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the skunks of los feliz
2.22.2006
 
Though the newly implemented express service on the Metro Gold Line has not increased ridership on the benighted line, the angry reaction from the few commuters who do patronize the Pasadena-Downtown link has served to solidify conventional wisdom around one increasingly unavoidable fact: We've got a $900 million white elephant on our hands.

There are many reasons one could cite as contributing to the line's anemic daily ridership numbers (16,000 and falling), but one thing above all stands out to me. Simply put, it takes longer to get downtown on the train than it does to drive to work on the 110. People who have a choice will never abandon their cars in favor of mass transit, unless it saves them time. The Gold Line does not save them time.
 
Comments:
It's never been a need for speed thing with me. Certainly the majority of commuters won't get out of their cars in favor of the bus or train, but I don't think I've ever utilized any of L.A.'s mass transit options because they'd save me time. I do it because it saves in other ways. But then again, time is relative. Taking an MTA bus or a train may not get me where I'm going faster than I would get there in my car, but being able to read the paper or turn a score or more pages of whatever book I'm reading while in transit saves me time in the long run.

If I were living in Pasadena and working downtown (or vice versa) I might not make the Gold Line a daily ritual, but I'd certainly ride it at least once a week regardless of how much longer it took.
 
There are people who cite the ability to kick back and read as a positive feature of transit. I certainly enjoy that aspect of it myself. If I could take the train to work, God knows I would (and did when I worked in the Valley).

The larger point was that unless gas goes up to 5 dollars a gallon, those who can afford a car will most likely continue using it unless transit provides some benefit over driving: i.e., saved time. Otherwise, there's no incentive to leaving the car parked at home.

A small percentage of people may ride transit because it's the "right" thing to do (it conserves energy, reduces pollution, etc.). Everyone else uses it because of pragamatic concerns (they can't afford a car, or it makes their commute easier than driving).

Crawling slowly along surface streets in deference to neighborhood concerns, and then having to transfer to the Red Line just to get to Bunker Hill kinda makes it less appealing than sitting in your car listening to XM, parking below your office building, and having the convenience of your car nearby.

I'm not excusing this behavior at all. We should all consider transit options. The problem often is that the MTA doesn't provide workable options.
 
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