Ode to the Big Blue Bus

Dear Big Blue Bus,

I am a proponent of taking public transit whenever possible.  I became jaded by owning a stick shift vehicle and having to commute cross town to Santa Monica on a daily basis.  But then, there was you.  I was so happy that I’d found you.  My one way of being able to get to work and have a bit of extra time to relax, read, and not have to deal with the droll of traffic on the 10 freeway.

My savior came about with the same name as that stretch of dreaded asphalt.  It was the rapid 10 Big Blue Bus from dowtown all the way to Santa Monica.  At first, these days, they were glorious.  But then time would change.  The drivers would change.  The schedules… are now about about to change.

I remember standing on the bus last week and seeing the signs literally and figuratively that my days on the Big Blue were potentially coming to a close.

On the way to work on the 10 going westward at approximately 830am, I boarded the Big Blue as per my normal routine at the 11th and Grand stop.  As we navigated towards the freeway, I witnessed a mother and her child of approximately 16 or 17 years old wanting to board at a stop.  The bus driver stopped and let the mother in but pulled away as the daughter ran to board.

“Stop!  My daughter needs to get on the bus!”

Bus driver: “Your daughter should have ran faster.”

The bus driver did eventually stop and let the girl on, but the experience as a passenger was dreadful.  Why was this person allowed to navigate a public bus and interact with the public?  What does it show about you Big Blue Bus?  A lot I must say.  A lot.

When I sat on the bus I saw more.  The signs, she read, were that of a piggy bank “Change goes here.”  and another of the Big Blue “Not here.”  At first, even working in marketing, I didn’t understand what was trying to be said.  Were they going to take away the ability to pay for the bus with coins?  What were they trying to say?

There was a note that said the bus routes would be changing.  I didn’t think to really look at the time.  I just wanted to get to work.  Little did I know that I was not going to be happy when I read the route changes.  But that comes later.

The bus route Eastward was originally coming every 45 minutes.  Now it seems it’s possibly every hour if not more.  I remember the days when I would run out the door of work at 630 hoping to catch the 645 bus at Wellesley and Santa Monica near my favorite board game emporium.  Nowadays I will see the number 1 bus drive by at least 3 times, and empty, before one edition of the nearly always crowded rapid 10 comes to bring me home.

Thursday I walked into the store as per usual to waste the few minutes before the bus came.  I pulled myself aside from the miniatures painting and headed to the stop to wait for the bus that seemed like it would never arrive.  It didn’t get there until nearly 745.  By the time that I finally arrived home, the kitchen for the catering business below my abode had nearly closed.

The express 10 bus is just one of the routes that was approved by the Santa Monica council that will be changed on August 28, 2011.  A total of five current routes will be affected with the changes.  One additional downtown route will be added that will only be available during morning peak hours of  7am to 10am and night peak hours of 3:30pm to 7:30pm.

Big Blue’s site shows a comment regarding the proposed changes, stating: “These changes will allow us to provide the most service to the most people while maintaining a balanced budget this year,” said Stephanie Negriff, director of transit services for the Big Blue Bus. “We’re pleased that as a result of effective research and outreach, we’ll be a better bus service without any negative impacts to this year’s operating budget or fares.”

As a citizen that commutes cross town to reduce my carbon footprint, and uses this as my only real way of getting to and from work everyday, my disdain and sadness for the Big Blue grows more and more as the days roll by.  I think about the others that will be affected.  I ponder the thought used to make these decisions, especially on the one major connection route that services the downtown to the west side.

Are the days I ride the Big Blue really coming to a close?  If things keep up like this, I fear it may be.  Both the stop where I pick up the bus and the one where I’m to be dropped off to catch my connecting bus are to be eliminated.

If you make it difficult for a consumer to come to your city on public transit, is it reasonable to expect less money to go into the city coffers? Is this a ploy to keep the “riff raff” out of the West side?   What’s your take on it?  Big Blue Bus and Richard Bloom are you listening?

Signed,

One concerned citizen who’s just trying to go to work everyday

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Carmageddon: The Aftermath

Dear Los Angeles,

So I see you that have survived the feared inferno of “Carmageddon”. You rocked the happy hour specials. You steered your four wheeled vessels clear of the freeways in fear of losing your ever so precious time sitting parked on the freeway for hours upon hours.

You chose to not clutter the streets with aggravation. For a few glorious days, there was a silent peace decorated on asphalt. People were drawn in droves to the otherwise bickered about public transportation. There wasn’t arguing with the hurried commuter in the other car, bike, or motorcycle trying to get to x function. There were no stretched necks as accident after accident piled up to make the drive home from work, play, or errands a little longer. There was less noise and pollution.

The 405 is opening as I type this. It bids one to wonder if the community has learned anything from this exercise. How will the Los Angeles community change? How have you changed for the greater good?

Los Angeles once had the greatest public transit system in the world. Nowadays, people dread the thought of taking a bus, a train, or a bike in lieu of a car. This weekend proved that the community here is so ambivalent to change that, rather than embrace the possibilities of other alternatives, would rather just not participate at all.

This weekend Los Angeles biker community advocates Wolfpack Hustle embarked on a 40 mile race against an airline proved the power of the human versus the machine. In a race won by pedal pushers that generated substantial buzz, why are the Los Angeles bike paths lacking in comparison to other major metropolitan cities?

Now that Carmageddon has come and gone, as a business person, are you going to take heart the relief and production capabilities of a happier worker that has not had to “deal” with traffic for one day? Are you going to provide more of an incentive to take public transit?

As a regular commuter are you going to make a more proactive attempt to take public transit when you can? Will you take an extra few minutes to walk down the street to that cafe for brunch or the extra few blocks to the grocery store?

It’s time the community took a big look at the bigger picture. We have the power to carve this city into something greater if we unify ourselves. Time is a precious commodity but so is a calmer, healthier way of life. Instead of putting one in front of the other, perhaps both are capable of happening. Dare to be a part of the change.