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

Pasadena has a very nice map and area transportation summary (PD025-03.06.CHK). They have several Gold Line shuttles, designated GL (Gold Link) and then a suffix indication compass direction of origin, e.g., N, S ... . They all seem to serve only the Mission station. This is a good idea, BUT, what they should be doing is running a shuttle service that weaves between more of the stations. Viewed from above it would appear to be a chain comprised of links or something like human DNA – the ladder rail portion, NOT the steps, connecting more stations. Memorial Park, Del Mar, Filmore and Mission are the stations which I believe should initially be so linked. It after some reasonable period, including tuning of the service, other down line and or up line stations could be linked as well.

It is not so much a matter of linking stations as it is of transporting passengers to some station and back to their home areas. I.e., filling in the gaps that have NO public transit right now.

The LACMTA has proven time and time again that they don't want the Gold Line to be viable. If they did they would make up unsubstantiated numbers for the ridership, just like they do for the “Orange Line” bus. If “Orange Line” ridership continues to grow it will soon subsume most of California's population :-). But I digress, running empty express trains, as they do now on the Gold Line only serves to irritate passengers who watch these express trains pass their stations. The extra few minutes which the express trains save are offset by the inconvenience to the many. So, number of passenger minutes saved times number of express train riders weighed against number of passenger minutes added to a given trip times the number of inconvenienced passengers tells the story.

The Gold Line will be a success if and only if someone says
“Hey, we have to make it easy for passengers to get to the Gold Line stations!”.

The Mole Rides Again - so that you won't have to wander around looking for a station entrance

I am aboard a line 125 bus headed for the Douglas St / Rosecrans Av Green Line station. It is my first time to use this station and upon arrival I find that there is serious construction in process, although not today as it is Saturday. There is no obvious route to the station which is visible, about ¾ of a block away, from the street. All I can see is cyclone fence and concrete barriers. The few people in the vicinity seem dumbfounded when I ask them how to get to the station. One points at the structure and says “The pick-up is over there”. Finally, I walk across an empty parking lot and find a break in the cyclone fence, step over a small ditch past a jagged piece of concrete. Now I am faced with a simple maze of cyclone fence barriers which lead to the station steps. Each of the many steps up to the, what I estimate to be, fourth floor level of the platform, is beautifully and expensively inscribed with a different phrase. The one which I especially noted was “It's always the same”.
Yes, with the LACMTA it is always the same. No transfer of information or learning ever takes place. This station is an excellent example! Not one sign, not a single arrow directs one to the station. I talk to a waiting passenger and she points out the expected route – what, from ground level, appeared to be a ditch into which pipe would be laid, from this fourth floor vantage point reveals itself to be a crude path to the station.
The Westlake / MacArthur Park Red Line station has everything! Illustrative of the lack of the word “maintenance” in LACMTA's vocabulary, crossing the entry plaza one can see urban stains and litter sui generis.
The down stairway is the same, differing only in perspective angles. The blue wall tiles are stained with grout which has been leached by leakage in the wall behind.
The same leakage is also seen when standing on the outbound (in the Wilshire/Vermont direction) platform. The best, worst? Example is seen centered around a sign, which reads “3.4 AR”. Deep gouges have been eroded into the walls. The smell, like that found in parking structure stairwells, is also available.
The LACMTA is ready to rush ahead with extremely stupid ideas like the “Expo rail line” when they cannot fund proper maintenance on the facilities currently in operation.
My First Transit driver on this Long Beach bound number 232 bus is busy. Busy on her cell phone and/or when traffic allows, working on some sort of craft item made of multi-colored thread and worked with a single needle. Her operator number is 70538. Cell phone use by drivers seems to be the rule these days. Which leads me to a recommendation for the LACMTA. In the case of an accident, the driver's cell phone should be inspected to see if it was in use at the time of the accident.
Someone told me that First Transit drivers are hired even though they would be ineligible for Metro jobs due to police records up to and including some felonies.
Under the rubric “Now I have seen everything”, the woman seated immediately in front of me on my 333 bus on Venice BL, is using a desert spoon to curl her eyelashes!
I rode the new bus on the block, the two section articulated one in use on the Wilshire BL 720 line. It did not seem to be as noisy as the unitary buses, but then again, it is new. So there has not been much time for things to rattle loose. I am not sure that I like the ride as it was, to me, somewhat like riding in a small launch on a choppy sea. The driver was cranky too. He claimed that someone had violated the yellow line at the front of the bus. I was several meters back but any line crossing seemed to have been minimal and accidental. The allegedly transgressing passenger called the driver a bad name beginning with the letter “a”.



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

The Daily News covered the LACMTA's poor financial position(1) and its' $3 BILLION dollar 20062007 budget along with the compulsory quote from Zev: “The agency [budget?] has more fat in it that has[already??] been identified”. Translation, not the fat that I want!

The budget shortfall is estimated to be $112 million which will be covered by drawing down the reserves to $66 million. Summing these values (112 + 66) yields $178 million which should be the initial amount of the reserves. The article also documents a cost reduction of $274 million in the CEO's office. Good grief, what more can the CEO need than his $300,000+ salary.

In one point they identified the highly paid head of the LACMTA, Roger Snoble as Noble and quoted him as saying (I have to take a break here until I stop laughing) the his agency is the country's “leanest”.

A Los Angeles Times piece(2), covers the same story with fewer and different numbers indicating a larger shortfall, i.e., $131 million. It cites an Orange Line ridership figure of “more than 18,000” daily. This differs from an earlier Daily News piece(3) which cites the current [Orange Line] “ridership” “… which now approaches the 21,000 mark,[daily? Weekdays?] not projected until 2020.”

Both articles talk about deferring bus (engine) maintenance which, to me, is false economy. A bus engine, if ignored, can move from being in need of repair to unrepairable, i.e., less costly to buy a rebuilt engine than to repair the worn out one.

So many numbers, so little time. Where do they come from? - especially those hard to quantify ridership figures.

The above makes an eloquent call for coverage of, at least, these accounting type matters in the Business Section(s). I wold think that with so much public funding going into the agency there would be a louder call for publishing the complete budget along with a professional analysis. We hear about so many failures at the LACMTA, the “Maintenance Software” failure which was covered once in the Times and then never seen again.

Here is an example which was extracted from your Mole's letter to Times . The original letter has been edited slightly and predates the Mole's Blog.

The article(4), as written was interesting. I found what was not written even more interesting. I suggest that the article should have been titled “Outside Auditors, MTA Spending Good Money After Bad. What is it that the LACMTA didn't understand about the four (4) internal audits which faulted the “M3 project”? It appears that they are “auditor shopping”, i.e., attempting to find someone who agrees that they are blameless and to assist in a damage control whitewash.

The issue would have been made clearer by an inclusion of more of the detail from the four audits. Perhaps, the reporter should have been supported by someone with an IT (Information Technology) background so that the article could better detail some of the problems which were glossed over with “Workers complain that the new software ...”. All readers can understand examples of “botching simple math”.

It is incredible to read that Mr. Brumbaugh, after spending almost $30 million, would say “Every day we are resolving issues [read problems] as they come about”. The very fact that they are encountering daily issues is indicative that the software is laced with bugs. Even more worrisome is the knowledge that these bugs are the “low hanging fruit”, i.e., fairly easy to find and fix, while the more subtle bugs may require a long time to identify, IF they are ever found.

Readers should be told what Spear Technologies has to say about what are apparently daily failures of their software. If I were to make a recommendation to LACMTA it would be to hire IBM to come in and conduct a “lightning review” of the project and come up with recommendations for going forward. This will result in an action plan and could result in Spear Technologies making refunds and/or cease billings until their product performs as specified. Spear Technologies web site touts their 3i product. I suspect that if and when the bespoke M3 project becomes a product, it will appear as Spear Technologies' 3M. If I am correct, LACMTA is funding a large portion of the development costs for that future product. Mr. Bernsdorf is correct, and likely was forced to retire when he stated that “M3's programming code was not being sufficiently tested ...” Daily bugs are proof of his assertion. Such a software product should still be in a laboratory undergoing systems test rather than being deployed into an organization where frequently its left hand doesn't know what its right hand is doing.

I firmly believe that the Los Angels Times should undertake an investigative series targeting the LACMTA as it did for King-Drew. This is a money wasting agency and Ms Lui's article AGAIN proves that point and shows that the LACMTA will spend money, good after bad!

Speaking of letters, here is the one I wrote to the Daily News last week. They wanted to edit it down to 125 words, so I asked them to do it for me and reference the Mole's blog so you could see the unedited letter. Here it is.


Re: Bartholomew, Dana, “Coach travel lures drivers” Daily News 27 Apr. 2006:

The piece(3) discusses the current Orange Line “ridership” which now approaches the 21,000 mark,[daily? Weekdays?] not projected until 2020. Where do these numbers come from?

Neither the LACMTA nor the reporter will publish the estimating technique(s) that are used by the LACMTA.

As I have repeatedly pointed out in my Blog, the Orange Line drivers do not maintain exact count as do drivers on all other lines. To me, Orange Line success would be signaled by an increase in fare collections system wide with a corresponding increase in fare collection for the Valley sector. I maintain that a certain percentage of Orange Line riders are those who rode the Ventura Bl Rapid Line, number 750, or other Valley lines which suffered cutbacks and now use the Orange Line.

There is the obligatory comment from Zev claiming at least partial fatherhood of the Orange Line. This time, however, Zev's inspiration came from Brazil, not the Miami Busway as was reported in the Los Angeles Times months ago. Perhaps the Brazilian system was not plagued with early accidents as was the Miami system and our own Orange Line. Then again, he may be trying to rationalize his junket, er, I mean, fact finding trip to Brazil. Was it around Carnival time, I wonder??

This article is balanced by citing complaints, like a quote from a former RTD executive, Tom Rubin. He says, “This is not a good investment of public funds. 'Rapid Buses would be faster, would have cost a small fraction [of that spent on the Orange Line] and for the same expenditure could have been put all over the Valley.” Bravo, Mr. Rubin!

There were also complaints from residents about noise.

It is hearting, but not too heartening, to hear that daily near-misses on the Orange Line are down from 200 during the first month of operation to only around two per day last month.

It is also time to restate my attitude towards the Bus Riders Union. ...

Although I applaud the BRU's (Bus Rider's Union) 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 whineIt's not a bus”.

The Mole Rides Again - so that you won't have to suffer “land sickness” at the hands of a First Transit driver

I am riding a 333 Line bus, number 1380, driven by operator 16129, a slim Asian man. He punches expiration times into a batch of “Muni Transfers”, then taps his punch on a support bar to clear the chad (small pieces of paper that are punched out). The chad fall to the bus floor even though the trash back is within a stretch of his seat.

The First Transit drivers, as I have previously reported, are rough. This 232 bus jerks along, accelerate, brake, accelerate, brake ... Where are those little airline bags when you need them?

  1. Urangoa, Rachel, “MTA won't raise fares for one year” Daily News 9 May 2006:3

  1. Guccione, Jean, “No Fare Hikes in MTA Budget Plan” Los Angeles Times 9 May 2006:B1

  2. Bartholomew, Dana, “Coach travel lures driversDaily News 27 Apr. 2006:1

  3. Liu, Caitlin, “Outside Auditors to Review MTA Project” Los Angeles Times 22 Jan. 2005:B3

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