Raising Wilshire

A blog about parenting and car-lite living in Los Angeles

Author: sirinya (Page 1 of 3)

Repost: Big Blue Bus is Stroller Friendly!

I recently wrote about the Big Blue Bus’s updated stroller policy for the City of Santa Monica’s blog. The policy is actually very progressive. Not only do you not have to fold your child’s stroller once on board, you can ask the operator to deploy the bus’s wheelchair ramp for you.

Santa Monica is now only one of three operators in the County of Los Angeles (out of almost two dozen) that do not require you to fold the stroller once on board. The other two are Los Angeles Metro and the Glendale Beeline.

By the way, the Glendale Beeline (nine fixed routes) actually has a dedicated page on their website which spells out how to ride transit with a stroller and I had no trouble locating this from navigating their website, which is excellent.

Highlights from our Transit Oriented Adventures in March

We stayed very local during the month of March, as our transit-oriented trips were limited to Downtown Santa Monica. Downtown Santa Monica is a world-renowned destination but there is still plenty of reasons to visit even if you live nearby.

Santa Monica Main Library to celebrate Read Across America and Dr. Seuss’s birthday

Each year, the library partners with our local Kiwanis club to celebrate Read Across America. Read Across America also coincides with Dr. Seuss’s birthday. In Santa Monica’s version, we welcomed a kid-friendly comic/magician, a volunteer agreed to dress up as the Cat In the Hat for photos, and Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis read her favorite Dr. Seuss book as part of her Let’s Read With Gleam! series. Our family took the Big Blue Bus to the Main Library so that we could enjoy the festivities and I could take some photos to post to social media.

Coming back, we rode the bus with my friend from work Robyn and her son. I was reminded once again that one of the benefits of riding transit with children is the opportunity to travel together with other families without the hassles of dealing with cars and car seats.

Fire Station BBQ

Juan tried to help Wilshire with an arts and crafts project.

On March 17, the Santa Monica Fire Department threw a big party, complete with an elaborate Santa Maria-style bbq, to celebrate 130 years of service to the community at its fire station in downtown Santa Monica. Juan, Wilshire and I took the Big Blue Bus to check out the festivities. The event was free, so we invited other families from daycare, including Wilshire’s bestie Arabella. SMFD was so gracious in its hospitality. Their staff was super supportive when I gathered them for some group shots (the photos later made it into the City’s Instagram feed and this blog post).

Santa Monica Pier & Pacific Park

Big Blue Bus comes through for the Matutes once again, this time for breakfast at Jinky’s Cafe on 2nd St. and some rides at Pacific Park with family friends! Wilshire loved riding the iconic ferris wheel. He also wanted to be held like a baby.

How to take transit to the Cayton Children’s Museum

Via Cayton Children’s Museum Facebook Page

We’re getting a children’s museum in Santa Monica! And it’s super accessible by both train AND bus!

The Cayton Children’s Museum (formerly known as the Zimmer Museum Presented by Sharewell) had its last day at its old location in Mid-Wilshire in late February. It is on track to open in its new location on the third floor of Santa Monica Place on June 1.

You should consider taking public transportation to visit the Cayton. The Cayton touts its proximity to Expo Rail, but what about those of us who live nowhere near a light rail station? The bus, I’m telling you!

Within one block of the museum, there are twelve bus routes operated by 3 agencies, providing one-bus access to communities as far west as Malibu; north as West Hills in the San Fernando Valley; east as Commerce and East LA, and south as LAX and Inglewood.

Super High Level

Big Blue Bus: 20 bus routes serving the Westside

Route 1: Westwood to Santa Monica via Santa Monica Blvd.

Route 2: Westwood to Santa Monica via Wilshire Blvd.

Routes 3 and Rapid 3: LAX to Santa Monica via Lincoln Blvd.

Routes 7 and Rapid 7: Koreatown to Santa Monica via Pico Blvd.

Route 9: Pacific Palisades to Santa Monica

Los Angeles Metro: 4 bus routes end in Santa Monica, plus the Expo Line

Line 534: Malibu to Santa Monica via Pacific Coast Highway

Line 704: Downtown LA/Echo Park/Silver Lake to Santa Monica via Santa Monica Blvd.

Line 733: Downtown LA to Santa Monica via Venice Blvd.

Line 720: East LA to Santa Monica via Whittier Blvd. and Wilshire Blvd.

Metro Expo Line: Metro Center (DTLA) to Santa Monica. Last station is 1/2 block from museum

Los Angeles County

The Beach Bus: Woodland Hills and Topanga to Santa Monica via Topanga Canyon Blvd.

This map shows how ridiculously close the museum is to these major bus stops:

The mall is across the street from the end of the Metro Expo Line, which means the Cayton will be accessible to so many more families around Los Angeles

Looking for tips on how to ride transit with kids?

I always refer people to this great blog post by Seattle Bus Chick.

Until next time,
Sirinya

Wilshire’s Toddler Walk Shed

Wilshire at the Water Garden…which is also across from the train station.

Wilshire Matute is very enthusiastic about walking around his neighborhood. He will happily walk with us to the park, CVS, daycare, the cleaners, and the mailbox. He likes walking to the bus stop and the Expo Line station too. But make no mistake: Wilshire is not a wunderkind walking enthusiast. These destinations fall neatly within Wilshire Matute’s Toddler Walkshed.

Eric Feldman, a DC-based urban planner, was probably the first to write about toddler walksheds, which he defined loosely as the distance that a curious and perpetually-distracted toddler can navigate city streets on foot in 10-20 minutes, all the while insisting that her parent pushes an empty stroller – and safely.

In my mobility planning circles, we talk about “pedestrian sheds” as a metric to evaluate a neighborhood’s livability and walkability. In drawing these sheds, we ask: What kinds of quality destinations can you reach within a five-minute walk? And safely too?

The racially and socioeconomically diverse San Fernando Valley neighborhood I lived in as a teenager puts this to test. It has many noteworthy destinations within a quarter-mile, including a full-service bank and grocery store. However, accessing them necessitates walking along a stretch of street without sidewalks and then along a busy boulevard lacking street trees, which is simply brutal in the summer heat the Valley is well-known for.

This was taken near my mom’s house. There are sidewalks only on one side of the street. It was beautiful but you don’t want to be on this street in late August, when it’s over 95 degrees.

Things are different in the part of Santa Monica I am so grateful to call home.

Wilshire’s Toddler Walkshed is probably on the lower-end, an amorphous shape that is roughly ⅓ of a mile from home and roughly 5 to 10 minutes in any given direction. As Wilshire gets older, I am optimistic that his walkshed will get a little wider. (It has to. There’s a Trader Joe’s opening 0.6 miles away – although who am I fooling, we’ll probably use a stroller to haul the groceries home.)

Here are some field notes from walking around the neighborhood with Wilshire:

Until next time,
Sirinya

Verdict is in: Wilshire gives LACMA two thumbs up

Wilshire at LACMA!

Did you know that kids can join the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for free? Through its NextGen program, which is generously funded through private philanthropy, kids can get into the museum free until s/he turns 18. And, the membership includes one free general admission, presumably to allow an adult to accompany the child (this is worth $20)

Wilshire officially joined LACMA in mid-February.

We took the Metro 720 from the house to LACMA on a Saturday morning. The trip door-to-door, including a brisk trot to the bus stop, was about 35 minutes.

We spent about 90 minutes at the museum before finding lunch.. First, we went to the Boone Children’s Gallery, where Wilshire painted with Japanese water colors for about 40 minutes. Then, we checked out Metropolis, an intense, kinetic sculpture modeled after a high-rise city with lots of cars and TRAINS moving at speeds of up to 240 mph. Wilshire loved it.

Even with the NextGen membership, visiting LACMA can get expensive really quickly if you have to pay for adult admission, parking ($12/car) or for lunch. Save money by bringing in your own food, including your own milk. (A milk box is $4.) We took the bus, which worked out to $3.50 round trip for me.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
www.lacma.org

Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 11am – 5pm
Friday: 11am – 8pm
Saturday and Sunday: 10am-7pm

Transit: Metro 720 (Wilshire Blvd), 217 (Fairfax Ave.)

Join us at Seuss-a-Bration at the SaMo Library!

Santa Monica Friends! Join me and Wilshire next week for a free event at the Main Library next Saturday (3/2) to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday!

The wonderful things that happen when you read. Linked from santamonica.gov

Organized by the Santa Monica Public Library and the Kiwanis, there will be lots of activities, including

  • Crafts!
  • Abbit the Average (link)
  • Healthy Snacks AND
  • Let’s Read with Gleam!

Mayor Gleam Davis, herself a mom, wants to share her passion for literacy and education with the Santa Monica community. So, for the duration of her term as mayor, Mayor Gleam is going to read with us. Let’s Read will rotate on a monthly basis around all five branches throughout the City throughout her term in 2019, and will involve both adults and children.

Seuss-a-Bration
Santa Monica Public Library – Main Library
601 Santa Monica Blvd.
Saturday, March 2, from 10am – 12pm
Served by Big Blue Bus 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, R7, 9, 18

P.S. Want to know how I keep up with cool happenings in Santa Monica? I’m subscribed to SaMoNews, the City of Santa Monica’s biweekly newsletter. It’s chock-full of cool, free events happening around Santa Monica.

Mommy & Wilshire’s Excellent Transit Oriented Adventures

At just under three years old, Wilshire Matute is a seasoned transit rider. Thank goodness. We live extremely close to multiple bus routes with frequent service, serving destinations I would rather not travel to by car, like my doctor’s offices, UCLA, and Downtown Santa Monica (only one of the best pedestrian environments in America.)

I wanted to put up a fun post about some of the places we take transit to. We live within walking distance to daycare, so most of our transit rides happen on weekends. Here’s a sampling of destinations within the past month.

Downtown Santa Monica

Prince (L) and Wilshire (R) met up at the Santa Monica Pier on a Sunday morning earlier this month.

We often take the Big Blue Bus into Downtown Santa Monica to go shopping, eat out, or meet up with friends.

West Los Angeles Farmers Market

Located near the Felicia Mahood Senior Center, the West LA Farmers Market operates on Sunday mornings and is served by about 20 vendors. They have the best tamales and crepes. Wilshire also really likes the art table there, which always has a great supply of markers, crayons, paints, and glitter.

Wilshire makes art at the West LA Farmers Market

Trader Joe’s in West LA

Wilshire on a Big Blue Bus route 5 bus

The service on the route is not the greatest, but the wait is okay when you wait for the bus at the stop with a direct view of the Bundy Expo station, and 4 trains go by.

Note: I usually bring my City Mini stroller with me on these solo trips to the grocery store. I can’t risk Wilshire demanding to be carried while I am also hauling home a week’s worth of groceries. It is not easy to bring a stroller onto a city bus. But Big Blue Bus has made it somewhat easier because they do not require families to fold their strollers until after they have boarded the bus, and the drivers are usually gracious enough to kneel the bus or deploy the wheelchair ramp so I can push my stroller and groceries on board. I have done this often enough to always bring sturdy bags with zip tops, so I never risk items falling out.

Crafts classes at Michaels

I discovered in late November that Michaels’, the nationwide arts and crafts hobby store, offers drop-in arts and crafts projects for kids on Saturday mornings for the modest price of just $2 for children ages 3-6 and $5 for children 6 and over.

To Grandmother’s House We Go

In our most ambitious trip ever, we took three types of trains – light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail – from our home in Santa Monica to see my husband’s family. Wilshire stood the whole time.

Our family just before we boarded a Metrolink train to come home

For more pointers on taking transit with children, I suggest reading this piece by Carla Sauter, the Seattle Bus Chick.

The difference good transit geography makes for my car-lite family

My family waiting for a bus to go to a farmers market

Public transportation is an integral asset in the Matute Family Car-Lite Tool Kit. We live near several bus routes with frequent service, which also happen to serve major destinations in our area. Put another way, we ride buses a lot, and we can do this because out in our corner of Los Angeles, we’re blessed with good transit geography.

Broadly speaking, good transit geography is any geography in which good transit destinations are on a direct path between other good transit destinations. (Especially, destinations that are on the way).

Some good transit ‘destinations’ revolve around basic needs: affordable grocery stores, medical care, a bank, and a post office. In our situation, there’s a Trader Joe’s along the bus route between my husband’s job and our house. The route has very frequent service, so it’s actually not a big deal for him to pop in to grab some items on his way home.

In our world, good transit geography also includes living very close to bus stops. As noted by Child in the City, a European nonprofit which promotes and advocates for the rights and needs of children living in urban environments, transit service can be a make-or-break based on the location of the closest stop. They correctly point out: When you are pushing a stroller and carrying 3 bags, the extra block or crossing seems ten times further. TRUTH!

Another example of “good transit geography” is access to jobs. Ideally,  these would include jobs that you are personally qualified for and willing to take. Because you guys, the spatial mismatch between jobs and housing in major regions like LA is real. The barriers to closing the gap are innumerable.

GREAT transit geography hits the Housing/Transit/Education (HTE) nexus sweet spot: frequent transit service, affordable housing, and high quality early childhood centers and schools. This combination is exceedingly rare in most US cities, including Los Angeles.

“In many parts of the United States it is difficult for families, particularly low- or moderate- income families, to be able to afford a suitable home in a transit rich neighborhood with good schools. Neighborhoods with all three elements are exceedingly rare. As a result, people often have to sacrifice one of three elements to make their lives work – a home that is within their means, access to quality public transit or access to good schools. This calculation creates a push-pull on placemaking in American cities where we still do not sufficiently design or plan the city with the quality of life services, necessities, or amenities necessary for families to stay and thrive.” link, page 3

UC Berkeley Center for City + Schools’s “Connecting Housing + Transportation + Education to Expand Opportunity” report.

Santa Monica is wonderful and special in many ways. By living here, we zone to exceptional public schools. Wilshire will be able to take the bus to Samohi, a nationally ranked public high school served by 8 bus routes and the terminus for the Metro Expo line.

But a few words about how quickly things can turn on a dime, even for families the most determined to stay car-lite, and have made choices we hope would support that decision.

We are fortunate to live within walking distance or a short bus ride from high-quality daycare and preschool programs. But unlike with the local elementary school, there’s no guarantee that you will get in. That’s the situation we’re in with the preschool closest to our house. It’s great! But the entry point is the toddler room – and I passed on enrolling Wilshire due to cost and the difficulty of commuting there on public transportation or with a bike. So, we’ve applied to another preschool not quite on the radar of people we know from college. It’s not fancy. It’s not NAEYC-accredited. But it’s along the way to my husband’s job, and on the bus route with frequent service. (See the theme?) And we feel very good about this school. But what if neither of these programs pan out? Well, there is a plan C. It’s in our price range. But it’s not along the way. We’ll discuss how we’ll manage that in another blog post if it comes to it, because I am honestly not sure.

Ironic and interesting right? Santa Monica has some of the priciest market-rate housing around. A family looking to move here for the schools needs to clear at least $100,000 a year to afford the rent on a barebones 2-bedroom rental apartment. (The county household median is just $61,000.) Moving to Santa Monica is not for the faint of heart. We are incredibly lucky, and privileged, to be here in this place where we can also live very comfortably without driving a car. Very lucky indeed.

Check out my primer (“Wilshire and Mommy’s Excellent Transit Oriented Adventures”) for pointers on some of my favorite places to take Wilshire on public transportation.

Oh The Places You’ll (Need To) Go

This is a part of an on-going series on How We’re Making Car-Lite Work in Santa Monica

On our way back from the dry cleaner; I draped our nearly cleaned clothes over Wilshire’s stroller.

When I first reflected on how we have gotten by as a one-car family for so long, I originally thought I would be writing about Wilshire’s bike seat, or the wagon we bought off  Amazon to haul around boxes and groceries. Or, perhaps, I’d talk about how found high-quality childcare close by.

But I think it’s important to start with something very, very basic:

We live in close proximity to the goods and services which we cannot substitute through online shopping.

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Jazz on the Lawn is the perfect way for SaMo families to end weekends in August

THIS is the way to do the concert: Blanket, wagon, folding side table, wicker suitcase for all your outdoor picnicking needs. 

Every Sunday evening in August, the City of Santa Monica holds a free jazz concert in Gandara Park. It’s free, it’s chill, and it works exceptionally well for multi-generational families.

Lets’ start with the obvious: I am a major fan of Jazz on the Lawn, this concert series organized by the City of Santa Monica  each Sunday in the month of August. The concert series started 13 years ago at the behest of a councilmember who was looking to activate Stewart Street Park, a park that used to be a dump. I started going four years ago, when I moved within walking distance of Stewart Street Park (now Gandara Park). I now plan my August weekends around these, and schedule my out-of-neighborhood excursions so I will be home in time for the concert.

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