-by Steve Herbert
Recently I had my turn at jury duty, reporting to LA Superior Court @ Temple and Spring Streets in downtown LA. With gas prices ranging between $4.30 and $5.09 that week I wasn’t anxious to drive the 18 mpg household minivan relegated for my use when I’m not commuting by bike. I considered riding my bike to downtown but recalled the last time I made the 13 mile ride it took 2 hours after getting flat tires across from Exposition Light Rail line (Expo) (now set to open April 28th). Even if I didn’t flat, the trip would take around an hour and a quarter, I’d need to leave my bike locked to a sidewalk bike rack and figure out how to change out of sweaty bike clothes into court presentable street clothes. Short of a gym, what I really needed was a ride there.
Enter the magic of Google maps where from the directions selection I clicked the transit option (an icon of a bus) which revealed a couple choices a short walk from my home on the Westside. MTA has the 733 line which takes about an hour running along Venice Blvd, getting us to Main & 1st street. However LADOT’s Commuter Express 437 line runs along Culver Blvd & stops directly in front of the courthouse. Commuter Express updated its fleet recently with relatively new touring type buses with well upholstered reclining seats, airline style reading lamps and a modified carry on bins above the seats. The easy to afford price of $2.50 each direction made it an ideal choice with the ride taking approximately 45 minutes. The last bus to downtown picks up from Culver and Overland at 8:10 a.m. I used it the first day when I had to report by 9:30 which turned out to be an exceptional way to get there with no stress or hassle!
Later in the jury assembly room the jury coordinator threw us a curveball. They needed 55 jurors to report to the Hollywood courthouse near the 101 freeway and Hollywood Blvd. A quick check of Google again revealed it was an easy two block walk from the courthouse to the Civic Center subway station and a 30 minute ride on the Red Line. The court was prepared to provide MTA passes which would cover a week’s ride on the MTA system which includes the Red Line, but the coordinator didn’t require jurors to go to Hollywood if they had taken a bus to get to the downtown court.
Dodging that bullet I was placed on jury selection panel late in the day, requiring I return to downtown by 10:30 a.m. the next two days. I could have taken the commuter express but didn’t want to spend nearly 2 hours hanging around downtown waiting to report. Instead I got creative.
Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus offers “Rapid 10″ service from downtown Santa Monica to Union Station, stopping in front of the court building near the end of its run. It leaves every 15 minutes during commuting hours and at 30 minute intervals the rest of the time, weekdays for $2 a ride. It just so happens Santa Monica opened its Bike Center last November, a facility which offers secured indoor bicycle parking, showers and lockers for members with 24 hour access. Its located at 2nd Street and Colorado, directly across the street from the start of the Rapid 10 route. Armed with this bit of info I pressed Bike Center into a ride, park & ride operation as an easy, convenient, affordable and stress free method of going to court while getting in a nice bike ride as a highlight of the day. The Bike Center showers are very popular with the bike commuters and fit my needs to a tee those days. Ironically the Santa Monica courthouse is just a five minute walk from the Bike Center.
It’s worth noting that Culver City has the potential of a similar installation along the Expo line with a smaller “Bike Center” like facility called the “Clean Mobility Center” (CMC) planned to be located at the Venice and Robertson station as part of phase II of Expo construction. Presently there are no plans for showers at the CMC but the potential for this type of facility is compelling given the experience Santa Monica demonstrates. Opening up this combination of options could leverage Expo into an exceptional bike, park & ride option.
With just a little creativity and support, increasing numbers of people will be able to leave their cars at home when heading to downtown LA whether for work, pleasure or jury duty!