Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Riding around on 2 wheels

Today I spent most of my trip on the Montebello Bus Line 41 sleeping until I realized I was about one stop away from where I needed to get off. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people talk really loud on their cell phones in the bus. Apparently the guy behind me was frustrated about some Architect Committee members sending out rogue e-mails with other people blind copied. The fact that I even know this much proves how loud and obnoxious this one sided conversation was. Anyways, after exiting on 3rd and Spring I walked down to 6th and Spring to wait for the 33/333. It took about 10-15 minutes for the bus to arrive, but once boarded we had to wait an additional few minutes to allow a rider in his wheelchair on the bus.

This got me thinking how difficult it must be to get around a city like L.A. in a wheelchair. Owning a van with a wheelchair lift is VERY expensive, plus having to modify it with hand controls is another cost. But for $.25 someone can travel on Metro throughout the County. This is a huge public benefit that is not often considered when talking about public bus transit. The bus also allows disabled individuals to be dropped even closer to their destination as opposed to the fixed routes of light rail/subway/busways. Unfortunately, there remains several problems for disabled passengers when using Metro: 1) not all buses have the wheelchair lifts/they are not always working; 2) the frequency of the bus service can lead to VERY long commutes; 3) the passenger must always know where he/she wants to get off so the bus driver can assist them in debarking, which requires extra planning and research on the part of the rider.

Overall, I would hope that by improving the overall bus system for all riders, disabled passengers would benefit even more as they depend on public transit for the majority of their transportation needs.

Total transit time today: 90 minutes; 50 minutes from Whittier to Downtown L.A.; Transfer wait: 10-12 minutes; 10 minutes from Downtown L.A. to Pico Union

Friday, August 14, 2009


Thank you to my few loyal readers, but I have decided to take this blog in a different direction. What prompted my decision has mostly to do with an advertisement I saw for a transit blogger for Metro's website. The purpose of this blog was to inform readers of on-goings in the transit world and progress on projects, Measure R money, etc. As I'm now a frequent commuter of multiple bus lines within L.A. County, I thought it might be interesting to report on what I see and hear while on the people's limo.

So let's begin with a review of Montebello Bus lines 41 and 341 (the Express). This line travels down Beverly Blvd beginning at either Norwalk Blvd in Whittier or Montebello Blvd. for the Express. After several trips on this line, I'm very impressed with the bus driver's service, the timeliness, and the cheap fare ($1.10 for regular, $1.30 for Express). The 341 travels on the 60 fwy. to the 101 fwy, exiting 4th Street before it continues Downtown. In total, the Express saves approximately 15 minutes in total trip time.

After I get downtown, I then need to make my way over to Pico Union. This second leg of my trip is unfortunately very tedious. There are 3 options: Metro Line 33 which starts at 7th and Spring and requires a 3 block walk to transfer, Metro Line 333 (limited stops) which begins at Union Station, and the Dash D route to the Dash- Pico Union route.

At first, I rode line 33 because it came the most frequently and dropped me off within 3 blocks of work. The line 333 is faster because of the limited stops, but comes less frequently and drops me off about a 1/2 mile from work. Finally the Dash combo drops me off the closest, but requires an extra transfer (although does save $0.75).

I have finally tried all three combos and believe Metro Line 333 to be the winner. Although it requires the longest walk to work, it saves time with less stops and comes frequently enough to warrant waiting out the extra few minutes in comparison to the Dash. Plus, it's drop-off point is in a safer neighborhood than Metro Line 33.

What I learned today was how inefficiently dispatched many of the Dash routes can be. The entire ride our driver was peppered with requests to spread out so that there was more space between him and the buses before and after him. The lack of specificity by the dispatcher allowed for no one to actually take responsibility for creating the required space and was very ineffective. I tend to believe that this is just how it's always been done at Dash without any ability to prove that it's useful or efficient.

Next up, a review on upcoming projects at Metro and an update on Measure R funding.