Apr 15, 2008

Train in Vain - LA Metro

Where is everyone?

One recent weekday afternoon, my friend Rick, a born-and-bred Los Angelenista, took me on my first extended foray on the subway since I moved here. I met him at the Sunset-Vermont station and we took the red and gold lines to Pasadena (for tea, if you must know, and so he could show me his favorite secret courtyard.)

Being an ex-New Yorker, I was amazed at how clean and quiet the stations and trains were, as well as the frequency of trains. The trains were barely half full mid-afternoon, but he assured me that we would be coming back during rush hour when it would be "very crowded."

HA! During "rush hour" I kept asking him where everyone was and he kept saying, "In their cars," or, "This is busy! Look at all the people!"

I dryly observed, "Yeah, there are dozens of them."

"Why don't more people take the train?" I asked. He said, "Because a lot of people think it's only for poor people and everyone in LA is so class conscious. And insecure, at least the ones with money."

But really, the overriding reason is that the service areas are so small compared to the size of the city. I had to walk 30 minutes to get from my pad to the station.

Me thinks ongoing extension of the subway system would have a profoundly positive effect upon Los Angeles. It would provide that shared-social-sphere feeling, which exists in places like NYC or San Francisco, but is missing here because we are all in our own private little spheres-- you know, our cars.

Better mass transit would diminish the necessity for cars, tires and oil products. And it would finally thwart the oil and tire mega-corporations blindingly successful efforts to curtail, if not roll back further, any extension of the public transportation network.*

Yeah, like that's going to happen, but I can dream if I want to. And so can John von Kerczek, who's blog, Ditch the Car, Take the Metro makes it seem so plausible.

When I saw his map of proposed subway service for Los Angeles, I at first thought I was looking at one for London's Underground.

Wake up, Los Angelistadores!

*During our ride, Rick gave me a history lesson about tire companies and their role in ripping out the streetcar lines.