Back-Seat Driver

Gotta catch ’em all, Pokémon, but don’t miss the train

'Pokémon Go' craze hits Sacramento

Augmented-reality cell phone game "Pokémon Go" has taken America by storm, including Sacramento. Players and business owners talk about their experiences.
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Augmented-reality cell phone game "Pokémon Go" has taken America by storm, including Sacramento. Players and business owners talk about their experiences.

After years of complaints that no one gets their ticket checked on Sacramento Regional Transit light-rail trains, the agency this month has added two dozen new checkers – and that’s annoyed a few riders.

“We are actually getting complaints about being overly inspected, which I have never heard before,” RT security chief Norm Leong said.

One rider complained about being checked four times in a day. The reason, Leong says, is that the new officers are only working on trains on weekdays so they can be trained and monitored. Next month, their shifts will start to be spread out over nights and on weekends.

RT may order lanyards to give to passengers who want them, so those riders don’t have to dig into their wallets and purses to find their passes when fare checkers come by.

Pokémon rides the rails

Fare checkers aren’t the only unusual creatures showing up on Sacramento trains in the past few weeks.

You guessed it. Pokémon.

The “Pokémon Go” “augmented reality” smartphone game craze has caused some consternation since it was launched less than two weeks ago, sending people out to the streets in search of creatures to capture. Police and others have expressed concerns about players walking around distracted, playing the game on their phones without looking where they are going.

But the game is getting a lot of people out walking, talking and exploring their communities.

And RT officials say they like the fact that their system is part of the phenomenon. It’s made bus stops, stations and even trains a happier place for some riders.

But it prompts some worries. Leong tried the game out – to understand what some riders find so fascinating – and he found a Pidgey Pokémon perched right on the yellow caution line next to the tracks at the 16th Street station downtown.

He warned players to be mindful of where they are walking as they play the game. “Think about the rail as you are looking for these things. You don’t have to be on the tracks, even if the Pokemon is on the tracks, to capture them.”

We want to know, how do you fare check a Charizard?

Arena plaza’s not for bikes

For years, when the Downtown Plaza shopping center straddled K Street, bicycling was banned on the street, rightly so. But two blocks of the shopping mall have been torn down and will be replaced with an open plaza, serving as front porch to the arena and the big hotel under construction there.

We noticed a city report last week saying it is ending its biking ban there. But the plaza will be under the private control of the Kings, and Kings officials say they will not allow biking in the plaza.

That’s because the team expects to operate the arena for about 200 events a year, bringing lots of pedestrians onto the plaza. The team also will be opening a hotel and condominium tower next to the plaza, disgorging pedestrians day and evening onto that section of K. And, it plans to use the plaza throughout the year for events such as farmers markets, holiday ice skating, morning yoga and evening jazz concerts.

Those are all events to which bike riders would love to be able to pedal. Jim Brown of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates understands the no-biking rule on the plaza, but he’s working with the city on ways to make it easier for cyclists to get to the arena site and to have sensible places to park and lock their bikes.

Brown estimates a few hundred people may want to ride to Kings games on good-weather days. The arena, he says, will be a test case for the city’s ability to make bicycling a real part of the emerging downtown. The clock is ticking.

“Hoping we’ve left ourselves enough time to do it,” Brown said.

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