Friday, January 14, 2011

Napa public transportation: The Napa VINE

I figured today might be a good day to tell you about a Napa service I use almost every day: the local VINE bus system. I am so glad I discovered the VINE bus a few years ago. I drive about 25 miles each way to work and back -- basically I live at the south end of the valley in Napa and commute upvalley to Calistoga at the northernmost end. This is a beautiful drive -- I take Silverado Trail, a less congested route that runs parallel to 29 but on the east side of the valley -- and the traffic is rarely a problem and I never get tired of the scenery. However, driving can be tiresome nonetheless, and that's to say nothing of the gas prices hovering around $3.35/gallon around here... in other words, my gas alone was costing about $8/day.

Napa VINE to the rescue. I looked into it, and discovered that, aside from their buses which branch in and out of the downtown area, the Napa bus system also has oneroute -- Route 10 -- which runs basically straight up and down the valley, stopping at every town between the ferry terminal in Vallejo (where you can take a ferry to/from San Francisco) and Calistoga. It also happend to pick up a block from my home and two blocks from where I work. To top is all off, the fare is a nice price. Normally it is $2.10 each way (less if you aren't going as far), which is already half the cost of gas, plus it saves wear and tear on my car. But an even better bet is to get the monthly pass, which provides unlimited trips on any of the bus routes at any time, for $43/month. Score!

Of course, the bus is almost strictly locals -- I see lots of the same characters every day (and, like any bus I've ever ridden on... it has some characters! But unlike most urban bus systems, which can be filled with downright scary people, this one is pretty tame. Very very rarely have I ever see a crazy, a hobo, or thug, which by contrast are pretty commonplace on city buses. Sorry if this sounds harsh or insensitive, but I'm just telling it like it is.)

However, the bus would also be great for tourists on a budget... I bet a lot of people just aren't too aware of it. I mean, it has stops near many of the main accommodations up and down the valley, with its central hub right off of Pearl Street in downtown Napa. And using this bus, you could fairly easily visit practically any winery in off of Highway 29. The beauty of that is that you don't have to worry about whether you are getting a little tipsy or having a designated driver on hand, and it's way cheaper than a wine tour or chauffeured trip.

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