Sunday, October 11, 2015

WHY Angelenos Will Never Embrace The Bus

After years of driving, I had my first experience actually riding two different bus company lines today. Without wheels and wanting to go to Pasadena, CA to church, I decided to give it a try. My only other choice was to walk and later I had to do just that. It was 99ยบ out when I did.

It seems that most buses provide bus racks
There is a great Apple App called MOOVIT that gives you just about perfect step by step instructions to use public transit. Now if only the bus lines would be as conscientious. I'm just sayin'.

Metro Bus in Los Angeles
In my case the first bus I took was a Montebello Bus (MB) that conveniently posts their bus signs for bus stops; many are the same places that LA's Metro lines stop. The difference is Metro clearly marks which bus lines stop there, MB lets you guess. Beside arriving well past the posted time, I was on my phone calling about "if" the bus was actually running, when it appeared. It was the right bus number posted on my phone but their sign gave you no clue. Looking at my phone I discovered I was already running late and worried about connecting buses. To go a mere 6 miles required three different buses and two different bus lines. I chose one that seemed easy to follow but there were more choices, one including buses and getting on the Metro Gold Line - a train! To drive it would take about 15 minutes, to take the bus 1 hour and 15 or so minutes, if you were lucky. Since this was a Sunday there were fewer buses. However, you would think they would be more on time, not less. Not one of the buses I rode was anywhere near full. A few passengers had bikes and used the racks like old pros. A nice touch.

The next bus was at a strange confluence of Atlantic and Garfield just below Huntington Drive (confused? well it is when you ride the bus). You have to walk from Garfield over to Atlantic to catch a Metro Bus. At least the posted Metro sign thoughtfully assured me by posting the numbered bus I was looking for that was going north. When the bus arrived, I put in the fare and told him I needed to get off at Colorado, the main east-west drag in Pasadena. As we rode north through South Pasadena to Pasadena on a street I've driven a million times, I realized that all of my doctors were "on the way" to Colorado. Since the transportation at the home is spotty at best, its good to know.

Our stop was just north of Colorado and then I had to cross the street to catch the next bus going east. It finally dawned on me that I might be able to use my Metro Train card. I could. The driver explained to me, after I put in my fare, that it was just like getting on the train, you "tap" the card and depending, subtracts money from the card. Here I worried about having enough dollars, quarters and dimes to pay the fare. At least with your Metro card its just a tap away!

Amazingly I got there on time, a 75 minute journey including a 5 minute walk.

The Inter-Pacific Red Car
I hoped that going home was simply a reverse of my trip north but I must have hit some key wrong because my instructions suddenly disappeared. I had to enter my "current location" which showed where I was on the street asking where I wanted to go. I found out where I had to start. Its amazing really. It knew exactly where I was and showed me how to get there; if I was driving, but I wasn't, so had to rely on the best App I could find. I have about 6 different Apps on my iPhone 6 and MOOVIT is the only that gave me what I needed using public transit. I got lost on my last stop and had to walk over a mile home. It was again my fault though the MB sign was a mystery; the bus late.  Which bus stops here? I don't know if MOOVIT covers other places, the only one I care about is the Los Angeles basin, with one of the worst public transit systems in the world.

Public transportation in Los Angeles at the beginning of the 20th Century was one of the finest in the world. Long before LA was a 100 mile wide megapolis, you could go from the beach in Santa Monica to the desert in San Bernardino, a land of nearly limitless orchards, Long Beach to Mt. Low, high up in the San Gabriel Mountains. With the introduction of the automobile came freeways and freeways replaced trains until the last line to Long Beach ended around 1962. Disney's amazing film, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" chronicles the destruction of public transit that occured. Ironically when after six failed voting attempts to get Angelenos to pony up the billions required to create train lines, with finally government help, the old Long Beach, now called the Blue Line, was the first to go back online. However, it is not an easy connection. You have to get on the Red Line, then exit and get on the Blue Line to head south.

After a few days using subways in New York City and New Jersey Transit, you realize how convoluted we made riding anything Metro touches. While it's easy to blame Metro executives, the fractured city-states of Los Angeles are also partly to blame as well. Places like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Westwood fought tooth and nail to stop Metro from "polluting" their neighborhoods. Only when revenues started to fall, the public began to avoid the congestion of getting there were discussions suddenly back on the burner.

LA Surpasses NYC with worst traffic in U.S.
Several years ago I was meeting a friend at the Wiltern theatre at the meeting of Western and Wilshire Blvd. for a concert. I had to come from Rosemead Blvd. and the I-10 freeway driving to Pasadena's Sierra Madre station, taking the Gold Line to Union Station then take the Purple Line. I got there in a bit over 60 minutes. He, traveling on Wilshire Blvd. from 26th St. in Santa Monica, a mere few miles away, took more than 90 minutes. As you can see there is a crying need for public transit but, either no one wants to build it for fear no one will use it. My last stop at the time was under a huge new condo. If I worked in a place where I could avoid the streets I'd move there and probably regain my life! What is missing is a coordinated plan that allows and pays for increased public transit to avoid the freeway and street congestion we suffer from. Buses? Why buses? They use the same lanes as cars and are trapped just like cars with only more victims inside. I've seen people walk faster than the bus drives!

You might question, who rides the bus, who rides the train? Well, poor people who simply cannot afford to own a car but many others who just don't want the hassle of driving on congested freeways and paying increasing car parking lot fees. It is indeed a unique mix of the rich and poor. However, fares are not cheap. I mean they had to pay for the huge Metro Skyscraper that looms over Union Station. Projects that should take a year or two take decades. China built an 800 mile high speed train track from Beijing to Shanghai in two years. The link from the Sierra Madre Station in Pasadena needed 6 months of "testing" to go as far as Arcadia, maybe a distance of 7 - 8 miles. It took them years to even construct the line. They already had the right of way even.

Until getting on a bus or train with lines that make sense, well signed, are on time and meet the needs of the public, not the needs of the powers that be, even congested freeways are not enough to get them to switch. Like I said I knew how to get from point A to point B, just not on a bus.

Thank you for reading my blog! I urge to you please read some of the earlier postings. They all refer to how we have designed our lives.

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