Bill and Evelyn Minnis’ tiny living room is typical: sofa, chair, bookshelves, TV, VCR, pictures of the grandchildren.
But the view from the front door isn’t. The couple’s “front yard” is a Caltrans Park-and-Ride lot near the Pomona Freeway in Diamond Bar.
“The Honda Accord is the most popular car,” Evelyn Minnis, 52, said Wednesday as she looked over the vehicles left by commuters who car-pool from the site. “I got bored one day and did a survey.”
Caltrans lets the Minnises park their home--a 40-foot Coachman recreational trailer--in exchange for security services. The couple monitor the 225-space lot, and a smaller one across the street, for car thefts and vandalism. The Minnises occupy the northwest corner of the site and another couple, now on vacation, share the duties from the opposite end. Caltrans even provides utilities.
“There used to be about one car stolen per week” from the Diamond Bar lot, said Terry Blank, senior transportation planner for Caltrans.
But the couples’ presence seems to have been, as hoped, a deterrent. Neither couple has had to call the police since November, when they moved in after being recruited through newspaper and magazine ads.
The Minnises see their temporary home as a way to squirrel away rent money for retirement. Both work jobs in the early morning when the lot is empty. Bill Minnis, 56, delivers newspapers in Temple City from his Toyota station wagon. Evelyn Minnis works the 12:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. shift at a post office in Orange.
The couple previously lived in an RV park in Orange. The isolation of their new location “gets boring sometimes,” Bill Minnis said. Evelyn Minnis often “watches the cars go by” to pass the time.
But during rush hour they have lots of company and some interesting moments. They’ve been questioned more than once by sheriff’s deputies who thought they were squatters. And one commuter looking for his morning coffee was disappointed to find that their trailer wasn’t a snack bar.
For others, the trailer is a welcome sight. Helen Carson of Diamond Bar, who commutes by van pool to her job at Xerox in El Segundo, is one of the Caltrans statistics.
“My Datsun 280-Z was stolen from the lot two years ago,” said Carson, who now drives a Honda Accord. “When I came back here (in a new car), I saw the trailer. It is good. It is safe to park here.”
Blank said the success of the pilot program has encouraged Caltrans to try it at other Park-and-Ride lots. Glendora is next on the list.