Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Trolley-Coaster Dash

I missed the coaster twice this week. On Monday, the trolley I catch in El Cajon left the station almost two minutes early, so i missed it. On Tuesday, some harried woman with two young kids hit the emergency button because she left her back pack at the last station. The trolley driver came back to talk to her for five minutes, which did no more good than if she had just told the woman to get off the trolley and catch the next one back, which she eventually did.

My afternoon commute involves catching a San Diego MTS trolley that is scheduled to get into the Old Town Station three minutes before the Coaster is scheduled to arrive. If I miss this connection, the next Coaster train comes forty seven minutes later.

Commuting by public transportation over the last two years has been good for me over all. The benefits have outweighed the downside. The advantages are;

• $ - When I started doing this, a $154 monthly rail pass saved me about $50/mo over the cost of gasoline alone. And my Pontiac Vibe gets 32mpg on the highway. At current gas prices, and even with a fare increase, my savings are about $80/mo.
• Time – It takes longer than driving, but I can make better use of that time by reading, working, or writing this. The Coaster is laptop friendly. I read, or talk to some of the regulars on the Trolley.
• Health – It is a two mile walk, or bike ride, to work. If I bike, I get in early and sit at Starbucks across the street and work on the laptop (I don’t use the WiFi. At four bucks a cup, it should be free AND no strings attached), or get off a station earlier so I will have a longer ride.

The main disadvantage is time also. I get up an hour earlier than I would if I drove, and get home forty minutes later. If I miss the connection at Old Town, I get home over an hour and a half later.

Here in lies a problem, and the source of numerous complaints by many of us who ride the Green Line Trolley that is scheduled to pull in just before the 5:28 Coaster. The Coaster operates on a “Get ‘em off-Get ‘em on, and lets get the hell outta here” model. If the train starts its route two minutes early, as I have seen it do, it gets into Old Town only a minute before the Green Line is supposed to. If the Green line pulls into the station a minute late, and the Coaster is shutting its doors, there are a lot of irate people on the Trolley.

The problem seems to be that the two trains are operated by two different agencies, and have no regard for us “intermodals” who regard it as a single system. The Coaster WILL NOT wait for an inbound Trolley, even if the Coaster is running early.

If this has happened to you, please leave a comment, and I will try to bring this blog to the attention of the San Diego MTS, and the North County Transit District, NCTD.

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