Clean, smooth riding, and reasonably priced! An LACMTA Bus?

First of all, let me appologize for the "quirky" format of today's post. I don't have a lot of time to try to figure out "go arounds" for these problems which I frequently encounter on Blogspot.com. I end up spending more time on the mechanics of posting then I did on ALL OTHER ASPECTS of the monthly post! For the most part I am satisfied with the service, EXCEPT, they have no direct reporting channels for problems like the ones in this post. They want you to try to work things out with other bloggers, not my idea of fun. As you know I post in a format which does not vary much from month to month so I don't encounter too many "new things". Yet in this post, unexplicably, type sizes jump around even though I have specified normal size. Parts of sentences just disappear (See the first part of EAR to the Rail, where I had to move the Ian Masters reference around leaving the first one in place as indication of a problem so that if Google (the Blogger/BlogSpot owner) ever decides to really be proactive about their system, they have an example in situ. Weird. It is the 80/20 rule as applied to blogging, 80% of the work produces 20% of the result, it that :-( Again, sorry. Your Mole.

Sorry, no, it is the Mega bus pictured above. I rode a Megabus to Las Vegas and back to Los Angeles. The trip was fast, only a single stop at Barstow, comfortable and inexpensive, costing only $44 round trip. I found that locating the bus stop somewhat confusing because the Megabus sign was placed at the wrong door and most Union Station staff were “unhelpful”. I finally stood in the Amtrack ticket line for ten minutes and the ticket agent correctly directed me but not without “... it has nothing to do with us”.

Unfortunately, no sooner had I returned from Las Vegas than I read that the Megabus was giving up on Los Angeles(1). The piece says, in part, “Despite low fares, ridership remained too low ...”. “Bargain bus service Megabus, which touted fares as low as $1, said Friday that it would pull out of Los Angeles ...”

My input to Megabus would be: hold on for a while longer, rising fuel prices should stimulate demand and I believe that this will occur sooner rather than later. Of course, as I earlier urged the LACMTA, I repeat here: Please DO NOT make any schedule changes until the affect of increased gasoline prices on the demand for mass transit is better understood.

Regarding ridership, click here to see a list of cities whose mass transit ridership exceeds that of the LACMTA which is 12%. The spread sheet which will appear (if you have something that will display *.xls files) is derived from U.S. Census Bureau data. My thanks to the U.S. Census Bureau for the data as well as their responsive assistance :-) ! See more of their fine work at http://www.census.gov/ .

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

New York City is also evaluating bringing back double-deckers, too. Fifth Avenue was served by buses of that type until 1953. I found out about the plan to possibly begin testing the new buses by late 2008 in an article in AMNY(2). Said paper is the successor to New York Newsday and can be found on the Internet at http://www.amny.com/ . You can find the PDF issue which has the bus article at the site, on the left side of the screen click PAST PDFS then select PDF for May 23, 2008. Page down to page 4 and there you are.

The Daily Breeze(3) provides some useful transportation links, which I have echoed here:
http://www.insidesocal.com/dailylink/2008/05/leave_the_driving_to_metro.html ;
www.redondo.org/depts/hbt/transit/beach_cities_transit/default.asp ;
www.lawndalecity.org/html/depthtml/csd/beat.htm ; www.palosverdes.com/pvtransit/ ;
www.ladottransit.com/comexp/index.html ; http://www.maxbus.com/ .

The Times(4) covers Gina Marie Lindsey's plight over the award of contracts during here watch at Seattle-Tacoma airport. Ms Lindsey now is Director of LAWA (Los Angeles World Airports). I have been critical of her approach to customer service vis-à-vis the FlyAway bus service between Union Station and LAX (See 2007-08-18). I also questioned why some of the buses were still registered in Wyoming, i.e., had WY plates after more than a year of operation over CA roads. But the Washington State Auditor's Office has more serious concerns as the piece indicates that they, “... found widespread abuses and indications of fraud in contracts issued by the Port of Seattle, ... that operates harbor facilities and the airport.” “The audit also questions contracts awarded to firms ..., including McBee Strategic Consulting where Lindsey when to work after leaving her aviation directors post at Sea-Tac ... .” At issue, among other things, is the issuance of contracts below the competitive bid limit ($200,000) and then following with renewals of the contract(s) at the same level, multiple times. Ms Lindsey is pictured, looking confrontational (IMHO), on page B8 above her declaration that she operated within her authority. Also, “ ... questions have been raised about Lindsey's role in the recent awarding of two major contracts related to the [LAX] project.”

The Daily Breeze picks up on the theme(5) and says “Gina Marie Lindsey denied findings contained in a report released last December by the Washington State Auditor's Office questioning contracts awarded during her tenure as Seattle's airport director.” Then, a related piece in the Breeze(6) quotes Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a bit too quickly for me, supporting -I think– Lindsey with, “I had had nine months watching the executive director like a hawk”. I would heave preferred that he said something like, we would like to see the matter fully investigated.

The Argonaut continues(7) its coverage of the Green Line extension to nearer to LAX, actually to Century and Aviation. It is about political maneuvering and to me, contributes little to the discussion. What a laugh! They didn't do it right, like Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, NYC and etc., in the first place and now they are using their fractional wits and the back of an envelope in an attempt to “design” something else.

The Santa Monica Daily Press details(8) how the LACMTA continues to throw good money after bad in an attempt to figure out how to route the Red Line to Santa Monica –answer What is along Wilshire BL?.

The Argonaut, in what have been an incredibly bad week for news reports(9) the the Big Blue Bus will participate in Bike-to-Work Day, umm, yawn.

In a pair of article in the page B4 “burial ground” the Los Angeles Times hides er, covers the insignificant $3 billion LACMTA budget(10) --which would require 2.4 billion fares to fund-- and the fact that a Sacto bill concerning the Green Line extension bringing the line nearer LAX has been killed due to “... the state's ongoing budget crisis.”

Your Mole does not often compliment the Los Angeles Times reportage, but there are exceptions. In a piece in the Sunday Opinion Section(12) the writer takes on the Metro and gets it pretty much right. I believe that he overly dramatizes the passenger experience but he is right about a number of things: the fact that the Rapids bypass people stranding them at no longer serviced bus stops, i.e., “Moving fewer people faster!”, he tell us how rough the 720 ride is, but he doesn't mention noise on the 720s though, nor how cutting service means more transfer rides. He doesn't offer any concrete suggestions, not ones that I saw anyway. He also is correct about the Metro “Trip Planner” but “quirky” is not how su Topo would describe it :-). See what I have written about the “Tripped up Planner”, below. But he is a real user of public transportation not an infrequent passenger as are most of the writers of Times articles. The piece features a nice graphic of a bus which your Mole would rather have them forego it in favor of concrete recommendations for service improvement.

Be that as it may, the kind of solid, best practice recommendations that we need the Times to espouse and we, as active citizens must impose upon the LACMTA, here relating to congestion pricing, found at http://www.socsci.uci.edu/~ksmall/Access%2026%20-%2003%20-%20Road%20Pricing%20and%20Public%20Transit.pdf

"By clearing cars off the most congested streets, pricing sets off a “virtuous circle” for mass transit, especially bus transit. Here’s how it works:

* More expensive rush-hour road travel encourages use of alternatives, including mass transit.
* This builds the transit patronage needed for financial viability.
* Reduced automobile congestion speeds up transit vehicles sharing the streets with cars. This in turn creates two further favorable effects:
- Patronage is further encouraged because public transit is now faster.
- Higher speeds reduce costs to transit providers.* Higher patronage and lower costs encourage transit providers to add service in the form of new routes, greater frequency, or both. Lower costs also encourage lower fares.
* Better and cheaper transit service further encourages patronage. More new riders are diverted from automobiles, thereby further reducing congestion.
* This new patronage reinforces agency finances and service offerings; and so the circle continues.


The “virtuous circle” of cost savings and ridership increases, triggered by policies aimed at discouraging automobile travel on congested city streets, can give a real boost to public transit, ...”. Please follow the link at the beginning of this section and read the entire document.

Ear to the Rail

Please listen as Ian Masters and his guests discuss our dim future and possible dystopian society in his broadcast of 2008-04-27 at http://www.ianmasters.org/ .

For those of you who know someone who may be critical of the French for one reason or another, ask them to listen to NPR's “Morning Edition” of 2008-05-26 about “Les Fleurs de la Memoire”, a French group who honors Americans who are buried near Omaha Beach. Read: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90824280

Listen: http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=3&prgDate=5-26-2008

Please listen as Ian Masters and his guests discuss our dim future and possible dystopian society in his broadcast of 2008-04-27 at http://www.ianmasters.org/ .

Cosmological corner

If you were someone who thought that UFO riders were using cell phones to communicate you can see that current theory is that they use neutrinos.


The Mole Rides Again so that you don't have to wonder where in the world the Oriental woman on the 720 thought she was

Today the 720 to Santa Monica is full. I am seated on the right side of the bus in the first row of transverse seats in the second section of this articulated bus. Standing in front of me in front of the longitudinal seats, wearing a sleeveless top, is an Oriental woman. In what is to me at once the most fastidious yet somehow disgusting act I have ever seen, she wipes each armpit in turn with some kind of “wipe” and displays the surface of the pad to her girlfriend who is seated in front of her. Later, when she leaves I notice a tattoo of a scorpion on her back, right below her left shoulder. Honestly, I could not make these things up.

The LCAT (Las Vegas Citizen's Area Transit) runs a double-decker bus, which they call the "Deuce" ( pictured above) between the Downtown Transportation Center (DTC) and the Strip. Let's talk about the fun first. Something about a double-decker bus brings out the child in us all. I found that most people, locals and visitors alike, wanted to ride “top side” and seemed disappointed when the upper deck was full –no standing was allowed. It is fun!

Ten tourists board, and sound like twenty –loud, they are all fortyish. They share their conversation with the entire top deck: recent operations, somewhere they saw a human body displayed in slices, etc.

But, there are downsides: the upper deck required that even people of average height had to stoop, at least slightly, to walk around “upstairs”. The height magnified the normal sway of the bus and we were constantly reminded by the driver, who could see us on CCTV, to remain seated. It was slow going. A driver told me that a governor limited the speed to 35 MPH. At bus stops, loading and unloading was also slow. The upper deck was served by a single stairway, so passengers getting off kept new passengers from accessing the upper deck for a while. Although they exiting passengers used a rear exit to alight, the bottleneck occurred at the foot of the stair well. This might be OK for Vegas but is not practical for everyday use in L.A. My recollection is that the London double-deckers had two stairwells, one in front and one at the rear, with the same being true for Hong Kong.

In any event, fast or not, and the ride is definitely slower then a few years ago when they were using the articulated bus such as we have on the 720 Line on Wilshire BL here.

Inside on the upper deck of the Deuce (pictured above), please note that they plan a road map display on the monitor on the left in the picture. It is not yet operational and I have been told that, thankfully, they will not have the annoying TransiTV! CAT buses also automatically announce transfer points for other bus lines, something our own LACMTA considers not to be important. Made by Alexander Dennis of Scotland, the model in use is called the “Enviro 500”, which is 40 feet long, 102 inches wide (8.5 feet) , and weighs 52,200 pounds (26.1 tons). It has a
total passenger capacity of 97: 53
upper deck seats, 27 lower deck seats, with room for 17 people to stand. The "Deuce" costs $583,963.50. A one way trip costs $2, so 145,991 round trips at $4 will be required to pay for each bus. Of course, annual upkeep and maintenance will add significantly to the purchase cost. This is slightly less than the over $600,000 per bus(1L) for the LACMTA's articulated Rapid buses which offer 57 seats and space for 60 standees.

The DTC was much more crowded and way cleaner than the L.A. Bus Centers. The buses seemed cleaner too, with little graffiti. A lthough, at the DTC, there seemed to be many, how do I say, transients?, hanging out there and unfortunately they all seemed to be smokers.

On another bus ride in Las Vegas I was “treated” to a view of another Frank Gehery abomination in process, the Lou Rund Brain Center. I have seen enough of Gehery's, gag, “work”, but you can see the Lou Rund Brain Center at
http://southwest.construction.com/images/0802-Lou-Ruvo-Brain-Institu.jpg (Here, is another "quirk", the above link won't become live, yet when I imbed it in the "at" above it works :-(
, I suggest that Gehery check himself in when it is completed :-) .

On my return from Las Vegas, I tried to purchase a ”Muni Transfer” at the Aviation Station on the Green Line. Three of the four machines did not accept coins. When the Culver City bus showed up I gave up on the forth machine and paid full fare.

A lady boards my 439 bus and tells the driver “This is the first time I'm taking the bus ...”. “Oh, you're a virgin.” replies the rude driver.

I am aboard a 232, seated nearby a cute young Latina chats with a friend on her cell phone and is very feminine in her expressive hand gestures. “I can get you a job at the restaurant, my boss likes me [I'll bet he does!]. This conversation is interrupted when call waiting signals her. “I don't talk to her ...”, “You've been saying that for months now ...”.

I have received reports from reliable sources (passengers who have experienced the problem and heard about other Metro drivers who have reported it to HQ, too) about some 111 buses who go "off route". Apparently, they leave the LAXCBC headed south on 96th Street, make a left turn onto Jenny head North to Westchester Parkway (the renamed Arbor Vitae West of Airport BL) then heads East connecting to Arbor Vitae as they cross Airport. This means that the miss stops at 96th and Airport and Airport just South of Arbor Vitae. The onboard GPS should show them off-route if anyone in Metro management was monitoring it and if they cared.

Although not truly about riding, I want to further pursue something I wrote about (2008-03-29) schedules and mobile devices. I made a suggestion about sensing one's location by using GPS (Global Positioning System) then displaying nearby buses. I took a look at what the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) offers. I found that they are pretty much on the cutting edge. See Figures, Figure 1 of which is a map of one section of their area which shows the bus line, the upper number in the square and the bus number the lower, four digit , number. Clicking on the line (in real life, at the site --not on the Figure-- will produce a schedule for that line.

Clicking on a square will show, as in Figure 2, the status of bus arrivals at a given stop for a given line

We can also see the current status (bus locations) of a given line. That is shown in Figure 3.

Wanting to check out their “Trip Planner”, I entered a starting point of “Glen Ellyn Station” and an ending point of “mall”. My entries into the web page are reproduced in Figure 4.

The system corrected my starting point to be “Glen Ellen Metra Station and displayed a drop down box with a choice of over 50 Malls! From the list I selected the “Yorktown Shopping Center”, which is the one I had in mind but whose name I could not remember. See for yourself at http://ctabustracker.com/ or use your text reader of mobile device at http://ctabustracker.com/bustime/wireless/html/home.jsp

Thank you CTA and RTC for jobs well done!

Then, I tried the “Metro Trip Planner” at www.Metro.net .

I entered a starting point of “Mariposa Station” and an ending point of “mall”. You can try My entries on the “Tripped up Planner” web page, too.

The Metro system came up with the correct starting point (how could it fail?) but offered only Mall of Orange as a possible destination. I was actually thinking of Fox Hills Mall as my destination. So, although superficially both organizations web pages appear similar the actual brain power behind the Chicago planner is much greater. The Chicago system took the generic entry of “mall” and displayed all shopping centers as potential destinations as mall whether they included the word mall in the title or not and without consideration as to where in the destination description the word appeared, if it appeared as all. While “Americas BestTrip Planner only selected a location as a potential destination IF and ONLY IF the word mall appeared first. I can just see and hear the seamless integrators of technology at the LACMTA scratching their heads and saying “Why would they do that?”. BTW, T/P could not schedule the trip, as is often the case with this poorly designed and more poorly tested piece of #$%^, er, software.

Fare Box Score Box

Rides 20*
Out of Order Fare Boxes 1
Ratio 1:14
*six trips were not on Metro, e.g., Big Blue, Culver City, CAT(Las Vegas)

(1) Chang, Andrea “Megabus to halt service in L.A.” 17 May 2008: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-megabus17-2008may17,0,2008552.story

(2) Sweeney, MatthewDouble-deck reprise” AMNY 23 May 2008:4

(3) n/a “TAKEOUT - DAILYLINK” Daily Breeze 7 May 2008:A5

(4) Weikel, Dan “Seattle airport pacts are being investigated” Los Angeles Times 7 May 2008:B1

(5) Marroquin, Art “LAX executive disputes audit” Daily Breeze 8 May 2008:A1

(6) Marroquin, Art “Panels want tighter contract process” Daily Breeze 8 May 2008:A1

(7) Walker, Gary “County Supervisor drops opposition to Green Line” Argonaut 8 May 2008:8

(8) Hanatani, melody “MTA narrows transit options” Santa Monica Daily Press 12 May 2008:1

(9) n/a “Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus participatin in Bike-to-Work Day, Thursday, May 15” Argonaut 15 May 2008:8

(10) Hymon, Steve “MTA approves $3-billion budget” Los Angeles Times 23 May 2008:B4

(11) Hymon, Steve “Bill concering Green Line killed” Los Angeles Times 23 May 2008:B4

(12) Waldie, D. J. “Taken for a ride” Los Angeles Times 18 May 2008:M6

(1L) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FZX/is_1_71/ai_n9480740

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