America's Best Worst Signage

Pictured above is one of the “schedule” decals which was the LACMTA's “idea of the day” several years ago. I am not sure what each of these things cost, including labor to install at each of the 18,000 bus stops – but a conservative estimate would exceed $100,000. (See posting 2005-09-10). This occurred during Snoble's (the overpaid [$300,000 per year and LOTS of perks] head of the LACMTA “sticky period”. That was the time when he decided that the Metro's black “M” inside a big orange was inappropriate and should be changed to a white “M” inside a black circle – all at a large cost – (See posting 2005-09-10) I estimated that that cost to be $225,000. These decals are sturdy and next to impossible to remove (don't ask).
Unfortunately, since the agency changes schedules twice a year in what insiders term the “shakeup”, it is likely that few of these schedules are accurate anymore.

The LACMTA's forte? Spending money without proper analysis, i.e., attempting to solve the wrong or poorly defined problem in the wrong manner.

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

Earth to its inhabitants

Global warming is a real issue, exactly like the following:

Think back to the time period when large cities, e.g., Tokyo, Los Angeles, etc. were smoggy. This was caused by auto emissions and is directly attributable to human activity.

Remember the Cuyahoga River which flows through Cleveland? In 1969 it caught on fire because it was so polluted. This was not the first time that the Cuyahoga River had been in flames. Again, man was the cause of the pollution.
Consider the hole in the ozone layer. It was caused by man.

One can visit this NPR link to hear about how man has trashed the oceans and continues to do so. We can also read to the entire “Altered Oceans” series at www.LaTimes.com/alter. Man's detritus has caused large areas of the ocean to be covered with flotsam, one area, the Eastern Gyre is said to be as large as the state of Texas.

I have posted this story earlier and have excerpted below from part four of the Los Angeles Times on-line series.

“Albatross fly hundreds of miles in their search for food for their young. Their flight paths from Midway often take them over what is perhaps the world's largest dump: a slowly rotating mass of trash-laden water about twice the size of Texas.”

[There are two of these gyres the one described above called the “Eastern Gyre” or the “Eastern garbage patch” located between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland— there is also one called the] “…Western Garbage Patch, just south of Japan, …”

The author, Kenneth Weiss and his co-authors are winners of the George Polk Award for environmental http://www.brooklyn.liu.edu/polk/press/2006.html

We can also predict our own future, to a time when they pry our dead hands off the steering wheel of the “Testosterone Especiale” or whatever SUV we drive, this will happen soon after 500,000,000 Chinese get behind the wheels of their own cars. Their numbers augmented by millions of Indians driving their $2,500 TaTa Motors “Global Warmers” [my designation for the automobile model] and finish the job of overheating the earth which the “First World” started. Take a deep breath and then start doing something about global warming. N.B. That something should NOT be denying that it exists.

Then we have those who are enormously wealthy, take Mr. Charles Simonyi, for example. He spent $20,000,000 to take a space trip. Of course, he is legally entitled to do so. But morally, he could well have invested that money in working toward a solution to the problem of global warming. He is no different than any other typical American – someone who puts himself first and like an ostrich, has his head, figuratively, in the sand. The typical American is eager to have his BMW or SUV and is not in the least concerned with the impact of his vehicle on the environment. And it looks to become much worse much faster as literally millions of Chinese are eager to get behind the wheel of their own automobile.

Isn't it interesting that our government gives tax breaks to those purchasing hybrid cars even though that this results in higher profits for foreign automobile manufactures. Here's a concept for Ford, GM and Chrysler: Build a fuel efficient car!

What we all need to do is: Reduce personal energy usage; Use public transportation and DEMAND that it be responsive to our needs: Recycle and DEMAND that all links in the supply chain (producer through consumer) do the same.

60 Minutes(1) had an excellent program which covered the glacier erosion in Patagonia and Antarctica. The cameras showed just how much of a specific glacial area is now ice free.

The Daily Breeze(2), like a voice crying in the wilderness, suggests that we use energy efficient light bulbs.

If further evidence of the LACMTA's predilection for action before adequate planning is needed, the Los Angeles Times(3) provides it. Now, late into the planning cycle and after construction start, they are talking safety issues related to the un-needed, un-wanted and based upon wishful thinking “Expo Line”.

As a result of the Times piece(3) your Mole sent the following letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor:

The subject piece was good as far as it went but lacked depth. Apparently based upon a LACMTA press release it gives the impression that there are only two viable options vis-à-vis Metro operations, i.e., “The MTA says it must raise revenue or cut services”. I submit that the dysfunctional organization should begin to bring their run-away costs in line. Let me seed their process with a few suggestions:

* Stop spending taxpayer funds to plaster the “America's Best” over every square inch of LACMTA assets.
* Stop printing brochures that proclaim that they are “America's Best” and STOP distributing said brochures, many of which contain time sensitive information. An example is the notice, printed on costly heavy duty stock (07-3409TR) which announced “Attention: Delays at Union Station”. The delays involved approximately eleven bus lines and delays for periods of “15 minutes or more” and only on 28 April 2007, a Saturday, between 6AM and noon.

* Ditto for self-promotional display advertising printed in local papers (Further insurance that my letter will not be printed*).

* Reduce the Public Information Department at the agency to on half-time employee with a $1200 per annum budget.

* Freeze all work on the Expo line and instead implement Rapid bus service on a route which approximates the planned Expo line route. This will serve as “proof of concept” and allow to measure traffic to make an empirical determination as to weather said line is economically feasible (I believe that it is not!).

* Enforce vendor performance and make them pay to correct sub-standard work. Examples of the LACMTA's “drunken sailor” approach to spending are: (1) paying for repair of the Orange Line busway which is deteriorating after a relatively short time in operation; (2)Paying for the repair of crumbling concrete support structures on the Gold Line, again after just a few years of operation; paying fare inspectors to ride trains without performing inspections; (3) Allowing the vendor to walk away from their responsibility for the revenue loss caused by fare boxes which are easily jammed.

* Stop giving away cheap rides to organizations like the L.A. Marathon, while trying to balance the MTA budget on the backs of low income riders.

* Bring the management and accounting practices of the THREE BILLION DOLLAR per annum agency in line with similar sized public corporation. Step one of this process is to fire the ineffectual Roger Snoble and his high-priced retainers.

* Establish a Budget Committee that will lock the purse on ideas that look good but fail to live up to expectations. Examples? The Metro on-line store and TransitTV!

* Establish a Southern California Transit Steering Committee, staffed by transportation professionals, to replace the political control by the board of supervisors.

* Immediately establish mutual pass acceptance among local transportation systems in order to STOP the monthly pass depreciation brought about by Metro route cancellations that make one's pass less valuable every six month. Concurrently FREEZE any expenditures associated with the ill-conceived and poorly executed E-Z-Pass.

The Los Angeles Times, as well, needs to sharpen its criticism of the agency. A good paradigm would be the Times no punches pulled coverage of King-Drew Hospital.

I hope that you find my comments germane and actionable.

Best regards,


*Not to worry, a copy will appear at http://LAmetroMole.BlogSpot.com

Ear to the Rail

Your Mole likes classical music, it offers a nice break from discussing the shortcomings of the LACMTA or anything else for that matter. So, from the list at http://classicalwebcast.com/europe.htm he chose http://www.musiq3.be/index.htm Then listened to the link

One possibility for receiving Podcasts, then downloading them for later playback on your MP3 player, is the Juice receiver which runs under Linux, Windows (2000 or XP) and Mac OS X 10.3 (or later versions). It is available from http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net/
I find it easy to learn with a straightforward user interface and it can be configured to pickup MP3 files automatically.
As the linked article points out stopping music leaks (poor fitting headphones combined with high volume), is a good idea http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23395434-details/Turn+down+your+MP3,+bus+passengers+told/article.do

Now, if only something could be done with those annoying cell phones on Metro buses!

The Mole Rides Again – and writes about it, so that so you are aware that some transit companies (hint: it's NOT the LACMTA) are sensitive to riders

I saw the Culver City number 6 bus waiting at the traffic signal as we crossed the intersection and thought “Well, there will be a fifteen minute wait for the next one”. But no, knowing that there would be passengers for his bus, the driver waited for us. Waited while we crossed not one, but two streets. Passenger satisfaction, absolutely. “America's Best”? They have my vote. Contrast his actions with the Metro driver who has decided that in a case of a arrival tie at the bus stop, that the tie goes to the bus driver and (s)he is allowed to leave the prospective passenger to wait for the next bus.

This line 115 bus, number 4742 is driven by operator 15580. She is busy! Not only with what to me, is a full time task, driving, but with eating seeds of some sort all the while carrying on a never-ending conversation on her cell phone.

It is about 8:20 AM one morning as I watch as a truck with license plate number 6B33025 pull into the LAX City Bus Center. A sign on the door identifies it as belonging to “Diversified Landscaping”. It also has several Metro “M” logos affixed to it. Three men, wearing Metro reflective vests begin to clean the area. One uses a leaf blower to dislodge the “bigger chunks” from under bushes and the encircling fence into the gutter. The other two use a tong like device to pickup and bag the dislodged trash and other bits. They work steadily but when they leave there remain countless cigarette buts and other detritus on the center island at which the buses stop and in its' encircling gutter. As Metro (unsupervised) contractors I rate them at 60~70% effective. More money spent without obtaining full value. I KNOW that the trash enclosure, which is the site of the dumpster, was untouched and likely remains as I last saw it – only with a deeper layer of trash.

Part of the reason for my seeing so much of the cleaning operation is I am forced to wait while a supervisor boards a 232 line bus to work on the – you guessed it -- the fare box. Unjamming these things is no simple matter. I view the process from an oblique angle as he uses two box wrenches to remove the mechanism. Then, he uses a Phillips screwdriver to remove several machine bolts to expose the guts and remove what appears to be several dollars in coins. He fixes it so, so far they are batting .500 as the last time I saw an en route repair attempt, it failed. But, what is obvious to me is that the mechanism was not designed for simple clearing for the people who don't read the “Drop coins one at a time” admonition. The operator returns after tossing her still burning cigarette into the filthy gutter and we depart.

I boarded the Red Line at 7th/Metro, noticed that the lighting behind at least one of the station signs was burned out, renaming Wilshire Western as just Wilshire. I helped a visitor from Alaska find the ticket machines and suggested a day pass just before boarding. I got off the at Wilshire-Western. I arrived at the bus stop just as a 720 Rapid bus pulled away and refused boarding because he was at the curb but NOT EXACTLY at the bus stop. Although the stream of riders from the subway to the Rapid stop continued, the driver of the 720 behind the one just departing, a bus that was more than half empty, declined to stop and bypassed us. This meant about a fifteen minute wait and a VERY crowded ride to Santa Monica. All the while listening to the driver periodically bellow out, “Move to the rear of the bus!”. The technology to count passengers entering and leaving the bus is simple and the logic to add a pleasant voice announcement which says “Please move to the rear of the bus” when the capacity of the bus reaches about 75~80% is simple as well. But, of course, conceptualizing and implementing such an idea is too much to expect from an agency whose main claim to fame is reckless spending, rather than improving the rider's experience. Take the “door open announcement” which is intended to tell people the destination for a given bus – it never worked that well to start with and seems to be heard on fewer and fewer buses.

I am aboard a 333 Line bus watching TransitTV warn “taggers”that if they tag (mark it with graffiti) a bus they will be given the opportunity to tag a jail cell – I think to myself: “those that aren't selected to be mentored by the mayor”, that is.

Today is May day about 9:00 AM., and I just boarded another 232, bus number 11048. The operator left the bus idle, outputting its' share of global warming gases, with flashers on while she is on break. Back aboard she tosses some trash out her side window and manoeuvres to the proper bay for pickup at the LAX City Bus Center. I look at her shoulder but Metro patch with her operator number is concealed by the sweater which she is wearing. The sweater too, should have an ID patch, but it doesn't. The bus has a terrible squeak in the right front area.

Taggers get punished or mentored by the mayor as the case may be. But those who deface buses by pasting “bumper sticker” like notices, like the ubiquitous http://www.whoisxxxxxxxxx.com/ some with a 900 number (sorry, no free publicity from me), inside buses go unpunished. An alert agency, unfortunately the LACMTA is not one of those, would find out who owns the referential web site and send them an invoice for cleanup of have them arrested and subjected to the possibility of a$250 fine, 48 hours of community service, etc. It's all money which could reduce the spendthrift agency's red ink.

(1)CBS News 1 Apr. 2007

(2) Daily Breeze 8 Apr. 2007:A3

(3)Rabin, Jeffrey L., . "Safety issues could delay Exposition Line" Los Angeles Times 17 Apr. 2007

(4)Lin, Rong-Gong.and Vara-Orta, Francisco, “Transit fare hikes called unwise” Los Angeles Times 28 April 2007:A1

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