Tag Archives: LA Metro

So This Happened: Car Free to Car Lite, and Why

Share

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:

20161125_151401_resized

Blogger in front of the red Chevy Spark.

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!

Car Free, Two Years and Counting . . .

Share

I sold my car to CarMax in Burbank on June 7, 2013.

This is a picture of my bike, a few months ago, at a stop for donuts. It’s called Don_t Time. (cause the only thing missing is U) The person in the photo is just someone else stopping for donuts, it’s not me. I took the picture.

The donut stand on Magnolia and Keystone in Burbank.

The donut stand on Magnolia and Keystone in Burbank.

Ironically, yesterday I had to make a trip for which the clearly most appropriate way to get there (to West Hollywood from my house in Valley Village) was by car. So I called Uber, and the driver that picked me up had the exact make and model car that I sold two years ago (a Scion Xa).

So, an update, how’s it going, you ask?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes I make plans in my head to buy another car. I’ll tell myself, yes, you should just grow up and buy a car, by the end of the year. I mean, you can’t ride your bike forever, what are you, 60? Yes, I’m 60. But then again I don’t ride everywhere. I do ride around the neighborhood, but I also walk a great deal, take a good amount of buses and trains.

And sometimes, like yesterday, a car is the best option and I’ll call an Uber or a cab. Still, even a pretty liberal use of services like those is so much cheaper and better for the environment than actually owning a motor vehicle is.

So I tell myself, along with the plan to buy another car, to do a month of car-sharing before I’d ever actually pull that plug on the car-free experiment. If I’m truly not happy using, say, Uber for those destinations that are just too late or too difficult then, sure, go ahead and buy that car and have all that misery refunded (sorry, 12-step, I’m borrowing some of your language).

What I suspect will happen is that I’ll still be car free when 2016 rolls around. Because I love saving all that money. Cause I really do like to walk. Because the lower amount of stress in my life (from not owning a car) is something I feel deep in my bones.

It is eminently doable, for those of you on the fence. Try it, what have you got to lose? You can always get a car again.

In the meantime, it will be me still ordering those 40-roll packs of TP from Amazon and using my Uber app when I just have to get to Santa Monica in a hurry for tacos or something.

Gotta go – riding the bike over to my neighborhood movie theater. They have a special free bike parking section out in front.

 

 

L.A.’s Mobility Plan Draft

Share
Bikes Take Over - well, at least this one day.

Bikes Take Over – well, at least this one day.

Wanted to get this posted, even though it’s draft form and requires clicking on the Curbed LA link as well as their link to the plan itself.

It’s massive, but well worth taking a look at. I believe plans of this sort, while arguably a wish list of lots of things that won’t get done, or won’t get done right away, are still the key to livability here in the Los Angeles region.

As a cyclist, my focus is first on that part of the plan, followed by the public transportation (train and bus) plans. While I haven’t looked at the entire Mobility Plan yet, one statistic that jumped out was that bicycle commuting has increased over 50% in the ten year period from 2000 – 2010.

It’s the perfect place to bicycle – great weather, practically every day it’s an option, and the landscape is something like 85% flat. We just have to make it safe for everyone – the cyclists, the pedestrians, and the drivers in their cars.

A lot of the plan is aspirational like the Curbed piece says. Something to shoot for. I’d like to live in the city that’s described here.

Uber, revisited. . .

Share

imgres Well, I saw this story in The New York Times and I could not stop myself from commenting once I stopped vomiting!

Am I the only who finds it really tedious that reporters such as this one think that Angelenos’ dream is to ape New York City in all respects?

Now I understand the the Times is a New York paper and would have that bias, i.e., reporting on things New Yorkers would be interested in. But. Seriously.

Until Uber turned out to be a douchebag company that exploits its workers and scoffs and sensible safety regulations for its drivers and their cars —  I thought it was a game changer myself. And the idea still is, whether it’s Uber or Lyft or some other company that finally makes this sharing a winner for both the buyer and seller. Even the guy profiled in the linked story says Uber has become a “soulless psycho monster.”

Maybe it would have made more sense to title the piece “How Car Sharing is Changing Los Angeles Nightlife,” but that would’ve been less sexy.

But New Yorkers, please, look at a fucking map. Look at distances. And learn some history. Los Angeles has a huge public transportation infrastructure: a subway, light rail and enormous bus system. The current construction of multiple light rail lines at once is the largest public works project currently underway in the United States. At least one place in the country is thinking about infrastructure. Though from this article, you wouldn’t know that the guy who takes Uber from Hollywood to DTLA could also easily have taken the subway for a fraction of the cost. He could have taken a bus. Or a cab. So it’s not like these options did not exist before.

I do applaud those who get out of their cars and actually commit to a car free life in Los Angeles; it takes some doing.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Los Angeles take the Metro every day in all its permutations for every possible need; they don’t own cars. What is truly astounding is that this article seems to have discovered something when it hasn’t. It truly must be a “white girl (or guy) problem” to figure out how to drink in both Koreatown and West Hollywood on the same night without getting a DUI or calling a pesky taxi company.

Newsflash to the Times: I’ve been going out to multiple locations at night for over 30 years in Los Angeles. Often with car, often without. Whatever it is, it’s certainly not a new thing. It wasn’t new when I was in my 20s, and it’s certainly not new now.

Also – this story fails for its conflating the opening of the Ace hotel as a reason DTLA is becoming a “destination.” Just swallow the obvious Ace PR hype without question here, dear writer! DTLA has had a cultural renaissance for at least over 10 years, going on 15. The opening of the subway lines in the 90s had a lot to do with it. DTLA does continue to get more hip with each passing year; it does get more interesting as well. However, the Ace has nothing to do with it.

“Untethered from their vehicles, Angelenos are suddenly free to drink, party and walk places.” — umm, like that wasn’t done before?

Before “Uber was a thing” — there was a “thing” called taxicabs. I know, it’s hard to believe.

And for the Uber driver who says LA is almost like NY – seriously? LA, thank the goddess, is not full of Duane Reades and Citibanks on every block. There’s no snow. There are palm trees. A gazillion other differences, the key point being L.A. does not aspire to be New York.

It’s like what we used to say about the New Yorkers when they complained they couldn’t get a decent bagel or slice of pizza at 3 a.m. — if it’s that important to ya, move right on back. We don’t really care.

Those are the easy cliches – but what I would say to the newcomer who’s trying to get the best of his New York life and seamlessly transfer it to L.A. – hopefully, you’ll find that a Southern California lifestyle isn’t really about getting to and from restaurants and bars/clubs. It’s about the outdoors – from the beaches to the mountains and everything in between. That’s a big part of what being an Angeleno is. I hope he figures that part out.

OK, rant over.

New Technology Makes Going CarFree Even Easier

Share

2925547715_d2b960f2ea_o

It’s dawned on me that the days of going to a bus or train stop and just hoping that your ride comes along eventually are basically over — that is, with a little help from technology and smart phone apps.

Here in Los Angeles, the LA Metro system has its own app that tells you, in real time, when the next bus/train will arrive. So basically, this means you don’t have to leave your house/place of business/whatever if you don’t want to because you know exactly when the ride will arrive.

This is also helpful when making a connection – too common an occurrence here in L.A. The app can tell you in real time whether one option might be better than another based on real-time bus arrival times which you can access while on the first leg of your journey. This has the potential of shortening your time in transit.

And, to be honest, since going car-free almost a year ago I’ve had that moment here and there where I just thought, damn, it would be nice to get a ride. Well, now that’s easier too. There were always cabs – but you had to call them and wait and half the time they didn’t show up. With Uber or Lyft, the smartphone app does it all for you, including telling you how far away the car is, and since it’s going to be charged to your credit card on file, there’s no worry about having enough cash in your wallet should you decide on the ride on a whim.

These options make going car-free in our car-centric city that much easier, and makes it even less likely I’ll get another car soon. This time of year, even the bargain basement ARCO near my house currently has unleaded for over $4.20 per gallon. Ouch!

Speaking of Uber, I read they’re launching in Palm Springs. I couldn’t be happier! You know why? After living there for 10 years (part time) I met more of the rudest, assholest cabbies you could ever imagine. Who charge outrageous taxi rates in Palm Springs. So sorry if you’re now going to have to compete with ordinary Uber drivers. Maybe you’ll be a little nicer, even? Like they say, Karma is a bitch.

I’ve started commuting home one night a week on my bike (instead of taking it on the train). It’s about a 15 mile trip, from East Hollywood through Silver Lake/Los Feliz, then along the L.A. River bike trail and connecting in Burbank to the Chandler bike path to Valley Village. Not sure I’ll do it all year, but I’ve loved this trip in the evening spring light.

Reinventing Los Angeles: Water and Transport

Share
Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Jimbolaya

Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Jimbolaya

Earlier today I saw a Facebook post warning about traffic jams on our freeways as a result of a messy oil tanker truck fire.

I then went to sigalert.com to verify this information and I realized I hadn’t gone to this site since I gave up my car in June. There was no need for it; bicyclists are not usually subject to traffic jams, and certainly not traffic jams on freeways.

In the attached article, writer Jeff Turrentine remarks on his culture shock moving from Brooklyn to L.A., and on the overwhelming insertion of automobile life into almost every aspect of how we go about our days here in Los Angeles. I recently spent a month in New Orleans, and upon returning, I also was surprised at how easily I became aware of the tremendous assault on the environment (and Southern California is truly a beautiful environment) the “car” has. From noise, to pollution, to vast amounts of space necessary for roads and parking lots, etc., it’s almost as if we exist to serve this status quo of machinery.

Join Amazon Prime – Watch Over 40,000 Movies

In addition to the Southern California water situation (in a nutshell, we don’t have any, it comes from elsewhere) and plans to make that more sustainable, he talks about the resurgence of projects in public transportation, biking and walking infrastructure and what has had to happen politically to get there. A lot of the programs, such as the extension of the Purple Line Subway to UCLA, have a completion date of 2035, when I, gulp, if I live that long, will be 80. But heck, I see people much older than that riding the subway. So I’m looking forward to it.

Michael Woo, my former L.A. City Councilperson and current dean of the College of Environmental Design at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona said this about the reluctance of Inland Empire City Fathers and Mothers to the idea of public transit/density issues: “Many of them believed that low-density living, automobile dependence, a culture based on private backyards instead of public open spaces simply reflected the L.A. version of the American Dream. They were reluctant to embrace transit or density as part of the solution. To them it all just seemed like going backward.”

That says a lot about why things evolved the way they did. Still, as even car and backyard lovers don’t like sitting in gridlock much at all, everyone realizes some things must change, and we’ve finally found that there’s political will here to do it (and that will extends into Republican Orange County, as well as that Inland Empire). The end result will be a much more livable Southern California, perhaps more garden-like, as the earlier boosters liked to claim.

Now if they could just do something about that pesky seismic problem. . .