Even though I’m 21 years old and I still don’t know how to drive, I’ve been fortunate enough to have friends who don’t mind me hitching rides with them to get to places I need to go. Even though the Riverside campus has a Metrolink station nearby, I never had any reason to utilize it until a class field trip last month. The station leads directly to Union Station up in Los Angeles; and, from there, any number of possibilities.
While most people probably associate public transportation with buses, the BART, or the New York subway system, even in our car-based Californian infrastructure about 60 million people used public transportation in the last year. The benefits are numerous for the environment and for people’s wallets: less cars on the road mean less emissions, and for those who don’t have or can’t afford a car (or who can’t drive, like me), public transportation is a means of getting around when we otherwise can’t. California’s vast freeways and spread-out cities make even driving a grueling process. To be fortunate enough to have Metrolink, the Coaster, and the Surfliner here in Southern California is really a blessing, and means that people can move around.
I’ve only used public transport to get up to LA for the Festival of Books and for a show at the Pantages, but with the understanding of the maps and times, I’ve grown to really love and appreciate what the metros and trains offer. It makes going places that are further much easier for me and the ticket price being discounted because I’m a student makes it further accessible for me. It’s useful, quick, and so much fun. During my ride on the E line my friend and I talked with one of the most incredible women I’ve ever met, who told us about her career as a lawyer during our ride from USC back to Union Station – an interaction I never would have been able to have if I’d driven. We drove past immense LA traffic, which further made us feel relief for the train we were on. Not to mention that we rode on Earth Day, so all rides were free to celebrate how useful public transportation is to reducing emissions and making people’s lives overall easier.
If you’ve never tried public transportation, don’t let untrue depictions of it as being unclean deter you from hopping a train or bus. It’s an incredibly wonderful resource for those who can’t drive, and those who don’t want to. Talk to the folks around you and enjoy the view and the fact that your ankles won’t hurt from pressing the gas and brake for hours on end. I think you’ll grow to love it as much as I have.