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Trains: Can’t we just wait a few minutes?

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POSTED April 12, 2014 12:37 a.m.

The debate over trains irritates me.

The reason is simple. It is driven by the premise that we shouldn’t have to wait for anything.

I get that trains can be annoying. I drive across railroad tracks in Manteca an average of six times a day plus cross them twice on foot. I am will aware that trains make noise and not just from their horns. I live about a block away from the tracks. I get that the noise bugs some people even if they are a mile away. But personally on a scale of 1 to 10 the noise irritant level for me is almost zero. On the other hand if you want to get me going about noise let’s talk about the cretins who repeatedly zip around neighborhoods on those small gas powered scooters.

That said if Manteca wanted to make reducing train noise a fiscal priority and used future bonus bucks collected from developers to cover the $1 million plus price tag for seven crossings to install wayside horns and can fund the ongoing insurance, I’m not going to squawk about it. Even with the wayside horns I’ll still hear them in addition to the rumble. 

But spend the gross national product of a Third World country to shave a few minutes off the time people have to wait for a train, I have a problem.

The one amazing thing about trains —  except for the relatively rare short ones that collect and distribute boxcars to various concerns along the line —  is they pretty much hit the tracks at the same time each day. Train movements aren’t random. They follow a schedule that doesn’t vary wildly unless there is some type of incident throwing a monkey wrench into movements. You can’t tell precise time by them but you are in the ball park.

I make regular trips to Tracy to an InShape Club. I usually go across the tracks at Industrial Park Drive to reach the 120 Bypass at the same time and never encounter trains. But when they were remodeling the Eleventh Street club for almost a month allowing members to go to the higher level club on Tracy Boulevard that had a noon class, I started hitting trains. The solution? I caught Highway 99 and then the 120 Bypass or simply waited for five minutes top.

The point is I knew it was an issue so either I took an alternative route or built time into my driving schedule because it was a regular thing.

If blocked tracks due to trains are a regular occurrence at the same time each day the solution is pretty straight forward. Either get use to it, change your schedule, or change your route.

It is a lot cheaper on your pocketbook than being taxed your fair share of more than $350 million needed to build overpasses or underpasses just so you can avoid spending five minutes waiting for a train to pass.

Those who are behind the wheel of vehicles need to develop more patience. It’s a lot cheaper and safer.

Walk and/or jog the streets of Manteca. You will start yearning for the days when motorists at least did California rolling stops. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t see at least three drivers run through stop signs. They don’t bother to slow down if they are going  straight. And if they’re turning right they go fast enough that they are borderline losing control. As for people coming to a full and complete stop, that is about as rare as coming across a $2 bill in circulation.

Since obviously they feel they shouldn’t have to wait at a stop sign or even a traffic signal, why not build full-scale urban interchanges that feature minimal stop signs and traffic signals for maximum traffic flow at intersections to save them a few seconds?

Drivers as a whole act as if time is more important than life itself given to how many can’t wait to take or make phone calls or send text messages while they’re steering 3,000 pounds down streets. You’d think they’d welcome three or five minutes of sitting still waiting for a train to pass to catch up on all of their life and death communications.

The real problem with spending $350 million or so motorists don’t have to wait a few minutes for trains is the fact it’ll just open the door for another complaint about their precious time being squandered. Soon they’d be a move afoot to widen streets so more cars can flow down them quicker. Too long sitting at traffic lights on Union Road or Louise Avenue: Then the city should widen them to 10 lanes in each direction. Saving a motorist a minute is certainly worth the price of demolishing hundreds of homes and making neighborhoods kowtow to the almighty car.

It is kind of like our patience level with photocopiers. When they first came out to replace thermal printers and carbon paper we were thrilled it only took two minutes to get a copy. Then when copiers got better and took a minute, we weren’t happy it took so long. It’s gotten to the point if it takes more than a few seconds to get a copy with get impatient.

The same is true with getting from point A to point B in a car.

Having more patience is a lot less expensive, a lot safer, and a lot less stressful.

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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