Last week I discussed some of the sights and sounds associated with a typical Metro bus ride. I did neglect to cover the olfactory aspects of the ride. One's sense of smell can be stimulated from the reeking garbage bags of beer cans which some “collector” drags aboard with him, the passenger himself or both!
On the rail lines, where some transverse seating is 168 cm or greater in length, a passenger, even one taller than average, can lie down and with some slight knee bending, get some sleep. Usually this sort of rider will also contributing, negatively, to the aural or olfactory ambiance. Since both Fare Inspectors almost always ignore this type of rider and Sheriff's Deputies will only check for fare payment – these people are left to sleep in peace. A seating design, more in keeping with urban realities, with a fixed “arm rest” between each pair of longitudinal seats will easily solve the problem.
The almost insurmountable challenge to the LACMTA is to increase ridership given the atmosphere which I have described. Who, given any other alternative – even when it requires sitting stopped in freeway traffic for long periods – would ride public transportation? Few indeed, other than your mole!
The Times published a piece on a trial run of the Orange Line(1). Ms Liu does a nice job in reporting, what I assume to be her personal experience on the Orange Line test run. Especially noted was her writing about the six-way intersection at Burbank Bl. and Fulton Av. AND an emergency stop.
But, the article screamed for a side-bar with detailed diagrams and a complete explanation by the “planners and traffic engineers” who designed this * (asterisk), as to why a six-way crossing is “safer” than ALL other alternatives, along with rebuttal(s) by other “planners and traffic engineers” who don't have a stake in the matter.
But all is not for naught, the LACMTA could sell “I survived a ride on the Orange Line” T-shirts, likely priced at $27, at their web site store.
Prior to my ride on the Orange Line ride, on Thursday afternoon 27 Oct. 2005, I checked the “Trip Planner” at http://www.metro.net/ . I used the North Hollywood Red Line Station as my point of origin and an address in Tarzana as my destination. The “Trip Planner” suggested that I use “ Metro Bus 154 (VENTURA BL- RESEDA BL) heading south From: N HLLYWD STA BAY -No.10 To: VENTURA/RESEDA(NW corner) Ride Metro Bus 150( VENTURA BL- TOPANGA CYN) heading west From: VENTURA/RESEDA(NE corner) To: VENTURA/WILBUR(NE corner)” which in total required about 42 minutes, IF, that is, both buses were on time. The “Trip Planner” did not offer any other alternatives! I planned to meet a friend for lunch in Tarzana, so after planning the trip myself, using schedules available on the Metro web site, I decided to break the trip at the Reseda Station on the Orange Line and use the 240 line from the Reseda Station to Tarzana and then use the 150 line co complete my trip on Ventura Bl.. Timing the trip proved impossible, even though the Orange Line has a detailed published schedule, the line 240 schedule is merged with the line 150 schedule, i.e., a distinct row for each line based on departure time AND column headings only for common time points). The schedule has not been updated to take into account arrivals or departures from the Reseda Station (surprise!). Inexplicably, a new schedule, splitting out the line 240, with the important times for the Reseda Station shown is not available. I did not check all the intersecting lines for other Orange Line Stations – Reseda Station is only served by line 240 – but I am sure that none of the others, e.g., the Van Nuys Station is served by five Metro buses, and DASH and two other buses, designated SC793 and SC 798, but I am confidant that the LACMTA has performed as usual, according to what should be their motto: “Striving for Mediocrity” -I must translate that to Latin in order to soften it :-).
Again, and not unexpectedly, we have the lack of systems thinking on the part of the LACMTA. Neither were intersecting bus line schedules considered in this long much hyped run-up to O day (Orange Line start of operations day) nor was the “Trip Planner” feature on http://www.metro.net/ updated. The Orange Line is also known as the 901 line. This is perhaps a ploy to confuse us into thinking that it is really a light rail line. I will, from this point forward, refer to it only as the 901 line!
My trip on the 901 line
On Saturday 28 October, I started out from Pasadena where my thinking about Metro signage was reinforced. My plan was to take the 780 Rapid line through Glendale to the Red Line Wilshire-Western station. I waited, and watched a 180 line, which parallels the 780 route at a slower pace bus pass the corner and stop at its designated place (Rapid stops are usually separate from regular bus stops). After another 15 minute wait I caught a 181 line bus which follows, essentially, the same route as the 180 and 780. It was then that I found out that the 780 was a weekday only line! The usual bus stop signs indicate that the line operates only Monday through Friday, Rush Hour only and etc., but not so with the Rapid signs.
I arrived at the North Hollywood Red Line station and found that there were many smallish signs directing one to the “Orange Line” , they seemed to be after thoughts or perhaps even temporary. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it took only 3 minutes, walking at a leisurely pace, from the Red Line platform to the Line 901 boarding area. I was soon on board, my bus, number 9209, had three TTVs on board – none of which were completely visible because of the many standing passengers. I arrived at the Reseda station in, by my stopwatch, 29 minutes and 18 seconds. I will have a little more to say about this portion of the trip in the “Report Card” section below.
At the Reseda station, I asked one of the the many, perhaps up to thirty, orange shirted LACMTA employees where the South bound line 240 stopped. After repeating my question about ten times, I finally found someone who could direct me to the stop. When I asked for a schedule for the line (although I had one) I got variations of duh. One employee, proving my point about lack of systems thinking on the part of the LACMTA, said, approximately, “we are opening a new line here, users of connections are supposed to know the other routes and schedules”. This was in spite of the fact that the Los Angeles Times(2) covered that very point, and gave the LACMTA a heads-up on the issue, in a Friday, 28 October piece.
But as usual, the LACMTA people who may have read the article either did not see its relevance OR failed to communicate it to someone who could take action. I any event, I asked someone waiting for the 240 bus about its route, he cheerfully and incorrectly informed me that I should cross the street in order to catch the correct bus. Hewing to my “Rider's Rule”, i.e., always get three opinions, I found a knowledgeable lady who, in Spanish, directed me how to get to my destination by using the 240 line from the stop where we stood and then to transfer to the 150 line on Ventura Bl. The experienced passengers are most often the best source of information, better even than drivers, who may know their route but may not know the street names for minor stops or any connecting lines.
I had an enjoyable lunch and retrace the route, in reverse, back to the the Reseda station. While waiting 25 minutes for my return bus 150 on Ventura Bl, I was passed by two 750 Rapid lines headed for Universal City. However, as a Rapid Line with limited stops, they did NOT stop on the corner where I was waiting. I boarded the next line 901 bus and restarted my stop watch. I noted that the buses were scheduled to stop at every station yet, the stop signal cords were not disable so we experienced many unnecessary “stop requested” announcements. Too, the AVAs (Automated Voice Announcements) were not activated AND the drivers made no announcements. This fact coupled with the smallish, too few or non-existent station signs left me and fellow passengers often wondering where we were.
I arrived at the Warner Center station in a total travel time – including only time on the two Line 901 buses – was 45 minutes 42 seconds. I walked around the “celebration area” and picked up an nice Daily News insert which had “Orange Line” information. I wondered why the larger slightly remote shopping center did not run a shuttle bus to take advantage of a crowd which the Times(3) estimated at 30,000 or at minimum, why the department stores did not attempt to open some credit card accounts. I waited almost 15 minutes to board my return bus because of sequential loading – loading several buses in parallel to about two thirds capacity would have seeded up the operation and saved some seats for down line passengers who pretty much had to stand if they did not board at Warner Center. My return trip to North Hollywood, using a single bus, took 52 minutes and 58 seconds. I also noted that the squarish line 901 buses had the standard front mounted bike racks while as noted by the Times(4), the silver buses allow for on-board bicycle stowage. Those who shared their opinion about the matter with me were in agreement. People will readily give up their seat to a wheel chair, perhaps somewhat more reluctantly to a senior citizen will object to having to stand for a bicycle, especially one that may be dripping mud and/or water.
Line 901 Report Card
The bad news is that the “Bus that thinks it's a train” is really a bus. In summary, I give the LACMTA a C- for concept and a D+ for execution. From a conceptional standpoint, this bus line should have been implemented as a light rail line. Doing so would allow it to carry more passengers per operator and therefore, reduce operational costs. In execution: It appears that not attempt was made to level grade the bus way. There were lots of dips which were accentuated when one rode in the back half of the articulated buses. There are way too many red lights – all out of control of the driver – and absolute no crossing gates. Station placement, outbound stations on one side of an intersecting street and inbound on the other. This frequently results is two stops – one at a red light before the station and then the stop at the station itself. On my outbound trip there was one near miss while I was aboard a bus and I watched another as I waited to cross the street to board the second bus of my outbound trip. These near misses occurred in spite of a heavy presence of both police and many Orange shirted employees in and around the stations. Finally, as a project, it appears that a number of steps were missed: Failure to update the “web Trip Planner” , lack of new schedules for connecting buses, employees ill prepared to answer questions about connecting lines and etc.
The signage at intersections reads “Busway” - which may mean little to the average driver, even one who would look up at a relatively large angle and see the sign. A driver might think this to mean the a lane will be used by buses? Serious consideration must be given to signage and words like “Danger!”, “Watch for Buses!” should be added to signs. Unfortunately the design of the busway makes for an accident waiting to happen. I predict that serious accidents will happen. They will happen for the following reasons: Driver fatigue – the busways combine the worst features of freeways and surface streets which make driving much more hazardous than on city streets; Sudden apparition of buses – buses in the busway are often concealed, by sound barrier walls, shrubbery and etc., so they appear quite suddenly, surprising motorists; Inadequate stopping distances – travel will be at, for buses, relatively high speed. This fact along with a mass that is almost twice that of the standard bus means that even with above average response time means that once the brakes are applied the bus will travel through the intersection. Longer periods of darkness will exacerbate the situation. Multiplying the number of daily bus “runs” times the number of intersections will yield a rough “exposure factor”. Multiply that factor by 365 and you will see that accidents are almost a statistical certainty. At 144 daily round trips and 36 intersections, and 22 weekdays per month it works out to: 244 X 36 X 22 X 12 = 2,737, 152 chances for a weekday intersection accident per annum. It easily becomes 3 million chances per annum when weekends are factored in.
I predict that after an initial peak in ridership, discretionary riders who, after an initial trial period on the “Orange Line”, will find that the queasy feeling they experience at each intersection, will send them back to their cars.
(1)Liu, Caitlin. “Busway Test Run Gives Riders a Jolt”. Los Angeles Times 25 Oct. 2005:B3
(2)Liu, Caitlin. “Connections Critical for Orange Line”. Los Angeles Times 28 Oct. 2005:B3
(3)Liu, Caitlin, Covarrubias, Amanda. Valley's Orange Line a Hit Out [of] the Gate”. Los Angeles Times 30 Oct. 2005:B1
(4)Liu, Caitlin. “Road Is Paved for Valley Busway's Opening Day”. Los Angeles Times 26 Oct. 2005:B2
2005-10-22 (More system integration topic, deferred)
In the news:
Los Angeles is suing the LACMTA for illegally discharging pollutants into the storm drains. The source of the dumping is reported by the “Los Angeles Times”(1) as the Vermont/Beverly Red Line station. This is further proof that oversight of facilities is not the LACMTA's strong suite.
From the LACMA's Marketing Department:
A rare LACMTA flier touts the benefits of the TTV which will be installed aboard all buses by next summer. The lead paragraph promises, among the expected headline news etc., a “line-specific route map using the GPS system to indicate what stop is next”. I have seen this system about a half dozen times so far but, have NEVER seen any route maps! Titled, “New TV Monitors Will Inform, Entertain Metro Bus Riders” and identified by a marginal code of “05-2543mm”, it bold headings claim that:
Riders Are Quieter - the people apparently at the LACMTA Marketing Department have not been aboard the same buses that I have, with loud cell phone conversations, loud music bleeding through other passenger's headphones, the clanking emanating from the garbage bags of the bags of bottle and can collectors and the verbalizations of people with diminished capacity. One such passenger sat behind me on a Wilshire 720 bus last week. He repeated: “Where is the farm? Delta X-ray November Fiver Bravo, over”, approximately once a minute for most of the long ride. This made it next to impossible for me to read my book on French history – although it is bad enough now, ambient noise level wise, things will get worse under the TTV system.
From the flier “ Some of the programming has sound, Operators [drivers] will have the ability to adjust the volume but are not required to do so”.
Less Vandalism – they cite an 80% decrease in vandalism is several other, mostly smaller, (what do they know about grafiti in Milwaukee?) cities. I have found that experienced transit riders will touch the graffiti on seats to see if it will stain their clothes before sitting down. This item probably represents wishful thinking on the part of the LACMTA.
No Cost to Metro – This seems to go against the “there is no free lunch” concept. The first loss, if not to the LACMTA, than to its passengers, is either the present parcel stowage located above the right front wheel or the rack of bus schedules, behind the driver, of lines which the bus which one is currently riding crosses. The guaranteed minimum of $100,000 which the LACMTA will receive from TTV, is printed in this section. By my calculation this amounts to just under $17 per bus per year which equates to just under five cents per bus per day, which seems incredibly cheap. On my to do list is: Find out how much an on-board display card ad costs - probably lots more than 5 cents/bus/day! I have not seen any figures on what increase in staffing costs will be incurred in managing the accounting for this “scheme” .
(1)No Attribution. “City Sues Transit Agency Over Alleged Pollution”. Los Angeles Times 19 Oct. 2005:B4
Next Posting: Riding the Orange Line (2005-11-02)
In the news
Los Angeles is suing the LACMTA for illegally discharging pollutants into the storm drains. The source of the dumping is reported by the “Los Angeles Times”(1) as the Vermont/Beverly Red Line station.
A rare LACMTA flier touts the benefits of the TTV which will be installed aboard all buses by next summer. The lead paragraph promises among the expected headline news etc., a “line-specific route map using the GPS system to indicate what stop is next”. I have seen this system about a half dozen times so far but, have NEVER seen any route maps! Titled, “New TV Monitors Will Inform, Entertain Metro Bus Riders” and identified by a marginal code of “05-2543mm”, its bold headings claim that:
Riders Are Quieter - the people apparently at the LACMTA Marketing Department have not been aboard the same buses that I have, with loud cell phone conversations, loud music bleeding through other passenger's headphones, the clanking emanating from the garbage bags of the bottle and can collectors and the verbalizations of people with diminished capacity. One such passenger sat behind me on a Wilshire 720 bus last week. He repeated: “Where is the farm? Delta X-ray November Fiver Bravo, over”, approximately once a minute for most of the long ride. This made it next to impossible for me to read my book on French history – things will get worse under the TTV system.
From the flier: “ Some of the programming has sound. Operators (drivers) will have the ability to adjust the volume but are not required to do so”.
Less Vandalism – they cite an 80% decrease in vandalism is several other, mostly smaller cities. I have found that experienced transit riders will touch the graffiti on seats to see if it will stain their clothes before sitting down. This item probably represents wishful thinking on the part of the LACMTA.
No Cost to Metro – This seems to go against the “there is no free lunch” concept. The first loss, if not to the LACMTA, than to its passengers, is either the present parcel stowage located above the right front wheel or the rack of bus schedules, located behind the driver, of lines which the bus one is currently riding, crosses. The guaranteed minimum from TTV of $100,000 is printed in this section. By my calculation this amounts to just under $17 per bus per year which equates to just under five cents per bus per day, which seems incredibly cheap. I have not seen any figures on what increase in staffing costs will be incurred in managing the accounting for this “scheme” .
(1)No Attribution. “City Sues Transit Agency Over Alleged Pollution”. Los Angeles Times 19 Oct. 2005:B4
Next Posting: Riding the Orange Line (2005-11-02)
The Los Angeles Times(1) covers the planned light rail "Expo Line", in an excellent article by Ms Martha Groves notable for research and analysis, which is sadly lacking in much of the Times coverage of the LACMTA. The LACMTA's mantra, in this case, seems to be: “If we build it, we don't care if they come”. One can almost hear the Taj Mahal conversations: “Well, we can get that old railroad right of way, and that will really cut down on costs, so that alone makes it a great project”. This Expo Line plan seems to be underway in spite of quotes, like this one, in support of the Red Line extension, from Ms Genevieve Giuliano, director of the Metrans Transportation Center, “The Wilshire Corridor is probably the only corridor in Los Angeles that one could justify mass transit on”.
Predicting 45,000 weekday riders (just like someone predicted earnings of $67 million in ten years from the TTNet video screens planned for buses), it looks like the LACMTA will try to ram this idea through in December.
My advice: Proof of concept could easily be obtained at a reasonable cost by running a Rapid bus line with stops at the locations where stations are planned, on Jefferson Blvd., which closely parallels the planned Expo Line route,. But no, with the bus company mentality which permeates the LACMTA, they will likely plunge right in, forgetting that light rail routes are immalleable. Forgetting too, that light rail sooner or later must cross vehicular traffic – a weakness like that of both the Gold and Blue Lines, slowing speeds and resulting, inevitably, in accidents. Repeating the same actions and expecting different results is one definition of insanity.
In the article a proponent of the Expo Line cites BART as a model. I don't know every inch of BART, but, any portion on which I have traveled was either elevated or below ground, with no portion known to me to be at grade level. He further quotes population figures for those living near the proposed Expo Line. It is not population, but rather, traffic sources and destinations which should drive transportation planning. Nowhere in the article do we read a statement like, “LACMTA traffic/transportation engineers say ...”. I submit that the LACMTA doesn't have any! So we are left with, for the most part, unqualified civilians whose only support comes from long held “gut feelings”.
If the Green line truly runs from nowhere to nowhere, then one could describe the planned Expo Line as running from downtown to nowhere. The Gold Line ridership is lower than the initial estimate, the LACMTA should apply the deflation factor (Actual Ridership divided by Estimated Ridership) to the 45,000 passenger estimate they advance for Expo Line ridership. “Before the line [the Gold Line] opened in 2003, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimated that26,000 to 32,000 people would be taking the train every day by July 2004. The average weekday boardings for March: 15,226”(2). In this case the deflation factor would be: 15,226/(26,000 + 32,000)/2 or 0.525. Deflating the 45,000 estimated Expo Line daily ridership with this experience factor yields a possible ridership of 23,626. I submit that using that value for ridership in order to determine the economic viability of the Expo Line.
It is also possible, given the proximity of Venice Blvd. with its local 33 line and express 333 line that some of the weekday ridership will be siphoned off those bus lines. The fastest light rail segments in our area are those which use the freeway medial – given that, the center of the Santa Monica Freeway certainly look appealing. In estimating ridership for the Expo Line consideration should be given to the siphon effect – again, a proof of concept rapid bus line could aid in evaluating what true ridership figures might be.
It is interesting that the LACMTA is only now “leaking” information about its plans for the Expo Line likely with the idea that it can be slipped by the public at the end of the year. In fact, I fault both the Times and the LACMTA for not initiating a public dialog in the very early stages of this fiasco, I mean, plan. We live in the Internet age so public feedback could, and should, have been solicited and reviewed. Our only hope is that the will not advance the “plan” and build the Expo Line without the $50 million which they are presently short.
I think the Expo Line plan should be dumped and the Red Line should be extended to Santa Monica underground below/near Wilshire Blvd. But as usual, the LACMTA will likely build now and apologize later.
The “Orange Line” is scheduled to begin operations soon, specifically, on 29 October, the last weekend of October with free rides promised for that weekend. I have a copy of the LACMTA's Marketing Department's output – “Metro Orange Line It's the valley's newest shortcut” publication number 06-0459NS. It does have a nice map that shows possible destinations for riders – most of which seem to be schools with two golf courses indicated. I have yet to see any golfers, those with clubs and carts on any of the buses which provide my transportation. The brochure does not mention the beginning date of operation in any of its five fold out pages, which make heavy use of the color orange. Neither does it directly indicate the North Hollywood Red Line station nor the Warner Center Shopping Center as destinations on the map. It does indirectly indicate the Red Line in the map key. A failure to understand the concept of integration is screamed out in the brochure, by not showing that the Orange Line is part of a larger transportation system. Well, kind of system, anyway, as your mole has previously commented on the five minute or more gap, where passengers are transformed into pedestrians when they are forced to walk between the Orange Line and the North Hollywood Red Line Station.
Under the heading " First, you have to get their attention":
A ride on bus number 7665 resulted in a cut hand when I pulled the stop signal cord. The cord, actually a multi-strand cable adjacent to the right side seat which was immediately behind the rear exit, was frayed . The cord was either poorly constructed to begin with or less likely suffered from wear. In any event, there is no simple on-board reporting system available for items requiring maintenance – other than telling the driver about it or using the on-line form (previously linked).
(1)Groves, Martha. “MTA's Plan for Westside Transit Line Detours South.” Los Angeles Times 8 Oct. 2005:A1
(2)Maddaus, Gene. “Gold Line no golden arches.” Pasadena Star News 17 Apr. 2005:
(3)Mascaro, Lisa. “Buses must be on time, Making connections key to Orange Line's success.” LA Daily News 6 Oct. 2005:
Next week: More about system integration
More Fun on the Metro
Some you you may have noticed that the links to LACMTA maps cited in an earlier post are no longer active. The bus map link has been replaced by a system map (But still not much when you consider the detail available from my other examples) – someone must be reading my posts, or am I flattering myself?
The new “TVs” are in place on some lines. The one I viewed recently on Line 38 is probably representative of what is in our near future. The broadcasting entity is called TTNet (Transit TV Network). I watched, en español, a brief Fidel Castro biography, “Compita con el reloj” (compete with the clock) crossword puzzle fill-in and A Guess the cinema quote “game”, featuring a quote from “Risky Business”. Another segment had insurance tips, read advertisement. Most of my fellow passengers seemed to be ignoring TTNet, I would have ignored it too, but I wanted to include my experience here. I see this as just another “service”, provided by a LACMTA marketing division that is overstaffed in relation to their contributions, which contributions are frequently cosmetic . I would rather ride in relative silence.
You can read about what the LACMTA board thought about TTNet. To me, their expectations that an estimated $67 million will accrue to the LACMTA over the life of the ten year contract, which apparently was signed, is a pipe dream. I can hear them now – “It costs nothing and we will earn $6,700,000 year!” Want to bet that it won’t?? :-) :-)
Unfortunately, the typical bus rider is not part of a demographic which is highly desired by most advertisers. The way this would work in a typical advertising arrangement is that $X is paid by an advertiser, let's say “Stan's Stock Brokerage” to TTNet. Then, TTNet pays the LACMTA a percentage of the sum of the amounts paid by all the Stan's, after subtracting expenses. Let's assume, that TTNet is VERY generous and agrees to pay the LACMTA twenty percent of profits in the LACMTA's area of operations. In order for the LACMTA earn $6.7 million per year then TTNet would have to make a profit of $33.5 million in the LACMTA's area of operations. Booking a profit of $33.5 million in the LACMTA's territory, using a conservative profit factor of ten percent (10%) and allowing 90% of gross to be allocated to expenses, TTNet would have to book a gross of $335 million in our hometown and its environs. I will on an oft repeated reminder - “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be TRUE”. One factor making big profits difficult is TTNet's claim that only 15 minutes of each hour will be devoted to advertising – I wonder how long that plan will last?
My own unsolicited advise to the LACMTA is to charge TTNet for each ad, each time it is broadcast as if it were a chargeable transit ad like the overhead advertising posters or the specially painted buses – e.g., the buses with Z advertising for the October 28 opening of, what will probably turn out to be yet another, Zorro movie.
Recently, I rode on bus number 7701 driven by operator 23770 who listened to his loud portable radio during the short portion of my trip (between Rosemead and the stop nearest (nearest means at least a 5 minute walk at a fast pace, when I obey traffic signals) the Sierra Madre Villa station. I used the elevator at the Sierra Madre Villa station as part of the trek to the platform. The number 2 elevator (from the left, when facing the elevator bank) was malfunctioning – the door would not fully close and it cycled open and closed. I used elevator number 3, which – like most of the elevator bank had deep scratches in the stainless steel interior and paint based graffiti on the windows.
I made a transfer from the Red Line at “Metro Center”. All of the sixteen (16) TV monitors were either turned off or out of service. Usually, this best of the 1980s technology, on the Red Line platform, is showing the platform (normally platform 2) of the next Blue Line train. When this “service” is in operation it might be of some help IF anyone would search out these fugitives from Pong and IF they had some idea of where platform 2 or for that matter, platform 1 is located. Today there were six “security officers” (four LACMTA Fare Inspectors” and two sheriff's deputies) cluster, er.. ah, grouped together. Busy chatting, paying only, at best, casual attention to the crowded platform, and then only in a limited area, and inspecting no fares in the ten minutes, or so, that I waited for my train. On board I noticed the new posters: “Orange Line, It's the bus that acts like a train”, how about that for setting expectations? The train operator made the usual hard to understand announcements, those that were understandable e.g., “The next station stop is Civc Center”, why not simply, “Next, Civic Center”? You know, just like in the big city? Or my favorite, “Our last and final stop, Union Station, this train is going out of service”, why not - “Union Station, end of line”?? Apparently hed dosen't know that he could string "ultimate" onto his "last and final" synonyms. The out of service announcement is of interest to people attempting to board at Union Station and is communicated by the “Not in service” displayed on the exterior of the train. But what can one expect from an organization whose staff has nothing to do with public transportation outside of working hours?
Today, I rode to Pasadena around 16:00 (4PM) on the 780 Rapid Line, aboard bus number 7144, which runs between Hollywood and Pasadena as far as Pasadena Community College. Near the end of the trip I noticed the red latch, on the left side of the bus, towards the rear, which opens the emergency window exit was in the released position – this is not an infrequent occurrence on buses. Usually something has vibrated loose and the latch, which seems to be held in place by friction, will not stay in the normal position.
I have reported this situation to other bus drivers, who understood that a child could easily fall out of the bus by pushing where a child is most likely to push, near the bottom of the window. I attempted to make a report to this driver whose operator number is 25016. At first he simply ignored me – always a good feeling. When I repeated the report, he gave the slightest form of acknowledgment that it is possible for one human being to give another – an almost imperceptible head movement along with a vocal response of perhaps, 2 milliseconds. Now, I am very much a supporter of the LACMTA drivers(except for their refusal to wear seat belts) – they do a difficult job well and the majority of whom are great people, but this guy was an exception.
I hope that there is never an accident involving this bus but if there ever is this report should establish the the driver in question and the LACMTA will be guilty of contributory negligence. The lesson learned here is that you can not always expect a “Thank you”, for reporting problems to your “friendly” driver. But I do encourage making reports to the operator and at.
Which link is not that easy to find which I read as an attempt to confuse users and
thereby reduse the number of complaint. Typical web sites have either a near top of page or extreme bottom of page "Contact Us" link, but not our friends at the LACMTA.
I wrote to the bus manufacturer, a portion of my letter is included here:
I find the 7000 series (the LACMTA's designation) e.g., the Rapid 720 line on Wilshire Blvd., to be rough riding and seemingly without shock absorbers. As a result, fittings (seat mounts, emergency window exit release levers and etc.) seem to vibrate loose and cause a noisy environment for the passengers.
Of special concern, is the above mentioned loose emergency window exit levers, which present a hazard to children who might inadvertently push the window open and fall out of the bus.
Could you please advise me as to whether this is a result of faulty construction on your part or improper maintenance on the part of the LACMTA ?
Don't hold your breath waiting for an answer, I'm not.
Speaking of maintenance or rather the lack of it, earlier this week I rode Rapid bus number 7019 on line 780 from Pasadena to Glendale. The bus had a loose seat which rattled noisily until someone sat on it. On that trip I exited the Red Line at the Civic Center Station. The up escalator was (thankfully) in operation. Near the top, the up escalator began emitting groans, squeaks and scraping noises. My background in engineering analysis tell me that this is because the escalator is uncovered and exposed to the elements, as are many escalators throughout the system, the top part is exposed to heating by the sun and expands causing a loose fit when the portions of the tread way which do not have time to expand travel over the expanded sections.
I noted on another trip that bus number 7189 had an inoperative left side stop signal cord AND a strip of molding hanging down from the ceiling, with two screws dangling, about ten feet back from the front of the bus.
Again, the LACMTA has the bus system mentality when it comes to maintenance, well, sometimes anyway.
Next week: First, you have to get their attention
The latest transit related Los Angeles Times piece1 which contains the phrase “... most still aren't willing to part with their cars” is long on reasons why people won't use the local transportation “system”. However, it lacks an analysis, other than still higher gas prices, of how to make public transportation appealing to potential riders. I wager that the reporters are, at maximum, only casual users of the Metro. So, other than interviewing people at rail stations they don't have an in depth feel for what a daily commute is like for the average rider.
Well, if they're reading this – and they well might be since I sent them an invitation – let's take them on a typical ride.
I want to be in Pasadena for a meeting at 8:45 so, I must be on the first of three buses at 7:35. I ride it for eight minutes and then wait about 3 minutes for the next bus. Note that if the first bus is as little as three minutes late, has to board a wheelchair, or hits all the lights on red, I will miss this connection and add up to an hour (the connecting bus is currently hourly) to my commute. Today, I ride for about fifteen minutes, all the while being forced to listen to the driver's portable radio being played too loudly for the speaker size so that it is distorted too (this is better than the times I have watched the driver read the morning paper while at the wheel), and exit at the stop NEAREST the Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line station. Since the LACMTA refuses to understand what “seamlessly integrated transportation system” means, I now must walk to the Gold Line station. The walk, about 2 blocks, takes 3 minutes 19 seconds to the bus stop adjacent to the elevator which take me to the fourth floor so that I can walk another 3 minutes or so to the platform. While in the elevator I notice that its inspection certificate, like the ones in the platform elevators, is expired – in fact, it expired just about two years ago. Every time I make this connection I am amazed that the “designers”of this station did not plan for easy bus access on Madre Street, such is found at say, the Crenshaw station on the Green Line or the Green Line Aviation Station. Most people learn by past experience – this is definitely not the case with the LACMTA! I digress. Today my connections, so far, are good and the Gold Line train arrives in about two minutes, but, something is wrong with the doors on what will be the lead car and the passengers trapped inside and we on the platform exchange wondering glances for at least 30 or more seconds until the doors finally open. I board and in a few minutes we are off and I ride the few minutes to Lake Station. Once at Lake I run up the stairs because the buses are all too infrequent on Lake. Again, probably only because I am taking notes, a Lake street bus arrives in a few minutes and I am taken to my destination. Total clock time door-to-door: fifty minutes. Time to travel by car? Perhaps, 15 minutes.
There are some actions which I could have taken to reduce travel time for this particular commute. I could have used a Foothill Transit bus which would take me directly to the Gold Line Station and stop within feet of the station elevator. But, since I have a Metro weekly pass it would mean spending an additional $22 per month to use the Foothill system or buying a Foothill pass instead of a Metro pass. That might be OK if I only had to commute to Pasadena. That not being the case and since my mother taught me to be frugal, I try to get along on only the Metro pass.
What could the LACMTA do? First of all they must start thinking about a transportation system and stop being lead around by the nose by the “Bus Riders Union”. Said Union would do well to start thinking in terms of a transportation system too. The LACMTA might think about adding local feeder lines which, like the hub and spoke system of the airlines, could bring traffic to the rail stations. These feeder lines could run more frequently during commute times and less frequently during the mid-day periods. They may even consider making these lines FREE to those who purchase a rail ticket or day pass on board the feeder line. Then, the departure times for the rail system could be adjusted to allow people to exit the bus, and go through whatever contortions required to get to the platform. And if a few people got a free ride – so what- in the larger scheme of transportation the vast majority of riders would make some form of payment. Failing that, the LACMTA should negotiate mutual acceptance of its passes by other transportation systems. The way things stand now when LACMTA decides to drop routes they simply say “we are eliminating duplication because the area is already served by X”. As in the case of line 304, Union Station to Santa Monica, at the end of the year the line will terminate at Sepulveda Boulevard for the reason stated above (substitute Big Blue Bus for X). So, each half year my pass decreases in value because I have fewer and shorter routes to ride and I must pay additional fares to ride portions of the old route on another company's buses along with attendant delays and waiting to transfer to another bus. If Big Blue Bus would accept my Metro pass then at least the cost part of the equation would be factored out of the equation. Failing that, each passenger on the truncated route should be handed a free Metro to Muni pass which would allow transfer, again, as in the above route 304 example, without cost to the rider.
Here is my favorite “low service” Metro commute. Some bus advertising used to say: “No Driving, No Parking, No Problem, Ride Metro to LAX” (I have not seen this advertising lately but the “short lines” continue), yet some line 79 runs stop several blocks short and do NOT connect with the Blue Line. It is a problem to haul one's luggage for several blocks. So in this case, Marketing and Scheduling are definitely NOT on the same page. Some WEST bound Metro number 79 line runs stop short of Grand & Washington. These runs, departures are no longer indicated on the schedule, so it is currently a hit and miss propisition for the 79 router - although many line 78 runs which originate in El Serano, terminate at either Grand & 5th or Grand & Venice – yet, in the case of the Grand & Venice terminations, the bus actually continues further on Grand (to 18th Street and makes a left turn. I fail to see the logic of such scheduling. Either, and this is my recommendation, these runs should continue to Washington so that passengers can seamlessly connect to the Blue line. In my case I “Take Metro to Lax” and I do NOT appreciate having to break the trip at Venice so that I must walk a long three (3) blocks with luggage or wait and transfer to another bus – costing me ANOTHER FULL FARE for a three block trip (or forcing me to buy a $3 day pass when my total fare would be $2.50 All of this, in fact most of what you have read here has been communicated to the LACMTA and their response? A deafening silence!
What these two anecdotes illustrate is that the LACMTA cares little for their ridership or what they think about service. They appear to look for the application of technology whether that technology is appropriate or not. Consider the “touch pass” fare boxes that have been installed in many buses at great cost yet are little used. Riders just don't want to spend $x per month for the right to ride any transit system at any time – likely this is yet another LACMTA solution without a corresponding problem.
1Covarrubias, Amanda & Pierson, David. “A Jump in Transit Ridership? Look to Cost of Gas, Gas, Gas” Los Angeles Times 28 Sept. 2005:B1
Next week: More Fun on the Metro