Bus Ride to Martinez

The Amtrak Bus was about 10 minutes late. The driver, an older, greying, cigarette smoking lady said not to worry about it. We would probably get to Martinez early. I learned from a lady with a service dog that the bus would be full because she had had a hard time getting a reservation. Apparently holiday travel and Humboldt College students were the cause. With the bus being full I asked the bus driver if she was expecting any handicapped people boarding because those reserved seats were empty. She said no so I sat in one of those reserved seats.

Did I feel guilty? No because I could always move. Allergy season has started. A couple of passengers and the driver were hacking the whole trip. A little irritating. I found out that the bus had wifi which was a first for me. I learned from my sister that my mothers surgery for this morning was a go.

The bus takes you down Highway 101. There's plenty of nice scenery along the way and traffic isn't bad until you get to Santa Rosa where they take you through downtown.

Note that most of the pictures are going to be poor because I'm using my IPad Mini, shooting thru glass, and I'm moving.

Rohnert Park and Petaluma came next. Both are big cities with lot's of traffic and stoplights. We don't have many stoplights in Mendocino County. I was happy to have a bus driver navigate these streets. Don't think I could handle it anymore.

Witnessed the bus driver getting mad at several people spending to much time saying goodbyes to relatives or girlfriends. Has a schedule to keep. Leaving Petaluma I had someone sitting next to me. He was quiet and was reading a book on Chilies(?). Two women in front of us were talkers. I know their whole life stories. How many kids they have and the many places they've lived. Even where they have fished.

After Petaluma we left 101 and veered off towards Napa (Route 37) where the scenery changed.

For a birdwatcher there were plenty of ducks, herons, and shorebirds to look at in the many bodies of water and marshes along the way. Route 37 takes you into Vallejo and Highway 80. I've driven 80 and it wasn't fun.

A form of transportation you won't get me on is this thing at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.


From 80 we went on Highway 780 then to 680 and after that I don't know where we were until downtown Martinez and the Amtrak Train Station. The bus driver was right. We were early.

Ok! Word of advice. If you are wanting to use the restrooms at the train depot you will need one of these little tokens.

If you can wait until the train use the restrooms on it. The men's restroom was in a state of disrepair. One of the stalls was out of order, down to one urinal, one sink and the blow dryer didn't work. Makes a bad impression when thinking about Amtrak.


So Easy Even a Dog Can Do it!

Back in June of 2013 I wrote an article titled, So Easy Even a Blind Person can Do it. It was about a Mendocino woman, Judy and her guide dog Jammie, riding the local Mendocino Transit Authority buses. This week several of my sources picked up the story of Eclipse a two-year-old black lab-mastiff mix who knows how to take a Seattle Transit bus three stops to a downtown dog park … by herself.

The dog lives right near the bus stop at 3 Ave. W. and W. Mercer Street. Eclipse’s solo rush hour ride happened one day when her owner took too long to finish a cigarette.

“We get separated. She gets on the bus without me, and I catch up with her at the dog park,” said Jeff Young, who owns the dog. “It’s not hard to get on. She gets on in front of her house and she gets off at the dog park, three or four stops later.”

So do you think you are smarter then a dog? Let me know.

Still Don’t Know How These Things Happen!

I still don't know how these things happen. This morning I was looking at my blogging “stats” (something we bloggers do compulsively) and noticed that I had a surge in viewers this morning. There were 15 views from the United Kingdom and 1 from South Africa. It has since gone up to 17 views from the United Kingdom and added a view from the United States. The strange thing was they were all viewing just one post from last year. That post is, “Psychology of Bus Riding Part Four–How Not to Sit Next to the Weirdo“.

I enjoyed researching and writing that post. It featured me as the weirdo on the bus and holds up well. Don't know how many of the links still work (blogger's nightmare) but I take satisfaction in a post well done.

I spent about 10 minutes trying to find out if I could find the post in a search of the Internet. Could not find it by typing in “How Not to Sit Next to the Weirdo” but typing in the full title located it. It's a weird feeling knowing that you are out there in the “tubes”:>)

So did someone find my post and pass it on to their friends? My wife suggested that a viewed post is like a missed phone call where no message is left. You never know the reason for the call/view.

As I'm writing this post I now have 18 views from the United Kingdom. Like I said we check our “stats” compulsively. Something is going on. Now up to 19!! Please leave a comment.

I ended the Psychology of Bus Riding post with a YouTube video of a group called “The Drastics” doing their “Weirdos on the Bus” song. I thought that was an amusing ending. Maybe something was going on with “The Drastics” that caused some searching on the Internet. The Drastics were a punk band in Bradford, England. They are now reformed as “Mammoth Tank”. The only thing I could find on them is they are looking for a bass player. By the way there is a Chicago reggae (dub) band called “The Drastics”.

So I might never know what caused the surge in viewers. Some thing's are a mystery. Another mystery is figuring out why I'm going to end this post with the Drastics again. Enjoy.


Now up to 24 United Kingdom, 2 United States and 1 South Africa.

What a Week-MTA is Raising My Bus Fare & They’re Cutting Down the Redwoods!


The end of last week was a busy time for me. The Mendocino Transit Authority(MTA) has been proposing a fare increase for several months. Their reason’s for the increase was a shortfall of $200,000 and a low fare box ratio. The fare box ration is determined by fares collected divided by operating costs. This ratio has fallen below 15% which is a magic number. If you drop below it you set off bells and whistles and the bus system would go on probation and could lose funding from various transportation agencies therebye forcing reduced services. The MTA was asking for a 20% increase for all fares.

The MTA has not raised fares since June of 2010, over 4 years ago. I was not riding the bus at that time so this was my first experience with a rate hike. The first MTA Board meeting to address the fare increase was on April 24th. I had been hearing from the drivers about the meeting. I could not attend that day but enough public comment was received that a ad hoc committee was formed to clarify and make adjustments to the various rates they charge. This last Thursday, May 29th, I was able to attend after my SOS Survey at Virgin Creek Beach. 

The board meeting takes place in two places, Ukiah and Fort Bragg. It is “Vide-Conferenced” so you see a bunch of people who are over in Ukiah on a TV in front of us here in Fort Bragg. I was in high company at the Fort Bragg part. There was Dan Gjerde, a Mendocino County Supervisior and a bike rider, Meg Courtney, a Fort Bragg council member, and Dan Baxter, MTA’s General Manager. Word got out that the blogging guy who used the bus to do a “green” birding year was in the house. Mr. Baxter mentioned that my five part series on the “Psychology of Bus Riding” was well worth reading. 

During the public hearing on the fare increases a new rate structure was announced which had some rates raised less than 20% and some were more than 20%. Bottom line as far as my rates were concerned is that my Senior 16 punch pass would cost me $8.50 instead of $7.50, a dollar increase. That means that my fare for a “round trip” from Mendocino to Fort Bragg  will cost me $1.06 up from .94¢. A trip over to Ukiah round trip will be $5.20 instead of $5.00.

I spoke in favor of the rate increase basing my opinion on not wanting a reduction in service (we have already lost Saturday buses here on the coast) and actually wanting an increase in services to make it easier for people to use the bus and get their cars off the rode. I spoke of the need for a bus going to the south coast of Mendocino in the morning so that people could get there and back in a day instead of two.

I had to leave before the meeting ended. I told them the “public” had to catch a bus.

On June 3rd, I noticed that I got 40 hits on my blog, most of which were for my “Psychology of Bus Riding” series. The MTA had linked to my blog on their Facebook page. It pays to be involved.

On Friday I attended a public tour of a planned logging harvest at the Little River Airport. North of the airport on county property there is an old growth Redwood Forest. The county has logged the area in the pass but doesn’t clear cut and has mostly left the “core” of the Redwood area alone. The logging area is pictured below. The orange arrow points to near my house.

There were ten of us in the tour. Included were Linda Perkins and her husband Bill of the Sierra Club, Tim Bray of Audubon, the Register Professional Forester, Roger Sternberg, Bob Morgan, with the county, myself and 4 other public members.

We were given a handout listing what was planned and who (many of the names I knew) was involved. 59 plant species were found with 6 identified as sensitive and special mitigation required for Bolander Pine, Pygmy Cypress, and California Sedge. 39 bird species were identified with Cooper’s Hawk, Purple Martin, Northern Harrier being on the “California Bird Species of Special Concern” list. I told him to add Olive-sided Flycatcher which is common at the airport and was observed during the tour. Two years of Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet surveys still needed to be finalized before logging could start. I think we added a bird during our tour when two Gray Jays flew in looking for a handout. They have been rare this year and I’ve never seen them at the airport. 

The area that’s going to be logged is not a part of my weekly bird walks at the airport so I was surprised to learn that there were five class ll and five class lll watercourses on the site. We visited a running creek (stream).

We were told that a whole knoll of trees would be cut because it was in the safety profile for the airport and the FAA Regulations ruled. Picture the airport as a football field–open at the ends and the seats gradually getting higher on the sides and you will get an idea of this profile. 

Also learned that there had been several plane crashes at the airport. I glad that where I live is in the airport noise abatement area with few flights over my house. It did remind me of my flight lessons in 1973 at the Torrance CA Airport when practicing touch and goes. My instructor, just as we were about to touch ground, said, “oops” as we bounced a few feet back into the air.

I have great confidence that the harvest plan will be a good one. Seeing the back and forth between Linda Perkins and the forester I realized that Linda knows what she’s doing.


You Have Got to Watch This!!!

I came upon this video on the Grist Website. I don’t normally get excited about bus shelters but this one is fantastic. How can a bus shelter be fantastic you say?? Watch the video and find out.

Your welcome!!

I’ve sent this on to the Mendocino Transit Authority for their amusement.


P.S. In no way is this an endorsement for Pepsi Max. Water is your friend.

Public Transit Usage Is at Its Highest Level in More than Fifty Years

Public Transit Usage Is at Its Highest Level in More than Fifty Years

That’s the headline in a “Wired” article that you can find here

“A new report from the American Public Transportation Association released on Monday puts the level of public transportation users at its highest since 1956. More than 10.65 billion passenger trips were taken last year.

One of the conclusions drawn from the report’s data refutes the idea that public transit use rises and falls in response to factors such as gas prices and population growth. The previous high water mark since the ’50s was 2008 (10.59 billion rides), but gas prices were higher then than they are now.”

A ThinkProgess article goes into the issue in more depth. They link to another report and state, “Americans aren’t just taking public transit more often, however. They’re also driving less, according to a 2013 report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The report found that the amount of miles driven per person has dropped in 46 states since 2007, with Washington, D.C. residents driving the least and young people across the country driving less than older generations.”

You can find both reports here and here.

Photo by: Frank Roche

President Obama has a good transportation plan but has to find funding for it. This Grist article explains what’s in it and how you could fund it.

This Mashable article might explain why more people are riding public transportation. It’s titled, “11 Celebrities Using Public Transportation Just Like You.” I must confess that I don’t know who all these celebrities are but the ones I know about are pretty big.

Photo by: Image: @jamierobb92 on Instagram



A Small Personal Success Story

I have mentioned several times that the Mendocino Transit Authority’s (MTA) policy of not being able to take bikes on their bike racks in certain areas of Ukiah because of tight turns wasn’t publicized in either their bus schedules or on their website. I   attended a board meeting on November 21st and mentioned this fact. This morning I went to their website and took this screenshot .


I like it when someone listens to me. A small success story.