JUANA, who came to America from Guatemala, used to take the bus to and from cleaning jobs. It wore on her. Walking to the bus stop after a long day at work was exhausting, especially when it rained, as it occasionally does in Los Angeles. Now Juana drives everywhere, even to her local supermarket, a few blocks away. She had two aspirations: to learn English and to get a car. She has accomplished both.
Although Los Angeles has organised itself around the car since the second world war, it has tried harder than many other American cities to change this. Since 1990 voters have approved three tax rises to pay for public transport. A railway and rapid-bus network has been built quickly—by rich-world standards, if not Chinese ones. Public-transport users, however, are dwindling. In the past five years the number of trips taken in metropolitan Los Angeles has dropped by 19%.