How you travel is like how you eat. We in LA have a tendency to eat this same meal everyday: Pulling out car keys and driving. There are actually way more travel options out there—each with its own tradeoffs. Being intentional about them can maximize reward for you and everyone else.
One Saturday morning, I had to get to Plaza del Valle in Van Nuys for a Metro community event. Two journey options: one achievable in 28 minutes by car and the other, 1.5 hours by transit, bike, and walking.
I chose the latter.
Why? These were my goals:
- To experience for the first time the phenomenon of a bus-only lane, the Metro Orange Line.
- To give the air quality a break.
- To get an up-close tour of neighborhoods new to me.
- To relax and leave the driving to a pro, and avoid affliction with road rage.
- To have an adventure.
Connecting to the First Ride on Bike
Off I sped, on my bike from home in East Pasadena to Raymond Avenue and Walnut in old town. One beat after my bike lock clicked into place, the bright orange of the 501 Metro Express from Pasadena to North Hollywood bus loomed on the horizon. The actual stop was only ten paces away, which I covered with an alacrity that, I would soon discover, is essential to getting around LA on mass transit.
Metro 501 Express
The speed of the 501 on the 134 East at 9AM on a Saturday morning is totally impressive. Metro express buses are fantastic at $2.50 paid with a TAP card. With free wifi onboard and plentiful seating, my satisfaction became pure delight when we rolled into North Hollywood Station’s lot a mere 20 minutes later.
Metro Orange Line
At North Hollywood, I caught the Orange Line for the first time. I was practically shocked by its frequency and the pleasantness of traveling in a bus-only lane. It’s like the express but also secluded from car traffic and parallel only with walkways and verdant foliage. About 15 minutes later, I arrived in Van Nuys, where I would wait 10 minutes for the 233 Local bound for Pacoima. The fares for these connections are no additional charge if you paid for your initial ride with a TAP card and the connections occur within two hours.
Metro Local 233
Now, taking Metro Local buses, here’s a different experience: this is about slowing down and zeroing in on a neighborhood. The storefronts whizzed by through the windows: auto shops, neverias, pawn shops, mom and pop taquerias, county aid offices — signs of a neighborhood trying to get a foothold on LA life in its own way. Engrossed in studying the surroundings, I overshot my stop and would have to backtrack three miles.
Arrival Info Apps
My Transit app and Google both said the wait for the next bus would be ten minutes but, even after three minutes, the apps remained steadfast at ten minutes. It took 15 minutes for the bus to come. None of the buses have a digital map onboard that shows where you are on the route, at any given time. Furthermore, the apps don’t have a way to tell you where to get off the bus. You just end up having to look out the window and count the stops very carefully.
Civic Engagement Event in Van Nuys
Without going into too much detail on the Van Nuys new light rail line, pedestrian walkway, and bike path improvement public engagement event at my destination (which was a blast and such an improvement over typical civic meetings, the details of which I wrote into a report for my Metro work), I’ll just say that taking Metro there gave me an authentic and insightful exposure into the people, cityscape, and overall vibe of Van Nuys Boulevard. I certainly would not have gotten that if I had driven there.
The Return Trip
The ride back was not bad. The 233 arrived just like the Transit App said it would. However, when I got to North Hollywood, the app said that I had an extra ten minutes before the 501 would depart for Pasadena but, to my alarm, I spotted it pulling away from the stop and already exiting the bus terminal. OMG WTF!
Remember the essential alacrity that I mentioned earlier? This is it. Recalling that the 501 took Lankershim Boulevard on the way over, I knew that it would take it going back. I bolted down the street. Fortunately, the 501 was hindered by a series of red lights behind me, but soon enough I was neck and neck with it at the last intersection preceding its last stop.
Of course the bus got there before for I did, but not by long. The bus operator held as I ran up. Breathless, I put placed my fare card on the farebox TAP validator.
Was it Worth it?
Yes, since I wanted the journey to be part of the destination.
We can each have this adventure if we choose our transportation modes thoughtfully!
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