Transit Stories: Karen Mack

Los Angeles, CA: Move LA

L to R: Stephanie Wiggins, CEO of Metro; Congressperson Sydney Kamlager-Dove, and Karen Mack at a recent ride along event held by Move LA.

I am a native Los Angelino and grew up in Compton. I was a lifeguard when I was in my teens in Watts. Spending time in the Watts neighborhood really had an impact on me in terms of my social justice learning and has guided my journey into community work.

I’ve worked for several start-up nonprofits that are focused on issues that impact our community which led me to my role as the founding director of LA Commons. LA Commons is an arts and culture-based organization that also provides a civic space for families in the area to meet, learn, and grow together.  

Like a lot of Angelenos, I’ve had a relationship with a car. I remember going to the DMV on my 16th birthday to get my license. Many consider that a rite of passage into adulthood in Los Angeles. My parents had the means to own a car, so I rarely interacted with public transportation when I was growing up.

I’m environmentally conscious, so I decided to lease a plug-in hybrid for three years. However, the car had issues at the very beginning (so bad that the manufacturer compensated me $5,000) and again close to the end of the lease when somehow water damaged the engine, and it wasn’t covered by the warranty. All the hassle really started to make me question our car culture. I began to ask myself, why do I actually really need a car? My husband still has a car which sits in our driveway 60% of the time.

If we are in a serious climate emergency, then we really should be calling on everyone to get out of their car. Not only is it better for our planet, but it’s also better for our health. I’ve decided to focus on taking public transit. What I’ve found out is that taking a bus is easy for me.

There is a bus stop three minutes from our front door which takes me right downtown. I get caught up on my work emails. I get my daily steps in as I walk to the places I need to go. I also feel like taking the bus and the metro-line gives me a closer connection to the city.

In Los Angeles, we have a pretty solid transit system, but we need to deepen our investment in it in such a way that we truly recreate a way to have people not depend on cars. We need to invest more dollars to build a better network, especially when it comes to getting to and from bus stops and metro stations. Building a better network would help alleviate any issues people face getting from their home to their work.

We also need to invest in the people that make the system run, especially bus drivers. They are the ones that really make the system function and inspire people to become transit riders.

I really hope Representative Hank Johnson’s ‘Stronger Communities Through Better Transit’ bill passes, because it would mean more money for operations for this vital system. For the sake of our planet and our community health, now is the time to invest more money to support public transit.

About Transit Stories

Transit Stories” is a series of real-life experiences with public transit in the U.S. We feature the first-hand experience of public transit riders from across the country. From large cities to small towns, we will document the experiences of the millions of users of busses, trains, ferries, and other forms of public transit in the US. Public transit is essential to our communities, to cooling the planet, to advancing equity. Transit is essential to our very lives.

There is a unique opportunity for the country to make a historic investment in public transit funding to help the country build back better. 

For media inquiries, contact Doug Gordon,



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