Gayle McKinney, Alhambra’s public transportation advocate

Gayle McKinney. Photo by Jeu Foon.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

The year was 1970 and new Alhambra resident Gayle McKinney took off from El Monte Airport for her one-hour pilot qualification flight. She would be flying solo. For a while, everything was fine. But then a huge dark bank of 70s smog surrounded her plane, leaving Gayle flying blind. She was lost. She followed her training and dropped down to look for landmarks.

Finally, she saw it – the tall, shiny Sears Building on Fremont Street and the nearby 10 Freeway on the way back to El Monte airport. Thankfully, she landed safe. After that, glowing new pilot Gayle McKinney returned home to Alhambra. Flying costs money. For that reason, it would be her first and last solo flight in the skies above Los Angeles.

Today, Gayle’s navigation skills are just as good. She gives seminars to the public on how to use the bus, subway and rail systems of Los Angeles to seniors at Alhambra’s Joslyn Adult Center. She leads first-timers, using only public transportation, on all-day trips from Alhambra to Long Beach, Santa Monica, Hollywood, the Helms Bakery Building and other popular locations. She is an official METRO Representative. Here’s a taste of one of Gayle’s recent trips, where she took a group of seniors from Alhambra to Santa Monica using only public transportation.

Monday, August 14 at Joslyn Adult Center. Just before the scheduled 10 o’clock one-hour Metro Information Seminar, we discover that the Joslyn Center staff has circulated a flyer with the wrong date (not August 21) for today’s talk. We wonder if anyone will attend. Gayle is unfazed and says she will still be available regardless. Two ladies attend. One asks Gayle a specific question about which bus to take from point A to point B. The other is a first-timer, who asks many questions about how to sign up and use public transportation. This lady is an Alhambra resident and is very interested in the learning trip to Santa Monica on Wednesday and signs up. Gayle patiently and encouragingly answers all questions from both ladies, although she is briefly interrupted by a friend who pokes her head in the door to tell Gayle that her cat died the other night.

Wednesday, August 16. Per Gayle’s instructions we meet at Joslyn Center at 10 am. This “METRO – On the Move” trip to Santa Monica will teach us how to use the bus from Alhambra to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles (45 minutes), how to sign up for a TAP Card at Union Station for first time Metro users, take the subway from Union Station to Exposition Station near USC (about 20 minutes), and finally take the above-ground light rail train to Santa Monica Station, roughly two blocks from Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade (50 minutes). With a TAP card, the trip will cost 35 cents one-way and 70 cents round-trip.

There are six of us total on this trip. Gayle patiently leads us all through the buses and train stations. Lunch at a British pub in Santa Monica is fun (separate checks). We get to know each other better. And after a “dessert” that involves taking pictures from the bluff above Santa Monica Beach, we begin our two-hour journey back to Alhambra.

Jeu Foon is a writer, singer, guitarist, ukulele accompanist, taiko drummer, former stockbroker and retired engineering supervisor. He is the founder and host of Rick’s Open Mic on Wednesday nights in downtown Alhambra. He loves writing about the real people of Alhambra.

As a public service, here is the METRO link, which includes a short video of a typical learning trip.

https://www.metro.net/riding/senior-tips/move-riders-club/

For Alhambra Source readers interested in the next METRO “On the Move” learning trip, which will be to Hollywood Boulevard on Wednesday, September 20, just sign up with Joslyn Adult Center, (626) 570-5056, M-F, 8-5 pm. For more information on METRO public transportation, Gayle’s next seminar is at 10 am on Monday, October 9 at Joslyn Adult Center, 210 N Chapel Ave, Alhambra, CA 91801.

In closing, the Alhambra Source News thanks METRO and Gayle McKinney for their service to our community.

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