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

In what turns out to be a very nice story(1) the Los Angeles Times reports on a man whose working life will likely not be exceeded by your Mole or his readers for that matter. The piece details the long career of Mr. Arthur Winston who retired on his 100th birthday!

Happy Birthday Mr. Winston and many happy returns!!

Actually, the Times was beat on the story by the Chicago Sun-Times which ran it on Wednesday. And the CBC Radio (Canada) ran an interview on “As It Happens” on Wednesday evening. In the interview, Mr. Winston said that he would like to take a trip to Brazil and look at the moon there. He seemed quick and witty. Your mole should do as well when he is half Mr. Winston's age :-).

The Mole Rides Again - so that you don't have be surrounded by people who were born without an “inside voice” and are forced to always use their “outside voice”

I was riding along thinking about the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) contemplated action vis-á-vis interest rates. BOJ, Japan's Central Bank, presently issues loans with a prime rate of at or near zero percent interest. This is good for the borrower and not so good for the bank's income statement. BOJ is thinking about actually charging a higher interest rate due to the fact that Japan's economy is strengthening after a decade of poor performance. Such a rate increase means that investments, with funds borrowed at zero percent interest, are possible but would not be undertaken at a higher interest rate. BOJ's action has the potential for impact on the world's economy, so it must be studied carefully before implementation.

Suddenly, I was brought back to earth by a nearby conversation. Two people were discussing finance! These people would make BOJ's economic committee seem like amateurs. They were talking about a mode of finance, that, although I have been unable to avoid the industry's TV commercials, with which I have no first hand experience. So I listened intently. The mode is often referred to as “Check to Cash”.

The financiers talked nonstop about the details of personal finance using one, or in their case, several companies concurrently. I learned that there are many companies in this business, the names flowed too fast for me to keep up with them and as I did not want to attract attention to myself by taking out my notebook. I ask that you please, be content knowing that there are lots of offerings in this commercial space, and accepting these few which I could remember: Cash & Run; NIX; Money Mart; Advance America; Payday Advance and Speedy Cash. Using “check into cash” as the search argument, Google returned 97,100,000 pages!

The problems apparently develop when one's note comes due – incidentally, the note is your pre-dated check for the amount which you are to receive in cash, plus the finance charges. When your payment is due, the loan company simply deposits the check, if it bounces they simply resubmit the check as many times as required until it clears. I could not clearly understand whether the loan company charged an additional fee for the delay of not. What I did understand was that at least one bank, Wells Fargo, charged $33 for each time a check bounced. I also understood that Wells Fargo did not cancel the checking account but rather they put up with the – what seemed to me an endless cycle of overdrafts – because it is profitable business.

Bottom line: to me, this sounded like a sad situation of people attempting to make their way on a limited income who were pinched between a lender of last resort and their bank.

Come FLYAWAY with me

As promised, I took a FLYAWAY bus from Union Station to LAX. The pleasant surprise was that usual $3 one way fee was waived and will continue to be waived through 31 March 2006(2). Passenger luggage was stowed in compartment underneath the passenger compartment. My bus was an older one but still appeared to be cleaner than LACMTA standards (this service is provided by LAX, actually, “Los Angeles World Airports”). Of the 47 passenger seats on my bus, just 11 were filled so either the word is not getting out or the demand for this service has been overestimated. Strangely, the several buses which I noted had Wyoming license plates? We left just seconds after 2 P.M. and although I had expected a 45 minute trip, we arrived at the third LAX stop, Tom Bradley Terminal in just 28 minutes and 55 seconds! That time is about half the time required by the Red Line -> Blue Line -> Green Line ->LAX shuttle route from Union Station to LAX. It is about one third of the Line 439 -> LAX shuttle route originating at Union Station and terminating at LAX.

Bottom line: This seems to be a service with some possibility – partly because it is not administered by the people with the anti-Midas touch, the LACMTA. That being said, I wonder if the demand for an East side to LAX service currently exists. Perhaps FLYAWAY's viability will increase in the future when the Grand AV plan is more fully developed, with hotels in the area and a centrally located hotel stop is added to the route. In the intermediate term the actual cost of the service to the potential Metro user is $6 - $3 for a day pass used to get to Union Station then FLYAWAY's $3. Demand could be increased by working on fare sharing arrangement between FLYAWAY and the LACMTA. I would suggest that a passenger be allowed to board a FLYAWAY bus for $1.50 and his day pass. Then Metro could pay FLYAWAY $1.25 for each day pass presented. Doing this would reduce the passengers cost to $4.50, Metro would make $1.75 on each , only slightly used day pass and FLYAWAY would make $2.75. At any rate, some sort of fare sharing could boost both public transportation usage and the use of the FLYAWAY service. A discount on round trip ticket purchases could be considered as well.

The LACMTA Marketing Department is at it again!

According to a multi-coloured, heavy stock not inexpensive card (06-1844EB©2006LACMTA) the El Monte Station is being expanded. Six bus bays, designated A through F, are being added at ground level on the West side of the station. Metro buses 270, 170/176, 267 and 268 will stop at Bays A, B, C ans D respectively. Foothill Transit buses 178 will stop at Bay E and buses 269 will stop at Bay F.

The card then goes on to show the Bays numbered 1 through 10 in the main, i.e., older part of the station, yet, and I would say inexplicably, but that is always the case with the <please fill in your own appropriate derogatory adjective> LACMTA, fails to show the bus numbers that stop at those numbered bays.

(1)Wride, Nancy. “Getting Off the Bus After 76 Years of Work” Los Angeles Times 23 March 2006:B2

(2) Details at 1.866.IFLYLAX = 1.866.435.9529

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