Say you wanted to go from Oakland, California to Sacramento, California, a distance of 80 miles, to catch a Friday night Sacramento Rivercats game. (They’re a minor-league baseball team.) And you wanted to take public transit and come back the same night. That seems possible.
Okay, start by getting to the Amtrak station at Jack London Square. Park your bike (or get off the bus) and hop on the train. (Or you could take BART to the Coliseum Amtrak stop.) Depart from the Coliseum at 3:58 pm or Jack London at 4:10 pm to arrive at the Sacramento Amtrak station (401 I Street) at 6:10 pm, for $21 per person.
Then from there, get to Raley Field. It’s exactly a mile from the station, though that includes a river crossing. It seems like a walkable route, though I don’t know if the bridge on the most direct route is open to pedestrians, so it might be slightly longer than a mile. So leave 25 minutes to get there. Oh, there’s also a shuttle. That’s probably a good idea.
Enjoy the game! It starts at 7:05. They’ll probably win, since they’re in first place.
Oh, by the way, you won’t be taking Amtrak back to Oakland, unless you wait till tomorrow, or leave the game super-early. If you don’t take the 9:10 train back to Oakland, you have to wait until 5:40 am for the next one. Since it would be silly to take transit for 4 hours for just 2 hours of a game that would likely last 3 hours, what to do?
Don’t worry. There’s an 11:45 pm Greyhound back to Oakland ($18/person) that puts you back downtown at 1:15 am. The Greyhound leaves from 715 L Street, also 1 mile from the stadium, also across the river. And who doesn’t love Greyhound, especially in the middle of the night?
But the game will be over a little after 10, giving you plenty of time to stroll downtown and maybe grab a beverage on the way to the Greyhound station. (This is all theoretical, sight unseen, by the way.)
So the total for mass transit is $39 per person round trip. That doesn’t count any intra-city transit costs (such as, say, a cab or bus from Amtrak to Raley Field and then back to Greyhound), or any “externalities” (such as getting mugged or something).
Contrast that with a 160-mile round trip by car. At 30 mpg and $3/gallon, it would cost $16 in gas to drive there and back.
So even for just one person, a car is more cost-effective. It would also be a more efficient use of time: You’re not likely to hit a lot of traffic since it’s a reverse commute — and, of course, unlike Amtrak, you can stop right at the stadium.
And, heck, with four people, you would save money renting a nice car. Or maybe taking a limo.
The bottom line is that, though it is possible to determinedly get there and back without a car, it would be much easier with one.
The only possible reason to take Amtrak and Greyhound to and from a Rivercats game would be if you (1) absolutely didn’t have access to a car (or a friend with a car) or (2) really wanted to prove a point.