Why You Ride: Dan Tappan, Valley Village

Why You Ride (or Don’t Ride)‘ is a series where you, our faithful readers, share your transportation routines in L.A. and your thoughts on how to make things better – read more about the concept here.

Want to share your story? Take the survey here if you ride transit regularly, or take this one if you don’t ride.

Who You Are:

Name: Dan Tappan
Occupation: System Administrator
Location: Valley Village

Your Transit Routine:

How often do you take transit and for what purpose?

Several times a week, mostly in the afternoon/evening to visit friends and social events.

Where are you typically traveling from and going to?

From North Hollywood to Hollywood, Downtown, and the San Gabriel Valley to avoid traffic on the 101 and the 134.  It takes less time and I find myself not aggravated upon arrival, and if I have a few drinks, I don’t have to worry about driving home.

What lines/routes do you take?

Orange Line, Red Line, Purple Line, Gold Line.

If it had a timetable that worked with my work schedule, the 183 Bus would cover work commute, but I don’t currently take it.

How long does it typically take?

Red Line from NoHo to Downtown is 30 minutes, and slightly to substantially longer to go to the SGV since the Red Line arrival times and Gold Line Northbound departures always seem to be staggered just right so that a gold train leaves right as my Red Line train pulls into Union Station – meaning a wait for the next train.  The 20 minute evening interval (and sometimes more, as cars/trains are removed from the track or taken out of service for the evening) between Gold Line trains has made for some unfortunate delays, but I’m generally not on a deadline to be somewhere when I’m taking transit.

This interval also makes it really impractical to hop on a Gold Line train to get to the Little Tokyo Arts District stop (where I often go), but it’s a pleasant walk form Union Station if you’re not in a hurry.

Briefly, how would you describe your typical transit experience? Love it, deal with it, or hate it?

I love it!

On average, what do you spend each month on transportation?

$100 – $300

Why do you take transit?

Avoid traffic, save gas and I enjoy taking trains.

But mostly because of traffic.

Other Transportation:

Do you use any other forms of alternative transportation?

Not yet.

Are you car-free? If so, why? If not, why not?

Not by a long shot.   I have a 5 mile commute, but I drive it because the bus route (183 from Valley Village to Burbank) I would have to take either involves leaving an hour earlier in the morning and arriving a half hour early for work, or being a half hour late for work.   My 5-10 minute drive would be 35 minute bus ride, and I opt for the convenience.

Several times a week I generally need to get to the Westside, and getting from the SFV to the Westside by transit is not a pleasant endeavor.  It takes substantially longer than driving, and I have to carry music equipment which I prefer to transport myself.

Your Perspective:

If you could make one change to improve your transit experience, what would it be?

Trains that run later into the night.

Given limited funds, how would you address L.A.’s transportation issues?

Generally, more rail.   Specifically, I think the Expo Line, Westside Subway Extension, and LAX Green Line extension projects are giant leaps and bounds in the right direction, and would reduce my need/desire to drive by a substantial margin. Perhaps even more so though, a rail line from the San Fernando Valley through the Sepulveda pass to the Westside is kind of the silver bullet to my sitting-in-traffic woes.

Do you think L.A. transit is better or worse since you started riding? What’s changed?

It’s pretty much the same.

How would you encourage Angelenos to use transit?

It’s a tall order to make people want to use transit who don’t HAVE to use transit. I only started taking the train recently, and I have a lot of friends who are staunch public transit advocates.  I ought to have been one of the easy ones to convert, but it took them no small amount of effort to do so, and it was only after they grew increasingly tired of hearing me complain about traffic when I came to visit that I finally acceded to try alternative means.

I think that a large part of this is that the system as a whole can still be pretty daunting to people who have literally no experience with it.  The subway and light rail systems are less daunting, but also much less comprehensive in scope.  For someone who is taking transit to avoid traffic (and having to find parking once arriving), the bus system encompasses a lot of the same drawbacks as driving does, and so a train that can take me within a mile or two of my destination is dominating boon to the use of transit.  I don’t like sitting in traffic in my car, and I wouldn’t like it on a bus.

TAP Cards and passes: I have a monthly pass on a tap card, and I like it. However,  they can be kind of an ordeal to deal with online (buying or reloading, really).  Streamline the places where passes/cards are bought online (the Metro online store, taptogo.net) because the online ordering systems all look different, and the date range of the month passes you can purchase are not always clear, but that’s kind of a moot point because I’ve found it impossible to register my tap card online to load it with a pass anyway.  As such, the only clear and easy way is to reload it is at the station once it’s expired, which I do, but the ticketing machines at Metro stations should just SELL TAP cards (I understand this is in the works), and it should be easy to load them with a pass or cash value online.  It presently is not.

Finally, my biggest peeve with the system is this:  if one buys a weekly pass, it should last a week.  If one buys a monthly pass, it should last a month.  Weekly/monthly passes only being valid for the calendar week/month are at best unintuitive, and at worst outright confusing to someone new to the system, or someone visiting for more than a day or two who doesn’t want to rent a car.  Granted, in a time-modular pass system, it doesn’t make sense to offer prorated pricing on longer duration passes, so at the *very* least make it so that I can get my money’s worth for the duration I paid for.

Approach the issue as though you were someone who had never used L.A. public transit.  That was me a couple months ago, and it took a lot of bouncing around online and talking to friends to get a decent enough understanding of the system and overcome the barriers to entry  (the largest of which is trying to overcome the comfort and routine we become accustomed to by having and using a car for *everything*, in favor of going places you might never have gone using methods whose operations seem complex and mysterious unless you’ve put in time and effort to understand it).

In light of that, it doesn’t shock me one bit that people take the easier (and more frustrating) way out and just drive themselves, unthinking, between the endless walls of unmoving frustrated cars, not-even-blissfully unaware that there are better, faster, cheaper options to those who seek them.   Creating better awareness that transit already exists that can solve a lot of these things that people love to hate about Los Angeles is the first step in breaking down and overcoming the stigma of public and alternative transportation and getting people out of their little mobile metal isolationist universes.

There’s a lot to overcome.

2 replies

  1. Dan, I think you hit the proverbial nail on the head.

    Reading “Why You Ride” regularly, the trend seems to be that discretionary transit riders want rail, while as we know, most of Metro’s ridership is on its buses. Obviously, we should be making the experience better for captive riders, but to attract choice riders, Metro needs better reliability-something a train typically provides better than a bus (unless it has its own RoW). To get people on transit, using transit has to be easy for novice riders–nobody wants to look clueless and have to ask for help. You’ve also got to let driving become more difficult and less reliable. As long as transit–whether trains or buses–has its own right-of-way, traffic congestion can be transit’s best friend.

    The caveat is that rail expansion for typically wealthier patrons cannot come at the expense of the much more extensive bus system (which it often does).

  2. He also noted that he could take Route 183 but he does not since it only offers hourly service at the time he goes to work. In addition to rail (or maybe instead of some of the lesser rail extensions) we need to add enough money to ensure that all bus routes operate at least every 30 minutes during the day.