Daily Archives: 4/20/2006

Mass Transit in SoCal

Today as I was filling my truck up with gas yet once again, I got to thinking (again) about how I could cut back on fuel costs with gas being $3 a gallon. You see, I drive by the Amtrak/Coaster yard every morning on my way to school and I think about what it would be like to be sitting on one of those trains being able to do something productive instead of driving my gas guzzling truck up the freeway. What a perfect solution this could be…

So, when I got home this afternoon, I started doing some research on the possibilities of using mass transit to get from Fallbrook to Fullerton and back home again. Some things were easy to figure out, and some others were just next to impossible. CSUF actually has a nice page on their site about using mass transit to get to campus and they have some handy links to all the transit providers. They even had a link to a site that supposedly integrated all the transit systems in SoCal so that you could plan a trip to anywhere. It worked, but not that great.

Anyway, here are my conclusions as to why no one uses mass transit in Southern California:

First, it doesn’t save you any money. It cost me $28 roughly to fill my truck up today. I had last filled up on Tuesday in Fullerton and since then had driven round-trip to home in Fallbrook and driven three times from home to the high school or into town. Now I was thinking that it would be $3, maybe $5 to ride the train from Oceanside to Fullerton. This is where my thinking went wrong: It’s almost $10 regular fair one-way! That’s $20 round trip for the day, and that doesn’t get me from my house to campus. I would still have to drive to and from Oceanside, which is not that much less than about half of my commute. Cost savings of mass transit: $0, possibly even negative.

OK, so maybe it won’t save me money so to say, but it will save me time sitting in traffic, right? Well, I think I figured I would have to leave the house 30 mins earlier in order to catch the train in Oceanside and I might make it to my first class at 7 in Fullerton on-time, but realistically, I’d probably be 5-15 minutes late. The train would leave Oceanside at 5:22 and if everything went according to plan (and I could do a transfer from train to bus in two minutes), I should be across the street from the campus at 6:56 (or something close to that). If I drive, I leave home (20-30 minutes from Oceanside) at 5-5:15 and get to Fullerton 6:15-6:30. Conclusion: So maybe I could get some work done on the train, but I’d be loosing another half hour of sleep!

Now we still have to factor in the inconvenience factor. There is the whole issue that I wouldn’t have my car with me, so I would have to take anything and everything I wanted for the day with me and carry it all day long. Then there is really the problem that there isn’t trains when I really need them. To give myself some time to spare, I would have to catch a train at about 4:45 from Oceanside, that would mean a whole hour less of sleep. Then on the return, I wouldn’t be back in Oceanside until about 5:30, which means probably 6:30 before I’m back in Fallbrook. That would make for one long day… Fourteen and a half hours! I’d be so exhausted from all the work of traveling that I don’t think I would be able to experience all the time that I “saved.”

So here’s the deal California: I would love to do my part to help cut down on freeway congestion, air pollution, our dependence on oil and all that stuff, but you have to make the system beneficial, or at least usable.

  • Make it cheaper
  • Make it save me time
  • Make it easily accessible
  • Make it flexible enough so that I can find a train every 10 minutes or something.
  • Figure out how to plan trips from A to B without having to be a rocket scientist after contacting multiple different agencies.
  • Bonus: Give me decent WiFi on the ride so I can get stuff done.

So that’s it… I wanted to try something different. I wanted to save money. I wanted to cut California’s pollution, but nothing is anywhere near as easy as just getting in your car and driving. Maybe I should just get a more fuel economic car to get me from A to B… Nah!