July 12, 2000

There's a scene in the movie Singles. Campbell Scott works for the Seattle Transportation Authority(or something like that). He has been developing a plan for the Super Train (or something like that). He wants to get Seattle-ites out of their cars and commuting by train. He's committed to this project with all his heart. He finally gets his 5 minutes with the Mayor to pitch this fabulous project. Campbell says if you build it, make it comfy, and give them coffee, the people of Seattle will get out of their cars and ride with their brethren. It falls flat. Hard.

I'm here to tell you, riding through the underbelly of Los Angeles with my fellow Angelino's is not all it's cracked up to be.

I grew up in New York. In Brooklyn to be specific. When we needed to get some place we took the train. A real train. The 18th Avenue El station was about six blocks from where we lived. You jumped on the F Train and were off. The Express train (the one that doesn't stop at every armpit of a station) stopped at my stop. So, you could travel quickly, semi-efficiently, and fairly cheaply, around from one end of New York City to the other.

OK, so I grew up taking the train. It's not really a revelation.

I live in Los Angeles now. We're a major car culture here. You are what you drive.

Here's the thing about driving: it completely insulates you. That's what it's all about in this town. Insulation. We all live in our little insulated neighborhoods. We get in our little insulating cars. We drive to our jobs. We get back in our cars. We drive to the mall. Then we drive to the bookstore (50 feet down the block from the mall). Then on to the supermarket. Then to get some gas and then home

Your route may take you through a different, perhaps less savory neighborhood, than your own insulated one, but you've got the doors locked, windows up, air conditioning on, radio playing. You're completely insulated from everything and everyone around you.

Then there's the train. There you are, cheek by jowl, with all those people you've been insulating yourself from for all these years.

This is the latest fascination of my husband. He's been a train riding maniac. He could probably recite the schedule of the MetroLink by heart for you.

There are two train systems in Los Angeles. The MetroLink and then the light rail system. The light rail system consists of the Red Line, Blue Line, and Green Line.

Last Sunday found my family taking the Red Line to the Blue Line to Long Beach, to the Aquarium. The trip was not about the destination. It was the getting there.

Now the Red Line isn't bad. It travels completely underground, reaching speeds of 75 mph at some points. The Blue Line is a completely different story.

The Blue Line travels above ground at all times. I would liken it more to San Francisco's cable car system than an actual train system. It has to stop at red lights. It makes sharp left and right turns. What's up with that?

But train takers we Atkins' are. Though not as enamored with the whole subterranean travel as my husband, it has proved to be a major convenience while my car is in the shop.

I will say one thing about this train thing though: I'm large and in charge!

As we were about to kick off Sunday's Great Railway Adventure, Chuck pointed out to me the stupidity of the layout of the North Hollywood station. You see, the escalators are backwards:The up escalator on the left, down on the right. Then at the bottom of the escalators is a huge lobby. On the right are the ticket machines, the left the stairs to and from the train. In order to buy your ticket you have to cross through throngs of departing people to get to the machine. This makes no sense.

Well, I took matters into my own, very capable hands. On Monday I had a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) meeting. There are several people from MTA (our transit authority) in my group. I pointed out the stupidity of the escalator situation.

I'm happy to report that when I went to get on the train this morning I noticed that they had switched the directions of the escalators. GO BETH!

Now Chuck is trying to take credit for this since he originally pointed the stupidity out to me. To this I say HA!

And Chuck might want to think twice about taking all the credit, lest he forget that I am also working with my friends at MTA on getting him a tour of the train tunnels (also as a result of an off hand comment that he made).

So my husband will now bow down and chant that I ROCK.

I have to go to bed now. I'm getting up early to take the train into work tomorrow.

Until next time...