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THE BIG FIX

How to get from here to there. A bus with a view? A monorail? Your own two feet?

Serve double lattes on double-deckers

December 27, 2007|Rob Long | Rob Long is a contributing editor to Opinion. His weekly commentary, "Martini Shot," airs on KCRW-FM (89.9).

When I go to a new place, I almost always end up on a bus. I rode the bus through northern Turkey; I take the bus in Paris; I took a kind of bus-like thing in Myanmar; the buses in Vienna are excellent; and in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, I took a taxi that was really closer to a bus because it kept stopping and picking people up.

I don't take the bus in Los Angeles, which is irrational, really, because I spend a lot of time -- we all do -- stuck in traffic behind buses.

When traveling, the bus has a kind of glamorous luster to it -- you feel smart and adventurous and part of the scene. Here at home, though, taking the bus means a lot of waiting around sun-baked intersections, wondering which bus will take you to the bus that will take you somewhat closer to where you actually want to be, which is probably where you parked your car.

Buses, in short, aren't much fun.

But they could be. In a city that enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year, buses should be fun, sunny, double-decker, open-air-type deals, with the top level leased to companies such as Starbucks, Peets, Quiznos or Chipotle. Imagine heading to work on a sunny morning, sitting in the top-level breeze, reading Variety and sipping a latte. Imagine coming home at night, watching the lights of the city from your top-level perch (we'll have heat lamps; we'll have awnings) and having a burrito and a couple of cold beers.

Of course, you'll have to transfer at some point. But imagine a Southland dotted by transfer hubs with Wi-Fi, Korean snacks, a Le Pain Quotidien and yoga. There will be big, long-haul buses for the Valley and the east-west boulevards, smaller electric buses for the smaller north-south jaunts. And each one will take your ATM card.

It'll be expensive, of course -- everything worth doing is -- but a lot cheaper than building a subway. And it will probably take longer to get everywhere, what with the lattes and the margaritas and the jewelry-making classes. But remember: The truth is, we're not really in a hurry to get where we're going; we're in a hurry to get off the damn road. And more people on the bus means fewer people behind the bus.

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