I grew up near Houston, a city not known for its public transportation. Most of the large cities in Texas are arranged as driving cities full of urban sprawl. I once attempted to take a bus from one side to the other and had a heck of a time finding my connecting bus in downtown Houston. It took over twice as long to make the trek via bus and the bus didn’t even drop me within a mile of my dad’s house. He had to come pick me up.
I’m not a fan of driving and driving in traffic makes me a cranky bitch. I’m happy to let someone else do the driving. So the first time I discovered a city with good public transportation, I was actually excited to take it.
It was Chicago for New Year’s Eve 1999. I was living in Toledo at the time. My roommate, Ryan, and I took the Amtrak to Chicago and then the EL trains to where we were staying. We took the trains all over the city. We took the train to the bars and didn’t have to worry about drinking and driving.
In 2004, I got to go to Paris with my brother and his family. Even in a foreign language, that city’s Metro was very easy to understand and navigate. We had a blast riding it and I even saw a string quartet in one of the stations playing for travelers.
I visited New York in 2006 and although most of what we were doing was within walking distance, I did take the subway once just to say I did.
It was when I got to stay in San Francisco for a full weekend in 2009 that I really learned how different it is to live in a city with a good public transportation system. I wandered around the city for several hours and when I was exhausted and wanted to go back to my hotel, I located the nearest bus stop and easily found a bus taking me where I wanted to go. The biggest issue I had was getting exact change.
So this past weekend, I gave Los Angeles’ public transportation a shot. I still had to be picked up again to make it to my final destination but I made it from Culver City to North Hollywood in about an hour and a half during rush hour traffic for three bucks. That’s less than the price of a gallon of gas and not more than 15 or 20 minutes longer than it would have taken by car.
Now I want to learn to take buses to the places I’ve wanted to visit but avoid because parking is such a bitch or ridiculously expensive like the beach or Hollywood.
I love living in LA but I despise the traffic and parking (or lack thereof). Things are getting better as they build more trains so I look forward to the day when I can navigate this system as easily as any other.
Wish me luck!