Haunted Bus Stop

The photo♪ above was taken at the bus stop on Airport BL just East of 96th street. I have used it before. The stop is still haunted by this homeless man. He, thanks to Trader Joe's, has full time use of a shopping cart with which he can haul his possessions around the neighbourhood. Isn't it strange? Making things worse for people who would like to share the bus stop, he always has a 2 litre soda bottle which he uses for, well, ah ..., relief. These kind of bottles are called “trucker's bombs” when seen in their native habitat, viz., the roadside. Someone can shoplift a $1.19 Twinky and he will go to jail – or at least be arrested, but here is a man who has stolen a Trader Joe's shopping cart, likely valued at over $200 and no one cares. Not the LAPD and certainly not the LAWA (Los Angeles World Airport) police who, conservatively, are in the area several times per day. Definitely not the LACMTA which instead of printing their often unread and mostly useless brochures, would post no loitering signs in bus shelters like this one.

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

The Daily Breeze(1) provided links for bus travel in Britian: www.MegaBus.com/uk ; http://www.easybus.co.uk/ ; http://www.nationalexpress.com/ .

The Times(2) covered Mayor Villraigosa's proposal, which would have -- it was ultimately not implemented -- reduced the cost of MTA's original plan for fare increases. “MTA chief Roger Snoble declined to comment on the mayor's proposal, saying through a spokesman that he wanted to review it further.” Your Mole would have said “... high priced spokesman ...”

Another Times piece(3) details the new fares which the BRU (Bus Rider's Union) calls “racist”, but, rather than a racist increase, I think of as being directed to a class of people, viz., those without cars or perhaps belonging to a less fortunate economic stratum.
Of course, like most ideas originating from the Taj Mahal, the MTA prefers to increase fares and consequently reduce ridership rather than focusing on policies which would increase ridership. They continually whine that only 24% of income is derived from passengers. So rather than addressing the problem of increasing ridership they prefer to increase revenue by means of a fare increase. The piece also covers a contentious exchange between the Mayor and Zev – one in which the mayor called Zev a “... sheep who walks in wolves clothing”. I would have liked to have seen and heard that!

If you are looking for a number an an estimate of the fare increase, I suggest that you use 66% in order to estimate the amount of the increase of a day pass and 22% for other passes. There is also a decrease in the cash fares from .45 to .25 for seniors and the disabled during “off-hours” [your Mole's emphasis]. The Times reportorial team declined to specify exactly what “off-hours” means. However, by searching http://www.metro.net/ your mole found that off-hours means off-peak (leave it to the LACMTA to be unable to standardize on anything) which means: between “9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and after 7 p.m. on weekdays, all day Saturday, Sunday and federal holidays. The only proof of eligibility required for seniors shall be a Medicare card”.
This was worked out after the publication 07-3459IR, cited above. For the sake of those who are eligible for the fare I hope that the drivers know the definition and are lenient in its' application.

The LACMTA case for the fare increase is presented in another brochure (“Why Metro needs to change its fares”, 07-3459IR © 2007 LACMTA) which is printed on stock which should last at least until 2050. The single statement which is representative of the kind of thinking which permeates the LACMTA is: “We've cut as many costs as possible”. If that were the case I wouldn't be writing about this money-wasting brochure. One of the costs which I believe they have cut is fare inspection – it has been literally weeks since I have seen a fare inspector OR deputy – so much for the security provided by “America's Best[2006-2007]”. They also claim the loss of 500 jobs over the last five years. Using the total employment figure from the “Metro Facts at a Glance” publication which is found at http://www.metro.net/, I calculated that, at 100 jobs lost per year, a reduction of only a tiny fraction over 1% of the total employment of 8,867 was effected. $830,000,000 ($830 MILLION) is represented in the “Facts” publication(i) as “Funds Programmed to Others”, which I read as contractors – like Snoble's high priced spokesman . I wonder what reductions have been made in this line item?

Included in the 07-3459IR is a graph designed to shame the rider for only providing 24% of the “Cost of [a] Metro Ride”. Among their bragging points in the same publication is “Automatic Stop Announcements” which your Mole has tended to call AVA (Automatic Voice Announcements). These ASAs are actually not so great, see my ride on Norwalk Transit below for details.

Back in the “Facts” publication as a service provide to private drivers, with a Budge (sic) of $20.5 million, is “Metro Freeway Service Patrol”. There is good reason for severing this kind of activity from public transportation, let the private drivers join the AAA!
On Saturday, 26 May 2007, the Los Angeles Times featured a page one, above the fold story(4). Despite the headline, which means rail projects may not be built, the article partly reads like a press release issued by the MTA. In fact, most of paragraph 4 in the Times story is echoed in yet another MTA “blowing its' own horn” expensive brochure (LACMTA's ID 07-2011NS © 2007 LACMTA) entitled “A Year of Progress”. I would have called it “A Year of Money-Losing – ahaa ..., Progress?”. This brochure features the much used and obviously staged cover photograph of the smallish driver with lipstick “kiss marks”on his face being hugged by a largish Black woman.
I hope that all the project are canceled. Then all options should be reconsidered keeping budget limitations in mind and with priority given to extending the Red Line to Santa Monica and on a longer schedule, completing the Gold Line extension.
If they still think that they need the foolish, my adjective, Exposition Line, then let them prove it by doing what any reasonable person would do – and as I so often have suggested -- prove the concept by running express buses along the route, fine tune the bus stops (station locations) and look for a way to place it above grade. Want to bet that there is no real need for this bad idea.
Oh, I know that they now prefer to call the Red Line extension, the “Purple Line” and suspicious person that I am (at least where the LACMTA is concerned), I believe that that is so that they can claim credit for one more line than really exists.

Speaking of foolish ideas, in the same issue referenced above, the Times tells us(5) about how the MTA wants to spend yet more money that they don't have. The LACMTA wants to work its' “magic” on Broadway making it a “Transit Mall” read “traffic jam”. Here they try to sell a thirty-year-old plan that failed to be implemented in 1977! The Times, which appears to be delusional too, seems to feel that if a plan has “many supporters”, that that alone makes it a good idea -- no wonder newspapers are going out of business!
On a sombre note, the Times featured a sad photo(6) showing the body of a 39year old woman who was killed by a Metro bus. This photograph moved me to write the following letter to the Times and to which I have made minor changes for the purpose of presenting it here:


Dear Editor:

Mr. Sinco's photo recorded a sad story. One that seems to occur all too frequently these days.

For example, an accident (june 25, 2005) involving an MTA bus in Santa Monica resulted in the sever injury to a passenger. Which case in now proceeding through the courts as case SC888032.

In another two more Santa Monica accidents, pedestrians were killed.

I am concerned that in conducting investigations, like the one in progress now, which is referred to in the caption of Mr. Sinco's photo, that all available avenues of investigation are used.

For example:

The AVA (Automatic Voice Announcement) system which recites bus stops use the GPS (Global Positioning System) as a component. If an audit of the time at each bus stop, like an aircraft's “Black Box” recording, is maintained, we have possible data source for the speed of the bus;

As a bus passenger, I have frequently seen LACMTA bus drivers making lengthy cell phone calls of a personal nature. So investigating the LUDs (Local Usage Details) of the driver's cell phone will tell the time and duration of his/her inattention to driving;

Again, as a bus passenger, I have seen LACMTA bus drivers reading newspapers and books both while driving and at stop signs. So it
would be well advised for investigators to carefully note the presence of reading materials in the driver's area;

The LACMTA provides passengers with a “web site” form with which to report complaints by operator number (an identification number) which is part of the right sleeve badge on “all” uniform apparel. Investigators should request, in addition to driver training and other records, all reports, e-mail messages and related information maintained by the LACMTA in its' computer database.

The LACMTA makes much of the fact that it was “selected” (certainly not by its' passengers) as America's Best for 2006-2007. Part of the reason, it claims in brochures, is its' seamless integration of technology. It should prove that seamless technology can provide clues that are useful to finding the root cause of these accidents and prevent future recurrences. Further, weakness in the LACMTA's reporting, record keeping at headquarters and on-board buses and other vehicles should be addressed.

Thank you and best regards,

The Santa Monica Daily Press featured a page one piece(7) with the subhead, “Santa Monica officials vie to receive cash from MTA, CalTrans”. The article describes the 406 applications for funding received by the MTA, totaling $1.7 billion. Fortunately, the LACMTA are only giving away $450 million which is equal to the $1.25 fares of 360 million passengers or 25% of the 1.8 ten year projection of budget shortfall. Are Snoble and staff goofy, saying “We've cut as many costs as possible”?

Ear to the Rail

Well, I have been enjoying my portable XM radio as I travel. I made the purchase, which I “justified” -- or is it rationalized -- as a business expense. The reception can be spotty when moving, but when I settle down for coffee it is generally good. I enjoy listening to CNBC's “Closing Bell” channel 127, featuring Maria Bartiromo. Since this is radio, of course, I am unable to see the lovely lady which some have termed a “Money Honey”.

There is lots of music which represents every known genre. CNN, Bloomberg and the BBC World Service is there too. It is a news junkie's dream. Faux News is there too – oh a slip, I mean Fox.
And some surprisingly interesting radio programs from the first half of the century, e.g., “The Shadow”, “Sherlock Holmes”, comedy and etc. Some of them are over sixty years old and were originally broadcast during World War II!

It also can listen to MP3s so I am covered! I purchased the Pioneer Inno from a chain that has recently closed several L.A. Area stores. Yes, it was discounted :-) . If nothing else, I can avoid listening to the many commercials on TransitTV.

Unfortunately, it does not include my favorite source of world and European news, http://www.france24.com/ .

The Mole Rides Again – and writes about it, so that you don't get a headache attempting to figure out which system of geometry, which allows a straight line to intersect itself, is in use by the LACMTA

I am riding a 117 bus West on Century BL. The ASA (Automatic Stop Announcement) system communicates “Century and Century”. The stop is about a bus length and a half west of Aviation, but to call the stop “Century and Aviation” is too inaccurate for the folks at “America's Best[2006-2007]” %insert laugh track here% Sorry, BlogSpot doesn't provide for MP3s.

Aboard a 720 to Santa Monica. The woman behind me apparently has unlimited breath and cell phone minutes because she goes on and on and on about her personal life and kept me from concentrating on my book. “... He was happy. He was real happy. Really, he didn't know what was going on. [this seemed to be about a Birthday party for an older man] He just wanted some “scratchers”. ... ... ...”. Everything seems to be counterbalanced, this bus has no ASA but it does have Ms Chatty and the annoying TransitTV.

7 May 2007, 08:02 AM – the driver (25453) of this 439 line bus loves sounding his horn and does so at every opportunity real or imagined. There is LOTS of traffic so his constant honking just adds to my frustration – all I want is quiet so that i can read.

At the LACCBC. They are using the high pressure hose on blobs of gum again. This time there are three “Metro” workers -- anyway, they are wearing the Metro safety vests – on mans the hose, one leans on a broom and the third stands unsupported just watching. Every time a passenger wants to board my bus, they stop. It would seem logical that they would setup a temporary bus stop so that they can work without stopping every 35 seconds. But, NO, logic, it seems, is not part of the LACMTA mission statement.

A check later shows that they did a pretty fair cleanup job. But they left the gum outline stain on the concrete and there was still paper littering the perimeter. What is needed is an after gum-removal scrub with detergent.

I am riding the BCT (Beach Cities Transit) line 109 to Aviation Station. Since BCT doesn't accept Metro passes, it costs extra, but I just gave up on waiting for the once an hour 439 -– which is the ONLY DIRECT Metro bus to Aviation Station. The smallish BCT bus seats about 30 people and is about one third full. As we arrive at the station, the driver gives a rundown of transportation routes.

“America's Best[2006-2007]” is incapable of developing an integrated transportation system. There is the 626 shuttle van which only operates at rush hour(s) and then only between Mariposa and Aviation stations -- which has been discontinued in the current "shakeup". What is needed is either a frequent LAXCBC (LAX City Bus Center) shuttle to Aviation Station or a slight rerouting of the LAX “G” Line which runs between LAX and Aviation Station, allowing pickups at the LAXCBC.

At Aviation Station a young woman on the platform bites, no, more like gnaws, her nails.

It is rush hour on the morning I ride the Green Line, another nail biter sits across the aisle, this time it's a young man. Upon arrival at “Rosa Parks”station I find that the Blue Line to Los Angeles is packed. Again, if our LACMTA was really “America's Best[2006-2007]”, they would couple on extra cars to rush hour Blue Line trains – they do that in Japan and have been doing so for years, so this is not an original idea of mine. As Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot just by lookin' around” .

The Blue Line has nice, clear, easy to understand announcements. The operator uses short simple station announcements (Vernon next, Vernon) just like they do in NYC! I would like to include an MP3 recording – but, BlogSpot doesn't let us do that yet. BlogSpot also has no DIRECT way of contacting them to register this complaint, I mean, report. The woman seated next to me has a CrackBerry, ah, BlackBerry device, so named for its' addictive properties. It appears to have a distinct ring for text messages.

When I transfer to the Red Line I am reminded just how poor the announcements are. Ack, Ack, Ack-Ack [as in the film "Mars Attacks"] and etc. Things are not helped by using 1930 era speakers on the Red Line as “America's Best[2006-2007]” does.

I finish the day in Pasadena on the Gold Line which has good announcements, too. We seem to stop periodically for no apparent reason and the operator uses the PA to update us in simple understandable language. As if there was not enough delay on this trip, there is an operator relief exchange at a point before the China Town Station. I have written about this before, wondering why “America's Best[2006-2007]” could not provide for operator change at a scheduled stop like China Town Station or, better yet, Union Station.

I am heading for home aboard a number 3 Big Blue Bus from Aviation Station. The driver, is an attractive woman, who has those ugly, phony, plastic nails affixed to her real fingernails. She chats during my portion of the trip with a passenger. Telling the passenger that she, the driver was married for 15 years the first time and has logged 7 years with her current husband.

At the LAX City Bus Center. Vor, is hard at work sweeping up the central concrete island which is the home of the various bus bays (stops) around its' periphery. As we saw last time (Saturday, June 24, 2006) just short of one year ago, he moves from point to point in no organized manner-- the route taken by a hummingbird comes to mind, yet that may be more purposeful -- and leaves behind about 30% of the litter. He either doesn't clearly understand his function or defines it as “clean up as best you can”. He also seems to be giving advice to another employee who like me doesn't understand him or choses to ignore Vor. Another unsupervised outstanding (“America's Best[2006-2007]” (i.e., minimally rated) employee.

Finally, I have an opportunity to ride the Green Line to “Norwalk”, at least that is how the eastern terminus is designated on the on-board map. However, the scrolling on-board sign calls it the I105 Station. It wouldn't be the LACMTA without lots of "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" moments. The Norwalk or whatever Station you chose to call it, lacks signage, too which could direct one to the Bus Transit Center.

There are Long Beach, Norwalk and Metro buses available. The Long Beach Transit (LBT) < http://www.lbtransit.com/ > stop has solar powered – more likely, solar charged battery powered – signs made by TranSmart http://www.trafficonline.com/cominfo.htm. They indicate the bus number and a countdown of minutes until it departs. I immediately wonder if LBT might not truly be America's Best.

I board a Norwalk bus http://ci.norwalk.ca.us/transportation.asp . Please use this link if you want to avoid hand cramps caused by excessive linking in order to find the site. The fare box is out of order, right!, the same manufacturer as those in use by the LACMTA. Seems as if we has a possible class action here. The bus has a 5 X 7 scrolling sign which indicates the name of the stop, transfer points for all the lines which this route crosses as well as possible destinations near a given stop. Another potential America's Best challenger.

As I wait at a bus stop I am joined by a pretty young woman. In a minute or so she asks me for advice on her trip to Santa Monica. I draw her a map which her hotel was unable/unwilling to do. I also explain how the Muni transfer system operates and how to return via the most economical [your Mole is nothing if not thrifty] route. We wait a long time for a Metro bus and talk, she works in the planning department of a large two letter American automobile company in São Paulo, Brasil, so we discuss simulation techniques. Her boyfriend uses Linux, like me, . We ride the same Metro bus and I make sure that she boards the correct Big Blue Bus and takes the right BBB timetable for her return trip. If she is reading this now, I would like to say “ol á

(1) N/A “Road Trips” Daily Breeze 22 Apr. 2007:D1

(2) Hefland, Duke and Hymon, Steve,“Transit fare hikes called unwise” Los Angeles Times 22 May 2007:B1

(3) Lin II, Rong-Gong and Vara-Orta, Francisco “MTA approves steep hikes for bus, rail fares” Los Angeles Times 25 May 2007:web

(4) Rabin, Jeffrey L. and Lin II, Rong-Gong “MTA rail project may not get there despite fare hike” Los Angeles Times 26 May 2007:A1

(5) DiMassa, Cara Mia and Becerra, Hector "MTA sets sights on Broadway" Los Angeles Times 26 May 2007:B1

(6) Sinco, Luis, “Pedestrian killed by MTA bus” Los Angeles Times
30 May 2007:B3

(7) Herrera, Kevin “Millions in funding up for grabs” Santa Monica Daily Press 30 May 2007:1

(i) Jager, Rick. “Metro Facts at a Glance” http://www.metro.net/ undated: 6 pages

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