Why You Don't Ride: Gregory E. Kay, Los Angeles

Why You Ride (or Don't)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: Gregory E. Kay
Occupation: Designer
Location: Los Angeles

Your Transportation Routine:

How often do you drive and for what purpose?

Every day, for work and pleasure.

Where are you typically traveling from and going to?

From my house to work, to the grocery store, to the subway station (to get to school).

How many vehicles do you or your family have?


How long does your commute typically take?

10 minutes

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

I deal with it.

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

$100 – $300

Do you use any forms of alternative transportation?

I ride my bike when it is safe.

Why do you drive?

I drive because I often transport bulky materials.  When I am not transporting bulky materials, I usually need to be somewhere in a reasonable amount of time.  A two hour bus ride each way is not reasonable.

Your Perspective:

Have you tried to use transit before? What was your experience?

I ride the subway twice a week to Studio City, because it doesn’t take much longer than driving – including the transfer to the Rapid Bus down Ventura.  I consider it a value at $6 for the day (two subway rides, two bus rides), because of the Cahuenga Pass 101 freeway stress I can circumvent.    I think that it is important to be a part of the public in motion in ways more intimate than separate vehicles stuck together on the freeway.

Some buses are clean, some are dirty, some are empty, some are crowded, some are on time, some are late.  Some operators are friendly, great people, other operators are mumbling sociopaths.   All of that is important, but not nearly as important as #1 coordinated connections between different modes of transit and #2 a smooth ride!  If I’m going to be on a vehicle for an extended amount of time, I would rather not be falling into other riders’ laps, stepping on other riders’ toes, dropping my bags, losing my glasses – etc. etc.

What could local transit agencies do to encourage you to take transit more often?

Make the connections coordinated and predictable.  Make the rides relatively smooth.  Trains are inherently smooth, but buses don’t have to be jerky.  It has a lot to do with if the transit agency considers its passengers as a commodity, or as customers.

How do you feel about buses?

I’d ride a bus if there was a route that served my needs.

How do you feel about rail?

I’d ride rail if it there was a route that served my needs.

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

Multi-modality is barely addressed in this city.  The buses don’t even transfer to the trains very well!  Try connecting to a bus from the Lincoln Heights Gold Line station sometime.  There is no linkage of the bicycle routes to the subway system.  There is no motorcycle parking at the subway stations.  The 704 to Union Station finishes at the Twin Towers Jail, not Union Station.  Pedicabs aren’t allowed downtown.   The only stations with cabs waiting outside is Union Station.    From Echo Park to Downtown is a very walkable distance of  only 2 miles, but the pedestrian experience is gruesome.  There is no bike route for that distance either.  Only a rush-hour gutter called Sunset Boulevard.

I would happily pay to park near a subway station.  But the neighborhood near my subway station (Sunset and Vermont) has no public lots.  And the street parking is limited to 2 hours.   I have seriously considered bringing my bike in my car, parking in the residential area of Los Feliz, and riding my bike to the subway station.

Building the Westside subway extension without making a provision for (pay) park and ride lots is a relatively cheap opportunity lost.   I think that if it came down to a choice between the two, an MTA parking structure in Westwood – with preferential spaces for motorcycles, bicycles and sub-compacts – is more important than building a station at Crenshaw.   I was very disappointed that the MTA right-of-way on Santa Monica Boulevard was squandered into more lanes of car traffic, merely funneling traffic at a faster rate into the congested Century City area.   Bus lanes, park and ride parking, local trolley, bike route, pedestrian promenade – any of these would have been better.

Given limited funds, I would first make bicycle routes in Los Angeles an easy to negotiate, fun and safe network instead of the patchwork it currently is.  Bicycle routes should be physically isolated from high speed traffic, well lit, and independently signaled.   Well- monitored indoor bicycle parking at malls, restaurants, schools, libraries and theaters should be the norm, not an extravagance.

Then I would install “next bus will arrive in xxx minutes” indicators at every major bus stop.   Then I would make pay-at-the-curb and enter through multiple doors the norm on every major line.  I would also reconstruct the lumpy portions of every major bus route in concrete.

Finally, I would build as much rail as possible.  But rail passengers should pay more for their ride.  I don’t think that a surcharge similar to the bus express lines’ is unreasonable, given the high costs of rail construction.