Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Triumphant Return

Sorry to all of you folks... it's been an interesting couple of weeks. I mentioned in my last post that I was heading to New York. Well, I did, on a shoestring budget that still amazes me. I'm going to return to writing on this blog with a short travelogue and review of the transportation services I used on the trip, in order. I'm skipping over old favourites like RTA and Metrolink, as you ought to know what I think of them by now. Which brings me to the first segment: LAX FlyAway.

FlyAway is a dedicated public express bus network designed to get folks from various points in the southland to LAX. They go to UCLA, Van Nuys and Union Station. I didn't check the schedules for the other routes, but the Union Station bus runs at least hourly, 24/7. It's quick and convenient to Metrolink, and it beats the Red-Blue-Green-Shuttle shuffle that links Metro's rail lines to LAX. I highly recommend the service.

That said, I have a couple of issues with it. One, and they don't make this very clear anywhere, all payment for the bus is done at the Union Station end, regardless of where you board. No signs or staff make this apparent at the airport, and this made for some stressful moments at LAX while waiting for the bus. A sign at each bus stop, "Payment due upon arrival" or some such, would improve this immensely.

Second, while the service does accept EZ Transit Passes (presumably for those who work at the airport) for credit equal to the pass' base fare, they do not accept Metrolink tickets as EZ Passes, for any sort of credit. If the goal of this service is to encourage transit riding to the airport, this seems counterintuitive. However, if the goal is simply to encourage parking elsewhere (as the parking information-laden brochure seems to suggest- Union Station's daily lot is $8/day), then I'm slightly soured on the service. We want to encourage people to ride transit, even to the airport. Even $1 off of FlyAway's fare would be an incentive for them to do so, rather than simply drive to cheap parking.

Lastly, the fare vending situation is a touch counterintuitive. There's a ticket booth at Patsouras Transit Plaza that you must buy your tickets from, and yet the booth requires cash only. If it's cash only, why can't it be collected onboard? If it's a fixed booth, why can't they install a Visa machine? And really, if you're going to have fixed fare payment, you'd lower the (remember: 24/7) labour costs of the service by simply installing a ticket machine. Put in $6, get out ticket. Life's good.

So, overall, FlyAway- awesome. Tune in tomorrow, when I actually go flying.

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