Los Angeles is undoubtedly the worst city in the United States when it comes to driving. Drivers spend 81 hours a year idling in traffic, largely by themselves. This poses numerous issues: the traffic itself, pollution, and feelings of isolation in one of the most diverse cities.
In these 81 hours, we sit in our cars by ourselves and cycle through all seven stages of grief. We become angry, frustrated, and miserable sitting in traffic. We wait for people from all over the world to merge lanes, stop honking, or finally turn their blinker off, but we neglect to engage in conversation with them.
The Expo Line, which expanded to seven new stations Friday, could change all of that. Also, it could take me to work. TheWrap asked me to try it and write about it, so here we are.
I knew Los Angeles had a Metro, which in theory sounded like a wonderful alternative to sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I also knew it wasn’t known for efficiency, which is why I avoided using it.
According to Metro, the Expo expansion cost $1.5 billion and added 6.6 miles of rail that extend all the way to the beach. This new line has been the talk of the town.
I am no stranger to public transportation. It was the only way my mother and I were able to get around before either of us had a car. But after nine years of having the luxury of driving everywhere and only taking the train on days when I felt a little adventurous, which was only once, I immediately became unfamiliar with proper public transportation protocol.
“Wait, I need cash to take the bus, right?” I thought. “Am I still going to be able to eat my breakfast on the bus like I do in my car? How am I going to know if it’s the right train? WHAT IF I GET ON THE WRONG TRAIN?!”
Spoiler: I didn’t have time to make breakfast.
I mapped out my route the night before. It didn’t look too difficult — walk across the street, take the bus, get off at 7th Street/Metro Center station and take the expo line to Bundy. The only unappealing thing about this whole experience was that in order to make it to work on time, I would have to wake up 45 minutes earlier.
I begrudgingly woke up at 7:15 a.m., decided that sleep was more important than a shower, hit snooze, got up at 7:25 a.m., reevaluated my life, concluded that “yes, I really do need this job,” got up, dressed and caffeinated. I bid adieu to my Prius and hopped on the bus.
I paid the $1.75 fare, sat down and checked Google Maps on my handy dandy iPhone to make sure I was on the right bus. I was. So I was a bit surprised when the bus didn’t look like it was headed to 7th Street/Metro Center station. After a brief panic, I asked the bus driver.
Pro Tip: If you’re not completely sure about where you’re going, ask someone who looks somewhat official for directions.
“This bus doesn’t stop there, get off here and go two lights back,” he said.
At least I wasn’t too far off.
Five minutes of walking later, and I found my station but that minor setback put me behind schedule. I had missed my train.
No worries, at least I was in the right place. I tapped my Tap card, got through the turnstile and looked for the blue Expo line. I stood on the platform for a couple minutes before thinking it would probably be a good idea to ask the man in the safety vest if I was in the right place. Just to be sure.
“Take the escalator down and walk to that side,” he said pointing at the platform opposite us. Good thing I asked.
According to the digital sign, the Expo line was 12 minutes away. Yup, I was definitely going to be late. As the minutes went by, more commuters arrived to wait for the train with me. A lady and her service dog, two elderly women with walking canes and a younger looking guy in a track suit were among the countless people waiting.
It was probably the most diverse group of people I had seen all gathered in one place.
And in that moment I had found the answer to world peace. Business professionals, grandmas and grandpas, hipsters, pets, the houseless, students and people from all walks of life were about to embark on a great journey together. It was like a United Nations meeting sans all the officialness.
There was just one issue. Most of my fellow passengers had their earbuds in, which we all know is the universal sign for “I don’t want to be bothered.” The rest were engulfed in their phones. How was I supposed to achieve world peace if no one would engage in conversation?
So the metro isn’t exactly the most ideal place for delving into issues of institutionalized racism and unpaid maternity leave. It’s actually more reminiscent of a library or coffee shop. Everyone is doing their own thing for the most part, but if you happen to see a regular familiar face, that could possibly blossom into a nice little friendship.
While the new Expo line probably won’t bring about world peace, it does provide a new gateway to Santa Monica. The expansion takes people from the heart of downtown straight to the beach. Since parking in LA is just as horrendous as the traffic, this might be the saving grace for beachgoers and those just exploring.
The Expo line’s westward expansion could also mean more drivers giving up their cars, which would mean more freeway for everyone else.
The ride was more peaceful than expected. I occupied most of my time on Instagram and Snapchat and occasionally looked out the windows to make sure I didn’t miss my stop.
A man who got on with me immediately went to sleep as soon as he sat down. I kept looking at him to see when and if he would wake up, but neither the slight jolts of the train moving nor the announcements of the stops seemed to disturb his slumber.
“(Inaudible announcement) and BUNDY!”
I wasn’t sure if this was where I was supposed to get off, but it sounded like it. I peered out the doors and the platform’s sign confirmed that I was at the Expo/Bundy station.
The sleeping man magically woke up and got off with me.
Great, I made it in one piece. Now to walk these six minutes to TheWrap’s office. I peered down at my handy dandy iPhone to make sure I was walking in the right direction. For once, I was.
Two minutes out, and the mechanic at a shop nearby thought it was appropriate to disrupt my nice walk by cat-calling. Not fun.
One hour and 32 minutes since I left my house later, I walked through the doors of TheWrap. I halfway expected a jolly reception with balloons and confetti for completing my adventure, but to my slight disappointment there was neither.
Usually, it would take me about 35-45 minutes to drive to Santa Monica on a weekday morning. I get to wake up later and the commute is almost 30 minutes less than taking the Metro. As irritating as the traffic is, personally, I think I’ll stick to driving.