Public transportation in a city renowned for an obsession with car culture carries a certain stigma that goes back as far as I can remember. People pride themselves on their cars, valuing the convenient mobility and relative isolation from their fellow citizens. I can understand the desire to travel in relative peace but it does come at a cost. In a society that offers numerous ways to self curate your interactions, mass transit forces you to do the exact opposite. When riding a bus or train, you are in close, physical contact with everyone traveling with you. It’s one of the few ways for people physically coexist with each other that is actually expanding in most places and one of the only ways to truly experience the real Los Angeles.
Truth be told, I miss taking the bus. For the majority of my life it was my main mode of transportation. As a child I rode the RTD and I remember vividly when the name changed to the MTA and then to Metro Los Angeles. When my family first moved here from New York this was the first way we explored the city. Eventually my mother got a car but we still took the bus regularly as she never liked driving on the freeway and our early cars were constantly breaking down. As a child I didn’t mind, I developed a habit of people watching at an early age so the rides were entertaining. In high school my friends and I took the bus to and from school daily. A couple kids had cars but the vast majority of the action took place at the bus stop or on the way home. At Fairfax High, if you didn’t take the 10 or the 217 afterschool you were missing out on the most important part of the day.
I continued riding the bus long into my adulthood because it was convenient, inexpensive and had become one of my favorite photographic subjects. The observable range of people and their experiences was infinite and over time, one could develop a good sense of the underlying rhythms that make Los Angeles unique. It’s not always a quiet or pleasant trip but we all get where we’re going together. Sometimes that’s the point of the journey.
Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin is a Los Angeles based photographer whose work focuses on documenting life in the urban environment.