There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

First one, then another and pretty soon . . .

The Los Angeles Daily News has a feature article that begins:

Two years ago, Simon Pastucha - an urban designer and planner for the city of Los Angeles - left his Mercedes SUV at the dealership and hasn't looked back.

But how does a professional with children and far-flung meetings survive in car-centric Los Angeles without owning an automobile?
Read the full article here and then come back. I lived in the San Fernando Valley before Interstate 405 replaced Sepulveda Boulevard as the commute route to Los Angeles. Back then, the Daily News was a throw-away paper known as the Green Sheet. (The front section and some other sections where printed on green newsprint.) I left and moved to Northern California well before the Los Angeles commuter rail started operating.

The guy featured in the Daily News article used to lease a Mercedes SUV for $500 a month. This is not a guy forced onto public transit because of "mobility" issues, unless you count the lack of mobility associated with gridlocked Los Angeles freeways. From a transitarian point of view, this is the perfect story. First one guy, then another and pretty soon you're talking about lots of people.

Which brings us to my favorite blogger du jour. He's the guy I ranted about in my "Dictatorship of the 33" post. He's the one who tipped me off to the Daily News article. I don't use his name or his Web address because I don't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing how much he annoys me. However, I think he offers an opposing view that illustrates the thinking (loosely defined) of transit foes.

He starts with a very telling headline: Living a Minimal Life Without a Car

And what is so minimal about life without a car? Well, according to this blogger, "This man and his children are hostages to public transportation."

I simply don't see it. I must confess that I don't think I could go completely carless. The guy in the article rents cars on the weekend when he needs one. But going from a two-car to a one-car family is more than possible, even with Sacramento's less-than-ideal bus service.

Probably most telling was the blogger's suggestion that a little rain keeps people from using transit:
Would you like to live his life? Oh, what happens when it rains hard, which does happen? Does he stay home from work? Does he rent a car? Dos he ask a friend to drive him into downtown LA? Or does he do all that walking in a heavy rain? Would you want him as a friend?
Sorry, but the last time I checked people are not water soluble. And, in any event, it is not as if transit riders sit on top of the trains and buses. They ride inside, which is just as dry as the inside of a single-occupant car. A hat and coat or an umbrella offer more than enough protection when not actually riding transit. And a hat and coat or umbrella are still required by the blogger when he drives to the mall and has to walk a half-mile to reach the stores.


wburg said...

The decision to take public transit to CSUS, rather than walk, was largely due to the realization that I get just as wet, if not wetter, walking from the parking lot to the main campus than I do while waiting for the bus.

And at least the bus stop has a shelter to stand under, whereas the parking lot doesn't.

wburg said...

heh. "My decision to take public transit to CSUS, rather than drive."

Although walking is another option...when going to work, walking is the first choice, but if it's raining transit keeps me drier than walking.

John said...

There's a loft for sale near where I work. The idea of being able to walk everywhere -- work, grocery, drug store, dining -- sure would be nice. But after making such a big deal about my daily bus ride, I would miss my participation in the grand proletarian struggle. ;-)

wburg said...

You'd still find reasons to ride the bus or light rail--if only to avoid having to give up a bitchin' parking spot. Are you looking at the ones above Tuli Bistro, or the Tapestri Square brownstones, or the New Faze townhomes?

Of course, that's assuming you prefer newer houses.

John said...

The Tapestri Square brownstones are outside my price range. I actually had in mind the lofts above the Bistro, but the apartments (I think they are apartments) that were built behind the Rite Aid on S Street look interesting as well. I like New Faze and the condos (or apartments) across the tracks on the corner. But I really like the 21st and S location. Of course, if they ever do the Ice House project at 16th and R streets, that would be my new best favorite dream place to live.


wburg said...

The Ice Blocks are a ways out but those buildings are neat indeed.

I do like how the Whiskey Hill buildings are coming along. I have been inside the New Faze and 21st and S buildings, and they're both pretty comfortable.

I can vouch for the neighborhood--I live about two blocks from there. Parking's a pain and there are quite a few weekend parties in the college student inhabited apartments, but other than that it's pretty nice around here. My own preference is for older homes (they tend to be cheaper than the new lofts, too) but not everybody is into those. Given that the neighborhood is right next to Poverty Ridge, I have taken to calling it "Poverty Adjacent."

John said...

Oops. When said New Faze I was talking about Alchemy at R Street and the building across the street.

wburg said...

I like the look of the Alchemy at R units (I went through a couple of them on Saturday.) I also got a chance to check out the other Tapestri unit (the "mid-priced" $600,000 one, the high-end $800K one, and the "little brownstone" $400K ones.) Apparently they haven't sold any yet.

Speaking of things I can't afford, a neighbor told me the Didion house on 22nd and T was having an open house, so I went and checked it out: an enormous, six-bedroom mansion with servant's quarters, formal dining room, full basement, an attic that could hold a pretty large party. A steal at $1.55 million...the downside is, no off-street parking.

John said...

QUOTE: A steal at $1.55 million...the downside is, no off-street parking.

In a world of trophy homes with three car garage snouts, it does seem more than just quaint to have a house with no off-street parking.

Of course, from 22nd and T it is a short walk to 21st to catch the bus downtown or to 23rd and R to catch light rail.

I know -- In your dreams -- but sometimes even dreams come true.

iozzi said...

"There's a loft for sale near where I work. The idea of being able to walk everywhere -- work, grocery, drug store, dining -- sure would be nice."

I moved downtown, within walking distance of my job, about a year ago. I haven't regretted it. The last time I bought gas was in July. I don't even know how much gas costs at the moment.

The grocery store is the hardest part without a car. If you like to go to bars, it's awesome. No drinking and driving and no cab fare. If you want to take a cab, it's very cheap. I feel sorry for the people who are hostages to their cars and traffic.

John said...

izzoi: "The last time I bought gas was in July. I don't even know how much gas costs at the moment."

I'm a real big fan of living close to work, but I'm anchored to a wife who can't imagine life without a suburban lawn. I guess I'll be riding the bus. My monthly bus pass costs $42.50. (I pay using pre-tax dollars, so the cost is even less.) Before I took the bus I would fill up the gas tank on my car once a week. Today, that would cost more than $50. So, after you take out the bus pass, I've got more than $150 a month to spend on other stuff.

izzoi: "The grocery store is the hardest part without a car."

This is why I really like the area around the Safeway at 19th and S streets. And with the lofts over the Safeway and the new living spaces at 21st and S streets, there are plenty of options.