Mole's Comments

While riding through San Marino, I overheard the driver talking to the Post Office on his cell phone about how he could get a replacement for the thirty-seven cent stamp that a Post Office machine failed to deliver on Veteran's Day.

If you intend to use L.A.'s Metro you had better accustom yourself to litter and lots of it. The buses can be quite dirty, I told you about fingernail clippings last week and I have seen an Oriental man eating something wrapped in what looked like a leaf, dribbling some kind of sticky stuff all over the floor. When the driver told him to stop eating he threw it out the bus door into the street. The bus stops are much worse. It is my experience that, where litter cans are provides, people will only use them if they are closer than three fourths of their arm length. Where no litter cans are provided the bus stops are filthy.

The worst example of this litter can be found in Pasadena. At the Lake Avenue Gold Line station bus stops, which are located on the Lake Avenue 210 overpass, on both the East and West sides of the street. Try as I might, I cannot goad the City of Pasadena to either: (i) install trash cans themselves; (ii) install them with partial funding from the LACMTA or (iii) require the LACMTA to install trash cans. So much for civic pride?

System? What system?

My basic complaint about our Metro “system” is that it is not a system. Stanford Optner(3) defines a system as “... an integrated complex of functionally related components”.

In the case of the LACMTA, the functionally related components are vehicles, things that transport people. Since the LACMTA's predecessor, the RTD (Rapid Transit District) was an organization which provided bus service, that mindset was adopted, without change by the LACMTA. With the RTD, routes crossed and only minimal effort was devoted to making routes mesh. The same attitudes drive the LACMTA today. So, 98% of my complaints could be addressed and rectified if only the LACMTA staff and management would all wake up some morning and decide to build us a public transportation system.

I will give a few examples, some of which are reworked and repeated from an earlier posts, of the failure of the LACMTA to apply “systems thinking”to their mission.

At Westfield Shopping Center in Arcadia. two years ago there was a transportation center located within the shopping center less than 30 meters from an entrance. When construction started on Phase II of the shopping center, the transit center was relocated out to Huntington Drive approximately two blocks from the nearest store. This was intended to be a temporary move until Phase II was built and was so indicated on prior schedules for the Metro buses which severed the area: Bus lines, 79, 264 and 268. The same stop was served each day by Foothill Transit's line 184.

Phase II construction was completed in September 2004. In September of 2005 the new transit center opened in the shopping center with the only user being: Foothill Transit's line 184 and now only weekdays because the weekend service has been canceled. Although line 79 continues to use the stop on Huntington Drive- with its magnificent bus pad- lines 184, 264 and 268 no longer stop there. The line 264/268 stops have been relocated, close to two blocks away, for the North bound buses this is across Baldwin Avenue from each other, for the Southbound buses the stop for both lines are located across busy Huntington drive on the South West corner of the Baldwin intersection! In the past, riders had the possible choice of lines 264 OR 268 for a trip to Pasadena, now they must walk across busy streets to take advantage of one or another of the lines. All the while checking the their bus timetables and watches while estimating probabilities that their intended bus is late or that they should start crossing the busy streets to catch another bus. This example simultaneously demonstrates a lack of systems thinking and an extremely thoughtless approach to the people who they “serve”.

Lines 264, 267 and 268 pass near the Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line station. In this case near means about two blocks for the 264 and 268 and for the 267, across Sierra Madre Street about one fourth block North of the Gold Line elevators. The 267 riders are faced with a situation where is no traffic signal and no crosswalk, So passengers on the 267, like myself, make the J-walk dash across the street between traffic. These buses could easily be routed through the Sierra Madre Villa Station as are Metro lines 181 and 267, along with the Montebello line 20 and Foothill Transit line 187. But no, our LACMTA wants us to have our two block morning run, which is especially fun on those rare rainy days! Here is integration LACMTA style. Their attitude is: don't worry they can always catch the NEXT Gold Line train and they are not made of sugar so they won't melt in the rain.

At Hollywood Bl (Prospect Av) and Los Feliz where two “Rapid Lines”, lines 780 and 754, are nearby, but neither cross nor mesh in any way, the passengers who want to transfer to line 754 must make “a block and a half”dash, past 754 buses which are out of service (on breaks) to the head of the queue to the point from which the “active” 754 is waiting Since there is absolutely no attempt to schedule a departure time for the 754 that takes into account the scheduled arrival time for 780 line and a dash time less than that required by a world class runner. So, at the end of my dash I am usually treated to a blast of the 754 bus's exhaust as my reward. The LACMTA's attitude? “Let's 'brain storm' this and make a nice linkup of the 780/754”? NO, it's “F'em!, They can wait for the next 754, let em work on their 100 meter dash times and get faster”. Incidentally, the 754 does not stop on Venice Bl so that one could easily catch the Line 33/333 buses.

The 780 line referenced above, inexplicably, does not stop at Colorado andArryo Parkway which would be just a short walk (Mapquest qoutes 0.12 miles) North to the Gold Line Memorial Park Station.

I am sure that those who read my blog may have many complaints of their own. So just link here http://mtaweb6.mta.net/cc/cc.asp for the LACMTA form and register your ideas, complaints and suggestions directly with the LACMTA. Or send them an e-mail message, to customerrelations@metro.net

The reason that the Mole doesn't ask for your feedback at this site – he can do nothing for you – But, maybe together we can goad the LACMTA into action!

The Times(1) covers the ongoing seat belt dispute and, from my standpoint, the unreasonable efforts on the part of LACMTA drivers to avoid practices (wearing seat belts) which result in improved safety. The article recycles the same anecdotes, by self serving drivers, about being assaulted, spat upon and etc. In not picking their fight drivers are on the opposite side of this issue from the thinking public and therefore lose sympathy.

The “Los Angeles Times” research department and editors should have supported the reporter with factual data about assaults on LACMTA drivers for say, the past ten years. Further, the new “sort of” real time cameras which have been recently hailed by the LACMTA should restrain assault minded citizens.

And really, how much time and effort does it take to reach down and push the seat belt release?

The LACMTA could take the same action which does the San Francisco “Muni” system.

That is, to make it a felony to assault a LACMTA driver and post notices which clearly state this fact on each bus. These notices are large, noticeable posters which are unavoidable, when one boards a Muni bus.

On Thursday, I rode the LACMTA bus “system” extensively. Here are the results of my seat belt compliance survey: Only two drivers on the twelve (12) buses which I observed, were actually wearing seat belts. One driver wore his uniform shirt tail outside his trousers and it completely covered the entire seat belt and attachment point – if we give him the benefit of the doubt, then compliance on “day one” was only 25%! On Friday, I found that NONE of the drivers of the five (5) buses which I rode, were wearing seat belts = zero compliance.

Orange Elephant (cont.)

Another Times piece(2) about the addition of strobe lights to Orange Line buses contains this quote, regarding strobe lights, from a LACMTA official: “But when you get far away it gets intense”, provided my laugh of the day! Is far away like Long Beach?

First, the strobe light idea was floated as the output of a safety group “brain storming” session. My own research, as reported here, indicates that the staff at the Miami-Dade “model” proposed this idea in 1999! And then, only for the mini-buses which shared their busway route with larger buses. The idea was that the strobes would give the smaller buses a bigger virtual visual image.

On TV last night (Tribune Broadcasting's channel 5) they reported that of all things, the LACMTA was considering repainting the “Orange Line's” buses, covering the less visible silver or gray with – yes, you guessed it – ORANGE! They also had more Yaroslavski spin.

It is rumored that the LACMTA will also paint two foot wide white stripe longitudinally on each bus. The stripe will carry 18 inch letters high which say: “We don't have the time and money to do it right in the first place, but we have lots of time and money to do it over. Your LACMTA at work and re-work”.

It's a laugh a minute with the Orange Elephant!

(1)Liu, Caitlin. “Bus Drivers Ordered to Buckle Up” Los Angeles Times 17 Nov 2005:B2

(2)Liu, Caitlin. “Orange Line Buses May Get Strobe Light Signals” Los Angeles Times 18 Nov 2005:B3

(3) Optner, Stanford L. Systems analysis for business management Prentice-Hall 1975

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