Transit envy

When Chrisanne Beckner brought her idea for this week’s cover story to SN&R’s editorial staff, it provoked a lively discussion. Everyone’s got an opinion and at least one story about riding public transportation. Several carless staffers have in-your-face experiences riding public transit, where real life presents itself—ready or not.

One has been offered drugs and religious materials—though not at the same time—while riding. An editor was aboard when an old drunk tried to get passengers to join him in a rendition of James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good).” When that failed, he did a cappella version of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” Another recalls the lingering sting of judgment passed by fellow passengers each time she wheeled her shopping cart onto the light rail—a class distinction that’s absent whenever she climbs aboard suited up for work.

Now, I’m from Los Angeles, and I’ve spent half a lifetime driving alone in cars. I’ve got to confess to having a bit of transit envy after hearing some of the stories. Buses and trains, with all that diverse life going on, just sound a hell of a lot more interesting than driving alone cocooned in my car listening to books on CD.

Beckner and SN&R photographer Larry Dalton recently spent time traveling on Sacramento’s transit system and brought back even more fascinating stories. In “Transit tales” you’ll meet a gorgeous young black man sweet-talking his girl on the phone, a woman in recovery who rides in search of other addicts “to take under her wing,” a gaggle of teenagers shifting aboard the bus like “water in a boiling pot,” a bus driver who takes extra time to help, families who ride together, strangers who form makeshift families, plus some dangerous and unstable characters as well.

SN&R staffers report that it’s not always easy to get where you’re going on public transit in Sacramento. But with 94 percent of Sacramentans putting traffic congestion at the top of their list of concerns, according to CSUS’s Annual Survey of the Region, more of you might think about getting on board to ease the situation. Besides, just look at the stories you’d get in return.