Many of us who’ve traveled via public transit have experienced “unpleasant moments,” from irritating delays to foul smells to unwanted attention and inappropriate touching (or much worse). But the percentage of people actually reporting or filing official complaints remains low. Most riders—us included—try to ignore the shenanigans, bury their heads in books and phones or disembark at different stop to avoid getting involved.
But there’s a movement in Los Angeles encouraging riders to speak up. On Monday night Metroand the Alternative Travel Project presented the salon, In Her Shoes: Women in a Car-Free LA From Using The System To Running It at Maker City in DTLA. The event brought together a group of transit officials, riders, policy experts and other interested parties to share resources and information and talk about what can be done so that more people—women, in particular—would feel more empowered to opt for car-free travel.
While the ATP and Metro-sponsored event focused on safety issues, the panelists—led by advocate, actress and ATP founder Stana Katic—also talked about their personal stories of car-free travel and living; discussed upcoming Metro projects; the use of technology; millennials’ attitudes toward public transportation; the health benefits of car-free travel and, most importantly, resources to share and ways the public can get involved to improve the transportation system in Los Angeles.
Here are 8 of the best quotes/takeaways from the event:
Remember that it’s our system. Lindy Lee, deputy CEO of Metro, said that riders can influence and even change routes. People can email Metro or attend public hearings to help determine whether the system is best serving their needs and appropriate locations. “It’s not Metro’s system. It’s your system.”
The last mile is just as crucial as the rest of the trip. Margot Ocanas, pedestrian coordinator for the L.A. Department of Transportation, discussed the need for safe routes for transit riders walking that last bit after disembarking from a bus or train. She talked about engineering improvements and calibrating signals that give a pedestrian a head start in a crosswalk, which can help improve their visibility to drivers.
Public safety tips. Chief Ronene Anda, head of Transit Policing Division, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, offered the audience some practical advice for safely navigating public transportation (“You look lost, you look like a victim.”). She also stressed the reliance on the public to help be the eyes and ears for the LASD. “You can imagine what we could do if we knew about it.”
Technology can make us safer. Anda also touted the use of technology—including 10 cameras on every bus—to help riders feel safe. Anda also directed the audience to check LADOT’s site for real-time bus information and service alerts. She recommended the use Metro’s Transit Watch App, which is an anonymous way for riders to communicate directly to Metro Sheriffs about suspicious activity or ride quality problems at a Metro. She also reiterated the go-to number 888.950.SAFE (7233), which is directly linked to sheriff’s dispatch. (If you don’t have a phone or you don’t get a signal, you can use emergency phones at rail stations or ask the bus or train operator to get in contact with the Sheriff’s Department.)
Young Angelenos are giving up their cars—voluntarily. Shauna Nep, director of Community & Innovation at the Goldhirsh Foundation, talked about a “culture shift” toward home- and car-ownership for millennials and how more are opting for car-free lifestyles (as well as Uber and Lyft).
Fewer cars on the road are good for everyone’s health. James Haw, director of Environmental Studies, USC, talked about the health impact of fewer cars on the roads, and reiterated the data that shows that people who live or work near freeways have higher exposure to emissions and particulates, which lead to a host of greater health issues including premature births, asthma and reduced lung function in kids, heart attacks and other issues. He added that particulates from motor vehicles can be reduced if more people were to leave the car at home and re-train themselves to adapt to the new behavior of adopting public transit.
Personal stories. L.A. college student Valeria Ceballos, talked about her daily experience—both good and bad on the Metro—and how the Metro and public transportation is essential to her independence and mobility. Luba Katic, from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (and Katic’s aunt), talked about her choice to live a car-free lifestyle. Her family has gone without a car since September, and she said that while her choice isn’t the easy route—especially when showing the audience pictures of a terrible Toronto winter—she says it’s worth the monetary savings and additional quality time with her kids.
A Star Trek reference. Closing the salon, Stana Katic—a public transit rider herself, who founded ATP in 2010 to encourage people worldwide to “GOcarFREE” for just one day and to encourage public planners/policy makers to create safe travel infrastructure—chose a quote from “philosopher Jean-Luc Picard” who said that if we can teach people to “beam across the galaxy, we can teach a kid to take a bus to Studio City.”
Video from the In Her Shoes salon will be posted on Metro’s The Source blog later this week.