You know what gets under my skin? When people blindly say that ‘nobody walks or takes public transportation in LA’. In saying so they completely dismiss an entire population of the city who do get around outside the confines of a privately owned vehicle.
Joe and I are a part of that often dismissed group. For us it’s a choice that we’re lucky to have but that’s precisely the thing that tends to surprise some people – why wouldn’t you have a car if you could?? The answer is simple: we don’t want one. We don’t particularly like driving, we enjoy riding our bikes, and we deliberately found an apartment that is close to bus stops and rail stations. In fact, collectively we haven’t been car owners for about four years. I sold mine when I lived in Downtown LA before moving to London and we just never had the urge or need while living abroad. Plus, we’d rather save that money for other things since (as all car owners know) cars are nothing but money pits in the end.
While there are moments when a car is necessary – like driving to the west side for a meeting or going away for the weekend – we’ve found options that are easy and cost effective. If it’s not a full day car rental with Enterprise, it’s Zipcar by the hour, and if we just need a quick ride it’s Lyft or a traditional taxi. Otherwise we’re using our own two feet and getting full use of our Metrocards.
Sure, LA’s work-in-progress Metro system and city sprawl make it more challenging to get around than in other cities and countries, but it is possible. Frustrating at times but still possible. Here are my pros and cons:
Buses are not frequent enough, are often late (or no-shows), and information is nonexistent at 99% of the stops. There should be route maps for the buses that stop there so people can see the destination possibilities. There should also be schedules for each route so that people can have a clue about how long of a wait they might be in for. Fortunately I have a phone that I can use to look all of that up but there are still plenty of people who don’t have that option and that leaves them totally in the dark. And lastly, how about some humane shade coverings with lights at night so that people waiting don’t have a heat stroke, stand in darkness, or get wet when we get the occasional rainfall? To be fair, there are some stops that have one or two of the above but it’s so inconsistent that it’s useless.
Now for the pros that make all the difference and make the cons bearable. The obvious is getting more time to do emails and browse online while someone else does the driving but my favorite is getting curbside service; I never have to worry about parking! It does sometimes takes more time to run a simple errand but the upside is that it gives me opportunities to feel like a part of the community. Like when I sit next to people on the bus and the train or when I walk and ride my bike and actually stop to smell the roses…or the trees…or feel the wind blowing and hear birds singing. Cars can be so isolating in both good and bad ways. Good like when it’s just you, your music, and a beautiful sunset in your rear view mirrors. Bad like when all you do is get in, drive, park, get out, repeat.
Pros and cons aside, I do have moments when I wish I could just get in a car and go without any regard to schedules and location but ultimately I know that our choice is right for us right now. We still have a lot of adventures ahead, and every penny we save in any way we can is going to help us get there. Right now this is our adventure so the next time you hear someone claim that no one walks, bikes, or takes the Metro in LA, you can say that you know two people who do :)