A Trip Up The Coast: Conversations on Transit
July 9, 2012 Leave a comment
This is the third post in a short series based on my recent trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco by train. With an overnight stop in San Luis Obispo and a weekend in San Francisco, there were some great urbanist and transit lessons to be learned.
Having finally reached Oakland on the Amtrak Coast Starlight, we were picked up by a friend and drove to his apartment in the city. Two of my great friends live in the neighborhood between Pacific Heights and Nob Hill in San Francisco and were gracious enough to let us stay with them for a couple nights.
With a couple large gatherings for brunch together and late night drinks, we spent time with many of their friends. Of course, these were not all transit lovers like me, but with large groups of young urban dwellers, the conversation did turn there…
There were two main things I noticed…
1. Conversations on transit are a normal part of daily life in San Francisco. One of my friends does not have a car — he uses taxis and busses — and the other does, but also uses his bike often. While my friends here in LA talk about the best shortcuts and side streets to take, directions there are most often about which bus routes to take. While discussing group plans for the next day, bus routes and train schedules were a normal part of the discussion. This is rarely the case in LA, though I have noticed it happening more recently even with people who rarely or never take Metro. I’ve heard the question “Can I take the train to that?” pondered many times recently… With the asker often surprised that the answer is yes. As these people continue to try taking Metro to more destinations, riding the bus and train will also become an average part of discussion and directions in LA.
2. Transit riders in LA have a reputation for being some of the nicest in the world. This astounds me, as I’ve always assumed that we Angelenos had a terrible (though undeserved) reputation (sort of like the way many Europeans view Americans). I first heard this unexpected news when I helped two Swedish girls who are studying abroad in Orange County find their way off the Red Line and to an Amtrak train at Union Station. While thanking me over some tacos at Olvera Street, they commented that everyone here was so nice, helpful, and talkative. Similarly, my friends in SF commented that people in that city rarely talk to each other on a bus or train, while they’ve noticed that those in LA are always willing to help. I’m not sure why this is, but I’m glad to hear we have the reputation of being kind and helpful. I think that the transit community here is very active in trying to show the world that transit does, in fact, work in LA. Thus, most people who ride are willing to help others along.