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railing against the darkness in Sacramento

By enelson
Thursday, December 20th, 2007 at 9:36 pm in AC Transit, Amtrak, BART, Bicycling, Buses, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, Fare systems, high-speed rail, light rail, parking, rail, taxicabs, Transit vs. driving.

wet-capitol-light-rail.jpgOnce again, I feel compelled to share my mis- fortunes at the expense of revealing my stupidity. I have to believe that there are others who regularly miss buses and have to drive an extra 15 miles to retrieve a forgotten mobile phone.

Perhaps it was my punishment for doubting that high-speed rail would ever be built in my lifetime. Perhaps it was what I deserve for not believing that people will all switch to public transit if only it were more convenient.

Or perhaps it was ignoring the sign in front of the Sacramento parking garage that said it closed at 7 p.m.

So I was in a hurry to get to the High-Speed Rail Authority board meeting where the board decided not to decide, thus deciding on a South Bay route for high-speed rail, which will improve the lives of millions of Californians and will be coming to a stop near you very soon, geologically speaking. Unless you live in Oakland, from which the 200+ mph service will be a short BART ride away.

The lot I normally use was full, and I assure you that lot is open until the bars close. So I’d gotten a ride to the garage in question last night, got dropped off and found my car was on the wrong side of steel gates.

Of course, this was no major setback, especially considering that I live in a peaceful Central Valley enclave not 20 minutes from the center of state government.

That’s 20 minutes by car, of course.

Luckily, the light rail tracks are only a half-block from the garage, and I was soon buying a $2 ticket, planning to go to the Amtrak Station and take the very familiar Capitol Corridor home.

Now here’s where you AC Transit devotees need to pay attention: I called Amtrak’s automated train information line, told it I wanted to leave sometime after 8 p.m.

Ahh. That’s better. Now I’m on the train heading home at 7:03 p.m. today.

Back to last night: I’m on the phone asking Julie, the automated Amtrak information voice, when the next train leaves Sacramento.

“I found two possible buses,’’ she tells me, the first of which leaves at 9:05 p.m., nearly an hour later.

BUSES? Knowing the Capitol Corridor, I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I’m used to there being a 9:20 p.m. train leaving Oakland (nearly always with less than a busload of passengers) to go the other direction.

If I’m going to take a bus, I might as well use one run by an actual bus service and costs $6 less. I called my county bus agency, and they said the next bus was leaving at 8:35.

So my $2 light rail ride, which had already commenced by the time I found out about the bus, took me about six blocks, so I could backtrack two blocks to the bus stop.

And although the bus was to arrive much earlier, there was still time to pop in at the hacks’ and flaks’ favorite watering hole and have a beer and rest stop beforehand.

The bus stop was right in front of an office building awning, so I could escape the rain, especially nice when your ski jacket is locked in a car that’s locked in a garage.

Forty-five minutes later, I was catching a cab for the remainder of my soggy ride home.

So I’m home, but my car’s in the garage.

“Remember, you can’t drive the other car to get it,” my wife volunteered.

I admit I’m stupid, but…

No, I’d ride my bike to the local park ‘n’ ride, catch the first bus back to Sacramento (5:57 a.m. with bike rack), ride the eight blocks from the bus stop and drive back.

The rain, however, wouldn’t cooperate, so in a way, I did exactly what my wife said not to do. I drove our second car to the park ‘n’ ride, caught the bus with not a second to spare (why does this always happen to me?).

As of this writing, I’m heading back to the Valley with my bike, which I’m going to finally pedal to the park ‘n’ ride to retrieve car No. 1 and drive home.

Equipped with a rain slicker this morning, I walked to the garage, aroused the attendant and asked if there was an extra overnight charge. He told me there was, but he’d let me slide.

“Just pay the $20,” which was yesterday’s fee, and I’d be on my way.

Walking up the stairs to the car, I wondered if I had $20.

“There’s a coffee shop around the corner, and right past it, an ATM,” the attendant told me after affirming my assumption that cash would be required.

On my way back, I thought I’d need a latte to get me to work in Oakland, and picked up a second for the attendant.

“That’s very kind of you,” he said, as I handed him the cup. “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas,” I replied and set off to work just as the rain tapered off.

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