See the light

Light rail is the best way to ride—and I never want to set foot on it again.

Before I commence ranting: Let’s give it up for Regional Transit. The outfit operates on a paltry $134 million annual budget, yet somehow keeps the trains Mussolini. Just imagine if Congress actually taxed 1 percenters and invested in alternative transit: real jobs, nourished city economies and a helluva lot of cars off the roads. It’s at least a remote possibility under the current president. Mitt Romney, given the chance, would soon let the private sector gut light rail, control car to caboose.

I recently made a major change in my life and rejoined the 50,000 Sacramentans who take light rail each weekday. (No more car, bike stolen, long story.) I roll for just one stop, yet the fare for this short voyage is $2.50, the exact same price it costs to ride from Folsom to downtown. Which never made much sense: I took street trains in Germany and France and paid tiered rates based on distance traveled, not unlike BART.

Anyway, this is of course the least of RT’s problems. My route from downtown to Del Paso Boulevard, for instance, is surely the gnarliest five minutes in Sacramento. Over the past three years, I’ve witnessed tragedy (men and women so despondent they couldn’t even control their own bowels), criminality (rampant prescription-pill dealing) and nightmares (a mentally ill man screaming at kindergartners about a “murderer on the loose”).

Still, you can’t beat watching the sun rise over the American River through the train’s dirtied windows. Or sitting back and checking email instead of enduring commuter gridlock.

Hopefully, the new batch of leaders we elect Tuesday will see the light and invest in public transit.