Off the bus

Once, there was a Greyhound bus. As the bus rolled west, people got on and off, drifting in and out of the little club that formed in the back. They passed around smokes—you could smoke on the back of the bus in those days—and stories, and other stuff to help pass the time.

This was all a very big deal for Bites, headed to California for the first time, wide-eyed and loving every one those 2,500 miles.

Bites was not yet Bites, of course, not for a long time to come, had in fact only been bylined in one publication, printed at a copy shop and distributed surreptitiously from the bottom of a high-school locker.

After almost three days, Bites put the first foot down in California. Somebody said it was downtown Sacramento.

The Greyhound station at Seventh and L streets and all the hotels around had a vintage look. There weren’t a lot of skyscrapers in this downtown, but there was the gleaming Capitol building, the trees, people bustling around and not a cloud in the sky. Probably there were winos, but Bites didn’t notice. That afternoon, downtown Sacramento looked pretty great.

Of course, there was a lot more of California, and a lot more of America, to see. And the Hound was home for many months. Bites must have crossed the country five times in this period, mostly by Greyhound. Somewhere in the middle of these travels, the bus company banned smoking on interstate bus trips.

Years later, a bunch of important people in Sacramento got together to shun Greyhound from downtown. Last week, they cut the ribbon at a new station, a temporary structure, wedged in between a bunch of warehouses, a police station and the shopping-cart rodeo outside a nearby homeless shelter. Not a great first impression of Sacramento, but things change.

The old station was built for Greyhound at time when bus travel, and bus travelers, were held in better regard. There are a lot of reasons for shutting it down, many involving winos, Bites supposes. Any important person around here will probably be happy to tell you the reasons at some length. But for Bites, the old station at Seventh and L will always be the gateway to California.

Speaking of long, strange bus trips, Mayor Kevin Johnson and his merry band took their Think Big Sacramento show on the road last week.

The bus tour was of course part of the effort to drum up public support for public subsidies for a new Kings arena, and the Big kids unveiled yet another study—the “Capitol Corridor Impact Report”—which shows that most of the patrons at Arco Arena over the last few years have been from outside the city of Sacramento.

Nothing we didn’t know there, but Bites supposes the idea is to show a new NBA arena will be an asset for the whole region, and so the whole region should want to help pay for it.

Still, Bites wonders if this is really the smartest thing to emphasize.

The booster club’s own math shows a new arena isn’t really going to generate much new spending. And Think Big’s “Economic Engine Report” from a few weeks back shows that the biggest impact will be right around the site of a new facility.

Taken together, the two reports suggest that a new arena will simply scoop money from Roseville and Folsom and Natomas, etc., and funnel it into downtown Sacramento.

As a general rule, Bites is all for that. But out in the burbs, where the word regionalism is often translated as “redistribution of wealth,” Bites can’t imagine they’ll be on board.