Autobús has always been one of my favorite Spanish words. We, boring English speakers, would pronounce it ot•tow•buss. The Spanish language, on the other hand, is way more fun. Ot•tow•buss becomes Ah•ooh•tow•boos. Another of my favorite Spanish words is biblioteca, the word for library. I always imagined all the books partying at night in their biblioteca with mirrored disco balls and disco lights once all the doors are locked.
I have a ridiculous imagination.
We don’t really have diacritic marks in English. That’s not right. We should have more accented letters.
Anyway, back to the autobús. I recently had a close encounter with one. I don’t mean to imply that I was runned the fuck over or anything, but I rode on one! A bus! Me! And I wasn’t even stranded in Montebello!
My car blowed the fuck up. Well, it didn’t blow up so much as blow a seal somewhere behind the engine block, which caused overheating and coolant leakage. It is my understanding that when those two things happen, either separately or together, it’s not a good sign, mechanically speaking. I took my car to the shop immediately where my mechanic informed me that while the replacement part was $25, replacing it would require the whole engine compartment works, i.e. the engine, to be not in the way first. This procedure would, regrettably, take some time. Like 2.5 days–Friday, a half day on Saturday and Monday. They were closed on Sunday, dammit.
That meant I didn’t have a vehicle from Thursday evening to Monday evening. BAH! Suckery! What am I, poor or something? Am I a prole, a peasant, a plebeian… a penurious pauper? Gasp.
Well, yes, as it turns out, I am poor. I barely make a livable wage. If my 20 year old car decides to break down, I don’t have several others just waiting in the garage. I don’t even have a garage.
So, when my car died and I found it would take take two of my work days to fix while I had a deadline I had to meet regardless of my transport problem, that meant I took the bus.
I really don’t have a problem with public transportation. When I lived in Boston, it was way more feasible. There were certain places where there was just no parking and traffic was beyond suck. The train was generally faster and cheaper than driving.
But that was Boston, a city with decent public transportation. I now live in Los Angeles, which has one of the worst public transportation systems of any major city in the United States. Public transportation in Los Angeles is not generally an option. There are several reasons for this. First, people here love to drive, myself included I suppose. It’s what we do. Second, this city is enormous. I don’t think y’all out there really appreciate just how BIG the City of Los Angeles actually is. Most of you would agree that New York City is a big city, right? Well, here’s NYC’s five burroughs superimposed over metropolitan Los Angeles for comparison’s sake:
Look at how freakin’ big that is! Now imagine trying to take a bus from one end to the other. It would take days. You’d have to bring a sleeping bag and a tent. That, my friends, is why Los Angeles doesn’t and can’t really have a super awesome efficient public transportation system.
So, to get back to my commute in particular, using the same graphic, the asterisk next to point A is roughly home and the asterisk next to point B is roughly where I work:
That doesn’t look that far, does it? It’s roughly the length of Queens. Not so bad. From one asterisk to the other is 15 miles as the crow flies. By car, it takes roughly 30-35 minutes of freeway driving. This brings me to:
Things I learned about the bus
By bus, that same distance from point A to B took an hour and 45 minutes of travel time, which wasn’t even door to door. Based on the highly scientific study of one data point extrapolated out (error margin +/- 100%), that means you have to add an hour and fifteen minutes of bus travel to each half hour of regular driving. So, bus math:
( A )150% + B + C = X
A = half hours of regular driving, B = walking distance to/from bus stop, C = time spent waiting for said bus, X = total bus travel time
Bus rides are not cheap.
Strangely, the bus is not inexpensive. It’s slightly cheaper than owning a car, but not by all that much. For my 30 mile round trip commute by bus, it costs $6. It’s $1.50 every time you set foot on a bus in LA, whether you’re going 1 mile or 20. This month, there are 20 workdays. That’s $120 a month just to get back and forth to work, not including any trips anywhere else. My car payment is $0 per month. My insurance costs roughly $75 a month averaged over the year. It costs $50 to fill up my gas tank, which (not including trips anywhere else) would last me over two weeks of commuting. Just to commute back an forth to work by bus, it’s $120. By car, it’s $175. So, using me as an example, while it is cheaper to take the bus, it’s not cheaper by as much as you might think.
Buses are pretty boring.
I get car sick unless I can see where I’m going. This means I can’t read a book, play video games or whatever else it is that people do when they’re in a vehicle but not responsible for driving. I usually distract myself by driving, but they wouldn’t let me drive the bus. I had to sit there, looking out the front window like an idiot, not doing anything productive at all.
Buses don’t have the news.
I listen to the news on my way to and from work and on my lunch hour. It’s how I stay informed. They don’t have a radio on the bus. I have no idea what’s going on in the world.
Buses have an undeserved bad reputation.
When most people think of the bus, they probably think it will be smelly and gross. It’s not. I found that not only was the air relatively odorless and cool, but the seats were clean and there was no trash anywhere. The bus drivers wished me good morning. And the people were pretty inoffensive. Perhaps it was because I was traveling during rush hour so most of the folk, including myself, were on the way to work, but none of them posed any problems whatsoever. Although, I did notice an egregious amount of leopard print, stretchy fabrics on display.
I’m glad to have my car back, but overall, riding the bus is not a bad way to get around town provided that you have plenty of time.