Fun Things You Can do Using the Bus!

This is going to come as a shock to some of you but in July I will qualify for a “full” Social Security retirement. Yes I know, I don't look that old!!! They say that you should apply 3 months in advance so I set up an appointment to go over to the Social Security Administration office in Ukiah. Wanted to get this done before the Republicans in Congress screw up Social Security. Most people would get into their cars and drive the over 100 mile round trip fighting the twist and turns and traffic on Highway 20 or Highway 128. You would get home drained and tired. As you can guess that wasn't my choice. I called MTA the day before my appointment and scheduled an early pickup in Mendocino at 7:00AM to get me to the Boatyard in Fort Bragg for the CC Rider's 7:30AM leaving time heading to Ukiah and beyond. Everything went well and I arrived in Ukiah a hour early for my appointment. The SSA Office was only half a block away so I had to kill some time. Had two choices, McDonalds or Starbucks. Normally I would have preferred Starbucks but McDonalds was closer and they also had wifi so I went there and had a mocha and checked my emails. Bob the bus driver was there taking his break so we talked about retirement. Bob is in his 70's and already has a couple of retirements to his credit. I also consider Bob to be the best MTA driver, technically, that I've ridden with. He's smooth!!

After killing the needed time I walked down the street to my appointment.

When I was delivering mail in Chico, CA, my last carrier job included delivering mail to the SSA Office there. It was like a small fortified building with only a face, mostly female, behind a little window. Never needed to be beeped in. The Ukiah building was a little better but they still had an armed security guard that asked me to show him my pocketknife and went through my backpack. My Swiss Army knife passed muster and I was allowed to check in. You can apply for retirement over the phone or on the internet but eventually they need to see certain documents. I'm glad I went in person. If and when you make an appointment ask them what documents they need to see. The appointment letter they send you to confirm your appointment was a little short on that information. My appointment was on time and I had a wonderful application person. Maria was a little surprised that I had everything I needed. After much typing on a computer and my swearing under oath that everything was truthful she asked me when I officially wanted to start receiving benefits. I told her that July would be the time for a full retirement payment. This is where I was glad that I went in person. Maria explained that if I started this “month” my payments would only be $2 different then if I started in July and I would get three months of retirement benefits before July. I later figured that I would have to live at least 15 more years for that $2 to factor in.

I must explain that because of my limited civilian employment and my civil service pension, I am covered by the Windfall Elimination Provision(WEP) which reduces my benefits by over half. My monthly check will just about cover my beer and birdseed needs. In fact my wife will collect more then me from my benefits. Will not be driving a Tesla or even a Nissan Leaf anytime soon.

After leaving the SSA building I felt that things went so well that I would take the time and have a sit down lunch instead of my usual Subway fare. I had plan to recycle old ink cartridges at Staples so I took the Nine (that's what they call the bus that drives around Ukiah) over to the shopping center where Stapes is located. I did my thing there and walked down a short ways to the Alley Grill. Noticed that they had beer on tap and wifi. Since I wasn't driving I decided to have the Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich(excellent) and a glass of a Belgian White Beer.

Checked my emails and found out people were looking for me. Confirmed some scheduled Big River Spring Bird Survey dates and times. Found out I was approved by California Fish and Wildlife to work on another Mendocino Land Trust project. Outside the Grill I noticed a woman walking by (I knew her walk before I recognized her) that used to work in the office at the Woods where I live. We had a nice chat. I walked around the shopping center and then back to the bus stop. Noticed a women coming out of Walmart with some potted vegetables which gave me the idea of getting some vegetable starts that I could kill. Took the Nine back to the Pear Tree Shopping Center where I had a scoop of the flavor of the month, Cream Brùlée (not impressed), at Baskin Robbin's and then walked over to Home Depot and bought three different varieties of tomatoes, zucchini, and basil in hopes that something will survive in our coastal climate. The cashier provided me with a carton to carry them on the bus. Walked across the street for a short wait for MTA's route 75 to take me back to the coast. The trip back went smoothly. There were no released people from the county jail but there was Bob. Bob works for the local radio station(KZYX) in Philo. Bob is an expert on everything and is willing to share his opinion with anyone. I've ridden with him before. Bob! We did not go to war with Russia over Syria!!! This time it was the marijuana market locally and nationally. He might be an expert on this subject because he sometimes smells of the subject matter. In any case Bob, the rock group, The Eagles, had a song you should take to heart, Learn To Be Still.

Bert, the bus driver, made a statement just before we arrived at our break stop at the Navarro Store. He said the women should go inside and ask to use the “regular” toilet if needed. The men were limited to the blue boxes outside. I said that that was a sexist remark. No one I know, male or female, likes to use the “blue” box toilets.

Arrived back in Mendocino well rested And my vegetables still intact. Costs for the trip–A small mocha was $2.39. A sandwich and beer was $14.06. A single scoop of ice cream was over $3. Veggies were under $10. The big bargain was a round trip bus ride to Ukiah and back for $7.70. You can't beat that.

 

 

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A Cute Dog Picture

 

AAH! I've been meaning to use this picture for sometime. I know it's just a cheap trick to suck you into another public transportation post but since I've been on the subject lately I thought I would do a general follow up.

If a cute dog picture doesn't get you interested maybe for the ladies, Ryan Gosling?

If all else fails how about people in their underwear?

I wrote about this event back on January 15, 2014, under the title We Don't Do This In Mendocino. We still don't do this in Mendocino but there was one passenger who seemed to be in their pajamas. The No Pants Subway Rides started in 2002 with just 7 participants.

On Sunday, January 11th, 2015 tens of thousands of people took off their pants on subways in over 60 cities in over 25 countries around the world. In New York, our 14th Annual No Pants Subway Ride had over 4,000 participants, spread out over seven meeting points and eleven subway lines.

Check out the video (second one down) of the first event on their history page. Notice the title of the book the woman was reading.

Speaking about Mendocino–I discovered a YouTube video produced by the Mendocino Transit Authority. In talking about it with the local supervisor and bus drivers none of them had seen it. This might be the first public viewing for them.

I was reading the local paper back on November 13, 2014 when I notice a picture of a woman that looked familiar. It was a feature titled, Way Back When. Sure enough, it was Cheryl, my favorite MTA bus driver.

Since I've just been on a trip using Amtrak let's link to several stories Grist.org did on using Amtrak to move from Boston to Oakland. The stories were done by Heather Smith. Part one is called, Amtrak wait? Blame the freight. It explains the reasons why the Amtrak Train is almost always late, sometimes excessively. Part two is called, Why Americans love to hate the train — and always have. In it Heather gives you the history of our railway system and where it went wrong. Part three is called, Rumors of the death of the train station have been greatly exaggerated. The history of train stations is explored in this part. I believe the pictures are by Heather. The first one is Chicago's Union Station and the second is Denver's train station. She also talks about transferring to the California Zephyr, number 5 In National Geographic's 10 best train trips in North America.

Part four is the final article. It's called, At continent’s edge, a rail epic concludes, pursued by tank cars. In this article she concludes her trip with a discussion of conversations on trains and the dangers of oil-by-rail.

Like my articles on my Amtrak trip, sometimes it makes taking the train seem like a pain in the ass. It is more like an adventure but you do have to weigh the advantages to the environment. Take for instance this Forbe's article called, The Most Efficient Mode Of Transportation In America Isn't A Prius — It's A Train. The new documentary, Transforming America, tells about the differences between our passenger rail system versus Europe's.

There is no doubt that Americans live in a car culture. Many U.S. citizens don't know what it would be like to live in a train culture.

The population of the U.S. is on track to add over 100 million people to the country by the year 2050. Airports and highways are already over crowded.

I for one like train travel and will leave the subject of Amtrak with this fact–“Last year Amtrak announced their 10th annual ridership record in 11 years, carrying 31.6 million passengers. Amtrak’s ridership is growing faster than any other major form of travel.”

Let's go on to buses.

A Danish mass transit solutions company, Midttrafik, is trying to make bus riding sexy with a couple of videos.

We don't see ads like these in,this county. Maybe we should. Technology is changing your typical bus. Some headlines and some links below.

Electric Buses Being Tested Around the World Pleasing Passengers and Environment.

BYD's All-Elecric Bus Sets a New Record with 200 Mile Journey Around Copenhagen.

First Battery-Powered Bus Transport 135,000 Passengers in 10 Days.

Electric Bus Breaks World Record by Traveling 700 Miles in One Day. Note that they charged it during the day.

This poo-powered Bus Runs on Regular as Long as You do.

So what happens to used buses? It turns out you can get them cheap. They are sold at auctions and even on EBay to other agencies and people. These old buses in San Francisco are being put to a good use by providing shower facilities to the homeless.

LavaMae’s first mobile shower bus launched last weekend. CREDIT: KENA FRANK

At this site you can check out pictures of old subway car being dumped into the Atlantic Ocean to create artificial Reefs.

So who loves public transportation and who doesn't. It use to be a nonpartisan issue but not any longer. I found two articles that explains why the right doesn't love public transportation. One article has the very catchy title of, Why Do Conservatives Hate Public Transit.

The transportation bill moving through the House eliminates the provision that dedicates to mass transit 20 percent of monies from the gas-tax supported Highway Trust Fund — an arrangement that has been in place since Ronald Reagan was president. It also slashes support for high-speed rail projects, cuts subsidies to Amtrak, and eliminates designated funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure as well as the “Safe Routes to School” program.

The other is called, Off the Rails.

What, exactly, do Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians have against trains? Seriously, what? Why did President George W. Bush try to zero out Amtrak funding in 2005? Why is the conservative Republican Study Committee suggesting that we do so now? Why does George Will think “the real reason for progressives' passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans' individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism”?

There have recently been several reports that the Koch Brothers and their partner networks have come out against transit projects.

But last Wednesday, some 50 anti-government groups, including Koch brothers front group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and other recipients of the Kochs’ largesse such as Freedom Partners, sent a letter to Congress calling on it to oppose any increase in the federal gasoline tax. Among their chief complaints, “Washington continues to spend federal dollars on projects that have nothing to do with roads like bike paths and transit.”

It’s part of the right-wing and Koch network’s coordinated national attack on transit…the Kochs are going after transit in local referenda. Local AFP chapters have been leading the charge against transit expansions in regions like Indianapolis and Nashville. Last month, Urban Milwaukee reported AFP is trying to block a streetcar project. And Randall O’Toole, the anti-transit flunky at the Koch-funded Cato Institute is arguing against a new line on D.C.’s metro that would link the urbanizing inner-ring Maryland suburbs.

Where does funding for public transportation come from? It varies. The farebox revenue is the first thing that comes to mind. Fares are generally the smallest part of the funding. Here in Mendocino County the state requires the MTA to have at least a 14.7% farebox recovery rate.

Where does the rest of the money come from? Taxes, the types and amounts of which differ from region to region. In the United States, the most common form of taxation for transit is the sales tax. In states as ideologically diverse as California, Texas, and Washington, state wide sales taxes provide the lions share of transit subsidies.

At the federal level, a segment of the federal gasoline tax is used to support the programs of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The FTA supports transit development through such programs as the New Starts Program , which provides funding for new rapid transit projects and the rehabilitation of existing lines, the Job Access and Reverse Commutes (JARC) program, which provides funding to assist the poor in accessing jobs in underserved communities, and operating subsides to transit agencies in areas with a population of under 200,000.

You can check here and here (California) to better understand funding for public transportation.

Public transportation needs to be funded if we are to get people out of their cars, protect the environment and reduce the carbon going into the air. Your public representives, local, state and federal need to hear that you support trains, buses and bike paths.

 

The Trip Back

This is the Bakersfield Train Station at 4:30AM. Pretty quiet and empty. You can't see her but there's one Amtrak employee behind the counter and a security guard wandering around outside. The luggage on the left belong's to a women who asked me to watch it while she used the restrooms. It sort of made me feel good that a stranger would ask that of me. I guess I look like a normal honest person. There is a reason why I catch the first train out in the morning. I'll get to that shortly. The 4:55AM leaving time is the reason I use the Best Western Hill House Hotel just across the street. Schedule an early wake up call and a short walk and I'm at the train station. I had some extra luggage with me this time. My mother's fall in early December had prevented her from mailing Christmas presents to us. I was carrying them home.

The reason for the early train is just logistics and expense. The Amtrak Train and Bus gets me to Ukiah at 12:50PM. After a layover of about two hours (lunch time) I can then catch MTA's Route 75 through Boonville and Navarro to meet-up with MTA's Coaster at the Navarro River Junction which will take me to Little River for a pick up at the store. If I take the later train (10:05AM) it gets me to Ukiah at 5:50PM which is too late to catch any MTA bus over to the coast. I would have to check into another hotel and spend most of the next day in Ukiah.

I boarded the 4:55AM train and after finding a seat went to the cafe and got the first cup of coffee made that morning. Another reason to take the early train is that it's not crowded and most of the passengers just try to sleep. It's dark and foggy for the first two plus hours of the train trip so it's a good time to read or snooze if you can. It can be dangerous to sleep. I remember one trip where a guy slept pass his destination. On this trip the guy in back of me was sleeping. When we were leaving Modesto he woke with a start when he heard Jack London Square in Oakland as the final destination. This is something that the conductor does as a welcome to the new passengers boarding the train. I heard him say wait and was scrabbling to collect his luggage. He thought he had missed his stop which was Emeryville. I had to calm him down and told him we were only in Modesto. I spent the last hours of the train trip trying to identify ducks and shorebirds as we went by the many water and marsh areas. Shovelers, Buffleheads, Mallards and Scaups were the ducks I could pick out. Coots were everywhere. Avocets and Yellowlegs were the shorebirds. Lots of Snowy and Great Egrets. The train was 25 minutes late getting into Martinez. That was actually a good thing. It would cut my wait time in Ukiah.

I always try to pick a seat on the way back so I can see a different view of where I've been. That's just a little traveling tip. The following pictures are from the return Amtrak Bus trip. The first one is of the Carquinez Strait from the George Miller Jr. memorial Bridge. The second is the fairgrounds in Petaluma and the third is some of the countryside outside of Ukiah.

So we were about 25 minutes late getting to Ukiah. Had lunch at Denny's (don't judge, it was within walking distance and better then McDonald's) and then waited for MTA's Route 75 at the Pear Tree Center bus stop.

What can I said about Route 75 that wouldn't give you a bad impression of public transportation. Route 75 is easily the most interesting route that I've used. I have traveled with a cage load of cockatiels in the back of the bus. The county jail in Ukiah has a habit of releasing prisoners so that they catch Route 75 for those that live on the coast. I remember one smaller man complaining about the bigger prisoners stealing his food. This trip was no different.

A young girl boarded after me and dropped some condoms out of her wallet when she went to pay the fare. Ed, the bus driver didn't bat an eye. Said she might need them later. She sat down near me and said she was in Ukiah to buy uniforms for a new job and it was the start of her new “adult” life. At the library several people got on. One was an older gentleman who seemed to know the young girl. Another man immediately announced that he needed a phone to call his “shrink” because he was running out of meds. Valium was mentioned in the call after a girl loaned him her phone. It turned out that the older gentleman was a reporter for the Anderson Valley Advertiser. Part of his beat was the courthouses in Mendocino. His name is Malcolm. The young girl's name is Jazz and the “meds” man is Benjamin. It turns out that they had some connection by way of the court system. Malcolm was homeless five years ago and had a serious dislike for Fort Bragg Police because they kept busting him for smoking weed. Writing about the court system he knew all the police, lawyers and judges in Mendocino County. The three of them talked about who had arrested whom, who their lawyers were, and who their judges that heard their cases were. Jazz was a juvey arrested for selling drugs and spent some time at juvenile hall. Benjamin had spent some time in prison for what sounded like spousal abuse and was on probation. That conversation went on for some time and then Benjamin decided we wanted to hear his poetry. Who's going to say no? He read one and Jazz said it was awesome, Malcolm said it was excellent but needed a better reading. I said it was pretty good and got this glare. I thought I was in some trouble from the “meds” guy. Malcolm got off at Boonville and Benjamin moved over to try to hustle Jazz. I heard them both declare themselves clean and sober while they smoked and he had a beer during the break stop at the Navarro Store. At Navarro River Junction Jazz continued south on the Route 75 bus while Benjamin went north on the Coaster to visit his son in Little River. I got off at the Little River Store where my wife picked me up and drove me home safe and sound.

It didn't turn out to be the trip I was expecting but it worked. If you've read all the posts you might think that taking public transportation can be a pain in the ass. You might think that the negatives out weigh the positives. Riding public transportation in a rural area like Mendocino County is harder then if you lived in a big city. Major transportation hubs are hard to get to from Mendocino but it can be done.

What are the advantages? When traveling you realize there are lots of cars and trucks out there on the highways and city streets. I didn't have to worry about them. My vehicle wasn't one of them. I could set back and let someone else do the worrying. On the train I could have lunch and drink a beer or go to the restroom without needing to make any decisions on where to stop. With low gas prices it might be cheaper to drive especially if you don't qualify for a senior discount or have a AAA membership but you do put that wear and tear on your car and also yourself.

My major reason for using public transportation is to get my truck off the streets as much as possible. At around 852 miles round trip from Little River to Bakersfield I saved 766.8 pounds of climate changing pollution from going into the air.

Transportation is one of the single largest sources of air pollution in the state. That includes the smog and other ground-level pollution that damages hearts and lungs, as well as the greenhouse gas emissions that disrupt the climate. There are 33 million cars and light- and medium-duty trucks registered in California, more than in any other state in the U.S. And that number doesn’t include the big heavy duty trucks that carry freight around the state.

Road congestion in many parts of the state has become nearly unbearable… Californians annually waste nearly $19 billion in time and fuel while stuck in traffic. The average San Diego traveler can expect to spend 67 hours a year waiting in traffic, while the average San Francisco traveler can expect to spend 80 hours stuck in traffic.

We need to change our ways if we are to save this planet. You need to do it for your kids and grandkids. I do it for the birds.

 

 

 

 

President’s Day Travel

It's President's Day and I'm on the road. Left Fort Bragg on time and arrived in Ukiah on time. Have some time to kill so I had coffee at the local Denny's. I'm outside McDonald's using their wifi. Do I feel guilty? Not really. Having to listen to a guy's radio playing at full blast.

Connecting to the Amtrak Bus soon.

Pet peeve #1–People that smoke. Even if they can't smoke on the bus you can still smell them. The loud radio doesn't count because I can leave at anytime.

It's going to be a warm day. In the high 70's in Ukiah. Remember it's still winter. No snow on the local hills.

 

Blogging From a Moving Train

So–mom's in a hospital in Bakersfield, CA. Need to get down there to visit for a few days. What's the plan? Most people would plan a road trip for the roughly 426 miles from Little River. Some might drive to the nearest airport that had planes into Bakerfield. That could be Sacramento, San Francisco, or Oakland. I have made this trip before and know that I can do it using public transportation. Knowing that there's wifi (hopefully) available I thought I would blog the ins and outs, the ups and downs, and the likes and dislikes of using public transportation. At least that's the idea.

Starting out I will be using the Mendocino Transit Authority(MTA) to get me over to Ukiah. The CC-Rider(route 65) will take me over the hill to Ukiah from the Boatyard in Fort Bragg. Hopefully it will be in one of these larger buses. Don't know how busy the MTA will be on President's Day.

In the pass I've gone on to Santa Rosa on the MTA but I have to admit that the Amtrak Buses are more comfortable. I will have a hour and a half wait in Ukiah instead of a hour and ten minutes in Santa Rosa when transferring to the Amtrak Bus. It's a good thing I noticed that it's pickup place is now McDonald's instead of Burger King or I would have screwed up the whole trip. Alway's check the latest schedule.

The Amtrak Bus will take me to Martinez, CA where I will get on the San Joaquin Train to Bakersfield.

The San Joaquin takes you through Central California. Through Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Fresno, Wasco,and Bakersfield. It's not the most scenic route especially going into Fresno and beyond. The gang graffiti is revealing. Will have to see if it's still there. Plan to use the Golden Empire Transit's Route 45 while in Bakersfield to get from my hotel to the hospital.

The trip back will be the reverse except that I will use MTA's Route 75 and the Coaster(Route 60) when I get back to Ukiah which will drop me off just down the road from where I live.

That's the plan. We'll see what happens.

 

 

 

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.

Bus Stops

I have planned a series of public transportation posts for some time. In the mix will be repostings of my well received Psychology of Bus Riding series. This first post will be on bus stops. In researching the Internet there seems to be a fascination for bus stops among some people. But first I would like to inject a little holiday mix into this post and a message from my friends at the American Public Transportation Association as to why you should be a voice for public transportation. They would like you to add your voice for what they expect will be a tough battle for funding public transportation in the coming Congressional years.

I hope that your holiday season is going well. Here’s a little holiday cheer from the folks at the Mendocino Transit Authority(MTA).

And as a public service here is a video about why you should be a voice for public transit.

Bus stops! They are all around us. Many of you going by in your cars will fail to notice them. Those of us who use the bus system know them quite well. They can be a bare turnoff on a major highway. They can be a pole stuck into the ground with a schedule attached or they can be elaborate windows into someone’s imagination. Let’s first explore MTA’s local bus stops that I’m familiar with. The simplest is the flagging method. If it is safe for the bus driver to stop and pick you up just flag down the bus and they will stop. The next series of pictures are in order of plain to fancy. I realized that I don’t have a picture of a MTA bench. I will add later. MTA has been adding these little metal benches to their poles.

I understand that MTA spent $10,000 to build this last bus stop in the community of Mendocino. Now the merchants would like them to remove it because it attracts the homeless who use it for shelter.

Last year I featured this bus stop in a post. It’s still one of my favorites.

 

Why not go big and just spell it out like they do in Baltimore, Maryland!

This one in Krumbach, Austria has been declared a safety hazard and has been shut down.

The above video is the work of photographer Christopher Herwig who has a successful Kickstarter project that funded a book on Soviet bus stops.

Photographer Christopher Herwig has covered more than 30,000 km by car, bike, bus and taxi in 13 countries discovering and documenting these unexpected treasures of modern art. From the shores of the Black Sea to the endless Kazakh steppe, the bus stops show the range of public art from the Soviet era and give a rare glimpse into the creative minds of the time. Herwig’s series attracted considerable media interest around the world, and now with the 12 year project complete, the full collection will be presented in Soviet Bus Stops as a deluxe, limited edition, hard cover photo book. The book represents the most comprehensive and diverse collection of Soviet bus stop design ever assembled.

You can go to his website to find out more about him and his projects.

Another interesting website is called FUNNY THINGS HAPPEN AT BUS STOPS. Here are just a few of the pictures on the site.

TheCityFix had their Best of 2010: Images of Bus Stops. Again just a few of their bus stops.

Bus stop in Chile. Photo by Yeraze.

Photo by Sasha Aickin.

Photo by Todd Morris.

Towel.com has 15 Unusual and Creative Bus Stops.

Here’s a photo essay called Waiting: 19 Pictures of bus Stops.

Picture 1038 by Bryce Edwards

It’s all about Passion… by Thomas Szynkiewicz

Under The Cherry II by halfrain

bus stop by vittis m.
So what’s a bus stop (or bus for that matter) without advertising. Simplyzesty has their 100 brilliantly innovative bus shelter ad takeovers.

There is a bus stop waiting for you somewhere. Go out and find it and have a swinging good time!