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SF to L.A. On Public Transit: One (Crazy) Man Reminds Us it Can Be Done

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View "In Transit:" How to Get from S.F. to L.A. in a larger map

Do you know the way to San Jose...on public transit? You can ask Joe Eskenazi, who recently undertook the crazyass endeavor of getting from San Francisco to Los Angeles using public buses, and wrote up his odyssey for the SF Weekly.

Eskenazi chronicles his encounters with willing-to-chat fellow riders, public restrooms, layovers in curious places, and four-mile treks between some stops. On the way, he becomes aware of the various local rituals and traditions associated with using public transit, like how riders of the Clean Air Express in Santa Barbara line up for the 5:50 a.m. bus, and why asking to use the bathroom in one place arouses suspicion. Following an itinerary that he keeps "to the minute," all the way to Los Angeles, Eskenazi ends his trip with what sounds like a great experience on our Metro system, and by bumping into Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

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Here's Eskenazi's narrative of his Metro rides:

I catch the Orange Line bus in Woodland Hills and, for the first time on this trip, a vehicle fills up. It's also the first time I've ever thought to complain that a bus smells too good. The vehicle is stocked with young women in sundresses and takes on the scent of berry shampoo. At North Hollywood station, I stumble past patchouli salesmen to my last transfer — the much-filmed Los Angeles Red Line subway. The disembodied voice piped through the coach kindly requests riders to keep their feet off the seats. The woman next to me actually follows this directive — it was her first time on the subway, too. We pull into Los Angeles Union Station at 12:18 p.m.

Here's how the trip breaks down in numbers, in case you were planning to get up and back to the Bay Area on public transit: You'll ride "16 buses or trains operated by seven public agencies," spend $41.25, use up 32 hours and seven minutes of your time, and cover 480 miles. Are you crazy enough to try it? Or will you stick to driving up the I-5, or catching a quick Southwest flight, but waiting for us to get a real bit of the dangling carrot that is high-speed rail between SF and LA?