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

The photo above shows a Line 232 bus stop sign. Careful study will show that it is only hanging by one band. Eventually, given a high wind, that band will snap and the sign will fall and injure someone. Perhaps then it will be repaired by "America's Best[2006-2007]".

One of the LACMTA's many bragging points and one of the reasons it says it was selected to be “America's Best [2006-2007]” was its' “seamless integration of technology”. Lots of the said technology, when implemented by the LACMTA, under performs its' promised functionality - but that is another story. Late last year the Times printed a piece(1) on the slow in coming, Transit Access Pass, the so-called “TAP” pass – I know, I know, two “passes when you decode the acronym. In fact, the concept of tapping as described in the article is today obsolete! True smart cards need only to be close to the read device without requiring any physical contact – for that reason they are often called “proximity cards” because they only need to be in the proximity (nearby) of the read device. Read more about proximity cards.

The article goes on to say that the budget for this idea is “more than $165 million ...” and “... $32 million ... to provide customer service.”. In total 197 million dollars or in terms or standard fare riders 157,600,000 passengers – that's right – 157.6 million passenger fares will be required to pay for this dream. Then, each year, as I understand the piece, the base fares of 25,600,000 passengers will be required to fund the annual customer service. As far as I am concerned technology is a good thing, but in the well buttered fingers of the LACMTA we are unlikely to see a true ROI (Return On Investment) as is the case with them so many times. The LACMTA and its' board seem to fall in love with any concept which is presented and as spenders of public funds, NOT business people, they are incapable of arriving at a logical plan. It is obvious that they are technological neophytes based upon the last paragraph in the article which quotes a user of the system who says '“They are pretty much getting the bugs out of it”'. It shows that the LACMTA is again, like their “M3” maintenance software project, attempting to implement something without performing due diligence, reviewing industry literature, talking with other implementers. and etc., etc.

“America's Best [2006-2007]” again demonstrated that “communication R not us” as evidenced by a report in the Times(2). It seems that it took 8 hours for them to react to an (apparently) accidental mercury spill which occurred on 22 December 2006. So much for the security which we have been assured does exist.

Everyone wants to get into the act and everyone in Los Angeles believes that he is a transportation engineer! In two columns, Steve Lopez reports(3) first that the city “transportation chief” drives a large SUV and refuses to talk about it. After reading the piece I suggest that we term the transportation chief “Clams” for his tendency to “clam up” when asked embarrassing questions.

Then, a week later, Lopez writes(4) about how he feels that the old railroad right-of-way which connected downtown with the coast passing through the old Palms station should be used again for light rail. This may not be a bad idea (I.) IF we had a transportation planning agency and (II.) IF said agency determined that actual sufficient passenger traffic existed somewhere along the route. However, we do NOT have an effictive transportation planning agency and as a result people like Lopez who have a pet project idea are given the opportunity to waste public funds proving that the idea is no good – think Expo Line here. I like to call the Expo Line the “if we build it they would come, if they existed” line. My opinion: The Red Line should be extended to Santa Monica and supported by feeder bus lines to points north and south.

A report in The Argonaught(5) details a request [petition] to the LACMTA to extend the Green Line to LAX. What a concept? Then it would be possible to ride public transportation from downtown just like they do in Chicago and Atlanta. Please note that the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) has direct service from the Loop (Downtown Chicago) to BOTH local airports: O'hare via the Blue Line and Midway via the Orange Line. Atlanta also has downtown to airport public transportation via MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Agency).

Well, almost like they do in Chicago and Atlanta, except our system would still require you to haul yourself and your luggage from the Blue Line to the Green Line up and down escalators/elevators which are often out of service. Perhaps, if you don't live at 7th/Metro Station, you will have additional transfers to endure. If the Green Line is actually extended to LAX, the final transfer to a shuttle bus would be made at a new station nearer the airport so in the strictest terms it would not connect DIRECTLY to LAX as they lines in CHI and ATL do– the transfer to a shuttle bus would not occur at Aviation Station, which is how it is done now, but it would still occur. I feel that it at this juncture, it may not be cost effective to extend the Green Line to LAX. After all, we now have the FlyAway buses that will take you from Union Station to LAX without the hassle of transferring with luggage presently required. Oh, and if you don't live at Union Station, you may have other transfers to make. Further, if you have to end up taking a shuttle bus from the Green Line anyway, what is 10 or 15 more minutes?
Given that the Green Line, unlike the CTA and Marta lines, will NOT be extended to directly to LAX but rather to the new “nearby” Green Line station, would it really make sense to go ahead with such an extension and spend money on reducing the shuttle bus riding time by 10 minutes and increasing the Green Line ride by 10 minutes? I think not!

Today it requires, at least two transfers, one from the Blue Line to the Green Line and the other from the Green Line to the airport shuttle bus designated “G”, at the Aviation Station. The difference in time is small and the amount in lost “opportunity cost” is great.

That money should be spent on extending the Red Line to Santa Monica.

In the planning stage for the Blue Line, if there ever was one, they should have considered dual termini (like the Red Line is presently constructed – one at Wilshire-Western and the other at North Hollywood) one Blue line to Long Beach and a switch to a spur Blue line to LAX. That way trains could be timed for LAX to coincide with peak travel times with less frequent service to LAX at other time periods. Anyway, this is all academic given the existing light rail layout. Whatever is done consideration must be given as to how the down-line stations (Mariposa et. al.) will be served.
Step one would be to assemble all LACMTA top executives and board members with two pieces of luggage at the 7th/Metro Station at 6:00 AM for a fun trip to LAX for an imaginary 9:00 AM flight. Immediately upon arrival at LAX they could be shuttled to the Proud Bird for a breakfast and speech on transportation planning. That would build empathy for LAX travelers and the situation those travelers presently face. It might even get the board members to admit that they are NOT transportation professionals and get them to STOP WASTING public funds on less than hare brained schemes.

The photo below shows a "hanging sign" at the LAX City Bus Center which is similar to the 232 sign situation pictured at the the top of this post. There are several of these signs at the bus center, only one of which is broken. Providing that you already know where to go to catch the free LAX shuttle, you can easily find it. What is lacking is a LARGE sign over the entry way to the free shuttle area, but as usual, the people who plan these things for the LACMTA have no concept of signage or traffic flow.

The LACMTA Planning Department?? I don’t think that one exists! Take for example the “America’s Best” decals and logos which appear on everything at no small cost.

“County supervisor and Metro board chair Gloria Molina accepted the Outstanding Transportation System for 2006 award from the American Public Transportation Association in San Jose on Tuesday “[10 Oct. 2006](6). Which means that the award will expire on approximately 9 Oct. 2007 when a new “America’s Best Transit System” is chosen.
If the LACMTA had a Planning Department then they would have insisted on printing 2006 – 2007 on the decals and other materials. But no, the LACMTA will be guilty of false advertising when the 2007 – 2008 award is announced! Either that or they will have to remove these expsnsive decals and toss them.

Ear to the Rail

Podcasts can be good or bad. They can be educational or a complete waste of time. If you use an mp3 player on Metro or anywhere else you can find out about podcasts which are offered by PRI (Public Radio International) visit: http://www.pri.org/wtl_podcasts.html Another of PRI's programs is “MarketPlace” which offers business news several times each day. Take a look at http://www.marketplace.org/ for more details.

Software which will allow one to subscribe to podcasts is available at: http://www.podcastingnews.com/topics/Podcast_Software.html If you like classical music, as I do, a list of European stations which stream their broadcasts on the Internet is available at : http://classicalwebcast.com/europe.htm I especially like Antena 2 from Lisboa, Portugal which is first on the list and produces an extremely clear signal. Here is a direct link for you to copy and paste: mms://rdp.oninet.pt/antena2

The Mole Rides Again - so that so that you don't have to wander around wondering what the signage is trying to tell you

Your Mole was out of town and did not ride much lately, but in an attempt to compensate he took lots of pictures – some under unusual lighting and motion conditions, so please view them more as illustrations of a point and less as photographic exemplars.

I am waiting for a 232 Line bus at the stop in front of LAX this is Sepulveda and Century (approximately) and I notice that the 220 line schedule decal (the money wasting idea of a few years ago - these things are made to stick and last) is still in place on the bus stop sign pole, although the 220 sign has been removed from main sign. Godot would arrive sooner than the 220 which was discontinued (technically, the line was truncated because it still covers a route between Hollywood and Culver City) about seven months ago. And as I like to remind them, leaves uncovered the south side of the airport and a good sized chunk of Playa del Rey. Only blocks of the old 220 route was covered by the Culver City Line and then only Monday through Saturday.

Here are photos of Union Station signage. The one below shows that, although the “designers” could have included “(Enter tunnel for Tracks 1 and 2)” next to the Gold Line portion, they didn't.

Likewise, for the sign above the tunnel (below) although there is LOTS of space to include it.

And they could have included Gold Line on the track identifier signs - but, as you can see (below), they didn't. All the other signs have either "Platform A" or "Platform B" so they could have included "Gold Line" without too much damage to history. What they did do and one cannot easily see this, was to make a large expensive sign which is invisible at certain angles, and yes, I did take the photo from one of those angles.

Then we have pictured below, the very large signs at Sierra Madre Villa Station the terminus of the Gold Line in Pasadena. It is part of the LACMTA's signage division whose motto is "Too Big, Too Small or Not at all!".

At the Sierra Madre Villa Station we can also see the “bench”, which was photographed in the early afternoon. Why this bench is placed in the exact center of the overpass linking the station parking structure to the station proper is unfathomable to me. Especially since it is so well camouflaged to be practically invisible at night. I wonder how many curses ring through this area as people run into it?

The signage at the LAX City Bus Center for the BCT 109 line (Beach Cities Transit) looks temporary, at least that is the feeling one gets from this sign pictured here. They (BCT) could remove the two signs at places where they will never stop identified in an earlier posting (the north side of the 96th Street and Airport BL intersection on both the east and west sides of Airport BL) and use one here and one on the north side of the intersection of 96th Street and Airport BL. Or "America's Best[2006-2007]" sign division could make up a "BCT 109 Redondo Beach ..." decal and afix it under the BAY 6 sign shown here.

At Mariposa Station on the Green Line I took a picture of the children's hand and footprints which are preserved in concrete and which date approximately to the station's opening. If these are real children's artifacts the children shold have been allowed to write their initials or some indication of their identity in the wet cement. I am now wondering if this is an "art installation"?

Also at Mariposa Station, take a seat? No thanks! Not if feels a uncomfortable as it looks and it does. Since the planners and those who selected “art” for the stations never planned to ride the line or use the seating it didn't make much difference to them if was comfortable or not.

I'll have more pictures next week too, and please note that all photos and other materials are copyrighted 2007 by the LAmetroMole, with all rights reserved. My attorney wants me to so inform you. :-)

I would like to say that clicking on a photo will "usually" enlarge it - but for some reason, not always.

(1) Guccione, Jean “MTA tests what it hopes will be easy ticket to ride” Los Angeles Times 28 Dec. 2006:B3

(2) Blankstein, Andrew and Guccione, Jean “MTA admits subway spill errors” Los Angeles Times 19 Jan. 2007:B1

(3) Lopez, Steve “Transit boss' SUV too big to ignore” Los Angeles Times 21 Jan. 2007:B1

(4)Lopez, Steve “It's wrong to waste a right of way” Los Angeles Times 28 Jan. 2007:B1

(5) Not Identified “Group of elected officials and activists asks [sic] MTA to extend Green Line to LAX” The Argonaught 18 Jan. 2007:3

(6) N/A abclocal.com Page, Eyewitness News Tab. Retrieved (e.g., 8 Feb 2007) < http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=local&id=4655039>

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