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Isolation or Solitude?

Los Angeles: commute through the national park

One of the pleasures of moving to a new city is in understanding the nuanced commuting behaviours of its inhabitants. For all our immersive, shadowing of participants we only ever dip into their travel-to-‘work mind-space, the insightful researcher needs to live through, have something at stake and be affected by the worst a commuting experience has to offer to truly understand the mentality of a city.

London does an excellent expensive-slow-and-unreliable; Cairo loves it packed-noisy-and-hot; despite Tokyo’s efficiency, riding the Yamanote Line during rush-hour in the rainy season is well, condensed; and despite the MRT Bangkok still does a mean gridlock. And Los Angeles? As a city that is close to uninhabitable without some form of personal motor transport LA changes lanes and grinds to a halt to the growl of black-particle-belching single-occupancy cars. It’s interesting to see the extent that real time traffic updates have changed commuter behaviours – more through a combination of Google Map’s traffic layer first through personal computer and then en-route with the iPhone than in-car navigation systems. Colleagues timing their dash-to-work based on avoiding telltale red-lines.

In Tokyo the predictability of the public transport system means that if a commuter train is delayed by more than a few minutes – notes are handed out to commuters as evidence of their lateness, presentable to the boss at work. At what point do vehicles allow the driver to report their stuck-in-traffic lateness to people who need to know? How will this ‘evidence’ compare to that from a personal device offering the same service? Or does society become less absolute, more relative? If you’re reading Future Perfect you’re more likely to have flexible working hours, globally you’re the exception not the rule.

Los Angeles: commute through the national park

The Los Angeles car commute and the inevitable traffic jams have one thing going for them: extra motivation to rise early, grind up the hill and push through the Topanga State Park to our Calabasas design studio. As bike rides go it is a bit of a stretch, but is daily-doable. The isolation of sitting alone in an air-conditioned car? Or the solitude of the fire trails, broken only by scattering rabbits, migrating snakes and the occasional deer? Take ya pick. Enjoy the sunset.

Photos? Dawn on the trail here.