Some People Do Need to Drive In Los Angeles

This is the text of a really long, drawn out and rambling comment that I posted to Metrorider LA. It’s my reaction to transit advocates’ hostility to those who drive in LA.

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While I appreciate your message, I do not think that insulting drivers is the way to convince them to use public transportation.

Everyone has different threshold of frustration for different things, and their own reasons for doing what they do. Perhaps the things that you value, they do not and vice versa.

I know that the above sounds simplistic, but my point is that perhaps for them the implicit and explicit costs of driving are outweighed by those of taking public transportation.

I know that is true for me. I have ridden the bus and rail system in Los Angeles for years, and at this point the cost in time it takes to get from point A to point B makes using public transportation in LA prohibitively expensive.

Maybe when I was 18, it was not such a big deal, but now to do so would cost me hundreds of dollars a week in lost hours, and I would have to sacrifice activities that I love because the places that I need to go for them are not well served by public transportation, and if they are I could not get there fast enough to fit them into my schedule.

I commend people who use public transportation and bikes to get around LA. It takes smarts and it takes commitment. But it also takes a lifestyle and job that can accommodate that. Not everyone has that – I know I don’t.

I guess my comments here address the broader issue of an attitude that I have seen among transit advocates of late: that people are stuck in their cars for irrational reasons, whether it be “ingrained car culture”, desire for status, stupidity or a whole host of others.

The solution has always been to expand public transit, and encourage its use. In Los Angeles, because of its geography, that is a tough tough tough sell. This is not New York, this is not London. The solutions that work there, will not work here. Despite its flaws, what works here is the freeway system.

Those who have lived and driven in LA generally know how to avoid traffic by staggering work hours or staying off the 405, for instance. It takes me 20-30 minutes to go from El Segundo to Echo Park and two hours by public transit. The cost is more in gas/insurance/depreciation of vehicle/maintenance(let’s say it costs $5 each way), but the time saved equals more hours that I am able to bill.

Nobody in LA is against public transit, per se. It’s just not a logical choice for them. If, in the future, I decide that I no longer want to drive I will move to New York or some other transit friendly city, but I know that I am not going to be able to change LA.

Anyways, my whole point in this artless ramble is that public transit advocacy need not be opposed to driving, and need not be disrespectful to those who, for their own reasons, choose to drive.

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update: I have written about this before…

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