It is 7:45 in the morning, on an abnormal Tuesday, as I awaited the Foothill Transit 187 bus on the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Alameda Avenue. The abnormality was not due to a change of the bus schedule or its occupants necessarily, but rather in my typical weekday morning choice of transportation. On my ride on the 187 towards Pasadena, I encountered students, 9 to 5 workers and small families.
I sat at the bus stop, fiddling with loose change of $1.25 that would soon be my fare to ride. As the bus rolled to a quick stop, I stepped into a world of travelers from all different socioeconomic, religious and cultural backgrounds.
As I scanned the bus to find a seat, I saw a small child who sat quietly on his mother’s lap. Sitting with them was a young boy-he must not have been much older than the other child. With sudden urgency, the small child climbed across them to press the requesting-to-stop button for the next route stop.
“Why did the bus driver take us all the way here this time?” the child asked.
“Because last time, we missed our stop,” his mother replied. “This is the right one, so we don’t have to walk as far this time.”
Facetiously the boy responded, commenting about how her short-term memory loss affected their last bus experience.
“Yes, sometimes.” She chuckled quietly as she hurried both children off the bus.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) can be attributed for the long walks from stop to stop. The LACMTA decides specific bus stops and stop spacing. According to metro.net, distances between stops vary on ridership density in major commercial districts versus outlying areas. The LACMTA ideally wants stops to be as far apart as possible without too much passenger inconvenience.
The number of travelers began to increase as the bus made its way through parts of Irwindale, Duarte and Monrovia. The bus that started off with no more than 10 travelers, soon became filled with close to 25 passengers.
According to the Foothill Transit website more than 48,000 people weekly are served by any of the 36 local and express transit routes.
I noticed an older rider and several others beginning to shift over one seat to make room for oncoming passengers. Following suit of the man in business attire directly adjacent to me, I too slide from the aisle to the window seat.
The practicing 81-year-old lawyer and legal counselor, George Turner, recently started commuting to and from work via public transit. Turner shared that the reason for transitioning from commuting via car to public transit, was caused by the suspension of his license. Five months ago, he was diagnosed with acute diabetes, resulting in the attorney’s ability and driving privileges taken away.
“Sometimes the bus is quiet, and others it’s a zoo,” Turner said as the increasing number of individuals came aboard.
Although the bus has been a necessity in Turner’s daily life, its timeliness is not always reliable. In several instances, he has had to wait longer than five minutes after the bus was scheduled to arrive. I was able to witness the delays for myself during the ride to Pasadena and back home. I waited an extra seven minutes passed the expected arrival time.
“I’ve waited up to an hour and a half for the bus,” explained Turner. “The bus companies just don’t give a damn.”
On the commute back home, I met a young math student by the name of Dave Beacher from Monrovia, Ca. Beacher takes the 187 almost daily for his commute to both Pasadena City College (PCC) and Citrus College (Citrus) to cut down on financial spending.
“I am riding the bus this semester because of the way my [school] schedule is laid out,” stated Beacher. “It ended being a lot cheaper for me for gas and avoiding having to pay parking fees for both campuses.”
Beacher traded his full time work position at a local movie theater to become a full time student, taking 21 units per semester. Without the consistent income, Beacher found that riding the bus to and from both campuses cut spending tremendously, as well as avoiding the 210 fwy traffic.
“It’s pretty feasible actually than driving to PCC and Citrus,” said Beaher. “And if transportation [in Los Angeles] was more effective and reliable than I would totally always use the bus.”
My entire trip cost me $2.50, less than the average gas price in Los Angeles at $2.74 per gallon. This average is taken from the Daily Fuel Gauge Report for March 15, 2016.
Beacher is not the only rider who can not give up driving completely. According to the LA Times, for nearly a decade transit ridership has continued to decline despite efforts from the LACMT to encourage people to partake in the transit system. The decrease is due to the amount of time it takes to travel versus driving.
Despite decline, riders like Turner and Beacher choose to focus on the benefits offered by the public transit, whether the 187 is the only option or not.