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THINKING OUT LOUD / TRAFFIC

Where We're Coming From

June 16, 2005

We came by bus, train and car -- one guy walked, but he's always been an outlier -- and as we traveled we read, chatted or listened to the radio. But the 10 members of the editorial page staff who logged our commutes one week ago this morning share one thing: Like everyone else in L.A., we have all come up with various coping mechanisms. For those scoring at home, our average speed was 24.6 mph (that's measured door-to-door, including the walk to the car/train/bus and then to our desks). We plan to repeat this experiment in the not-too-distant future, with those of us who drive taking public transportation and vice versa. The usual disclaimer does not apply: Try this at home -- or, as the case may be, at work.

*

1) FROM BURBANK

Driven to Distraction

Departure: 8:57 a.m.

Arrival: 9:28 a.m.

Commute time: 31 minutes

Distance: 9.8 miles

Average speed: 19 mph

The Hollywood Freeway, I tell my mother from the car, sounds more glamorous than it drives. After half a decade of walking or taking the subway, I was naively looking forward to driving to work when I moved to Los Angeles. Eight miles every morning on the 101, from Barham Boulevard to Broadway, cured me of that.

Not that it's especially long or frustrating; it's neither. But it's monotonous, and I find myself reverting to the car games of my youth (and not just because I am talking to my mother). Any out-of-state license plates? (Not today.) Can I make it through this backup without coming to a stop? (Again, not today. The delay, as routine as it is mystifying, is always at the Melrose/Normandie exit.) If I wave at these people, will they wave back? (OK, so I don't play every game of my youth.)

Now that I'm older, I am the driver, of course, and I can also talk on the phone, which I do using a headset. I have yet to master some important automotive commuting rituals: put the briefcase on the back seat, take the jacket off, fold the jacket, put it on top of the briefcase.... I always leave something I need in back. Today goes smoothly, but in the garage, at the end of my commute, I'm still taking too long to retrieve my stuff. If I really want to improve my time, I tell myself as I settle behind my desk, I need to work on my transitions.

Michael Newman

*

2) FROM PASADENA

An 18-Page Bus Ride

Departure:

8:45 a.m.

Arrival:

9:45 a.m.

Commute time:

60 minutes

Distance:

14 miles

Avg. speed:

14 mph

I leave home and walk three blocks to my bus stop on Lake Avenue in Pasadena, arriving at 8:52 a.m. The bus pulls up three minutes later and I board, greeting the bus driver and showing my monthly bus pass.

I take a window seat among 10 other people, pull out my book and start reading. As the bus rolls south on Lake, it stops several times as passengers get on and off. Two elderly women chat. I look up from my book at one point and admire some jacaranda trees on Oak Knoll Avenue, just before the bus turns west onto Huntington Drive.

Music leaks from the headset of a woman listening to a radio station, but the sound of the bus engine drowns out most of it. She gets off soon after the bus turns south onto Fremont Avenue. An old man boards the bus and chats in Spanish with a young woman seated nearby. I don't understand Spanish very well, so it is easy to tune out the conversation as I continue reading.

The bus turns west onto Valley Boulevard and stops just before entering the Long Beach Freeway. The driver walks through the bus asking for tickets. At the stop near Cal State Los Angeles, several students board; one flips open her cellphone and tries to make a call. The bus travels west onto the San Bernardino Freeway and exits the freeway next to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. It travels west on Arcadia Street to Spring Street, where it turns south.

At 9:42, the bus lets me off half a block from The Times. As I walk into the lobby, I notice that I am 18 pages further along in my book.

Lynn Edwards

*

3) FROM ATWATER VILLAGE

Speed-Trap Strategy

Departure:

8:27 a.m.

Arrival:

8:43 a.m.

Commute time:

16 minutes

Distance:

6 miles

Avg. speed:

22.2 mph

To get from my house in Atwater Village to my office at The Times, I have a choice of routes around Dodger Stadium, none of which involves getting on a freeway. Today I sail down Riverside Drive, where I can glance across the L.A. River and see the cars stacked up on Interstate 5 like container ships at the Port of Los Angeles.

I could make even better time if I weren't a stickler for speed limits -- or if I didn't know that the stretch of Riverside between the Hyperion Bridge and Fletcher Drive is a notorious speed trap. The driver of the car that's practically in my back seat apparently does not know this; he swerves around and leaves me in the dust with what I don't think was a friendly wave. In seconds, one of L.A.'s finest is waving him over, radar gun in hand. How sweet is that?

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