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: Dana Gabbard

Prior to 1981 I had never ridden in a public transit bus in my life (as opposed to the school bus I rode in elementary and junior high school). I grew up in Central Washington state. The city of Yakima had a bus system with few routes and infrequent service. To get around you had to have a car. Once when visiting relatives in the Bay Area my mother tried without success to find a BART station so we could ride it.

In 1981 I came to Los Angeles to attend USC. My financial circumstances were precarious so I had no choice but to rely on the bus system to get around. I wasn't very adventureous - mostly took line 204 up and down Vermont and line 20 along Wilshire. But from time to time I had to take longer trips, like seeing a medical specialist in Pasadena. After graduating in 1987 I found a job in the area (library asst.) and by then had grown accustomed to using the bus (and soon after the train) to get around. Frankly I have never enjoyed driving. It is something I have to work at to perform with the care and skill it demands. Letting someone else do the driving suited me just fine.

Over time I became aware of a feeling that our transit system wasn't well run. My experiences on board the bus convinced me that things were seriously lacking. These day I have a better way of stating what I was feeling (i.e. not being service oriented). I began wishing I could do something to improve the situation. But had no idea of how to go about this.

In March of 1994 I had a letter on bus service problems published in a small circulation newsletter on politics that has since ceased publication. The letter included my address. Soon I received a letter from someone who had seen my letter. The letter came from a gentleman named Robert Richmond. Some of it went right over my head and was obscure (in retrospect it probably was drenched in X-Files style conspiracy musing). But the letter included information on a group known as Southern California Transit Advocates. I wrote the address Richmond provided and soon received the group's newsletter and information on their next meeting. The newsletter was a revelation. A few times in the past I had thought of starting a magazine for transit users with policy information (I have published a small circulation magazine on Disney comic books since 1980). Here was what I wanted to do, already in existence. What a thrill!

I tried to attend the meeting but found a sign at the site stating they had been forced to meet at an alternate site nearby. Since I had no idea how to reach this location (the Eco House) by bus I shrugged and went home. The next month was when I finally attended my first SO.CA.TA meeting. I must have made an impression since several members wanted to confirm that I would attend next month.

At that time the group was in its infancy. Meetings were chaotic and a turf war over the issue of rapid transit between two members had become very disruptive and threatened the group's ability to function. I decided one of my goals as a member was to navigate the group to a resolution of this. Also I heard that there had been talk on and off about compiling a transit guide to sell. I jumped at the idea and volunteered to help do the research for it. By December I was Vice President! And I also started attending MTA Board meetings.

I have sought to help the group become a voice on transportation issues. Gradually I have been building alliances, learning about various aspects of public transportation, attempting to seek ways to be effective and identify issues we can work on. And I have had to learn it with no training (beyond a seminar I attended in early 1999 on lobbying the legislature). All I know has come from attending meetings, talking to people and reading articles, books, newspaper, agency reports, etc.

What a long, strange trip it has been and continues to be.