Say hello to Diana Chi! Diana is Training & Outreach Coordinator at UCLA Environment, Health & Safety.

After spending seven years driving alone to campus, she decided to leave her car behind and started riding the bus and bicycling to work instead.

We asked her some questions about why she decided to switch and what she’s learned along the way.

What made you decide to take public transit to UCLA instead of driving?

I had thought about it for years while sitting in gridlock traffic in Westwood. Once, I really, truly, honestly saw an old man on a walker pass me on Ohio Avenue. Lost sight of him before I started moving again.

What do you like most about taking public transit to campus so far?

I’d like to say that the lack of stress of driving or feeling more “in touch” with the city around me and all that…which is all true. But the best part of it all has to be that I lost 10 pounds in a little over three months! Without dieting, or exercising, or even being aware of the fact that I was losing weight. I didn’t realize until a colleague jokingly asked me if I was trying to bring back baggy pants. So I was forced to buy a new wardrobe, but with all the money I was saving, the shopping spree barely made a dent in my checking account.

How did taking alternative transportation change your daily routine?

The biggest change was having to stay on a schedule. I am most definitely not a morning person, and getting out of my home on time to catch the bus is a little tough. But hey, did I mention I lost 10 pounds? Totally worth it!

Do you still have your car? What do you do with your car now?

I actually gave my car to my sister. I knew that if I kept my car around, I’d too easily fall back into driving everywhere.  Also, I don’t have parking at my apartment, so it would be a full-time job trying to find parking.

What are some challenges you face now that you don’t have a car?

The toughest part is when I need to get somewhere in a rush. I used to meet friends in Koreatown for dinner on weeknights, or in Culver City with family, but it would take an hour to get to Koreatown, so I end up bowing out. Good side of that? I save quite a bit of money since I’m not eating out as much. And trying to get back home late at night can be hard, but I was pretty much a chauffeur to all my friends for the last ten years, so they don’t complain (yet) about taking me home.

How much money do you save by taking transit and biking to UCLA?

Ooh…the money savings! I can’t figure out how the math is really working out, but I am saving $500+ a month. And the strangest and most exciting unexpected benefit is just being generally healthier and happier. I feel free not being stuck in my car, packed between a thousand other cars, all equally unhappy at being there. It’s like a “the hills are alive with the sound of music” type freedom. I just step outside and start walking, support my neighborhood small businesses, buy only what I need and can carry, and really get to see and live where I live.

Do you use any UCLA Transportation programs to support your commute?

My new lifestyle would not be possible without the BruinGO! Flash Pass Program. It wouldn’t make sense financially. And have I mentioned yet that I just learned how to ride a bicycle a year ago? Bike to Campus Week got me excited about learning, gave me a personal goal to meet (I biked in to work for the first time this past May) and the annual bike benefits keep my bike geared up and safe. Oh, and the partnership with Zipcar, and Zimride… and no, Transportation didn’t pay me to say any of this!

What advice do you have for people who are interested in converting to public transit?

It’s a commitment, but once you’ve made the decision to stick it out, the benefits are endless. My daily commute is no longer wasted time cursing at the guy in front of me in traffic – it’s time for me to read, study, catch up on emails or beat my friends in one of those highly addicting Facebook games. It’s time well spent, and once you’ve given it a shot for a month or two, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Oh and hello….ten pounds!!!!

Are you car-free in Los Angeles? We’d love to hear from you. Send an email to byau@ts.ucla.edu and tell us your story.