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

The Los Angeles Times featured a piece on the “Beverly Hills Subway”(1). The article serves as a perfect example of the piecemeal thinking that dominates local transit planning. The writing also exemplifies the fuzzy logic employed by the Los Angeles Times and its staff. It describes the “13 mile subway that would [sic] travel between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica”. Actually, approximately 3 miles(A) of the Red Line route, between downtown Los Angeles and Wilshire and Western, is extant.

A Fair Study of Fareboxes

On Sunday 2 Dec. 2006, at around 11:15 or so I rode bus number 11033 on line 232 bound for Long Beach. The fare box was out of service. We pulled over on Mariposa and a “repair technician” boarded the bus, poked and prodded the farebox for under five minutes and gave up. At the same time we had a driver exchange. I watched as First Transit operator 71590 took over and although the farebox was still inoperative, he collected $3 for a day pass from a passenger. I verified, by asking the passenger directly, that the cash was exchanged hand-to-hand. This is definitely against Metro work rules –
I don’t know the rules under which First Transit operator’s work BUT, they are most probably the same as Metro’s rules. Do you think he turned the cash in? we will never know! Here is the gist of an e-mail message, with minor redactions, which I sent to the company which makes the fareboxes which are used on Metro buses. I’ll let you know if they answer me, but don't hold your breath.


Dear … Company:
I am writing to you as an engineer who has comments … These comments involve the frequent Metro loss of revenue due to … fareboxes, supplied by you being out of service. I would very much appreciate your reply so that I can reference it ….

I have personally seen a single attempt at field "on the bus" repair, which failed.Anecdotal "evidence", indicates that the older fareboxes seem to be more reliable than the newer type which incorporates the "Tap Pass" (proximity) feature. The failures which I have documented are: jammed bills, coin slots which must be frequently cleared - if clearable at all, thus delaying the boarding process, because they can not accommodate the usual rate of input when more than a single coin/token is involved in the fare payment. Too, it appears that if the on-board radio system is out-of-service, then, since asynchronous operation is impossible, then the farebox will also be inoperative.Could you suggest a reason as to why the LACMTA Metro be experiencing such a loss of revenue? Is it:The lack of skilled LACMTA Metro repair technicians?;Failure of the LACMTA Metro to perform routine preventive maintenance?;An infrastructure, potholed streets and etc. which subjects the fareboxes to stress levels beyond those anticipated by the engineering design specifications?;

Failure of the LACMTA Metro to provide for an independent operation mode so that fares can be collected independent of the on-board radio status?;An inferior … product?.Have you been contacted by the LACMTA Metro about this issue?

Thank you and best regards,

Ear to the Rail

If you like Hip hop then copy and paste this URL (Universal Resource Locator) into your computer’s media player, e.g., XMMS (Linux) Right mouse button, select URL or Windows Media Player (Windoze) Right mouse button->File-Open URL. There are no commercials!

The Mole Rides Again - so that so that you can pick up fashion tips from people you would, given any luck at all, not normally meet

I like the Culver City buses too! They are usually cleaner than Metro buses and the drivers often give informative announcements at stops, including which Metro and Big Blue Buses intersect the line.

Riding a 232 Line bus headed to Long Beach.
The old man claimed the front seat on the right side of the bus and a good part of the seat next to his. The seat faced inward so his wheeled cart and his extended feet made navigating down the aisle a challenge for most other passengers. He wore thick glasses, occasionally picked his nose and mostly slumped with his chin on his chest.

He wore an unlabeled baseball type cap, while his 50+ inch waist turned his T-shirt into a belly shirt. Which waist bounced slightly off beat to the rhythm of the bus.

Under the rubric “The World Is My Garbage Can”:

A neatly dressed woman boards the bus, takes two steps and drops her used tissue on the first flat surface she encounters.

At the LAC City Bus Center another woman tears open a resealable package of something, drops half of the top of the package and makes a half-hearted toss of the other half toward the trash can. Although it is only about an arm's length distant, she misses. A minute later she tries again, this time with a used “scratcher” lotto ticket. Damn! Missed again.

I board a Big Blue Line 3 Bus behind two {scruffy} looking men. The older one has his McDonald's $1 sundae semi-hidden in his jacket pocket. I notice that as he converses with the younger man, his voice is very weak – laryngitis? emphysema?? cancer??? As he finishes his sundae, they are joined by a woman who is attempting to exceed the average, by producing 180 words per minute(2). Although, difficult to follow, she seems to know these guys and is telling them about either (i) her father's attempt to sell the house or (ii) her father's denial that he is attempting to sell the house.

27 November 2006, at about 11:30, I ride a 323 line bus number 11039. The driver of which is busily involved in a conversation with a man, on her “push to talk” cell phone. The conversation is interesting only in that it raises the concern that less attention is being paid to driving. [See (2) below.] This driver, like many First Transit drivers, uses the accelerate and brake method. A technique which demands that she first accelerate to close up any space in front of the bus, then brake heavily. It must be a function of the training they are given by First Transit. This rolling motion puts one at risk if not seated and even then will flush out those with motion sickness.

A quick study of the LAX City Bus Center.

The LAX City Bus Center is fairly large. I estimate that the main area, where people wait and which encompasses the fifteen (15) “bays” (places where the buses load and unload) is approximately 100 metres by 20 metres, for a total area of 2000 square metres. That means that 16 meters separate each bay. It is big and lots of people wander around trying to figure out how to get where they are going. Most times, very simply, they are out of luck. Oh they will find people to give them directions, see the prior entry on how a Metro bus driver misled a lady traveler who wanted to get downtown by bus, and lots of times the directions will be just plain wrong.

The Metro aka “America's Best”, is no help! The kiosk in which they have posted large sized bus schedules is either years out of date or the schedules have faded past the point of readability. The area is large, the bus stop signs are usually too brief to be informative and most users only know their own routes. Culver City Bus provides a nice rotating schedule device, but their inbound and outbound stops are widely separated meaning that some people jump on a CC 6 and end up at Aviation Station and must pay another fare to get to Culver City. Big Blue Bus has posted schedules at the kiosk but those schedules pre-date their Rapid 3 route, and are therefore inaccurate.

I have pretty much given up helping people there because (i) I don't often have adequate time and (ii) when I do have time and give explicit accurate directions the explainee will then be seen asking other – often less knowledgeable people – in an attempt to develop some sort of travel calculus which is unfathomable to me. So I remain uninvolved, as I listen to people being directed to Century City Shopping Center on the Big Blue Bus when they really want to go to Fox Hills Mall which is accessible by the 439 using their day pass. The LACMTA have the most bus lines serving the LAX City Bus Center, but inexplicably, given that they are “America's Best”, they do not take the lead in improving information at the site. They can't seem to keep it clean either and their own drivers carelessly toss burning cigarettes into the street at the conclusion of their breaks.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

¡Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo!

From your Mole

(A) This distance was developed using MapQuest.com

(1) Guccione, Jean “Beverly Hills doesn't want to miss the subway” Los Angeles Times 27 Nov. 2006:B1

(2) MacRae, Fiona “Women talk three times as much as men, says study” Daily Mail 28 Nov. 2006:na



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

You can't please them all. A Los Angeles “businessman” quoted in a Los Angeles Times piece(1) wants to end the bus-only lane experiment/project on Wilshire Bl.

Why is your Mole especially wary of someone who is identified only as a “businessman”. Is it because his business may be impacted by the bus lane(s), e.g., limited parking, etc. Or is he simply an altruistic type who wants the city to benefit from his comments, like, '... the bus-only lanes make traffic “miserably worse”'. We also hear from unnamed “transit officials”. I imagine that they are busily producing Alpha waves and dreaming of people abandoning their cars in the middle of Wilshire BL – you know, like when Godzilla or Mothra attacks the city in movies - and riding Metro buses :-). The unnamed “transit officials” have no direct quotes but the article leads us to believe that the unnamed “transit officials” may have said something like time saved because of bus-only lanes “could eventually show the way to reducing the number of cars [on Wilshire]”. That weak quote [in “ “ ] is from the piece and appears to be the reporter's paraphrasing of something that the unnamed “transit officials” may have said or wrote. The main idea which one can extract from the piece is that the LACMTA is NOT PROACTIVE, they can only operate in a reactive mode. They react to one or another of the many proposals that are not part of an overarching transportation plan. The Los Angeles Times seems hesitant to give us much in the article, other than as usual, everyone has an ax to grind, along with the obligatory quotes form the politicos. With things at the Los Angeles Times so unsettled, what staffer would commit to anything? After all, that “businessman” could easily be your boss next year. The point that I got loud and clear was that it would take $100 million to do preparatory work as part of extending the bus-only lanes [N.B. The LACMTA is notorious for low-balling so, even though this figure sound expensive to me, expect it to cost more]. By the way, that $100 million, it's 80,000,000 [80 million] $1.25 fares. Let me think, 80 million passengers, if each required a lineal foot of space, they would form a line over 1500 miles long, isn't that what the Orange Line carries in a week – or was it more :-)? Whoa, 80,000,000, that is about 26% of the US population! But then who's counting? Definitely not the LACMTA. And, apparently, neither is the Los Angeles Times.

The only rational solution to the traffic problem on Wilshire is not bus-only lanes which really reduce the street by two lanes, one outbound and one inbound, but an extension of the Red Line subway. Which extension should start ASAP and open station by station so that we don't have to wait until the concrete is dry in Santa Monica until we start benefiting from the line. Then 720 buses, over time, could be shuttles from the last Red Line station to Santa Monica. Actually, I don't understand why they don't run 720 buses as shuttles from Wilshire and Western to Santa Monica NOW! Fewer buses would be required and the time for the overall trip would be reduced. The Eastern part of the run could end at Union Station eliminating some costs. Of course, one would make transfers, but that is just the nature of public transportation, that few modes run directly from origin to destination. Presently 720s parallel the Red Line for several stations – at least Pershing Square through Wilshire and Western. Your LACMTA in action!!

Ear to the Rail

I have unhesitatingly criticized the LACMTA, which criticism they have certainly earned, but there is one thing that they do provide which I think is just great! It is the on-board poetry cards which are often bilingual. These are like advertising cards for attorneys and etc. Here is an example of what I believe is great art.

Ventanas Pintadas

Vivía en una casa
con dos ventanas de verdad y las otras dos pintadas en la fachada.
Aquellas ventanas pintadas fueron mi primer dolor.

Palpaba las paredes del pasillo,

intentando encontrar las ventanas por dentro.

Toda mi infancia pasé con el deseo

de asomarme para ver lo que se veía

desde aquellas ventanas que no existieron.
Gloria Fuertes (de Madrid) 1918-1998

I have copied the poem in its original language, Spanish. Intellectually and emotionally, for me, that is the way it should be presented. Here is an English link which includes a nice picture, but be aware, only one window.

The Mole Rides Again - so that so that you can find out that “America's Best” is less than promised

Several weeks ago, I reported here about the tripping hazard presented by the stub of a bus stop “post” which was incompletely removed at the corner of Venice and Overland. I am not sure that the LACMTA was jolted into action by your Mole or if their machinery finally caused some action. “America's Best” action was to tie a short piece of plastic, the type that the LAPD uses to denote a crime scene, around the stub. Not much in the way of removing the tripping hazard, but it probably offers them legal protection. An organization which is truly “America's Best” would have: (1) Brought in a power saw with a steel cutting blade and cut the stub to as close to sidewalk level as possible; (2) Used a grinder to cut down the stub to under sidewalk level; (3) Filled the hole with concrete to the same level as the sidewalk.

I saw the same kind of stub in front of 4214 Lincoln Bl. That one is no fault of Metro but rather a failing L.A. Street Maintenance. But of course they are not claiming to be “America's Best”.

“America's Best” trip planner, found at http://www.metro.net/, failed me again. It produced a list of ten (10) ways to get from my point A to my point B, but when I selected one of the options – nothing happened. I have reported this numerous times but “America's Best” have yet to fix it.

I am a huge fan of the Big Blue Bus! They have always responded to my personally communicated comments in a very positive way. That is not to say that I don't have criticisms. The main one and I am reporting it here rather than directly to them– please BBB, forgive me, is that they don't provide enough trash disposal receptacles.

Now, to my knowledge, the dirtiest bus stop in Los Angeles, is located at the southwest corner of Manchester and Sepulveda. It does have a trash can but it is filthy! The second dirtiest, again - to my knowledge, is the Big Blue Bus stop at the northeast corner of Maxella and Lincoln Bl (MDR) and does NOT have a trash can. There is, like Manchester and Sepulveda, litter everywhere! Another dirty site is the Big Blue Bus stop at the south west corner of Mindanao and Lincoln Bl – right in front of the Ralphs super market. Big Blue Bus please provide litter disposal at these and other Lincoln Bl bus stops.

My solution to the litter problem? Firstly, a special 15% fast food tax to be used to clean up the city. Fast food establishments are the main cause of food related litter and yes, I can hear them whining already. Secondly, a $1 per pack of cigarettes (.25 per cigar – just so that cigar smokers don't feel ignored), to be used only for street cleaning. Cigarettes are, numerically if not by weight or bulk, the biggest component of litter. Finally, raise the CA recycling deposit to fifty cents (.50) per container without regard to size, in order to encourage the purchaser to recycle which should also reduce the mess caused by dumpster divers. Let those most likely to litter pay the price of cleanup.

The situation at the Ralphs stop, cited above, is compounded by the fact that someone has set up housekeeping there. He has two (2) heaping shopping carts which may not actually be his (another unenforced law), and four (4) well used hockey sticks. Don't laugh. He has reduced the sidewalk to a sliver, so that anyone who attempts to use it has a good chance of falling into the VERY BUSY Lincoln Bl. This could likely be his last action as a living person.

I would like to express my condolences to the family and friends of Patrick, a Ralphs employee, from the store mentioned above, who was killed about a block away by a hit and run driver late last month.

I know personally from crossing streets that our “yield to pedestrian laws” are way too weak! Drivers just don't yield and in fact will often race the pedestrian for the right to occupy the space. My solution? A police mobile traffic hit squad who target an area – like the speedway which is Lincoln Bl – and give tickets to drivers who fail to yield. Further, the minimum fine for failure to yield right of way to a pedestrian should be $350, with an additional $150 if the infraction occurred in any period which requires the vehicle's headlights to be on.

I watch as two teenagers eat Mickey D's food and toss the wrappings at a trash can, nominally five feet away. Their skill is slightly less than Shaq's success with free throws.

I look up an see, yet another, “America's Best” on-board advertisement. This one says “Pride and performance make us America's Best” and pictures a lady driver. This drivers proportions are much less than than the overall LACMTA driver average, i.e., waist = height in inches X .7.

TransiTV which offers the “Clever Cleaver Brothers” who dress up in their idea of native costumes and then dump caned food into a fry pan and cook it on a hot plate. The last thing I watched, they were making “Mexican” tacos with a sauce of sour cream and water! I could understand if they had a Martha wannabe and offered something for the ladies – but these jerks?

On Friday, 10 November at about 15:58 the TransiTV news described the Democrat's election win as a “power grab”. May I inform TransiTV and its host the LACMTA, that this was a fair election win NOT a “power grab” as practiced by would be dictators attempting a coup d'état in a third world country. Then about 16:12, the weather woman came on and used a graphic that showed Thursday – remember that it was Friday. This is the proper time to revisit a Daily News story(2). The reporter says, “The Metropolitan Transportation Authority sees the screens and their programming as an amenity for the public-transit riding population. I see them as part of the insidious campaign to insert some sort of advertising into every waking minute of human consciousness.” Me too!!!

At he Fox Hills Mall Transit Center, I watched as someone fed the pigeons. I saw the same scene downtown at 1st and Los Angeles St, diagonally across from City Hall. The man, who seems to live on that corner in front of the New Otani Hotel, is always feeding bids there. Mr. Mayor? Can you see him? Don't we need a city ordinance against this kind of thing?

No, I am not paranoid. It just seems to me in the era of H5N1, SARS and etc., that we don't need flocks of birds, which potentially harbor mutant illnesses, intentionally brought into contact with we humans.

I rode several Gardena buses last month. At least one featured pictures drawn by young students – that was a nice break from the “America's Best” hype! What I did not like, however, was the automatic announcement of the bus' destination every 10 seconds. After I heard it about 40 or 50 times, in English and Spanish, I had a pretty good idea where we we going :-). Contrast that with the LACMTA's 740 Rapid on Hawthorne Bl, which has NO AVA (Automatic Voice Announcement) of stops – oh yes, wasn't it LACMTA's skill at seamlessly integrating technology that they were hyping earlier?? The same is true, viz., lack of AVA on many of the 720 buses – I was told that this was because (see “ seamlessly integrating technology”) the 720s also lacked an important part of the system – radios.

Standardized “Best Practices” seems to be a totally foreign concept to the LACMTA. Take the out of service fare boxes (the device into which you insert your money, if paying by cash, which I seem to see at least one per day. I have been told that these boxes fail more than the old fare boxes so, that should be an interesting study for someone (Los Angeles Times, are you there?) as to exactly how much was spent on these devices and how much money is lost daily. There seems to be no accepted method by which drivers signal that passengers will get a “free ride” on that particular bus. I have seen the orange vests with silver reflective tape draped over them, trash bags covering them and even waste paper stuffed into the bill receiving slot – all as out of service or “free ride” indication.

I would like to suggest that the LACMTA standardize and make the “Best Practice” to be covering the fare box with a trash bag. These trash bags are always available on buses and never used for anything, well, they are used rarely as trash bags.

The LCMTA also need a drivers “system” wide route book. I heard a driver assure a worried lady that the ONLY way to get downtown from the LAX City Bus Center was to go to Aviation Station and take the train. He assured the lady that the 439 no longer operated. He was wrong – the lady could have taken the 42 line downtown or the Big Blue 3 and transfer to the Big Blue 10 in Santa Monica, or the Culver City 6 and transfer to a 33/333 on Venice or as she actually did when a fellow passenger pointed out its arrival. ride the 439. There are also a number of other permutations of which the Metro driver was ignorant and which I won't detail here.

I met a couple from Caracas, Venezuela, a city of 5 million in a country of 25 million, and rode the Green and Blue Lines downtown with them. We had an interesting conversation about politics. Angel was in a branch of social work and his wife was a political science major. Eventually, we talked of food and I learned about arepas (a kind of Venezuelan bread) served with caraotas (black beans), fried plantain called tahads and a Christmas season tamal called hallacas – of which there are many varieties. I saw that they got on the proper Dash for the Fashion District when we said “adios” at 7th and Metro.

(1) Guccione, Jean “Putting brakes on bus-only lane?” Los Angeles Times 8 Nov. 2006:B2
(2) Garza, Mariel “Turning a transit sanctuary into a traveling ad space” Daily News 17 Jan. 2005:na

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?