Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Quest to be Car-Free in LA (or Santa Monica, at least)

Paul Goldberg recently relocated to Santa Monica with his wife Cathy and dog from suburban New Jersey for a job in Century City. He and his wife have ditched their cars and are writing about their experience living car-free in Los Angeles, a city famous for its romantic relationship with cars and the worst traffic in America. Paul and Cathy are the parents of Sirinya's best friend from college and have moved into her condo complex in Santa Monica. This is their car-free story.

Week 1


Took a taxi from the office to my new apartment as I had extra luggage, and quite a bit of it. Sirinya - our older daughter’s friend from college - and Sirinya’s toddler son Wilshire met me and we entered the new abode.  They were otherwise engaged that evening so I was on my own.

However, I had a mission – find the Spectrum store to pick up my internet modem so I would have connectivity right away.   Who needs furniture when you have wireless? The store wasn’t far definitely worth a Bird. You really don’t need the app to find Birds in Santa Monica, as you are more likely to just step on one. So I found one down the block, negotiated the purchase and…it was a dud.  Or I am a dud because I seem to have lots of trouble getting them going. No worries, lock it, walk 100 feet and try another. Success.

After restarting my Bird (left it “running” while purchasing internet), I’m off.  But wait, my phone rings and it is Spectrum saying there was a problem. And I had felt so good getting it going! No big deal, just typical cable company challenges.  We resolve it, I restart successfully, and I am back quickly dumping said Bird at CVS where I pick up some apartment essentials.

Modes of transport: Taxi, Bird
Cost: fare + $3
Workout: Hauling luggage

Commute to downtown LA – quick consult determines that the Big Blue Bus operates an express route from the bus stop 50 yards from my front door to downtown. It was running late but I wasn’t on a particular schedule. I had no TAP card yet, so it was cash only - $1.25 at the senior rate.  Feeling very guilty about that, but the low fare does not seem to attract ridership - at least when I’m riding. The bus stop is all of one block from the office, and was a speedy 50 minutes even in rush hour traffic.

That evening, finding the return bus stop was the most complicated part of the journey, as it was not just across from where I was dropped off. Google Maps showed it but I couldn’t quite figure it out as it was down a steep hill and hidden under an overpass. Fortunately, I had time to go the wrong way three times and still be there for it.  Again, a fast ride. Just walking across Santa Monica Blvd seemed to take the longest time.

Now was the time to explore the neighborhood and find Whole Foods. It’s about a half mile away and walking seemed ok although it is up a not-insignificant hill.  However, I decided a Bird was warranted for the ride home. With most of my purchases in the backpack, I was able to negotiate the trip home with no problems.

Modes of transport: Bus, Bird
Cost:  $5
Workout: Walking uphill


My first chance to work out and the CrossFit gym in downtown Santa Monica about 3 miles away at my preferred time: 5:30 am.  I walked to the bus stop where Birds and the homeless individuals congregate, and off I went. It was an easy and safe trip at with few cars joining me at 5 am. The most substantive activity were the Bird chargers restocking the fleet.  $3.50 got me there (starting to see how Bird makes money) and $3.35 back.

Commuting was on the 704 bus to Century City. Same stop, 20 minutes.

Return home was easy, although I did watch the bus I was hoping to catch speed by since crossing the Santa Monica Boulevard intersection in Century City can take longer than 5 minutes. No big deal...next one in 10 minutes.

Modes of transport: Bird, bus
Cost: $7.85, could have been $6.85 but keep forgetting TAP Card
Workout:  84 burpees, deadlifts, and wall throws

A repeat of yesterday’s schedule. Taking a Bird to gym was uneventful but returning it squawked after stopping at a light and refused to go any further. The battery seemed ok, I just have the dud touch.  Walked the rest of the way.

I was more nimble catching the bus home after navigating Santa Monica Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars. Getting the hang of it!

I was going straight to LAX from work. My luggage was more manageable going back to the East Coast so the bus worked.  Using both seats didn’t seem to present a problem as the bus was just 3 quarters full.

I’m back in a week when my road bike from New Jersey will arrive and a newly purchased Fixie with the Copenhagen wheel will be ready for the commute and a whole new experience.
Modes of transport: Bird, walking, bus
Cost: $7.75
Workout: 800 meter run, 50 kettlebell swings, 25 calories on bike, repeat 3 times; hauling luggage

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