As of Monday, April 4, Metrolink restored its service throughout Southern California to nearly pre-pandemic levels after a bounce-back in ridership and amid hopes of enticing more commuters to forego pumping gas.
Explaining the schedule update is far too complex for the purposes of a newspaper column, but suffice it to say the San Bernardino Line’s evening trains back from LA and additional weekend trains are especially welcome to we daytrippers.
Sunday’s schedule, always the weak link of the seven days, is now equal to Saturday’s for possibly the first time. Weekend ridership has bounced back faster than on weekdays, Metrolink says.
All I wish is the service had been restored a month ago. Why? I had a minor public-transit adventure in mid-March that wouldn’t have happened with Metrolink in full swing.
A friend who lives in the San Fernando Valley and I made plans to meet in downtown LA to celebrate my birthday over dinner. The thought of driving into downtown gives me a rash, but taking Metrolink wasn’t feasible. The last train home would leave Union Station at 7:38 pm and our dinner was at 6.
I had transit options: I could have driven to Azusa and taken the light rail to downtown and back, or taken Foothill Transit’s Silver Streak bus all the way from Montclair.
No, I thought, I’ll speed things up by driving most of the way. So I drove to East LA, parked and took light rail from the Atlantic Station, thinking I would get off at the Little Tokyo stop and walk a few blocks to the restaurant.
Ah, the best-laid plans: The Little Tokyo stop is closed due to construction. sigh I disembarked in Boyle Heights and took a bus to within two blocks of the restaurant. Not perfect, but I got there. And Badmaash did not disappoint.
After leaving the restaurant near 8 pm, I planned to repeat my steps and boarded the same bus.
Except it was a short line that got me only halfway to Boyle Heights. A few minutes later the regular bus came along. I got off it at the same stop as before and got on the light rail.
In East LA, I disembarked, then looked around the platform in confusion as the trolley headed east. I had – d’oh! — gotten off one stop early.
Well, it was only a six-minute walk to the Atlantic parking structure, easy enough. And it’s not like it was raining or anything. So that’s what I did.
All told, though, it had taken 45 minutes to get from downtown to my car, or about as long as it would have taken to drive from downtown back home.
Under its new schedule, Metrolink has weeknight trains heading east at not only 7:38 pm but 8:38 and 9:38. That would have been perfect for my birthday dinner.
I may have to head downtown for dinner after work by train, just to prove it can be done.
Prose and cons
Leslie Van Houten is likely to remain locked up in the California Institution for Women in Chino after the governor on March 29 rejected her latest request for parole. And that reminded me of a literary connection I discovered by chance last fall on vacation.
I was browsing at a bookstore at San Francisco International Airport when my eye fell upon “The Best Mystery Stories of the Year: 2021,” edited by Lee Child. Idly flipping through it, I was arrested (in a manner of speaking) by a story titled “Parole Hearing, California Institution for Women, Chino, CA.”
Writer Joyce Carol Oates, in the end note to her 2020 short story, says she was inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Manson murders. “Parole Hearing” is told in the first person, with its speaker partly fictitious and partly inspired by Manson disciple Van Houten.
It is, perhaps surprisingly, entirely unsympathetic to her, with the narrator telling parole board members that Manson is more real to her than any of them.
“…anyone who could revert to such savagery once might well do it again, at any age, and write upon a wall DEATH TO PIGS,” Oates writes in her note. “And next time, the helpless victim could be a member of the parole board, to whom she is speaking here, or, indeed, one of us.”
I’m less sure, but am open to that perspective. Grim concludes aside, discovering a story set in Chino by chance in a San Francisco bookstore was a pleasant surprise. I filed the information away until the right time to use it, like yet another parole denial. And here we are.
A new book, “A People’s Guide to Orange County,” presents an unvarnished look at a county far more layered and complex than the standard shorthand of Disneyland, Republicans and White people. At the launch party March 26 in Santa Ana, co-author Elaine Lewinnek explained why Orange County is overlooked despite a population larger than 20 US states: “People underestimate suburbia. They think it’s bland, they think it’s all the same.” Sound familiar, Inland Empire?
David Allen writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, familiarly. Email [email protected], phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.
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