It's not instinctual for us in Los Angeles to take the bus when we have cars. Nice cars with great sound systems, nice cars that are even fuel-efficient. But if you're feeling smug about your Prius, just how fuel efficient is it to drive downtown, say, from the Westside, when the red express bus is already going there? And back? If you live far off the grid, the grid being anywhere near Wilshire, Olympic, Santa Monica Blvd. or Venice Boulevards, then taking the bus between the Westside and downtown might not be a great option. But for the rest of us, it's a great option. Imagine not fighting for parking at the Staples Center. Imagine not waiting for 20 minutes to get out of the parking lot. Imagine record time getting to and from downtown in rush hour? Unthinkable? Read on, MacDuff.
For the past several years, I've taken the red express bus downtown from my home in Beverly Hills. No parking hassles. No stress dealing with the insanity of traffic. No gridlock. No gridlock because the Metro bus drivers must sprinkle pixie dust on the right lane of traffic, and poof, cars just disappear. I understand why those cars disappear -- the way those bus drivers careen down the street, I'd never want to be in front of them. Speed limits and traffic signals have a way of disappearing too, but that really works in our favor. Think about it: a trip down Olympic or Wilshire used to take me about 35 minutes or so to get to Figueroa. I've sat in one of those red rockets, flying over the most awful asphalt this side of Pakistan, and reached Figueroa in 16 minutes. The other day when I went downtown, I felt as if I were in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, my hair levitated above my neck, stretching as far as it could go in the straightest line behind me, while the rest of me was hurtling down Olympic, laughing as if I were on an E Ticket ride. But the thing that amazed me was that no one else around me was amused -- or even noticed the breathtaking audacity of the bus driver with his break-neck speed. The other passengers are used to it -- they do it every day.
The other thing I noted was that on this most harrowing and hilariously efficient trip downtown -- the trip that had I driven, would normally take years off my life in frustration and stress, not to mention wear and tear on the car, usurious parking fees and maddening traffic -- was that I was, again, as usual, the only white person on the bus. Same with the return trip home. Surely white people in Los Angeles head downtown. Or head to the Westside from downtown.
Not everything is perfect on the bus. There are characters everywhere. But the upside is that $3.00 ($3.00!) includes round trip transportation and parking. And you're in Los Angeles.