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

A quiet time for the LACMTA in the newspapers this week.

The Mole Rides Again - so that you don't have to endure this stuff

The Metro comments page is gone – too many complaints? The Metro Marketing Department is probably boasting that complains are way down. Here is what the site returned when I tried the link (from an earlier post, below)

This page will be unavailable until further notice. You may still contact us at (213) 922-6235, 1-800-464-2111 or 1-800-COMMUTE or via e-mail at customerrelations@metro.net.“

It's cold, two rows ahead of me sits a man with long gray hair and a noticeable, fairly fresh wound on the right side of a bald spot on the back portion of his head. He pulls the signal cord and stands up.

Two Latinas across the aisle from him move to take his recently vacated seat. He quickly sits down again so as to deprive then of the seat – but only for 10~15 seconds, then he gets up exits at his stop. Weird??

Some buses now announce the route number and destination when the doors open at a bus stop. Nice idea, Montebello Transit has had it operating for some time now and it is good for the visually and linguistically challenged. If it worked, that is. About eighty percent (80%) of the buses which I have used recently have announced the WRONG route and WRONG destination. Further reducing the effectiveness of this new feature is the low volume and mush mouthed synthesized voice which it uses. Reason: A bus may make its first run as a 267 and everything will be OK. However, and this happens a lot, the next run of the same day will be as a number 264 but there seems to be no provision for communicating that fact to the “system”. It will announce the starting route all day long, mostly, it appears to me, erroneously. Here again we can see just how quickly the LACMTA will attempt to apply technology yet, at the same time we can see how poorly they can integrate discrete technology packages. Look at what they have on board now, the GPS driven AVA (Automatic Voice Announcement) system, the Transit TVs and now, the route number and destination announcement – let's call that RDA (Route and Destination Announcement). None of these technologies are integrated! The AVA and RDA are not coordinated and Transit TV still doesn't provide the promised route maps. Additionally, some drivers turn the volume of the AVA to ZERO, so passengers hear nothing. Also AVA was not ready for almost three (3) weeks after the schedule change on 2005-12-18. PERT (Program Evaluation Review Technique) and CPM (Critical Path Method) has been in use for over fifty (50) years in the U.S. and was first used in the building of atomic submarines to keep things on track. But, looking at the way in which the LACMTA plans and schedules projects, you can be sure that few if any in that organization are familiar with the methodology.

What is needed is a DEMAND from the technical people at LACMTA (I seriously doubt that there are any) that vendors integrate this technology. Doing so would mean that the RDA would accept its input for route from the AVA. The AVA could be augmented by adding the Route and destination data which in turn could give the RDA a better and cleared voice. In technical terms, such disjointed sub-systems are known as “silos” in that they stand alone with no interconnection. Just thinking about it likely gives the LACMTA a headache. LACMTA as a system implementer is {select from the following list: inept, unskilled, incapable, incompetent, unskilled, }. In reality, no information is better than the wrong information!

I am aboard a 720 Rapid bus rattling its way toward Santa Monica. It is Friday, January 13, 2006 about 2:30 in the afternoon. It is bus number 8009, and as usual it is crowded, it is being driven by black man, operator number 18900. He has a sharply creased uniform shirt but, he has an unpleasant word for everyone. He tells an elderly woman who seems to have irritated him by holding her pass for him to see for too long, “I don't have to study it, this is a Rapid move on!”. A Latino gets, “The way you're lookin' at me – there must be something wrong with the date” (on the passenger's day pass, which turned out to be OK). These drivers, although seemingly few in number, are unsupervised, unchecked and unmannered. Well, your Mole putting this in print for all to see. No wonder they turned off the complaint forms on the Metro.net web site.

The constant noises on board many buses make me think that I am in the middle of a heard of Snuffalopoli (derives from Snuffy on CTW – Sesame Street). The snuffling also proves that few carry pocket tissues. Infrequently, one sees what is to me one of the grossest human activities, viz. The blowing of the nose into a handkerchief, then placing the filthy thing back into a pocket. Years of living in Japan have conditioned me to prepare to leave home by, among other things, placing several packs of pocket tissues in my business case. Indelibly etched into my mind is watching Tokyoites react to handkerchief use by a foreigner aboard a Yamanote train. These Japanese are usually shirankao (know nothing faced), but in this case they reacted with perceptible disgust.

Another Ride on the 901 Line

After ensuring that my life insurance was paid to date, I took a North Hollywood to Warner Center round trip on the Orange Line. At the North Hollywood station I found some simple technology that seemed to be working. It was an electronic sign which showed the departure time of the next bus. While I was waiting I wondered why the incoming bus dropped passengers about four bus lengths from the start of the “U”shaped arrival and departure area. It is only multiple bus lengths but, I couldn't see any reason for it.

I took a seat to wait the 7 minutes until th next bus. A rough looking woman vaulted the low fence that separated the waiting area, which is non-smoking, from the adjacent sidewalk. Of course, she immediately lit up and the second hand smoke from her noxious cigarette, drifted directly toward me. I moved. The bus pulled in but the driver refused to open the from door, forcing all boarding through the other two doors. Once on board, I noticed, as a valued source had said, the were no fare boxes. And the Transit Tv could not be seen due to the glare – no loss :-). I noted that the driver creeped through intersections on the green light. I found the “Stop Requested” announcements annoying since the buses are committed to stop at each station. The trip worked out to be about 42 minutes, not bad. The buses, for some unknown and unknowable reason, seem to have no AVA so one must pay attention. We arrived at Warner Center with only 8 of the 57 (14%) seats with occupants. This trip did not contribute much to the LACMTA's boasted 16,000 boardings.

I returned aboard bus number 9225 which displayed a head and side sign of “File Chk” proving as with most LACMTA services, “All of the things don't work all of the time”. I kept a detailed log of passenger boardings and exits on this run.

Warner Center +6=6, DeSoto +5=11, Pierce College +9=20, Tampa +4=24, Receda -4+6=26, Balboa -1+4=29, Woodley +2=31, Sepulveda -4+7=34, Van Nuys -8+17=43, Woodman +3=46, Valley College -1+8=53, Laurel Canyon -4+2=51. We ended with 51 of 57 seats full, i.e., 89.4%. Contrary to the LACMTA's spinmeister's comment about Transit Tv, no one missed a stop due to becoming overly involved with the programming. At the Sepulveda Station I counted cars in the only lot that is easily seen from the bus. The lot is advertised as having 1152 spaces, of which, my rapid count determined that, only about 50 were occupied. That is much less than the Times has been quoting, a little over 4% utilization as opposed to the Times 25% figure. If the low parking lot utilization rates predominates at the other parking lots, then major holes are poked in the Los Angeles Times contention that congestion on the 101 is being reduced by attracting drivers to mass transit. In what appears to be a logical approach, a single deputy boarded at Laurel Canyon and found a “free rider”.

However, on my return home, I saw four deputies chatting in a Red Line Station without checking a single passenger who exited my train.

This more than offsets the single deputy's efforts.

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