30 May 2008

A scientific case for going car-less

If you care about the environment and you've finally conceded that global warming will, in fact, be a defining issue of our lifetime, then you probably realize that reducing the amount of time you spend driving around in your car can't hurt. And you might want to pay attention to news like this...

Yesterday, on the NY Times Environmental Blog, Dot Earth, Andrew Revkin talked about a conversation he had with Nobel-Prize winner Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland at New York's World Science Festival. As many of you know (at least those of you who have seen An Inconvenient Truth), the level of carbon dioxide is hovering around 385 parts per million now, after never going above 280 parts per million for at least 650,000 years. Most scientists acknowledge that to keep our climate in familiar territory, our long-term goal should be returning this level to 350 parts per million, a level passed in 1988.

With this in mind, Dr. Rowland's answers to Mr. Revkin's questions are rather alarming. Mr. Revkin's first question:
Given the nature of the climate and energy challenges, what is his best guess for the peak concentration of carbon dioxide?

His answer? “1,000 parts per million,” he said.

My second question was, what will that look like?

“I have no idea,” Dr. Rowland said. He was not smiling.

I don't know about you but this scares the crap out of me. Every time I think about how nice it might be to have a car, I'll reread this article and look at a picture of my lovely bike. It's going to take a heck of a lot more than just us though.

But hey, have a great weekend! :-/

my lovely bike

28 May 2008

Big Green "Bike Boxes"

Maybe one day LA will be as bike-friendly as Portland.

Image courtesy of www.treehugger.com

A girl can dream, can't she?

27 May 2008

Terrific Tuesday Biking Links

Bike link round-up for the week!

Image from the City of Munster, Germany Planning Office via the LAist

26 May 2008

Tips for Riding the Bus

I've lived in several major metropolitan areas and in each, I had to learn how to use the public transportation system. Life would be great if that meant traveling around by subway or light rail all the time, but in fact, a large portion of that time was spent on a bus. Each city's bus system was a different experience; a ride on a New York City bus meant that you got to see the city while going from point A to point B, a luxury unknown to the legions of subway riders. Riding a bus in Washington, DC, meant squeezing into a seat between extremely well-dressed politicos, while taking a bus in San Francisco meant a bus full of costumed party-goers on Halloween, or having your route diverted by a protest at any given moment.

Riding the bus in Los Angeles is no more or less of an adventure than in any of these other cities. Actually, the bus system in Los Angeles is the most extensive in the country and as far as I can tell, it might be the cheapest. $1.25 for a single ride, $1.55 for a ride plus transfer, and if you are lucky enough to need only a DASH Bus, then your ride only costs you 25 cents. That's one quarter, people! Does anything else in your life only cost a quarter anymore? That won't even buy you half a candy bar.

With this in mind, I encourage everyone to ride the bus in LA, and I'm going to give you some tips that I've picked up in my years of bussing it to ease your transition.

  1. Have your money and/or pass ready before the bus comes. Everyone is trying to get someplace as quickly as possible and fiddling for your money or pass to delay the bus is a big no-no.
  2. Don't be afraid to ask the bus driver questions about your route. If you need to go somewhere specific and you want clarification, ask the bus driver. If you want a certain connection, ask the bus driver. If you are not sure that you have the right amount for your route, ask the bus driver. This is their job and (most of the time) they are happy to help!
  3. As soon as you step on the bus, move to the back as far as possible. The human traffic flow inside the small bus cavity is really critical to its route and if you stand in front when there is room in the back, you'll block any newcomers to point of major annoyance. Not to mention you are supposed to exit in the back anyway, so that gets you closer to your exit path.
  4. If there is an empty seat on a crowded bus that no one else will take, sit there! It's nice to be polite and all but you'll clear up the aisle if you sit in that seat. However....
  5. Get out of your seat and stand if an old or disabled person needs it! I think this is pretty obvious but I thought it best to reiterate.
  6. Know the names of a few cross streets before your stop. This will help to orient you as well as prepare you so that you don't pull the "Stop Requested" chain too late.
  7. Be nice to your bus driver, and thank them when you leave! Remember that bus drivers have a really tough job and are constantly challenged, whether by traffic, rough road conditions, or simply the crazy people sitting across the aisle from you. You never know when someone is having a bad day and a kind word could help, so be nice to your bus driver as soon as you step on the bus. Thanking them when you get off at your stop is just good form :o)
  8. Complain when the bus is late. As easy and cheap as it is to ride the bus in LA, our bus system is, sadly, quite a long way from being as precise and prompt as public transportation in, say, Switzerland. Be polite when you call to complain but remember that the system can't improve without feedback from its users, which means you!

22 May 2008

Greetings! And why we're here.

Gas prices have more than quadrupled since 2003.

Oil prices just topped $135 a barrel, and show no sign of going much lower.

Gas prices are hovering around an average of $4 a gallon.

...These are just a few of the many facts that paint a bleak picture for people who rely on cars as their primary form of transportation. And prices aren't getting any lower....gas may hit $5 in the near future. In an economy that is already wrought with tighter budgets and less jobs, higher transportation costs will be crippling to most Americans.

So why blog about not having a car in Los Angeles, a sprawling metropolis with one of the biggest car cultures in the United States? Because if it can be done here, then it can be done anywhere in the country. Los Angeles already suffers from a notorious traffic problem, a bus system that isn't exactly prompt, and people aren't even allowed to hail taxis in the city. But we do have the largest and most extensive bus system in the country; we have a fledging subway system with plans for growth; and we have a climate that is optimal for bicyclists.

Bikes galore at USC

I don't own a car, and I've been living in LA a little less than a year. And yes, sometimes I've needed one. But I've taken the bus, and rode my bike. I've used the local car share service, or I've gotten a ride. I am living proof that you can live in Los Angeles without a car! And I'm more than happy to extend my life experiment if it means helping others learn how to save money, time, and the earth.

Sooooo...if you are living the experiment as well, or are bike- and bus-friendly, please let me know! I am looking for contributors and would love additional viewpoints.

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to encourage anyone to give up their cars outright or stop buying cars. Rather, it's meant to be a resource for people living in Los Angeles - and beyond - who are interested in options to an auto-centric lifestyle.