November 4th, 2007

Egrets Reading

The Universe More Accessible in LA since yesterday....

Yesterday, the shuttle service to the Griffith Observatory was suspended and the free parking lot at the top of the hill was reopened to the public. Two hours after the lot opened, it was totally full.

Apparently, once people heard they could suddenly go to the Observatory without an advance reservation, some people just dropped what they were doing and drove there.

Frankly, when I read it in the paper this morning, I was tempted to do so myself!

The shuttles were supposed to eliminate traffic jams on the road up the hill and ease the parking problem. That it did. Unfortunately, it also limited visitors.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in the year since it opened last November, there were 650,000 visitors to the renovated and expanded observatory. This is down from its usual amount of almost 2 million visitors annually before the renovations!

The 650,000 figure includes people like me and samhenderson who visited more than once in the last year. I personally went three times and had purchased tickets for a fourth time but ended up giving those tickets to my sister and nephew. Speaking of my sister and nephew, they also visited the observatory more than once last year....

One problem with the advance reservation system is that a person had to know in advance that he wanted to go to the observatory. If he couldn't make it, he had to find someone else to use the tickets, or simply lost them. There were no refunds.

Another problem was its cost. For some, the $8 shuttle ticket wasn't a big deal, for some of the poorer families in Los Angeles, $8 per adult, and $4 for each child was simply too much. Upon reaching the top of the hill, there's an additional charge for Planetarium show tickets, although it is free to enter the building and look around the exhibits, look through the telescope, or sit outdoors by the Cafe at the End of the Universe and write poetry.

How this decision will pan out as far as parking in the long term will remain to be seen, but frankly, I'm glad that it's there if I suddenly want to go up and look through the telescope, or simply want to enjoy a bird's eye view of Los Angeles.