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Home > Feature Articles > Infrastructure Development of Roads, Bridges, Schools and Internet > Infrastructure Development of Roads, Bridges, Schools and Internet

Discovering the Green Benefits of Public Transit for Yourself

Public transportation is Los Angeles' best kept secret! I just discovered a secret treasure chest of our community!

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I've been exploring public transit. As an old country girl, this urban transit infrastructure is new and confusing to me. And scary. But living in Los Angeles has its perks and I've been hearing that the transit system is improving so much that it is definitely one of our city's best kept secrets. So I'm exploring it...and my community.

Like most urbanites, there are personal reasons why we tend to prefer cars to transit. Issues like:

  • I don't know where it goes.
  • They are dirty, aren't they?
  • It takes so long
  • I can't read the confusing schedules.
  • Cars give you so much more freedom.
  • Transit is expensive for what you get.
...and some basic fear and intimidation and embarrassment at the seeming lack of prosperity.

The economic realities that have hit us all might have us rethinking what really matters...and makes sense. Ego is a luxury in times like these.

After riding the Amtrak to Santa Barbara...and again to San Diego; the Express Metro to downtown...the Metro Link on a joy ride to Long beach...the Big Blue Bus to UCLA (where I hate paying $8 for parking) ... and the Metro to lunch and shopping. Well, I'm feeling pretty good about the transit options in Los Angeles.

Let me address those issues from above:

  • Transit comes to one block from my house, and is cross linked to every section of the city, county, and places beyond.
  • I've found the buses, light rail and trains all clean and comfortable.
  • Time is relative... I no longer have to go to the gas station, wash my car, wait in traffic snarls, spend time with paperwork for licenses, tags, insurance, mileage accounting, etc. And each trip only takes a few minutes more than driving by car. Plus can use the time on the bus to visit with neighbors, read, or observe new sights I don't see when I'm whizzing by in a car.
  • It took me a couple hours of extra time to learn to read transit schedules. I must admit they are a bit confusing when you are using a different system every time -- but if you go the same place regularly, it's gotta be a snap! It sharpens the brain cells!
  • Cars encase you in isolation. You don't get to meet your neighboring Los Angelenos, and by walking a block or two you see the city in a totally personal way that you miss when you roar up to a parking space (if you can find one), or spiral down into an underground bunker. 15 minutes of sunshine a day is good for you, too! And walking a bit helps with obesity. And blue skies help with your mood. And riding cooperative vehicles reduces petroleum use so that clears the air, reduces our need for foreign oil, reduces the number of cars manufactured so that reduces the amount of raw materials mined and the waste products that end up in the landfill. Overall, transit has a lot of community benefits that come back to make my quality of life in this community better...for me and for you.
  • Transit is expensive for what you get, well, transit is about the cost of the gas that takes to to and fro. Then deduct the oil changes, the insurance, the car washes and detailing, the car repairs, the parking fees, the parking tickets, moving violations, finding parking on the street at night...or affording a garage.... and the lifetime cost of a vehicle far outweighs transit costs.

Wow, I hadn't realized how many benefits there are to riding public transit vehicles until I tried it and FELT it. Felt the freedom from stress that comes with riding vs. driving. Felt the extra free time that was formerly spend caring for the car and working longer hours to afford the extra costs. And felt the job of discovery as I see the good, the bad and the ugly in my community -- yes, MY community. I'm now really seeing it for the first time.

The transit system is a smart option to help people who don't have the option of a personal car -- but it is also a smart option for those of us who have assumed that a car was a better solution. It just isn't. In so many ways.

The following overview of the Bus Riders Union shows another side of the need for good public transit in our community. And it's a smart community strategy for everyone -- for our health and well being, for a diverse community, for citizenship and participation...and for solving congestion problems in a dense urban area.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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