The Los Angeles metro was on time

I was going from Pasadena to the West Los Angeles Regional Branch library — they were having an arts program. You have to cross most of Los Angeles to do this. And I don’t have a car, so I took four buses and light rails, and needed all the connections to work just right so I could get there by 11 am on a Saturday.

My starting and ending points

I had to:

  1. take the Gold Line train from slightly east of Pasadena to Union Station
  2. take the purple or red subway from Union Station to the 7th Street Metro Center
  3. take the Expo train from 7th Street Metro Center to the Expo/Sepulveda stop
  4. take a bus from the Expo/Sepulveda stop north up either Sepulveda Boulevard or Sawtelle Boulevard, to Santa Monica Boulevard
  5. walk the rest of the way to the library, just a few minutes

So I had to do all that by 11 am. It was going to take 2 hours. (Supposedly, you can drive it in about 30 minutes, but that’s only if you want to risk your life driving in Los Angeles, and only if you want to pay all the car insurance and gas, etc etc.)

This is what the route looks like on Google Maps:

I realize too late, though, that I had some very time-sensitive connections. I had four minutes to transfer from the Gold train to the Purple subway at Union Station; and six minutes to transfer from the Purple subway to the Expo train. I thought, there is no way I’m going to make those connections, there is no way the Los Angeles Metro system is going to pull itself together and be running like clockwork, all on a Saturday morning. There’s no way I’m going to make this library program.

But then I did!

From my perspective, this is an extraordinary feat for the Los Angeles Metro.

First, the Gold Line train was supposed to show up at my very first stop at 8:59 am. I thought, that’s impossible. It’ll probably come at 9:02 or something and my four minutes of transfer time at Union Station will already be cut in half. But imagine my surprise as I stood on the station platform when the approaching Gold Line whistle and clang came, stopped, and then departed (with me onboard) at 8:59 am on the dot.

Then, we got to Union Station at exactly 9:36 am, again on the dot. It was amazing.

To transfer to the Red or Purple subway lines at Union Station, and if you want to do it in 4 minutes, you have to run out of the Gold Line train, down the ramp into the underground tunnel, sprint to the end of it, hie your way across the atrium-type hall with the pretzel shop and a pizza place and a convenience store, and then rush into a set of caverns, all of which progressively descend into the pits of hell and take you away from sunlight and air — basically wide, spooky, empty caverns where a lady once randomly came up to me and started screaming. At the lowest pit, you are at the subterranean tracks where the Red and Purple Lines run. The Purple subway was waiting for me — I’d miraculously made it on time. I ran into a car, got a seat, and exactly on the dot, the train departed at 9:40 am.

I only had to ride for 3 stops on the Purple Line before we got to 7th Street Metro station. We got there at 9:45 am (it’s a short ride) and since everything was on time, I had my full 6 minutes in which to transfer. Plus, at this 7th Street station, you don’t have to run through a bunch of caverns to get to the Expo Line, it’s all pretty much in the same place.

Transferring at the 7th Street Station

The Expo Line, like everything else that morning, left exactly on schedule, at 9:51 am. If you take the Expo line to the end, you end up at the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Pier. It takes about an hour total to do that. But since I only wanted to go to the West Los Angeles Library, I only had to ride it for 14 stops, and that’s 37 minutes according to Google Maps. It’s an elevated train so you get to see the lay of the city in a way you can’t with the other trains (the Purple Line being underground and the Gold Line being level with the road). You pass by a giant museum (I think it had dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures — I’ll have to check it out one day) and a giant stadium.

However, I think every single time I’ve been on the Expo train, there’s men that get on it and play music with misogynistic lyrics loudly, so everyone has to hear. You might think, well, just change your seat. That might not help, because the Expo train is usually only 2 cars long. Each car is divided into 2 sections. And you could very well have misogynistic music playing in every section by a different man. My strategy is to try to sit in the section closest to the driver, but that doesn’t always work. But feel free to play some musical chairs as you try to find a place to sit.

Oh, in the meantime, the train loudspeaker keeps saying in a cheerful voice, “we’re on this ride together, so please, don’t play loud music, or take up more than one seat …” and other nice courteous things we passengers should be doing.

But at last we got to the Expo/Sepulveda stop. Again on time. Now all I needed was to walk down the steps from the elevated platform to the street and wait for the bus. I think I was supposed to wait 10 minutes for the bus, and then the bus ride was supposed to last 15 minutes. Instead, a bus showed up within 4-5 minutes and I got on, and the driver waived me along without complaint when my fare card didn’t work (this bus wasn’t part of the Los Angeles Metro, it was the Culver City Something-or-other) and then we zipped along the street and got to my stop on Santa Monica Boulevard within 5 minutes.

In other words, it’s not just that the Los Angeles public transit was on time — it was actually early.

And never fear, if you think the bus coming early means other passengers were left stranded, I don’t think so — I think there’s 3 buses running along that road and I think one shows up probably every 10 minutes or so.

All I had to do at this point was walk along Santa Monica Boulevard for a little bit until I got to the library.

Cars and bridges on Santa Monica Boulevard

So I got to the library before 11 am. I had time to get a library card, and check the library out before the art program ever started.

They even turned out to have two art programs at the library that day! One of them hadn’t even been on the public list of events.

By the way, I flunked the art class. Basically. Mine came out all messed up. But since it’s art and open to interpretation, I think it looks really nice anyways! The mistakes are so artistic!

So I had a nice time at the library, and then it was time to do the 2-hour trip back to Pasadena, LOL. But I discovered that rather than take a bus back to the Expo/Sepulveda stop, I could just walk. It’s not very far at all. I walked along Sawtelle Boulevard. It’s a pretty nice street, and one section has a lot of shops and activity. See, I wouldn’t have happened upon it and walked along it had I come in a car.

Sawtelle Boulevard

Sawtelle Boulevard led me right back to the Expo/Sepulveda metro station. I had to cross under major highway bridges at the end. There was a row of tents for homeless people all along the other side of the road, just out of view in the photo below. They seem to have set up a portable toilet across from the tents.

Los Angeles: city of cars, roads, concrete

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