Richmond's Own (but unowned) Website

Quick rundown of today – Had a meeting for a potential job this coming school year, worked on some secret website programming, getting pretty immersed in the news bubble with the ongoing debt ceiling debates, catching up on some Conan, Jimmy Fallon, Good Eats, and Mythbusters, shopping at 99 Ranch with my dad, and some swimming. Busy day!
Well, Microsoft Paint can be surprisingly versatile sometimes!
Anyways, as I’ve gotten back into the LA Public Transportation system, I can’t help but compare it to the London Public Transport (note the difference in words!), and their public system, transport for London. I suppose some of these feelings of frustration and whatnot are recognizable as symptoms of reverse culture shock. Writing usually helps me.  So here we go!
  • Request stops – I quite enjoyed flagging busses in London. First of all, it’s fun when you’re waiting a while for a bus to flag it down – there’s something satisfying about that! Here in LA, however, while you don’t need to flag a bus (which is good if you’re prone to forgetting to flag, or say, reading a paper when a bus comes by), it means whenever people are waiting at the bus stop, the bus stops, even if none of the people need that particular bus. Which means wasted time when buses stop and don’t pick up/drop off any passengers. And can be very frustrating when you need to make a train connection!
  • Strange people – I thought on London transport, there were some very interesting characters – like the girl swearing at her boyfriend(?) on the train from Waterloo one night. There were others as well. The one thing in LA was the man with a large boombox radio (like in the 80s) – there are strange people on the LA buses, some on the subways, not as much on the Metrolink, but they are rarely entertaining, unlike some of the people in London.
  • Frequency – transport in LA is NOT frequent. Usually anyways. Buses may be the same – depends on the time of day; the busiest parts of the day in London had 8-12 minutes between buses on the routes we took, which is about the same for here. However, subways here I usually have to wait up to 10 minutes – it was so convenient when tubes ran every 3 minutes or less – so convenient! There were only a couple times in London where we had to wait more than 3 minutes – there’s a lot of downtime here between trains. That makes it hard to when I try to make a connection – when 10 minutes can make a huge difference in my connection. And then there’s the Metrolink line that goes by my house. I loved that Southwest Trains at Barnes came every 10 minutes or less during rush hour, and even then, at least every 20-30 minutes (and less really late at night). But here, there are like 4 trains that go into the city in the morning at half hour intervals, and 4 trains that come back in the afternoon/evening at half hour intervals. First, that makes it very frustrating when you miss one by a couple minutes and need to wait the extra half hour. Also, it’s very inflexible; especially in determining what times I need to leave my internship from. I’ve done my share of running to trains here (as in London – amazing race style!).
  • Mind the Gap – While I miss the message on London tubes, I realized you don’t hear it here because there’s no need – there is no gap! (See, it’s not all bashing on the LA Public Transit system!) At subway stations in the LA Metro, the platforms are all even with trains, and the stations all have elevators. In fact, I saw a man in a wheelchair get onto the subway this Monday, and it seemed quite easy for him. So for the physically disabled, the LA Metro system seems quite accessible – more so than in London. The tube there only had certain stations which were handicap accessible, and even at those stations, they needed to go to certain parts of the platform which were raised to train level.
  • The System Layout – This probably has to do more with what I do, but most of the area where I am travelling isn’t covered by subway or train. While buses are there, subways and trains are much quicker and would cut down on the hour bus ride I take. The trains and subway are laid out in a somewhat backwards “C” shape, with nothing in the middle of the C – which is exactly where I need to travel! Very frustrating. Unlike the London trains, we never even took a bus in central (except once to Parliament I guess), because the tube went everywhere! Anywhere we needed to go was a 10-15 minute walk from a tube station, it was very convenient. I suppose part of it is that the LA system is newer (and is more accessible), but is much smaller as well.
  • Wheelchairs – It must be quite hard for anyone in a wheelchair to get on a bus. First, the placement of the wheelchairs are different, here they come in the front door, while on London buses, they come in the back door (leading to a wider back door on buses in London, and a narrower back door in LA – which took me by surprise on the first day back, I never noticed that). Though I have heard stories about people in London not moving their buggies (strollers) or other things out of the way for wheelchair people. However, in LA on Monday, there was one man who got on with a wheelchair. The bus driver stopped, pressed a button for the elevator thing in the front, and other passengers vacated their seats, and helped put the seats in the upright position to make it easier for the man in the wheelchair – I was surprised by how readily everyone helped to accommodate the man in the wheelchair. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened in the same situation in London.
  • Riding with others – I realized after a while here how much I miss riding public transport with my Fulbright Summer Participant friends in London – we had some great times on public transport. It’s quite different when you travel alone, with an iPod and book for company.
  • Maps - This probably made me the most frustrated. It should NOT take 1-2 hours to plan a trip for 5 miles in LA. But it did. Trying to look at buses, and not knowing how often they run, and the bus system has so many choices and possible routes for transfers, so there’s a lot of research on which is the best route, with the most likely connections, etc. Unlike London with the tube, where we could usually be safe in knowing there’d be one in a few minutes, and just see the tube system map and figure out a route, instead of a much more complicated bus map. It saves so much time in planning – it’s much easier to just say “Charing Cross is the closest tube stop” and follow the lines to get there, instead of saying “there’s a bus stop at Olympic and East Century Park,” there are a million ways you can get there, but the most direct one will take the longest because of the transfer, or you could use the LA and Santa Monica bus systems, or you could use the LA system only but walk between this stop and that stop and transfer, etc….Plus, the map at practically every London bus stop of the immediate area, and all the buses in that area was VERY HELPFUL, especially for being a visitor, and not knowing where the routes went – the maps were very helpful. Here, I only know a few lines, and the other ones, I’m completely lost. Which makes it very hard when I need to find an alternate route, getting on a bus not sure where it goes. I have no idea how tourists take public transit here. Oh, they probably don’t. (Hey LA, invest in making it easier to navigate the bus system when you’re at a bus stop, and maybe you’ll get more tourists to use it – and get larger revenues! Or maybe they’ve thought of that already.)
  • Oyster Cards – We have cards too. But it was nice that all public transport (including outlaying areas, like Putney) used Oysters, so we could use them for all transit. Unlike here, where Metrolink and LA Metro are different systems. While I can use Metrolink tickets as Metro passes, it doesn’t work on everything, unlike the Oyster Card.
  • Marquees – The marquees at some bus stops in London were very helpful in showing how long until the next bus. VERY helpful! And it was nice to have marquees in the tube and trains showing the upcoming stops and other information. Though to be fair, it’s much easier to understand the conductors on the LA subway and Metrolink trains, unlike the garbled Peanuts’ teacher talk that happens in London.
  • Newspapers – I miss the free newspapers in London – Metro and the Evening Standard. Full newspapers, mind you, not just little 8 page pamphlets, but like 40-60 pages of information. Granted, they weren’t very great papers (fish n chip papers!), but it was something to read, and something up to date to listen to. Day old podcasts covering the news and iPod songs don’t always satisfy me – I wish we had a morning and afternoon free paper here to read!
And a bit off topic, but 2 things I strangely miss. First, the orange squash/mystery juice from the canteen – not the best stuff, but I feel like on hot summer days, it might be refreshing. Maybe. And our little Vodaphone service Nokia phones – with T9 texting! Ah, that was quite nostalgic, bringing back memories of…4 years ago. But I kind of enjoyed using the old T9 keyboard – didn’t spend as much time texting (well a lot of time typing – but not long conversations) like now. And while I think texting is great, it was nice to not be constantly texting there, and being to enjoy where I was and what I was doing.

Katie Joh
7/28/2011 04:49:31 pm

So I was going to say all the reasons why I specifically agreed, and then realized that would be redundant because you said it pretty much exactly right. But I do miss Mind the Gap! I was playing Taboo with some friends the other day and the word was "gap", and my friend on the other team was like, "In London they say, 'Mind the ...'" and I was like GAAHHH!!! But the other team members didn't get it. We would have all gotten it right away...

7/28/2011 11:28:00 pm

Richmond. Orange squash?! I knew you would miss it. Also, you should text meee! :)

Rich-WHAT? Richmond.


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