Wow what week last week was. I have been so busy grading and thinking about grading and did I mention I also have to think of research papers to write for my own classes as well? But the worst part of it? I don't remember accomplishing anything. Either way, it is great to be actually sitting down and relaxing for a bit since I have hardly had any time to do some of the more pleasurable things I enjoy, such as writing in my blog.
Actually, part of today's blog was written while riding the Blue Line, one of the three light rail lines that run through Los Angeles County, as I was en route to a church in Los Angeles for an assignment in my sociology of religion class (more on that later, maybe). I mentioned in an earlier entry that it may come as a surprise to many of you who know me and know how much I love driving, but I really dig taking public transportation. And despite the the criticism LA gets for having so much traffic and air pollution (deservedly so), the public transport system actually works quite well. Especially the closer you live to the region's core areas, such as downtown, Westwood, Century City and Hollywood.
But even living in Orange County (where public transportation is sometimes ridiculed), I am able to get quite a few places using the bus system
As a matter of fact, one of the reasons the greater Los Angeles area covers so much territory is precisely because at one time the region had what was arguably the most advanced inter-urban railway in the nation, if not the world. It was only after World War II and the rise of more two car families as well as the erosion of the city's central core as its main employment and retail center that the rail lines began to lose favor as well as money. Others say it was it a conspiracy between General Motors and US Rubber (Uniroyal) to destroy the rail lines and encourage the building of more freeways. More than likely it was a combination of the two.
As I said earlier, I love to drive. But a thrilling activity for me is not only using the public transportation system, but seeing how many places I can get using it. I like to call it urban exploring. For instance with LA's system, I can go most places (a combination of light rail and buses) for only $3. So I have gone places such as Santa Monica and the beach, Pasadena, the Getty Museum, the airport, and Disneyland all the way from home. And now that I work and go to school near downtown, I use public transportation as part of my daily commute which saves additional wear and tear on my vehicle - not to mention gas.
I also get excited when I visit other cities such as the Bay Area, Chicago, and New York, because it means I can get to and fro using those cities' extensive urban public transportation systems. Chicago's is especially well thought out since both of the city's major airports (Midway and O'Hare) are served by light rail with terminals. Something I so wish was true in Los Angeles.
Now there are some drawbacks to relying on public transportation, especially for long excursions. For one, it can be very time consuming. In spite of the fact that I can do things such as relax and read (or even sleep) while riding, I don't really save any time. And if I should awake late or get delayed somewhere, it could mean waiting an extra 30 or 45 minutes for the next bus (this is especially true in areas where many fewer people ride public transportation).
Another irksome factor can be fellow passengers. While I have never felt threatened physically while riding, I do get annoyed by some things such as stinky passengers. My most unforgettable experience had to be a trip on the "A" Train in New York as I went from Penn Station to JFK. I was loaded down with luggage and trinkets and I was exhausted, so when I entered the train and plopped my behind down, it wasn't until the doors closed that I realized I was engulfed by an overwhelmingly atrocious odor. But I had too much on me and I was too tired to grab all my stuff and try to find another more pleasantly smelling car. So I held my breath for the next 30 minutes until I reached my destination.
Rudeness is another thing I often experience. For instance, why do people think they can just slide up from the side and get in front of you with out even saying, "excuse me?" I am so tempted to say something, but I figure it's a battle not even worth fighting since it has never caused me to miss a train or a bus.
Another incident of rudeness, which I just happen to run into this past Sunday was that of a blaring stereo. As most of you can tell by the tone of my writing, I am fairly permissive. But did all of the passengers on the northbound Blue Line train really need to be subjected to some crappy gansta rap? This isn't 1979. But check this, the guy was not carrying a boom box, but instead he had a boom bag - stuffed with speakers. It was utterly ridiculous. Oh how I fantasized about going up to him and turning off the music. Of course that is where the fantasy ends and the nightmare begins after he stabs me with a screwdriver multiple times. So let's just say I seethed inside.
Despite the drawbacks, I find public transportation an excellent way to do urban exploring where you can discover and move about a city cheaply and efficiently. I hope you get a chance to do some urban exploring of your own very soon.
Well, I gotta scoot.