Final mode, final reflections

Riding "Angels Flight" in downtown LA

Last night, my friend and fellow Car-Free Challenger Andrea Tyler took me for a ride on the Angels Flight funicular in Los Angeles.  It's like a cable car, only on a 45-degree angle - and at a quarter a ride, undoubtably the cheapest little transit adventure I've been on in the U.S.  I didn't get to count that 0.15 miles in my transit tally since the Car-Free Challenge had already ended, but I'm glad I got it in before my Los Angeles responsibilities did.

This morning, I rode the Metro blue line to Wardlow station in Long Beach, where my new LA-based colleague collected me for a road trip to San Diego.  I've been spending a lot of time in southern CA in order to train him, and now I get to dramatically cut down on my intrastate travels.  I have been annoyed, overtired, and stretched thin by my statewide responsibilities - but last night, walking through downtown LA, and today, having a final conversation by the harbor in San Diego, I was a little sad to not know when I'd be coming back.  (It didn't help that it was totally gorgeous out - I tried to barter my Fresno turf in exchange for keeping San Diego, but he didn't go for it.)

While the timing of the Car-Free Challenge really stretched my transit-taking skills this past week, I'm glad that I had the opportunity to chronicle my rides.  Honestly, this is just what I do - and under normal circumstances, I would be OVERJOYED if someone I knew pulled up and offered me a ride just when the bus wasn't coming.  I might not always travel quite this much in one week, but I do always check Google transit first thing when I'm invited to a meeting or event.  And it's shocking to me that others don't - especially in SoCal where the traffic is legendary and there really are some decent options if you just take a minute to look.

I also appreciate the way that taking transit and walking helps me get to know the places that I visit.  Since I travel so frequently, I'm usually not interested in sticking around to gawk at the attractions.  But when I experience the city by train or bus, or I walk across downtown to get me some Yogurtland, I get to see so much more.  And, I have to interact - not with onramps and offramps, freeways and big green signs - with storefronts and arches and parks and fountains.  I learn where I can get a cup of coffee, or which streets are most interesting to walk on (NOT 4th St in LA at night), or where that music is coming from.  I get to explore.

So although I'll have to make an effort to keep exploring SoCal, I'll definitely look forward to it.  I am also excited to keep getting to know the Bay Area - where in addition to trains and buses and sidewalks I have my bike at my disposal.  In next year's Car-Free Challenge, I may not have quite so many transit systems to tally, but I hope to have new neighborhoods and experiences to share.