New York Times Reporter Has Difficulty Taking L.A. Transit

He tries to go transit-only on a recent business trip and ran into some trouble:

That afternoon, when I was done at the Hammer, I planned to take the 534 Commuter Express bus to Mark’s office downtown on South Figueroa Street. This, I was told, was a larger and more comfortable vehicle than the standard city buses: more conducive to the business traveler. I checked the sign at the stop: Sure enough, it listed the 534. So I waited. Buses of various colors and shapes came and went. After about 45 minutes, I asked a young woman who was also waiting if she was familiar with the bus. She looked at the sign and giggled. “The 534?” she said. “I’ve never seen that here.”

Dejectedly, I sat on a low stone wall at Wilshire and Westwood and called Mark. “I’ll be there in a little while,” he said. “I told you this wasn’t going to be easy.”

Minutes before he arrived, the 534 pulled in. I just glared at it.

It’s always good to see LA represented in the national media as having a burgeoning rail system and comprehensive bus network, but it’s a bit unfair to buzz in for a weekend with meetings all over the county and expect it to accurately represent the viability of local transit. I’m guessing if you tried to travel a comparable distance in a city like New York, you’d have trouble taking transit there, too.

But then again, maybe that’s the point: the land uses in LA or so spread out, it makes a comprehensive system of county-wide rapid transit infeasible and uneconomical. That’s why the region is better off focusing rapid transit efforts on places where the most people actually live and work. Had this reporter stuck to the primary jobs and housing centers, his trip would have been a lot smoother.


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