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more rail, less railing

By enelson
Tuesday, August 15th, 2006 at 11:15 pm in BART, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Funding, rail, Transit vs. driving.

working on the railroad.jpgI was heartened to learn recently that one of CC’s avid readers and de-facto editors doesn’t commute any farther than his den each day. Talk about the sound of one hand clapping. Telecommuting is the Nirvana (spiritually, not musically) of the transportation universe. Highway maintenance, subway crime, bus service subsidies — all these problems would go away if everybody would just  stay at home.

It must be nice to read about others’ suffering while sitting in one’s bathrobe, earning a real income.

But I’ve been there, and frankly, I would rather be sharing airborne pathogens with my fellow travelers than sit alone all day, a few steps from the fridge.

Now that doesn’t mean one can’t simplify. I’ve very nearly parked my car for good, eliminating much of the stress of commuting. As I type, I’m feeling the grinding of metal wheels on curved track along the bay shore near Pinole.

As faithful readers may already know, I’ve been riding the rails of the Capitol Corridor, run by Amtrak, every day, getting off in Richmond and BARTing it to downtown Oakland. That gives me plenty of time to read various newspapers, eat, grab a Hefeweizen (for those of you who read the beer blog) and unwind after stressing over missing my 6 p.m. deadline. Such activities at 75 on I-80 could easily result in death or serious injuries, not to mention jail time.

This month, I decided to simplify my life yet again.

Jumping off the train at Richmond to catch BART is certainly convenient, but it posed two problems. One, it required waiting on the Amtrak platform, exposed to the elements and the odd panhandler for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, thanks to freight traffic and trackside homicide investigations. Two, it involves an outlay of BART fare that quickly adds up, even with the 20-percent discount BART farecards sold aboard the Capitol Corridor.

At the normal $2.30 fare, my reliable 24-minute BART ride, which takes me to the very block whereupon I work, would cost $96.60 for the month of September. With my $8 BART cards worth $10 in fares, it costs me $77.28 for the 21-workday month, so long as I faithfully cash in the 80-cent remainder cards at the little booth in the 12th Street Oakland station.

Then I figured out that if I took the Corridor train all the way to Oakland, it would cost me only 69 cents, plus I get a free AC Transit pass from the Amtrak conductors.

So I’ve decided to eliminate BART from my commute, with apologies to Linton Johnson, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system’s celebrity spokesman.

That means I sit on the train for 22 more minutes (unless theres’s an all-too-often unscheduled delay), but need to rely on my bicycle or the free bus transfer for the extra 14 blocks that BART would spare me. The bike ride takes 5 minutes, which is less than I could expect to wait for the bus, which drops me a block from work.

Now you’re probably asking, “what’s in it for me, who reads your newspaper and doesn’t live way out wherever?’’Cap Corr platform.jpg

The answer, if you’re commuting to San Jose, is that the Capitol Corridor is scheduled to begin something resembling regular service all down the East Bay, plus extra trips out my way. That means people in Oakland, Hayward, Fremont and intervening communities will get a fighting chance to commute into Silicon Valley long before Santa Clara County figures out how to come up with the billions needed to run BART south of Warm Springs.

That’s three more trips each day to San Jose, added to the three already on the schedule, and no more of those horribly slow Amtrak buses. That means getting from Jack London Square to downtown San Jose in an hour and 12 minutes, arriving at 7:35, 8:35 and 10:10 in the morning and departing for the East Bay at 3, 4:20, 5:50 and 7:15 each afternoon and evening. I’m thinking that a lot of people wouldn’t mind doing that and avoiding I-880’s infamous snarls.

But what do I know? I’m nearly home and have gotten so wrapped up in my work that I haven’t had time for a Hefeweizen

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One Response to “more rail, less railing”

  1. FTSandy Says:

    Hey, that’s me in your lede! (At least I think so.) Thanks.

    Apropos to something beyond my newfound celebrity: Improved Capital Corridor TRAIN service to San Jose would be a wonderful thing. My wife doesn’t drive but occasionally wants to visit with her former Silicon Valley coworkers, and has been left stranded by the Amtrak buses more than once (due to waiting at the wrong place or other problems that are common to infrequent or newbie riders.

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