Public Transportation

The Los Angeles Times published a romanticized view of bus travel in the Sunday Magazine(1). The people described in the piece seem to be not like my or your fellow passengers – or perhaps, he is writing about the Big Blue Bus. So, if it inspired you to ride the bus here are some additional on-board encounters for which one must prepare themselves before traveling on public transportation.

A. People who cut their, so far only, finger nails on the bus. Several months ago, I saw a Mandarin speaking woman cheerfully clipping her nails and letting the clippings fall where they may. Just a week ago or so, I saw a youngish Anglo woman spraying the area with clippings as she busily clipped her nails in tiny segments – all the while reading a book on product design.

B. Aggressively friendly religious proselytizers who either force religious tracts (mostly “Awake”) on fellow passengers or, soliloquize about god, just short of haranguing.

C. One must not forget the bus operators who feel that it never too cold to turn the air conditioner on 45°. I have traveled on buses where the passengers opened windows in order to warm up!

On board a 720 line bus, I saw the first actual example of a recent direct political action. As a passenger exited, his hand slapped a sticker in place on the raised portion of ceiling just above the step leading to the higher section at the back. The message on the sticker was “Resist of Die! No school Nov. 2 Student Walkout Drive out the Bush administration! and referenced this web site.

I waited for a bus at Patsaouras Plaza in front of the LACMTA's Taj Mahal aka LACMTA Headquarters. It is an interesting place with some real art works to be seen there. For example, on the south end of the Plaza, standing in the arc between Bus Bay 9 and Bus Bay 1, the separation between the roadway and the waiting area is made of half inch steel plates. These plates have been rounded on top and have various figures cut out of them. Real art, not like the ugly, Bashi construction pipe tower which was erected and torn down in less than two weeks. If one stands between the second and third rail – the Mayan bird and rocket ship – and looks out about two meters into the roadway, one can see the visible deterioration of the brick roadway. This, in spite of the fact that just a few months ago the Plaza was closed for a lengthly and no doubt expensive repair project. Said project occurred, to my way of thinking, not very long after the original construction which opens the question of the suitability of the original project specifications.
Any taxpayer should question the LACMTA about exactly who paid the bill for this rework. It would seem to me that there should be some contractor liability because, even now the structure can be felt to move and flex when a bus passes.

The Bus Bay area has trees around the periphery. The base of each tree has been used as a convenient disposal are for cigarette butts. These areas are never cleaned, neither is there any attempt to limit the butt disposal by placing screens around the tree bases nor are cigarette disposal receptacles provided.

One can also see the same problem with cigarette butts at the bus stop outside the Taj Mahal. No screening has been provided over the grating around trees at that bus stop nor are cigarette butt disposal receptacles provided. Therefore the accumulation of cigarette butts is neither prevented nor cleaned.

The large planters in front (south side) of the Taj Mahal building have become litter cans for cigarette butts and all manner of other litter. System patrons and Metro employees -who can often be seen taking smoking breaks in front of the building and providing a sea of smoke to walk through – contribute to this litter. About a year ago I suggested to Roger Snoble (the $300,000+ per year CEO of the LACMTA) that they for providing for proper disposal of smoking detritus and clearly and permanently marked the area with the internationally recognized “No Smoking” symbol. It is unpleasant to have to pass by the area and become enveloped in smoke. Most of the smokers are easily identified, by their Metro badges. I believe that the LACMTA should be concerned about the environment. Even more important, I feel that they have an obligation to their employees to promote a healthy NON-SMOKING lifestyle. At minimum the LACMTA should provide their smokers with a private smoking area and teach them how to keep the public areas clean.

Orange Elephant
Or all this spin is making me dizzy

Last week I suggested that the Orange Line was designed by a politician. That statement must be qualified. The Orange Line plan was more likely advanced by an idea, which was “inspired” by the “South Miami-Dade Busway” in Florida, which opened in 1997. I have a pdf (Adobe portable document file) open concurrently on my ThinkPad desktop. The document with an internal “signature” title of “FACTMIAM_Rev4.PDF” was created on Friday, September 10, 1999 at 11:58:43 AM and is six pages long, It makes for an interesting read. The original busway was 8.5 miles long and intersected with 16 streets and had 15 stations. “There were “32 accidents in the first four months of Busway operation.”(2) “... service is not much faster than when the buses operated on US 1. The scheduled timesaving is less than ten percent. However, passengers perceive a time saving.(Ibid, emphasis mine) More from the document: “An alternative to the at-grade crossing traffic control system needs to be developed in order to address safety issues and increase the time savings currently being experienced by the Busway.”(Ibid) The system has since been extended to 13.5 miles and 22 stations, with an additional 2005 upgrade. Please carefully note, that the Miami system which is claimed as the “model” for the Orange Elephant was experiencing and solving their problems in 1997, about eight (8) years ago. Our LACMTA was smart enough to stea .., ah I mean, be inspired by the Miami project but not smart enough to review materials, such as this pdf, which were available six (6) years ago.

As part of the LACMTA's spin campaign, I couldn't help but wonder why the picture on page one of the Times(3) article, referenced last week, didn't include a caption comment by Yaroslavski, something like: The emergency services really responded promptly to this accident.

It would be well that Line 901 passengers are offered gratis training in the PLF (Parachute Landing Fall), before boarding the buses, in order to reduce injuries when they are thrown through the air when the inevitable crashes occur.

Next week: System? What system??

(1) Honig, Joe. “Through My Window” Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine 23 October 2005:Essay
(2)Unknown author, “FACTMIAM_Rev4.PDF” Miami-Dade Transit Agency 10 September 1999:6 pages
(3) Covarrubias, Amanda and Liu, Caitlin. “Crashes Heighten Busway Concerns” Los Angeles Times 3 Nov. 2005:pages1A and 22A)

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