Alissa Walker – freelance writer and public transit enthusiast

photo courtesy of gelatobaby.com

photo courtesy of gelatobaby.com

On a December evening en route to Los Angeles, Alissa Walker stepped onto the Blue Line train clutching her iPhone in one hand and bicycle in the other. Suddenly, her iPhone vanished right from her hands, too quickly for her to stop the thief. A perfect day of riding bicycles with a friend in Long Beach suddenly turned sour with the predicament of what was more important to protect – her entire life on her cell phone or her heart and soul that belonged to her bicycle.

Planes, trains, and automobiles have interested freelance writer Walker since the day she gave up her car for good. Right about that same time in 2006, the iPhone began working wonders for public transportation riders like Walker. It now has become Walker’s best friend. It’s easy for Walker to use her new technology tool to navigate and get herself where she needs to go. Certain transit and trip planner iPhone applications provide her with exact bus routes so she can plan how soon the bus will arrive at her stop. With this new mode of technology, a life dedicated to public transit is more fun, adventurous, and similar to her spontaneous personality. Without her iPhone ready to guide her, getting around Los Angeles by means of bus and bicycle would be much more difficult.

Walker moved to Los Angeles 11 years ago on a whim. For the first six years of living in the Hollywood hustle and bustle, she instinctively had her car ready to drive at a moment’s notice. “Everyone here says ‘oh you have to have a car,’” Walker says, explaining how people just expect this lifestyle, “It never had occurred to me to not drive.” She drove everywhere, from the grocery store to different social events. Walker’s daily journey even took her 12 miles to work everyday in Venice Beach. Everything changed when she chose to live carless.

It was all about trial and error for the first time relying on public transit, after giving up the car that had defined her lifestyle for so long. In the beginning, Walker experimented with her new routine when she tried to see if she could make all her stops and get everywhere she needed to go by using her iPhone and only taking the public bus. Walker’s friend Michael Lejeune, Creative Director at Metro, explains how she uses the mobile resources for LA transit. Lejeune says, “She uses two key Metro mobile tools, the NexTrip mobile app that lets her know precisely when her bus will arrive, and Metro’s mobile app, which provides complete mapping and line data.” Clearly, her handy iPhone worked and she quickly became a professional of and advocate for the public transportation experience.

Walker now writes and blogs from her home in Silver Lake. “I have a completely different experience of LA than most people do,” she says, “It’s way more fun not to drive.” For Walker, it never was really about helping the environment or saving gas, but more about doing something for herself that made her feel accomplished. She never minds being a little bit sweaty to a meeting or a lunch date after riding her bicycle across town, because to her all the effort is worth the personal achievement and satisfaction. Walker says, “For me, it was more about having a connection to my city that was different than watching it through a windshield of a car.” Lejeune supports her switch to being car free. The two have crossed paths multiple times over the years, promoting public transportation. “She’s a tireless enthusiast, but it comes from a real, everyday, practical place”, Lejeune says, “She really does take the bus. And the train. And her beautiful bike. And her feet.”

Yes, maybe most of LA doesn’t understand her choices to do away with cars and find different, exciting ways to get places, but she definitely does inspire a lot of people. These days, social media plays a huge role in showing people what is out in our world. Friends and followers of Walker’s accounts on Instagram and Twitter find motivation from her trendsetting ways of going back to the basics of transportation. “She’s living, day to day, a busy, active, career and culture-driven life here in LA without a car,” Lejeune says, “And having fun doing it. And telling others how it’s done and how rewarding it is.”

Now, Walker rides her bicycle twice a week and takes the public bus or train to travel everywhere else. She doesn’t really miss it driving. Walker says she would never move to a city without good public transit. When she has kids, she is completely prepared to experiment and use public transit as much as possible. “Kid love buses and trains,” Walker says, “I feel like they’d be really excited about it.”

When the day comes that Walker takes her children around town by bus or bicycle, iPhones are surely to be updated with some sort of new, fancy system that can only better the public transportation in Los Angeles and other metropolitan areas. Luckily, Walker knows the importance of having her iPhone ready to navigate her in the right direction, whether it is the right bike trail, bus route, or general path in life.

View Walker’s blog here.

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