Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Navigating Public Transportation: A SoCal Case Study, By Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

Mr. Avatar was kind enough to let me travel in his truck a couple times!
Hello! In this entry I shall give insight into transportation during my major vacation this year, to San Diego and Los Angeles. It should be noted that I do not drive due to a number of sensory and motor disabilities that impact how external stimuli affect me. The simple fact is that public transportation is the way I get around. I encourage everybody to use public transportation when convenient! It is a good way of decreasing traffic congestion, environmental impact, and reliance on fossil fuels! I will not be covering every journey I took during my trip, because many of them used the same kind of transit that I will have already detailed. It should also be noted that a number of my rides during AvatarMeet 2014 were in people’s personal vehicles. I will not detail those trips, but I will mention that it is very important to socialize with people you meet at functions, as they can be your ride back and forth!

My travel mascot, Millard the Buffalo, during my solo flight from Hamburg, Germany to Newark, New Jersey.
I live right at the border of Amherst and Buffalo in New York State. I took a cab from my apartment to Buffalo Niagara International Airport. My first flight of the day was quite early, and I knew I had a long day ahead of me. I had some time to wait before my flight was to depart, so I got some breakfast. I flew from Buffalo to Minneapolis-St. Paul, with only about ten minutes between the time that my flight arrived there and the time that the next flight started boarding. Further complicating matters was the fact that my next flight was in a different terminal. However, the terminals were adjacent and within walking distance of one another. Once I got to my gate, boarding was just about to start. The gate was right next to the cafeteria, so I quickly got a sandwich and a soda to take on the plane with me. I then boarded my plane heading to LAX in Los Angeles.

From LAX, I took a cheap shuttle to the train and bus station in Los Angeles, Union Station. Once I got to Union Station, I had to pay for the shuttle, something that was not possible at the airport. Thankfully, there is a convenient ticketing counter at Union Station, and the driver waits for everybody to pay before leaving. Airport shuttles are very convenient, and one should not underestimate the flexibility that they allow you.

Although not Union Station in Los Angeles, Penn Station in New York City is an example of a big city train station that I am able to navigate successfully.
I arrived at Union Station earlier than I thought I would. When I went to the ticket counter, the line was taking forever. Train and bus tickets are something that I dread standing in line for. Most of the time, all I need to do is obtain a ticket I have bought previously, yet I am often held up by people with much more complicated questions. In my opinion, there should be at least one station for obtaining previously ordered tickets, and at least one station for all other concerns. Another thing that I take issue with is the fact that many ticket counters have multiple stations, yet only one of them is usually occupied. Therefore, when a gentleman opened up an accessible window for those with disability issues, I went to see him to obtain my ticket. I justified going to that desk because I have at least eight diagnoses, and receive assistance from the federal government due to my disabilities. The gentleman at the desk informed me that I could still get on an earlier train to San Diego that was still at the platform.

So I switched to an earlier train, and boarded it heading to San Diego. I took Amtrak’s Pacific Surf Liner, which travels along the Pacific coast of California. It should be noted that people need to use the train much more often in this country. If one has an option between taking the train and taking the bus, always take the train. It is quicker and cheaper by far. I parked my bags on the train, and plugged in my cell phone to recharge. By this time I had been up for nine or ten hours, and the phone was running low on battery. It turns out that my charger was broken, a fact that I did not know, and I had to physically hold onto it the entire time that it was charging. At one point I got up and went to the cafĂ© car. We passed by a number of towns in SoCal, each one getting a humorous announcement from the conductor. I eventually got off at Old Town in San Diego.

Father Junipero Serras desk, at which he founded California, in his room at the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala.
From the Old Town Station, I took the bus to my hostel, the International Traveler’s House (ITH) Zoo Hostel. San Diego’s transportation is dealt with by the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). The buses I took tend to run at least once every half an hour, and at most once every fifteen minutes. A few days later, I went to the famous mission where California was founded, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala. I took the bus north to a transit center, where I got out and waited for the light rail. I soon discovered that I would need a ticket for the light rail, and got one, an all-day ticket to cover both my journey to the Mission, and the return trip. However, I missed the train while I was getting my ticket. While I was waiting for the next train, I went to the snack stand at the transit center and got lunch. A few minutes later, the next train came. Unfortunately, I got off a few stops too early. Quite fortunately, the train seems to run very frequently, so I got on the next one to the Mission stop. However, the door open mechanism was broken, so I got off one stop too late. I simply crossed to the other side of the platform, waited a couple minutes for the next train to come, and got off at the proper stop. On the way back, there were no errors in my travel plan, as I had learned from my past mistakes.

Earlier, I mentioned how important airport shuttles can be. It should be noted that you can easily use them to get between places near airports. For example, after I took the train back to Union Station in Los Angeles, I then took the cheap airport shuttle I had taken earlier back to LAX. From there, I took a completely free airport shuttle to the hotel where AvatarMeet 2014 was taking place. Another time, I took the free shuttle from my hostel in Los Angeles to LAX, where I once again took the free shuttle to the hotel where AvatarMeet 2014 was taking place. The only downside to taking free airport shuttles is that waiting for them can take a bit of time, and they often have a number of stops to make. Therefore, I would only recommend using them either when you were going one way to or from the airport, or if you have a significant amount of time to devote to your trip.

I hope that the lessons I have discussed in this entry have been informative, and it is my most fervent wish that somebody learn something about future travel from this text. I hope you all have a great rest of the summer, and a happy return to work, school, or whatever you do best!

1 comment:

nise7465 said...

This was a very informative post about your travels using the public transportation system, Alec. I agree, utilizing public transportation when it's available is a win-win situation. Where I live, it is very rural and we are several miles away from the bus route, but our public bus system is a huge supporter of accessible rural transportation and our routes literally run from one end of the county to the other. I wish neighboring counties would would adopt similar practices. When the push for a rural transportation system began in PA back in the nineties, the hope was that neighboring communities would work together to create a system that provide an affordable continuous public transportation across the state from one end to the other. Sadly, it's never happened in the manner which it was proposed.