Sunday, November 17, 2013

No Car in LA then No Way

Just last week it became one year without a car for the three of us. There's no doubt about it LA is not for passive travelers. And the least passive mode of transport is a car. Depending on a bus and/or trains even with a Metro App on your phone is at best hit and miss. Mostly miss. Here's what I know. A car running with absolute autonomy is not long for this town. Mass transportation that involves the coupling of those cars into long, long strings or autonomous cars controlled from a central system might be a partial remedy but the long remedy is a combination of a massive mass transit structure that involves moving many peoples long distances rapidly and many peoples short distances speedily and it all has to be unbelievably efficient. As it is the traffic will only get worse - much worse than any of us can imagine.
Our son has moved from getting around town with a car to getting around town with a bicycle. Like fifty miles a day with a bicycle. He rides mostly at night and gets to where he gets to his appointments on time and in is the best shape of his life. Bicycles are certainly a not realistic and valid option for everyone but the fact remains there are too many cars. I know that because one of those too many cars hit our a year ago - and that car doing the hitting was a USED car. A Pacer!!! Normally I love Pacers but not this one.
We will no doubt get another car but we won't drive it as much because we have learned how to use the transportation system and I suggest to all of my LA and Southern California friends that they too learn how to use the mass transit system as well. Learn how to compensate for its raggedness of schedule, its bumpiness of ride and its enervating crowds of odorous peoples. Accidents happen far too regularly here and they can devastate your life if you’re not ready to make this major adjustment. Ours has led to a rude awakening of our ignorance of the non-rapid transit of LA Metro.
We will never be a great and enviable international city until we learn how to move our tourists and ourselves around town and county without a car. It’s just the way the century will develop. There will be too many people wanting to be in too many places at one time. Cars will have to change from being a singular mode of transportation to a more facile mode that can incorporate with other cars at any time. Nations and municipalities in those nations who move vast numbers of humans with effortless alacrity are now and will be the countries and metropolises that thrive internationally. Los Angeles is not set to be one of them.
Everyone should spend a week not using their car and ride the Metro but don’t change your schedule. See if you make your appointments. See if you are on time to work.  See what happens if you have to work late. Go ahead I dare any of you to maintain your same time frames that you have become so accustomed to. You won’t be able to maintain anything. You can’t make your appointments unless you make severe changes to your schedule.
My spouse likes to be at her work early. To accomplish this she leaves every morning at 5:50am to get a bus that generally arrives at 6:00am literally 125 yards from our front door. After she rides on that bus for about thirty minutes she disembarks to catch her second bus that will take her to right in front of her building.  This second bus is a part of another transit system that interfaces with LA Metro.  That works out well. The bus she wants arrives at nearly the very place the first bus let her off at 6:40am.  It is a short five mile ride to work.  All is good until she wants to come home.
She is supposed to leave at 5:30pm and unless she has other appointments such as helping me get somewhere she does. That trip takes an hour and half and a good day and two and half hours on a bad night. That means that were together for about an hour and a half of consciousness together during the week.
Now if she wants to get into work REAL early is a little more challenging. Metor runs their buses 24/7 with reduced busses and trains running on weekends and holidays. So she can get to west side fairly quickly. But she must walk from where Metro drops her off to her work. The other transit organization that LA Metro works with doesn’t begin service anywhere until 600am on weekdays and 700am on weekends. This walk would have been a daunting situation for her when she took her car to work but not now!  She has become a walker. She has and continues to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day for the last year. Let me tell you she looks stunning and the walk that is in front her on those early mornings (the five miles) makes her hardly blanch.  So you can take the bus. Just adjust your times accordingly. Remember the city is a late sleeper and likes taking its time getting home. Probably because everyone sleeps in!!
The last year for me has been a challenge because I had both of my knees replaced in April and for the first month I couldn’t walk more than thirty feet and stairs were a real struggle. When I finally started taking the bus I used a walker that I would fold up. I was deeply loved on the bus. For me to get on the bus they had to lay down a ramp or lift me up. I was a TIME KILLER!!.  Then when on the bus I could never completely close my walker so I would trip people and they would just smile through their profanity.
But the real fun for me, and really everyone, were the falls. Metro bus drivers and Metro Buses do not make for a smooth ride. Holding on to my walker was not enough. If the bus lurched forward or stopped suddenly this girl was flying and falling. Once down, I really couldn’t get up. That’s when the kindness of strangers would appear or not. Someone would eventually help me up (especially when I blocking the entrance to the bus) but the ignorance of others would also want to join in the fun. I can always count on someone to invariably say something like, “You should have driven your car.” I wish I could tell you I had a snappy rejoinder for these people and sometimes I did but mostly I was in pain and I just wasn’t my usual sanguine self.  I now do fairly well on the bus. With my Metro “Next Trip” App, I can make better decisions about time but it’s still quite difficult for me to get around like I want.  A car would be a blessing for us on the weekends but right now it would be a more of a distraction so better we don’t have one at the moment. When we can we will get a car.

As for all of you - try to use our public transit systems. It’s where the future is headed or not headed. Perhaps someday there will be advocacy groups that aren’t made up of the young, the elderly, the homeless, the disabled, immigrants and tourists from everywhere which is the majority of the makeup of the current passenger manifest. Metro needs to have a more diverse and economically advanced ridership like in all other major cities in America. An Activism Confederation that the city and county representatives would listen to and might then consider altering some of the more precarious problems that beset the passengers and the Metro personnel some of which have been enumerated above. Perhaps. Till then Go Metro when all else is not available. Plan accordingly as though you have all the time in the world. Metro does. 

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