Next Stop: Immobility

An A to Z Guide to Surviving the Death/Pause/Sunshine of the CenterLine

Photo by Tenaya HillsTwo weeks ago, readers of the Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register learned that the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) board of trustees would snuff out the pipe on which they'd all been taking hits for a decade, the pipe that produced visions of a 90-mile light-rail system that would speed workers from home to high-tech office, eliminate traffic, maybe cure cancer. Then—looped, cracked-out, coming down—they apparently saw reality. "End of the Line for CenterLine," the Register screamed on its Feb. 5 front page. The Times took a few more days to declare the project "The Little Rail Line That Couldn't."

But not so fast. On Feb. 12, OCTA trustees voted to delay—not kill—CenterLine as it considers such alternatives as Bus Rapid Transit, street widening, improved bus service and even maglev lines. Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, whose city would gain the most out of the initial 9.3-mile CenterLine route, characterized the decision as a "pause."

Running bravely against ancient wisdom, the board said it would be nuts to abandon the project after spending nearly a decade and $63 million to study and promote the trolley. Now, it has become the Pope John Paul II of light-rail plans—antiquated, infirm, slowly shrinking to a rumor of its former glory, refusing to die.

But what's the alternative? What we have now sucks. No one wants to ride the bus, domain of the ethnic and poor. Rail choices such as the Metrolink, while successful, occupy pathways originally set up to benefit ranches and farmers back in the day when there were ranches and farmers. Building new roads and freeways costs billions and, given our state budget, will probably never happen. And hover bikes? Still a fantasy left for The Simpsons.

So, whether the CenterLine is dead, suffering a Pythonian flesh wound or, as OCTA's website puts it, basking in eternal "sunshine," one thing's certain as we read the morning paper while idling on the 22 freeway: we're boned. (Gustavo Arellano)

AisforAlertBesides not leaving your house, the best way to avoid traffic in Orange County is to surf the net. There are two great websites that provide free, up-to-the-minute traffic updates for Orange County freeways. Both use color-coded symbols to represent the various levels of congestion you might encounter. Green is fast-moving, yellow is stop-and-go congestion, and red is parking lot. But let's not forget gray, which is the symbol for "We've got no fucking idea because our website isn't working right now." That's a common color on the California Department of Transportation's traffic-alert website: www.dot.ca.gov/dist12/D12_tmc/webmap/d12map.html. For more accurate traffic updates, try Cox Communication's superb Orange County area traffic site: www.cox.com/OC/cci/traffic/oc_frame.asp. (Nick Schou)

BisforBroadwater,BruceFreeway traffic—at least in North OC—has no greater friend than Garden Grove Mayor Bruce Broadwater. In October 2003, Broadwater sued OCTA, trying to force the agency to widen his city's freeway underpasses and on-ramps. Broadwater's lawsuit stopped all work to widen the 22 freeway. In July, OCTA settled the lawsuit so that work on the freeway could go forward more quickly, and on Sept. 22, the agency held a press conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the start of actual construction. At the event, Broadwater employed a vaguely sexual reference to brag that his lawsuit had forced OCTA to spend state money on his city's freeway underpasses. "OCTA bent for us and kept bending and kept bending and kept bending," Broadwater said. "Our lawyers kept saying, 'Bruce, you've got enough, you've got enough.' I said, 'We can go a little further, you know.' . . . But uh . . . it's really gonna make the flow under the freeway great, as well as the flow on top of it." Broadwater's remarks betrayed his true goal: not to improve the flow on the 22—which would benefit his future constituents—but to take as much money away from that effort to improve traffic in Garden Grove, which is an even worse traffic nightmare than the 22, thanks to Broadwater, who squandered the city's street-widening cash on traffic-generating hotels. (NS)

CisforCenterLine"The CenterLine might just be the best thing to happen to Orange County since sunshine," says OCTA's website, and ain't that the truth because sunshine burns!? Originally proposed in 1992 as a 90-mile light-rail system that would eliminate traffic forever, it instead became a $63 million metaphor for a county in love with the automobile. Cities didn't want it, fearful it would eliminate valuable automobile lanes; conservatives argued that the CenterLine was "social engineering" designed to eliminate every American's right to the road (see "Greenhut, Steven") and would cause more delays than alleviate congestion. Incredibly, the OCTA's own studies continually bolstered the opposition's argument: one gem recently uncovered by longtime CenterLine crank Jack Mallinckrodt revealed that while the CenterLine would supposedly eliminate traffic by 43,000 person-miles per day, additional traffic caused by its construction would ultimately increase traffic along rail-throughway streets such as Bristol Street by a whopping 156,000 person-miles per day. Leaving aside the question of what the hell a "person-mile" is, here's a layman's translation: your currently leisurely drive up Bristol will soon resemble Baghdad on a Friday night during Ramadan. Little tidbits like that caused cities to ditch the project in droves. As a result, CenterLine shrunk from 90 miles in 1992 to 32 miles in 2001 to 9.3 miles in 2004 to bubkes today. (GA)

DisforDUIDon't get one. If you already have one, you know exactly what's going on. Don't fucking get one. You will owe so much money, you will be so inconvenienced, you will hate it. It's fucked. The AA meetings. The mandatory MADD appearance. The court appearances and alcohol classes. That shameful state of being in which you're terrified you'll be exposed to the world as a hopeless, pathetic drunk only to realize there are so many people so more successful/prosperous and together than you going through the same exact bullshit. Don't get a DUI. Because if you fuck up and get a second, your life is really shit. For a very long time. The first one is hard enough to deal with. The second will fuck you like nothing next to falling in love with a lying whore will fuck you. If you drive and if the cops stop you and test you and you have a blood-alcohol content of more than 0.08, you're getting a DUI, Jack. So don't get a DUI. How? Simple. Don't fucking drink and drive, asshole! (Joel Beers)

EisforEconomicsIf the automobile is to be the death of us, then Charles Lave is clearly at the acceptance stage of things. Lave, a UC Irvine economics professor and associate director of its Institute of Transportation Studies, has studied and written about cars for some time. And while the author of "Quit Riding Us About Californian's Loving Their Cars" allows that we are tied to our cars, he rejects the notion that the present generation is any different than the drivers who went before them. "If you remember, back then [in the 1970s], prices went from 33 cents to a dollar—that's a tripling of price," he said. "Now we talk about gas going from $1.80 to $2.40. In actuality, that's not as big an increase. Price will eventually discourage people from driving. Estimates are if the price doubles, goes to $4, people will reduce their driving by 20 percent. But, I might add, it probably wouldn't be in their commuting to work." Unlike some traffic wonks and anyone caught in the 5 o'clock crush on the 405 behind some yahoo who doesn't know how to turn off his blinker, Lave is neither apoplectic nor apocalyptic when it comes to the car. He is of a mind that people have been tied to it since the 1930s and nothing—not gas prices, not increased traffic, not mass-transit alternatives—has or will change that any time soon. "There was a survey done by the LA Times in the mid-'50s. It ran two polls on separate days. The first asked something like, 'Do you think LA needs a high-speed rail network to help get people out of their cars?' Ninety percent said yes. The next poll asked that if the rail system was comfortable, efficient and got you to your destination as fast as your car—basically, was perfect—would you use it? Ninety percent said no. The reasonable interpretation to draw from that is that people support public transit so other people will take it and allow them more room on the road." Still, Lave believes that though people may prefer their cars—a lot—they are not the mindless slaves that are usually presented. "The media likes to center on the super-commuter who spends four hours on the road because it's a better story," he said. "In actuality, between 1990 and 2000, on average, most people's commutes increased by two to three minutes. For the most part, people deal with their commute themselves if it's too long. They move closer to work, leave earlier, for example." By the way, as far as solutions are concerned, CenterLine? Not so much. "I calculated the amount of cars the CenterLine would take off the freeway; it's in the one to two thousand range," he said. "Using [CenterLine supporters'] demand numbers, if the system were built, it would eliminate approximately 1,680 cars at rush hour. That's a lane of traffic. That's nothing." (Steve Lowery)

FisforFucked-UpStudentParkingOrange County college students know—or should know—that if they don't want to circle parking lots like vultures or trek a quarter of a mile to a lecture, they better arrive on campus at least an hour before class. Why? Orange County is home to roughly 15 colleges and the more than 200,000 students that come with them—most of whom own a car. Take UCI, for example. Anteaters—of which there are 24,123—must pay a whopping $396 (annual commuter), $297 (academic annual commuter) or $99 (quarter commuter) to squeeze into one of 12,506 commuter parking stalls. Parking woes don't seem to fluctuate by campus size, either—though Orange County's community-college students need only pay a fraction of UCI's permit price (about $30 per semester, $60 per academic year). Want to try skipping the permit and parking without one? Don't even think about it: parking citations over the span of an academic year at UCI and other OC colleges ($25 to $30 for not displaying a valid permit) may, over time, surpass the cost of the permit itself. (Kelli Conkey)


GisforGreenhut,StevenThe Orange County Register editorial writer dug the grave for the CenterLine by fusing hard stats with NIMBY-ite rhetoric in articulate editorial after articulate editorial on the subject. He was also the journalist most responsible for branding the CenterLine a "boondoggle" in Orange County's popular imagination, using it every time he trashed the trolley. He insists traffic will never improve in the county as long as OCTA continues to employ "transit guys. Mostly, they have the mindset of social engineers—they think we ought to abandon our cars and take transit." Greenhut's solution? "Widen roads, expand freeways, fix streets, improve bus service." (GA)

HisforHandicappedEven more annoying than traffic is parking. Not enough parking, abominably priced parking, too-fucking-far-away-from-the-bar parking, etc. What most people are okay with is handicapped parking; as a society, we accept that some people require that extra convenience, even as we haul ass into a wide-open handicapped space when all the standard spots are full, but only a minute later shame-facedly sprint back to our illegally parked car, feeling like a jackass. Eventually, the inevitable questions arise (perhaps just after witnessing a hugely obese man emerge from a permitted car): Just who gets to be "handicapped" and occupy the coveted spaces? Do the morbidly obese get access simply based on their weight? How long would it take to put on a deuce?" According to the DMV, anyone with a doctor's approval is granted a handicapped-parking placard. So with an M.D.'s go-ahead, fatness is reason enough for sweet parking. However, morbid obesity is also necessarily accompanied by serious health problems that can include heart failure and diabetes, and it can severely restrict mobility. Seeing as the morbidly obese are staring down both early death and social exile, being that much closer to Target is likely something we can allow. (Kate Carraway)

IisforImmobility"Immobility, I am afraid, is the future of Orange County," says UCI history professor and famed doomsayer Mike Davis. "There are no quick fixes or sci-fi maglev solutions to gridlock without a real marriage between transportation investment and regional land-use planning. And that is simply not on anyone's political agenda." Davis tells the story of how a friend who worked as a transportation planner in Southern California moved to North Carolina a few years ago, defeated. "He told me, 'The battle's lost, and the region will become one vast angry parking lot. Enjoy.'" (GA)

JisforJunkBondsIn his January state of the state address, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger promised new roads and a balanced budget. How? Privatization, a policy that ignores Orange County's unsuccessful San Joaquin Hills toll-road experiment. The cost of running the 16-mile road has exceeded budget by more than $6 billion; at one point, road bonds were downgraded to junk. Toll-road officials have asked Caltrans to slow improvements on nearby freeways in order to force more cars onto the San Joaquin, raised already-steep tolls, and devised upbeat, misleading PR campaigns. "It is proving to be quite difficult to do these projects fully privately," Robert Poole, a toll-road advocate with the libertarian Reason Foundation, said a few years ago. Even that admission was disengenuous: Orange County's toll roads were never "fully privately" funded—they are, in fact, the beneficiaries of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies. But shortly after the governor announced a new day for toll roads, Poole had an updated story: "The state can't afford to do anything more than add a few lane miles here and there," he said. "The reality is that new toll roads are dramatically better than no new roads at all." Unless, of course, they end up bankrupting us first. (R. Scott Moxley)

KisforCritical(WithaK)MassIt is not easy being a cyclist in OC. Automobiles dominate, and the county's uncreative solution to increasing traffic woes is, simply, more roads. Future development—from massive housing projects to tollways—only promises more gridlock. Some motorists are incensed when bicycles share their already-overcrowded asphalt. They spew epithets, hurl projectiles, edge into bike lanes or abruptly turn across the path of cyclists. There are bike paths—some quite good—but their coverage is limited, and storm damage or snail-paced maintenance efforts may close them for months. Critical Mass wants to make it easier for cyclists. Participants band together to promote cycling through monthly group rides. The message is that cycling is a sustainable form of transportation; it does not add to traffic congestion, produces no harmful emissions and reduces dependence on foreign oil. And it emphasizes that cyclists also have a right to the road. It is only an idea. There are no leaders and no central organization. Yet it is gaining popularity nationwide. In some cities, group rides include hundreds of cyclists, often creating conflict with inconvenienced motorists and law enforcement. However, the goal is not to alienate motorists, but rather to gain their acceptance. "It's about asserting our right to the road," one website advises, "not denying others their right to the road." Interested? You can join a Long Beach ride (www.bikelongbeach.org) or get advice on how to start your own (www.criticalmass.org). If nothing else, you'll be much healthier than the fat bastard in the Hummer who just tried to clip you with his side-view mirror. (Scott Giffin)

LisforLeahy,ArtOCTA's CEO since 2001 was lured from a similar position in Minnesota after he pushed through the Hiawatha Line, the Twin Cities' own light-rail disaster. Orange County officials expected Leahy to similarly shepherd the CenterLine to greener valleys, but it was instead sent out to pasture. Leahy directed his staff to push unrealistic ridership projections that were so laughable, Orange County's congressional delegation never warmed up to OCTA's repeated pleas for federal pork. In fact, Leahy put so much effort into obtaining federal funding for the CenterLine these past couple of years that he neglected almost every other OCTA responsibility. Freeway maintenance tanked—did somebody say, "Goddamn it, I need another front-end alignment"? The bus union became angered at stalled contract talks. And the working class that compromises most of OCTA's bus ridership were burdened with higher fees and the elimination of monthly bus passes for students. Nevertheless, the OCTA Board of Trustees rewarded Leahy last fall with a contract extension, a raise and a $6,000 bonus for his "outstanding performance during the past year." (GA)

MisforMassTransitAmerican dependence on Mideast oil has produced a string of despotic regimes whose main export—after petroleum products—is popular anti-Americanism. From the toppling of the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 and U.S. support of Saddam Hussein through the 1980s to our present-day support of the House of Saud, domestic gasoline consumption fuels Mideast fascism. That's one reason for the success of al-Qaeda. Every time you drive your car, al-Qaeda achieves a little victory; every time you park your car and take a bus, you make Osama bin Laden cry. (Will Swaim)

NisforNewHomesThe Orange County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 8 approved the Rancho Mission Viejo project, paving the way for at least 14,000 new homes and hundreds of acres of commercial development in South County between Mission Viejo, Camp Pendleton and the Cleveland National Forest. Supervisor Tom Wilson, a major proponent of the plan, says that Rancho Mission Viejo won't bring new traffic to Orange County because the developer will provide $144 million in traffic-mitigation funds. But all those new lanes will only make it easier for thousands of extra cars to hit the road in South County. As the Foothill Transportation Corridor and the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor—two taxpayer-funded toll roads meant to serve brand-new gated communities—have already demonstrated, more roads just mean more homes, and more homes means more traffic. If you live in South County and like the slow pace of life there, get ready for things to get even slower. (NS)

OisforOCTAAcronym for Orange County Transportation Authority, the multibillion-dollar agency that is supposed to mitigate traffic and other transportation problems for county residents but instead usually exacerbates them. (GA)

PisforPotholelandiaDerisive nickname for Santa Ana, whose mayor, Miguel Pulido, is one of the most influential members of the OCTA board of trustees. To wit: last year, he lobbied the Orange County League of Cities for another six-year board term despite bylaws calling for his removal and also urged then-state Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) to sponsor legislation that expanded the OCTA board of trustees from 11 members to 17, a move the League of Cities called "controversial." He remains the last man to burn the CenterLine candle: he told The Orange County Register that CenterLine's defeat is actually "a transition. . . . [Transportation officials could] keep our options open and convert it (to light rail) later"—primarily because 80 percent of its proposed path would pass through Santa Ana. Meanwhile, Santa Ana streets slowly return to the dirt that birthed them. (GA)

QisforQuintessentialCarGuySince he designs smart stuff all day in Mercedes-Benz's top-secret batcave in Irvine, you'd think Nick Garfias would be on the waiting list for a DaimlerChrysler Smart car, or else drive a Prius or bicycle. But Garfias drives to exceed—not just to strike down with great vengeance and furious anger Hondas on the 405, but to demonstrate the invincibility of quintessential Detroit muscle: the Dodge Hemi V8. Dodge and Garfias both resurrected the Hemi V8 at around the same time several years ago: the car company testing the waters by reintroducing its most famous, most powerful engine ever (now available virtually across the Dodge line); Garfias by acquiring a 1950s-era edition of the Hemi to put in the period-correct hot-rod roadster he's building. A '29 A on a Deuce frame (in authentic gearhead talk), it sits next to a chopped 1930 Ford Model A coupe (with a 1956 Chevy V8) in his Long Beach garage with a huge "MOPAR performance" banner on the inside of the swinging door, right in front of a 1927 Ford Model T roadster body that belongs to a friend. (MOPAR stands for Dodge Motor Parts.) Garfias is nothing if not committed to his cause: the transport of himself and others from one place to another quickly by V8, preferably ancient, preferably Dodge. Outside his garage—because he's out of room—sits his former daily driver: a Day-Glo orange 1969 Roadrunner with a bad transmission. Before that, he drove a red 1964 Dodge Polara with a reproduction 1964 Pomona Winternationals window sticker, and before that, a 1967 Plymouth Satellite painted Richard Petty-blue primer and lowered over blacked-out NASCAR-style steel wheels that he tracked down and bought back to put on the Roadrunner. So WMDs were in Long Beach the whole time—but why? "Because, yeah, well, where do I start? The same reason I'm at this job is the same reason you're asking this question," he says. Translation: in California, you are what you drive—and some of you go to the Winternationals every year and try to get down by the starting line where you go deaf in the sound and the smell of nitromethane in the morning. (Theo Douglas)


RisforRedCarLinesThe prenatal death of the CenterLine project makes it hard to imagine a future in which Orange County will ever be linked by a light-rail system to the rest of Southern California. What makes this particularly pathetic is that half a century ago, we already were. The signature red cars of the Pacific Electric Railway once ran to stations in Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and even down the Balboa Peninsula to the Pavilion. There were 20 roundtrips a day between Santa Ana and LA. The ride from downtown H.B. to downtown LA took 62 minutes, and you could continue on—pleasantly reading, playing checkers or making whoopee—all the way to Santa Monica, Ventura or Redlands. According to historian Spencer Crump, the commuter link the Pacific Electric created was crucial to OC's development. In a 1992 interview, Crump said that early in the 20th Century, "there was really no work in Orange County except in the orange groves or in retail stores. The work was in LA. The main reason some of these cities—Cypress, Garden Grove and Santa Ana—grew was because they were on the Red Car line." The Pacific Electric's 900 cars and 1,150 miles of track weren't the result of altruism or civic action; they happened because, for a time, greed coincided with the public interest. The rail line was never particularly profitable for owner Henry Huntington, at least not directly. He also owned the electric companies that powered them and the cities he created by buying and developing large tracts of land on the cheap so he could run rail lines there. He wasn't shy about this, which is why towns wound up with names like Huntington Beach. As automobiles became more popular, the Red Car lines lost riders and lost even more when the trains were slowed by traffic right-of-ways. Eventually, the Pacific Electric was sold to a consortium that included General Motors and Firestone Tires, whose interest lay in doing away with the trains, which they did with a biblical finality, tearing up the rails and dumping the train cars in the ocean or shipping them to South America. By 1961, the Pacific Electric was no more. "We've created a sort of hell here, I think, compared to 35 years ago," Crump mused in 1992. "I liked it when we could see the mountains. It's been a nice deal for the oil companies, but for individual people, we are only faced with a tremendous and complete traffic jam that doesn't give us anything." (Jim Washburn)

SisforSig-AlertShortcutsSig-Alerts are named after the man who blah-blah-blah. I am so fucking tired of banging out that stupid old story. So, rather than bringing you something you could give a shit about, here are some surface-street shortcuts.

INSTEAD OF THE 5: Head south; exit Katella/Orangewood and bear left to Orangewood. Follow past the 5/22 interchange to the Main/Broadway exit. Also use The City/Chapman/State College/La Veta cluster to avoid the 5/22/57 interchange, and use the Main exit off the 22 East to avoid the scary 5/22 right-merge interchange.

INSTEAD OF THE 22: From Santa Ana, take 17th Street west until it becomes Westminster. Continue west until Westminster becomes Second Street in Long Beach. Enjoy scenic views of napalm bunkers at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station. Or vice versa.

INSTEAD OF THE 55: Newport Boulevard along the 55, then right on Bristol and left on Redhill, which will loop you up to Santa Ana, right over those ugly, cloggy freeways. Jamboree works the same way. Cutting out Newport is even better—Baker to Mesa Verde to Placentia to Superior to PCH and beach fun.

INSTEAD OF THE 405: Warner to Beach to Slater, which turns into Segerstrom, and then Dyer and takes you all the way to the 55 and beyond. Or Adams over the bridge to Harbor, or even sneakier, Placentia, to dump you to PCH or just the cosmo part of Costa Mesa. Warner also hits PCH, to take you to/from Long Beach. Or Main to Sunflower past Euclid to the 405 to avoid (or become part of) the Euclid bottleneck. (Chris Ziegler)

Tis for Traffic (Both Kinds)Traffic is a 2000 movie starring Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, Orrin Hatch, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Don Cheadle that had nothing to do with freeway congestion—except for the kind you see on the south end of the U.S. Immigration checkpoint at San Ysidro. Traffic is also the classic rock band that paved the way for Steve Winwood's amazing career—until his famously terrible ballad "Higher Love." (GA)

UisforUniform,OrangeYou were late on child support, got busted with a small stash of weed and tried to evade the cops while drunk one night. You're given freeway-shoulder cleanup duty in lieu of jail. But you're still hating life. You think it's going to be hard, exhausting work, and you see visions of stabbings, rapes and shootings. Don't freak: it's not nearly as bad as you think. Sure, you have to get up ungodly early and take orders from people who couldn't spell meth if you spotted them the consonants, but observant types quickly figure out the system. You'll know which duties not to step up for (the whistle on the side of the freeway sucks). You'll realize just how little you actually have to do all day. You'll even see that although types you probably wouldn't invite over for your next Williams-Sonoma dinner party surround you, everyone's in the same boat, regardless of ethnicity or income bracket. And you have a common bond: fuck authority. It's like being in high school again. Except instead of avoiding continuation school, you're avoiding jail. And if that ain't incentive enough to get out of bed before the crack of dawn and pull some weeds, what is? (JB)

VisforVendettaYou can argue that the CenterLine's fate was actually decided not in 2005, but in 1878. That's when Collis P. Huntington, robber-baron extraordinaire and owner of the Southern Pacific Railroad, sued James Irvine Sr. in federal court for the right to build a railroad through the 108,000-acre Irvine Ranch. Irvine refused Huntington's generous, repeated offers for the right of way through the Ranch as a personal vendetta: seems that a young Huntington cheated a young Irvine in poker during a boat trip around the Horn while both were heading to California's Gold Rush. Shockingly, the courts decided in Irvine's favor; as one historian put it, "It was one of the few times when the political power of a railroad company did not win the day in the 1800s." Later on, Irvine's heirs allowed the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe to lay tracks through their ranch, effectively killing the Southern Pacific's plan for total domination of Southern California. Nearly 125 years later, voters in the city that bears Irvine's surname did the same to CenterLine dreams by rejecting a ballot measure that would've allowed CenterLine to extend from UCI to John Wayne Airport. (GA)

WisforWastingTimeontheBusLet's go to a concert! But the band you want to see is playing in Hollywood. One problem: no car. Oh, well, the public transportation of OCTA will help right? Here is my typical itinerary to get from Irvine to the Roxy using all transportation means possible. The goal is to get to the show by 8 p.m.

4:52 p.m. Depart from UCI at the University Center on Bus No. 470/Tustin Metrolink. Current mood: a little pissed that I have to leave so early when Hollywood is an hour's drive away.

5:28 p.m. Get off at Tustin Station-Metrolink. Current mood: still pleasant—hmmmm, the people who ride the buses are interesting.

5:35 p.m. Go to 2975 Edinger Ave. to board the Metrolink Orange Line/LA Union Station. Current mood: back to being pissed because it will still take more than an hour to get to LA.

6:45 p.m. Woo-hoo! Arrive one minute early to Union Station. Now I go to the northwest corner of Cesar E. Chavez Avenue and Broadway and board the No. 002/Pacific Palisades bus and pay a fare of $1.35. Current mood: scared like shit! Have you ever been to Union Station after dark?

7:55 p.m. Finally, I arrive at Sunset and Hammond. Only about $16 one way and two hours and 10 minutes of my life. Current mood: confused because the buses stop at 11 p.m. in Irvine, and I would need to leave the Roxy a half an hour ago to make it back home on time! (Susan Morgan)

Xisfor"X-cuseMe!You'reStandingonMyHouse"Anyone who has worked on an Orange County crew for Caltrans for more than a handful of days has likely performed the job of cleaning up a homeless encampment, usually located by a freeway entrance or exit near an irrigation channel. No matter how Orwellian or Kerouacian your homeless sentiments, there ain't no romance or Bohemia to be found. These are fucked-up people barely surviving in the bosom of the most bountiful nation on Earth. Look at the detritus they collect in order to feel connected: plastic bags stuffed with molding clothing; hardcore porno magazines; sad-eyed kid's dolls; empty syringes; empty aluminum-foil boxes; coffee-can lids; empty alcohol bottles; hopelessly weathered books and newspapers; and nothing after nothing after nothing. Amazing how the most shat-upon and reviled elements of our population hang onto the same empty crap embraced by the bourgeois. Except the no-rent district smells A LOT worse. (JB)

YisforElToroYThe El Toro Y, where the 405 freeway and Interstate 5 intersect, is the most famously congested area of Orange County, except for the Orange Crush, where the 5, 57 and 22 freeways intersect. According to the July 5, 2004, LA Times article "The Road More Heavily Traveled," between 1975 and 2002, "Interstate 5 traffic in Orange County doubled or tripled along many sections. At the El Toro Y . . . the number of vehicles has jumped from 102,000 to 356,000 a day, enough to fill the Dodger Stadium parking lot more than 22 times." (NS)

ZisforZzzzzz(SleepingontheBus,Gus)Philosophically, I'm a big fan of public transit. It really seems like the only equalizing, democratic institutions left in the U.S. are mass transit and maybe public libraries. A strong public-transit system also features such cool by-products as environmental responsibility and the waging of a tiny war against consumerism. However, the sad truth about Orange County's public transit is that it sucks, although it's not entirely shocking that the home of the highest-grossing Mercedes dealership in the world is host to a shoddy system of buses. I've traversed a staggering network of subways, streetcars, buses and trains in a variety of cities and through vast expanses of northern Ontarian wilderness, and I've never encountered a system that quite matches the OCTA's feeble offerings. Not to be all "where I come from," but where I come from, the mayor rides the subway to work with all of us plebeians. This kind of mass-transit promotion and inclusiveness wouldn't even be possible here. A few days after moving to Orange County, I boarded the bus in Laguna Beach and headed to the OC Weekly office in Santa Ana. My trip included a one-hour detour into Costa Mesa due to a still-unfixed flaw on the trip-planning page of the OCTA website. Going home took a little longer—four hours—because an OCTA operator forgot to mention that my final bus home would leave me deserted on the side of the PCH. In the dark. During the rainstorm. This all went down on my 24th birthday—if there hadn't been an ample supply of celebratory Pacificos waiting for me at home, I may have thrown a palm tree through an OCTA-owned windshield. This very morning, after a few weeks of feeling a little more on-point with the bus situation, I stood yawning at my stop to catch the first of six buses I ride each day, only for my bus to speed by. Maybe the driver didn't like the look of me. In an attempt at living all California Zen-like, I've found a few pockets of greatness in my OCTA experiences. I get to zone out for four hours a day with my Discman and a book—it's like enforced leisure. Alternate forms of bus entertainment include inventing fabulous life stories for my fellow passengers because the likely reasons they take the bus (socioeconomics, DUIs, lack of American car insurance—cough) are really boring. I also get to admire the pretty ocean and take naps. The other passengers on the bus are a crap shoot: either mega-entertaining (some skate rats being denied a lift due to their lack of both money and bus passes, resulting in their screaming, "Fag!" at the amused driver and spitting on the bus) or terrifying (being invited to a party in a young gentleman's pants, called a stupid cunt in response to rejection of said invitation) or baffling (older woman imploring me to "find my truth") or awfully sad (the myriad individuals who appear so downtrodden and dejected, reaping no benefit from a region so wealthy it could goldleaf the freeways, that it makes a person's heart stop). I guess it all comes down to the math: 40 bucks per month + cool bus drivers + never having to drive hungover < four hours per day + sexual harassment + nearly useless public transit system = fuck this bullshit. (KC)?

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