Friday, February 17, 2017

Amador Gets Stiffed

Interconnectability is a key ingredient in successful public transportation. Obviously, it gets people where they want to go. But it also increases ridership system wide. For example, someone from Jackson going to Sacramento first takes a bus from Jackson to the Sutter Hill Transit Center to depart for Sacramento. This incremental increase in ridership adds revenue and reduces subsidy. Our service to Sacramento connects to Sacramento’s light rail and buses, Amtrak and Capital Corridor trains and Yolo Bus to the airport. While the transfers necessary to reach the airport seem like a big hassle, they also are a bargain compared to long term parking fees at the airport. Since this attracts riders in addition to the regular riders, it’s something to encourage. Calaveras County is now connecting in Stockton to the Ace Express train over the Altamonte Pass to San Jose. This new service is being closely watched.

Amadorians have asked about service to Placerville and other locations, but especially to Greyhound in Sacramento. The powers that be in Sacramento didn’t want the Greyhound passenger-types mingling with the environmental generation commuters from Auburn. The lower income folks are now stranded up on Richards Blvd. Their Green Line light rail service ends at 7:30 pm along with some spotty bus service that ends at 9 pm. These connections to Amador Transit are cumbersome at best. For all these reasons, $68,000 of our transit and road funds are now going to a sadly, so but essential, consultant study.

This would not have been necessary if the Sacramento Valley/Amtrak Station project, a rushed through Obama stimulus project, had achieved its potential. Amador is one of about six counties that operate bus service into downtown Sacramento. They all follow different routes with inconvenient transferring, often on streets where watching the drunks stagger is the primary amusement. What if they all connected at the Sac Valley Station? Passengers would have a safe, indoor place to wait with restroom and food facilities. There could have been convenient one transfer access, often at nominal fares, to dozens of cities and other locations around Sacramento. But this didn’t happen.

I was on the station stakeholder’s committee and advocated the best I could, constrained by my position of representing Sacramento Regional Transit. My contributions to the pedestrian track access design were well received. But the committee had its own attitudes. While there were many black members, which wouldn’t have occurred a half century ago, it was OK for everyone there to make fun of the Sikh cabdrivers (does anything ever really change?). Casino buses serving primarily the Chinese community parked nearby. They weren’t welcome, either.

Further complicating the bus access situation is the lack of spaces for Sacramento buses. Many possible patrons were lost because of the excessive walking required between the commuter trains and the bus to their final destination. Next to the Sac Valley Station sits the federal courthouse. The esteemed judges did not want public buses stopping there. This was appealed and won, but Regional Transit’s leadership style was keep the peace and don’t ruffle feathers, so nothing changed. Personally, I would have written both Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein. I can just imagine Feinstein’s conversation chewing out those judges. And while those feasible additional bus stops would help, they wouldn’t compensate for the lost potential of this project. Nevertheless, the station renovation serves the desires of its favored constituents “…as a civic gathering point with offices, retail areas, a cafe and possibly even a rooftop cocktail lounge.”

Amador County, along with much of rural Northern California and also Sacramento urban area residents, are now stiffed for a half century or more. Where were the Greens? Many were tagging allegedly endangered frogs in some dangerously unrestored meadow in the high Sierra. Those in Central Sacramento were lobbying for bike lanes on congested streets. The Greens are often the first to lobby for transit subsidy, and seemingly the last to understand how to use those funds wisely.

Copyright 2017, Mark L. Bennett  

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