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

Not exactly reading but... I had the opportunity to interview a transportation professional. We discussed, among other things, public transportation in Japan, which I consider to be the “Gold Standard” by which others are to be measured. You know, where buses run to rail stations in a hub and spoke system, as opposed to our own random linkages here in Los Angeles. The Expo line came up too. As you know, I am firmly against this waste of money and have pointed out the lack of planning on the part of the LACMTA. Which lack resulted in the dispute about surface running as opposed to the presently planned “trench” which will hide the thing. I was informed that most areas that plan for underground systems are forced above ground when they run out of funds. The fact that USC is forcing the Expo line underground may run the project (further) into the red. The fact that public transit can not be profitable was also a topic. My misapprehension, that cities like New York have profitable (or at least break-even) systems was corrected.

If one needed further proof, personally, I don't, that the LACMTA management blinks into and out of our dimension, the present discussion regarding implementing street cars in Los Angeles is it! Where airlines attempt to limit the number of different models they fly, in order to simplify maintenance and control costs – these guys want to have one of everything. In a gap filled, patchwork“ system”, what we really don't need is another inflexible link to nowhere. This is further indication of the child like state (Oh, look! Red Cars!!) which co-exists with permanent befuddlement in the minds of the LACMTA planners.

The August “Metro News” (07-0103TR) in a section entitled “Better Safe Than Sorry, Report All Suspicious Packages” gives Metro riders guidelines on reporting suspicious packages. The last sentence of the section is: “Typically, most items left in open areas such as on seats or station platforms are simply forgotten.” Now, if you were a bad guy, where would you leave your suspicious package?

Another brochure (07-0224MR) brags, “Proud to be America's best”. Metro was named “Outstanding Transportation System” by the American Transportation Association. But then members of the American Transportation Association don't have to ride it! The brochure is another attempt at telling us how great they are – this from an organization who's head (the overly compensated Snoble) travels with a highly paid OUTSIDE PR guy! I wonder how many $1.25 bus fares it takes to pay for an hour of this PR guy's time?

Several parts of the brochure cause me to laugh although it is mostly funny. One portion, “Metro worked tirelessly to improve operations” neglects to tell us why the Northbound 232 from Long Beach makes a costly, nonsensical backtrack loop around Mariposa/Grand/Sepulveda – maybe they got tired before got to it?. They also say “Complaints are at an all time low”- looks like they don't read the Mole and they never answer my complaint forms which are submitted online, nor are my e-mail messages answered. Incidentally, that online complaint form was out of service for a while, that alone likely accounts for the reduced complaints.

Another boast, “Metro seamlessly integrated technology” tells us about their (money losing) online store and the form from the Metro website, asking about the proposed changes in bus schedules planned for the December “shakeup”. They never answered my message. But, they did publish another brochure (07-0106TR)– I believe it was after the fact – announcing meetings to discuss the changes. However, the meetings were mostly held weekday evenings beginning at 6 or 6:30 PM – except for one held at 9:30 on a Friday morning. Just how many users of public do you think could attend these meetings? Well, it is likely fewer than you think when one takes into account the venues: Van Nuys, El Monte, Downey and Carson.

These meetings are perfectly structured to limit attendance and thereby allow the LACMTA to rubber stamp any and all proposed changes. I would like to see: (1) attendance figures published along with brief summaries of any objections to the schedule changes, then we can see exactly how effective these meetings are; and (2) the LACMTA join the rest of us here in the 21st Century and begin to accept other modalities of feedback, viz., the Internet, vide supra: “Metro seamlessly integrated technology”. Doing so would broaden the forum and allow users of public transportation to actually be heard.

Ear to the Rail

Perhaps, for today, this section should be entitled “eye along the rail”. I would like to point you toward some sculpture. The first is some work by Stephan Erzya, called the Rodin of Russia, titled Leda.
Then, Robert Graham, who was recently interviewed on radio. We can view his Charlie Parker Memorial.
Finally, take a look at “Le Penseur” in Paris, the original. There are a dozen or so authorized castings, one of which is located in Tokyo's Ueno Park. Also, we cannot ignore our own LACMA located at 5905 Wilshire BL and easily accessible via the 720 Rapid line – exit on Fairfax and walk a block or so back to the museum. Housed there is a very nice Rodin collection. You can visit that exhibit and others free of charge on the second Tuesday of every month.

The Mole Rides Again - so that he can share those all too rare visions of beauty with you

Some Fridays are definitely better than others. The young lady who waited with me at the Venice Bl bus stop was exceptional! Stunningly beautiful, she was, by Los Angeles bus rider standards or any other standards for that matter, stylishly, tastefully dressed too. By that I mean, she wore appropriate attire – no “belly shirt”, etc. - a real lady. Her beauty was that rare natural kind – not the type, and here Jessica Simpson comes to mind, which is accepted by many as “beauty”, but radiant, refined, sophisticated et avec je ne sais quoi. I am sure that she had a cell phone (I did not see one), and it was not constantly in use. Her voice too, mellifluously communicated both meaning and intelligence. No doubt about it, your unshaven and under-dressed Mole was captivated.

She was visiting from the East coast and though the shortness of the common portion of our ride prevented me from learning more, this is what I surmised, she had no regional accent which I could detect, she was well educated, Ivy League?, Vassar??, GWU???, possibly working as an attorney, engineer or researcher. I think of her as “Dulcinea”, although she does have an very nice name - Amy. Aha ..., the impossible dream of having lunch with her, . Anyway, Don Mole, back to the windmills :-).

San Pedro
I again rode the Green Line to the Harbor Freeway station and made the transition to the “bus station” which I described in my last post. The signage which would lead one to the bus station was even worse than I originally reported – it was not until I found myself one level above the busway that there was any meaningful signage at all. Along the way I helped a visitor from Spain, who although equipped with a computer printout of directions was somewhat lost, find his way and then explained how he could transfer to the Red Line downtown. He was headed for Universal Studios.

The 455 bus showed up quickly although the headsign (sign at the front of the bus indicating destination) said “Union Station” adding more confusion to those who were unable to deal with the Northbound/Southbound signs. I pointed out the error to the driver, he changed the headsign and I was on the way to my meeting in San Pedro. We traveled via the Artesia Transit Center, which seemed cleaner than most Metro sites (the center is also used by Orange County Transit).

San Pedro has changed quite a bit since I was last there. Construction of condos, advertised in the $400,000 range, was underway at a number of sites. I walked through the Port of Los Angles Liberty Hill memorial which featured: (i) a nice ship themed bronze sculpture and (ii) a California Historical site plaque designated this as site number 1021. The inscription noted that in 1923 the Marine Transport Union held a strike at the port. Upton Sinclair whose book “The Jungle”, about the meat packing industry in Chicago was a step along my road to vegetarianism, spoke at the gathering of workers. These workers, whose union was part if the IWW (International Workers of the World), heard Sinclair read the bill of rights and be arrested for his actions.

Near the Port of Los Angeles building, a short distance away from Liberty Hill, I saw two smallish unnamed trees, planted in 1977 by the Nagoya Port Authority, commemorating the 70th anniversary of both ports (1907-1977).

I then took a walk in the park along Harbor Bl where, at the foot of 1st Street, with the Vincent-Thomas bridge in the background, I saw the Evergreen Line's Ever Diadem container ship being unloaded. There were many gantry type cranes in the harbor, four of which were devoted to unloading the 40 by 8 by 8 foot containers from the Ever Diadem. I estimated that it took about three minutes to unload each container.

I had lunch at the Grinder on the corner of 5th and Harbor Bl where I was served by the incomparable Melanie who crafted a very nice and larger than expected salad, to accompany my meal.

I didn't have time to visit the Maritime Museum but I did check out each of the larger exhibits outside. They were:

* A WWII Mark 14 torpedo, more than 20 feet long, which traveled at a top speed of 26 knots (30 MPH) and in war time contained 668 pounds of explosives.

* A deck gun built in 1941 by the Hudson Motor Car Company, which still could easily be cranked around the azimuth (horizontal angle) but was frozen vis-a-vis the elevation angle.

* A screw (propeller) from the heavy cruiser USS Canberra (CA 70). It is 12'2” in diameter, weighs 12,240 pounds and from a driving force of 12,000 HP produced a top speed of 33.5 Knots (38.6 MPH)

* A bell from the heavy cruiser USS California.

* A gun barrel from the battleship USS New Jersey (BB 62). It is 68 feet long. Included are two 16 inch projectiles (shells), one near the breach (loading area) and the other near the muzzle (firing area). This gives the impression that one is ready to load and the other has just been fired. These projectiles traveled around 1,000 MPH (actually the signs quote two different velocities) and could hit a target over 20 miles away. This means that 1 minutes 12 seconds after firing it could be on your doorstep.

There was also a detailed bronze sculpture designed by Jasper D'Ambrosi (1926-1986) which was completed by his sons after his death. It depicts two sailors on a bosun's ladder, the topmost figure reaching a hand down to to his shipmate in the sea. It is part of the American Merchant Marine Memorial, a Viet Nam like installation which is comprised of several low walls. The inscriptions memorialize the loss of live by ship, e.g., “SS John M Schofield – Two Unknown”, and prisoners of war.

Also displayed was a bathysphere designed by Otis Barons. In 1949, in Southern California, he set a 4,500 depth record diving in this sphere, which is 54 inches in diameter.

The final area which I toured was the Fishing Industry Memorial. This featured a well executed bronze sculpture of a fisherman holding a large fish (likely a tuna) by Henry Alvarez.

All in all this was nice trip which I can recommend to families with small children! There was even a slide intended for children made out of another large ship's screw. Did I try it out??

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