Yesterday morning, Twitter user @LACityNerd posted a link to a map that, I think, tells a pretty interesting story about perceptions of Los Angeles, particularly regarding public transit. Here’s the map:
The notion that Los Angeles has a love affair with the car and that Angelenos don’t ride transit is a well-worn cliché. Certainly, there’s a cultural component to this perception that is rooted in L.A.’s ascendance in the 1950s and 60s, which was broadcast to the world by Hollywood.
But I’ve always suspected there was an underlying — and under-appreciated — geographical component to the perception that few Angelenos ride public transit. After all, the city of Los Angeles is big. Apparently you could fit seven-plus good-sized cities in just one L.A.
On top of that, Los Angeles’ borders include urban and high density communities, as well as very suburban and rural ones where transit service is harder to provide and less often used. That’s in contrast to other, typically older cities, where suburban communities are often in entirely different cities.
For instance, San Francisco has rightfully earned the reputation as a pretty great city for public transit. Around 30 percent of its residents take transit to work, compared to about 11 percent for the city of L.A.
But San Fran is also rather small — roughly 1/10 the land area of the city of Los Angeles. I would bet that if you punched a San Francisco–sized hole out of Los Angeles that included, say, downtown and its surrounding communities, you’d find similarly high rates of transit ridership.
For reference, a 2011 survey of downtown L.A. residents revealed that 40 percent take public transportation to work. Not too shabby.
On the other hand, because San Francisco’s borders only include the more dense, transit-rich parts of the Peninsula, its rates of transit usage aren’t averaged against the more suburban cities that surround it — like those in Marin and San Mateo Counties — where transit usage is unsurprisingly lower.
So my question to Source readers is this: Do you think L.A.’s geography affects perceptions of transit ridership? And, what other factors play into how people perceive transit ridership in Los Angeles?