Sunday, January 25, 2009

JFK - Look Before You Leap

Visiting my daughter last week, I decided to take public transportation to the airport home, rather than hire a taxi or a car. Looking on the NYC transit web site, it was only an hour ride from her Bushwick apartment, the L train to the B15 bus at New Lots. Ah, but where is New Lots? I had no idea and didn't think to look or ask until I was already on the L train early the next morning. Turns out that as I was getting onto the bus, there is only one white guy on the bus, an older white guy with a big ol' suitcase blocking the! Hmmm. A little uncomfortable. I did not find it threatening or fearful, I just felt like a jerk adding another obstacle to these folks just trying to get to and fro in their lives. I had looked at a map, and it did not look like a long ride between New Lots and JFK airport. And I figured it was going away from the city, so would have less rush hour morning traffic. Wrong! The bus was packed and it was a 30+ minute ride. And buses really aren't made for suitcases, big or small. It would have been smarter to take the L train to the A train and pay an extra $5 to catch the AirTrain which connects directly from the A to JFK. Next time I'll know.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

What's Going To Happen?

I have not written for BusMan since last September, close to a year. I've used the buses and trains some since then, but - in addition to not wanting to write another "I went here, I went there" entry - I became discouraged. Why, and is anything different now?

I became discouraged reading and riding. A couple of articles that came my way last year discussed studies of transit-based housing. Housing that is near a subway line. What they found was that these housing projects were actually increasing automobile traffic in the neighborhoods, because the subways don't go many places, and the buses that you would need to ride to get to your final destination are too slow, often late, and infrequent. As much as I like to ride the bus, I have to agree with this. The key factor as far as I'm concerned is that when you are on a bus, you are still in traffic. So you have slow and late, just like with a car. I tend to ride the bus when I can get on one, maybe two buses, and go a reasonably long distance, certainly greater than 10 miles. For less than 10 miles I'd rather ride my bike. For more than one transfer, the time lost is just not worth it. I believe a system of dedicated bus lanes would go far toward making public transit more workable in LA. Get the buses out of traffic. They'll run faster, on time, and be a much more attractive alternative to sitting in a car. Especially since adding bus lanes would reduce the number of car lanes, making the 1-person-1-car habit even worse than it is today.

I also became discouraged as I rode my bicycle more and more. I love riding my bike. I think it is quite safe. It's SO much more pleasant than getting in a car. I find it clears my head, in part because I'm not cursing at all the bad drivers like I do when I'm in my car. I get on the bike, and I know I'll get to where I'm going at a rate of 7-9 miles per hour, regardless of traffic. So I can take my time and enjoy the ride.

In addition, LA is absolutely made for bicycles. We have great weather and it is mostly flat. A change toward a more bicycle oriented culture would be great. Yet, when I ride, I see hundreds, perhaps thousands of automobiles for every bicycle I see. Maybe tens of thousands. It's very discouraging.

I had meant to write months ago that I thought the only thing that would provide the impetus to get LA residents out of their cars was if the true cost of driving was actually felt. I've been an advocate of a much higher gas tax and much higher parking fees. Well, it seems that the price of oil is having an effect. I would be much happier if this were a planned happening. I am somewhat fearful of leaving the impact of higher gas prices to the marketplace. I am fearful of the forced change in lifestyle it requires from so many people. I am fearful of the terribly regressive nature of this new cost, falling SO much more heavily on people who can't afford it. I am fearful of potential chaos that a continued rapid rise in gas prices could cause in society in general. But it does seem to be getting some people out of their cars. Transit ridership is up and traffic is definitely a tiny bit lighter both measured statistically and reported in the papers, as well as anecdotally. More Vespas, MiniCoopers, and SmartCars on the roads and less Hummers. In fact, I have not seen a Hummer on the streets in a couple of months.

I wonder what's going to happen.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Osaka, Japan

I:ve spent the last several days in Kansai, the Osaka, Kyoto, Nara area of Japan. Osaka is a city of about 1.5 million. It is spread out all over the place. Two downtown areas, but lots of work areas throughout the city. It kind of reminds me of LA, though more dense. Public transportation goes everywhere. Extensive bus and rail systems. The city was leveled during WWII so it is all post-war. It is still being built, new stations in many places. It does not appear to be nearly as downtown-centric as NYC or Chicago or San Francisco. So why can:t LA have as good a public transportation system as Osaka? Is it really a technical/urban planning issue? Or is it primarily political will?

Oh, and another thing. Bicycles. Thousands of bicycles. Men in suits, old people, young people, all types of people riding bicycles. I was very surprised. I thought that was more of a third world thing. But Osaka is flat and well suited to bicycles, just like LA. Bike lanes everywhere, broad sidewalks on many of the boulevards.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ride and Bike

Friday I had an all day meeting in Santa Monica. I rode my bike 2 miles (twelve minutes) to the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax. There I caught the new Rapid Express Bus, the 920. It runs rush hour only from Wilshire and Vermont all the way to Santa Monica making only 5 or 6 stops along the way. Wow! Even faster than the 720 Rapid Bus. I put my bike on the bike rack and was dropped off 2 blocks from my meeting. Total travel time from home to destination was 50 minutes.

Eastbound traffic from the westside is unbelievably bad now during the evening rush hour. It seems counter-intuitive that the worst traffic would be the opposite of the typical downtown rush, but it is. Many thousands of jobs have been opened up on the westside over the last decade while housing prices have soared. The people who work there can't afford to live there. So it is a big mess.

I had already planned to ride my bike all the way home and not use the bus. Although there is a dedicated bus lane for a portion of the ride back, the bus is still caught in terrible traffic for most of the afternoon rush. I rode my bike in the Venice Blvd. bike lane, frequently passing cars and buses. Made it home in 72 minutes, just 20 minutes slower than my early morning ride to Santa Monica, and certainly faster than if I had tried to drive or take the bus back. Much more enjoyable, too, after a day of sitting in a meeting.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

One Approach to Better Public Transit

Should we pay more for a ride on public transit? This article by Frank Gruber makes a good case for answering "Yes." I'm not sure. How many rides could be subsidized by the $1.2 trillion spent in Iraq? I just got a pamphlet from the MTA (along with their excellent "12-Minute Map" detailing all the routes in town where buses run at least every 12 minutes) explaing their upcoming fare increases. The pamphlet says the system's deficit will reach $1.8 billion in 2016. Apply $1.2 trillion to that, and you have no deficit for 667 years. Hmmm....

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Going Downtown

It is completely beyond me why anyone would choose to commute by car to Downtown L.A. I had to report for jury duty two days this week. I walked half a block to the Beverly bus, took 5 miles or so to the Red Line subway on Vermont, then took the subway to within 3 blocks of my destination Downtown. Total time was maybe ten minutes longer than if I had driven; that includes waiting for the bus and train, and walking time. Total cost: $3 per day. No parking, no traffic, no hassle.

It was so relaxing. I have not been riding the bus much lately because of the types of trips I have had to make. I had begun to forget how simple, easy, and relaxing it is. I hate driving. I hate looking around me stuck on the road, realizing how stupid and inefficient it is to move around the city one-person-per-car. Such a large "footprint" for a single vehicle to move one person from place to place. Insane.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Rose Bowl

A friend of mine lives in the valley and went to the Rose Bowl (to cheer for USC - boo!). But here is his excellent report on taking public transit to the game:

I decided to take your advice and go for the public transportation. It was a dream.
Picked up the red line at Universal City...Actually, thought I was going to North Hollywood.
Whole trip was easy. We arrived at Parson's building for the Shuttle and opted to hoof it to the Rose Bowl..
Took about 25 minutes.....

Thanks again for your to the game in a relaxed mood without dealing with traffic and parking.