The Mole reads the papers so you don't have to

Competency(1) appears not to be a word which one can apply to any aspect of the LACMTA's work.

As in the case of the Orange Line, where the lessons learned years ago by the Miami-Dade busway project were ignored by the LACMTA, the situation documented by the subject article is being addressed by the LACMTA after the fact. As a reminder to the LACMTA, it is “Plan then Do” not

“Do then Plan”! Apparently, Ms Molina sees the current impasse as a clever plot by Ramona High School to finance new construction, rather than yet another manifestation of the ineptness of the agency of which she is a director. If anything, Supervisor Molina makes an articulate case for the de-politicization of the LACMTA and placing it in the hand of transportation professionals. Zev Yaroslavski's biased defense of the $350 million Orange Line provided the initial basis for such a move.

I would have liked to read a synopsis of the appropriate director's meeting minutes where the impact of various potential Gold Line routes were discussed. Certainly, such documents are available under the FOI (freedom of Information) Act.

Again, Times editors have declined to lend support, in the form of graphics, to the reporters' work. On the same page they printed a large (200 square Cm) detailed map of the Hollywood Christmas Parade along with supporting text yet denied us the following:

  1. a map of the entire Gold Line Extension route;
  2. an estimate of the current completion status (percent completed) by each segment of the route;
  3. possible alternative routes as opposed to the “street running” described in the piece.

The map which was supplied was practically worthless!

It is unfortunate that the “Bus Riders Union”(2) has chosen a title for their organization that so narrowly defines and therefore limits their objectives. Like an ostrich with its head in the sand, they refuse to recognize that a world-class transportation system needs a variety of vehicles, viz., buses, trains and light rail, all integrated.

The LACMTA does deserve credit for implementing the Rapid service. The LACMTA's extreme weakness is in tuning the Rapid system. I will cite again, just a few here. The link-up of the 780-745 Rapid lines is flawed causing an unnecessarily long walk to make a transfer. The 745 Rapid line lacks a stop at Venice Bl which would allow an easy transfer to the 33/333 lines. A ride on the 720 Wilshire Rapid line frequently feels like a ride in a plumber's truck. Many fittings have shaken loose and it seems there is no attempt to tighten them up . All the shaking, rattling and rolling means that cell phone conversations and portable audio devices demand maximum sound levels. The buses either lack or have such a poor suspension system which results in a bone-jarring ride. At peak and other times, most buses are packed adding the sounds of human beings in various degrees of discomfort. If Rodin's “Gates of Hell”had a sound track, this would be it.

One would think that the LACMTA has some recourse to the bus manufacture and leverage to demand corrective action – and that would certainly be the case if the LACMTA gave a damn. In parallel – assuming an ability to operate in parallel which I doubt exists in the organization - with adding new Rapid service the LACMTA should undertake a review of existing Rapid service with an eye toward making improvements.

The piece quotes: “Surveys show that about one-third of the riders on rapid buses are new to public transit”. Based upon first hand experience, I submit that such results could only be obtained by taking the survey on the first day of the school year.

It would seem that the usually quiet, Roger Snoble, can be paraphrased as “Damn the potential fatalities, full speed ahead, as long as the motorists not the LACMTA is at fault”(3). Snoble's attitude will clearly and unfortunately result in fatalities in the future. Blaming the hapless drivers, as do Snoble, Yaroslavsky and Greuel, seems to be the latest political ploy used to mask poor system design and the failure of the LACMTA to incorporate safety features like crossing gates into the plan.

Much is made of the use of strobe lights on the buses. My view is that since usually these lights will pop out of the partially obscured busways that it will result only in the flash seen before the crash. The idea of installing cameras to record the “scofflaws” is great after the fact but is not much of a preventative measure.

What is also needed is a “Black Box” and speed warning announcements that are tied into the on-board GPS (sc. Global Positioning System) that will serve to moderate driver's speed across the intersections. The “Box”could also monitor driver seat belt usage, now mostly unused, by measuring varying G-forces on the seat belt.

More accidents will happen: 144 weekday bus runs per day across 36 intersections guarantee it!

The Times piece(4) brought to my attention an agency, viz., the Federal Railway Administration, of which I was unaware. It was interesting, but not surprising, to read that self-investigation is ineffective.

As I read, I saw that the headline could equally apply to our own LACMTA by simply substituting the phrase “ U.S. Rail Agency's” with “LACMTA's“ and “Train” with “Orange Line”. Consider how rapidly Greuel, Snoble and Yaroslavsky blamed the motorists, ignoring any and all responsibility of the LACMTA, for the Orange Line accidents. In the latest case, their spin began well before any detailed investigation could be completed much less begun.

It is past time to put the LACMTA in the hands of transportation professionals and take it out of the hands of people who are looking for successes to tout in their next political campaign or on their résumés. To Greuel, Snoble and Yaroslavsky, et al, I suggest that they remain silent and wait for the investigations of these unfortunate accidents to be completed by impartial investigators. While waiting they could consider how Orange Line safety could be improved by the agency for which they are apologists.

The Los Angeles Times , as well, has its share of responsibility. The paper is too quick to print the self-serving comments of the those cited above. Rather, the Times should agitate for complete investigations and solicit comments from local experts and outsiders too.

From the Metro Marketing Department

A new card, “New TVs Offer Headlines & Tips For Riders” (06-1020tr) replaced the much larger promotion for Transit TV which was occasionally found on board buses. This new blurb eliminates any reference to “local area maps” which the larger sheets promised. This leaves it up to passengers to work it out themselves as to which bus lines cross their present line and where they cross. N.B. This excerpt from the card which discusses income to the LACMTA if not benefits to its ridership “- and pay Metro a percentage of advertising revenues”. It doesn't take an accounting major to determine that unless the LACMTA has a bean counter on site at Transit TV, the LACMTA will have to take Transit TV's word as to revenues or losses. The only guarantee, covered in an earlier posting, is $100,000 per year – assuming Transit TV remains solvent.

“Go Metro Destinations” (06-0882sy) lists potential destinations by rail/subway line station. Notably absent from the Union Station entry on page – oh, there are no page numbers - are: Metro Customer Service and Metro Pass and token sales. Also no attempt is made to show, at least, Rapid Bus connections, e.g., not shown is the weekday Rapid 780 to Hollywood which is only a few blocks south of the Gold Line Memorial Park Station. This brochure subsumes but may not replace “Metro Gold Line Destination Guide which is identified by – whoa, there is no I.D. Number for this one. It includes lots of plugs for shops, e.g., “Galco's Soda Pop Stop”. Helpfully, it includes addresses for the Gold Line Station so that one could use the “Trip Planner” feature to plan ongoing bus transportation, if any. The LACMTA Marketing Department, with an attention span of something less than that of a hummingbird, forgot to include the station addresses in “Go Metro Destinations” (06-0882sy) .

“Metro Orange Line It's a bikeway, too.” (Duh, No I.D. number) on page (Oops, No page numbers either) indicates the process by which one secures his bicycle aboard the Orange Line buses. It appears that three (3) people will be displaced when you fold up the seats in order to stow your bicycle, absent from the brochure are some karate tips so that you can defend yourself when they react to their loss of seats.

(1)Liu, Caitlin and Rubin, Joel, “School in Light-Rail's Path a Study in Complexity of Transit Planning” Los Angeles Times 26 Nov. 2005:B4

(2)Liu, Caitlin, “MTA to Expand Rapid-Bus Service” Los Angeles Times1 Dec. 2005:B1

(3) Covarrubias, Amanda and Liu, Caitlin “4th Crash on Orange Line Busway Injures 3 Passengers” Los Angeles Times 2 Dec. 2005:B1

(4) Liu, Caitlin, “U.S. Rail Agency's Investigations of Train-Vehicle Crashes Called Flawed” Los Angeles Times 3 Dec. 2005:B7

Next week: The Mole rides again!

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