One of my favorite memories as a kid is of taking the bus from Malibu to Westwood Village with my friends. After pleading with our parents to let us make the long journey by ourselves, finally getting on that bus as it weaved through Sunset Boulevard and dropped us off at the Bruin Theater, well, it was like we had arrived. We had graduated to a level of independence that was thrilling. It was as if we had shed the cocoon that had enveloped our existence. The world was suddenly so big!
Today, at 41 years old and living in North County, I am still riding the bus. Don’t get me wrong, I had my misguided and ultimately disappointing relationship with a gorgeous, white BMW. It defined my existence, which shouted, “I am successful and happy.” When the lease was up, like a bad marriage, I walked away from it and never looked back. I lived in cosmopolitan places like Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., where I rediscovered the exhilaration of public transportation. I hopped on Metros, buses and took the occasional taxi. I felt like a real city girl, with that newly found sense of independence I relished as a kid riding the bus.
Then came the realization that my heart belonged to Southern California, with its beautiful beaches and nearly perfect weather. San Diego became my new home. Giving into the supposed prerequisite for living here, I bought a car. Not more than a month later, I was involved in a serious car accident. I became timid of driving the freeways and all of the drivers on it, so I rekindled my relationship with the bus and public transportation.
Alas, I discovered the quirky and unconventional bonuses San Diego offers to its commuters. The Coaster was my favorite discovery. It’s a clean, safe, reliable and affordable way to avoid the 5 Freeway, going from Oceanside to downtown — and it’s even a scenic experience. Then there is the undeniably charming trolley. Riding it makes me feel nostalgic, as if I am living in an earlier time in Southern California’s history, when orange groves, not shopping malls, lined the coast. It is shocking, however, how many residents of San Diego have never experienced either the Coaster or the trolley. They just won’t get out of their cars.
To rely on public transportation can be challenging, and requires time management. But what relationship doesn’t take a little effort? And the rewards are plentiful. I don’t have a car payment or a lease payment, insurance premiums, DMV registration, and gas bills. And what a relief, I have had no expensive trips to the car mechanic, no speeding tickets and no accidents since I gave up my car keys.
Instead, I have a monthly pass that costs what it would to fill up my gas tank a couple of times. While in transit, I read, listen to music, daydream, make to-do lists, chat with interesting people, and smile at the rest of the world who appears so stressed out on the road. From point A to B, I may have to walk a bit, but that helps keep me keep fit and refreshed.
I was saddened, even alarmed, while living in Carmel Valley, that public transportation was discontinued in the area. The bus stops were literally pulled out. So I moved to Encinitas, to be closer to the Transit Station, which I figured wouldn’t be going anywhere. But who knows? If we as North County residents don’t support the public transportation system, it will leave us, just like a jilted lover.
It’s nice to think we are all doing our part to be “green” and to decrease our footprint on this planet. But I am convinced San Diegans are not wiling to give up their love affair with driving. To replace the car would be downright drastic, right? Not really. The most liberating feeling is having a simple monthly pass from the North County Transit District, and being able to go anywhere I want, no strings attached. That, really, is what I love.
Monique Moffitt is an Encinitas resident.
Filed Under: News