May 09, 2008

A Day of Commuting

In the past 24 hours, both N.P.R. and the L.A. Times had reports about the increasing number of people who are taking public transportation, due to the high cost of gas. I've been taking the Metro from Burbank to Long Beach for two weeks now; the cost of gas is one reason, although I'd probably do it even if gas was cheaper. It's better for the environment, and is a lot less stressful (once you figure out how to ride and which train to get on).

Growing up in Burbank, I hardly ever went to Long Beach. It seemed sooo faaar awaaay. And yet it's about the same distance as Sacramento was from my previous home in Rio Oso, a distance that really didn't seem all that far. The difference? Rio Oso to Sacramento is a straight shot down a highway with traffic that, for the most part, moves at 65 mph, while a weekday commute from Burbank to Long Beach is a one hour stop-n-go traffic nightmare.

Yesterday was clearly the most interesting day of riding so far. Normally the commute is uneventful. The Blue Line train I was on in the morning had mechanical difficulties, and the conductor announced that it wouldn't be stopping at my station. So I got off and waited for the next train. After boarding, I found out that it only went to the Del Amo station, one station short of where I needed to go. So I got off again and boarded a third train. Fortunately the trains were only about three minutes apart.

The afternoon Red Line train was the most crowded I've seen it, due in part to a large group of high school kids who must have been part of a choir, because they serenaded the commuters on board. I ended up standing. They got a kick out of the movie preview that is playing between the Hollywood/Highland station and the Universal City station. On the wall of the subway tunnel are a series of images in lights. As the train passes them, people in the train see what appears to be a preview for Speed Racer. The images are like the frames of a movie reel, except that instead of the images passing through a movie projector, the windows of the subway car pass by the images.

It really is pretty cool. Maybe next week we'll get a new movie preview. Or maybe an ad for Jack in the Box. (Wouldn't that be a waste.)

Upon reaching the North Hollywood station, I ran up the stairs as I usually do (as opposed to taking the escalator), except this time I counted them, seeking to quantify this brief daily dose of exercise. Upon reaching the top (102 steps), I found the blue Burbank Bus that would take me home. The bus driver's name is Bob (of course), a guy who looks and sounds a little bit like John McCain and who isn't afraid to speak his mind. But he gets me home, and I'm thankful for that.

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