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

In a Times editorial piece(1), Mr. Waldie documents some of the many failures of the LACMTA but unfortunately, like many others who don't use public transportation, his piece lacks specifics as to how to improve the system. In saying “The new Exposition light-rail line to Culver City is essential too.” he demonstrates exactly how much of a transportation light-weight he is.

I suggest that he, like others, is simply a promoter of the LACMTA no matter how inept and dysfunctional the agency, the developer of the “Orange Crash”, may be.

The Times also buried(2) its piece on the fifth Orange Crash on a page deep in the paper. It was likely too embarrassed to print the usual comments from the politicos about how safe the line is and how it is all the fault of the drivers who insist on crashing into the LACMTA's beautiful and safe buses.

It was interesting to read(3) that LAPD officers are attempting to critique the safety design of LACMTA's accident plagued Orange Line. To me, this seems to be another LACMTA “least cost” effort since these officers are professionals in the area of law enforcement. The question which the piece neither asked nor answered is: Are these the right people to task with such a responsibility.

It seems to me reasonable to utilize professional transportation engineers with a strong background in safety issues to try to fix the obviously broken Orange Line design.

Color may be an important factor in the Orange Line accidents(4), but, in the piece we are told nothing about the coloration adopted by the Miami-Dade model from which the local Orange Line is derived. The report which I read about Miami-Dade's experience indicated nothing about color.

Further, the Times neglects to tell us about the nature of the intersections where the accidents occurred, viz, the degree of concealment afforded the buses by sound walls, hedges and etc. Perhaps a table is in order, one that can be constantly updated, since it appears that according to the LACMTA's statistics we can expect more accidents.

Now the LACMTA official spin(5) appears to be that the Orange Line is safe, it is experiencing accidents at a statistical acceptable rate.

We all know the old saw that says there are liars, damn liars and statisticians. I submit that although MTA buses may experience accidents at the rate of 3.5 per 100,000 (a quote from the LACMTA) miles, these accidents are randomly distributed, i.e, no single line experiences an accident every 28,571 miles as the Orange Line has.

Working alone, using only information freely available to the public, I have determined that the annual “on route” mileage, i.e., not mileage used to position the buses to the garage or start of the route and etc.

It works out to 2,415,504 “on route” miles annually. Given the expected accident rate quoted in the piece, i.e., 3.5 accidents per 100,000 miles or one accident approximately every 28,571 miles. After performing a simple division we find that the expected rate of annual Orange Line accidents will be 84.5. This is great news, isn't it? - it proves that the Orange Line is even safer than we thought because that works out to more than the one per week experienced to date!

Apparently, the Los Angeles Times saw no need to “do the math” and prepare readers and Orange Line riders for what lies ahead.

The unnamed LACMTA officials had best stop attempting to baffle us with their B.S. (Basic Statistics) and start trying to impress us with some solutions to the Orange Line problem – solutions other than blaming motorists and dreaming up ways to take photos of red-light runners which are only of use after the fact. Then, they should address the issue of the bus system wide accident rate rather than expressing it as what appeared to be, in my reading, a goal.

On the Daily News(6) “Editorial & Letters” page a letter takes Yaroslavsky and the LACMTA to task for aspects of the Orange Line, including low initial ridership estimates. I am unsure of what constitutes “fair usage” in this case, so I will only quote the writer's first 16 words. “County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavl's and his cohorts at the MTA are real geniuses. Just ask them.” It is a great read so here is the link

The Daily News(7) features a story on the the plan to place cameras, which would record red light runners in the act, at 13 Orange Line intersections. The plan demonstrates the full abilities of the LACMTA brought to bear on the problem. Cameras would be placed at only one third of the line's 36 intersections – no doubt the Ouiji Board Section of the Marketing Division divined that red light runners would concentrate their efforts on the intersections selected. Again, the LACMTA has placed its emphasis on the after-the-fact “solutionsrather than concentrating on being proactive.

Too, the piece shows us nothing about what the Miami-Dade busway looked like before and after it suffered a spate of accidents during the early months of operation. Both papers seem to lack reporters who are willing to dig deep for the facts and seem to be most comfortable when paraphrasing LACMTA press releases.

The Mole Rides Again- so you might not have to

The Westlake-McArthur Park Red Line station is filthy! The litter starts before the entrance and like Hansel and Gretel's trail of crumbs leads the way up and down the steps or escalators to and from the platforms.

Talk about an unclean environment, the South-East corner of Olive and Olympic features an erupting trash can – it appears not to have been cleaned since the Clinton Administration.

On board a 720 bus number 835: A petite latina tries to navigate to the rear exit but is blocked by the over capacity load of passengers. She finally reaches the door but the driver starts to pull out. The lady says “Back door!” the usual and accepted manner of notifying the driver that someone needs to exit. The driver a black heavy set woman delivers a lecture, including, next time I will make you walk back from the next stop [note to those who are unfamiliar with the 720 line this can be six or more blocks]. The point: expect to be treated something like cattle when you ride these buses. Although, cattle trucks probably offer a smoother ride than the 720 buses on Wilshire Bl.

Are all cell phone users hearing challenged? I have found a direct correlation between the loudness of the ring tone and the number of rings we must tolerate before the owner answerers the thing. The louder the ring tone the longer it will take the owner to answer.

Seat belts optional. That seems to be the bus driver's attitude toward the recent ruling that requires them to wear seat belts. It will likely take an accident with fatalities or a law to change this attitude. I have stopped tallying usage but, it is lower than 20%!

(1)Waldie,D.J. “Go west, young subway rider” Los Angeles Times 5 Dec. 2005: B11

(2)Writer, Staff,”5th Crash on Orange Line: No Injuries” Los Angeles Times 3 Dec. 2005:na

(3)Covarrubias, Amanda “Officers Assess Busway Safety” Los Angeles Times 7 Dec. 2005:B1

(4)Liu, Caitlin “Bus Color a Grey Area, Studies Show” Los Angeles Times 7 Dec. 2005:B1

(5)Liu, Caitlin “Six Hurt in Latest Orange Line Crash” Los Angeles Times 8 Dec. 2005:B3

(6)Rosebrock, Robert L. “Nice Figures” Daily News 8 Dec. 2005:22

(7)Mascaro, Lisa “MTA weighs bus line cameras” Daily News 8 Dec. 2005:4

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