Note: This article was first published several years ago, before Uber and Lyft were a thing. So the only way to get around was via taxis or public transportation.
I don’t chase after buses.
I’m an urban guy who takes public transit everywhere. But I never want to be seen sprinting down the sidewalk shouting, “Wait, wait!” to catch a bus at the last second before it leaves the stop.
When you run after a bus, either you miss it, in which case everyone looks out the window at you as the bus pulls away, thinking, “It sucks to be you!,” or you make it, in which case your fellow passengers look down upon you, either for delaying the bus or simply for being the kind of person who is willing to maniacally run after a vehicle in public.
I’d rather wait 10 minutes for the next bus then surrender a portion of my dignity to make that chase.
On this night in Los Angeles, though, I make an exception. It’s late, and my friend and I are in Echo Park, a neighborhood that (like Humboldt Park in Chicago) has long been dangerous but has been starting to gentrify into a hipster haven in recent years. Despite its metamorphosis, Echo Park is still a bit seedy at times, and 1 am on a weeknight is one of those times.
As we jump off one bus and head over to make our connection to the final bus home to our Roomorama property in Silver Lake, we see that our bus is already there, ahead of schedule. “Oh no, it’s early!” Realizing that the next bus won’t come for a full hour, we race over to try to grab this one before it leaves.
We fail. The bus pulls away. It sucks to be us.
Getting caught without a bus in Los Angeles
This article is not meant to be an indictment of the Los Angeles public transportation system. In fact, one of my recent posts was How to Visit Los Angeles Without a Car and explained how you can, contrary to popular belief, spend a week in L.A. getting around by bus and train.
Just be aware that if you do that, you may encounter occasional obstacles. This was our one public transit fail during the entire week.
Having missed our bus, we consider our fate. We’re still at least a 30-minute walk from where we’re staying in Silver Lake, and we’re exhausted from walking all day. Waiting an hour on this dark street for the next bus is not an option. But we’re also on a tight budget, so dropping more than $20 for a cab – especially when we have weekly transit passes that get us free bus rides – just feels wrong. Plus, by the time a taxi gets here, we could already be home if we use our feet.
We walk for a few minutes while we consider hailing a cab. But we’re on a wide four-lane road with few houses, street art, and little foot traffic, so taxis aren’t coming through this area. We walk some more, then finally give up and decide to phone for a cab instead of waiting around for one that’s never going to come.
I give the dispatcher our intersection, but she tells me she needs an actual address. I can’t give her an address, because it’s dark and the few buildings on this street are way back from the road and I can’t see a house number anywhere.
I’m also annoyed. Why is an intersection not sufficient? Does this lady not have Google Maps on her computer? Could she not take 5 seconds and type in the intersection to get the actual street number? Is this taxi company really willing to lose our business because they can’t be bothered to take 5 seconds to do a simple web search for a potential customer?
It drives me insane when businesses fail to provide the most basic level of customer service. Out of spite and as a matter of principle, I hang up, and we’re walking again.
We angrily march forward for the last part of the trek, which is entirely uphill. Finally, we make it home and collapse into bed. I have never slept so soundly.
We survived the late-night bus fiasco and saved the 20 bucks. That’s a win in my book!