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Everybody repeat after me: when the people lead, the leaders will follow

4 Mar

My husband and I travel a lot these days, gotta keep up with the kids and the relatives. I always know I’m in Chico when I wake up to the train whistle. We have a friend who likes to take the train from her home town in SoCal up to see her kids in Portland, it goes right through Chico, about 4:30 am, without stopping. Amtrak has a bus that will take you from LA to Chico, a 12 hour hell trip that leaves you standing at the Chico Depot at 9:25 pm. $70.50, one way. Two transfers – they kick you off the first bus in Bakersfield, then again in Stockton.

Having rode Greyhound as a kid, here’s my advice – don’t move an inch from the station, just get your bag and get the hell to that next bus. If you miss that transfer you’ll be waiting for hours, in a seat that will compel you to throw away your pants. No, I don’t know if there’s a bathroom on the bus, but I sure as hell wouldn’t use the one at the station if I were you.

Here’s where you end up in Chico – “Amtrak Train Station ChicoCA has a platform only, no shelter, without Wi-Fi, with parking, with accessible platform and no wheelchair available.” Sounds cozy! But no, I wouldn’t leave my car parked in that neighborhood – at all – and since there’s no busses at that time, and you’d be an idiot to ride a bike in this town at 9:30 pm, crazy to walk, you better have a ride lined up. I’ve heard Uber is expensive, and we’ve all heard the stories about who is driving. I don’t even know if you can get a taxi in Chico anymore. Don’t call me because I’ll be asleep.

So talk of a train directly to North Sacramento, where you can catch an express bus to the Sacramento International Airport, caught my attention. It also raises some questions in my mind – first of all, how will Chico pay for a new depot? You know they will have to put tax money forward to get this deal, just like the millions in “guarantee” money they are paying to get an airline. Second, what will this mean to the Chico Airport? More money to prop up an airport that can’t get air service without millions in guarantee money, just so people will be taking the train to a much better airport with more services and flights in Sac-o-tomatoes?

None of this interests me personally because I travel with my dog. Not to mention every horrible plane and train crash I’ve ever heard of. Just think if they hadn’t stopped the Amtrak passenger train in time when the Edgar Slough trestle was set on fire a while back. People most certainly would have been injured. And I just heard a story about turbulence over Appalachia that made me renew my vow to never fly again. All that particulate vomit spraying around – and I got a good look at the food they serve – HARD NO!

For years now I’ve sat in on various conversations about funding public transportation, but most importantly, getting people to use it. See, they want the grant funding to pay salaries and benefits for agencies like BCAG – Butte County Association of Governments. In order to pay the bureaucrat salaries and benefits, they’ve hitched their wagons to grants. It’s like cocaine – grants have to be matched, and if the agency doesn’t have that money on hand, it’s a loan, and there’s interest. Think about everything you’ve tried to teach your kids about debt, and then look at your government.

They want us on public transportation so they can mainline grant money. Cars are unpopular now, especially in California. So they continue to ignore the roads, knowing people get frustrated with traffic back-ups. They think they can force us into public transportation – one ride on public transportation and most people wish they were sitting in their car in a traffic jam.

I’ll say, while my friend from SoCal enjoys the more scenic parts of her train ride (starting about Redding), she doesn’t enjoy the various bus transfers she has to endure in the south, leaving her miles from home with a late night drive. She only does it because the nearly 24 hour car drive is too onerous for one person. It’s an “either or” situation. I believe California could do better, but you know, it really matters who is in charge. And at this point, CalPERS is in charge, and the people who make the decisions are beholden to CalPERS.

It’s a “dick in a mousetrap” situation, I say, snap that sucka!