Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Challenge- ApPTMo

I knew I wanted a good challenge this month what with it being Earth Month and all. Also, April 12th marks my 6 monthaversary of blogging. Hooray! But I was kind of stumped as to what this "big" challenge could be.

Luckily my friend Honda came to my rescue. Honda likes to dare me to do stuff that she doesn't think I'll do- like jumping into a public fountain. And when it comes to Honda's dares, I am like Marty McFly- I can never chicken out. So when Honda dared me to do a month of using public transit to get to work ... well I just couldn't say no.

So that's what I'm doing. For one month I will take public transit to work at least four days a week. I kind of can't believe I'm doing this.

Now, many of you may be thinking, wow, what's the fuss about? Well let me tell you what the fuss is about. This is Hell-A! People do not take public transit in LA. I mean, really, they don't. Today I went down to the metro station during RUSH HOUR and the only people descending the stairs were me and some other guy. And then it turned out the other guy was just running stairs.

Why do people not take public transit in LA? Because, it sucks. The metro is clean and fast and purty but runs too few places. And the buses are slow and crowded and are totally unreliable. Besides, to me, buses are like the worst form of public transit ever. You have all the hassles of traffic AND the bus is stopping every five seconds to let people on and off.

So, the first thing I did when I started considering this challenge was go to Metro Trip Planner to see how long my commute would take via public transit. I am blessed with a very easy commute. There's almost never any traffic and I can drive from my apartment to work in about 20 minutes. I knew that public transit would never take 20 minutes, but I figured maybe it would take about 45? Which seemed pretty decent and I was prepared to do it.

According to Metro Trip Planner, if I wanted to get to my office by 9:00 am, I would have to be at the bus stop at 7:25 am. Gotta love LA, huh.

So clearly, THAT wasn't happening. And then I had a brain wave! What if instead of taking the bus from the nearest bus stop, I walked two miles to the nearest metro stop, and then took the metro most of the way. From there, it's just a five minute bus ride to work. The advantage of this plan was I could leave the apartment at 8:00 am instead of 7:20, and I would get to spend the majority of my time on the metro which is infinitely better than the bus. And, and this is really what sold this idea for me, I'd be walking four miles a day, so the walk time could double as both commute AND exercise. It would be like multi-tasking!

So, how's it going? Well ... having done this exactly once so far, it seems doable. But I'll keep you updated. I imagine that the 2 mile walk home after a long day at work is not exactly going to be my most favorite thing ever. On the other hand, not having to buy as much gas? That will be the awesome. Especially as its now around $3.70 a gallon....


hgg said...

but I thought nobody walks in LA either? ;-)

seriously, if this is no april joke, that's an awesome challenge and I wish you good luck!

ruchi said...

Haha! Nope, not a joke! I am just that nuts. ;)

Jennie said...

Good for you. I bet you saw way more people at the metro than the bus. You are lucky you have sun more days than not. My husband got his bike all ready for the 4 mile bike to work and then it snowed again. Just another reason we want to move back to home state.
When I go back to dissertation town I take the bus a lot, and walk, my friends who grew up there were like "we have a bus system?"
Their bus also sucks. The 20min drive from the major airport to the major university takes over an hour on the bus, which includes a bus transfer. And their buses don't run on sundays.

Sam said...

This is a fantastic challenge!

But I can't believe that no one takes public transit in L.A. What about all the poor people?

I really don't want to buy a car (or rely on car sharing too much) when I get to L.A. and was hoping to live near public transit and work near public transit. Could you ride your bike to the subway/train and then take your bike on the subway? Do you have a bike?

ruchi said...

I don't want to say my experience in LA is representative of everyone, but when I first moved out here straight out of college with an arts degree and no job, I moved into a kind of ghetto area. My roommate and I shared a two bedroom apartment, but my building, which was all 2 bedroom apts, was filled with a lot of extended families. Grandparents, mom and dad, and kids all crammed into these apartments.

Almost every family had at least one car. Many had two. And it was amazing how many people drove high end luxury cars- these people put bunk beds in the living room, but drove a BMW!

It was really weird.

But, it IS possible to get around LA without a car. I do know several people who have done it. Many of them put a lot of forethought into it, choosing to live either near the metro, near work, or in Santa Monica which has the best bus system.

I don't have a bike and I am not ready to commit to buying one. You can take your bike on the metro though. See here.

Bad Human? said...

Good luck with your challenge. I just started biking to work 3-4 times a week and the ride and the end of the day is definitely a kicker but it will also give you some decompression time.



Green Bean said...

You go, girl. I'm from LA so I know what you are talking about with regard to public transit there, walking and such. Pretty amazing challenge. You'll get in shape and save the planet. I love it when stuff works out like that. I look forward to hearing updates.

Jennifer said...

You could always take the long bus ride home if you are extra tired...

Sounds like a good challenge!

Sam said...

That is a bit weird. I guess a car is everything.

The book I'm reading right now: Oil on the Brain is giving me some fascinating insight into the car culture which I've never experienced. You might find the book interesting.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Good for you! I'm with you on buses, not my favourite mode of transport but essential on non-bikeable days. Hopefully last week's snow was nature's last attempt to force me off the road!

If you don't have a bike, do you have roller blades or similar?

Unknown said...

You are awesome! Once I plotted my public transit route to drop off my kids to pre-school (4.5 miles away) and back and it would take a stunning 1.5 hours (with walking from the bus stop to school and waiting for the bus). So I gave up that idea. Public transit sucks in the burbs. But I am a little surprised at the similarity in LA. Three cheers to you for braving the inconvenience!

ScienceMama said...

This is a great challenge.

I can't help but point out the apparent disconnect between the statement "no one takes public transit in LA" and "the buses are crowded"... who is on these buses?

ruchi said...

Ok, ScienceMama, you are right. Clearly SOME people take public transit in LA but I think it is many fewer people than in most cities its size. So yeah, the buses are crowded, but A#1 there are fewer buses running than in other cities I think, A#2 the bus I was on last night at 8pm had almost no one on it, A#3 compared to a city like Chicago or New York the buses are not at all crowded. Even in rush hour the buses I've been on still had seats enough for everyone.

Also, while I think that in a lot of cities there are many people who have cars or can afford cars who take PT to work, in LA the vast, vast majority of the people who take PT are the ones without cars or who can't afford them.

Anonymous said...

How is the transit challenge going so far? I actually took OCTA when I was in Orange County visiting my bro and it was swwweeeet compared to here. The metro in LA was ok too but some stops were safer looking than others. I did have a really limited experience though.

Mad Hatter said...

The last time I was in LA, I took the Metro from downtown to Pasadena and was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was. I also took the bus to get to a museum, and that was much less pleasant of an experience. And it took forever! So I'm very impressed with your new challenge. Look forward to hearing more.

Sam said...

BTW, I am researching LA and came across some sites, that you may enjoy if you haven't already heard of them:
Car Free day - there is a bike raffle and you may get lucky.
CICLE'S list of resources