Aftershocks are keeping anxiety levels high as Southern Californians begin to put their lives back together after the Northridge quake. People who have always depended on our freeways are reluctantly turning to public transportation and discovering its many benefits. Others from areas not affected by the temblor are learning valuable lessons about being prepared. And who can leave out the many volunteers who have shown us that in order to cope we have to work together. A look at how people are doing.
Budget analyst, USC; lives in Chatsworth
I have taken Commuter Express for about four years. I wanted the opportunity to spend the hour or more of the commute in something other than driving. I enjoy reading and I do that on the bus--some for work, some for study, some for pleasure. After the quake, riding the bus was an opportunity to be with people who obviously shared the experience very closely. The bus tends to be a community.
Computer programmer, County-USC Medical Center; lives in West Los Angeles
I’ve driven for the 10 years I’ve worked here. After the quake, not only was my freeway--the Santa Monica--taken, I just didn’t have conscience to drive alone. It was sad for me to see people driving alone. And once I was ready to go back to work I decided to try the bus. During the rain, I chose not to take the bus. But I think for the next year, we really need to help by doing some kind of ride sharing. I’ll take the bus a couple times a week.
Human resources adviser, ARCO Downtown; lives in Santa Clarita
The biggest problem is parking at Metrolink. There are so many riding now that the lot is full way before 5 a.m. I’m getting up at 3:15 a.m. to get to the station by 4:30 to park close. Otherwise, you have to use the lot at the Saugus Speedway. And it’s been taking 45 minutes to get out of the lot even with sheriffs helping direct traffic because of the gridlock.
I’ve had a complete change of lifestyle. I wasn’t used to public transportation and drove myself in since the mid-'70s. I dragged my feet about giving up my parking space downtown because I thought it meant giving up my freedom. But I’ve made a commitment to the train. It will save me so much money. A pass is $144 a month, which is just about what my parking was. And that’s not counting gas for my Dodge Caravan.
HILARY R. DAILY
Receptionist Downtown, lives in West L.A.
I’ve lived here 2 1/2 years and don’t own a car. The buses are wonderful.
I take the Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines Freeway Flier No. 10. It normally takes me about 40 minutes to get to work. Now it’s up to an hour but that’s not bad. You can read, go to sleep, talk to different people. And the notion of buses being dangerous is a fallacy.
I just wish companies would offer more incentive for workers. It’s got to be more economical than employee parking. And I bet a lot of parking structures are not that safe after the earthquake, which should be another incentive to get people off the street and into buses.
Electrician, ABC, Los Angeles; Canyon Country resident
Before the quake, I was carpooling with a guy from Palmdale. It took about 40 minutes. My shift starts at 7 a.m. The first two days after the quake I didn’t even attempt to get in because I heard that bridge was down. On Wednesday, I heard how bad the traffic was so I left at 3:15 a.m., was here in 45 minutes and had to wait three hours to go to work. No way am I go to do that so on Thursday I gave the train a shot and it turned out pretty well.
Data network architect, AT&T; in L.A.; lives in Santa Clarita
I’ve been riding Metrolink for about a year. Initially, I was riding the buses but found them crowded and confined. So I tried the trains. It was during the big rainstorms last year. Generally speaking, I was able to get down and back in no time at all. We formed a core group; there’s about 15 people who work for different companies and who live in the Santa Clarita Valley but prior to riding the train didn’t know each other. We’ve had three parties outside of work we call “Metrolink get-togethers.”
On the train, we are taking an average of a little over an hour commute.
LINDA STEINER LEE
Assistant director of public information, UCLA; Pasadena resident
People don’t think of us up in the Pasadena area, but this getting across the Valley east to west is a real problem and taking an RTD bus is not an answer.
I have tried car-pooling on different occasions and alternate routes. But car-pooling helps only in terms of lessening the stress of your being the sole driver. You are still on the road for two hours one way, which is very frustrating. It would be wonderful if there were east-west Metrolink service.
Art traffic manager, MCA Records, Universal City; lives in Castaic
Before the quake, I drove. Afterward, I decided to take the train because under the circumstances it has become a timesaver. Each day, things seem to go a little smoother and quicker. It takes about an hour and 40 minutes to get to work. Getting home takes a little longer; it seems more people go home at the same time.
One great thing about it is that I’ve met more people from the area I live in. I’ve also met a lot of people here at work I didn’t know before and didn’t know they lived out in my area.
Legal secretary, Santa Monica, lives in Canyon Country
I started in the van pool on July of ’93. Before that I drove. The office where I work is really cooperative in helping out and being understanding about times and paying for most of it. There are 10 of us in the pool and we get along. After the quake, it’s been fine. We’ve given suggestions on what routes to take and everyone’s been really cooperative.
One thing we don’t understand is everybody talks about getting people out of Santa Clarita into Los Angeles and the Valley, but no one seems to care about getting us back. We can get to work in less than an hour and it takes four hours to get home.