So, I took a late Metrolink downtown (leaving Chatsworth around 8:10 or so) Just before boarding, I did snap a picture of MTA/Laidlaw's "Golden Gillig". Because of the holiday, ridership on Metrolink was very light. By using the subway, I made my way to the corner of 6th/Flower, where I would board the #318.
At around 9:50 or so (the bus was a bit late), I boarded #318. (a 2700 series Flx) As we moved toward East Los Angeles, we began to gather a few other passengers. At Los Angeles St, a drunk, who could barely walk or talk, got on without paying. The driver tried to get him to pay, the drunk acted as if he didn't understand. Finally another passenger spotted him the $1.35, and off we went. The drunk finally stumbled off two blocks later.
On the "new" portion (limited stop segment on Whittier), we never seemed to have more than about 12 people on the bus at any one time. One passenger thought he was on the #18, so the driver made a special stop so that he could deboard. A bit later, a passenger in the back of the bus started arguing with the driver because he (the passenger) was late. "Is this the #318 or an #18) he bellowed." "#318", said the driver. Then the passenger started complaining that he was late. The driver stated that she could not get ahead of her schedule, and ended by saying "If this bus is too slow, take a taxi!". Everything got calm from then on.
A rather large crowd got on at Garfield, so ridership seemed "normal" from that point on. I got off in Uptown Whitter to eat and shop for a little while, then prepared to board my next bus. . .
I waited at a stop that was served by #270, #275 and Whittier Transit, figuring I'd take the first one that showed up. That happened to be #275, (BDOF-operated, 6000 series Neo) with low-to-moderate levels of grafitti, and minimal ridership (never more than about 8 passengers at a time). We snaked through Whittier, Santa Fe Springs, Norwalk and La Mirada before ending at Los Cerritos Mall, where I would wait for a #362 back to Downtown. I asked the driver where to wait for the #362. "Oh, you mean the *4*62. It stops in front of the Mall).Uh--ok. I made my way there, and waited.
(Note, most buses serving Los Cerritos Center now just sweep through the front of the Mall (Robinsons-May side), although a few lay over some distance away from it. This includes MTA, OCTA, COW and some, but not all, LBT lines)
Eventually, the #362 showed up (1100-series Neo, although I did see other types of buses used on this route as well). For the most part, ridership was not extraordinary (generally 10-12 people on the bus at any given time). A small handful of people got on at Commerce Casino and at the Citadel Shopping Center, but, again, nothing to make one stand up and take notice (yet). Activity at the four limited stops and the portion of 8th St. vacated by #66/67 was also minimal.
The real shock came about the time we got to the Downtown LA Greyhound station. People started piling on there, and at the next few stops, until just about every seat was taken, and we had about 7-8 standees. Most of this crowd got off at Broadway, leaving just a few passengers. I got off at Hill to make a transfer to #316--it was right behind us. Sweeeeet. . .
#316 (Third St. Limited) was suprisingly fast (from Downtown to Fairfax in about 30-odd minutes) and was quite productive, but never crowded. We passed up several #16's that looked *packed*! The fastest portion was probably between Western and La Brea, as that's a fast street in an area with little transit demand of its own. I got off at Fairfax (near Farmers Market) to wait for the #218. I did see a couple of local DASH buses load up there as well.
Finally, the #218 showed up. I was expecting overcrowding, but there were only about 8 or so other passengers on this 17-passenger vehicle. Most got off before going through Laurel Canyon, though--only two other passengers rode all the way to Studio City. On the Valley side of the "hill", I saw two other #218 buses, with about 2 or 3 passengers in each of them. As we deboarded in Studio City, I asked the driver if there were a lot of passengers riding all the way from Fairfax to Studio City. He started to say something, then one of the other passengers chimed in "Normally, you're lucky if you can get a seat! Sometimes people get passed up.". That would indicate that #218 is doing much better than we thought, but I'd still like more information...
But anyway. I walked over to where the Van Nuys DASH routes laid over (and thought--how well would the #218 stop work as a transit center for #218, 230, the Ventura Blvd services, Valley DASH, even extend #167 there!). Most Van Nuys DASH services use the small Nationals, but I saw something strange--a 35' Gillig. I decided to wait for that particular bus, and took a 20-minute break at Baskin-Robbins . . .
Finally, the bus appeared, and I, along with 2 other passengers,boarded it. This bus operated to Van Nuys via Whitsett and Burbank, essentially. One passenger got off along Whitsett and the other passenger got off somewhere along Burbank, but we did not pick up any more passengers for the entire trip.
Now, about this Gillig. . .At first I though it was one of the ex-BART Express jobs, but no, this couldn't be it, since it was only 35' long. But once inside, the Vietnamese-language instructions (along with the usual English and Spanish) for the emergency exit windows gave it away as an ex-OCTD bus. All of the original forward-facing seats (except for those near the back wall) had been removed and replaced with sideways-facing seats around the perimeter of the bus (except for the "flip-up" seats in the wheelchair areas--there were no flip-up seats there, period). The bus vaguely smelled of incense(!) and had a small amount of window scratching-type tagging. But it rode like a stone--slipping tranny, loose air conditioner grille banging around, rattles, shakes and squeaks in general.
At the route's terminus (Van Nuys Gov't Center) I got off to wait for my next bus. As it was getting somewhat late in the afternoon (about 4:30)--not really enough time for another adventure, I decided to call it a day (and get home and start work on the newsletter!) So I waited for a bus to take me up to Van Nuys Metrolink, where I would catch a Chatsworth-bound train. While waiting, a Santa Clarita bus pulled up. I got a schedule from it, thinking it had changed (it hadn't--still March 18. Oh well)
I was still waiting for a #561 (as opposed to a slow #233) when a silvery-blue Smart Shuttle pulled up to the stop. I asked if it served Metrolink and the driver said yes. The fare was $1.25, or a MTA token (90 cents)+$.25, or an MTA bus pass + $.75. I boarded with my pass and paid $.75. As we continued northward, we picked up a few more passengers, eventually getting 10 passengers (on a 17 passenger vehicle, quite similar to those used on the #218, etc.) Since it didn't make nearly as many stops as a #561, the ride was considerably faster. Upon deboarding, I asked for a schedule, but was told that "they don't have schedules". Uh--ok, but how do we find out where this service goes? Guess?
In about 20 minutes, the train came. The ridership was even lighter than the train I rode this morning (and this was usually a heavily-used train, with thru service to Oxnard, too!) The ride was uneventful, except for a fellow talking about the proposed expanded Metrolink service due in October. He mentioned extending additional trains to Oxnard, whereupon another passenger reminded him of Ventura County's usual lack of willingness to pay for such a service improvement. He also mentioned that service would be expanded on the Orange County line to Oceanside, via an CEQA grant (he pronounced it "see-kwah", so at first I didn't know what he was taking about...") We arrived in Chatsworth, and as I left the train, I noticed about 3 1100-series buses (in excellent shape--not a scratch on them), and a line of about 100 people waiting. This was the Hollywood Bowl service (#653).
Maybe this summer, I'll stop by the Bowl on the way home and enjoy a concert. . .I *know* I'll have a way to get back to Chatsworth Station when it's over!