Stephanie Peterson and Cameron Lovelace were hanging out downtown this week when they saw a new green-colored light-rail train pull through, heading north.
So they hopped on.
"We wanted to see where it went," Lovelace said. "We thought this would go to the airport," Peterson said.
The couple got a surprise. The train went one stop to Richards Boulevard before the voice on the loudspeaker said: End of line. Please exit the train.
Total trip time: five minutes.
So, Peterson and Lovelace walked a few blocks to the McDonald's by Interstate 5 for dinner, then took the train back downtown.
Welcome to Sacramento's train to almost nowhere.
Sacramento Regional Transit opened the mile-long $44 million Green Line with a fireworks display and speeches last month. So far, however, few people are riding the new section. RT officials say the new section of line is carrying about 150 a day, a minuscule number compared to other trains in their system.
Hop aboard the train and you'll see why. The train runs through the empty and weedy downtown railyard. Its sole stop at Richards Boulevard and North Seventh Street sits next to an empty lot.
But RT officials are asking people to withhold judgment. Looks are deceiving, they say.
In a few years, the station on Richards likely will front a community of town houses, apartments and offices to be called Township 9.
The Township 9 developers, in fact, paid for the light-rail station because, they say, light-rail access will be a critical draw for residents and businesses at their mixed-use development.
Some of the Township 9 housing was supposed to be built already, RT officials point out, but got delayed by the recession.
As the recession's grip eases, "I think we'll see significant increases in ridership," RT's Mark Lonergan said.
Lonergan takes issue with the "train to nowhere" description.
The new Greyhound bus station on Richards is two blocks away from the station, he said. CHP's headquarters is a half-block away. State lottery offices are nearby, as is a city office building.
RT reps are setting up information booths at some of those offices this week, getting the word out about their Green Line.
The new line to Richards is only a first step. Ultimately, RT plans to extend the line over the American River, through Natomas neighborhoods to Sacramento International Airport.
That will be a difficult task, politically and financially. If they pull it off, today's train to nowhere could become RT's busiest.
Meanwhile, RT is saving operations costs on the little Green Line by using only one-car trains, running on a half-hour basis and shutting down on weekends.