I recently bought my Capitol Corridor Amtrak ticket for this month and should not have been surprised that it went up $14 to $269. Seems like a lot of money, doesn’t it? It does to me, too, especially when I add the $80 or so that I spend on BART.
But, to quote my favorite rail rider rep, it’s not going to get me back into my car.
With gas prices at $3 and up, its still going to cost me about $300 in gas for the month if I drive, plus $66 in tolls. Now that $17 savings is multiplied by the fact that I can read the newspaper or even write blog entries on the train. (Perhaps I can even post them on the train when A, I get around to figuring out which wireless internet service is worth the money, or B, Capitol Corridor finally gets a permanent wi-fi service set up.)
Then there’s the sanity issue. I’ve always dreamed of commuting to work when no such alternative existed, and that was simply so that I could arrive at work refreshed, rather than tense and mentally spent from dodging SUVs for 90 minutes.
What I find puzzling, to some extent, is that so many people choose to drive when they do have an alternative. Especially in the Bay Area, which, despite everyone’s whining, is pretty well outfitted with transit. (Ok, Marin County residents, you have my permission to continue whining — and driving.)
So with the start of the new fiscal year, when riders on the Altamont Commuter Express and Capitol Corridor are wrestling with this same equation, remember to factor in mental health as well as gas, tolls and car maintenance.
I pondered that question the evening I used up my June pass. As if to help answer my question, I ended up sitting next to a couple of Miller-timers on their way to Sacramento.
There were several empty 500 ml white wine bottles on their table, and they were into a very loud game of cards. The wine-drinker was a visiting Swede, and I was reminded of the pair of ne’r-do-wells in “Fargo.”
Halfway into the ride, a 40-ish woman who had apparently met one of them in line for more drinks came to the table to join them. In no time at all, she was pulling down her jeans to show them her tattoo and piercings.
It may take a little longer, but I’m sticking with the train.