Recently when I planned my return trip from a long weekend in Colorado, I considered how I'd get home from the airport. As I seek more car-free transportation opportunities and I had heard there was a bus, I checked Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus schedule (www.bigbluebus.com) for instructions.
Before I would commit to this unknown airport transit alternative, I considered my options.
First option: My adorable mate is willing to pick me up; however, it's 28 miles round trip and takes him 30-40 minutes each way in our congested part of town. Also, it's a test in perfect timing to meet curbside. By the time I see his familiar face behind the wheel of our non-descript white sedan, he is flustered and annoyed. He has circled the airport at least twice and been shooed away as many times by those determined security people. When he jumps out of the car and heaves my suitcase into the back seat, he is neither delighted nor delightful. Riding home with Mr. Grumpy isn't my idea of fun.
Second option: As for a shuttle, I never know how long I'll wait before one of the brightly colored vans blazoning the “Venice/Santa Monica” sign will appear. Once on board, the driver lurches around the airport one or even two times seeking more customers before the dispatcher - on the annoyingly loud walky-talky - instructs him to move out. Shuttle vans provide the travel comfort of a tug boat lumbering through 20 foot swells. I'm worn out and impatient as the driver navigates through traffic and circles blocks to drop-off two or three customers. When he finally pulls-up to my door, he expects a generous tip on top of the pricey cost.
Third option: I could take a taxi, but I’d rather save my money for a month’s supply of morning coffee at my corner Starbuck’s.
Options considered, the unknown of the bus experience seemed worth a try.
I walked out of the United terminal in the holiday weekend frenzy and headed toward the center island where public transportation collects its riders. My carry-on bag rolled loyally behind me. I soon boarded MTA's free bus marked "Lot C," where many travelers park their cars. In five minutes we rumbled over to 96th Street, just east of Sepulveda Boulevard, where it made its first stop.
A few of us got off and walked a short half block to the Big Blue Bus stop. Soon the familiar #3 Big Blue Bus arrived and I clamored aboard with my $1.25 cent fare in hand. I found an aisle seat midway back and made a futile effort to keep my bag out of the aisle. I soon learned, however, that my fellow riders riders would generously make their way around it without sign of annoyance.
Once settled in, I could relax for the next 20 minutes until we reached Santa Monica. The #3 is a busy route. People seemed to be headed to and from work, many wearing restaurant uniforms. Some snoozed; others checked their text messages or talked with their bus mates. As a new bus rider, I'd rather stay alert and observe my surroundings.
About 25 minutes later the bus was in downtown Santa Monica. At the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and 4th Street, I changed to the #9 Big Blue Bus. In another six minutes I was at the corner of my block and walked the last stretch home. I felt smug that I spent so little for airport transportation, saved about a gallon of fossil fuel and inconvenienced no one.
When I walked in the front door, I found my sweetie at his adorable best. He was watching a soccer game; in a delightful mood and had dinner waiting. This is how I like to find him.