By Glenn Wohltmann
Study after study has shown Millennials – people born between 1980 and 2000 – love public transportation.
The most recent, a 2015 survey from Zipcar, said Millennials are environmentally conscious and would sooner part with their car, television or computer than their smartphone. They also prefer walking, biking, public transit, or carpooling over driving and find it difficult to own a car because of the high cost of gas, parking, and maintenance. A similar survey in 2013 from the American Public Transportation Association said 54 percent of young people choose public transportation whenever possible.
“Millennials are riding transit in growing numbers and we need to give them the improvements they need to keep them off the roads for years to come,” said San Mateo County Transportation Authority Executive Director Jim Hartnett in a recent publication.
But – and it’s a pretty big but – they want that transportation to be both convenient and have wireless access. And anyone who’s taken Wheels, the bus service that runs to and from the Las Positas campus knows getting here and getting home is far from convenient.
A recent informal survey of LPC bus riders indicated that a round trip from Springtown Boulevard in Livermore – a 15-minute car trip – can take an hour each way. San Ramon is an hour away by bus, and a trip here from Danville can take two hours. That’s four hours, half a day’s work, every day, to attend college.
Part of the problem is that buses are consistently late. The number 8 bus in Pleasanton is typically from two to 12 minutes late. Every day.
A Map of the Wheels Bus Tri-Valley Routes. Courtesy of wheelsbus.com
Another problem is transfers. That same bus, the number 8, even if it were on time, arrives three minutes after the bus for Las Positas leaves. That means a 20-plus minute wait at the transfer stop at the East Dublin-Pleasanton BART station. What would be a 15-minute trip by car runs more than an hour in the morning, and, since one line, the 8A, stops running at 6:15 p.m. a return trip means going the opposite way on the 8B, bumping travel time to 90 minutes in the evening.
And there’s no Internet service at all, so students who need to get online to do school work either have to wait to get here or try to use their smartphones to do their work.
While Wheels service is bad, its customer service is worse. Phone calls and emails, which are supposed to be returned in 48 hours or less, frequently take a week to be returned. That’s if they are returned at all. One email about a bus that was running with sign indicating it was going the opposite way, toward Pleasanton instead of Livermore, led to a friendly but ill-informed call from a woman that wanted to explain how to read a schedule.
Wheels is taking steps to fix its problems, which is a problem in itself. Meetings set up for Pleasanton and San Ramon run too late for someone who actually rides the bus to attend. The bus line is also holding a meeting at the college to take input from students, but it’s done little to publicize the meetings.
So, if you take the bus, or if you may want to take it sometime in the future – say, for example, if your car breaks down – take a few minutes and attend the public meeting here on Oct. 28. Wheels has promised a ride home to anyone who misses their bus.