Transportation

Hitting the streets – the deal with LA

To kick off I thought I’d give a quick run-down of what it has been like to live in LA without a car so far. We get asked a lot why we don’t have a car. The main reason is the hassle and impact on our quality of life – driving in LA can be a pain and finding parking is really boring (we rented a car during the first month of our move). I also like to walk, bike and use transit – it’s cheaper, I get to enjoy the magnificent weather and, hey, I get to interact with normal people! Plus, cars are expensive and we’d rather do without the cost. Plus, I guess it’s good to practice what I preach….

By and large we really haven’t needed one, mainly because we chose to live in an area (Los Feliz) that is walkable and that has good transit links to Downtown (where I currently work). If we didn’t have these two things, I think it would be trickier to get around without a car. But, you CAN get around LA without owning a car and spending a fortune on taxis – technology makes this possible (to the smartphone owning person of course).

Oh and we absolutely love living in LA. With or without a car.

‘Well, good for you!’ – confessing the car free life to locals

Our LA friends are genuinely shocked that we don’t have a car. They are really concerned for our well being. We once told our friends that we walk to the supermarket (it’s less than a mile) – I thought they were going to recommend a therapist.

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LA has a pretty good public transit system.

I take LA Metro’s Red Line to work everyday. It’s cheap ($1.75 per trip), not particularly crowded and I have a station nearby which I can walk or skateboard to. It’s 1.3 miles away (see above for normal Angeleno reaction to this). At the other end of the journey I can walk 5 minutes to my office. Why would I drive? Looking at it from a different angle, if you want to get to somewhere that doesn’t have decent transport links (such as the beach), prepare to spend a long time on a bus.

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Technology is making city mobility easier.

Admittedly, if it wasn’t for Google Maps and Uber I think we’d be in trouble. Both of these tools provide us with viable options – be it transit, walking or carsharing – for getting around the city. Uber in particular has been a huge bonus. If you’re not aware of Uber, check out an article I recently wrote – I’ll be updating this soon, including an update on how much it costs to switch to using transit and Uber to get around. LA Metro also has a pretty decent smartcard system, but it’s poorly integrated (i.e. not really at all) with other operators in the city – for example, I can’t step off the Red Line and hop on a LA DOT bus and pay for the trip with my TAP card. Well, not as far as I’m aware!  LA also has online real time information for most transit services, but the user experience side of things has to be carefully reconsidered – at the moment it’s just not that good and accessing information is a tricky process. Again, all of this information and guidance is only really available to those who have smartphones and are computer literate – I’ll be picking up on this in an upcoming post.

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The weather encourages you to get out and about.

You can pretty much rely on the sun shining when you leave the house in the morning, so walking is a viable option. Same goes for biking. We have friends who walk everywhere in LA – even better, the sidewalks tend to be pretty quiet so skateboarding is also a great option! Just watch out for the uneven surfaces. Using my iPhone Health app I’ve noticed that I regularly hit 10,000 steps a day (well, my average is just under 9,000 – thanks Holidays), so I’m keeping fit at the same time.

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The roads are by and large terrifying places for cyclists – but things are changing

I ride a bike in London, but nothing has prepared me for LA roads and the drivers. Plus, most people I’ve spoken to who bike in LA have been knocked off their bike at least once – the roads are a scary place for cyclists. Drivers seem to be permanently glued to their smartphone screens. But, things are starting to improve – LA currently has around 300 miles of bikeways and the plan is to deliver over 1,600 miles of bikeways over 35 years. Cities such as Santa Monica, Long Beach and Pasadena are really leading the charge with making their roads more bikeable. Bikeshare (Boris Bikes) are also coming to Downtown LA, and Santa Monica (and others) are leading the charge with a proposed bikeshare system in the works. Importantly, cycling is starting to crop up in the mainstream media and the debate over sharing space is getting louder. We also have CicLAvia – where LA’s streets and roads get turned into awesome bike festivals. If you want to check out some of my rides in LA – I’m on Strava.

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There’s an appetite for change in LA

We speak to a lot of people as we travel around LA – the general impression that I get when I tell people what I do is that LA is ripe for change. Something needs to budge as gas prices get higher and roads more congested. Younger people also appear to be more receptive to change – they see transit as a viable option and not one that is solely for the carless who live in the city. I recently presented at an LA Metro digital event which also got me thinking that LA could be following other major US cities and really thinking about how multi-modal mobility could be enabled by using technology and focused urban planning.

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When you leave the car at home, you see some cool stuff.

There are a huge amount of amazing sights and sounds in LA. The city has art and culture ingrained in its streets and if you walk around places like Venice you can see how this has been sewn into the very fabric of the neighbourhood.

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