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.


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 Four

Today I did not make it to the farm market. For a variety of reasons, I chose to pedal home instead.

First, this morning was a very long commute. Because of the president’s visit, major streets were shut down, and those of us in the front of the bus had to help the driver navigate around the closures. All told, this meant that the commute took an hour longer than usual. (This has nothing to do with the challenge, as I always ride the bus to work.)

Second, John is sick, and I wanted to come home and check on him.

Third, I’m hungry.

So maybe I’ll make it to the farm market next week. But right now I’m going to scare up something for dinner.

Bike-to-Work Week/Day/Life

Turns out I don’t have to drive to work on Thursday. Excellent!

(Sometimes we have to bring in things that are hard to carry/extremely heavy/very bulky. It turns out that today, not Thursday, was that day. Irony very slightly mitigated.)

When we do drive, we ride in together. Normally we also ride home together, but I have a very late meeting. So late that it starts when my bus stops running. If I took the Metro bus, I probably wouldn’t get home until 10, which is not conducive to waking up at 5:30 tomorrow. Not if I want to be conscious at work.

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.

Have Bike, Will Travel

So far, the commute seems to be going pretty well. I drive to the busway and then make one connection, and John bikes to a bus stop and then gets a ride to work from there.

However, today he biked all the way to work because the racks on the buses were full. It’s great that more people are doing a bike-bus combo–but maybe the bus company needs to figure out how to make more room for bikes. Just a thought, and not an original one.

And I’m about to start biking to the busway station. I don’t like the driving portion of my commute; it’s only a mile, but when driving that mile home is the last thing I do, it feels like I took the car for the entire trip. I’ll drive when the weather is bad (this means rainy; we’re in Southern California, after all, so I’m willing to brave what passes for cold here) or when I’m sick, but I’d prefer to bike when I can. That’s the theory, anyhow.

Oh, and I tried adding that connection, to see if it might shorten the commute. My conclusion? Possibly, but only on the return trip. It turns out that the additional connection does a bit of backtracking of its own–and in the morning I’m the only person at the stop. It feels a little isolated and exposed, and I think I’ll pass on both of those.

Overall, though, I think the bus is a success, and I’ll be sticking with it.

You Would Not Believe . . .

. . . how many people are on the bus at 6:30 in the morning. I take the Orange Line (a dedicated busway) to a Metro Rapid bus that runs north-south across the San Fernando Valley and then into West L.A. And it is packed.

I usually can’t sit down, at least not when I first get on the bus. And I pick it up probably 2/3 of the way across the Valley, so you know that many of the people on the bus have gotten up very early indeed.

This encourages me in my theory that ridership would increase if there were more buses on the various routes. Because if more people could sit down, more people would be willing to take public transportation. No, not everyone. But more people. And that would mean fewer cars on the road. More buses, fewer cars. Makes sense, at least to me.

Tonight I’m going to begin a little experiment. My current route involves a bit of backtracking, so that I’m covering more ground than I need to. So I’m going to add a connection in the hope that it will actually shorten my ride. Will that be the outcome? Or will it just mean that I have to wait longer? And either way, will it mean that I can’t get a seat at all?

Stay tuned for updates.