Last Night We Bought A Train Trip For A Penny

In celebration of Angels Flight’s 109th anniversary, fares on The World’s Shortest Railway were rolled back on New Year’s Eve from their present day quarter to 1901 prices: one cent. And since plans were in place to see “Next To Normal” at the Ahmanson, rather than park at the Music Center, I opted to park down at 4th & Hill, the better to ride the historic funicular up to Grand Street and walk the rest of the way.

After arriving at the top and depositing the three pennies in the pay slot (and wondering aloud to the stationmaster what else can be purchased for so little; short answer: nothing) I opted to spend an additional dollar in purchasing a commemorative ticket printed up specifically for the occasion), the front and back of which I scanned in for your commemorating enjoyment (click for the bigger picture):

After the show, Susan and my mom opted to hang around the warmth of the theater while I trekked back to retrieve the car. I could’ve paid with the above ticket for the return trip down to Hill Street, but instead opted to keep it intact and used figuratively the last penny in my possession.

Where The There Is More Relevant Than The Getting To It

Rush hour on Western Avenue just south of Sunset Boulevard in 1906. The same year,  two miles east on Sunset, construction began on our house. (Photo: Los Angeles Public Library)

Armchair LA historians like my native self will always helplessly suffer from the malleable clay that underlies our city’s shifting landscape. That’s what happens when you live in so sprawled a city of reinvention and make believe built upon such a seismically active place that’s populated predominately by imports and led by a succession of movers and shakers with less regard for Los Angeles’ past than in recreating its future in their own image.

From that you get a vast freeway system that lifts us above street level (or digs us in below it) but does more to deny us our visceral and spiritual connections to the city than to elevate them. Built then with what one can only (and naively) hope were good intentions, the gridlock of torturous commutes today ultimately brings shame upon those with such a short-sighted and ultimately obsolete idea of destroying neighborhoods and embedded mass transit systems for the romanced ultra-modern notion of commuters individually wisking themselves freely and speedily to their crosstown destinations.

Can you blame them? Idealistically, sure: they suck, bigtime! But in fairness, put me in that situation and I doubt if it were up to me I would’ve had a better idea. Could you imagine in the 1940s suggesting we upgrade an aging rail system and expand other forms of mass transportation when the population was booming and increasingly spread out — not to mention that there was the virtual promise of a car in every garage?

The automobile defined the future then in much the same way the personal computer did today’s future. So to me, the freeway was as inevitable as the information superhighway. Would you have said no to the internet in favor of growing the US Postal Service? Good luck with that!

Having lost so many personal landmarks throughout my life here I’ve long viewed my birth city as built up on a continuing series of striations. We raised a school complex on top of the historic Ambassador Hotel. We covered the length of our river with concrete. We actually considered not restoring the Central Library after arson fires in the 1980s. To torture another analogy along those lines, Los Angeles is very much like a many-layered painting created by a community. Just as Picasso or Pollack might be tempted to “improve” upon a Van Gogh if given the opportunity, so have our leaders always been tempted to do the same for us and our city. The current result is something less than a work of art.

We live in a city where the destination is always more important than the journey. Where the there is more relevant than the getting to it. As such, we are an ignorant citizenry. We call Silver Lake and Echo Park the “Eastside” because so many of those living nearer to the sea than civic center see it as east of Western Avenue, not knowing or caring that thoroughfare marked the westernmost expansion at one point.

I can remember in 2003 when I finally got the opportunity to move out of the San Fernando Valley and into Silver Lake. I told friends of mine that I was thrilled to be back on the Westside after almost 20 years away, and their eyes went wide with indignation.

“Silver Lake is not the Westside!” they exclaimed. And philosophically that is very and thankfully true.

But historically, it is to me. And always will be.

Angel’s Night Flight

(click for the bigger picture)

With the world’s shortest railway’s 33% grade and its twin cars Olivet and Sinai shaped accordingly, I’ve always thought of it more as an Angle’s Flight than an Angel’s, but that’s irrelevant.

What’s relevant is that starting this past Monday the funicular returned to service after a 9-year absence, and I took the long way home from work to take a ride on the beloved landmark and some pictures, such as the highly stylized one above.

I wrote about my first ride on it way back in March of 1996, here on LA Metblogs.

Eastbound & Down

transittixThere were tickets in those days…

It’s late-breaking but I’m suddenly very very excited by Sunday’s long-awaited opening of the Gold Line rail extension from Union Station down through Little Tokyo and then across the Eastside. So much excited am I that my double-darned damnedest will be required so that Susan and I may include an exploratory excursion all the way out to the end of the line at Atlantic Boulevard — even if it’ll be a bit redundant seeing as how we’re planning a trip out to Montebello tomorrow morning for a seasonal visit to Broguiere’s Dairy to load up on the best egg nog in all the world directly from the source.

This amongst various other regular responsibilities such as sunrise porch-sitting, the requisite yard and house work, a Costco run, some bike riding, watching Alabama whup some Mississippi State tail, and shaking my head at the fact that “2012” is probably going to meet or exceed box office expectations.

Oh yeah: After learning about the BikeGlow bike frame lighting system in my favorite bike mag, Bicycle Times, I found that Chubby’s Cruisers near the office on Sepulveda carries them, and splurged on a pair of strands that I wrapped the frame in before leaving work tonight.

Whatcha think?


Even better: here’s a little taste of BikeGlow’s groovalicious blink mode:

Wow: A tool that exponentially increases both motorist awareness and FUN. That is so absolutely chock full of win I can barely contain myself.

A Tale Of Two Buses

Thanks to my buddy Ted at BikinginLA tapping my buddy Damien at Streetsblog LA on the virtual shoulder and saying “Take a look at what happened to Will”  last Tuesday, Damien not only re-posted my my timelapse video of my bad bus driver encounter on his indispensable blog, but because he knows actual people that work at the MTA and who return his phone calls and emails, he forwarded my rantings to a guy there who replied to him in decidedly measured bureaucratic tones advising Damien to rest assured knowing that attention would be paid to my complaint across the proper channels.

In fact, shortly after the Streetsblog post, I received this unsigned email from

Dear Mr. Campbell
Thanks for the follow-up email and please accept our apology for the regrettable incident described below.  Rest assured, your report will be entered into our database and a copy sent to management staff for investigation.  It should be noted that although your Customer Relations email was just opened, however, your earlier inquiry this morning to Dave Sotero prompted an immediate follow-up by the Division manager responsible for Line 333, Bus #8115. This matter will be thoroughly investigated and the appropriate corrective measures taken.

It needs noting that it was Damien who contacted Dave Sotero; until Damien picked up the ball and ran it into the endzone, I’d never heard of Sotero.  It also bears stating that in my imperfect retributive world, I’d be invited to that “appropriate corrective measures”  meeting and get the opportunity to give the bus operator a big ol’ real-world perspective that he couldn’t ignore and dismiss so casually from atop his air-cushioned throne inside his bus while pointing to where the bus number was painted and oh-so-casually daring me to complain.


But I digress. Because the point of today’s post is not to get all riled up about the past, but instead  to admit that I go both ways. No not those both ways, gutterbrain. The both ways involved in being able  to deliver the bitter as well as the sweet.

Witness today’s sugar regarding today’s bus encounter shared at the MTA’s online customer comments form:

As I consider it equally important to highlight bus operator behavior both excellent and inexcusable, following the complaint I filed (No. 3896) earlier this week regarding the inconsiderate operator of MTA Bus No. 8115, I wanted to write in to commend the operator of bus No. 3011 who this morning while westbound on Venice Boulevard approaching Hauser demonstrated excellent awareness and consideration for me on my bicycle in the Class II striped bike lane. Similar to No. 8115, No. 3011 approached me on the left from the rear, but instead of honking and forcing her bus across the bike lane to the curb she instead came to a stop in the traffic lane, leaving me with the right of way and allowing me to proceed safely to the intersection. It may be a minor matter, but I greatly appreciated it and the operator should be recognized for doing her part to share the road.

Here’s the timelapse video snip of her doing the right thing. And below is a “Goofus & Gallant” side-by-side images stills of the two, with No. 8011 on the left fully occupying the solid striped portion of the bike lane as I brake and go toward the curb, and No. 3011 on the right staying completely in the traffic lane — bonus kudos for doing so when she had the broken bike lane line she could have legitimately crossed over into (slightly biggifiable if clicked):


Complaint No. 14714

Via the LADOT website I filed this complaint after almost being smushed by the impatient and reckless driver of Dash Bus No. 99058, between it and parked cars on Fountain Avenue last evening:

I am a commuter bicyclist and was riding home eastbound on Fountain Avenue yesterday (May 21) evening. Having crossed Highland Avenue at approximately 6:55 p.m. traveling in what’s commonly referred to as the “door zone” alongside the cars parked on the south side of the street I was overtaken and passed by Dash Bus No. 99058.

Demonstrating a total disregard for safety and the law, the bus driver accelerated and passed me less than a foot away from my left shoulder forcing me to stop in order to avoid either being hit directly by the bus or pinned between the bus and the parked cars to my right.

Any precious time saved in this dangerous and entirely illegal and unnecessary manuever was negated by the four-way stop sign a couple blocks further east that we arrived at almost simultaneously. And while keeping pace with the bus all the way to Wilcox, when I looked to the driver for any kind of recognition of her wrongdoing all I got was a defiant attitude and some unheard words in return.

Though clearly the driver is not aware of either the proper and legal way to pass a cyclist nor the potential consequences of her inconsiderate and reckless actions, I trust that the LADOT can comprehend that had I not taken evasive action I could have been severely injured or killed because of her impatience and utter dismissal of my legal right to the road.

Therefore it would be in the best interest of the LADOT to reinforce upon this driver — and all your vehicle operators — a respect for cyclists’ rights to the road.

Crimp My Ride

A couple years or so ago I had been hopeful that I could limit driving my truck enough so that it could roll past our 10th anniversary this coming July 7 without having yet hit the 100,000 mile mark.

To be honest, it’s totally silly and I should just get over it because there’s no real reason for all the drama other than I like the idea of having driven the dependable thing less than 10,000 miles per year. Yes, even if its 9,999.9999999 per year.

Realistically speaking, it’s probably not going to happen or to make it so will take a supreme alt-commute effort, because with just less than three months to go and a fresh extension on my El Segundo gig potentially stretching to the end of May, the odometer stands right now at 99,650.

But at least for the next several weeks until our vacation in May I’m going to give it one helluva nondriving try by pretending I don’t have a truck and alternating between biking and mass-transiting to work and back. When I absolutely positively might need a vehicle I’ll either beg Susan to let me borrow her’s or employ my long-dormant Flexcar membership. I don’t expect I’ll be using it that much, in part because it seems a touch retarded  to spend upwards of $50-plus to use a Flexcar vehicle for a workday in exchange for keeping 40-50 however precious miles off my odometer, but with one of their hybrids stationed as close to me as 1st and Vermont, if I need it to run a couple hours worth of errands on a weekend, at $8 an hour that won’t be at all ridiculous.