Sacramento city officials hope thousands of Kings fans and concertgoers will use Regional Transit to get to the new arena downtown. Improvements and station cleanups have been made to lure new users. But I have my doubts about the prospects for success. Learning how to use Sacramento’s light-rail system isn’t easy.
That’s what I discovered when I volunteered to chart a path for my wife to the new Golden 1 Center. She was planning to go with two friends to the Jimmy Buffett concert last week. I figured my experience as a New York City subway rider would make the job a snap. Not so. Figure on spending two hours to unravel Regional Transit’s mysteries. Even then, there may be glitches.
Carol and I live in Land Park just three blocks from a light-rail station and less than three miles from the arena. Taking the train made far more sense that dealing with the traffic mess downtown. But neither of us had ridden light rail in years.
Whether you use RT’s text-only site or you dare to click on a flashing invitation that shouts “YOUR VIP LINE TO GOLDEN 1 CENTER,” you’ll have to plod through a mass of details on lines, schedules, fares, park-and-ride stations and ticket-buying procedures.
Along the way, you will probably discover a smartphone app for buying RT tickets. It’s called RideSacRT and is available via iTunes or Google Play. I downloaded the app and found it a convenient way to buy advance tickets, although learning how and when to activate them was not clear.
Perusing the RT system map, I learned the Blue Line operated in my neighborhood. I felt confident telling Carol to get on at the 4th Avenue stop near our house. But where should she get off and where reboard the train to return home? Despite a college education and decades as a map-reading copy editor, I couldn’t figure out those details.
Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Carol and I walked to the nearby 4th Avenue station and took a test ride. I realized my map confusion was related to the fact one-way streets are the norm in downtown Sacramento. This means light-rail riders do not exit and reboard trains from the same stop. In our case, we needed to get off at 9th and K and return home from the 7th and Capitol station. (The 7th and K station, closer to the arena, has been closed).
On the evening of the 8 p.m. Buffett concert, Carol and her friends decided it would be prudent to drive to the light-rail station rather than walk. Although the 4th Avenue stop, like most stops in the central city and nearby neighborhoods, lacks a parking lot, Carol thought she could easily find street parking.
Unfortunately, the city, because of its need for increased parking revenue to pay off arena debt, has put a squeeze on street parking. Meter fees have jumped and parking restrictions have been extended.
Rather than risk a ticket, Carol and her friends returned to our house. Given the time, they gave up on taking light rail and called a car service. A driver arrived quickly and deposited them reasonably close to the arena. After the concert, they used light rail and had a quick, uneventful trip.
For Carol and myself, light rail will be our vehicle for getting to and from the arena. But given the time, effort and logistics involved in utilizing the system, how much company will we have?