Why You Ride: Eric B., Culver City

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: Eric B.
Occupation: Planner
Location: Culver City

Your Transit Routine:

How often do you take transit and for what purpose?

Several times a week depending on where I’m going.  I generally choose places to go based on how easy it is to not drive there.

Where are you typically traveling from and going to?

My most regular trip is taking the bus to meet my carpool for work.  Whenever I don’t bike to work, I go by bus/carpool (1-3 times/week).  My girlfriend also lives on the same bus line.

What lines/routes do you take?

733 on Venice is my main route.  I can’t wait until the Expo Line opens about a mile from my apartment.

How long does it typically take?

30 minutes to Santa Monica, 50 minutes to Downtown LA.

Briefly, how would you describe your typical transit 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

Why do you take transit?

The biggest reason is that I hate driving in traffic.  If I’m on a bus I can read a book or the news.  My dad gave me an iPad a few months ago which has made transit even better.  My commute is ridiculously far, so if I drove it would be about $10/day in gas alone, not to mention car repair.  I’d rather save that money and keep one more car off the 10 Freeway in the morning.

Other Transportation:

Do you use any other forms of alternative transportation?

My bicycle is my primary mode of transportation.  I race competitively, so I’m willing to go farther and on higher-traffic streets than most other bicyclists.  I do own a car and use it mostly to get to bike races out of the area, ironically.  Transit generally fills in the gaps when I can’t or don’t want to ride.

I also live in a walkable neighborhood with plenty of restaurants and grocery stores in a 1-mile radius.

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

Car-lite.  My car generally stays in the garage except for weekends.  Funny story: I got back into town late at night on a Sunday and accidentally left a door ajar.  I didn’t notice until the following weekend when I was going to run errands and my battery was dead.

If I am not going with at least one other person, I try not to drive.

Your Perspective:

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

The number one reason I don’t ride more is the lack of a cash purse on my TAP card.  I don’t ride enough for a monthly pass and I’m tired of counting change.  Fare payment is the single biggest delay on the bus line.

Reason number two is lack of real-time bus information.  If my bus isn’t going to be there for 20 minutes, that’s fine, but just let me know so I can plan accordingly.  I’ve had evenings where Metro has stranded my for over 2 hours due to system delays with absolutely zero warning.  I would have taken a cab.

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

Bus lanes.  Having buses running in mixed traffic guarantees that transit will always be slower than driving.  The mentality is: if I’m going to be stuck in traffic anyway, I might as well drive.  Of course, when the entire city has the same attitude, it is worse for everyone.

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

It’s gotten better. For me, the 733 Rapid was a great improvement.  The line is more reliable with articulated buses, which means I generally get a seat.  Being able to sit down is the most important factor in making transit a better option.  I can’t read if I’m trying to keep my balance standing up.

How would you encourage Angelenos to use transit?

Metro’s PR department is top notch.  The problem-solution ads were a kick and helped change the conversation about transit.

The most effective way for Metro to increase ridership is to target employers in transit-rich areas.  Portland and Santa Clara VTA have employer programs where every employee gets a pass with the employer paying a steeply discounted rate depending on actual usage.  You may not convince everyone to take it everywhere, but you would make it easier for people to opt for transit a couple days a week.  Make it easier to take transit and more people will.

When I was at USC, getting a student transit pass was such a pain that I never bothered.  Students are a captive audience, so hook them early and they’ll keep riding.

Long term, convince cities to allow new developments to endow transit passes for residents/employees in exchange for reducing minimum parking requirements.  The future Angeleno household is likely to have one car for running errands with transit as the primary mode.