Living in El Dorado Hills has its ups and downs (no pun intended), but the worst problem by far is the commute.
On a good day with a carpool, it takes 20-25 minutes. When I drive by myself, it can take anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour.
However, we do have public transportation in the Sacramento region, so I thought that maybe I could bypass the drive and take light rail for the first time for a cheaper and quicker ride.
I was wrong.
When I entered my home address and the school’s address on Google Maps, it turned out that it would take me around four hours to get to school.
On top of that, the times for the four buses and the light rail lined up in a way so that I couldn’t even arrive at school on time.
So I changed my start from my house to the Folsom Premium Outlets. Now I could arrive at school on time, and the journey was only an hour and a half long.
On May 9, I woke up at 5:45 a.m. and got ready for the five-minute drive to the Outlets, where I would board the light rail bound for Sacramento.
At the station, I bought the $2.50 ticket and waited 10 minutes for the train. The station was chilly, being open to the outdoors, and there were only eight or so people waiting when I got there.
Everyone kept to themselves, but it was still noisy because the station is located right next to Folsom Boulevard, which was surprisingly busy at 6 a.m. on a Monday.
The train left at 6:25 a.m., and as the departure approached, the eight people became 18.
The train arrived promptly, and everyone boarded. Interestingly enough, no one was there to collect tickets, so anyone could board the train.
The train was clean, and there was room for everyone. The seats could fit two people, but everyone seemed to follow a silently established rule that they could really fit only one person.
The train had an LED that displayed the next stop and had a stop request button, but it remained unused because it stopped at every station. It was hard to take notes because the train was so shaky.
The passengers ranged from businessmen in suits to mothers in dresses.
One businessman was reading “The Old Man and the Sea.” Another was typing away on his laptop.
Some were just trying to get some relaxation time with no work whatsoever.
There was no talking until a police officer boarded about 10 minutes after my departure somewhere around the Sunrise Boulevard station and asked everyone for tickets. We all grabbed ours, with the exception of a man who had boarded the train about two stops before.
He was a dirty man with stubble, wearing ragged clothes, and carrying a full garbage bag with what I assume was either trash or his belongings. He had also brought his bike onto the train.
When the officer asked for the ticket, the man told him he’d forgotten it.
The officer reported in with his radio and received a response. He then started questioning the man about his name, address, driver’s license number, etc. The man had a response for all of those questions, but I somehow doubted that they were true.
Clearly the officer had the same thoughts. He said that the man’s garbage bag and bicycle weren’t permitted on the train and told him to get off at the next stop.
After the man got off and the rest of us showed the officer our tickets, the rest of the trip was fairly uneventful.
Taking a light rail wasn’t too different from driving to school. I could see the freeway at all times on my way into Sacramento, and the train was going only slightly slower than the cars.
But instead of seeing the stores on the side of the freeway from their backs, I got to see their fronts.
I thought that the train would be fairly dirty, but in reality it was nearly spotless.
I got off the train at a bus station at 65th Street and then waited 20 minutes. The station had four separate places for boarding buses, but each arrival point had enough seats for only two people.
The bus station was more or less a collection of four or so benches spread out in a square so buses could pick people up.
I paid another $2.50 to get on my bus and was on it for only 10 minutes. There were six other people on the bus even though it could have fit at least 20 people.
There was a yellow pull cord on my left side that allowed passengers on the bus to request the driver to stop.
When the bus was finally traveling up Munroe, I pulled the cord and it stopped.
I finished off the morning by walking to school. Ironically, the walk was shorter than the one I normally have to take when I drive.
It was quite the morning. My normal commute was at least doubled – but more likely tripled – by using public transportation. I left my house around 6 a.m. and arrived at school around 7:40.
But I’m not the only student who has braved public transportation.
Senior Vanessa Previsic, one of the few students that frequents public transportation, said that she takes it two weeks of every month.
“In November, I had a car crash,” she said. “My parents didn’t want to drive me to and from school, so it was the only alternative.”
Her experience is very similar to mine. She takes two buses and a light rail to get to school each morning, and the 20-minute drive from Land Park has turned into an hour-and-a-half ride.
“Theoretically it should take the same time at night, but it ends up usually being between two-and-a-half to three hours long,” she said.
“I usually just catch a ride home with someone else.”
After having tried the commute, I can’t blame her.