silver-line-bus-at-el-monte-station

Because You Know I’m All About That Bus

By Gabriel Guerra | Sustainable Living, Urban Design
Foothill Transit Bus. Photo by Gabriel Guerra

Foothill Transit Bus. By Gabriel Guerra.

Why would I want to take the bus when I can just drive? If I drive I will get there faster, be able to avoid that lady who is always trying to do an exorcism on me, and most importantly, I will arrive in style.

I mean sure all of this could happen, but more than likely it will not. You could get there faster if and only if traffic is nonexistent and if you get that parking spot on the first floor. Heck, why not just park in your boss’ spot? I’m sure he won’t mind much. It’s quite a relief that you were able to steer clear of the lady that makes you question your own sanity on the bus, but at the same time you missed out on your chance to talk to that cute hipster guy who caught your eye while you were reading “The Catcher in the Rye”. And that whole thing about arriving in style is a joke when you are still driving that 1998 Honda Civic with no A/C when you could have taken the bus and put all of that money that you would be spending on gas, parking and tolls towards that Tesla you would rather see in your driveway in the near future. This life could have been yours if only you had gotten over your misconceptions of the bus as being impractical, inefficient, and straight out ghetto.

Rush Hour Traffic. Photo by Gabriel Guerra.

   Rush Hour Traffic. By Gabriel Guerra.

What gives me the right to express the views of others in regards to public transportation? I’m the guy who used to hate getting stuck behind the bus at an intersection. The guy who used to think that driving a single occupancy vehicle was the most convenient form of transportation for me. I’m the guy who was intimidated by the bus and all that it had to offer. I was all of these things until I decided to move to the city, give up my “Soul”, and take a chance with public transportation.

According to Census Bureau statistician Brian McKenzie, “The average travel time for workers who commute by public transportation is higher than that of workers who use other modes. For some workers, using transit is a necessity, but others simply choose a longer travel time over sitting in traffic.”

Story of my life. Southern Californian residents are known for spending countless hours in their cars to get to and from their destinations, often commuting upwards of 100 miles a day. Following my move to Downtown Los Angeles, my weekly commute by car would require an average of 210 miles driven and God knows how many hours spent in traffic.My solution was to get everywhere I needed to go via walking, bus, subway, and train. It requires an average of 18 hours a week, but it means saving money, exercising my mind by reading and writing during my travel time, and living a healthier lifestyle that not only impacts me but the planet as a whole. Sometimes you spend more time waiting for the bus than actually riding it but I enjoy taking the bus mainly because I like to see people’s reactions when I tell them that I own a car, but I prefer to take public transportation.

Union Station, Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Gabriel Guerra

Union Station, Los Angeles, CA. By Gabriel Guerra

The Road That Lies Ahead. Photo by Gabriel Guerra.

   The Road That Lies Ahead. By Gabriel Guerra.

America for decades has been extremely fascinated with the automobile and all that it has to offer. This has meant finding as many ways as possible to ensure that our “babies” never leave our sides, from drive-in theaters of previous decades to drive-thru restaurants. America seems to favor drivers significantly more than it does transit users through the enhancements it makes to city streets, freeways, and parking structures. By continually improving conditions of the driver’s daily commute, it’s inviting them to utilize these improvements to their fullest potential, which usually discourages them from other modes of transportation. One can argue that these infrastructure updates will benefit transit users as well, but that’s besides the point. In order to encourage more people to consider taking the bus, subway or train, it should be less convenient to drive.

An Ode to Transit. Photo by Gabriel Guerra.

An Ode to Transit. By Gabriel Guerra.

America is often revered for its achievements over the past century, but other countries have never looked up to America for its positions on issues regarding public transportation and the effectiveness it has in combatting issues such as urban sprawl, congestion, the lack of livable cities, and most importantly global warming. Germany, Japan, Denmark, and London are a few countries that have had incredible success in the development of mass transit projects that not only cater to commuters who travel via subways and buses but to bike riders and pedestrians as well. These countries have learned that by making a city more transit oriented, it becomes more livable through economic, functional, and foundational success.

Another thing that developed countries have learned is that it’s crucial to fund transit projects through government backing and public support in addition to a plan that operates at a brisk pace. Collectively, America seems to take its time to lay out transit routes, the construction aspects of the projects, and their source of funding. For example, a nine mile extension of the Purple Line subway in Los Angeles is not expected to be completed until 2024. A 1.9 mile route through Downtown Los Angeles’ core that plans on connecting the region’s heavy and light rail transportation lines is not expected to be completed until 2019. Not to mention the California High Speed Rail Project that has received ample monetary backing and major statewide support that has since been brushed off by many of the people who voted for the measures to fund it because the bullet train is not expected to be completed until 2029.

Metro Gold Line, Pasadena, CA. Photo by Gabriel Guerra

   Metro Gold Line, Pasadena, CA. By Gabriel Guerra.

California is making one of the biggest efforts to shift the views of car drivers towards public transportation, but due to a lack of funding and eventually the lack of public support behind the drawn out project plans, it gives insight into just how difficult other transportation proposals throughout the country are faring.

In order for America to get on board with the idea of mass public transportation it’s important to convince people that buses, subways, trains, and planes are more practical than they are believed to be. As the shift towards other modes of transportation is made, more transit routes will be developed, more frequent stops will be scheduled, and the overall quality of life can be greatly improved. All of these things will help our futures to look a little less car dominated and a lot less smoggy.

Feature Image: Silver Line at El Monte Station.By Gabriel Guerra.

About The Author

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As a recent transplant in the city of Los Angeles, I have a way of looking at the city that natives themselves have not been able to. My focus in school is urban planning, environmental science, sustainable design, and rooftop gardens. Follow me on my adventures throughout L.A. to see all that this sustainable city has to offer.