Metrolink is Southern California's regional rail system linking several counties. The 15-year old system with 7 lines, 54 stations, and 388 route miles serves over 40,000 passengers in the Southland. Metrolink says its mission is "to provide the people of Southern California safe, reliable and environmentally friendly commute option." Sure, but can it also serve as an interesting venue to host a 4-year old's birthday party?
One birthday boy in particular loves trains and is a fan of a popular TV series featuring trains. His mother told me that their family trips were often planned around using rail transit to get to destinations in Central and Southern California. So what better way to celebrate his birthday than to invite his friends -- accompanied by parents of course -- for a trip on a commuter train? Children that age are probably more used to birthday parties where they are entertained by clowns or magicians. Would these children, growing up in Southern California's car-centric culture be entertained at a party where the view through a train window was the main attraction?
This week, a few stories circulated around our office that generated some discussion. One was a piece in The New Yorker by Nick Paumgarten on commuting in America entitled "There and Back Again". The tease at the beginning sums up the entire piece: "People may endure miserable commutes out of an inability to weigh their general well-being against quantifiable material gains."
In this story, the writer accompanies commuters in Manhattan and Atlanta while attempting to understand the life of an "extreme commuter."