Trains, Planes and Buses??!!?

Last week,  a friend who needed to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco decided to try the Megabus.  His verdict? Unequivocal approval.

He took the overnighter which leaves LA’s Union Station at 1145pm and arrived in San Francisco (the CALTRAIN station) at 645am, no stops. The bus was new and immaculate, a double-decker carrying at least 100 passengers. There was free wi-fi and each seat had its own charging station. These buses are green-certified and Megabus is now serving Sacramento and San Jose.

Megabus,  Bolt Bus  (affiliated with Greyhound) and other intercity bus services reflect a national trend.  The Chaddick Institute at Depaul University came up with these figures comparing 2011 to 2012 :

Intercity bus:                    7.5% growth

AMTRAK, available seat miles:  3% growth, revenue passenger miles: 2.6% growth

AIRLINES, domestic, available seat miles: .4% growth

AIRLINES, domestic, revenue passenger miles: 1.4% growth

The entire study is available at their website.  Note that these figures do NOT include the “Chinatown” bus services as they do not have published schedules.

We know that the airlines are strapped, which makes them reluctant to add marginal airports such as Arcata to their service areas. Will we ever have alternates to the current United/ Greyhound monopolies? Not as long as United and Greyhound can get by with the shoddy service they currently provide. I can’t see Megabus being able to fill a double decker bus with our amount of traffic- until and unless United raises its fares to an intolerable level (which they’re pretty close to). A more likely scenario would be for Greyhound to upgrade its service.  Even if Greyhound were to upgrade its buses (by a LOT) there will always be those who, even in our eco-conscious community,  wouldn’t be caught dead riding a bus.  Those attitudes will take a long time to change.

As for me, I’d rather ride a bus or other public transport that I KNOW will arrive at my destination rather than continue to play airport roulette. (“Folks, we’re going to have to land at Redding…no, San Francisco…no, Redding”.)  Even Greyhound doesn’t get fogged out.

A final note: I drove to SF to pick my friend up and was appalled at the state of 101, the potholes, unfinished road with those awful grooves, and especially the situation around Willits.  I had always opposed the Willits bypass because I didn’t think it was necessary- who can object to slowing down through a charming town?  But on Friday at 3pm it took almost an hour to get through Willits.  Then on Sunday it was back to “normal”, just the usual slowing.  I assumed the Friday crunch was due to vacationers headed for the lakes, but that was just my impression. Let’s hope the controversial and expensive bypass will improve traffic speed and safety for the entire community, not just summer vacationers.


The Case Against Flying

Everyone has their own horror stories of flying, or trying to fly, into or out of the Eureka-Arcata airport.  I was pleased to hear, during a recent meeting of business leaders in Arcata, that at least one local company has adopted the same policy I have: no flying out of Arcata if a connection has to be made. The odds just aren’t with you. Actually, I’ve taken it a bit further- no flying out of Arcata at all. It just doesn’t make sense.

Do the math. Let’s say you need to get to San Francisco. By the time you use an hour of limo time to get to ACV, then an hour, at least, before takeoff, then an hour and a half for the actual flight time, then another hour to retrieve baggage and/or pick up a rental car, then drive in from the airport to wherever it was you really wanted to go, you have easily exceeded the five hours it takes to drive. The first enterprising person who starts a shuttle service to the Bay Area will make a lot of money.

Now we are on another chase to lure airline service to what will always be a marginal market. I note in this morning’s Searchlight-Record that Redding is also trying to lure Delta into starting a Denver service.  It is unquestioned that our business community needs flight service, but since the rest of us don’t, the numbers sufficient to attract an airline are that much harder to achieve.  My last vacation started out with an unplanned 10 hour layover at O’Hare that was entirely United’s fault.  I’ve been dumped in Redding, stranded in Chicago, stuck at SFO. I say the hell with it. I’ve flown my last flight out of Arcata. If anyone wants to start a shuttle service to the Bay Area,please get in touch with me. I’ll chronicle your progress with great interest. As for me , I’m going on vacation, a five week trip which will be, like the dodo bird, flightless.

When the flying experience out of ACV is so bad and unreliable, it starts making Greyhound look good, it’s definitely time to look at other options.