My car-less weekend experiments:

If you've been reading at least a few of my blogs since I started them last year, you'll know that I have embraced the mass-transit portion of the Los Angeles Metro since moving from the mostly sprawling suburban Western San Fernando Valley in Canoga Park, to the denser East Valley in North Hollywood. Now that I've started working again at a new job in Downtown Glendale, where restaurants and stores are within walking distance but is sadly not served by any Metro Rail, I have decided to use more mass-transit at least once on the weekends since I have to drive to and from work during the week.

My first "transit experiment" actually started on Labor Day weekend, when I left my Jetta parked on the street, and took a trip to Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier to rollerblade. To accomplish this car-less feat, I carried my rollerblades in a backpack and walked to the North Hollywood Red Line Subway Station (about a mile from my apartment), took the Red Line to the 7th Street Metro Center Station in Downtown LA. From there I transferred to the Expo Line light rail, which currently runs west all the way to Culver City, which is still about six miles short of the beach (that will change next spring however, when the second phase of the line to Downtown Santa Monica is completed). To fill the transit gap until then, I took a Lyft rideshare vehicle from the station and was dropped off at the Venice Beach Pier. I then put on my rollerblades and skated all the way to Santa Monica Pier, switched back from my skates to my shoes, and walked around the nearby Promenade Mall until I was ready to make the return trip on a Lyft back to Culver City, Expo Line to Downtown, and a Red Line back to North Hollywood. The results of this first experiment: Not bad at all in terms of wait time for trains or rideshare vehicle, and the travel times were decent. The major downside was the separate expense of $12 each way on Lyft, when my Metro rides were technically free (since I had loaded a full balance on my TAP fare card). This is something I would definitely do if meeting up with friends on Saturday nights at any of the bars in Santa Monica, but I would still drive during a Saturday or Sunday to skate at the beach until the Expo Line extension is finished.

Transit experiment number two was this Saturday, meeting up with family in Woodland Hills. Despite the 100-degree heat, I left the old volkswagen parked on the street and braved it out to the Orange Line busway Station in North Hollywood (which is right across the street from the Red LIne Subway Station). Almost immediately, one of the two parked articulated buses the line uses pulled up to pick up passengers. The trip was fairly quick at 45 minutes from North Hollywood to Canoga Avenue in Woodland Hills. While this bus travels on an exclusive roadway that gives it a more reliable schedule, it does still have to stop for a few traffic lights, so the travel time can sometimes vary depending on how many lights it has to stop for, and how long the it is stopped for the traffic light. I believe that this trip only had about two or three brief stops at a traffic signal, which isn't bad at all for a Saturday. After arriving a block away from the Westfield Topanga Mall at the Canoga Avenue Station, it was just a short walk to meet my family for lunch and shopping in the newly-opened Topanga Village shopping center, which is an open-air segment of a mostly enclosed mall that covers about three blocks in the Western San Fernando Valley. It boasts a more pedestrian-friendly experience----well, except for the new Costco that anchors the center, I'm not sure how that's gonna fit, but I guess we'll see. Most of the major restaurants have yet to open, so we just explored the few things that were open along with plush seating arrangements and family activities. To really hammer home the "pedestrian-friendly" message, this new section of the mall has an air-conditioned trolley service that runs through not only all three sections of the shopping complex, but also nearby Warner center offices and apartments. How much does it cost? Nothing. It's free of charge, the trade-off being the non-stop promotion of the mall on TVs inside the trolley. Following a great new burger and beer at Red Robin and some shopping at both Costco and Target, I declared this transit experiment  a success. Once the new restaurants open up like Lucille's Barbeque and Pieology Pizzeria, I'll definitely be taking some weekend trips on the Orange Line there for a Saturday or Sunday lunch. And with many of these eateries serving beer on their menu, I can safely drink and dine knowing that I'm just an Orange Line ride away back to North Hollywood.

Final thoughts: I'm glad I'm taking on these weekend adventures without my car. it saves me on gas and maintenance, while allowing me to explore new areas I would have simply drove by in my car. I encourage everybody to take a least one day out of your weekend to take Metro Rail or BRT to a place you've always been meaning to check out, but never got around to doing so.  You'll be glad you did.