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
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
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.