Monday, May 22, 2017

The guy on the train...

It's been 11 months since I moved to L.A. and started using public transportation for my commute. My previous commute was - get out of bed, turn on the coffee maker, grab the laptop and find some place to sit.  But, my employer made it clear that wasn't going to be the permanent working arrangement - I think they wanted me to show up in person more often than the few days a month when they'd fly me down and put me up in a hotel.

Why track this?

Partially curiosity, partially an attempt to refine it and squeeze out every second that I could to make the commute as short as possible.  This isn't meant to be an exhaustive examination of the system, just my tiny slice of daily travel on a much larger, complicated and busy system.

My commute:
  1. Walk to bus stop
  2. Drive Take bus to North Hollywood Red Line Station
  3. Red Line to 7MC
  4. Expo to Santa Monica
  5. Breeze Bikeshare to work
From Burbank to Santa Monica
  • average: 1h, 39m
  • best: 1h, 25m (12/19 - dwells under 2 minutes)
  • worst: 1h, 57m (not counting my "bus" phase - tie: 5/11 - Expo had to wait to go around broken train; 9/21 - 18 minute wait between Red and Expo) 
  • best days: Monday and Friday
  • worst day: Wednesday
From Santa Monica to Burbank
  • average: 1h, 45m
  • best: 1h, 28m (7/14 - super fast bike ride and no wait for Expo, feels like a fluke or bad reporting)
  • worst: 2h, 40m (9/14 - includes a 104m Expo leg. I think this is when the train died and I jumped off and took a Lyft to 7MC)
  • worst days: Tuesday and Wednesday
  • best day: Monday
Red - NoHo to 7MC, AM (usually depart at 6:28)
  • 170 runs tracked
  • Fastest: 20.27
  • Slowest: 33.82
  • Median: 23.58
  • Average: 23.78
Red - 7MC to NoHo, PM (varies)
  • 166 runs tracked
  • Fastest: 19.58
  • Slowest: 60.07
  • Median: 23.80
  • Average: 24.32
Expo - 7MC to 26th/Bergamot, AM (varies)
  • 170 runs tracked
  • Fastest: 35.63
  • Slowest: 67.05
  • Median: 42.58
  • Average: 43.10
Expo - 26th/Bergamot to 7MC, PM (varies)
  • 166 runs
  • Fastest: 40.13
  • Slowest: 104.95 (may have been the one where we jumped from the stalled train on the embankment near Palms and walked down to the street and called Lyfts and Ubers.) 
  • Median: 47.57
  • Average: 49.10
So, what have I learned after almost a year of commuting?

June 2016 to May 2017 (with much of January missing for some reason)
from left to right:
Burbank to Santa Monica,
Santa Monica to Burbank,
morning averages (reds were the bus era),
evening averages (we're pretty close to the best it's been yet),
overall averages (doing pretty good),
day of week rankings.

Morning and Evening averages (oldest on left)

1. The bus is so not worth it
As much as I liked the exercise, it added too much to walk to the nearest bus stop and then wait for the bus. I could never figure out how to predict its arrival time and finally decided it was easier to drive and I could stop buying the monthly pass and instead rely on loaded fare.

2. I can beat the train in the morning, but I can't beat it in the afternoon.  
I can get to the office in under an hour, driving, and I've done it a few times and it's been somewhat magical to experience different parts of L.A.  But in the afternoons, driving in L.A. is horrid.  If I could stay in the office every night until 9, then the drive only takes 20-25 minutes.  If I had a self-driving car, I'd have it drive me to the office and then send it home and take the train home.

3. The Breeze Bikeshare is crucial
If they decide to stop offering this, I'll probably have to find a new job.

4. Things got better after the Expo got more frequent
Lots of time was lost waiting at 7MC.  Now it's usually less than a 3 minute dwell from when I exit the Red.

5. It's hard tracking all this stuff.
It got easier once I started using Toggl.  Before that, it was difficult keeping track of when I departed. I missed a lot of January for some reason. Google Sheets is awesome for aggregating, summarizing and color-coding. I suspect the older numbers are a little less reliable, as I add more it'll even out. Of course, I'll be the first to recognize that the trains are running every 5 or 6 minutes so these stats are but a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny slice of what goes on.

6. The dwells are key.
I know when to leave in the morning, but I'm still trying to figure out what time to leave in the afternoon. But, the bike leg is less predictable so not sure if I'll ever be able to get that down to a science. But when I zoom out far enough, it's the dwell columns (red headings) that have the widest red/green variance.

7. Some things are predictable
The Red Line takes 23 minutes. It's brilliant. Maybe someone holds a door, but the precision is amazing.  The morning Expo is pretty predictable.

8. Some things aren't so predictable
I seem to often arrive at the Santa Monica station just as a train is pulling up, but I still have to return the bike, go up the platform, TAP in, so I usually miss the train there.  DTLA is unpredictable. Sometimes my Expo rides are in the low 40s, but other times there's so many stop lights and it can be 10, 15 or 20 minutes longer.

9. Things have gotten better
Last summer, lots of Expo train failures and quite a few Red failures. It's possible some of this will come back in the hotter summer months.

10. On average, DTLA isn't as bad
The key word there is "average" - on average, it's only 6 minutes slower in the evening for me than it is in the morning. It can be speedy in the evenings, but it can also drag on and on.  Thank goodness for Netflix allowing you to download shows.

11. It's worth it
Parking plus the train each way plus the annual membership for Breeze Bike Share costs less than the amount my company pays me for not parking in the business park parking lot. Plus, instead of sitting in traffic, I can watch movies, read email, write blogs, and when the Expo is really quiet, pull out my laptop and get some work done.

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