A Month On Nothing But Public Transit In L.A. 'Sucks'

Mariel Garza, columnist for the L.A. Daily news, spent 30 days leaving her car at home and taking the bus for nearly all trips.

"MY monthlong experiment with public transportation ended Friday. Except for a couple of 'emergencies,' I left my car at home and traveled this city by bus for 30 extremely long days. This really big city."

"I went to work each day on the bus. If I needed groceries, I'd take the bus or harass a friend for a ride. When my sister came to town, I made her ride the subway to Hollywood, rather than shuttling her around sightseeing. When I had to go downtown for a fancy press awards dinner, I rode the bus in a spaghetti-strap dress."

"For the month of June, I experienced life in Los Angeles as many other people do without a car and hating it."

"I'd like to say this experience made me a better person. I'd like to report that I've made life-changing connections with other riders. I'd like to say that I've had profound revelations about the human condition or about the state of social justice. I'd like to say I've become a public-transportation convert."

"But I cannot say any of those things, not truthfully. The only thing like an epiphany to hit me was something I already knew: Riding the bus in Los Angeles sucks."

Thanks to C. P. Zilliacus

Full Story: Bus experiment happily now in rear-view mirror

Comments

Comments

Here we go again..

Mariel Garza has, upon giving up her car for a month to ride the bus in LA, of all places, arrived at the cliched conclusions that a) only losers ride the bus, and b) public transit takes away personal freedom. Like most Americans, she makes the assumption that transportation problems and land use problems exist in separate vacuums. Did she actually expect the bus to be a convenient way to get around low-density LA suburbs?

Planners who advocate driving less and/or using transit more do so under the assumption that where one lives it is in fact viable to do so; elsewhere the density and relative mix/proximity of land uses must increase in order for transit to be viable; hence, the increase in mixed use and infill development near transit stations. Transit is not designed to efficiently serve those who make suburb to suburb commutes of many miles (unless the job destination is in a suburb that could be considered an edge city or 'secondary downtown' cluster that could serve as a transit hub), and certainly not those who live in residential areas not within relatively short distances of pedestrian-friendly commercial areas. Getting to Home Depot or Wal Mart on mass transit will never be a convenient, easy endeavor for most suburbanites, anywhere.

Also, she went about her experiment all wrong in trying to never use any mode except the bus. A far more realistic experiment might have involved trying _commuting to work_ on transit, but still using the car for discretionary trips, as most suburban transit commuters to downtown jobs do; otherwise, she failed to consider the myriad options among car rental companies, and car-sharing services that would have allowed her easy access to a car when she needed one in a pinch. She neglected taxicabs completely, and nary mentioned walking or riding a bike anywhere. And $75 a month is actually pretty standard for a transit pass - and it's still cheaper than filling up a 12 gallon tank twice a month, not even considering car insurance and maintenance costs.

The author's misunderstanding of how transportation and land use systems work does a disservice to those on the fence about trying to reduce their transportation costs. Driving less doesn't have to mean giving up your car, and it certainly doesn't mean riding the city bus for trips even transit-philes would recommend against.

Public transit fence sitter

I am severely biased in the matter, but I'm just scouring the internet looking for arguments regarding the matter.

Seems like there are situations where it can help enough people to be justified. But the reason I don't like it is because (and there's a lot to be said about each category):

a) Dependency.

b) It's public, so it gets politicized and subsidized.

c) Programs like these can't respond quickly to demand.

d) It's a great place to steal things.

e) People shouldn't be so crammed together anyway.

f) Presumes that people who can't afford transit will remain at the income level indefinitely. That is a new notion in the states, reinforced by crutch programs. I hope that wherever public transits exist, they're not propped up by government treasuries.

Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $199
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $14.95 a month
Book cover of Unsprawl

Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places

Explore visionary, controversial and ultimately successful strategies for building people-centered places.
Starting at $12.95
Woman wearing city map tote bag

City Shoulder Totes

Durable CityFabric© shoulder tote bags available from 5 different cities.
$22.00