Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Flight Report: Let's go to LA!

Last week I went to LA to attend a conference. By training and trade, I am an urban planner and the American Planning Association held the national conference in Los Angeles this year. That's great for me because getting there is a whole lot less expensive than anywhere else and I have some friends there that I stayed with. For the next week or two, I'll be unpacking my trip down there on the blog and talking about how much LA has changed and where it's headed as a city but to start we have a flight report on United down to Burbank via San San Francisco.

Today's plane is a 757-200 that was swapped out for a smaller airbus. I had the window seat and this ended up being a great flight to snap photos of San Francisco while we were on approach. I prefer seats in economy that are just ahead of the wing or behind it (which is why you almost always see either an engine or the trailing edge of a wing in my pictures). No complementary upgrades because of my status today, but since the merger with Continental I don't think that that is realistic any more.

It was pretty cloudy and overcast along the way, so nothing spectacular out of the window until we were almost to SFO. We had an approach headed south just off the coast and from my window you could seethe Golden Gate Bridge perfectly along with the city itself.

Flying over a city is always interesting because you can see the logic and planning that went into it. It's never exactly the same, but patterns put in place by people always stand in contrast to patterns that come from nature. In this case, we have the classic grid across the western end of San Francisco both in the picture above and below. Even from a distance, it's easy to read and easy to understand. There are different types of neighborhoods that we can distinguish from a distance. These, with tight grids and small houses, are dense urban residential and small commercial areas. In cities, twisty roads usually show us where the serious hills are (Alternatively, a significant cluster of short, dead-end roads also is a good clue that people had a tough time getting around and is usually linked to hills).

After the break, we have some great shots of San Francisco Airport and Planes coming and going, as well as a comparison with Burbank, the little known (but better) airport gateway to Los Angeles.

The San Francisco airport really isn't much to write home about, especially the B terminal where I was stuck. I had a long layover and definitely wish that I had left the airport to get some food in the neighboring community instead of trying to wait out my hunger in the airport. Everything in there was rather mediocre and overpriced ($8 for Burger King, for example). The only exception was Boudin, which is a famous sourdough bread bakery in the city. They have a food court place in the airport which offered the only deal I could find: $2.79 for a half pound round of sourdough. A 12 ounce can of soda costs as much. Eventually, I boarded my next flight to Burbank on a CRJ-200.

Take-off this time around gave some great shots. I love the JAL plane landing and these are some of the best pictures I've got of San Francisco airport. 

We took off to the west and was still low enough to get a couple good shots of Edgemar - Pacific Manor. This is also a good example of the effect that the natural landscape has on cities. Compare these shots and the terrain map to the pictures of West San Francisco and the difference is clear. Even with the difference in character of the city (suburban and luxury areas, especially those built recently, tend to be more curvy) the hills force the roads to wind to get from one level to the other. 

To the left and the bottom we have the areas on the hill and to the top the flat area with the grid system near the beach. I also got one last shot of the airport before getting too high to get any details.

The rest of the flight was quick and soon we were on approach to Burbank. Burbank is actually a great little airport and for the part of LA that I usually visit (Echo Park/Silver Lake) it's actually much more convenient. LAX is 27 miles away and takes 30-50 minutes by car or about 2 hours by transit. BUR is about half as far and takes half as long to get to. It's actually a great choice if your destination is downtown LA. 

I like this last one that really shows the the grid versus nature. The curve is the river and everything else is by human design, but even the river is really a little too perfect. 

Closer to the airport is more commercial and industry, but soon I  was finally on the ground at BUR and read to get to the city. To give you an idea of the size of this airport, you're looking at about 25% of it in the picture below. Next time around, we'll visit Silver Lake and take a taste of some of the local restaurants!

1 comment:

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