Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Recently the MTA has launched several marketing campaigns to urging Angelenos to put trash in its place (since many people don't seem to understand that garbage cans exist for that purpose) and not chase after buses and trains for risk of being run over.

In my opinion, the next campaign should teach transit riders some basic etiquette -- things like making room for other riders and offering seats to seniors and disabled individuals. While most transit riders are a courteous bunch, my experience has shown me that quite a few people's mothers were slacking on the job when it came to teaching their children how to behave.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Today I gave a presentation to some of the staff at the Union Rescue Mission in Skid Row about some issues impacting the downtown area. When I called to confirm the time, the organizer mentioned that he would reserve a spot for me in their parking garage. I told him there was no need, since Livable Places' office was close by and I didn't have a car anyway, I figured I walk or take the bus. He sounded surprised, and then unsure if I knew what I was doing (being that Skid Row isn't an area most people walk around).

Since I was taking some equipment for the presentation, I ended up hoping on the #18 bus down 6th Street to the mission, and I caught the #18 on the way back on 5th Street. Other than dealing with some unpleasant smells on the street corner, the trip was quick and easy.

In other news, I rode the bus home on Wednesday instead of riding the subway so I could listen to the California gubernatorial race candidate debate on the radio. The trip took about an hour instead of the usual 45 minutes, but I hardly noticed because the debate participants put on quite an entertaining show. Too bad one of them might be governor.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

This weekend some friends of mine came into town to visit me. I was looking forward to their arrival, not just because they're my good friends, but because when they had planned their trip and the fact that I didn't own a car came up, they told me they were totally up for riding transit.

I didn't turn out that way though. When my friends arrived in L.A., they called me and told me that they had decided to rent a car at the airport. Being that is was their vacation, I told them it was their call, even though I expressed a small amount of disappointment about missing out what were sure to be many adventures on transit.

We did end up riding transit, though not in L.A. On our side trip to San Diego, we hopped on the San Diego Trolley around downtown and down to the Mexican Border.

Friday, September 19, 2003

I've been feeling a little sick the last few days. This morning I was running late, and I didn't feel like walking the 15 minutes to the train station, so I walked a couple blocks down to the #304 bus stop and took that to the Vermont/Santa Monica Red Line station. It worked out great considering my last experience with the #4 on Santa Monica. I don't think I'll do it every morning, but for the times I'm feeling lazy or tired, it's a good option.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

On Monday afternoon, after leaving Urban Insight, I biked down to LACMA to pick up some tickets. I didn't feel like biking all the way home, so I decided to take my bike on the bus for the first time. About 90% of the MTA buses have racks that allow you to secure your bike to the front of the bus. Since I'd never used the rack before, I had some problems securing my bike when the bus came, but fortunately a fellow rider showed me what I was doing wrong, and I didn't hold up the bus too much. Once I was familiar with how the rack operated, getting off was a cinch. I hope to start using this option a lot more.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Let me apologize in advance for the rant that follows.

I am sick and tired of people telling me about how riding transit -- indeed how walking down practically any street in this city after dark is unsafe. I know full well that Los Angeles has some issues with crime (it is well documented). But guess what -- the solution to crime is not locking yourself in your car, people!!

A) Being in your car does not make you immune to falling victim to criminals (anyone heard of car jacking or staged accidents?)

B) Being in your car does not reduce your chance of being killed (40,000 motorist fatalities vs. 10,000 pedestrian fatalities in 2002)

In my opinion, the way to improve the safety of our cities and neighborhoods would be to get more people out of their cars and on to the streets, creating activity in those public spaces that have been left abandoned and harbor criminal activity. Take back the streets, people!

Thursday, September 11, 2003

On Monday, an op-ed article I wrote about my experience switching to public transit was published on PLANetizen. Since then, the response I've received has been great, and mostly positive.

In my article I mentioned a car sharing service called Flexcar as a great option for people without cars while also suggesting they expand their presence in the Los Angeles area (particularly into Hollywood where I live). To my surprise, several Flexcar representatives, including the company's CEO, read the article. I've since chatted with the LA Sales Manager, who informed me the Flexcar is indeed planning to put cars in the Hollywood area, and invited me to cruise the neighborhood to identify possible locations.

He also told me that Flexcar is running a promotion (in the LA area) offering free lifetime membership through the end of September. (Starting in October, membership will require an annual fee of $25)

So, if you have been thinking about joining Flexcar, now's your chance (there's really no reason why you shouldn't since there's no cost to you until you use it).

When you sign up, make sure to enter the promotional code D-0-RMF and a September starting date. (As an added plus for me, if you put my name as the person who referred you, I get $20 in free usage)

Happy car sharing!

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

To show that life on transit is far from perfect, I'll share with you my less than perfect experience today.

I usually take the Red Line downtown to work. It's a 15 minute walk, but it's good exercise, and sometimes I try and catch the bus up the street to the station. But, when I use the MTA's online trip planner, it tells me to take the #4 bus all the way to downtown. The trip planner said trip would take 40 minutes, which is a little shorter than my normal method. So today I thought I'd try taking the #4.

Unfortunately for me, the bus ended up being almost 15 minutes late. On top of that, when we got to downtown, the streets weren't moving because of a terrorism drill that had disrupted traffic. I ended up walking the last six blocks to work, drawing to a close my hour trip.

I think tomorrow I'm going back to the train.

Monday, September 08, 2003

So another weekend has come and gone. Weekends are the time where not owning a car is most felt, because they're the time (at least in my case) where I used my car the most. When I had my car, I'd spent many a Saturday or Sunday running errands all over town, or else I'd just go explore a part of the city, or head to the beach, or cruise the city with friends moving from place to place.

Now, while I can still do most of those things, it's a bit more involved. The biggest change is running errands. With a car, you don't really have to think about much. You just make a list and head out -- without much in terms of planning. Running errands now means deciding exactly where I'm going and what I'm getting. Then I figure out how I'll get there. If it's nearby (which is preferable), I'll walk or ride my bike. If I need to take transit, I figure out the schedule, and plan when I'm going to go. So the main point is travel much less "spur of the moment" than with a car.

As for hitting the beach or spending a night on the town, I've become a bit more dependent on friends to do the driving. Of course, the MTA does offer bus service to several local beaches, and a night of pub-crawling is never far away with all the bars and clubs in Hollywood practically at my doorstep, so I don't feel too disadvantaged.

Friday, September 05, 2003

So I was up late last night again, so I decided to read the MTA's Short Range Transportation Plan -- which I thought would be a sure fire way to put me fast asleep. And while it definitely wasn't thrilling reading, the policy wonk/newly born transit patron in me found many of the plans for improving bus service in the region quite interesting. If the plan is any indication, it seems that the MTA is indeed aware of some of its own weaknesses, and is at least planning on implementing a bevy of changes that will try to address the issues. Of course, plans have come and gone, but I'm thinking it's safe to say that the MTA's slogan has some truth to it -- it is "getting better on the bus" -- or at least it will be.

For example, the highly successful Rapid bus program is being expanded at the rate of 4 new routes a year, so that by 2009 there will be 29 routes serviced by the faster, more frequent, headway scheduled service that is currently all the rage on the Wilshire corridor. Okay, 2009 sounds a long way away, but it's better than 2025, no? In addition, plans are in the works for an "Advanced Transportation Management System" to come online by 2005, which among other things will allow the MTA (and assumably riders) to track vehicle location from specially equipped stations as well as the web (this is something that Portland and other cities already do -- but you know California, always leading the way). Last but not least, there will be a whole lot more buses, including larger articulated buses to relieve overcrowding on many routes.

In other news -- a good friend of mine from high school is coming to visit me this September, and while I was excited she had decided to visit, I was a little concerned about the fact I didn't have a car to show her around town. I mean, this person was coming from my hometown of Orlando, FL, a city where buses run only once an hour and an upstanding person riding the bus is likely to be suspected of have their driver's license suspended for a DUI (though to it's credit, the local transit system seems to do the best with what it has). When I broke the news that I had recently sold my car and that any sightseeing would be restricted to transit or walking, the response I got was not "what do you mean?" or "could you rent a car?", but "cool." Not only did she not mind riding transit, but she was actually excited about the prospect. Of course, I'm curious to see how much excitement remains after her trip, but I'm encouraged by her attitude.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

I continue to be amazed about how comprehensive the bus system is here in Los Angeles. Today after work (oh look at time, I mean yesterday) I had planned on going to the LA County Art Museum for a new member reception that started at 6 p.m. But then I found out about a meetup for -- shameless plug alert -- presidential candidate Howard Dean (http://www.deanforamerica.com) that was starting at 7 p.m. at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. So, thinking I might be able to check out the art museum for an hour and then swing by the meetup, I fired up the MTA trip planner to discover that there was in fact a bus that went up Fairfax and east on Hollywood Blvd -- you couldn't ask for a much more direct route. So, I could take the #720 Wilshire Rapid at 5:30 from 5th and Broadway down to LACMA (30 minutes), and then at 7:00 I'd hop on the #217 up to the meetup and arrive by 7:30. Problem solved.

I ended up working late, skipping the art museum, and just taking the Red Line up to Hollywood/Highland at 6:40, but it's nice to know it was possible.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Okay, okay. It's been a month since my last post. What can I say but that I'll try harder to post more regularly. (My goal is twice a week).

Here's what's happened in the last month...

It's official. I sold my car on August 27th after having it up for sale for two weeks. Not as fast as I had hoped, but I wasn't exactly in any real hurry. My road trip to Spokane was nice, but also pretty long. I think it used up my last taste for driving.

I posted some photos from the trip here:

My day to day routine is pretty much still the same, and my experience riding transit has continued to be an overall positive experience (though I continue to see room for improvement...I'm planning on elaborating more on that later.) I am writing an op-ed article about my experiences thus far to be published on PLANetizen in the next week or so, so keep an eye out for that. Yesterday, I took the #156 bus up Highland Avenue to the Hollywood Bowl to pick up some tickets for next Sunday, before walking back down Highland to my local Supercuts to get my haircut. And unfortunately for me, I left my September MTA pass at work, so I'll have to pay a cash fare on the way in tomorrow morning. Oh well, another lesson learned.

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