Metro's Problems and Solutions from a Bicyclist's Point of View

So having my reduced student fare card on the Metro has let me travel even more through the strands of LA.

I love it. Absolutely no need for a car unless I'm running late. I use the car theoretically like a credit card should be used --- only for emergencies.

However, there have been tons of downsides to taking Metro trains and buses. And I'm already very weary of the complete non-incentive of the massive bureaucracy called Metro to improve just about anything.
  • Number one is the long wait times at night. Every 13-23 minutes my ass. Particularly for the 233 from Westwood to the Valley, that took about an hour or so from time of arrival at the stop to actually getting onto the bus.
  • Number two is the unsureness of when the buses or trains will arrive. Very random, and it's really hard to depend on the schedule. Every 13-23 minutes my ass. On occasion, I do get lucky and arrive to catch a bus, but more often than not, I'm on edge about when the bus will arrive. Sometimes, I wonder if biking somewhere will get me somewhere faster. This is particularly true on the Blue Line, and the Van Nuys bus.
  • Number three is asshole Orange line bus drivers who won't let your bike on the bus when there's space available. The last driver told me that "it was a safety issue", which was complete bullshit because I've taken my bike in before and no one's life was immediately threatened on the 15-20 minutes that I took it. Not allowing bikes in when there's enough space is a real dickheaded move because we bicycle riders have usually had to wait a couple of minutes for the bus to get there. Having to wait 10-15 minutes for the next one is particularly fucking annoying, and waiting another hour at night for yet another unguaranteed space on the bus is pretty dangerous if not particularly fucking annoying. We need to get somewhere too!
  • Number four pertains to buses and especially the Orange Line. This is the guessing game bicyclists often have to play as to where bike rack space is available. In addition to unsuredly waiting for the bus. Off the Red Line in North Hollywood, people are coming off the goddamn train, and usually on the Orange Line, all the bike racks will be used up if you're not fast out of that subway.
  • Number five is Metro train riders not understanding that there are designated spaces on the train specifically for bicycles, strollers, bags, and other big cargo stuff. On the red line tons of people will just stand on the railing when there are many places to sit. I'd rather not be holding up my bike and would prefer to rest it on something. I've gotten into verbal arguments on the Blue Line about putting my bicycle in the designated middle areas. I point to the bicycle symbol. Also, I'm not a fan of playing a guessing game as to where the designated bicycle areas are. It can be quite annoying fighting through crowds of lumbering masses.
Solutions to 1, 2, 3, and 4: What we need is some kind of progress tracker for buses and trains available on their website. Perhaps make use of that GPS technology that can track real time traffic. The minutes till arrival thing that the Red Line and Orange Line have are somewhat helpful...that is when they're not completely malfunctioning and completely off.

The reason for a real-time progress tracker? Probably for more efficient trip planning for customers.

Along with that progress tracker should be some kind of bicycle rack indicator. Either online or some kind of signalling system. The bicycle rack indicator would let me know if I'm wasting my time waiting for a bus, only to be turned away. Maybe I could make actual plans to bike, take another route, call a taxi, call a friend.

Solution to 5: Would it be that hard and/or costly to paint designated areas of a platform on the Blue and Red Lines, Bike Zones? I think that would reduce confusion amongst bicyclists and riders as to where we need to be.

Particularly helpful during nighttime.

Museum of Tolerance not Tolerant of Bicyclists

I went to watch a very profound film at the Museum of Tolerance yesterday.

Enemies of the People.

About a journalist whose family was killed by the Khmer Rouge regime in the Cambodian Genocide and him interviewing people who executed thousands of people and the 2nd in Command of the Khmer Rouge regime.

But anyway as important as that film is to our overall understanding of humankind that wasn't why I'm posting on this blog.

I'm posting because of everything that happened before that screening while at the Museum of Tolerance.

Security check.

I'm a commuting bicyclist, and a student. This means I carry lots of stuff everywhere. My netbook, my file holder thing, some books, some school supplies, and of course the wrenches, patch kits, hand-pump for my bicycle. This all fits into my high school backpack and weighs about 30 pounds.

I take this with me to the Police Commission, to Long Beach, to my cousin's house, to parties, to bars, but (I was warned by security) the Museum of Tolerance.

I biked from Downtown to LA via Olympic Blvd, and was pleasantly surprised. I hung out at UCLA for a bit, did research at good ole Young Research Library, and made the decision to buy some candy. All sour stuff. Paid $7.76 for a bag that I thought would cost $4; I should've just said, I was a student.

So back to the Museum of Tolerance. Security check. Complete with the bag check terminal and metal detector.

I see their sign saying "No food or drinks allowed."

Seeing that sign and having my $7.76 bag of candy tucked away in my backpack, I decide I'm going to tell security what to expect. I do this so they don't think that I'm trying to be sneaky. I'm hoping they'll be somewhat more lenient on me, ultimately allow me to bring my candy inside my bag with me because of my outright honesty.

"Hey I've got a bag of candy in there, but I won't eat it, I just don't have any place to put it."

With a slight pause, he nods no, and says " I don't know what to tell you, you either got to eat it throw it away."

I tell him, "Hey man, I paid $7.76 for this! Cub scouts honor, I won't eat it."

The security guy nods no, and uses me as an example to announce the standing crowd behind me: "Absolutely no food, no chewing gum or anything else is allowed, please get rid of it, or we will."

Slightly irked, I tell him "I don't have a car to store things in, so that's why I can't leave this food anywhere."

At this point he tells me to open my bag as he investigates my stuff. I put my loose stuff in the tray. Standard procedure if a little delayed.

Getting frustrated at all the stuff in my bag, he makes the remark "Normally, we don't allow bags of your size, please take that into consideration for next time"

I tell him, "Well, I can't. The bicycle is how I commute, and I've got take my stuff everywhere with me, maybe you should consider how unfriendly you are to bikes."

If you commute by car, you probably wouldn't see the problem. You can carry stuff from work/school with you. It doesn't even have to be just work/school stuff, you can include guns, tasers, knives, sex toys. All you have to do is leave all that shit in the car. You'll be fine, you'll get by security just fine.

However, if you commute by bicycle to school or work, you usually carry lots of stuff with you. I have to accomodate not only my school/work stuff, but also bike maintenance stuff. And this is the bare minimum of stuff to bring because bicyclists probably don't prefer heavy bags.

Then, there are these places like the Museum of Tolerance, which restrict you as to the kind of stuff you can bring in. You carry your stuff, usually pretty important stuff, seeing that you're already bringing the bare minimum for your commute. However, you could also forget about the important stuff on your way out. At a different venue with the same degree of asshole security, I almost forgot my wrenches.

And if you leave it in the front desk, which always ends up being the compromise, you're putting all your trust these probably laughably underpaid front desk strangers not to eat your food or mess with your stuff.

To that, all I'll say is: Locker or baggage check-in system. Cough Cal State Long Beach you too Cough.

Ways Riding the Metro Is Better than a Car

After a 1 and a half month wait, I finally have my Metro reduced fare student card.

Goddamnit that took so long. I ordered it on August 12th. Received it on September 25th. Another one arrived a week later, perhaps due to me harrassing the fuck out of them.

What does having the TAP Card mean, exactly?

That means if I have to run to catch a train, I can skip all the delay of digging for $1.50 and inevitably failing machinery. I just have to "TAP" my card. Haha ha, I played a pun.

Anyhow, onto the point of this blog: ways riding the Metro is better than a car in Los Angeles.

As I was traversing to Long Beach from the Valley for a project, I realized the kind of travel Metro is entirely advantageous for (at least with the Metro TAP Card.)

Going back and forth between destinations.

Unless I'm in a hurry, it doesn't matter if I have to go back and forth between the Valley and Long Beach. With the Metro TAP Card, I'd already dropped $36 for the month.

That means no further costs to travel in the month. Between the Metro pass and my bike, my travel expenses other than the $36 in LA are free. Free. FREE!!!!

That vs. spending at a minimum $10 on gas a day driving 100 miles on my Corolla back and forth. 30 bucks pissed away on 3 Days of motherfucking driving between the absolute motherfucking polar ends of LA.

So yeah, economic savings is big, however this all assuming you know where the Metro trains are, where they go to exactly, how to pay fares.

Also, unless there's some accident, the trains are pretty dependable and I'll get at my destination at pretty much the same duration that I always get.

Also as an aside, depending on Metro and my bike has made me a better planner of things in my life. As a student anticipating a long commute, I'll get a paper or a presentation done much earlier than the absolute last minute.

Also, nowhere else would I meet so many youths, talk with people in spontaneity, watch a man take his eyeballs out of his eye sockets, hear the sounds of a travelling family band, the woman who goes around selling individual ordinary pens and pencils for a dollar. Being relatively privileged, nowhere else would I coming into contact with so many segments of LA that you don't hear about.

CicLAvia Needs to Happen at Night

Great that it happened just because it created a public space for LA. And it was good to see the work of a few good friends come to fruition.

More than I can say about myself. I give credit to those that actually make something like this, with no precedent here, happen. That took some amount of elbow-pulling, twisting, and different kinds of contortion.

CicLAvia is overwhelmingly a space that absolutely needs to happen, frequently. I think it's any piece of public space is a great infrastructure for community-building.

However, I want to propose an add-on to CicLAvia that I think could go a long way in really building up the community. Something that could help drop crime even more, but more importantly something that attempts to reach da yutes of LA, particularly the youth of color. And it's real simple:

CicLAvia needs to happen at night.

Somewhat in the same vein as the Midnight Ridazz, and Critical Mass rides. However, I don't think it should be dominated as much by bicyclists.

Ala my buddy Jane Jacobs, I'm thinking of a CicLAvia that includes more pedestrians, more points of engagement for people, at night, when there is very little safe public space at all.

I'm thinking of the open fiesta that is the Central Avenue Jazz Festival. I'm thinking the claiming of spaces by various organizations in Park(ing) Day LA. I'm thinking the social scene of the Art Walk for the 20 somethings. I'm also thinking very prominently about Antonio Villaraigosa's Saturday Night Lights anti-gang program for youth and their families.

Why does CicLAvia need to happen at night?

Well, I'm quite tired of the nights of LA being reserved for adults with money. The dance club, the nightclubs, the bars, the gourmet food trucks, the frozen sugar injections, movies, bowling alley, hoity toity museums.

What do we do in those night-time spaces in LA? Talk. Drink. Eat. Smoke.

Lots of privatized, not really all that active activities.

Meanwhile, past 10 PM public parks are closed. This means that the kids who were just kicking it and skateboarding, must kick push to another place.

Public libraries shut down at 6. This means that the homeless people at Central Library gotta get the fuck out of there and go to some shelter or the street corner outside of Busby's. Or better yet in front of your local 7-11, a space he occupies like a void, where you can just learn how to filter the individual's humanity out of your talking, eating, drinking, smoking level of consciousness.

Places of free, spontaneous community convergence during the day time are suddenly dark, desolate potential crime spaces.

Our nights in LA are monopolized by private spaces. The spots of activity are suddenly concentrated into privatized, insular spaces. Whether it's the Standard downtown or Suehiro in the latenight, your entrance and access to those spaces, establishments are mediated only by money (or favors) if you have any to exchange.

The key to your entrance anywhere is having money (or favors) to exchange. A lot of youth, particularly the colored ones whether you're in Central Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, Van Nuys and above, East Los, (me too) don't have a lot of money to exchange.

There are very few spaces in LA at night that are free. There's the Tuesday Night Cafe, the Zocalo and ALOUD public lectures, events at universities and colleges, and Art Walk. Each cool in their own right, but all infrequent, and random, usually targeted towards adults, and particular kinds of adults at that. The events at night are either for the 20-30 something in the case of the open mics and the artsy stuff, or if it's some kind of public lecture it's for white people old enough to excrete dust particles when they are ready to deposit their #2's.

A downtown LA at night with no Artwalk or other big event features closed doors, gates, homeless and "sketchy" individuals.

So let's put this altogether:

  • There isn't much public space in Los Angeles in general, and even fewer at night with the closure of parks and libraries.
  • Activities are very limited, and not very active, and Americans are fat fucking bastards.
  • Private space overwhelmingly monopolizes and characterizes LA at night; it's a purely adult, privatized, disconnected mass of dystopia of borders and isolation, breeding grounds for "deviance."
  • Youth don't have a lot of money and don't have many places to go at night.

CicLAvia at night could be something to tackle these various problems. Preventative, and yet absolutely engaging and enthralling social infrastructure. An open space at night created by people and a free community event that could encourage youths to get out, be cool, be safe in a safe space.

The whole reason I even propose the night is for the youths, particularly the "latchkey" ones. The ones that are out and about after after-school hours.

I think outreach could be done to those youth intervention programs, and hell include the high school clubs, and whatever else. The great thing about putting this outreach in the great mass that is CicLAvia is that the event doesn't have to center around just that or them. They're just in with the rest of Angelenos who want to enjoy their streets and public spaces at the time of day when were culturally expected to be in exclusively private spaces.

As much as crime has been falling, crime could fall even more. CicLAvia on a Sunday morning needed tons of police; the police handle most incidents at night. They police will be out there already and the kids and the cameras so it's a shared visibility space. If you took a panopticonish view, it would be like a midnight nightwatch of streets, but done with fun and a lot more community involvement.

And that's where Mayor Villaraigosa's Saturday Night Lights program catches on. He began his Saturday Night Lights program last summer as an anti-gang program. His program kept parks open till late. Result, 2009 was the safest summer since 1967.

Except his program was concentrated exclusively at parks.

I wonder how much more crime could be reduced if he had the streets as well as the parks for this.

The CicLAvia at night would be a way for masses of different people to reclaim their streets at the time of day when it isn't expected to be claimed.