Now Hear this!, If you can

Today, for the first time, your Mole will make available to you links to audio files which reflect actual experiences.

It is fitting that the initial files reflect a situation which I have reported on (criticized) for a long time and now you can enjoy the same sounds, which range from unusable to poor, available daily to Red/Purple Line riders.

On 22 February I made two trips: from 7th/Metro Center to Union Station and back. I actually rode the same train both ways. I did change cars for the trip back.

The train operator on the trip out was a man. You can hear that recording, I caution you don't expect very much and you won't be disappointed. I rate his broadcast as poor. I made the recording which is only a portion of the trip while seated without caring about where the speaker was relative to my seat. Link

On the return trip we had a lady train operator. I rate her broadcast as unusable. At first, I made the recording while seated without caring about where the speaker was relative to my seat. Quickly I sensed that we would only capture background noise, so I stood up, moved to a location that had a speaker right above my seat and held the microphone about 12 inches away from the speaker. I didn't hear much and understood less, you will quickly hear that too. Listen for the “door closing” gongs, as you probably noted, you should hear operator announcements on either side of the gongs. Link

I don't necessarily blame the train operators. I believe that the poor quality of the announcements is most due to poor equipment. The LACMTA always tries to do everything on the cheap and on board announcements are no exception. A MUCH better job is done on the Blue, Green and Gold Lines although each system utilized, surprise!, is not directly comparable with others an all have quirks and inconsistencies. BUT, they all can be heard and understood. I probably will not record those systems since they are adequate.

What I ask you to do is imagine yourself on the return portion of my trip and then imagine an emergency situation which required the train operator to give critical instructions and information. It wouldn't be done and you would be on your own!

You have just listened to a glaring security flaw.

Your Mole obtained a copy of a letter which was sent to the LACMTA Customer Relations group. Here, without comment, it is.

Dear Customer Relations:

Regarding your plans fo June 2008 Service Changes, I have included a number of my comments and suggestions which are in bold typeface, below:

First of all, your usual notices of meetings are ineffectual. Meeting times and locations are fixed so as to preclude many of your ridership from attending.

Onboard buses, TransitTV advertisments only direct viewers to www.metro.net. Print advertisments, for example, the one appearing in the Santa Monica Mirror (January 31 – February 6, 2008 issue), include only one meeting time and venue and waste space promoting the Firecracker Run/Walk.

Meeting times and venues should be chosen to maximize the attendance of the general ridership.

All media used should include a listing of all meetings.

When it is absolute necessary to provide an Internet link, the full link, e.g., www.metro.net/MeetingsReJune2008Schedule/ vs. forcing people to begin a search at www.metro.net , which itself is an incredibly poorly designed and disorganized site.

I find that each cycle of changes devalues monthly passes. The most recent loss was the elimination of Metro pass usage for travel aboard Dash and LDOT buses. Instituting schedule and route changes such as eliminating line 4 buses West of Sepulveda during the day and replacing them with line 704 buses results in transporting fewer people faster. I submit that there are NO HARD FACTUAL STATISTICS supporting such changes. Neither are there facts supporting changes proposed for June 2008.

Yet, when reduced to writing, the substitution of Rapid buses appear to be an “improvement”. Placing stops as much as one mile distant from each other means that bus stops which were no more than several blocks apart now require lengthy walks in order for the prospective rider to reach a bus stop. This becomes part of the LACMTA's plan to eliminate service by improving it. Longer walks mean that the ridership will opt for other means of transportation and further the LACMTA's plan to eliminate service because ridership on the improved routes drops in a vicious cycle.

Please, stop making these cosmetic changes and study the needs of the ridership rather than ignoring these needs and responding by fiat. On a case-by-case basis Express buses may be required during the rush hour. But even then, bus stops should be serviced on a logical basis rather than by some arbitrary distance between stops.

In short, STOP charging us more and giving us less!

Bus accidents seem all to frequent, the Los Angeles Times has reported a bus crashing into a building (28 Jan. 2008, page B3) a bus striking and killing a pedestrian who was crossing a street (7 Feb. 2008, page B5). These facts coupled with my own many observations of bus drivers involved in lengthy personal cell phone conversations make me think that at least some of the accidents were caused by inattention to driving while chatting. It is so flagrant that in some cases I have the feeling that cell phone talkers also paid to drive.

I know that your agency prides itself on using technology, although often I feel that it selects technology which is too expensive and then poorly implements it, it is past time to find some method to completely eliminate cell phone conversations while a bus is in motion.

As riders, we are well aware of the LACMTA's understanding of two critical points: (1) Many, if not most, of the ridership is either unaware of public hearings or unable to attend them because of constraints imposed either/both time and venue

of the hearings and (2) That the LACMTA's funding originates from sources other than fares in a ratio of approximately 9:1, i.e., only ten percent of the LACMTA's funds comes from fares while ninety percent comes form other sources. So, the LACMTA's constituency is NOT its' ridership by others, usually as part of some structure that can be satisfied by political action, all the while considering those of us dependant on the LACMTA's services as mere pawns.

Please, effect a paradigm shift in the way you view your relationship with the people who depend on the LACMTA for daily transportation, whether that be by bus, light-rail or subway.

What follows are my comments regarding plans of June 2008 changes. Although they are directed to proposals for June 2008 in the “Metro South Bay Service Sector”, my general ideas can be easily extrapolated to other service sectors.

Line 108 cancelation east of Fox Hills Transit Center is part of the LACMTA's plan to strip Marina del Rey of bus service. the 220 bus line was drastically truncated

several cycles ago, in effect, eliminating service to LAX West, Playa del Rey and Marina del Rey. Culver City is NOT an alternative because it only offers weekday service on their line 7. The non-Metro alternatives proposed for line 108 are part of the charging us more and giving us less scheme.

Cancel Line 315 replacing it with line 715 is a another example of attempting to create a self-fulfilling prophecy as per line 704 above. Reduce service frequency on Line 115. Line 115 to Playa del Rey is only hourly now, scheduling less frequent service than that will result in long waits. I have watched time after time as full buses passed me by at Lincoln and Manchester often forcing me to pay for a Big Blue Bus ride. Again, LACMTA you are charging us more and giving us less.

Frequency realignments on routes, based upon an empirical determination of the number of potential riders during a given time-of-day period, rather than frequency reductions should be considered for Line 115.

Cancel Lines 124 and 126. In a single stroke you are eliminating some of the poor service now available to El Segundo and all of the LACMTA service to Manhattan Beach AND linkage to the Green Line.

Try walking from Sepulveda BL to El Segundo and from Sepulveda BL to Manhattan Beach. Try it in the rain! Try finding an easy way to get to the Green line from Manhattan Beach or to the Green line from points along El Segundo BL.

Promote Lines 124 and 126 –really promote them for a year with maps and posters in the local libraries, super markets, schools and etc. Use the same Marketing Department which shameless self-promoted the now historical event of being “named America's Best”. Try to actually live up to the aforementioned shameless self-promotion.

Cancel midday and weekend service on Line 439. Here is another line where service has been slowly whittled away until riders give up on it. Line 439 is the ONLY way, using the LACMTA, of connecting with buses at the Fox Hill Transit Center and provides a means of connecting with the Red Line at the Hollywood/Highland Station. Further, it provides (sometimes) a direct connection with the Green Line Aviation Station. The alternatives offered do not provide this service or provide it in an inconvenient manner at addition out-of-pocket costs.

With a mind set as demonstrated above, it takes an extremely insensitive organization to allow “America's Best” decals to be affixed to each mode of transportation offered by the LACMTA.

The LACMTA needs to drop yesterday's thinking, i.e., “we are a bus organisation” and adopt “systems thinking”, along the lines of “we are a TRANSPORTATION ORGANISATION”. The LACMTA, were it educable, could learn much from the way in which UPS has adopted systems thinking and industrial engineering methodologies in order to make its' operations streamlined and cost effective. IF such a learning task is possible then agency “planners” will start to search for ways to connect the presently disjointed parts of the whole. The agency also needs to begin “Thinking Linkage”, so that Blue Line, etc. trains arrive AFTER Green Line trains allowing for a leisurely walk from the Green Line to the Blue Line. The same is true for linking major bus lines so that transfer time is minimized.

I suggest that as Step 1, you tape over the “America's Best” decals until such time as such an appellation is earned. Then later, when you truly have earned the title, superimpose the true time frame involved, i.e., 2006-2007.

Some additional steps along the way should be:

Mutual pass acceptance between all transportation agencies operating in the Los Angeles basin;

Free distribution of “Muni Transfers” to passengers bypassed due to crowded buses;

Free distribution of “Muni Transfers” to passengers when fare boxes are out of service, as they are so frequently;

A freeze on ALL changes until they can be supported by facts, not forced on the public.

I hope that you will act favorably on my suggestions,

Best regards,

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

Taken together three articles show that, at very best, the efforts of the LACMTA to build Souther California transit, are disjointed and piecemeal lacking in any logical underpinnings. The Daily Breeze(1) covers the Crenshaw light-rail “plan”. The piece has a nice map which clearly shows that the line might be routed the cheapest way, not so as to facilitate transportation.

The Los Angeles Times(2), has a tougher headline in its' coverage of the latest LACMTA pipe dream. Praying that, I\With an if we build it where it is least expensive, maybe the PR group can sell it attitude, the LACMTA again shows that it is congenitally incapable of formulating a plan for public transportation. But they can come up with something and that is what the Crenshaw proposal amounts to –something. Then the LACMTA have the total nerve to plan public hearings so that they have “coverage” (“Well, you approved it!”) when people treat their spew as an actual well thought out plan.

A Times(3) article, include a map which I feel was made by throwing Post-It page markers at the existing Downtown transportation map and then trying to explain what the result means. I read the article completely, yet with statements like “... the MTA is to unveil potential routes that would fill in the 1.6 mile gap between Union Station and the 7th Street/Metro Center Station.” I was made slightly nauseous. I don't want to rain on their jolly parade but, Ihave some seriously bad news for the LACMTA. The 1.6 mile gap is already closed –with lots of buses: Metro, Big Blue; Torrance Transit; Montebello and DASH (free access to which is now denied to Metro passholders), LDOT Commuter Buses (free access to which is now denied to Metro passholders) and the Red/(and if you must Purple) Lines! I hope that since they took public input in the past, that it is not too late for me to say: STOP! The article also goes on: “The MTA's plan [my italics] is being greeted with praise by commuters who are tired of transferring to two or three train systems daily. Now what? The LACMTA is going to add several other transfer points? All these plans and yet there are no statistics available about potential riders. No diagrams of the points of origin of potential riders, no corresponding count of passengers headed for given destinations, by day of week, time of day NOTHING. Nothing except feelings which the politically motivated LACMTA pulls out of its' collective, er, ahh, gut. Of course the pool from which the LACMTA can draw new riders is
primarily from the universe of the car-less in Los Angeles. In some ways this is like the Green Line and the maybe Crenshaw line, either or both which might be termed an asymptote to LAX. Or a band Aid on a Samurai sword cut.

Ear to the Rail

If you like classical music as I do you have a rare opportunity to download, without charge, the British classical violinist's latest CD. Ms Tasmin Little uses a Stradivarius and a Guadanini violins –both constructed in the 1700s.

NPR's Terry Gross “Fresh Air” broadcast of 20 February 2008 presents global warming in an easy to understand manner by the author of a New Yorker article .

Cosmology Corner

It turns out that our galaxy is twice as thick as they they thought,

12,000LY (Light Years) vs 6,000LY. So, Please, plan for a longer trip ;-).

The Mole Rides Again, so that you don't have wonder what happened to the Torrance Transit number 8 bus.

This pictureshows two things: (1) That someone at the LACMTA is reading your Mole (Hi, Guys!, Did you listen to the Red Line recordings above?) and (2) If the problem is presented well and is simple enough they can understand it and fix it. Now Bay 3 is labeled Bay 3! I have described the problem of having two (2) Bay 12s and NO Bay 3 at the LAXCBC (LAX City Bus Center) several times. [See post of 2007-11-10]

There still remains the problem of Torrance Transits five (5) year old and significantly out of date schedule which is posted in two (2) places at the LAXCBC. I have covered that here in my posting, the last time being [%date] and by direct contact with Torrance Transit. Both agencies fail to understand that by having obsolete schedules posted forces people to use other means of transportation with an attendant loss of revenue. Torrance Transit number 8 is a great bus. Tourists, who have long delays between flights and others, could take the number 8 to the large Del Amo shopping center. Perhaps dealing with two problems at a time is too much for the overworked staff of both organizations. I imagine that the voice mail for both groups answer with “NO!”.

Lake Gold Line Station in Pasadena: There are two largish display devices installed and weathered, but inoperative, on either end of the platform. They are weathered. Most likely an artifact of yet another half-baked idea for which the funds have been expended with, surprise, no return on investment. These are not unlike the displays which are sprouting up on the Red/”Purple” Line platforms. Although the unused displays may be better since they don't waste electricity uselessly informing us, e.g., “... don't sit on the edge of the platform ...” . Words of wisdom from an agency who sees no need to tell people that that passive looking third rail found in each station on both sides of the platform is charged with 750 Volts at high current! And they wonder why I make fun of them for overusing 'America's Best” :-). Although it appears, that the LACMTA is trying to force fit some additional information into the UDDs (my term, Useless Display Devices). If they spend another ten (10) years they might develop something half as good as what is presently in use on the Bay Area's BART. They could have obtained an exact copy of the Bart system for much less cost, but they wanted to show the the LACMTA is different and needed something special. They are “different” and “special alright“.

Aboard a Line 232 bus: I listen to a First Transit dispatcher with the next to impossible task of attempting to explain detour instructions to drivers. With all the bragging about “seamlees integration of technology” one would think that they could display the information on the otherwise useless TransiTV. Oh, that's right –First Transit Buses don't have TransiTV. Meaning that we are deprived of hearing the same Channel 4 three minute headline summary 20 times per hour –or does it just seem so?

(1) Maddaus, Gene “Crenshaw light-rail route picked” daily Breeze 22 Feb. 2008:A3

(2) Kim, Victoria “Crenshaw: Rail line to nowhere” Los Angeles Times 23 Feb. 2008:B1

(3) DiMassa, Cara Mia “Downtown rail battle a street fight” Los Angeles Times 25 Feb. 2008:B1

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