Friday, August 27, 2010

Bus Stop Closed

"A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure."
- apocryphal, but routinely attributed to Margaret Thatcher

The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District recently put up a swank new web site, but all things considered, I really would've preferred to see that money go elsewhere. Into, uh, the transit, for instance. While I don't like to get on the soapbox — and, despite riding the bus and nothing else on a daily basis, "bus riders" is just about the last group I want to be affiliated with — none of Santa Barbara's many public transit issues had to do with an insufficiently impressive net presence.

I submit this three-point test for determining whether or not a city has acceptable public transportation in place:
  • Can you "just go" somewhere on it, spontaneously, without having to consult a map or timetable?
  • Can you show up to a stop and expect your means of conveyance to show up within the next fifteen minutes?
  • Can you use it to get back home from late-night goings-on?
Alas, the Santa Barbara bus system flubs all three. If you decide to "just go" somewhere, you can't be sure you're going to get there, and you really can't be sure you won't waste hours of your time waiting around in the process. And you'd better hope you're not trying to do any of this after 11:30, because you'll be waiting at least five hours for any bus at all. Or you'll pay, say, the $35 cab fare from the Mercury Lounge back downtown.

So despite the fact that I use Santa Barbara buses all the time, I can partially sympathize with all the people here who say to me, "Wow, how great that you can ride the bus! I so wish I could do that, but it'd just be impossible for me." (They're too important, you see.) I'd throw in with the cause of inconvenienced public transit-users, but I have sought for nearly eight years now to escape their ranks as soon as possible. (It's taking longer than I thought.)

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