Alice Compton began riding the Red Line when a gallon of gas nudged $5, the price of an all-day Metro pass. "I vowed to change, regardless of the social stigma mass transit has in L.A.," she wrote.
Here's what she discovered: "There's a sense of equality on the trains. Everyone is using it for one reason or another. They don't have a car, maybe they can't drive, or they want to reduce their carbon footprint."
They're all crammed in together, regardless of reason or circumstances. And "unlike buses, the train drivers are cut off from passengers. So it is your fellow passengers who must aid and assist you," Compton said.
Passengers might not be willing to break up a fight or wrestle a man with a knife to the ground. But when a teenage boy had a nosebleed on her train, "everyone came to his aid, offering Kleenex, handkerchiefs and even cold bottled water."
So she doesn't mind the man peddling candy in the aisle or the "vagabond musicians, who play and sing and hope you toss them a monetary donation."
It's a rare chance in sprawling, subdivided Los Angeles for people from different walks of life to rub shoulders.
Our transit system, like our city, is unwieldy, unpredictable, incomplete and often inconvenient. Embracing public transit requires a mind-set change — a willingness to make accommodations, to mix it up, to improvise.
That won't happen if riders fear that boarding a train means leaving safety and civility behind.