.* "So the goal is: Get out of your car once a week. I want to model that."

According to the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District**, "If you leave your car at home one day a week, you prevent 55 pounds of pollution each year from being emitted into our air."

Would you be willing to make a public commitment to leave your car at home and ride transit at least once a week?

John Hughes
* Story is available at
** see for SMAQMD stat
And what response did I get?
from Patrick Hume
date Sun, Feb 17, 2008 at 6:53 PM
subject Re: Riding transit once a week

Mr. Hughes,

Unfortunately, even once a week isn't feasable for me. I live in Elk Grove and work in Galt, so there is no convenient public transit alternative. You may suggest the same idea to Mayor Davis, he works at Sac State, so it would take some transferring, but it could be done.


Patrick Hume
Councilmember, City of Elk Grove (916)201-4091
(I responded: "Thanks for replying. Perhaps you could look into the Highway 99 e-Tran service from Elk Grove to Galt City Hall.")
from David M. Sander, Ph.D.
to John Hughes
date Mon, Feb 18, 2008 at 6:09 PM
subject Re: Riding transit once a week


I'd be happy to make such a pledge, but living in Rancho Cordova, I don't have much in the way of bus service -- none to my current neighborhood.

Also, I work from home, so by definition I don't drive that many miles, nor do have any regular commute.

So, I could take such a pledge, but I'm not sure what it would mean in the end. I already use transit when I can use light rail to get to and from occasional meetings downtown.

All the Best,

(I replied: "Thanks for the reply. It does make it difficult to take transit when you work at home. I was thinking of expanding the pledge idea to promising to take transit OR ride a bike OR walk. The goal, after all, is cut down on the single-occupant auto trips. You'd have it made with pledge to walk to work." And he said, " Yeah. It's about 25 ft from bedroom to office! I've had fun with that concept -- appearing at bike to work events and the like over years I've always explained that I'd like to bike to work, but that hallway turn near the bathroom is tough to navigate.")
from MacGlashan. Roberta
to John Hughes
date Tue, Feb 19, 2008 at 4:42 PM
subject RE: Riding transit once a week

John, Thank you for emailing me regarding Mayor Villaraigosa’s efforts to increase transit ridership. I wish my response could be as clever as David’s.

Public transit works very well for people whose jobs follow a regular schedule. I grew up in a single-car household with a mother who did not drive, so I relied on transit, walking and bicycling to get where I needed to go as a child and young adult. In fact, I did not even have a drivers license or own a car until I was in my 20s. When my husband was in law school, we also had just one car and for those three years I rode public transit to work (that was the old Southern Pacific line on the San Francisco peninsula – now CalTrain).

The reality of my schedule as a County Supervisor is that my schedule requires me to be at many different meetings throughout my district and downtown in the course of the day and often into the evenings (with unpredictable schedule changes) – making transit an impractical option for me most of the time. However, 2 of the 4 members of my staff use public transit daily to commute to and from the office; it is very rare that they drive to work. I am very proud of the high utilization of public transit by my staff, and believe that my office probably has the highest transit use of any of the Sacramento County Board offices.

Good luck with your new job.*

Roberta MacGlashan
(* When MacGlashan first responded she asked: "John, Did we meet at a Bee editorial board meeting on the Transit Master Plan? Am I remembering correctly?" To which I replied, "John the blogger is not the same as John at the editorial board, at least not any longer. Cutbacks at The Bee have moved me to a new job. My e-mail to you is strictly a personal query related to my rtrider blog. The e-mail was in no way work related. The best response so far comes from David Sander, who works at home. He's willing to promise to walk to work, but riding a bike is problematic -- "hallway turn near the bathroom is tough to navigate.")

from Lauren Hammond
to John Hughes
date Tue, Feb 19, 2008 at 8:26 PM
subject Re: Riding RT once a week


You're behind. I suggested this eight years ago when I was Chair of
the Sacramento Air Quality Board.

Frankly, I don't drive once a week. I live more than 3/4 of a mile
from light rail and 1/2 mile from the nearest bus stop.
If the public doesn't mind me not attending two thirds of the meetings
and functions I'm currently scheduled for.


(I never did really understand what "If the public doesn't mind me not attending two thirds of the meetings and functions I'm currently scheduled for" meant since it followed "Frankly, I don't drive once a week.")
from Dickinson. Roger
to John Hughes
date Tue, Feb 26, 2008 at 7:00 PM
subject RE: Riding RT once a week

Thanks for your email, John. Prior to my election to the Board, I was a regular transit rider, generally two to three times a week. I still use transit when I can; however, that is not as frequently as I would like. Since I often take a large amount of material home at night to read and have numerous daytime and evening meetings, it makes it difficult to use transit on a regular basis. Nonetheless, I will take a look at my schedule in the upcoming months to see if I can increase my use of transit, even if I can't get to a routine of once a week.

Supervisor, District One
Sacramento County
None of the other board members felt that it was necessary to respond. There silence speaks volumes.

1 comment:

Camperhead said...

Exactly the kind of response I'd expect from Lauren Hammond -- equal parts incoherent and dismissive.