“When I use a word, [like best] it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less”. Red Queen(1)

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

An on-line piece in Slate(2) raises some interesting questions regarding the “greenness” of using public transportation. I commend this work to anyone at the LACMTA who can read! They might reconsider their shibboleth which I consider to be “Moving fewer people faster”.

The Japanese are VERY energy conscious, in this case using people power to generate electricity to power equipment. Read all about it at inhabit.com (3). Having lived in Japan Like us, they import oil too! Unlike us, I can attest that Japan is always on the lookout for energy saving techniques. LACMTA add this to your “we will read someday” list.

Yes, su Topo is an eclectic reader. http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlny/ :sent him to The Columbia Journalism Review http://www.cjr.org/ which directed him to an MIT site; http://senseable.mit.edu/realtimerome/ and, in parallel, sort of, to; http://senseable.mit.edu/ which described the raison d'être of the project and provided a number of examples. It is always interesting to investigate new ways of communicating, presenting data graphically and etc. It was lots of fun, too bad I have to work :-). N.B. “RealTime Rome” shows people, buses and taxis as a flow. Hmmm, a progressive transportation organisation could use those ideas, the LACMTA? I don’t think so. LACMTA add this to your list, too.

The Los Angeles Times covers one form of litter(5), which taken together with the other forms of detritus, blankets our city. The reporter tackles the problem of cigarette butts. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works estimates that 600,000 butts are littered monthly. I challenge that figure as being too low. It only represents 30,000 packs per month. In any event the transportation related issue is not only litter caused when bus drivers and passengers carelessly dispose of their cigarette butts –but also the affect on people of the ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke) emanating from these very same smokers and the few others who opt for proper disposal.

A piece which I think of as weak, in the Times(6), belies the headline in that is seems to document another Times reporter’s preference for one food market, which was mentioned several times, rather than one which was unmentioned in the article, but has been given lots of negative ink by Zell's sheet. Here is su Topo's brief summary, but please, read the article for yourself and arrive at your own conclusion. The gist of the article seems to be a lament for the status quo in East L.A. and a distaste for increased property values which often accompany better transportation.

The Times presents more detail about the Chatsworth crash(7). Especially noteworthy is the excellent graphic by Matt Moody on page A18 which also can be seen in both static and animated form on the web: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/traffic/la-me-metrolink3-2008dec03-f,0,1182051.flash . In either mode, one can clearly see that not one, but three lights were run. This picture or at least early version of it should have been available soon after the crash. But the Times had an overly simplistic view of rail operations, as I did, at least until I interviewed some experienced railroad people.

Solow: the long goodbye

The Los Angeles Times covers(8) Solow, the Metrolink CEO who for a long time operated under the radar. Earning $220,000 annually along with undisclosed perks, the quotes in the article paint a picture of a less-than-effective executive. “I think he did an abysmal job the weekend of the incident [the Chatsworth crash].” The piece also contains this “But in the last five years, he had to deal with two major accidents before the Chatsworth crash, although neither was the fault of Metrolink.” I take exception with that statement, since had Metrolink taken appropriate action to improve safety, then the Chatsworth crash might never had happened. Instead, apparently, Metrolink executives lead by Solow sat on their, well, ... hands. The piece also says: “His biggest fault, they [people who knew SoLow] said, is that he failed to communicate well.” I’d say that turned out to be a fatal flaw!

In what I call a case of the inept praising the incompetent, he is defended by Snoble, who says of Solow: “He is one of the industry’s top professionals.” Snoble is also the guy who thinks that the LACMTA is now and will forever be "America's Best". When we are at last rid of both these guys, who share a commom initial letter in their surnames , we will all be better off! Let me think --what other words begin with that letter?

At a meeting with Los Angeles Times reporter(s) Solow apparently eschewed an opportunity to express condolences to families of the victims of the Chatsworth crash or to make the kind of statement which any other human being would. Here are his opening remarks as quoted in the Times. ‘Solow gruffly began the session, “Got the ground rules? I’m not going to talk about the incident or any actions after.”’ What a sweetheart, huh?

The Times continues with another article(9) sub-headed: Decades-old decisions by Metrolink gambled on passenger safety, according to experts and documents.” These decisions were obviously bought-into and perpetuated by Solow and ultimately lead to passenger deaths. The reporter delivers a, rare for the recent Times, hard-hitting factual article, and your Mole believes that exposé is the correct descriptive noun for it. The reporter, Tim Rohrlich teams with a superb graphic artist, Raoul Rañoa, to show on page A22, the progression, old to new, of active train controls available today. If you haven’t read the article please do so. If any of Solow’s superiors can and do read this indictment Mr. Solow will be a job hunter in early 2009 or before.

If this piece is not enough to send Solow into retirement, then the one which follows(10) and has “Experts’ report targets all levels of Metrolink operations.” I am happy to see that the Zell’s Times has finally decided to do some real original reporting, as opposed to the cheaper (I know, I do it) blogging.

A Daily News piece(11) imbeds this “Damien Goodman, coordinator of the Citizens Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail, said Metrolink has 433 grade crossings along 631 miles of track. That compares with 161 grade crossings on more than 800 miles of track on the Metro-North Railroad in New York City, one of the nation's largest commuter-rail systems.” This work out to a grade crossing about every mile and a half for Metrolink and one grade crossing every five miles in New York. Based upon these values, for every five miles traveled on Metrolink one faces a risk exposure of slightly more than 3:1 when compared to travel on the New York system. In truth, based upon the present Metrolink “management” and their policies the risk exposure is greater than the “slightly more than 3:1” stated above.

Now, if only the papers would profile Snoble’s tenure with the LACMTA he would soon be on his way as well.

Ear to the Rail

After my trip to HomeGirl café, I became more attentive to materials available about Fr. Boyle so, please, check out the links below.

You can hear one discussion which is available at the Los Angeles Public Library “Aloud” podcast series <http://events.lapl.org/podcasts/Index.aspx> .

Things French on the Net

Youtube video by a maker of ATC (Automatic Train Control) which is engineered into France’s TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse ) i.e., high speed train, the Eurostar, among others.


In terms of rail transport, France is light years ahead of the U.S. --ahead of Japan too in terms of really high speed.

If you are a Francophone, keep up with the world’s economic news usually moderated by Ms Stéphanie Antoine. Here is a sample broadcast: http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=0GRDKoGw9ic . You can find the regular weekday broadcast, en Français at: www.france24.com/fr/ Select “DERNIER JOURNAL ECONOMIE”. There is also an English version but, sadly, without Ms Antoine, at www.france24.com/en/ Select “Latest business bulletin”.

You can hear Madeleine Peyroux sing Josephine Baker’s J’ai Deux amours (I have two loves) at http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=ciGz2zgR3nE This is a great song by a wonderful singer, which is presented here in a karaoke (carah ok, not carry okie) format. So sing along, if you can.

Cosmological corner

In a nice, short, colorful paper some interesting ideas are discussed. For example, a folded brane universe, whose light we cannot see, but whose gravity makes it through to us, exists a very short distance away.

See: http://randall.physics.harvard.edu/RandallCV/Nature.pdf

The Mole Rides Again so that you don't have to lose your hearing because of people who have voices which could cut steel

I wanted to travel along Venice Bl to Wade ST in Culver City. I know that the 33/333 both pass the intersection but I didn’t know if either stopped at Wade or what the neatest stop would be. So I used what they call the “Trip Planner” and I call the “Trip Spoiler”. So I entered the intersection information, along with a reasonable time of arrival and saw the confirmation screen (vide supra). When I clicked continue, I saw a WSOD (White Screen of Death) and nothing happened. What could be simpler? This was a trip from one point to another, both on Venice BL, yet it failed. This is typical behaviour from the Trip Spoiler. Note that although rules of software design ask that ALL data be presented for confirmation, yet they don’t display the timing information. You are not surprised, are you? Well, I may as well fix this for them: (1) show everything that was input on this page, assign each query a number which represents canonical order, then (2) allow for reports which reference that number to be submitted. (3) add some sort of progress indicator to be shown and definitely (4) add some bugging code. My guess that they contract out much work to India, so don't expect an overnight fix.

Click above for a larger view.

As I walk South on the East side of Wade ST. I see imprints in the concrete which capture Los Angeles history. In letters about 3 inches high is says “Griffith Company 1931”. Underneath that, in about one inch high letters is inscribed: “R J Walker Inspector”. My estimate is that Mr. Walker would be on one side or another of 100, by now. He did a great job because several of these artifacts with his indicia remain.

A woman with a voice which could cut ship plates delivers an outside voice that causes blood from my ears to trickle down my neck. She is accompanied by foreground provided by the loud TransitTV. The ASA (Automatic Stop Announcement is loud, too. No reading on this trip! The driver, no doubt to the disappointment of passengers waiting a their usual stops, thinks the 439 line is still on construction detour and avoids Sepulveda in favour of a run south on 96th ST and a turn north on Jenny followed by a turn west onto Westchester Parkway, etc.. If the LACMTA really was any good at all as an integrator of technology, they would have integrating the routing into their GPS scheme J along with an off-route alarm. This bus is poorly maintained too, the front scroll is in operation but the other one, at about mid-bus flickers uselessly. Another “bottom of the class” rating for Metro.

I am aboard a 232 line bus #11017, southbound at about 9:20 on 2008-12-11. The operator, number 72543, is busy texting. Another southbound 232 line ride, on 2008-12-14 at 11:10, bus number 11018 – again the operator is texting, I don’t know if it is the same one as above, because today’s driver is wearing a non-uniform jacket which conceals her ID patch. Didn’t they learn anything from the Chatsworth MetroLink crash?

Mixed signals from our beloved LACMTA. I am at the south-west corner of Nash and Mariposa, just steps away from the Green Line station escalator. The 232 lineyou know, the one that travels further than it should to get where it is going bus stop on this corner has been “abandoned”, moved to a less convenient location away from the escalator and the ticket machines and away from the stairway to the platform and well away from the escalator. The LACMTA will say that they renationalized the stop which now shares a site which was in use, for quite a while, by the Torrance Transit #8 and the Metro 626 shuttle.

But, as a further validation of your Mole’s Metro Theorem, viz., “The LACMTA absolutely cannot do it right the first time”, they left the bus benches positioned in situ. People who don’t know the bus stop has been moved, those who don’t notice that there is no longer a Metro “flag” there, or those who missed the short life span (about a week) of the “Stop Abandoned” notice, now stand helplessly as the bus zips by and unless they can run a 3 minute mile, are unable to run to the new bus stop after they figure it out.

Onboard a 33 bus, number 3008, Friday, 2008-12-05 at about 13:00. The bus is quiet with few passengers and I am slightly inattentive, enjoying a respite from the usual cacophony experienced on a Metro bus. Suddenly, the driver announces to all on board which are several, “End of line, everybody out”.

We are not at Main and Sunset the planned and expected end of line, where we can transfer to a bus which continues on to Santa Monica which is the destination of most riders, but he has executed a left turn from Main onto Rose and stops in front of the Long’s Drugs store. This means he has forced us to make two street crossings and has caused us to miss the 333 which is just stopping on the south-east corner of the intersection and will pull away as we cross Rose. Bus drivers will refuse to pick us up if they deem that we are not positioned properly at a bus stop, but seem to feel free to dump us off anywhere they think appropriate. I would report this driver's I.D. here, but he was wearing a dark blue, non-regulation shirt, anyway, one without an ID patch.

This scheduling of buses to terminate at Main/Sunset intersection is irrational. As I have stated above, it is the destination for almost no one. It is convenient for Metro because that location is very near their operational area parking lot.

If you jump on a 33 bus downtown at Spring and 7th Streets, and want to go to Santa Monica it will cost you and additional fare one way or another. Irrational, yes, but even more irrational is ending the 33 Line at 6th and Main downtown. The Google map here: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=map:+6th+and+Main,++Los+Angeles,+CA&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=28.058077,56.601563&ie=UTF8&t=h&g=6th+and+Main,+Los+Angeles,+CA&ll=34.049566,-118.249927&spn=0.014294,0.027637&z=15&iwloc=addr

will show you the situation on the ground the way it is today.

Let’s envision how the downtown terminus of Line 33 route should be reworked. First, if you work for the LACMTA, try to think that you are not a Metro employee, this will prevent you from experiencing the “brain freeze” which seems to afflict them. Then, think like a passenger, someone that has a destination –one that is unlikely to be 6th and Main Streets and who is really, really unhappy about being dumped into any area rife with panhandlers and unpleasant odors, too. And then be faced with a long walk or having to pay an additional fare to get to your destination. Finally, and this may be difficult for some while impossible for Snoble and staff, picture the number 33 bus line as part of a transportation system and try to fit it in.

Eureka! The Line 33 bus should end its’ run at 7th Street Metro Center which is clearly shown on the map Just follow Main just one block southwest to 7th Street, then follow 7th Street eight blocks northwest to the Red Line Station at 7th Street Metro Center. After all, isn’t that why it’s called Metro Center, because it’s supposed to be in the center of things? Also, there are lots of buses, Metro, Dash and Muni lines, all within a few blocks radius centered on "Metro Center".

Now, Mr. Snoble, it would be wise to form a committee to address this problem, su Topo suggests that it consist of you and three of your best thinkers, it would be ideal to shoot for a summation of at least 300 for the group’s total I.Q.

Mr. Snoble, if you set your committee to work today and tell them that the Line 33 route should terminate at the site suggested by your Mole, why in just 2 or 3 short years perhaps it will happen. I know, I know it does make your head hurt, it is not like: thinking about what to have for lunch; or asking your driver to stop for ice cream on the way home; or even watching TV programs which incorporate a laugh track, but give it a try, won’t you?

Or please, do the right thing and resign to make way for an executive who is a transportation planner and who CAN do the job and provide Los Angeles with acceptable transportation as well!

You can find published information about planned changes in the December “shakeup” at: http://www.metro.net/news_info/press/Metro_201.htm

But, not everything is transparent. I saw bus stop abandoned signs up along Manchester, west of Sepulveda on the Line 115 route. Another nasty surprise is in store for us, the LACMTA’s policy of less service for more money is alive and well!

Note the WhoIs tally below. If I see so many of these stickers it probably means that there are LOTS of them in the system. All getting a free ride, so to speak. If the LACMTA legal department needs help in bringing this culprit to justice, then I can refer them to Loyola Law School, (www.lls.edu) which is not far from the Taj Mahal. Any Loyola Law second year student can help, if not lead, a group in filing the suit against this “whois” defacer. LACMTA legal department please note, that if more than one person is involved then it is a conspiracy. N.B. The case should be reviewed for RICO predicates as well.

From the LAMetroMole to all:

¡Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!

Fare Box Score Box

Bus numbers of buses with Out of Order Fare Boxes: 9320 2008-12-11; 1234 2008-12-11; 7039 2008-12-13

Numbers of Buses Defaced by WhoIs stickers: 9287; 5157; 6374; 6356; 5023+UR; 5214; 6356; 6353; 6357; 7166; 7926; 1331; 6371; 1234+UR; 6327UR

UR = Ugly Residue from a former, likely whois, sticker.

+UR = whois sticker and the ugly residue left after passengers partly remove the sticker.



(1) Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Publisher data N/A. 1871

(2) Leibenluft, Jacob. “Trains vs. Planes vs. Automobiles: Is it always greener to take public transportation?” Slate 25 Nov 2008. 15 Dec 2008 <http://www.slate.com/id/2205330/> .

(3) Chapa, Jorge. “Energy-Generating Floors to Power Tokyo Subway” 11 Dec 2008. 15 Dec 2008 http://www.inhabitat.com/2008/12/11/tokyo-subway-stations-get-piezoelectric-floors/

(4) Boyle, Father Gregory: Schwartz, Leslie; Verdugo, Hector; Lizama Agustin. “Marinating in Ghetto Air: Writing and Transformation at Homeboy Industries” Los Angeles Public Library “Aloud” podcast series 23 Jul 2008. 15 Dec 2008 <http://events.lapl.org/podcasts/PodcastView.aspx?pid=114>

(5)Lazarus, David. “Fuming over cigarette butt litter.” The Los Angeles Times. 30 Nov 2008:C1

(6) Becerra. Hector. “The fast track to change.” The Los Angeles Times. 30 Nov 2008:B1

(7) Connell, Rich and Lopez, Robert J. “Train Crash Light At Issue.” The Los Angeles Times. 3 Dec 2008:A1

(8) Gottlieb, Jeff. “Crash thrusts Metolink’s chief into the limelight.” The Los Angeles Times. 11 Dec 2008:B1

(9) Rohrlih, Ted. “Train Crash’s Roots Run Deep.” The Los Angeles Times. 12 Dec 2008:a1

(10) Connell, Rich and Lopez, Robert J. “Safety of Rail System Assailed.” The Los Angeles Times. 13 Dec 2008:B1

(11) Anderson, Troy. “Billions urged for rail safety.” Daily News. 13 Dec 2008. 15 Dec 2008 http://www.dailynews.com/search/ci_11222219.

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