Putting off Potential Riders

December 26, 2007

Most people who know me also know that I try really hard to make public transportation work for me. Since I live here in Nevada City, I rely on a combination of shuttles, trains, and bikes to get to and from my Krugle startup in Menlo Park.

Heck, I’ve even written about “The Perfect Train Ride” on the Krugle.com blog site.

But sometimes public transport makes it hard to be a supporter. This past Friday was a good example.

The Capitol Corridor train 532 was on-time, picking me up in Fremont at 12:49pm and arriving at Sacramento by 3:30pm. Unfortunately that train doesn’t continue to Auburn, so you wind up on the dreaded “motorcoach connection”, aka bus bingo.

Several of the connecting buses arriving in Sacramento were late, so there was some confusing shuffling of passengers between the available buses. The bus I was on, normally a straight shot to Auburn, wound up with passengers for Roseville. And we left the station 15 minutes late. And, of course, freeway traffic on Friday is always a mess.

Which meant we got to Auburn at 5:21pm, or exactly 1 minute after the Gold Country Stage shuttle bus left. The shuttle that’s supposed to wait for us in Auburn and take passengers to Grass Valley. Normal departure time is 5:15pm, so I guess we’d exceeded our grace period.

The Gold Country Stage dispatcher, a very nice woman, said that if they’d known the bus was nearby, they would have held the shuttle. I asked the Amtrak bus driver about this, and he said that they were two different systems, so there was “no way” to coordinate.


So now there are 10 passengers standing in the freezing cold, waiting for the next shuttle. This was scheduled for 6pm, but it’s a local, not express, so the ride to Grass Valley is a painful hour of touring the trailer parks along Highway 49.

However there had been an accident on Highway 49 earlier that day, so the 6pm shuttle was delayed by 40 minutes. And that meant the (now freezing, unhappy, will never take Amtrak again) passengers should have stayed in Sacramento and hopped on train #536, which arrives in Auburn at 6:30pm and connects to an express shuttle bus.

I pulled the rip cord and asked my wife to drive down and pick me up. But everybody else wound up arriving in Grass Valley more than an hour later. For the want of a phone call, a bus connection was missed. For the want of happy customers, passenger traffic targets were missed. And so on – just as all politics are local, so it seems that public transportation lives and dies by the actions of individuals.

So I’ll do my part, and post the Gold Country Stage dispatch number (that’s area code 530, 470-0103) on the steering wheel of every motorcoach connection bus.