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.


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?