Friday, September 02, 2005

Public Transportation

I think it's time for me to actually post again about stuff going on in my life, rather than just quotes or reviews. Don't you think so? Good! Now that we're all agreed...

Money's really tight for John and I, with him going to Talbot. So far we're attempting to do it without any loans. I don't know how long we'll be able to keep it up, but we're trying. Anyway, this lead John to ask me one day if it would be possible for me to take public transportation to work. I didn't know, but I said I'd look into it. I did, and the results were quite intriguing. It came down to this: my commute would take longer (at the time it looked like 15 minutes longer each way -- now it seems to be 30 minutes each way, if I don't miss a bus or train and the bus isn't late), but I'd be able to read the entire time. And it would save a lot of money -- instead of filling my tank with $30 of gas (and rising fast!) almost once a week, I could get to my house for $15 a week (or so I thought -- now it seems that a zone fee brings it up to $22.50 a week), plus I wouldn't be spending as much on maintenance. And then there's the adventure aspect (=.

After a bit I decided to go ahead and try it. Because I still needed my car at work for a while, the first time I tried I left my car at work and took public transportation home. Then, of course, I took it again back to work. That was the 18th and 19th of August. Since then I've done it a few more times (leaving my car at home though, instead of work). I'd taken the green line and the blue line for a class once, but that was with a few classmates and with directions from the teacher. This was my first time on this route, and the first time by myself. It was interesting. I was nervous at first -- just that I'd miss my stop or something, which I thought I had done a couple times. I'm getting more relaxed about it now though, so it's easier to read. I'd still rather not try to concentrate on nonfiction, but I have plenty of fiction on my reading list to occupy me for some time to come.

One "con" I've recently discovered is that I seem to get sick more often after having taken the bus. Wednesday I was in bed pretty much all day with some stomach ailment which hasn't completely gone away yet. In future I will be more careful to wash my hands after I've ridden the Metro.

I'm having fun people watching a bit too. Sometimes there are cute little kids to look at, and once there was a beautiful Mexican girl, around my age, with a baby and small child. She looked quite happy, and she reminded me of the Zapotec women on my internship in Oaxaca. Who knows, perhaps she was Zapotec. Mostly the buses are filled with lower class people, teenagers, and college students, but the green line has some middle class people, too. Mostly people seem to do it because they don't have cars, and yet the park and ride at the Norwalk Station has tons of cars parked there. It seems that John and I aren't the only ones trying to cut costs, especially with the insane gas prices.

When I started researching the system online I wondered about our American mentality about public transportation. I mean, it's not something we think much about at all. It's almost never considered as an option by the middle class, even when a car has broken down. So I wondered if that's because our system is so bad, or is the system bad because of our mentality and the low demand? Or is the system really that bad at all? My tentative conclusion is that it isn't so bad. I mean, it's not as good as the system in Europe, but it's really quite tolerable, at least the little experience I've had of it so far. So why the mentality? Just another symptom of our rich, individualistic, materialistic culture? Maybe. And if you didn't like to read as much as I do you'd probably be less patient than I am. Or if your work hours weren't quite as flexible. Of course, other routes may be worse, and it looks like it'd be a huge pain if you had to keep switching between city transit lines (unless you bought the "EZ" pass for $58 a month) -- I can take the Metro the whole way, fortunately.


Rachel said...

So far as I can tell, that attitude is mostly an LA thing. (Of course, I'm not expert.) When I lived in San Francisco and D.C. EVERYONE took the metro and bus. Businessmen, businesswomen in nice suits wearing sneakers and carrying their high heels so they could run to the next train, etc. I was disappointed when I got here and discovered it's not a popular thing to do---cause if it were, that would make it much easier to figure out the system! :)

Marcy said...

It'd be interesting to find out if it is just an LA thing, or what. And if there are other cities like LA in that respect, which ones are and which ones aren't. Obviously they use public transportation in New York, too. (= Do you think it's more common on the East Coast? And San Francisco makes sense, since I've heard parking is atrocious there.

The internet has been a huge help for me in figuring things out. I think we should start a new trend. (=