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

An editorial page piece in the Los Angeles Times, written by a USC professor is headlined: “Bullet trains won't get us anywhere”(1). I don't agree with his conclusion. At speeds in excess of 200 MPH, the city center to city center – you can think of the city pairs as being San Francisco and Los Angeles – travel time will compare favourably with travel by air. He asserts “...that cost and ridership estimates ... are too optimistic – this is definitely the point at which one should think “Expo Line”. That assertion is true, but is not a valid reason to ignore high speed rail.
Further, aircraft are alleged to contribute to global warming as a result of their contrails.
I find that many of his arguments are weighted too heavily in favour of economics with too little emphasis placed on the benefits of rail as part of a coherent transportation policy.

As positive rail examples of high speed rail I cite the Japanese “Shinkansen”, from which the English term “bullet train” derives, linking many cities in Japan, the TGV (train à grande vitesse, i.e. High-speed train) in France and Germany's ICE (Inter City Express) high-speed rail lines. Admittedly, the population of metropolitan Tokyo is more than twice that of Los Angeles which will yield many more potential passengers given the same percentage of potential travelers for a given segment.

In late February the Los Angeles Times(2) featured a piece on a “tagger” (one who spray paints or uses other implements to mark things with his designs). This defacer of property selected a moving bus as his target – a bus upon which Mayor Villaraigosa was a passenger. Other sources say that His Honour was on the way to a celebration of the relocation of a bus stop. Which validates your Mole's contention that such a relocation is no small feat. I have been, so far fruitlessly, attempting to have the North bound 232 Line make a minor change in its silly loop around the Mariposa Green Line Station that would result in a saving both time and money by changing several bus stops! Anyway, as a result of witnessing the criminal act, the the mayor offered to 'mentor” the tagger. I believe that, unless the mayor makes similar offers to ALL taggers past and present, then the provision of “equal treatment under the law" is not being upheld. Further, I believe that the “mentoring” should take the form of giving this guy a rag and some paint remover and allowing him to work Monday through Friday at 4 PM to 8PM at the nearest Metro bus “yard”.

Is no information better than unusable information?

I arrived back in the city at the LAX City Bus Center (LAXCBC) to note that -- at least I would like to think so – your Mole has caused the LACMTA to take action and replace the faded unreadable poster at the “Information Kiosk” (shown above) with a new poster (not shown). But because the LACMTA is an organization which if asked the time, would pass you the yellow pages bookmarked at the category “Watch Manufactures”. True to its usual ineffective self, they now display a poster filled with tabular detail. Again, no one in the “Taj Mahal”understands that in order to develop an appropriate answer, the right question must be asked. And they lack BOTH the interest and drive, along with several other characteristics, to properly study the problem and develop a realistic statement of it. Rather, they respond to only the most obvious basic element of the problem, viz., poster unreadable? Paste up a readable poster.

The new poster has great, although incomplete and likely useless detail! It has lots of tabular data (you know, tables) and diagrams of where buses stop at the LAXCBC and at Aviation Station. So, unless one has a knowledgeable person to explain route options, unlimited time to study the materials and work it out for yourself or are just plain adventurous and don't mind getting to your destination by a time consuming, costly path, then you are out of luck.

I have interviewed actual users of the LAXCBC – what a concept, huh?? -- and I know what they face. With the new poster most of the detail is there but it is unusable unless you know what you are doing OR you can find someone to explain it to you. That is, routing(s) to say, a foreign visitor's desired destination DO NOT jump directly out of the tables and turn into directions to your destination.

What is needed is a simple schematic the uses circles, arrows, letters and numbers that visually translate into a routing. For example: three circles: LAXCBC (LAX City Bus Center), West Los Angeles Transportation Center and Hollywood (Hollywood and Highland) shows the main route from LACBC to Hollywood. Now a box on the line connecting the LAXCBC to the West Los Angeles Transportation Center could have “METRO bus 439”centered in it. The box on the line between the West Los Angeles Transportation Center and Hollywood would show “METRO bus 40 or 740”.

The schematic should show the various other destinations: downtown, Long Beach, Santa Monica and etc. Printed in large BOLD letters should be the heading: “Exact change is required for all fares!” Finding this out is always a shock to a shock to foreign visitors. And “If your trip requires two or more buses are to complete, the trip will cost you less if you purchase a Day Pass for $3.00”. The replacement of the unreadable poster still leaves plenty of work to do to make for a user friendly bus ride. So, the highly paid Snoble and his expensive outside PR flack can still split the weekends, each working a day, helping people get where they would like to go with the LAXCBC as a starting point with the side-effect of learning what public transportation really means.

Here is a list of other buses which are available at the LAXCBC, in parens I have shown the date of the schedules which they have posted at the kiosk. They are all out of date!
Big Blue Bus (September 2005) ; Culver City Bus (January 1, 2003) and Torrance Transit (January 1, 2003).
But then, if “America's Best[2006-2007]” were really so effective and efficient , what would your Mole write about?

Ear to the Rail

What with all the newspaper oriented events, e.g., the Los Angeles Times
editorial page editor resignation and the cancellation/reworking of Sunday's “Current” section (2007-03-25). I am thinking print more than listening to audio this cycle. So here is an article which talks about the survival of print in an Internet world.

The Mole Rides Again – and writes about it, so that so you don't have to wait and be surprised when “America's Best[2006-2007]” cancels your main commute line.

I am aboard bus number 4756. As I look diagonally across the aisle, I can see trash stuffed under the longitudinal seats which are located immediately behind the driver. No wonder that passengers opt for the “gravity assisted” method of trash disposal since only about one bus in one hundred has a trash bag deployed and available. The problem is compounded by fast food restaurants with their multi-form take-out containers, which, if they don't end up on the bus floor, do end up in the gutters and sidewalks of Los Angeles. In theory, one could be fined up to $250 and assigned community service work for on-bus littering, but the probability of that happening is, well, about the same chances of a snowball surviving in hell.

Oh, and Big Blue Bus – you still need trash containers on Lincoln at Maxella (North east corner) and Lincoln at Mindanao (South west corner).

I am only slightly “sea sick” as a result of my ride on a Line 42 bus headed for the LAXCBC. I t is bus number 6495 driven by operator 71584 and the date is 2 March , about 12:45PM. The driver would brake and then she would accelerate and then brake again ... repeat.

The escalator on the east side of Green Line Aviation Station is under repair today. Like many of the other Metro facilities, the design of the station did not consider shielding the escalator with some form of overhead covering, leaving it exposed, 24 X 7 X 365, to the elements.

I ask the maintenance men “Are these things designed to be exposed to the weather?”. One answers, “No they aren't”. I follow-up, “Why didn't they put a canopy over it?”. “The architect didn't like the look of it” was his response.
That may be true, but I am sure that the usual LACMTA way of trying to do everything “on the cheap”was a factor too. Minimizing construction costs results in ongoing maintenance expense. Or not installing a controlled access system and then trying to make up for expensive policing by attempting to levy usually noncollectable fines.

The passengers who share my 232 Line bus are a quiet group. Except for a woman who delivers an expletive laced soliloquy. She takes a food item from one of the two grocery bags which she has with her, eats it, and then licks her fingers. There is a perceptible lightening of the mood when she reaches her destination. I am happy to get off too, as the driver was reading a book at stop signals. I could only read a blurb on the back of the dust jacket, it said : ”... four women, lead by spider girl ... kill all men”. Nice, huh? Certainly dangerous since r mind was off the job and on the adventures of spider girl.

Speaking of fingers, it is amazing to me how many Metro passengers, lots of them women, bite their nails and stick their fingers, etc. in their mouths. All without benefit of a hand wash. They don't realize how important it is not to transmit germs to their faces and mouths. Or that proper hand washing is the single most important step which one can take to prevent illness – my mom was right!

I wait on Wilshire near Bundy for a Line 20 bus because the 720s stop is too far away from my goal. I wait and watch as a stream of about a dozen 720s pass by – all, by my very rough estimate, half full or less. The LACMTA should really consider adding a few more stops, possibly three, to the 720 Line. After all, segments of one mile or more makes riding the 720 a marginal proposition – the choice being long walks to one's destination or long waits for the Line 20 bus which will stop at a more convenient location or both.

After quite a long wait, I finally board a bus. There is a man, busily clipping his fingernails, seated on one of the front seats. As he stands in preparation to get off, the many nail slivers fall to the bus floor.

The LACMTA, perhaps responding to your mole's complaints about inconvenient modes of communication and meeting times/venues of several weeks ago have published “Proposed Changes to Metro Bus Service”(5). It is dated only with the year, omitting both the month and day of publication, as being detailed and specific are not traits usually found at the LACMTA. That is the good news – the bad news is that the “feedback” meetings are over. They were all held before mid-February 2007. In spite of that fact, and the fact that the comment period is over, I encourage you to read the brochure, if you can find one, no web site link is provided in the brochure. Then submit your feedback to the LACMTA. % http://mtaweb6.mta.net/cc/cc.asp %
I will summarize all the changes, as I understand them, below and give you details which I believe are important. Here are all of the lines which, as things stand today, will experience some change in schedule. Bold font means the line will be canceled. Italicized font means that some part of the line will be canceled. Underlining means that the line is new.

Metro Gateway Cities Service Sector Proposals

60/360, 65, 254, 264, 275, 577X, 760

Metro Westside Central Service Sector Proposals

4/304, 10/11/48, 16/316, 20/21, 704, 720

Metro San Fernando Valley Sector Proposals

90/91, 92, 154, 155, 168, 183, 239, 290, 292, 656

Metro San Gabriel Valley Service Sector Proposals

170, 176, 260/361, 287, 684, 686, 687, 751

Metro South Bay Service Sector Proposals

115, 119/126, 120/121, 124, 202, 214, 305, 442, 445, 455X, 622, 625, 710

These changes and perhaps other are scheduled to take effect on 24 June 2007.

Your Mole has tried his best to summarize the 7 panel brochure as he understands it. DO NOT DEPEND ON THI SUMMARY. Direct your questions and comments to the LACMTA by using this link or sending an e-mail message with your questions and comments to CustomerRelations@Metro.net . The on-line form is here.

If you want to send a letter or petition, it can be mailed to:

Metro Customer Relations
Attn: Service Changes June 2007
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012-2932

Or FAXed to 213.922.6988.

I believe that there is still time to influence any/all of the planned changes. I will comment on just a few of these changes.

The cancellation of line 115 west of Sepulveda and replacing it with a MUCH smaller vehicle and extending Line 625 bus is a BIG mistake! Many students ride the 115 bus mornings and afternoons and those big 115 buses are FULL.

A few cycles ago the LACMTA stripped the South LAX and Playa del Rey areas of bus service, by dramatically shortening the 220 Line with the promise that Culver City would take over the route. In fact, Culver City assumed about half a mile of the route, between Lincoln and Fisherman's Village, which is an extremely low ridership segment – and then only six days a week!

Also, canceling the 124/125 lines creates another big hole in the bus map, this time breaking the link between El Segundo and the Green Line among other disruptions. These cancellations will affect the people who have the fewest transportation options.

The meetings that the LACMTA will cite as approval for rubber stamping the changes were all held during the morning (9:30AM) or early evening most starting at 5PM or 6:30 at the latest on WEEKDAYS. I submit that those who could attend the meetings are not those who actually use public transportation AND have no other options. They did allow the contact by letter or e-mail message as I indicated above. However, the time frame for comments was too short – how short?? -- we don;t know because, as I said, the brochure was not dated, except with the year and the yellow posters seen on some lines had no date of creation either. I can envision a big box labeled with the year, at the Taj Mahal, into which is dumped everything published for that year.

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(1) Moore, James E. “Bullet trains won't get us anywhere” Los Angeles Times 11 Feb. 2007:M2
(2) Green, Angie “Student arrested in bus tagging” Los Angeles Times 28 Feb. 2007:B1
(3) Unavailable “Proposed Changes to Metro Bus Service” LACMTA brochure 2007

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