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

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