As someone with Aspergers, driving hasn’t been something I’ve been able to do. Autism affects us all in different ways, and for me, driving proved to be too stressful and anxiety-inducing. Like most teenagers, I had wanted to learn when I was younger, I took a driver’s classes, had family teach me, and promptly failed the behind the wheel test three times. Eventually, I gave up and resigned myself to taking public transportation.
That was a long time ago, and public transportation has become the norm in my life. I’ve learned how to navigate my way around and get where I need to go. It’s dictated the sort of places I can live, but I’ve learned to accept that and adapt. Many of us aspies have learned to adapt to the many obstacles we may deal with, and I have always been a fan of the ‘if you need a hammer, but you don’t have one, use a wrench’ idea. If something stands in your way, adapt, and figure out a different route.
Living in Southern California has been a challenge for my transportation efforts. The bus systems are incredibly confusing, each county and city seems to have their own system, and it can easily take hours and hours to get from one end of the LA mass to the other. I have been able to rely on my husband and family members many times, but as someone with a fierce independence streak, it’s important for me to be able to get myself places.
Public transportation is a way of life for me, but I shouldn’t be the only one. As a traveler who is concerned with the environment, I think public transportation needs to be a sustainable solution for everyone. Here in the Los Angeles region, public transit is a mess because it isn’t in high demand. People buy their gas-guzzling vehicles and jam onto highways contributing to some of the worst traffic and congestion in the country.
By contrast, San Francisco’s public transportation was very efficient. In the eight years that I lived there, I have never been prevented from getting where I needed to go. The BART, MUNI, and Caltrans linked the entire region and made it easy to connect to local bus systems in the East Bay, North Bay, and South Bay. Many systems had transfers, and Muni is cheap and affordable, especially when compared to the expense of owning a car. The system was so effective that my husband sold his car before we moved there, and we both became non-drivers.
In fact, in San Francisco, owning a car can be a liability. Parking is expensive. Most apartments charge enormous monthly fees for a parking space, and parking downtown is a stressful and costly nightmare. The roads are steep with many sudden one way streets, and when I lived there, I always warned any family visiting that driving to the city was chaotic, and the BART was much more effective.
As a traveler and a tourist, I think that cities and regions should begin to invest in public transportation. Most major cities in the world have buses, trains, and subways, but in many cases, they can be vastly improved. Roads could be made more geared toward them and less geared towards cars. Cars are meant for long distance travel, and I think if we return to that trend, it will solve a lot of the environmental issues we face today.
These days, especially here in Southern California, public transportation is seen as inferior. There’s a stigma that the only ones who ride buses are those who are too poor to own a car or those like me who have some sort of developmental, mental, or physical disability preventing them from driving. But I don’t think it should be seen that way. It’s not seen that way in San Francisco, the buses and trains there are crammed full of suit-adorned, briefcase-toting, middle and upper-class Americans.
With pollution a growing problem and gas prices on the rise as fossil fuels become increasingly scarce, this would be a solution to many of these issues. In San Francisco, there was often a problem with overcrowding on buses, but what’s the difference between that and being stuck in traffic for four hours?
As someone who has adapted to public transportation, I am confident in my skills of navigating through even the more confusing systems. The public transportation systems down here are a nightmare, but I’ve learned to deal with them. Just this past April, I traveled from Riverside to Long Beach. I was fortunate to be able to get rides from friends along the way, but I was facing three buses there and three buses back and a two to four-hour journey one way. This is way too long to be able to attempt a day trip, and I had to arrange lodging to make the trip worth it. But I did it, and I would do it again if the chance presented itself.
There is a great need for an improvement in public transportation just here in Southern California alone. With better rail systems connecting not only the LA metro area but the counties and regions surrounding it, and with better connections and faster services, and more frequent services, I think it would improve traffic tenfold.
If my four hours, three bus trip to Long Beach could be reduced by even half, it would bring me much more mobility. And I’m sure I’m not the only one here who would benefit. The Metrolink is the only rail line that extends to Riverside and out to San Bernardino, but it’s slow, doesn’t run very frequently, nor does it run very late or very early. It’s not great for commuting.
As a traveler, in this part of the blog which is dedicated to my travels, I am going to bring up public transportation a lot. Too many travel blogs tend to place more emphasis on renting a car or the idea that you will have a car at your disposal. I’m not going to focus on cars as a primary mode of transportation. Yes, my husband does drive, and as such, we generally get from place to place by driving, but when I’m alone, I take the bus, and those are the trips I am going to focus on in this blog.
Moreover, I’m also going to give a critique of various bus lines and trains and subways so that you can take the same journeys as me and get a review of them. I think that by delving into this unique and often overlooked aspect of travel, I can begin to reduce the stigma of taking public transportation and help it to become more normalized. If that happens, cities, states, regions, and countries can look to improving their public transportation systems and making them a better alternative to driving.