Yes! LA HAS A SUBWAY! To be fair, I said the same thing when someone first mentioned it to me, but I had just recently moved here at the time. I seriously get this reaction from people who have lived here for months and even years. I certainly noticed that more people “discovered” the existence of public transportation in LA when the gas prices
started rising, but why did it even take that? Talking strictly about the subway (the buses are incredibly slow and crowded and are subject to traffic and so do not count as public transportation with great potential for this city), here is the problem: People say they don’t take the subway because it doesn’t cover enough of the city/doesn’t go where they need to go, but Metro won’t extend the subway to go to more places because people in LA do not and will not utilize the service.
Taking the subway to and from work in Downtown for the last five or six months has changed my life. Granted I’m not someone who particularly enjoys driving, but I’m infinitely happier not driving during my commute. It’s actually quite funny because I thought that was something I was looking forward to about living in LA – getting my own personal space during my commute. That came from cramming myself onto the (probably 20-30 minutes late) T in Boston during rush hour for far too long – any rush hour T rider will tell you personal space (personal space is defined as not being wedged between a group of drunk Fenway-bound men and tall business man reading a Globe and flicking it into your head every time he turns the page while also not being close enough to a bar to hold on to so you’re relying on said people to keep you from tumbling about the car), let alone a coveted seat, is nearly impossible to come by.
So it may be somewhat difficult to comprehend why I absolutely love taking the subway. But the answer is quite simple:
A. (I’ll say this slowly as it is the KEY to a popular and efficient public transportation system) The. Subway. Runs. On. Schedule. – Always. Every 5 minutes during rush hour, every 10-11 minutes on weekends and during mid-day, and every 20 minutes in the evenings. Plain and simple. There are even numerous messages scrolling through electronic screens throughout every station that let you know if a given train will be running even 2 minutes behind schedule. Now that’s service you can rely on.
B. This is tied in to Part A – The train is never overcrowded. Since it runs every 5 minutes, there is never a huge crowd waiting to get on. Again, so simple, but it means the difference between a miserable ride and a tolerable ride. Not everyone gets a seat, but everyone has sufficient personal space.
C. Honor system fare payment – You either have a ticket/pass or you don’t. With the absence of fare collection at stations or on the train, the system runs quickly and efficiently since boarding is fast and smooth. Metro sheriffs who patrol the trains periodically check for valid fare and with the threat of a $250 dollar fine, this rarely poses a problem. If there is an issue, it can be dealt with without holding up service.
I think the solution to LA traffic is to extend the subway system. Their current rush-hour gridlock solution is to put traffic cops at 15 (ok I made that number up but it is an incredibly low number for the expanse of this city) gridlock-prone intersections in the metro LA area. Seriously?
Here is what they need to do:
1. Extend the subway further west, one line through Hollywood, West Hollywood, (skipping through Beverly Hills b/c I’m sure someone would pitch a fit about a subway station in 90210), Century City, Westwood, and out to Santa Monica and another line from Downtown out to Venice/Marina Del Rey. 2. Continue with the quick and efficient service
2. Consider extending the hours at night to help curb the rampant drunk driving (optional, but highly recommended)
3. Watch LA’s traffic problems, highway overcrowding and dependency on cars just melt away.