Yay, my local mountain loop (3 or so miles) is back in business after some improvements over last fall. What did they do? They built permanent bathrooms (no more portapotties!), resurfaced much of the trail and the parking lot, evened out much of the rutted trail, and built a little informative kiosk. Love being able to do a mountain hike close to where I live!
Neither can I. And of course by that I mean Trump as president or president-elect. Anyway, he is and we haven’t forgotten or gotten used to it. The sooner it ends, the better. For all of us! In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite photos from the myriad protests and marches from the past year. I think this one was on tax day, April 15. A glorious sunny day in DTLA.
In case there was any question, the UGH and the FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK refer to 45.
I need a new phone!
I was going to bring my camera to this event but I forgot it, what with the sign and all. So, my apologies, the phone ran out of juice about halfway through. I couldn’t even call a Lyft to go back to the subway once it was over. Yes, I know, #Firstworldproblems. I have failed today.
I did love that the Pride Celebration in LA returned to its protest roots. Energizing and energetic, it was great to see the 100,000 people come out to march in the streets in resistance to the “not normal in any way” times we find ourselves in, to reaffirm our equal rights as gay, lesbian, trans, bi, queer, unsure, whatever. We’ve fought very hard for a very long time and honey, we’re not giving an inch. Not. one. inch.
Enjoy the photos and the one video I did manage to take.
And a video snippet:
About three and 1/2 years ago (June 7, 2013), I sold my car and decided (after much thought and research) to live a life that was car free. I lost some weight and saw a different side of my city. I saved a lot of money. My stress level became palpably lower. I proved that despite all the cliches (which are class-based cliches, by the way), one does not need a car to survive in L.A.
Yes, I found that it’s possible to get anywhere in the L.A. area by bus, train, bike, walking, Uber, Lyft, taxi, Amtrak and the kindness of strangers. But here’s the thing: possible does not always mean convenient.
So this happened:
I moved to L.A. originally in 1981, and this is the lifestyle we led: Say I lived in Pasadena, which was true for awhile. A friend a few miles away would suggest how nice it would be to go to Hollywood for a few drinks and then later on go down to the beach for a while, play in the dark waves, etc, or go bar-hopping out in Santa Monica. Or have a bite to eat there. We’d often do things like this — which actually involve a 40 or 50 mile round trip in a car. It was common then and it was nothing, really. Gas cheap. We were young and energetic. Traffic was not in any way as bad as it is now, especially at night. This is part of that Southern California Car Culture you hear about, ski in the morning, surf in the afternoon (which I suppose somebody did, not that this kind of activity was EVER anything you would call convenient).
Anyway, my point is, some of this lives on. At least in our minds, at least we’d like to think this is our coastal “lifestyle,” though age and especially traffic has made this all but impossible. I do think there is a bona fide Millennial movement to embrace an L.A. car free existence. But here’s the thing: I’m not a Millennial. Not even close. And I guess although it’s great to be a pioneer or a trailblazer in some way, it’s kind of lonely if you’re the only one.
I was the only one (in my age and class cohorts) who habitually rode the bus or the train and it was honestly getting a bit old and lonely.
Another thing is isolation. While my facility navigating L.A. without a car grew tremendously the longer I did it, my desire to be out and about actually diminished. While I could take an Uber to a hotspot at 10 at night from my home location in the Valley, say to somewhere “over the hill” in Silver Lake or West Hollywood, my desire to do that plummeted. My desire to do that on the bus plummeted even further. And this was not just hotspots, but things like events and other gatherings where the distance and inconvenience just made it too difficult. I didn’t want to be a hermit.
There’s something different about having your own transportation that’s about more than getting to point B from point A, and it has to do with comfort and safety and the ability to be totally spontaneous. I realized that I was willing to pay again for this occasional luxury.
So — I’m not abandoning public transport or my bike or my beloved walks, especially those in the quiet of the near dawn. I really liked contributing to a less polluted city in a really small way and will continue. But I will occasionally use the new car, for things like:
- Socializing at night, i.e., seeing friends, dating and other activities
- Road trips – Palm Springs and local places like that, especially where trains don’t go.
- Camping! I still want to find a partner in crime for this.
- The occasional event or possibly a job opportunity, like an interview, like tutoring, like background acting on a location (think Santa Clarita, where I used to have frequent gigs). Although for commuting to work, I’ll still use public transport.
- Going to the Gym – sometimes that’s just easier to drive and I would work out more, quite frankly ,if it was easier to get there.
- Shopping, sometimes. Sometimes you just want to do that Target run and get your own 30 roll packs of TP rather than have Amazon deliver them.
So there you have it. I’m grateful to have the luxury of the occasional car at my disposal again. I realize how lucky I am to have it. And I know, should it turn out that I really don’t use the car for much, I can always turn around and sell it. Again!
Three years ago on June 7, 2013, I drove into CarMax in Burbank, California, and sold them my car. They gave me a check for $6000.
I walked back to my apartment via Magnolia Boulevard. It took more than an hour. During the early summer walk, I had numerous moments of “oh my god, what have you done?” but I did not fall into the earth, wailing or otherwise.
I’d planned to go car free, and had been thinking about it, reading about it for years. There were lots of reasons, from wanting to be more environmentally conscious to wanting to save money to frustration with driving and especially with parking.
I made lots of dry runs with LA’s Metro system, did lots of bike riding on streets with bike lanes (and others without them, but rarely) and started figuring out places I could walk to in my neighborhood of Valley Village.
Still, it was very strange to arrive back at my apartment and leave my parking space empty. That voice in my head would say, well, you’re crazy, you’ve finally done it buddy, what are you thinking, Jim? You can’t live in L.A. without a car, everybody says so!
But then I have lived in L.A. without a car, and for three years now.
- more money for me (I save about $5K a year on car costs)
- easier for me to keep weight stabilized, as I get so much aerobic exercise
- stress level is lower, and blood pressure readings are more in the normal range
- I see the city on a more human, sidewalk level. I notice people and buildings and plants and . . . that I would have missed before, speeding by.
- I don’t get road rage.
- I don’t have to deal with road ragers.
- I don’t fret over the price of gas or car insurance or car repairs or any of that.
- I can still be spontaneous — hello car sharing services, Uber and Lyft. That’s one of the missing pieces to this puzzle, and it’s been filled in.
- I love just showing up at a venue and walking through the front door, shaking my head when someone asks if I need to be validated.
There are really no cons to being car free, but I have learned some things about myself and the whole idea of “car free” from a white, middle class perspective.
Some of these things are:
- Public transport is really a class thing in L.A., still. Regardless of the new Expo line, which everyone wants to ride, because it goes to Santa Monica and the beach, most people ride the Metro because they can’t afford cars. A decision like the one I made to be “car free” was born of privilege (similar to Voluntary Simplicity or New Frugality movements) — because I can afford a car if I want one, if I wanted to return myself to that misery. I imagine that most of the people who have no choice but to take the trains or buses would consider me a silly old fool. I hope that perception will change and we’re making headway, but we’re not there yet.
- Speaking of that Expo line or the Wilshire 720 Rapid or any of the other public transport ways to get to the Pacific Ocean from the San Fernando Valley: There’s no quick way to get to the beach, other than a car, and even that’s relative. At like, 4 am. On a Tuesday. It would probably take about half an hour at that date/time. But at any other time, rail makes the journey a lot more palatable, i.e. there are no potholes on the rails. And you can read, you can access WiFi or a cell tower (Expo is above ground). You shouldn’t read while driving.
- When you have a car, you go to lots of places just because you have a car to get there, whether it makes any sense to go there or not. It SEEMS purposeful, but I think that might be an illusion. Because I’ve found that with just a little bit of resistance (the resistance being not having an easy transport option at the ready 24/7) you make lots of different choices.
- Driving also serves to mask boredom and loneliness. You’re part of this stream of humanity, all GOING somewhere, or at least seeming to, if really not. Listening to the radio is part of it, too, feeling connected to the music or the DJ or the newscaster makes it all a little less lonely.
Just as I started this post I saw that yet another bicyclist had been killed in the LA area, this one in Compton, today, June 6, 2016. RIP.
Be careful out there.
Really, time for a post on something other than “Kept.”
Here is the latest I’ve seen about the imminent opening of the extension of the Expo Line light rail to Santa Monica. As the tweet says, not today but soon. It’s done. It’s just testing now.
So this is pretty exciting, right? We have that Orange Line connection to the Van Nuys Flyaway, we’ve got the Gold Line extension to Azusa opening March 5, and now light rail to the true end of the line (blocks from the beach) in Santa Monica, should be open in time for summer, if not before (come on guys, it’s done, let’s open it up by April).
I realize it’s a transport nerd post and not much more. But the truth is, for a city that has long been defined by the automobile, Los Angeles is continually making great strides toward being transit-friendly.
It makes me happy.
*in the contemporary United States. I don’t know about other places; I suppose this is a worldwide “law.”
I found this post on the Internet. I often look for stories or articles that validate my own car free choice, just so I can feel some camaraderie and not think I’m the only person in the world who has done this and also thinks it’s a doable idea. (I don’t have many friends in L.A. who are car free; some, but usually it’s not been a choice for them and they’re not particularly happy about it and hope to change this circumstance ASAP).
One of the things that Zachary Shahan talks about in his post is the pleasurability of his car free decision. That is key, isn’t it — if it’s not a good and pleasurable way to live, then why do it? I’ve had enough martyrdom in my life already, I don’t really want any more.
I admit that feeling the pleasure is sometimes hard, living in the midst of the most intense car culture on the planet. Also, the writer of this great post is obviously younger than me by decades, and there’s something to be said about youthful optimism in any situation. Isn’t there?
If you haven’t guessed the factor or read the article, I can tell you it’s location. The same old real estate cliche, location location location.
And I think that’s true. The very definition of doable transportation depends on where you are and where you need to go. For myself, I commute to a part time job using a bicycle and public transportation (I take my bike on a subway). For all other daily life activities and shopping, I can walk or ride a bike. For social activities, I usually take public transport or if that’s not really practical, a cab or an Uber or a Lyft, which are always practical in Los Angeles. I happen to live around the corner from a major stop along a major rapid busway. This really does help. It’s a good location.
One of these is, I tend to live along gridlines. By that, I mean that the places that I frequent in my life — that are not walkable from where I live — are mostly along arterials, either bus or train public transportation routes (see our rapidly expanding metro train diagram to the left) or safe streets with bike lanes.
I guess it’s common sense; why people always say that wherever they put a light rail stop is a huge boon to a neighborhood. It’s convenience, right?
I first really noticed this, because I hadn’t been consciously thinking about it, when I was riding with someone who had a car and we went on streets I used to drive on all the time, and was presented with completed, new buildings that I didn’t even know were under construction. That’s how long it’s been. (This was La Brea Avenue in Hollywood.) I wouldn’t ride my bike on that street; it’s too busy, there’s no bike lane, it’s a recipe for death. Also, there’s no “must” destination there, at least not in my current life. So, in other words, no reason to go.
So life is streamlined. I always go back to one of the first articles I read on Streetsblog which planted the seed that if you go car free in a city the geographic size of Los Angeles, you’re going to basically live in your neighborhood. For me currently this is Valley Village/Studio City/North Hollywood. Going to the far reaches of West Los Angeles or the beach is for special occasions or for that Uber/Lyft ride. I pretty much live a life centered in my neighborhood but bounded by the larger grid of Burbank Boulevard on the north, DTLA on the east, Beverly Boulevard on the south, and Robertson Boulevard on the west.
Funny, these boundaries are mostly where they’ve always been for me, for thirty plus years, I’ve lived a life pretty much bounded by Silver Lake on the east and West Hollywood in the west. I guess public transport has really opened up Downtown LA for me, because previously it was just such a traffic and parking nightmare I’d do anything to avoid it. Those days, quite nicely, are gone.
NOTE 11/12/15: This post was premature. Now this Orange Line/Flyaway connection is supposed to open in December, 2015. Here’s the link.
Okurrr, I read this nice post about something which should just be a no-brainer — connecting the Orange Line Bus (which traverses the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles) with the Van Nuys Flyaway Station for the express bus option to LAX.
So it says, basically, that Flyaway Buses will begin stopping at the Woodley Station on the Orange Line, which is about a mile south of the main Flyaway terminal at the Van Nuys Airport.
Why this makes sense: If you want people to take public transport to LAX Airport, don’t make them go southeast to downtown Los Angeles when the fracking airport is way over on the other side of town, southwest of them.
Up to now, you had to go miles out of your way because that was the only easy option. Of course, you could take the Orange Line bus west and then wait for an additional local bus to make the one mile trip up to the Van Nuys Airport terminal or just schlep up the street with your bags. Neither of those options being very appetizing, right?
So congrats to Metro. I applaud this move to make our public transportation system just a little bit more friendly. It is little improvements like this which have added up over the years and greatly improved the experience of public transport in L.A.
I hope hope hope they keep to this October 1 timeframe! I have a flight from LAX on October 4, and that’s how I’ll get to the airport if it’s working. I’ll have to update.
I joined my friend Chris King and 27,000 others at a rally for Bernie Sanders on Monday, August 10 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. I don’t get down to that area too much anymore and it brings back a lot of good memories of my first days in L.A. at USC and at my first job here, which was only blocks away from this location back in 1981.
Anyway, the rally was great and inspiring. For more on Bernie Sanders and his platform, see the campaign website.
Some snaps from the rally: