Well, technically speaking today is the 605th - but for branding purposes I prefer rounded numbers.
Yep, it's true. I, Jen Friel, have actually done what has long been speculated to be impossible; I have not only WALKED in LA but taken public transportation in LA.
Here's the story on why it happened, and some tips and tricks on how you can also do it.
I've been bootstrapping this brand for almost three years. Any entrepreneur will tell you that it's not easy, but when you're waking up every. single. day. doing things that you love and things that you're super passionate about - how could it be denied?
I was named one of the Ford Fiesta Movement agents in 2010 so once I had the Ford to drive I then decided in May of that year that to pursue my passion I could give up everything I owned and just live in the Fiesta. (Ford had given us all gas cards as well. Even if I had no money I could at least get from meeting to meeting and I would just have to work my ASS off to launch things and get off the ground before Ford wanted their car back.)
It totally worked, and after the Fiesta Movement I then began my one year of couch surfing. My car at that time had still been operational but thanks to my parents paying the insurance bill, (I owe them BIG on that) and the fact that it was paid off - I loaned my car out to a series of people in exchange for either me crashing at their place or honestly just in an effort to help my friends out.
5 parking tickets.
3 of those I incurred myself, but two of them ::cough cough:: were not mine.
I couldn't afford to pay my three tickets, nor could my friend afford to pay hers at the time - so the result? My car became illegal to drive.
The only reason in the first place that a boot wasn't put on my car after the second or third was the fact that I had been commercial modeling in Florida prior, so I had out of state plates and I quickly discovered that the DMVs don't actually talk to each other. I kept getting pinged from the city of Los Angeles alerting me that I had these parking tickets, but they couldn't connect the dots with how many there were because the plates were out of state.
High-larious and unintentionally worked in my favor.
Not wanting to keep driving knowing that if I got pulled over there was a VERY high chance I would be caught, I decided to put my car in my friend's garage to keep it safe.
That was in January of 2011 - I have not driven my car since.
Obviously, I have an active social life ... so what's a girl to do when she's without her wheels?
Take the bus!!!
Here are some misconceptions and a healthy dose of some real deal honesty on what the experience has been like.
Misconception: The city bus is ruled by drug addicts and homeless people.
Real Deal: The city bus is ruled by the elderly, families, and the disabled.
Before I had started taking public transportation I had literally never been without a car. My parents gave me a car when I was 16, and I had that car until I traded it in to get my current car in 2005. I've been driving for over a decade and never experienced what it felt like to be "without."
The dark places that my brain saw that "without" place as being was filled with crime, scary dudes, and drug addicts.
Within the first month of being on the bus, I definitely met an interesting drug addict but little did I know he was going to be the exception not the rule.
During the day (more on taking the city bus at night in a minute), the bus is an EXTREMELY safe place to be. The riders are mild mannered and the experience as a whole has been a lesson on how insular we all are as human beings.
People do NOT interact with each other on the bus, and watching them is absolutely fascinating. It's as if you can visually see the laundry lists above all of their heads as they scratch off items failing to even notice how close the person next to them is.
People are less conscious about their personal space, but more conscious about being bothered in general. If an unruly passenger begins talking to someone else on the bus - the person bolts. No confrontation, nothing. They literally just get up and move to another seat.
Misconception: The bus is unreliable and can't be trusted.
Truth: The bus is 9/10 times ALWAYS on time or within 5 minutes of the scheduled departure.
Considering the amount of traffic there is in LA it was SUUCCHHHH an eye opener that the city bus is absolutely. always. on. time.
I'm actually reminded of the Tortoise and the Hare "slow and steady wins the race!"
To get the bus schedule, all you have to do is open up google maps on your smart phone and select the "bus" icon. (You'll be shown three options up top for transportation. First you'll see the car, then a bus, and then a pedestrian. Select the bus.)
Enter in your destination's address and then click route.
Bing bang boom! You now have door to door info on how to get there via city bus or subway. (LA does in fact have a subway and I'm not mad at it!! It's DEFINITELY 50% more creepy than taking the bus, but fortunately in recent months I have seen a stronger police presence.)
You can then select the time of your departure if it's not current, and even select the routes with the fewest buses it will take for you to get there.
This is UNBELIEVABLY spectacular btw to have access to this kind of info at your fingertips, but you have to remember to keep. your. phone. charged. If your phone isn't charged obvi you can't access the maps and then you're kinda screwed.
Rates and Fares
Misconception: The bus costs $1.50 to ride.
Truth: When paying by cash the bus ride is suggested fare.
Yep, I've been testing this theory out for months now. See, I don't need a monthly or even weekly pass for the city bus. Since I live so centrally in LA my bus rides are usually just a single ride there and back - and even if I do need more than a few transfers all I have to do is pay the $5 for an unlimited ride day.
<tangent> To get an unlimited ride you need to get what they call a TAP card. You can purchase these from the bus driver directly for $1 and it is then refillable. $5 will get you anywhere in LA (outside of Santa Monica since they have their own city public transportation). $5 is literally the MOST you should ever pay for a single day's worth of public transportation. </tangent>
When paying for the city bus I used to use two quarters and a dollar. The only problem with paying with the dollar bill though is the fact that 10% or more of the machines are always on the fritz so the bus drivers just let you go with only putting in the two quarters. Realizing that there was no true "system" to counting how many people were actually on the bus versus the amount that they actually collected I decided to try playing around with the fare to see what bus drivers would accept.
I have paid as low as .75 cents for a fare and continue on average to only pay $1.25. (I'm all about pushing boundaries but not being a dick.)
In fact, it wasn't until this past week that one actually stopped me and told me the fare was $1.50. I then reached into my purse to take out another dollar and he just threw his hand in the air let me go by.
Of course, the LA Metro doesn't want you to know this information but if you are ever in a jam like I have been 100 times in getting cash for the bus - know that the driver will work with you and as long as you have SOME financial compensation, they won't penalize you for not having the full amount.
Riding after hours
I briefly talked about this during one of my many ::cough cough threesome:: ventures with Mr. and Mrs. Smith, (and don't forget to read here) but while riding the city bus at night you need three things ...
1) A hoodie
3) Hair tie
If someone is going to bother you on the city bus late at night it was only because you looked like a low hanging fruit. As a single female taking public transportation how could I NOT look like a low hanging fruit though??
To cause people to question my sobriety (and sometimes even my sexuality) I would take my long black hair, put it in a hair tie, grab a hoodie placing the hood on top of my head, and place sunglasses over my eyes.
Immediately when people see someone wearing sunglasses they assume they are on drugs. Being on drugs creates a variable in a potential attack. What if I was on some super human shit and someone came at me and all of the sudden I superman-ed their ass into a wall?
I'm not saying of course that all potential attackers are of sane enough mind to think about this - but petty thieves, and who knows what else DEFINITELY think about these types of things and suddenly this low hanging fruit has become a liability.
YOU. WANT. TO. BE. A. LIABILITY. IN. THIS. SCENARIO.
Make sure at all times your headphones are off your ears so you can be VERY aware of your surroundings but ::knock on wood:: I have yet to have a single bother from the city bus and I've even taken it from downtown MULTIPLE times back to Hollywood at 2am and later.
I'm not saying this is a plan that will 100% thwart an attack - but let's be real- nothing can. Brick to the head from walking down the street anyone, anyone?
Random acts of kindness
I can't begin to tell you how many random acts of kindness I witness every day riding the bus. Absolutely EVERY TIME an elderly person, or expectant mother is standing someone will offer them a seat - no questions asked. It's this community mentality and even though we are only together for that brief moment in time - nobody. fucks. with. the. bus.
Stats: 600 days riding bus only 1 truly "scary incident."
On March 7, 2012 I was riding into downtown (coming from the Valley) and somewhere down Sunset this random crazy person stormed onto the back of the bus and demanded rocks. Being a total n00b on drugs I LITERALLY had no idea what he was even talking about. Come to find out (after tweeting about the incident) he was actually asking for crack. (read more about it here)
That was LITERALLY the. only. time. in over 600 days that I was EVER scared riding the city bus, and technically speaking that incident wasn't done by another passenger but rather just a random dude on the street.
- Riding the bus has honestly renewed my faith in humanity. I've seen so many wonderful, wonderful things and so many wonderful, wonderful people be so kind and not expect anything in return.
- By learning to live "without" I have not only connected with SO many more people by carpooling, but I have also allowed brands to come in and assist in providing me wheels. I have had cars from Ford, Chrysler, and Chevy. (I've even been flown around the country by brands even causing a Gawker owned car blog to write about my involvement in the program.)
I can now say I have genuinely experienced the "without" and all I have to say is that it's not that bad! I'm INCREDIBLY productive having time allocated daily to answer all my emails, tweets, respond to Facebook comments, and STILL have time to reflect on my day. The city bus is not a scary place fellow Los Angelinos but rather unchartered territory that should you as an entrepreneur, student, or even just citizen in general want to experience, I can proudly say it is not only safe, but reliable.
You go LA Metro!!