If little gold men were awarded for the most environmentally friendly Oscars attendees, then Ed Begley Jr and Hayden Carson Begley would be the toast of Tinseltown.
For the third time, the veteran actor and his daughter used Los Angeles’ extensive bus and rail network to get to the Academy Awards, proudly flashing their metro cards when they arrived at the red carpet.
They told The Independent this week about their love of public transport and efforts to encourage more Angelenos to hop on a bus or train in a city where it’s a far less ubiquitous choice than New York, San Francisco or Chicago.
Begley Jr, star of numerous Christopher Guest movies including Best In Show , and dozens of TV series like Better Call Saul, Arrested Development and the recently revived Party Down, said photographers and fans alike were amused by their low-key commute to Hollywood’s biggest night.
The actor, who spent part of his childhood on the East Coast, drew a contrast between the subway in LA and New York.
“David Letterman would ride the subway to do Late Night,” he told The Independent. “People from Madison Avenue and people who are doing difficult jobs for very little money ride the subway and the buses in New York.
“It’s very different in LA because we’re spread out. The transit system here goes from Pomona to Trancas; from Santa Clarita to Long Beach. It’s a big area they’re serving, and doing the best they can.”
He added: “My goal, and I think Hayden’s too, is to try to get attention to it in a positive way, so that more people try public transportation.”
Ms Begley documented their Academy Awards commute (LA Metro bus from Valley Village to Studio City – change to Red Line subway – exit at Hollywood and Vine) on TikTok. The journey wasn’t without its own drama including a mad dash for a train, split seam on a dress, and a lost pair of shoes.
After a memorable night at the Oscars (Brendan Fraser winning Best Actor for Hayden; Lady Gaga’s performance for Ed), it was time to head out.
“We walked down Hollywood Boulevard, back to the Hollywood and Vine station and hopped on the Red Line and came home,” Ms Begley said.
For Begley Jr, 73, the round-trip cost him 70 cents. (An off-peak, one-way journey for seniors is an astonishing 35 cents on the LA Metro.)
Ms Begley’s TikTok video has been viewed 2 million times, received thousands of comments and spawned a multitude of online articles. It also got a shout-out from LA Metro’s official Twitter account. “And the award for Smartest Way to Get to the Oscars goes to…” they tweeted.
The clip was also the grand finale of a seven-day TikTok series of her travels around LA using only public transport – a feat far less common than inhabitants of other cities might assume.
“I wondered if anybody would care,” she said. “I feel very passionately about public transit in Los Angeles as I’ve taken it since I was a child with my Dad. I thought, ‘Okay, I’m very interested in this but does anyone else find this interesting?’
“After the first video I got a bit of pushback from people who didn’t really understand why I was doing it, or maybe thought I was doing it to try and show off. But it helped my cause because then I got to explain exactly why I was doing it, and gave me a lot of traction that I could propel into other episodes.”
She also recalled how, after sharing her project with a friend, he unironically commented that he had been telling people for years that LA should have a subway and he thought it would be a great idea.
“What is even funnier is that people agreed with him,” she noted.
LA has been a city choked by cars since automakers worked to push out the streetcar network in the 1960s.
Some 73 per cent of Angelenos drive along to work while only 7 per cent use public transport, according to the Neighborhood Data for Social Change platform at the University of Southern California. (By comparison, 56 per cent of New Yorkers use public transport in the city.)
On top of LA’s already low public transport figures, the pandemic dealt a significant blow. Bus ridership fell 65 per cent and rail declined 75 per cent in early 2020, The Los Angeles Times reported.
In late 2022, ridership reached 72.5 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, LA Metro reported, and public officials aim to get back to pre-Covid figures by July.
But journeys on public transport, and accompanying “micromobility” options like walking, pedal-bikes, e-bikes and scooters, must rise exponentially if California is to achieve its ambitious climate goals.
Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law for the state to be carbon neutral by 2045, a plan that will involve slashing emissions by 85 per cent. California’s transportation sector accounts for about half of the state’s planet-heating emissions, not to mention the associated air pollution which disproportionately impacts low-income and minority neighborhoods.
“It shouldn’t have to fall on the people who use it as an essential service to maintain it,” Ms Begley said. “I think if we can all participate and keep it going, it can be something that not only does good for the environment, but does good for society.”
Begley Jr added: “If people don’t ride it, they don’t have enough money from fares and it further deteriorates. It can’t be neglected, we have to make sure we fund it properly, and that it works very well for everybody in the city and county of LA.”
With her public transportation fandom, Ms Begley is proving herself a chip off the old, green block (her mother Rachelle Carson-Begley is also an actor and environmentalist, while her elder sister, Amanda, is a sustainability educator).
Ed Begley Jr has been described as an “uber-environmentalist”, having been an early pioneer of electric vehicles, recycling, solar panels and veganism since the Seventies.
He planted a drought-tolerant garden of native California plants, buried a 10,000-gallon rainwater tank in the backyard and irrigated fruit trees with a greywater system before it became fashionable. For fun, he has a long-running competition with friend, the scientist Bill Nye, over who has the lowest carbon footprint.
The father and daughter’s public transport mission seems to be catching on. “My next door neighbour, who follows me on TikTok, said, ‘I didn’t even know there was a bus that went over Laurel [Canyon], that would save so much time for me because I’m constantly commuting over there. Will you show me how to take it?’ I jumped at the chance,” Ms Begley said.
As for next year’s Academy Awards, Begley Jr said that his wife will be his plus-one – but that she has confirmed she won’t be taking the subway.
On previous occasions, Mrs Carson-Begley has ridden in someone else’s (electric) vehicle and her husband cycled to the cermony. At 73, however, he says that he’s slowing down a bit.
“But I know my Dad will find some way to get there that is energy-efficient,” Ms Begley said.