“Yeah, you know, LA Public Transportation sucks, like it’s so bad I don’t even use it,” said the person who owns a car.
As someone who has been using the Public Transportation here for nearly three years under protest, I have a lot of experience with this issue and would like to outline some very specific reasons at to why the Transit here is the most disappointing thing to happen since the release of all-star video game, Shadow the Hedgehog. (I mean it’s an angsty hedgehog with a gun; what could go wrong?)
Because saying LA Metro sucks is not enough. It’s so bad that I have had to trick myself into thinking that it’s a conspiracy by the government to torture lower class people. I know it’s not true but I need that for my reality to make sense.
For reference, I live in North Hollywood.
1. It’s difficult to chain buses together.
One of the few things that LA Public Transit does well is extend a far reach. Over the past three years, I’ve had many interviews, temp jobs, gigs, adventures, etc. that lead me to the far corners of Los Angeles, and 95% of those trips dropped me off within 5 minutes of where I needed to be.
However, to get to those far off places, you’re going to have to chain buses together. The most I have ever had to chain is four. Three is usually what you’ll end up doing though. If it’s just two, then you are blessed. In fact, there are places relatively close to where I live that I have to take two buses to reach conveniently.
Now, while chaining buses is annoying, at least many bus routes cross over with each other. In a city as big as Los Angeles, it’s almost a given that you’ll need to chain buses.
The problem is when one of your buses is late. Let’s say I’m going from North Hollywood to Century City for a job. That’s at least a one hour and forty minute commute. So if I check Google Maps, it tells me to take the 164 to Victory/Sepulveda where I then take the 734 down through Beverly Hills.
But uh oh! I only have 5 minutes after I land to get to the 734 stop that’s 1 minute away. Usually, that’s fine, and maybe even preferable. But let’s say that my 164 bus is 3 minutes late (which is common). So we’re riding down the street and oh man, there’s a lot of traffic. We’re going a little slower than usual, and oh, someone is asking the bus driver a question and he’s waiting to answer it before he hits the pedal again.
I am most likely not catching that 734 bus. And if I don’t catch the 734, I’m probably not going to make the 704 bus on Santa Monica/Sepulveda in time either. That means, I’m fucked. Normally, I should be able to just wait for the next 734 bus and chain it with the 704 anyways. But no, that’s not how these buses work. As I’ll discuss below, these buses are infrequent. Maybe there’s a 734 bus every 20 minutes, but the 704 might only come every 40 minutes.
Let’s do the math. 20 minutes waiting for the next 734 + 20 minutes waiting for the 704 at Santa Monica/Sepulveda = 40 minutes late because one bus initially ran 3 minutes late.
Ideally, you need to figure out that you’re not making the first connection as soon as possible. Maybe you can get off early and take the 224 to the train station, then use the Red Line to connect to the 780 at Hollywood/Highland, which you’ll need to connect to the 7 at Pico WB & Fairfax FS. Do the math and that’s 5 buses you’ll be taking. That’s $5.25 just to get there. Getting home should run you $3.50 so overall you are spending $10.75 on one day of commuting.
To catch this early though, you are going to need to be checking your phone a lot. Sometimes, I’ll periodically put the most recent stop my bus just passed in to Google Maps to see if we are going to make it to my destination in time. If we are, I’ll delete that and type in the old route. If we are not, I’ll have to type in a new route and I might need to get off the bus immediately to make it.
If your bus is currently at a stop as you realize this, it is incredibly anxiety inducing because you need to pull up the new route, figure out where you are, and when to get off in the span of about ten seconds.
If you are planning on using public transportation, you better be a chill person with the patience of Sisyphus. As a person with an anxiety disorder, I have had multiple emotional breakdowns and panic attacks because of the Metro. The idea of public transportation is to get around cheaply with little effort on your part.
LA Metro fails to do either much of the time. I’ve missed connections and had to resort to Lyft (which is not cheap) to get somewhere on time, and I’ve also lost my mind and gave in to the beast within trying to reroute.
2. Many of the buses are infrequent/ghost buses.
I live six minutes away from a 230 bus stop. The 230 goes down Laurel Canyon, ending its route in Sherman Oaks, right in front of a Trader Joe’s. When I decided to start shopping at TJ’s instead of Ralph’s a few months ago, I was pumped when I found out about how convenient it’d be for me to get to one.
So foolishly, I trusted the 230 to get me there conveniently. My phone told me I needed to leave my home at 10:34 to get to the bus on time. I always leave 5-10 minutes early in case the bus comes early (they aren’t supposed to come early and leave but it happens a lot) so I get to the stop. And I wait.
And I wait.
And at 10:50 I check my phone. A bus was supposed to come but unless it was a phantom bus, I saw no such thing. When was the next bus?
That’s right. The 230 only comes once every forty minutes.
Should I go home and do something for twenty minutes? No…I should just stay there. Let’s relax and take in the moment. Happiness is a choice, ya know?
Haha, that’s another discussion.
Years later, I make it to Trader Joe’s and I buy some corn on the cob for thirty nine cents! Holy moly! This Joe guy is crazy! As I check my food out, I calculate my route home. I have 5 minutes pad to get to the 230 bus stop. I step outside the Trader Joe’s and what do I immediately see? The 230 bus passing by and going to my stop that was 5 minutes away from me. That’s right, it was early.
The next bus that came forty minutes later decided to show up right on time though.
I launched an investigation soon after. Surely the 230 bus only comes once every forty minutes because it’s Sunday! It’s the day of the Lord, buses gotta chill out and say a couple Hail Mary’s. They have a lot of sins to be forgiven after all.
Laurel Canyon’s a major street, there’s no way the bus would be so inefficient–
Oh. It’s like that every day.
Basically, what should be a one hour grocery trip for me turns into two because of the 230 bus. But I’m a sucker for that 39 cent corn.
3. Bus drivers will often skip you.
This one’s just stupid. I get skipped a lot. It’s weird.
You’re standing at the bus stop in plain view. You see the bus coming. You wave to the driver. What a good guy! He’s going to help me go home, I should be really thankful.
I guess–I guess that bus driver just felt like skipping a stop for kicks.
Ouch. My heart.
And remember my rant about how it’s hard to chain buses together? Getting skipped really hurts after going forty minutes one way to catch a bus that only comes once every hour.
Here’s a list of buses that have skipped me for no good reason multiple times: the 154, the 162, and the 240.
4. It’s not a safe environment.
I’m trans and I’m very fortunate to say that I haven’t ran into too many issues. LA also has a very strong queer community. The only major problems I’ve had were on the LA Metro.
A few months ago, an old man couldn’t keep his eyes off of me. Then after five minutes of constant staring, he started screaming at me, threatening to attack me if I got near him. He seemed very serious about it, considering the way he writhed in his seat as he looked at me.
Some passengers stood up for me which was really kind of them, but I’m a little peeved that the bus driver said nothing. The bus drivers seem to be very selective about what bothers them and what doesn’t.
Had I been on a late night bus and got off at the same stop as that man, I don’t know what would’ve happened. I really don’t want to think about it. I was very lucky that he got lured in by the aroma of Mac & Cheetos at the Burger King on Sunset/La Brea and exited the bus a few stops before I did. (This happened on the 2 bus for reference.)
I’ve also witnessed much more violence this year in particular. I’ve seen commuters rise up to attack other commuters. I’ve also seen some intense arguments, and a few months ago my train got held up a half hour because someone pulled a knife on somebody in one of the train cars.
5. The train doesn’t go nearly far enough.
There are only two stops in the entire San Fernando Valley: Universal City and North Hollywood Station. This ignores the fact that Van Nuys, Burbank, Glendale, Calabasas, San Fernando, and Hidden Hills exist.
How many people live in the Valley? In 2012, it was 1.77 million. Now I live here so it’s got to be at least 1,700,001.
In addition to this, the Valley is 260 square miles.
(Fun Fact: When you visit the Valley, you might notice that for every square foot, there are 18.2 people stacked on top of each other.)
Los Angeles is 503 square miles, which means that the Valley takes up more than half of the city.
How many train stops do they get? 91.
How many do we get? 2. And one of them is in Sherman Oaks/Studio City. And we all know that Sherman Oakians waltz around carrying large sacks of money and wear very large hats.
I’ll admit, there are some other lower classes areas that the train does seem to access pretty well in some Southern and Eastern areas in Los Angeles, but it’d be nice if there was at least a train that went to Burbank. They have the best Wendy’s after all. (1575 N Victory Place. You can use the 164, 165, or 794 to get there.)
One final point, taking a quick look at Boston, a city with really good public transportation, Jamaica Plain is pretty similar to the Valley. JP is 4.4 square miles and has 4 different train stops running through it. That’s one stop for every 1.1 square miles. Here in the Valley we get one stop for every 130 square miles. And guess what? Our only two train stops are less than three miles apart from each other.
If anybody is reading that that has power over the LA Metro, please consider at least giving us that Burbank train stop so that we can get all 1.7 million of us over to the best Wendy’s in the world easily.