The Mole reads the papers (and other things) so you don't have to

The BRU (sc. Bus Riders Union) had two leaflets aboard the Line 720 bus which I rode. Although I applaud the BRU's effort to improve area transportation, I feel and have always felt that they define their charter too narrowly. In limiting their concerns to buses they do a disservice to their constituents and to all users of public transportation in our region. My suggestion? Rename themselves the “Metro Riders Union” and learn about transportation systems so that they are conversant with the structure, organization and functions of a multi-mode transportation system. That way they could lend their weight to important issues in other modes (rail and subway) of transportation which they currently ignore other than to whine “It's not a bus”. One of the leaflets, as I understood it, described the loss of local bus service cut by the LACMTA on Rapid bus routes and which agency would not restore. What this means is either long waits for a local bus or long walks (Rapid stops can be many blocks apart) from the nearest Rapid stop to your final destination. As an example, the 720 Rapid line will take you from downtown to Santa Monica fairly quickly, but if you must transfer from a 720 to a Wilshire 20 Line bus you may have a long wait and end up taking longer to make the trip than if you had made a good initial connection with the 20 line downtown. The other flier was a reprint of a Daily News article(1) which discussed the BRU goals.

A piece on the Exposition Light Rail Project(2) finally gets to the sticking point in paragraph seven. Simply put, USC doesn't want the thing running down the middle Exposition Bl. One of the options which would eliminate USC's opposition is a $100,000,000 tunnel – that's right folks, 100 million dollars! Another option appears to be a less costly trench – ug, my platoon used to dig trenches but not for light rail. With this project we see the typical lack of the LACMTA's ability to communicate with anyone about just about anything – I'll have more to say about this lack in the “Ride” section below.

The Daily News has a nice diagram of the project but it does not answer several basic questions: How did the LACMTA get so far along with the plan without hammering out ever detail about the route? Why does is is necessary for the route to parallel the Blue L Line for tow stations, viz. Pico and Grand. If the LACMTA staff and management ever actually rode a transportation system in a major city they would recognize that a given line would normally share only one station, the transfer point, with another line. Transfers are a fact of life. The article also talks about a future extension to Santa Monica from the present terminus in Culver City – which brings to mind the Green Line extension to LAX, which has not happened and may never happen. So, forgetting about future extension, what makes the LACMTA that actual passengers wake up every morning wanting to go to Culver City? A relatively inexpensive survey of major downtown employers should settle the question about the point of origin of their staff. Then too, there is the question, given that a potential ridership originates along the proposed route, how many would actually use the “Expo Line”? Readers of my blog already know how I feel about the LACMTA's B.S. (Basic Statistics). I have suggested that a Rapid bus line prototype which roughly parallels the Expo Line route be established to fairly quickly determine ridership. Perhaps this idea is too logical for the LACMTA and its political supporters. Don't like that thought? How about looking at the ridership of the present 33/333 Venice lines and studying the number of boardings at the approximate intersections of streets which run to the proposed Expo Line stations?

My bet? The present value of the projected 43,000 daily riders by 2025 (is that 21,500 passengers coming and going?), doesn't exist today. In any event, by 2025 all the promises will be forgotten and all persons which are parties to this plan will have retired – likely not to Culver City.

The Times is tending to bury Orange Line crash stories(3) – political pressure? I have a difficult time understanding why someone would run a red light if he thought a 60 ton bus was about to share the same space with him. Possible answer: The signage is still not right – this is really no mystery when one looks at the poor record of the LACMTA on signage – however, others share the blame here.

Another METRO on-route accident(4), gets out the 3.5 accidents per 100,000 miles. This is the same statistic that the LACMTA uses to “prove” that the Orange Line is safe, well, really no more dangerous than other lines.

But wait, there's more! Three pages later(6) we find that the LACMTA will ask for cameras at 12 of the 36 intersections crossed by the Orange Line. Well, one out of three ain't bad – is it?? Plans like these from the LACMTA give one an x-ray like picture of its collective mind. When I was an engineering student a professor defined the difference between being efficient and being effective: he said, being efficient means answering the question “Am I doing the thing right? In the affirmative While being effective means answering yes to Am I doing the right thing? I submit that the LACMTA is neither efficient nor effective.

The reporter missed an excellent opportunity to combine information from the the LAPD spokesman who stated that METRO buses were involved in 4,000 accidents last year and relating that to the total on-route mileage for the Valley division of the METRO. It is an excellent test of the 3.5 accidents per 100,000 accident rate which has been recently quoted so often. I wondered why LAPD Commander Paniccia would go on record with quotes like “The Orange Line is a lot safer then driving the Valley in a car.” and “The Orange Line is ... safer than the rest of the MTA”, without supplying any hard facts to support his assertions.. You can have fun supplying words for the ellipses in the second quote.

The reporter did a nice job in pointing out that, among other ignored locations, Kester Av with 2/7 (28.6%) of the accidents was not scheduled for the after-the-fact photo records. The laugh of the day was provided by a quote from an LADOT (Los Angeles Department of Transportation) principal transportation engineer who, in talking about the lack of a camera at Kester Av, said “It could be just a coincidence ...”.

This apparently means that, in addition to cameras at the sites of the five (to date) accidents the LACMTA and or LADOT can foresee red-light runners at seven other intersections. It would have been interesting for the Times editors to italicize the sites of accidents to date, in the list intersections slated to have cameras installed, yet none at 24 others.

The Mole Rides Again- so you can enjoy your car

My Thursday commute started out once again, with all the elevators

at the Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line station out of service. So much for security at these stations. Speaking of security, it is been a number of days since I've seen either Fare Inspectors or Deputies on eiter the Gold or Red lines or anywhere else at the system. Maybe they are taking their year-end vacations.

A bit of good news, found in the new bus schedules, yet unknown by some drivers – see LACMTA above – after six (6) months of inconviencing riders, the Shopping Center “Transportation Center” goes back in operation on December 18. This is less then 10 days after the LACMTA relocated a Huntington Dr stop directly across from the shopping center. The Mole as advocated such a relocation for almost two and a half years because the LACMTA dismanteled the “ Transportation Center” in the shopping center. Ah, the strange ways of the LACMTA!

Thursday's experience with the elevators at the Gold Line Sierra Madre Villa station was repeated on Friday. Since I had to wait for a train I used the “intercom” on the platform to report the problem.

Making a call from this device, which first made its apperance in the last quarter of 20th century in apartment buildings, with the ambient noise level at this station, which is sandwiched between the East and Westbound lanes of the 210 freeway, is something like yelling down a rathole from inside an operating A380 engine. Actually, the yelling down a rathole is a more positive experience because you might be able, at least, to hear the rats scurry around.

In this case, I did hear a beep and clearly and loudly enaunciated the problem using a short grammaticly imperfect sentence. I did note the received light flashing and flashing – for all I know it was flashing when I pressed the push to talk button.

One's request to stop is communicated to the bus driver by pulling on a (usually) yellow signal cord. This will (usually) cause a bell to ring and “Stop Requested” to be broadcast and simultaneously “Stop Requested” will appear on the overhead “message board”. I have seen passengers pull these cords with enough force to cause theBells of Saint Mary's toll for 15 minutes. I have even seen the cords ripped off the wall by people who have only an incomplete understanding of electronics. One would think that the bus manufactures could devise something more 21st Century like for this task :-). But when this simple system fails, as it did the other day aboard the crowded bus numnber on the 720 line, it is not pleasant!

Another day, another bus -this time it was Foothill Transit. The bus was cleaner than the typical METRO bus and warmer. But, the bouncing is the same on these low-rider type buses. There is some squeaking but a lot less rattling – better maintenance??

The ridership? Not so different. An elderly woman sung (too loudly) to herself. A teenage wore a T-shirt on this very cold night, this fact coupled with his actions signaled that he might be on his way home from a special ed class.

(1)Mascaro, Lisa “Bus Riders Want Concessions” Daily News 3 Dec. 2005:na

(2)Mascaro, Lisa “Tracking next big rail project” Daily News 12 Dec. 2005:3

(3)Writer, Staff “Motorist Hurt When His Car Hits MTA Orange Line Bus” Los Angeles Times 14 Dec. 2005:B9

(4)Malnic, Eric “24 Are Injured in Collision of MTA Bus and Catering Truck” Los Angeles Times 15 Dec. 2005:B3

(5)Liu, Caitlin “After Crashed, Red-Light Cameras to Be Installed at 12 Orange Line Crossings” Los Angeles Times 15 Dec. 2005:B6

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