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With Eyes on a Prize, Commuters Might Crowd Diamond Lanes

November 08, 2000|MARY McNAMARA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

I don't know how I missed them, the Kiss 'N' Ride signs at various rail stations in the L.A. area. Being quite interested in the subject, and the possibility, of kisses, I asked around and was told these were signs posted at short-term parking where one might drop off one's spouse or very good friend, sending them to work with a kiss.

Disappointed as I was to learn that this was a bring-your-own situation, I had to admit that here, at last, was a truly convincing reason to use alternative transportation. I certainly have done more stupid things than get on a bus in the hopes of procuring more kisses; if nothing else, it at least lends an air of romance to an essentially mundane chore.

I think the MTA is on to something. Previously, the only impetus for surrendering the car for bike, bus, train or car pool was a sense of moral righteousness. Which is not half as interesting as kisses.

Instead of touting energy conservation, good citizenship and general social consciousness, the MTA might be better served if it utilized some of the other time-honored motivators in this town: special passes, free stuff and celebrities.

A few suggestions:

A Car-Pool Lottery:

Install some of those cameras so handy at ticketing red-light runners in the various car-pool lanes where they can record the millionth car. Driver and passengers win a fabulous prize. A box at the Hollywood Bowl, say, or special tags good for free valet parking anywhere for one year.

Frequent Rider Miles:

To the wallet-bulging stack of coffee/bagel/stuffed-potato punch cards, add a commuter card which, when filled, entitles the bearer to one week of limousine service to and from work or a monthlong go-to-the-head-of-the-line pass, valid everywhere from Disneyland to the DMV.

The Multitaskers' Friend:

Allow manicurists, masseuses, shoeshiners, CPAs, therapists and wardrobe consultants to offer their services on buses and trains.

Collectibles:

Tiny train engines, buses of the world, transit-worker action figures--kids can collect all 115, and as long as supplies last, no one gets hurt.

Celebrity Sit-Ins:

Encourage socially conscious celebrities to join their fellow citizens and give them a thrill by casually sitting next to random commuters. Have the truly dedicated organize their own highly publicized car pools. (Points off if they just send in their assistants.)

Free Samples:

Who wouldn't feel better about commuting with a gift bag of Clinique products or a sample sack of Famous Amos in their grip? And imagine the public response at the benevolent companies that support commuting and all its benefits.

And Here's Your 15 Minutes:

Think of those folks who line up in the rain and snow and sweltering heat just to share 12 seconds of screen time with NBC's Al Roker. Surely a local TV station wouldn't mind taking a minicam out to the streets to similarly illuminate the lives of commuters. This would at least ensure that every aspiring actor would be participating.

Kiss Me, I Carpooled:

Following up on the general bussing (get it?) theme, those who use train, bus, bike or feet would get a sticker, similar to the ones handed out at the voting booth or blood drive. Who doesn't want to walk around with a sign saying they did a good thing?

*

Mary McNamara can be reached by e-mail at mary.mcnamara@latimes.com.

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