America's Best Poorest Customer Service

The photo♪ above, taken at Union Station shows that, in spite of over a year of operation, some of the Flyaway buses still have Wyoming license plates. I am not exactly sure about the law and how it applies to LAWA (Los Angeles World Airports), the Flyaway owner?/operator) but I do know that no civilian (that means “regular people”) could get away with out of state licensing.

In what appears to be a stealth move, Flyaway fares have been increased from $3 one way to $4 and from $6 round trip to $8 which means there are no savings to be made by purchasing a round trip ticket. Keeping with the LACMTA's focus on convenience inconvenience, fares must be paid in cash, no credit cards accepted. LAWA seems to keep an EXTREMELY LOW profile and have ignored my several attempts to communicate with them. As a result I am unable to contact Ms Gina Marie Lindsey the LAWA Executive Director to hear exactly why they: (a)continue to license their buses in Wyoming?; (b) Why they don't offer even a small inducement for round trip ticket purchasers?; and ( c) Why they don't offer travelers the convenience of allowing ticket purchases using a credit card?. My guess at what her answer might be? “It is not our policy ...”. A tip for Ms Lindsey, you can hide but eventually you will have to speak up for your organisation. Then too, if we had an aggressive newspaper in town ... .

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

A Time's piece(1) talks about the loss of transportation funds from the State of California. I summarize the article as schools or transportation? I vote for schools!

Another article(2) in the Times describes how a Metro driver is killed when his bus was struck by another vehicle. This is sad but the function of some people is to teach us how NOT to do it – he wasn't wearing a seat belt. Careless drivers such as this one apparently was, also put passengers in jeopardy when the lose control of their bus!

Another Orange Line crash is detailed in the Times(3). Even with controlled crossings these accidents continue to occur and will do so ad infinitum.

Needed or not and definitely without the proof of concept that using buses for nine (9) months on the planned route would provide, we learn(4) that the Expo Line Construction has begun. Although I like the Gold Line which has not fully lived up to expectations, it may still do so when it is extended to the east. The Expo line will only achieve a passenger load, if it ever does, by siphoning passengers from the 33/333 lines on Venice. Poorly conceived, the Expo line will be slow and a magnet for accidents (vide supra). I firmly believe that the LACMTA should have gone full speed ahead on the Red line (I know, I know, tangerine line) extension and made that the backbone of cross town transportation. Then, “ribs” of north-south bus transportation could connect the backbone to other lessor east-west bus service or rail lines. More on this later.

The International Herald Tribune web site(5) covers the launch of yet another innovation on rails from Japan –- one that is said to reduce global warming. Using a diesel engine and batteries which are recharged by the braking energy of the train. The train, Kiha E200, went into service in central Japan at the end of July. All the while US companies, using a tactic that can only be successful in the short term, are trying to to make money by using China's low labour costs.

Ear to the Rail

In researching, I found the web site for King County Metro in the Seattle area. Their mission statement, my words, is inserted below.

"Service, above all else" is a guiding phrase that describes how [King County] Metro values its customers. At Metro, virtually everything we do revolves around the customer; listening to their needs, giving them optimal service, and going the extra mile to meet their travel needs. You'll find all of the important ways to contact Metro in this section.”
According to the web site, fares only support about 20% of expenses, which is less than the 24% which our LACMTA complains about, yet their service appears good. You can see a map of their service area at: http://transit.metrokc.gov/tops/bus/area_images/SystemMap_607.pdf
Their web site has a clean design, is easy to navigate and provides lots of useful information. They even show you how to save money by purchasing your pass with pre-tax dollars in cooperation with your employer. Please check out this link and see if you can save money in spite of the LACMTA.

Could I have found the real America’s Best?

The Mole Rides Again – so that you don't have to watch full buses pass you by and wonder if anyone cares. Stop wondering, they don't

I am standing at the corner of Manchester and Lincoln. The group waiting for a 115 bus has been growing. After the third (3rd) full 115 passes us, we number about 40. Most of the group are students or at least I make that determination by noting that they are carrying textbooks.

In a case like this, rather than stranding passengers, a company that was truly “America's Best” would have their drivers stop an hand out muni transfers so that people could ride a BBB (Big Blue Bus). But not our LACMTA! The wait approaches one hour with the next 115 due after another 30 minutes. Will it too be full? I give up and although I have a pass, pay full fare on the next BBB. The people who paid $5 for a day pass are likely unhappier than I.

Does anyone at the LACMTA attempt to evaluate service? Are the drivers on the 115 Line and other lines reporting the fact that they are stranding passengers?? Does anyone at the Taj Mahal have authority to take action to do something??? My guess at what the answers might be? “NO, NO and NO!”.

Your Mole doesn't want to claim credit for actions that he didn't influence but ... He noted that, at long last, the 264 line has been routed conveniently through the Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line Station – this, just years after the Mole's first complaints about having to walk close to two blocks from the old inconvenient stop in rain, heat or cold. It is a start but, they could do lots more to improve connections, that is if the LACMTA wanted to do so. Also noted, that so far, all the out of service fare boxes which he has encountered have been draped with orange safety vests -a best practice? This allows people to figure out that the fare box is out of order (again) and speeds up boarding and saves the driver's voice.

This is my worst line 439 ride ever! There are fewer than ten passengers aboard, but there might have been standing room only given the noise level. The woman seated behind me shouts back to another woman seated three (3) rows behind her, kind of arguing about something: “... I drive and you don't! ...”. The volume of both the TransitTV and the ASA (Automatic Stop Announcement) are set at maximum volume. The woman seated directly across from me repeatedly and unsuccessfully tries to call a “tree service” using her cell phone. The man seated directly ahead of me chats with the woman seated across the aisle from him about their children who are about to enter college this fall. All the while I try to read my book about the Middle-east – an impossible task under these conditions.

Here it is just days after a Metro driver is killed while not wearing his seat belt and I am aboard a 333 line bus, number 6563 just after noon on the day . The driver, operator number 29822 is flying westward on Venice BL and NOT wearing a seatbelt! Note to the LACMTA, if passengers are injured in an accident under these conditions, punitive damages should apply.

I am just about to enter the Mariposa Green Line station when I encounter four people who are trying to decode the ticket machine. I assist them, suggesting a day pass. The are tourists from the US Virgin Islands and since I am headed to Pasadena, I offer to see that they get to 7th/Metro station and then on a "Puce" Line train to Hollywood and Highland station. The family are interesting, a husband and wife who are traveling to Australia with their two college age daughters.

He is English, so we have an interesting discussion: Murdock's purchase of Dow Jones, Beckham's move to L.A., he tells me about business in the US Virgin Islands and also the British Virgin Islands. ... .

Another 439 ride, during which I meet a student from Sofia, Bulgaria. I tell him about bus passes –- he is working here for a month and he tells me that buses in Sofia are usually full and cost the equivalent forty cents US for a ticket since there are no fare boxes aboard. He also says that espressi costs ten cents US, smiling as he describes his job at a coffee chain store here.

I ride a line 180 bus from Pasadena to the Red Line station at Hollywood and Western. The a man joins the man who was seated across from me. Apparently they don't know each other but immediately begin exchanging credentials. They trade dates and circumstances upon which the Holy Spirit visited and inspired them. The cite evidence as to why God is in direct support of them. The demonstrate their knowledge of Biblical passages and use these passages to bolster their various points. The entire conversation is conducted mostly asynchronously, i.e., both talking at once, in what to me, is a game of one-ups-manship. There is no eavesdropping on my part, these guys are broadcasting. I am developing a headache and am convinced that soon blood will trickle from my ears.

I transfer to the Red Line. Surprizingly, the announcements border on understandability and the operator tells us which buses are available at a given station. I only wish that they would STOP saying “The next station stop is” and say “ Next” as in “Wilshire-Vermont next” –- or “next: Wilshire-Vermont” –- you know, the way they do it in cities with a long successful history of public transportation. The best communication is the simplest communication.

I intend to continue my ride from Wilshire-Vermont on a 720 Rapid bus. The construction of the buildings which have been erected at the station site is pretty much completed. Yet, we still have to exit and walk close to two and a half blocks to the Rapid bus stop. Of course, any professional transit organization would immediately setup the shortest path from the West exit of the station to the bus stop, a distance I estimate to be about 50 longish strides. But no, not our beloved LACMTA, they left the exit sealed and let us walk unnecessarly. It is good that in a couple of monthys they will no longer be able to claim that they are "America's whatever". So, I watch three (3) line 720 buses pick up passengers while I am walking. The first thing I see is that the sign which announces the arrival of buses (usually about the time they appear about two blocks away) is showing “Bus delayed”, then 8 minutes to the next bus, then after about 3 minutes, 7 minutes to the next bus, etc. When it reaches zero, the “Bus delayed” message appears again an we repeat the process. In this case we repeat the process about 4 times than two buses arrive back-to-back.

I board the second bus and find a seat in the articulated section –- the part of the bus which has a sort of turntable as a floor and the accordion type covering which joins the two halfs of the bus I start thinking about my location. There is NO STEEL between me and the world so if another vehicle struck the bus at this point with any force it would probably go right through taking the passengers with it. I decide that this will be the last time I ride in this part of the double buses.

I transfer to a Culver City number 6 bus in Westwood. This portion of the trip is an extension of a too long, too unpleasant ride. The right front seat or more specifically, two of the three right front longitudinal seat are take up by a big man. And he is a talker, just like the guys on the 180 and he talks to everyone –- loudly.

He is wearing a white T-shirt and is very heavy. He slouches back in his seat(s) and his stomach fat gives the appearance of an avalanche in progress. “... then he saw my check and says, 'well I'm gonna raise your rent right now!' ... I say you have to give me 30 days notice ... 'No I don't!, get out!' ..” That explains the heavy man's multiple packs and bags which are positioned around the front of the bus. When he is not telling people about his multiple infirmities, he is on his cell phone reporting his ETA, suggesting possible dinner menus and etc.

While waiting for a 439 bus to Union Station a man ask me for directions. He is an Italian tourist from (the real) Venice. I direct him to the LAXCBC (LAX City Bus Center) and explain how to ride a 232 line bus to his destination.

The 439 arrives with a head sign indicating “On Detour”. It turns out that the detour takes us from the 10 Freeway West to Alvarado, to Olympic Bl then to Olive and finally Union Station. I ask the driver why they just didn't send us directly to Olive. He has no answer other than: “Their detour is wrong”.

It is Sunday 5 August just past 13:00 (1:00PM) and I am riding bus number 11053 on the 232 line headed north to the LAXCBC. As I enter a passenger, a large man, is gripping the rail near the fare box. He and the driver are engaged in a discussion of religion. I move toward the middle of the bus and although I cannot hear the exact details, the driver and man continue their conversation, sprinkled with Jesus this ... Jesus that, all the way to the terminal. These First transit guys are not only, generally rough drivers, they also have no concept of safety.

At the LAXCBC someone, not Vor, wearing a bright new yellow vest with orange reflective stripes is “cleaning” - half-ahead slow mode. He picks up only the large pieces, newspaper size, of litter. All the while, spending about an equal amount of time scrounging in the trash cans for recyclables. Yet another Metro “worker” left unsupervised to do whatever he feels is his job.

Another ride on a 115 bus, number 7591. This is an east bound trip on 2 August about 16:15 (4:15PM). A large woman is carrying on a non-stop conversation with the driver while effectively reducing the entrance area between the front door and the fare box to mere inches . Watch this operator, I couldn't get near enough to read her badge, for future accidents.

I am at the Hawthorne Station on the Green Line. The useless time-date scroll makes a request, mostly ignored by passengers, to keep the station clean. Also, it asks us to report unattended packages on trains or in stations and gives a 323 number.

The station has two “Emergency” telephones, not so easily located because the signs which advertise them are flat against the structure, a squat refrigerator like box, which is their point of attachment. Not to mention the virtual un-usability of the thing due to the noise, given that we are located between two busy I105 roadways, which makes them ineffective as a communication device.

Mariposa Station on the Green Line – They are informing us about contacting the sheriffs when we see a “suspicious” package – this time using the station PA system. It is much more efficacious here because of the low noise level.

But, I wonder why they don't give us a toll-free number or a say, four digit cell phone number for cost-free contact. Lots of people are always operating on the edge of their monthly plan so the powers that be are at the LACMTA, surprise, surprise, not sensitive to these issues. I am afraid that most people will ignore “suspicious” packages rather than miss their ride or run up their bill -- that is assuming that they see the packages in the first place.

It is 11:14 on the 14th of August. I am aboard a 704 line bus, number 7949 driven by operator number 28035. He has been engaged in a non-stop cell phone conversation for quite a while. Hes also NOT wearing his seat belt! Is he endangering his passengers? I think so!! A ride on this bus demonstrates what the LACMTA does best, viz., providing less, yet faster and more costly transportation for fewer people. What does the Mole mean? He mains that the LACMTA does not cover very many of the line 4 stops (line 4 remains a sort of after-hours lifeline), that's the less transportation. It is faster, duh, it stops fewer times. It is more costly in that if you end up stranded between stops OR don't know where the stops are located you must walk or pay full fare on the Big Blue Bus –- this covers the more costly also read has depreciated value of one's pass. Oh, I must mention the lack of saftey , with the drivers and the LACMTA unimpressed with the ejection of their ex-member into the roadway. In you Mole's case he was at Sawtelle and decided to walk to, what he believed was, the nearest bus stop, a block or so away. It turned out to be a walk to Bundy (close to a mile based upon MapQuest.com) covers the another aspect of both, less transportation which is more costly in money or effort.

(1) Halper, Evan and Vogel, Nancy et al “Budget may ride on cuts in transit” Los Angeles Times 20 July 2007:A1

(2) Covarrubias, Amanda “MTA driver dies after being ejected from bus” Los Angeles Times 28 July 2007:B10

(3) Rabin, Jeff “Car hits MTA bus” Los Angeles Times 29 July 2007:B10

(4) Lin, Rong-Gong II and Rabin, Jeffrey L. “Major work begins on Expo Line” Los Angeles Times 11 Aug. 2007:B1

(5) AP “World's first hybrid train to debut for commercial service in Japan” International Herald Tribune (web) 12 Jul. 2007 (see www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/07/12/business/AS-FIN-Japan-Hybrid-train.php

Mole’s Copyright Statement
All photographs and original written materials are copyrighted © 2007 by LametroMole. ♪Clicking a photo will often present you with an enlargement.

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, sustainable development, environmental, community and worker health, democracy, public disclosure, corporate accountability, and social justice issues, etc. We have included relatively brief quotes from articles and etc. rather than a simple link because we have found that links frequently go "bad" or change over time. We believe this constitutes a "fair use" of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without fee or payment of any kind to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?