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

Here we go again! Another sad Los Angeles Times(1) story by an editorial writer which echoes the whining by one of the paper's columnists in his story many months ago. Is there no institutional memory at the Los Angeles Times? - there is certainly none at the LACMTA.

Mr. Turner does Los Angeles Times readers a disservice by not better informing them and exhibits his own lack of planning skills by not using one of the tools which he habitually uses in his daily work, viz., the Internet. Had he spent just 15 minutes exploring the Metro web site (www.metro.net) and clicked on the “Riding Metro” link he would have found answers to most of his questions about transfers and fares. Further, using the Metro “Trip Planner” he could have had his route selected for him and his fare options computed. This web site is much less than perfect so he would have had to noted the buses and trains selected for his route and then used another “tab” on the “Riding Metro” menu to view a schedule for each of the selected modes. Schedule production, of course, as any software engineer will verify, should be an option in the “Trip Planner” software.

Optionally, he could have called 1.800.COMMUTE, negotiated a telephone tree and then have an agent do the work for him.

There is lots wrong with public transportation in our area. The base fault is that the LACMTA refuses to think in terms of a transportation system. I have continually criticized them for this lack of “systems thinking”, i.e., they think in terms of bus lines and rail/subway lines. Visit any major city in this county or in the world for that matter and one will see that bus lines “spoke” to rail or subway stations. Not so in Los Angeles, where our bus system is a vestige of the old RTD days when there were no rail or subway stations to server as hubs. In today's environment, and here the Sierra Madre Villa Gold line station comes to mind, if a bus stops within two (2) or three (3) blocks of the station that is close enough for LACMTA work.

Had Mr. Turner taken his luggage with him he would have found that the transfer from the Blue line to the Green line would have required two (2) elevators and a struggle to work one's way through the crowd in order to ride the second elevator since they are not adjacent. In fairness to the Times readership, Mr. Turner should be required to repeat his trip after doing the proper research toting a medium size suitcase along with him.

But L.A. Has nothing on Philly(2), where a bus driver assaulted a 52 year old woman, grabbing her by the hair, knocking her head into a pole and tossing her out the door into traffic! She had yelled at him when he missed her stop.

The Mole Rides Again - so that you don't have to avert your eyes while fellow riders pick their noses

Random rides:

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 which 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.

On board a 720 Rapid bus (8096) bound for Santa Monica. There are two (2) uniformed Metro employees on board this bus. They may be trying out a new “system”. One drives while the other distributes day passes and transfers – anyway, that is my perception of what should be happening. However there is some confusion on the part of the passengers about who is supposed to be doing what on this very crowded 10:00 AM run. One male passenger is turning left and right trying to figure out where he will receive his day pass. The attractive Latina driver (16526) must have had the same DI that I did, and it shows in her language – the passenger replies in kind. Somebody needs an anger management class. The Metro worker who distributes things, a Black woman (71033), is unfailingly polite and seems unflappable.

Nothing electronic seems to be operational on this morning's ride on the 264 line. No, AVA (Automatic Voice Announcements) , the TransitTV screens are (thankfully) dark, no (usually incorrect) ADA (Automatic Door Announcements). Although the date and time do crawl on the display and the “Stop Requested” sign does light up. Driver seat belt usage seems to be up, although my driver doesn't use his.

All the passenger windows are grimy. The bus has been cleaned to LACMTA standards, i.e., good enough. The same is true for the heavily vandalized elevators at the Sierra Madre Villa station.

Another bumpy ride on 720 Rapid down Wilshire. Every jolt is preserved in my handwriting as I take notes – Mole as seismograph. The operational phrase here is: “If it doesn't get reported it doesn't get fixed”. The single bolt that holds the vertical “hold on” pole in place has rattled out and is gone. Our trip has what sounds like a discordant steel drummer as an accompanist. This is bus number 8007. It is an 8000 series, a shock absorber-less product of NABI. The missing bolt is on the left side, at about the midway point of the third window. At the Hollywood-Western Red Line station I help an older man plan his trip to John Wayne airport as best I could: Red Line to 7th Metro Center, then the Blue Line to LB transit Mall and then find an OC bus on his own from there. He wasn't in a hurry his flight was leaving in a week so he was simply planning in advance. It turned out he was Iranian so we spent a few minutes talking about Persian food – one of my favorites along with Mexican and Italian :-).

I'm on a line 181 bus today. It is well marked up with graffiti. Some of these buses are also used on a line which serves students.

These budding artists have left their mark on EVERYTHING. Even the TransitTV screens have heavy black lines on them. So much for the idea that TransitTV reduces vandalism.

(1) Turner, Dan. “Taking the rapid out of transit” Los Angeles Times 5 Feb. 2006:M1

(2) N/A. “Bus Driver Is Charged in Attack on Passenger” Los Angeles Times 10 Feb. 2006:A21

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