With Carmageddon upon us I took Metro's sage advice and got about as far away from LA as I could without a passport. And my mode of transportation? You guessed it. The car. The now-famous 405 freeway closing aligning perfectly with my kids being off at camp, it was a perfect chance for a road trip. And this one is the mother of all road trips. "Out east" all the way to New York, as true Angelenos say, or "back east" in my case, round-trip.
Of course for me, leaving LA doesn't mean losing touch with the progress of America Fast Forward and Metro's rail and bus rapid transit expansion. In fact, I find these regular outings give me some helpful perspective on what Angelenos are trying to achieve transit-wise. And this trip is no exception.
Adding to the opportunity to see how other cities address their traffic problems and meet their residents' mass transit needs, it was while away that I learned the exciting news that the U.S. Department of Transportation is close to approving a $640.8 million loan for the Westside Subway Extension.
What better way to celebrate Independence Day than with some financing that will help LA gain its freedom from the congenitally congested freeway? TIFIA, the transportation infrastructure loan program that will in part provide the dough to make America Fast Forward possible, is there to help city residents including ours cut their addiction to driving.
Before I get slammed for the personal hypocrisy of my own road trip, it is important to note that I'm not anti-car. Undoubtedly, small fuel-efficient vehicles like my Scion XA have their place in the world and will for the foreseeable future. And as I've written before, I like my car as much as the next guy. But for the daily commute we all deserve the sort of transit system that America Fast Forward will build in LA and the other American cities smart enough to embrace the inventive homegrown transportation infrastructure financing idea.
I will kinda miss being in LA for Carmageddon but wouldn't trade for a minute the great things I am seeing and doing while traveling our vast country. Whether in Albuquerque where I checked out the Rail Runner, St. Louis with its MetroLink light rail or New York, where I discovered a new bus line, it has all been fun and interesting learning about options we might explore for a more transit-oriented LA.
Since not everyone from LA travels to and from NY by car, maybe the best way to close this piece is with some memories of a ride to New York's Kennedy Airport on the Q10 bus in Queens. The next time you are there, instead of taking the slow Airtrain from Manhattan to JFK, for the regular price of a Metrocard ride ($2.25 -- including a transfer) take the E train east to Kew Gardens and queue up for the Q10 which takes you right to the terminal. Chinese, and Central Asian Jewish, businesses and people give way to Punjabi "pizza" and Indian markets as the bus heads down leafy Lefferts Blvd through Richmond Hill. Next the food choices include Dominican chicharones, Guyanese fare or a lamb kebab from Khan's Grill, a cart on the corner of Lefferts and Atlantic Avenue. Maybe pick up a Bollywood sari before arriving at check in. We're there!
If you like this taste of Queens, why not grab your TAP card and get on any Metro bus to experience the same at home in LA? We have it all too, and our climate and palm trees don't hurt the view from the bus either. Carmageddon is a good time to start.
Yours in transit,
Follow Joel Epstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thejoelepstein