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

The question raised by a Los Angeles Times piece(1) is: If Metro was really any good, would they have to spend this kind of money to attract riders and on a salary for Warren Morse, the agency's marketing director?

The agency budgeted $270,000 to pay for ads on 35 billboards and 115 bus shelters, in newspapers and on radio stations beginning last month, Morse said.

The latest installment in the agency's $3.4-million-a-year marketing campaign to build ridership, the ads also can be found on the side of 600 MTA buses.

"It implants the idea," LACMTA spokesperson Morse said.

As I study the riders on this less than half-full line 439 bus, I wonder what it will take for mass transit to finally “click” here in Los Angeles. We residents of planet Earth are faced with a dim future because of global warming. Last week, Stephen Hawking said "It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species," and "Life on Earth is at the ever- increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of."

Although this is great “long term” advice, in preparation for the time when our sun will go through its death throes, in an estimated 4 billion years. But our immediate problem is dealing with global warming. The cause of which is the production of so called “greenhouse gases” by humans. See

Cars produce lots of carbon dioxide, a major component (76%) of greenhouse gases. Things can only get worse as countries, such as China, become affluent and its population buys cars by the millions.

Closer to home, CA residents seem disinclined to reduce their use of their personal cars. High gas prices don't seem to do it. The thought of destroying our home planet doesn't seem to do it. And most certainly the brochures and billboards upon which the LACMTA is wasting money won't do it. The CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) doesn't spend much on self promotion – because people in Chicago understand the system. And it is a multi-mode system: rail, subway, buses and elevated trains.

In Los Angeles and other areas as well, one's automobile is so integrated with one's sense of self that it would seem that even when temperatures reach the mid 100s, likely people will continue to drive. As noted above, part of this is psychological and another part is lack of education. Too, portable entertainment allows people to disassociate themselves from and ignore their environment while listening to portable MP3 players, viewing DVD players, playing cell phone games and etc.

Future intergalactic travels are apt to find human skeletons slumped over their Sudoku puzzles, entertained to the last breath.

The PBS program “Now”, in a recent broadcast, covered the General Motors poor financial condition and its plan to “buy out” workers in order to reduce labor costs. The broadcast asserted that one in ten workers (one tenth) of America's labor force is involved with automobile production in some way.

What is the answer?

I am pessimistic. The car companies have had, conservatively, 50 years to develop combinations of fuel efficient vehicles and in conjunction with the oil companies, alternative fuels. In 1916 Henry Ford said “Gasoline is going – alcohol is coming. It is coming to stay, too, for it's in unlimited supply.” At that time Ford Motor Co. had an alternative fuels project.(2) Here we are ninety (90) years later with almost no progress in the area. Vast amount of money was/is spent, not on developing fuel efficient cars, but in lobbying for delays in CAFE improvements. The oil companies, take Exxon for example, seem disinterested in developing gasoline alternatives. Exxon's investment in R & D in the area was in the $100,000s while its (windfall) profits were billions of dollars!

Even the alternative fuels such as ethanol, when subjected to sharp pencil input/output analysis, turn out to require disproportional energy inputs, e.g., fuel for agricultural equipment required to raise source crops, limits on land for source crops cultivation and etc. See page 25 on the very bottom.

for a statement regarding Ethanol.

Hydrogen is another highly touted fuel. But ...

It is difficult to understand the enthusiasm for hydrogen in view of the above. Hydrogen does not solve the energy problem and it is a bad choice for carrying energy.” Quoted from

So what is need, immediately, is a life style change. Are you ready to buy a monthly Metro pass and join me on the rails and buses? I won't hold my breath!

How refreshing it is to read something that reflects reality rather than is simply parroting the LACMTA press releases! This Daily News piece(3) is best characterized as straight ahead truth. The reporter contrasts his expectations of and experience with the Orange Line. He rode it for months before returning to his car. I predict the same kind of problems for the money wasting “Expo Line”, i.e., that as a line with lots of grade crossings, accidents will happen. With the LACMTA success is always as close as their next ill conceived and poorly executed project.

The Mole Rides Again - so that you won't have to inhale the last exhalation of smoke from the guy who wanted share it inside the bus

Waiting for Godot or a bus.

Like so many Metro riders these days, this one was a smoker and he was rearranging his cigarette buts in a cigarette box. It seemed that he was sorting by stub length. He took out a balloon and twisted it into a poodle shape. As he entered his bus, he placed it on the dashboard bringing a smile to the face of the lady driver.

A young lady from Singapore asked me for directions to Santa Monica – someone had told her that riding the (soon to be drastically truncated) 220 line transferring to a 33 at some unknown (to me) intersection was the way. Wrong! I suggested a Big Blue Bus.

A guy with a scruffy beard seats himself on a bench, takes his burrito out of a white paper bag and places the bag under his foot to keep it from blowing away. He then unwraps the aluminum foil and the inner paper wrapper which would have prevented his hands from touching the food. Taking the burrito in his bare, unwashed hands he eats about half of it. He rewraps the burrito and replaces it in the white paper bag. His concept of cleanliness is much broader than mine.

The passenger announces his presence by an odor that would bring a maggot to his knees. His “baggage” consists of myriad plastic bags which vary in size and shape depending on their contents, aboard a luggage cart. What a difference in perspective when compared with the piece(4) which appeared in the Times “CARS / 125 YEARS / COMMEMORATIVE EDITION”. Among other things, the writer waxes poetic about the kind of dialog he hears. Contrast this too with the Daily News piece cited above or with my own extensive experience as a passenger.

The Metro employee's name tag identifies him as “Vor”. Unfortunately Vor, a maintenance worker at the LAX City Bus Center, lacks supervision and training. He may suffer from bad eye sight as well. He certainly doesn't understand efficiency and effectiveness.

He may be partially effective as he is doing the right thing in attempting to sweep and clean up the area. But his methods are inefficient, i.e., he is not doing the thing right. He leaves his wheeled trash barrel at a point an then makes trips back and forth to it rather than pulling it along with him. He seems to miss lots of litter and his path seems more random – hit and miss as opposed to a purposeful course. He does not thoroughly clean an area and then move on. The City Bus Center is comprised of slabs of concrete which could be cleaned one at a time. In my opinion each one should be inscribed with an identifier such as AA, AB ... ZZ. Then each day, a certain section could be designated for intensive scrubbing and gum removal. If a through cleaning of the area is described as a vast job, then Vor is doing a half-vast job of it. The entire periphery of the area, the surrounding fence are is one big dump.

(1) Guccione, Jean “MTA Aims to Help Motorists Get Over the Pump” Los Angeles Times 7 June 2006:Bx

(2) Brinkley, Douglas","Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company and A century of Progress", Viking Penguin 2003

(3) Kleinbaum, Josh “Orange Line wasn't as juicy as it seemed” Daily News 30 May 2006:

(4) Rayner, Richard “Don't drive, won't drive” Los Angeles Times 21 Jun 2006:21



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

According to a Los Angles Times piece(1), It would seem that the skids have been placed under Roger Snoble and the greasing process is underway.

Snoble's initial reaction to his $130 million budget shortfall (according to the article), was that nothing could be done about income shortfalls other than a fare increase. Now, he wants to trim, what is for the most part, a minimal presence by Sheriff's Deputies.

I nominate Goofy (the Disney Character) as Snoble's replacement. Even Goofy would recognize that spending money for projects like the “Exposition Line” is senseless.

It is not often that I am in complete agreement with the BRU (Bus Riders Union) but in the case of the ill conceived “Exposition Line” , I do believe that Rapid buses are the better alternative. So in the interim, Snoble would do well to cancel the “Exposition Line” .

In an earlier piece (“No Fare Hikes in MTA Budget Plan” Los Angeles Times 9 May 2006:B1), The Times cites a $131 million budget shortfall, what is the true figure? Or is the LACMTA unable to work at a granularity of less than $1 million?

Here is the main portion of my response to a LACMTA press release announcing public meetings: 'Westside/Central to Hold Workshop on “Metro Connections” South Bay Sector to meet in South Los Angeles'.


Many, if not most Metro riders cannot afford the time and or the attendant costs to attend meetings.

Given that Metro wastes untold thousands of dollars on brochures that remain, unread, on buses for months, why can't you place public comment cards with drop boxes on buses so that the public can supply input in an efficient manner?

My own complaint, although definitely not my only one, is that, according to rumor, the 439 and 220 lines will be drastically truncated.

I find that the value of my monthly pass decreases every six months - this is also true of day passes since extra money will now be required to ride, on different carriers, to one's destination.

The Mole Rides Again - so that you won't have to stand in the hot sun wondering when your bus will arrive

The guy who does the AVA (Automatic Voice Announcements) is not from around here and has, apparently, no background in the Spanish language. Riding the 33 from downtown to Venice, I hear him say Luh Cienega vs Lah Cienega, earlier I wrote about his fun with Arbor Vitae. Then sometime he repeats the same stops twice, because one is “Road”, “Lane” or Way and details like those are stripped off the announcements, making them less then informative. A well managed organization would demand a do-over on these things. A well managed organization the LACMTA is not.

I am waiting for a bus at the West Los Angeles Transit Center. The site, located under the Santa Monica freeway at Fairfax and Apple, is dark and gloomy, although it is bright and sunny elsewhere under an almost cloudless sky. The only bright spot is the golden hued mural of amoebas(?) which spans the width of the freeway on the West side of Fairfax.

The sidewalk here is a yet incomplete mosaic comprised of blobs of discarded chewing gum. There is lots of litter in the area, although this side of the street does have an overflowing trash can. Well, at least this side of the street has a trash can – the other side has none.

I ride the 717 Line to Hollywood. A young lady, a late boarder, is trapped in the closing door for an instant by a driver too busy selling day passes, checking passes and too eager to get under way.

An elderly woman boards, takes a seat and soon says “It's too cold, Jesus Christ!”. Appealing to a higher authority causes no change in the air conditioner setting. She repeats variations of this mantra before leaving the bus.

The TransitTV is displaying a Windows-like error message directly in the center of the screen but it is broadcasting behind it. Thankfully, drivers are tending to set the volume low, so even the extra loud commercials in Español are barely heard. No one complains about this and few show any real interest in this highly touted (by the LACMTA) annoyance.

As we near Hollywood BL, off to the left of the bus, one can see the costly homes which cling to the hills. How many will lose their grip when the “Big One” hits us??

I am waiting for a bus at the LAX City Bus Center. A metro maintenance employee half-heartedly sweeps up the plentiful litter in the area. That which is very easily accessible, that is. He brushes lightly over the cigarette buts in the cracks between the slabs and ignores, completely, the stuff in the gutters.

Today, I have the pleasure of meeting nine young ladies, from out of town, who are on an “American Girl Tour”. I share some transit tips with them, including detailed instructions on how to go from the Red Line Hollywood-Highland station back to the LAX Center. My bet is (99.9997%) that they won't return via that route. As I write out the route for them, even I have second thoughts: Hollywood-Highland to 7th/Metro; then Blue Line to Rosa Parks; then Green Line to Aviation and finally a bus back to the LAX City Bus Center plus the details of inter-station transfers.

Anyway, it was good to see such cheerful, high spirited young ladies and I send a big shout out to them and hope that their LA visit was fun!

I am at the 7th/Metro station, an Arts tour is in progress. The docent talks about the third rail with its ever present 750 volts, then asks for questions. Although I am not part of the tour I ask why there are no “High Voltage” warning signs anywhere in the station. Her reply: “They don't expect you to be down there” :-).

Later in the day, I meet three college students from Dublin, Ireland. They are headed for Orange County and I help them find a route to their destination. They tell me about Ken Loach's movie: “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”, which won the Palme d'Or at the recently concluded 59th Cannes Film Festival. I am near the end of my reading of “Fatal Shore”, about the founding of Australia – to which many Irish were “transported”. So. I have a great deal of interest in what they tell me and intend to see the movie.

I am still waiting for my bus, a 111. There is no quality control or correctional feedback system in effect for our transportation “system”. A bus, from the route which I wish to ride, pulls in 15 minutes late. It switches its head sign to “Not in Service” and parks. About 25 minutes later another bus (same line) arrives 10 minutes late and the driver takes his break. Bus 1 now makes a circuit of the City Bus Center and parks, again. Apparently it suffers from a mechanical failure, which is not apparent to me. Finally, by now just about an hour late, bus 2 departs with me. I am all for drivers having all the breaks to which they are entitled. Driving is a difficult job and personally I rarely miss my coffee breaks, so why should they.

My suggestion, the LACMTA should establish some metrics (on time performance, lost route time and etc.), track them and start making improvements – don't hold your breath. That way, buses and or drivers which fail could be identified and fixed.

I have seen the same problem on the 232 line. Buses bunching up, and this seems especially true on weekends, running within 5 minutes of each other with the lead bus showing a head sign of “Discharge Only”.

Remember the 232 the line? The one with the unnecessary loop around the Mariposa station - which is a route contracted by First Transit.

(1) Guccione, Jean, “MTA Budget Boosts Services” 26 May 2006 Los Angeles Times:B?

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