Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In the Battle of Rail vs. Bus...

Rail vs. Bus has been a consistent battle since completion of the Blue Line in 1990. By connecting Long Beach to Downtown L.A., the transit planners resolved some of the commuter headaches of the 710 and 110 freeways. In 1993, the Red Line opened it's first leg from Downtown to MacArthur Park and exposed all the difficulties with building a heavy rail line (a.k.a. subway) in a city as developed and busy as Los Angeles. Other communities began clamoring for their own rail lines and the expansion continued with the Green (traveling on the 105 fwy.), Gold (Pasadena to Downtown and now to East L.A.) and the faux Orange (technically a Bus Rapid Transit system, but close enough for the Valley). Now Metro officials have declared that Crenshaw Blvd. should receive it's only Light Rail from the Expo Line which is currently underway to the existing Green Line.

I am personally not 100% convinced that rail is the best way to spend transit dollars in a city as sprawling as Los Angeles, but it is understandable why it continues to win the battle vs. bus debate.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Metro caused me to move

Shortly after I started taking the bus on a regular basis from Whittier to Downtown L.A., two things happened: 1) I got a new job located at the transit hub in L.A., aka Union Station and 2) my bus commute became unbearable on one rainy day in early October. The benefits of my work being located at THE transit hub are enormous. Rather than having to take a very slow Municipal bus line (a.k.a. Montebello Bus) and having to transfer to an equally slow Metro bus (#33/#333) to get to Pico-Union, I now had the advantage of taking a very slow Metro bus (#270) to several very fast, Express buses by a variety of transit providers. It didn't cut down the overall trip time by much, but it did allow me to walk to the bus stop from my house. This all worked out very nicely until one day it rained in L.A. And for those of you who aren't native Angelenos this means the entire city is thrown into chaos.

I had arrived to work relatively on-time most days via my new route and was surprised at how even the unpredictable rain didn't affect my travel time to work. Unfortunately, it was the ride home where my faith in bus transit started to wear thin. I waited at my stop next to the El Monte Busway for any express bus that was headed towards El Monte Bus Station. As I stood there, three buses that would have taken me to my transfer point were so full that two didn't stop and one stopped loading passengers. By the time I was able to board Foothill Transit's Silver Streak I had missed my transfer connection. For a regular route, this wouldn't be a problem, but the Metro 270 only runs once an hour! Add that the cold weather and rain and I called in the cavalry and asked the bearded man to come pick me up.

This long roundabout story played a large part in our decision to move to a location where I'd be within walking distance of a Metro Gold Line stop that has a frequency of approximately every 8 minute during peak hours. It means no more transfers, no more waiting at a stop wondering if the bus will ever come and a 99% likelihood I'll have somewhere to sit. More to come on the move, and the ever evolving result of having only 1 car in a city ruled by what you drive.