Thursday, May 13, 2004

Ever misplace your keys? 

I usually get a transit pass each month that lets me board practically any bus or train in the county for $58. It's called the EZ pass, and believe when I say it makes riding transit much easier. No worries about having fare, or how much the Santa Monica Bus is vs. the Long Beach bus.

Well, I rented a car last weekend so I could visit some of my relatives for Mother's day, so I ended up driving into downtown on Monday morning. Once I returned the car and started walking down the street, I realized that I had left my transit pass at home. For someone who rides transit all the time, that's like leaving your keys at home.

On the commute home, I took some MTA tokens from work for the ride back to Hollywood, but because I'm so used to just getting on the train, I completely forgot to buy a ticket, and rode all the way to Hollywood. Fortunately, there were no officers checking fare on my trip, so I avoided the $250 fine.

When I got home, I forgot all about my pass until I was leaving for work the next morning, when I discovered that I couldn't find it. Late for work, I headed out with a pocketful of change, the feeling of having lost a set of $58 keys preoccupying my mind.

Fortunately, that night after sorting through all my loose papers on my desk, I finally found my pass. Of course, I realized that night as well that I had left my actual keys at work. Well, at least I can get my landlord to open my door.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Okay, okay -- I'm back 

Hello everyone. I apologize for the lack of updates over the last two months. I don’t really have a good excuse for the absence of any new entries, other than that I first started blogging when I started riding transit, and the two new experiences seemed to fit well. But while I've taken to transit rather well, blogging on a regular basis has not been as easy for me to do.

However, since I started this experiment, I've received quite a bit of email indicating that my experiences and observations are of some value to people, and that I should continue to add at minimum a weekly digest of my happenings and thoughts to the blog. So, as a result, I am once again making an attempt to regularly update this journal with my chronicles, compliments and critiques of transit in Los Angeles and the people who ride it, plan and operate it, or simply exist without ever noticing it.

Feel free to send me an email when I fall short of my goal.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods = transit viability 

I've said this before, but today was a classic case of the reason that I can use transit as a viable alternative to owning an automobile. I don't need a car for basic needs.

After work I decided to visit my local branch library. I could have hopped on the DASH bus to take me the seven or so blocks from the Subway station, but I decided to walk. My local branch library was just completed a couple months ago, and is off Sunset Boulevard. Considering the site, they could have tried for a mixed-use building instead of a single purpose library (like several examples I saw in Portland), but I'm not complaining. I took a few minutes to select a book, and then started down the street towards my new neighborhood Target store. I checked out the new store and picked up a few items before walking back up a couple blocks to the Ralph's supermarket (now that the grocery strike is over) to buy some food for dinner.

These three trips took me a little more than an hour at a somewhat leisurely walking pace. I'm sure it would have been faster with a car (though not amazingly so with traffic and parking in a garage), but I got the added benefit of a little physical activity as well. Plus I didn't have to circle for a parking spot when I got back home ;)

Monday, March 08, 2004

It's fun to have a car every once and a while ;) 

With a list of errands to do, and the desire to visit a few friends and relatives for a change (instead of them visiting me), I decided to rent a car for the entire weekend. I made a reservation at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which was running a weekend special for $9.99 a day for a compact car (Dodge Neon or similar). On Friday afternoon, I walked over to their office at Pershing Square to pickup the car. They didn't have the car I reserved, so they offered me a choice of a Chevy Silverado truck or a Mitsubushi Eclipse Spyder Convertible. Well, not wanting to be driving this big gas guzzling truck, I took the convertible.

Well, the weather turned out to be perfect for a convertible, and I have to admit after the initial acclimation period with any unfamiliar car, I really enjoyed driving around with the top down. If I had known I would be driving this car and the weather was going to be so splendid, I would have planned to take a trip up the coast. The case being otherwise, I settled on visiting my friend in Marina del Rey and driving around Venice.

Because of the street closures due to the L.A. Marathon on Sunday (and the grand opening of Target at La Brea and Santa Monica), I didn't get to enjoy driving the car as much as sit in traffic. It took me almost two hours to get from my apartment to Pearl Arts & Crafts store at La Cienega and Pico, return some stuff, and then get to a relative's house in Echo Park.

The transportation bill for the whole weekend came to $52.34 (including 3 day rental and 9 gallons of gas @ $2.20). Not too shabby, eh?

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Chatty mornings and quite rides home 

I'm noticing that more people seem to be open to chatting with their fellow riders during the morning commute into work than the afternoon ride home. Maybe it's because in the morning people feel perky and ready to take on the world. Not being a morning person, I certainly don't feel that way. On the way home, people look more tired and grumpy, and tend to keep to themselves -- the exception being those people not going home from work but heading to some fun event like a game at the Staples Center, etc.

Yesterday I overheard a conversation between two women going to work in the morning. One of them lived in Valencia (that's the suburban frontier for you non-L.A. folks) and worked in Downtown, just steps from the 7th/Metro station. She said she liked taking the subway so much (since it gives her the opportunity to read or knit -- which she was doing on this occasion) that she drives to the North Hollywood station and takes the train into work each day (she also mentioned how the "outrageous" price of gas keeps her from driving all the way in). The whole time, I wondered why she doesn't take the Metrolink train? It would certainly give her more time to knit.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

A busy weekend in Hollywood 

On Friday, I reserved a Flexcar so I could take care of some work errands. When I got to the car, the battery was exhausted, and the card entry system didn't work. Luckily, the was another car about two blocks away which I was able to use.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time that it's happened. It turns out that because of the added electronics to run all the high-tech stuff Flexcar adds to the cars, the car battery is gets drained if the car isn't driven on a regular basis. Hopefully, this problem will be solved naturally as more members join and/or better locations are found for cars. In the meantime, it means the Flexcar folks have to go around to each car on a regular basis to check that the battery is charged.

I spent Saturday working all day. Livable Places sponsored a one day design charrette as a way to bring some talented architects and designers together to develop some cool ideas for building new joint-use schools. On the way home that evening, the Subway was packed (I'm finding that it often is on weekends). When came out of the Hollywood/Highland, I was greeted to a big crowd gathered around the red carpet set up along Hollywood Blvd for the Academy Awards.

Now, I know most people think that a limousine is the preferred way of travel to the Oscars, but I think it would make quite a statement to arrive via Subway. Unfortunately, that's not even an option. The station is closed on the day of the awards (I assume for security reasons), with the Red Line trains bypassing station.

Here's a very bad quality photo from my camera phone of the red carpet area on Saturday night. This is all literally steps from the subway portal.


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Tut, tut, it looks like rain 

A storm moved in this afternoon and began dumping rain all over Southern California. Suffice it to say, I got rather wet on my commute home. I did have an umbrella (albeit a small one) to shield me from the falling rain, but the real problems were at my feet. You see, because Los Angeles is so built up and paved over, a heavy downpour turns streets, gutters and even some sidewalks into mini rivers and lakes. Therefore, a pedestrian on a very rainy day in Los Angeles has to contend with trying to walk around all the water, while being extra careful around cars (since many L.A. drivers are inexperienced when it comes to wet road conditions). Hopefully the rain will let up for my morning commute.

In other news, the March 2004 issue of Los Angeles Magazine contains small column about Flexcar as part of its "ultimate driver's manual" where I'm mentioned as a user who gave up their car as a result of the service. I'm curious if people who are interested in reading a survival guide for car owners are looking for something like Flexcar, but nonetheless, it's good publicity for them.

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