I have a shameful secret to tell you all. Come closer. Closer. Closer. Okay, too close, move back just a tad. Okay, you ready?
Here is my secret: I have lived in LA for 6 1/2 years and prior to ApPTMo, I had used public transportation in LA exactly ... once.
Yes, you read that correctly. Un, Uno, Ek, however you want to say it, ONE time. And what's more, for five of those 6 1/2 years, I even lived about 15 minutes walking from a metro station.
And yet, it never occurred to me to you know, use it.
A few days ago, Orgie commented on how different the perception of public transport is in LA compared to New York. This is actually a pretty important point. The attitude towards the metro is very different in LA. Just today, it came up in email conversation that I took the metro to work today, and the response I got was, "Wow, who knew that normal people did that!"
Who, indeed. I know that some of you are probably surprised by that response, and I admit, it gave me a moment's pause, but the truth is, there is a kernel of truth to her response. If we substitute the cavalier use of the word "normal" for "person who owns/can afford a car" she's pretty much dead on.
Los Angeles likes to boast its very high metro ridership numbers, but those numbers have to be looked at in context. Obviously Los Angeles has high ridership. Its a city of 3.8 million. But what percentage of Angelenos use public transit? And here LA falls flat on its face. By this calculation, LA ranks a dismal 34th at 10.64% of the population using public transportation to get to work. In fact, LA does worse than Seattle, Oakland, Portland, and surprisingly, Daly City, California and Buffalo, New York. (Okay, well I guess Daly City probably has a decent number of residents who take BART to San Francisco, but Buffalo, really?)
So, it's all very well for LA to boast their ridership, but frankly, in my mind, a successful public transit program doesn't just reach those who have no other option. A truly successful public transport program reaches beyond those who can't afford a car, and attracts riders who CAN afford a car, but choose to commute via PT because its easier/faster/more relaxing, etc. The LA Metro is generally none of these things. And thus, anyone who can afford to drive, drives.
Hopefully, one day, I'll mention that I took the metro to work, and I'll be met with a casual, "Oh yeah, me too." But I've got to be honest, I'm not holding my breath.
3 months ago