This article appeared in the on-line magazine for actors The Networker on October 1, 2008
In last months article, I talked about how an actor can look good in Los Angeles on a bicycle. This month, I’m going to give some attention to the Kings and Queens on our roads: people who walk and take public transportation.
LA might not have the most comprehensive transit system around, but the weather is always good so we don’t need to worry about walking in rain and snow. That is certainly to our benefit!
People who walk and take public transportation are in the know about our streets and our neighborhoods. They are usually smarter about scheduling auditions and appointments, too, because they know exactly how long their trip will take. People who use public transit make smart trip choices and make the best use of their time.
When I take the Red Line subway to North Hollywood and Studio City for a job or an audition, or when I take a Metro Rapid bus to a Santa Monica photo session, I always use my travel time to review my sides and my script. On the way home, I usually end up reading the latest news in Variety, or read about the next best thing that’s onstage in American Theatre magazine.
Making connecting trips on the bus to the Red Line, Blue Line, Orange Line or Gold Line subways takes some practice, so if you are new to it, hop on public transit on a day that you don’t need to rush or worry about “what if’s.”
Look outside your home and workplace for the nearest bus stop; they usually have a bench. If there are no benches, look for a pole that has a sign with numbers on it, or a sign that says Rapid, Dash, or Big Blue Bus. These indicate that buses run in your neighborhood.
|Metro and Dash signs:||Rapid bus sign:||Big Blue Bus sign:|
If you see numbers on the sign they are route numbers. Write them down and use your computer to find the route of that bus on the metro website.
If the sign says Dash, go to the Dash website to find out where the Dash bus goes. It might just connect you to your home, work, or even the nearest coffee shop or farmers market.
If the sign says Rapid, go to the metro website to see where the Rapid goes. The Rapid goes long distances without stopping at every intersection, and they are as fast as driving a car. (I tried it and the Rapid actually beat me across town.) All Rapid buses have a 700 number. For instance, route 728 connects downtown with Culver City, 780 connects Hollywood with Pasadena and 750 connects Warner Center and Universal City.
A lot of commercial auditions are held along Ventura Blvd. in Studio City and Sherman Oaks. Take the Red Line subway from downtown LA, Koreatown or Hollywood to Universal Studios and hop on the 240 Metro bus that runs along Ventura. The 240 runs all the way out to Encino, and since it’s not Rapid transit, it will stop at every intersection. This bus will drop you off almost right in front of your casting office, and that is VIP service! You don’t need to find parking, find change in your pocket or risk getting ticketed or towed, and you will have plenty of time to prepare on the way to the audition.
Let’s say you are auditioning for a feature film and the audition is in Hollywood. Take the Red Line subway to Hollywood and Vine or Hollywood & Highland and walk to your audition. If you audition on Hollywood Blvd., you will have a beautiful walk from either station. If you are off Hollywood Blvd., you can take side streets and might discover a fun coffee shop or a small theatre that you always wanted to visit. Hollywood has many hidden gems, so take in the sights and the sounds and enjoy the journey instead of rushing in and out of the auditions. You’ll see that you have a much better time in front of the casting director this way if you are not worrying about your parking spot. You’ll also have something more unique to talk about than everybody else: “Ugh, parking was terrible,” or “Do you validate?” Stand out from the crowd by riding the Metro. Go to the Metro Trip planner and plan the trip to your next audition.
Taking public transportation can be extremely cheap if you consider all of the parking tickets, car maintenance fees, registration, maintenance, repairs and – of course – gas prices that we incur in a year. Kristina Wong, a working actress who lives on the west side, added up all the savings of being car free and I know it will inspire at least a few of you to ditch your car. If you feel you really need a car, you can always rent or borrow one…but more about that in next month’s article.
There are many Metro bus and rail pass options, but the simplest is the Day Pass. If you board more then 4 times in a day (for instance, you ride the Red Line subway, transfer to the bus and then reverse to get home), you would pay $1.25 for each ride. The Day Pas is $5.00.
If you only take the Red Line subway from downtown to the North Hollywood Theatre District and back, or the Rapid 780 bus from Hollywood to Pasadena and back, you can get a one-way ticket for $1.25 each time when you board the bus. You can use a credit card or cash to purchase one-way or Day Passes at each subway station, but if you board the bus you will need to have exact change.
Check the Pass and Token Directory for a location near you, but also be aware that the directory is not complete. For instance, neither my local Ralph’s nor the little Korean shop in my neighborhood is listed. Walk into your local grocery store and ask them if they sell passes; monthly passes are available on the 25th of each month for $62. Buy your passes early. They go fast!
If you decide to go to the main office at Union Station, don’t forget to pick up some maps and time tables. I promise that they will come in very handy. I have two Metro Bus and Rail System maps and timetables for my most used routes in my bag at all times.
Dash fares are a deal at only 25 cents. These buses are great for local trips and they connect many streets where the Metro doesn’t run.
BIKES ON THE METRO:
Some auditions are trickier to get to than others. Having a bike will help you connect the stretches of your route that have no bus service.
On the Red Line subway, your bike belongs in the space with the handicap sign (the Metro hasn’t figured out yet how to promote cycling, but our day will come). Train cars all have a handicap sign by the door that will work best for you to enter through. The first car always has a handicap space right behind the driver. If there is a person in a wheelchair in the spot, negotiate and communicate with them. If the space is being used by another cyclist, have a chat with them. I usually let other cyclists put their bikes right next to mine. Secure your bike with the kickstand, or lock or hook the handlebars onto the rail. Just make sure you’re not blocking the door.
If the space is packed, position your bike facing the door against the center pole. This way you won’t block the doors or people and you can roll your bike right out when you arrive at your destination.
Niether t he Gold Line subway, nor the Blue Line subway, have any space for bikes, but you can always place your bike at either end of the car if you’re not blocking the driver’s door. Always stay close to your bike. You don’t want someone grabbing it and running.
The Orange bus line has three bike racks on the front of each bus and all other busses have two. DASH busses don’t have any racks yet.
Always make eye contact with the bus operator before stepping in front to load your bike. When you reach your destination, use the front door to exit and let the driver know that you are taking your bike off the rack. If the rack is full and it’s off-peak hours, you can ask the driver if it’s okay to take your bike to the back of the bus. If they say no, tell them that you know it’s up to their discretion, and that you would appreciate it very much. (You might have to let drivers know that you are familiar with their rules fairly often. Otherwise, they will say no and won’t budge. The Metro website states that you need to wait for the next bus if the racks are full, but that is not always true. Ask the driver.)
SAFETY IN THE METRO AND ON THE STREETS:
A few years ago my husband and I took the Metro Red Line Art Tour, which is offered the first Saturday and Sunday of each month. We learned that the safest place to be in an earthquake (that is less than 8.5 on the Richter scale) is in a metro station. The tunnels are cylindrical, so they hold the walls together rather than collapsing like a house of cards, which square walls do. (Take the Art Tour and you’ll get a free subway pass for the day. This will be a perfect way for you to explore the LA subway system!)
Some other things we learned, not from the Art Tour but by using the Metro for years:
• Each station and each rail car is equipped with cameras (talk about Big Brother!). Each station also has emergency buttons at each level because cell phones don’t work underground. You can report accidents, crime or escalators and elevators that aren’t working.
• When you take public transportation, especially at night, keep your purse close to you and keep it closed. You don’t want your wallet, your cell phone or other gadgets to be visible for anybody to grab.
• Wear comfortable shoes if you have long distances to walk.
• If you parked your car at a Kiss & Ride lot so that you could ride the subway, when you return to it hold your keys so that they stick out between your fingers. This will deter anybody from jumping you.
• There are lots of elderly people and parents with little kids using the transit system. Lend a hand if you see that they need help. It will make their day and yours, too.
• Wait for everybody to exit before you board the bus or the train. Courtesy goes a long way!
• Don’t sit on the stairs in subway stations. The stairs are for walking and it is very difficult for elderly people to go around a person who sits in their way, or for a cyclist to carry their bike with a person blocking them. Also, in an emergency, you will be blocking the exit and you might get trampled.
• Don’t ride your bike in subway stations.
• If you ride your bike on the street, never pass a bus on the right. They won’t see you and they will squeeze you into the curb. Always pass a bus on the left!
• Don’t share the lane with a bus when you ride your bike! Buses are too wide and you will end up in the car door zone and put yourself in danger. Stay in control of the lane when a bus gets behind you. They will change lanes to pass you.
• If you would like to report a driver or any metro operator for good or bad behavior, do three things:
1. Write down the bus route number and the bus number. Bus numbers are on the front of the bus and also inside, above the driver. Note the time and date of the incident and the streets on which it occurred (i.e., Arlington at Vernon going south). If you can, give a description of the driver and get their badge number, which is on their shirt sleeve.
2. Call 1-800-464-2111 during business hours and report the incident. Give them the same information I listed above.
3. Use the information you gathered to email customer relations and file a complaint.
If you see a Dash or Metro bus idling on the side of the road, please report them as well. California law requires them to turn off their engines, but a lot of the drivers don’t and they pollute our air. CNG stands for Compressed Natural Gas. Gas is gas, even if it’s compressed. If you ride behind a bus, you will notice that it’s not to your benefit to breathe their exhaust. Ask buses to turn off their engines whenever they can!
• Riding the Metro is convenient, cheap, safe, and clean (in most cases).
• Riding the Metro will prevent the emission of greenhouse gases and you will help the planet regenerate itself.
• Riding the Metro will save you money so that you can afford to live at in a nice neighborhood close to theatres, shops and coffee houses. That way, you can walk to everything!
• Riding the Metro will give you the opportunity to study all sorts of people and develop tools for creating great characters in your work.
• Riding the Metro will give you some time to catch up on your reading.
• Riding the Metro will connect you to your community.
• Riding the Metro will help you lose weight and get your muscles toned naturally.
To find out more about the Metro visit their website or call 1-800-COMMUTE during business hours.
Enjoy the ride and let me know how your Metro adventures go!