Catching Up

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged–most of our girl’s life, in fact. That life has been eventful for all of us, which is why blogging is one of many things that have fallen by the wayside.

Unfortunately a lot of our green habits have fallen by the wayside as well. We still have grand plans for solar, but no time line. So what have we been able to maintain?

We have low-water major appliances, and low-flow (but high aerating) faucets.
We use Seventh Generation Free and Clear laundry detergent.
Our main cleaning products are Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation, and Honest Company, with a little bit of Method Home.
I still shop at our local farmers’ market, although often the only thing I buy is eggs. (Berries are in season, though, so I’ll be getting some of those tomorrow as well.)

Sadly, neither of us commutes by bus anymore. Our schedules have required some drastic changes over the past couple of years, which means that we’re driving to work–and even more than that, we’re driving separately. Hopefully we’ll be able to change that to some degree once this school year starts–but we won’t know for sure until we’re there.

So what would I like to change? Transportation isn’t going to change in the immediate future, but one thing we could do is buy less. I think my two main green goals for the rest of the year are to buy less, and to cut down on food waste. We’re doing better there than we used to, but we can pay more attention and shop more consciously.

Let’s see what happens.

Pike Place Farmers Market Express, July 16

Photo by Seattle City Council. Public Domain.

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Commuter Express Congestion

I hope that LADOT realizes that they don’t just need new buses. They need more buses. And, by extension, more drivers. Yesterday there were 16 people standing the entire way from the Encino Park and Ride (and most of those got on a few stops before that point) to the first stop in Westwood. That’s a long time to stand, especially when there aren’t good places to hold on. (Seriously, LADOT officials, try holding onto an overhead bar for an hour in stop-and-go traffic. Not good for the wrists or elbows or my carpal tunnel. And what about the people who can’t reach the bar?

Five Years of Public Transit

Commuter Express Neoplan

For the past five years, I’ve commuted primarily by public transit. I had a brief flirtation with multimodalism (I used to bike to the bus stop on the home end of my commute), but that ended when the need to take our daughter to day care began.

When we lived in our apartment, I took Big Blue Bus to work. When we moved, we started taking Metro. I took the Orange Line to the 761, and John biked to the bus. But both of us found it really onerous–me, because my commute involved a lot of backtracking, and therefore took two hours in the evening, and John because he usually had to wait for at least 30 minutes to find a bus with an open spot on the bike rack.

Then we discovered LADOT Commuter Express, which picked us up and dropped us off just as conveniently as Metro, but on a much more direct route (and with better odds of bike space). So for nearly three years, we’ve used that as our primary mode of commute transit.

Yes, there are days that we drive–but they’re decidedly in the minority. I rode the bus until my last day at work before maternity leave, and started up with my first day back.

So, what are my thoughts on five years of riding the bus?

Well, I feel good about how I commute. I am delighted that I can get to work without being the one behind the wheel. I love having a chunk of time every day to read. I’m happy that I only have to pay for a tank of gas about once every 10 days. And I’m thrilled to be using our cars much less than many Angelenos do.

I’m also really looking forward to those new buses that LADOT is supposed to be rolling out this winter. Trust me, a 22-year-old bus is old.

Photo by LA Wad, via Flickr.

Car-Free Blog Challenge, Day Five

I made the usual bike trip to the bus stop, although I left work a little early because I think I may be coming down with John’s cold.

However, I did make a trip to the grocery store later on. It’s about a mile in each direction, and it’s a pretty nice trip that I’ve made several times before–I only cross one major road, and our neighbors don’t treat our streets like some kind of speedway.

The downside to biking to the store is, of course, that I can only bring back what I can fit in the panniers. What that meant today was that I couldn’t buy a mega-package of toilet paper or large quantities of juice. I think we’ll be okay.

And the ice cream? Haagen Dazs Rocky Road.

Falling Prices, Holding Steady

Gas is now below $1.70/gallon in our part of L.A. We’re both still taking the bus, of course. Gas prices aren’t the only thing encouraging us to do so. Actually, they’re one of the few things that had nothing to do with our choice of commute.

I did drive to the bus stop this morning; it was pouring, and I’m not that confident or skilled a cyclist. Also, I like to have dry hair and clothes at the office.

Michael Kingsley has a column in this week’s Time magazine about taking advantage of low gas prices to institute a higher gas tax. Assuming that it could be dedicated to specific transit and infrastructure needs (and that’s a big assumption), I think it’s a good idea. What about you?

Alternative Transportation

This week, I started riding my bike to the bus stop. It’s dark–and on a couple of days, foggy. Actually the fog was pretty thick on my first early-morning ride, so I feel intrepid.

One day, as I was chaining up the bike (my least favorite part of the endeavor; in addition to the fact that this is an inherently cumbersome process, the bike racks are almost entirely without lighting, which makes me question Metro’s commitment to bike commuters. How is it convenient or secure if the bike racks are in the dark? But I digress), I noticed that a Commuter Express bus stops across the street.

A little investigation prompted both of us to try that line. Commuter Express is run by the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation, while Metro is run by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority. Therefore my existing pass does not work on Commuter Express.

Also, Commuter Express is slightly more expensive, on a per-trip basis, than Metro. However, the route for our particular line is much more direct than the method I’ve been using, and cuts about 45 minutes off my trip home. Express, indeed!

The end result is that both of us are going to buy passes for Commuter Express next quarter; work offers discounted passes for both systems, and there is less of a difference in cost that way.

So the big question is this: since I have a couple of weeks left on my existing Metro pass, do I use that for the duration and make the most of my pre-paid access? Or do I ride Commuter Express and double up on fares while making the most of my time at home?

Commuting (in part) by Bike

Over the weekend, we did a bit of bike shopping in our old part of town (hey, that’s where they have bike shops we know). We wound up at Wheel World, and I am now the proud owner of an Electra Townie. It has hand brakes (which I prefer) and gears (which I find useful, even on the flat surfaces I’m likely to bike). And I can put my feet down without getting off of the seat, which greatly reduces my fear of stopping.

John spent last night hunting down extra lights for me, and I should now be pretty visible to cars–plus I can see where I’m going. This was very useful this morning, when it was not just dark, but foggy as well. This morning made me extra-happy that my route is almost entirely on a dedicated bike path.

Interestingly, two of the three bike racks at my station were already full. At 6:30 in the morning. I took the third and chained up the bike (wheels to frame, frame to bike rack). So hopefully it will be there when I get off the bus tonight. The lights are in my backpack, so I should have plenty of illumination either way.

And I really feel like I’ve earned my Cheerios.