3010 Wilshire Blvd. #362, Los Angeles, CA 90010

Southern California Transit Advocates is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion, development and improvement of public transportation in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

Member Statements: Charles P. Hobbs

When I was younger, I was more of a road (freeway) geek, simply because we drove on a lot of them on family trips around LA. Transit, on the other hand, meant loud, scary, smoky buses that could dump you in the "wrong" neighborhood, if you didn't know what you were doing. . .

I never saw the inside of a transit bus until my first year of college (1984) when I was taking a summer school course at UC Irvine. I didn't have access to a car, so I rode the buses from La Verne to Irvine three times a week. (The routes I used were RTD #187, #484 and #490, and OCTD #49 and #65) This trip took about four hours each way.

At first, I just slept or read during the trips. (The longest wait between buses was at Cal Poly Pomona, so I often walked around there, to use the bathroom, vending machine, computer room). A few weeks into the semester, I began to notice patterns in the coach numbering system. (for example, a #1000 series OCTA bus was a Flxible, a #2000 was an RTS-II, etc.) Interesting.

Perhaps the bug bit when I noticed a discarded Culver City bus schedule at one of the stops in Pomona. . .and remembered, when I was much younger, occasionally seeing bus stops other than the yellow "RTD" triangle in certain parts of the city. Or perhaps it was when I saw one of the Neoplan double deckers on Grand Ave in Glendora. Maybe it was when I started planning a few transit trips, and likened to assembly language programming (which I used to do a lot of back then).

After my UC Irvine class was over, but before I was to go back to UC Santa Barbara (I was a full time student there), I did a few excursions. I remember riding out to Ontario on RTD #484 (and paying an additional fare at the Pomona/Montclair border), and maybe a couple other places before I made my first Downtown trip--using that double decker #498 I mentioned earlier.

While downtown, first I went to the old RTD office at 425 S. Main St to pick up some schedules. I grabbed some schedules, but there were really too many bums around. So next, I went up to Arco Plaza, a much nicer environment. On some of the maps and schedules, there were lines indicating non-RTD service. I saw a few of these systems Downtown: Montebello, Gardena, Torrance, Santa Monica. I rode out to Inglewood on the #40 (catch me doing that today!) and rode back Downtown, finishing out my trip with the #482 and #187. (I also caught a ride on the #602, which was what became the Downtown DASH around late 1985. . .)

Back in Santa Barbara, I rode the SBMTD buses around town--gave me more range than my bike, although I was a bit disappointed that there was no connection between them and "the rest of the world", as it were. I also discovered Greyhound for trips home, although that Downtown LA Greyhound station was no place to hang around. I'd run from Main St up to Flower, to catch the #498 to Glendora, then transfer to #187. During breaks from school, I'd try to do as many transit excursions as possible, getting to know Greater Los Angeles. Bus rides to Torrance, Santa Monica, Long Beach, San Bernardino/Riverside were favorites. On a couple of excursions (to Oceanside and Santa Clarita), there was no real connecting transit, but I "cheated" a bit by using a Greyhound for that last little stretch between systems.

I also started collecting schedules and maps. Just head for the phone books in the library, get the addresses and zips of transit agencies, fill out postcards and mail them, and I'd be rewarded in about a week or so with neat-o transit stuff. I started out with the LA area municipal operators, moved on to the Bay Area, and eventually was sending out requests from agencies across the country. By the time I actually got a chance to take a trip to Chicago or San Francisco, I already knew the local transit systems in these places so well, it was just like stepping aboard an RTD bus "back home"!

A bit later, I also started to write to transit agencies when they planned to modify service, etc. I remember one elaborate plan I presented in 1986 to RTD, when they were planning to reduce service in the Pomona area. I suggested that a local shuttle company replace service on the residential routes . ..

Unfortuately, no one else I knew really shared my enthusiasm for transit, so I just went it alone until late 1990, when I met some of the members of the Los Angeles Transit League at a Glendale-based transit meeting. I joined the group about a month later, and went to all of their meetings. These meetings were not too well organized, with everyone talking at once, and yammering about everything from overpopulation to burning the flag. But they talked about transit once in a while, and filled my head with dreams of elevated transit on every arterial in LA (Hah!) So I stuck around, and got active. The group eventually changed its name to the Southern California Transit Advocates, and has matured quite a bit over the years. (We've even got a web page that the local politicians like to poke around from time to time: http://socata.lerctr.org )

Although I considered urban planning as a possible career, I decided on librarianship instead. (Knowing some of the attitudes of certain UCLA/USC urban planning faculty on transit, this was probably a good thing!). I did have an intership at the RTD (now MTA) library in 1989, though, and got to develop their archives.