Not long after I arrived at USC in the summer of 1988, my new urban planning colleagues were abuzz over the just-released plans from our regional transportation agency to develop a subway/light rail system in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.Along with the buzz was the lament that LA had perfectly good "red car" and "yellow car" systems which was declined in the 1950s as cars started to dominate. On many weekends while he was at Caltech, my dad took the red car and buses from Pasadena to Orange County to help with matters on his family's farm. I actually remember as a child taking what must have been among the last remaining yellow streetcars with my mother, going from my grandmother's apartment in Boyle Heights into Little Tokyo as my mother ran her Saturday errands in the early 1960s. In my five-year-old view of the world, crossing the Fourth Street bridge over the Los Angeles River was a big journey. My mother let me push the button to ring for a stop once we got to First Street.
Once my urban planning colleagues got past the red and yellow car lament, they were particularly excited that at some in the distant future, funding gods being willing, one could take the subway from Pasadena to the USC campus. That seemed unimaginable to me. "Really, Susan, look at the plan!" exclaimed Dowell, who had just taken up residence in neighboring Altadena. He pointed out the kaleidoscope of colored lines representing corridors proposed to be built over, oh, the next 25 years.
Slowly, almost unbelievably, the LA subway lines have been built, and have worked up ridership. The Gold Line which opened in 2003 changed our view of the world, linking Pasadena to downtown LA. Take the Gold Line from Pasadena into Chinatown for dim sum! Pasadena area USC students and employees started taking the Gold Line to Union Station and university shuttles to campus. Then the Exposition Line opened last summer with stops at the main USC campus, 24 years after Dowell showed me the draft regional plan. One could say LA beat projections. So it truly is now possible to go from Pasadena on Gold Line, to the Red Line, to the Purple Line, to the Expo Line to campus. Got all that?
Last summer with the opening of the Expo Line, I resolved to give LA public transit a chance. The weak link, though, was getting from my house to a Gold Line station car-free. I tried walking to a Pasadena shuttle bus stop; I tried buses to various Gold Line stations. I gave up when it was averaging two hours one way, no matter what.
I've just regrouped on this resolve, deciding just to drive to the Del Mar station. In peak hours, I've gotten the timing down to one hour each way, door-to-door. Considering it takes 45 - 50 minutes door-to-door to drive, the time trade-off now doesn't seem so bad. I figure I am actually gaining an hour a day to read or do e-mails which I wouldn't have driving.
I'm trying to "go Metro" at least one day a week, two or three days if I can, when I don't have to stay on campus into the evenings with my MLS program. It's a start. And if anything, it feels great to be living the transportation dream that seemed fantastical in 1988.