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Please step away from the vehicle
Posted October 7, 2005

Stephanie Duarte
Web Editor

This past summer was great for several reasons. I took a paid-internship with LA Opera and learned more about my anticipated profession as an arts administrator. For the first time since grammar school, I chose not to take courses during my break. And finally, I delved into the world of public transportation.

Driving in L.A. is no joke. Anyone from the area knows well to avoid all freeways during rush hour. I quickly learned that I didn’t have the tolerance for an hour and a half of snail-like traffic. After one week, I had fallen short of ways to amuse myself in my lonely car. I had also successfully endured my first minor fender bender. Not bad for my first week of L.A. driving.

My co-worker urged me to try taking the train to work. I was wary at first, but after learning that it would actually save me gas money, I was sold.

Of course, riding the train has its own initial battles.

I was nervous that I would miss the train or that I would sit next to someone who smells or who talked the entire ride.

I was scared that I would hop on the wrong subway and end up in a bad area of L.A.

I was scared that I might forget something on the train and it would be lost forever.

Despite my apprehensions, I was determined to make public transportation work for me.

I forced myself to leave early and drive quickly to the station.

I constantly verified with other passengers that I was going the right direction. I checked and double-checked that I had my ticket, my purse and my badge for work. I succeeded. And it was nice.

After dealing with the first ride, I quickly realized how great it was to use public transportation. I was surrounded by people who had also taken that leap from the privacy of a car to a public transit system that was better for the environment and let passengers avoid the everyday stress of traffic.

I didn’t have to constantly listen to the AM news stations for the latest traffic updates. I had time to put on my headphones and fall asleep or catch up on some leisure reading.

Some days, I chose not to bury myself in a book or pillow, and I met some interesting people. It was a fabulous opportunity to step out of my world of college students, professors and colleagues. I met people who loved their jobs, hated their jobs, and people who went to L.A. weekly in a struggle to find a job. And all this from stepping away from my car and into the world of public transportation.

Many advocates of public transportation say they can’t understand why Southern Californians are stuck inside their cars.

I can say that there are some qualities I miss about my traffic filled weekdays, like being able to sing at the top of my lungs while people pass and smile at me. But the train has so many more advantages.

The biggest advantage we should all be concerned with is the ever decreasing supply of oil and the ever increasing pollution of our air. If environmentalism doesn’t drive you, then just look at the price at your local gasoline pump. The train may not make sense for many La Verne commuters, but also consider something as simple as carpooling or taking the bus, if it works for you. There is life beyond the car.

Stephanie Duarte, a senior communications major, is web editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at duartes@ulv.edu.