Why You Don't Ride: John, Monrovia

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: John
Occupation: Teacher
Location: Monrovia

Your Transportation Routine:

How often do you drive and for what purpose?

Every day for work during the daytime, at night I drive to various destinations for social activities.

Where are you typically traveling from and going to?

Monday through Friday to and from work, evenings to various social destinations downtown, weekends round trip to La Verne.

How many vehicles do you or your family have?

One, just for me.

How long does your commute typically take?

30 minutes against traffic.

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?

$50 – $100

Do you use any forms of alternative transportation?

I use a road bike for long distance recreational riding.  I carpool when possible for social destinations over 10 miles away.  I sometimes ride the Gold Line when I have a destination near Union Station, but the connection to the Red Line is supremely inconvenient with the walk and wait time making a transfer to get one stop closer to downtown ridiculous.  If I’m not dressed to nicely, It’s almost faster to walk to Fourth and Main.

Why do you drive?

Even when my drive is with traffic it is faster than Metro.  It took me three hours to get from USC to Redondo Beach waterfront using rail and buses on a Saturday!  Why would I sacrifice speed and flexibility just to use Metro?  It should be one or the other.  Driving should be more flexible, and rail should be faster.  Since buses compete on the same grid as cars, they’re doomed to fail on both counts.

Your Perspective:

Why can’t/don’t you take transit?

I like rail, but I hate buses.  Buses are crowded, often vandalized, and make too many herky-jerky stops.  The light rail lines, as slow as they are, are faster than buses and a more pleasant ride, but can’t compete with travel time for cars.  To me, only the subway covers distances at a speed that justifies the decrease in flexibility compared to driving.  The uncompetitive speed of the light rail lines, the length of transfer wait times, and the brevity of our subway system make Metro Rail a tough sell for most of my needs. Except for the unique occurrence when my origin and destination happen to be close to a single rail line without transfer will I use Metro, only rail.  I would use a fast subway every day if it was the mode of a complete network.  The slight inflexibility of a fixed alignment would be offset by the speed and relaxation from not driving.  The Gold Line is a perfect alignment for me, but it’s so damn slow and stops on the edge of Downtown.  Thus, I use it infrequently.  However, I will never use a bus, except for an LADOT Downtown Dash, they’re clean and only 35 cents!

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

I’ve used a Metro bus on three occasions.  Each time it was crowded and took twice as long to get to my destination compared to driving.  I took the bus from Athens to USC, from USC to Old Town Pasadena, and from Hollywood & Highland to the Grove.  Once I used a combination of the Blue Line to the Green Line to a bus to get to Redondo Beach from downtown.  That took me three hours.  The Blue Line was way over crowded and seemed far slower than the Green Line.  The stretch down Washington took an eternity.  Far more frequently I use the Gold line to the Red Line to reach downtown, Hollywood, or North Hollywood.  Sometimes the transfer at Union Station takes 20 minutes.  That’s almost as long as the trip from Pasadena which seems too long as well.  The trip from downtown to Hollywood almost redeems the time, it seems to go appropriately fast.

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

Emphasize speedy rail.
Be clean.
Keep day and week pass prices fair but competitive.

How do you feel about buses?

I probably wouldn’t ride a bus.

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?

I’d rather have 10 miles of fast subway than 50 miles of light rail. I would rarely use the latter, but I will use those extra ten miles of the Purple Line to get to the Westside, for example.  I presently use the Red Line and love it.  Push Purple to the Pacific, and I will forgive the awkward Gold Line Union Station transfer.  I’d use a Purple Line to the ocean, but I would drive to Santa Monica before lumbering to the coast on the Expo Phase 2.  Chugging along at a 20mph average while you cross every street and compete with the grid defeats the potential competitive advantage of rail, basically turning light rail into a bus on rails, an expensive unnecessary conversion.  (Side note: Turn Expo southwest down Venice.  Open up a new market and don’t cannibalize ridership from a full Purple Line extension to Santa Monica!)