Mass Transit

Yesterday we did something rather eccentric: We rode VTA light rail from downtown Mountain View to Downtown Campbell, just ’cause.

I’ve actually wanted to ride the light rail for a while, but haven’t gotten around to it because, well, light rail in the valley doesn’t really go places I want to go, and it’s a lot slower than driving (3-4 times slower). The big problem is that downtown San Jose just isn’t a destination for me; I go there maybe 3 times a year, usually for fairly random things. Otherwise light rail mostly goes through residential and office neighborhoods.

However, I do enjoy riding the train just for the experience, and also to see where it goes and what the neighborhoods are like. It goes through a lot of back-avenue areas in Mountain View before running down the middle of streets in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and San Jose, so there was a lot to see that I hadn’t seen before, not to mention watching people getting on and off. A lot off teenagers ride the train and switch at the Tasman station, probably to go to the Great Mall in Milpitas (another non-destination for me).

Downtown Campbell has changed a lot since I lived there in 1999-2001: Aside from the light rail, they’ve built several new commercial buildings and a parking garage, so there are more stores and restaurants worth visiting. It’s no longer a depressing little avenue of antique stores with minimal foot traffic. We had lunch at Stacks and poked our heads into several stores and enjoyed the lovely weather. Then we headed back to the train and reversed our commute.

This probably sounds like a pretty weird day out, but I enjoyed it. Why did I enjoy it? That’s a good question. I think I’ve always enjoyed watching the ebb and flow of the city, seeing how things have been built up and torn down and looking for old things among the newer things. There’s a lot to see in this way when riding the T in Boston, and while there’s less out here there are still some interesting tidbits: The closed-and-abandoned building and parking lot that looks like it used to be an activity center, with basketball and volleyball nets in the parking lot. The older rail lines on which the light rail was built, whose remnants are still lying around. The vacant storefronts in downtown San Jose, just a block away from a fairly-busy dining district. And, just sitting on the train being taken somewhere is a lot more relaxing than driving. Slower, but more relaxing.

I think Debbi finds my interest in taking the light rail for no particular reason to be pretty odd, although she was the one to suggest indulging my weird desire a couple of days ago (though I’d talked about it a few times in the past). But I enjoy doing things with no particular aim in mind from time to time. And at least this one got us out of the house!