How do you say “Maintenance” in LACMTAese?

You don't, because you don't have to, it is a concept practically unknown to them. By way of evidence, here are four pictures which prove the point.

The Vermont AV Station on the Green Line once had something planted here. Now the planter has become an “informal” litter container. The day on which your Mole planned this photo, a Metro “worker” was making a half-hearted attempted to pick up litter, well it seemed to me only litter of a square foot in size qualified. The photo above shows only approximately one fifth (1/5th) of the planter's actual size. People, and one can't necessarily blame the LACMTA for their actions, stuff their litter in the planter probably thinking that it is better than tossing it in the street. What is blamable on the LACMTA is their failure to: (1) seal up the planter once it was taken out of use; (2) provide adequate trash cans in a very busy area; and (3) performing much below standard clean up as evidence of effort expended by the “worker” described above.
This planter is nearby where Gardena Municipal Bus Lines stop signs could be seen, that is, if Gardena Municipal Bus Lines put up bus stop signs. Or perhaps, this is more of the work of the Stops and Signs Group not wanting to share their bus stop poles with Gardena.

The Blue Line/Green Line transfer point on the Blue Line level is filthy! No third world area, with equal traffic, can come close. The track area is NEVER cleaned, the dead paloma was there weeks ago when I planned this picture. Second opinion? It's real dark too. Most LACMTA stations are under-lit and gloomy. This is exactly where I would pose Snoble, the man with the princely payday, who is the head of “America's Best” LaughTrack. To find the pidegon, click on the photo above, locate the white piece of litter in the center of the lower part of the picture (to the right or the rail) and about 7 cm to the right of the white litter you will find the small mound that is what is left of the bird after all these weeks.

The West L.A. Transportation Center is notorious for three reasons: (1) it is dirty, (2) it is dark and (3) it has the lowest ratio of seating to passengers of any place that I can name. Shown above is what happens when trash cans overflow and no one empties them. Above, for your viewing pleasure is an overflowing trash can. This might be another venue at which I can take a farewell photograph of Snoble. The occasion might be his leaving the LACMTA, meaning that Speaker Nuñez was successful (Vide infra).

Meanwhile back at the LAXCBC (LAX City Bus Center) the Stops & Signs crew has been busy. They took down the five-year-old Torrance Transit Line 8 schedules and replace them with a single new schedule . They even tell us where to board that bus (Bay 3). However, it is physically posted in the kiosk that is farthest (about 75 paces) from Bay 3, we'll call it the East kiosk while Bay 8 is nearest (about 40 paces) the West kiosk. They also posted a new BCT (Beach Cities Transit) Line 109 schedule in the East kiosk (under 20 paces) but, they “forgot” to indicate where to board that bus. There is a BCT sign at their Bay 6 stop, which is nearby, but whether tourists –many tourists ride line 109— will make the association is questionable. It is typical of the LACMTA that the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing, that they have no standards (at least none that apply to this ongoing joke) nor best practices. Here we can see an excellent example of that: one posting (for Torrance Transit) is good, yet positioned far away from the bus stop; the other posting (for BCT) is near the stop, but not so near that it should have that information omitted from the kiosk posting. Pictured above, BCT gets no credit on the big sign either.

Anyway, Thanks (I guess) should go out to the Stops & Signs Group. Which group must be the most experienced at the LACMTA, because they must do everything 5 or 6 times before they get it any where near right. I believe that there motto is, or should be, “We approach success asymptotically”. Definitely Thanks! to them for providing a rich source of material for the Mole to write about :-) .

What should they have done? First, identify each panel of both of the kiosks. West-1, West-2, West-3, East-1, East-2 and East-3. Then, at Bay 3, the Torrance Transit number 8 stop, affix a small permanent sign which says see schedule posted in the West-x kiosk. At Bay 3, the BCT number 8 stop, affix another small permanent sign which says see schedule posted in the East-x kiosk. And of course, add the notation “Board bus at Bay 6” to the BCT schedule. That was easy!

Ample proof that the LACMTA is a reactive organisation is shown above. A reactive organisation waits until something happens then reacts. A proactive organisation is continually in a self-monitoring mode and makes provision for feedback from its various processes. It takes action in advance where possible or in a timely manner otherwise.
How would a proactive organization deal with say, the planter cum trash bin situation detailed above. It would cover the planter with plywood, paint it a neutral colour and bolt the grille work to it. To see how the LACMTA, a worst-case reactive organisation handles things, review any of the photos in this post.

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

Contrary to what su Topo believed, not all Canadians are law-abiding. In Vancouver, one might be tasered for skipping the payment portion of your ride(1).
In VIENNA, Austria(2) officials hope to limit cell phone use on public transit. Such programs are already in use in France, Germany, Denmark and Finland.

The Los Angeles Times documents(3) the problems uncounted when a subway train must be evacuated, as happened in Chicago. These people could likely hear and understand the announcements on the CTA's Orange line. Too bad we can't say the same for our own Red/Purple Line(s).

Happy 80th birthday to the Big Blue Bus!(4) You know the one, that no longer gives transfers and tries to squeeze every dime out of its riders.

Happy 80th birthday to the Culver City bus, pictured above! You know the one, they still give us transfers – Bravo!! I hope I look as good IF I ever reach 80 :-) .

According to the Times(5) Snoble's performance has been placed directly in the spotlight by Assembly speaker I understand Nuñez. I understand that the main complaint is that Snoble was not able to obtain enough funding “... for projects aimed at improving the flow of goods through ports and along highways and rail lines.”

The MOle rarely supports Snoble and he is not sure what follows constitutes support. However, the Job too big for him, it is too big for any person. Mole wrote earlier about splitting the job(s) (2007-11-10) along the lines of mass transit and freeways. Perhaps it should be split into three: mass transit; freeways; and ports.

The way things are currently organized the competition for funds must be resolved by one man. Monies spent for freeway projects, my favorite is free towing for motorists –I wonder how many Metro passenger fares it take to provide a single tow? --are not available for mass transit. While monies wasted on foolish projects, think Expo line, are not available to add an off-ramp or three.

Say something, say anything. Zev Yaroslavsky, according to the Los Angeles Times(6), in discussing building more high rises, “says density is not the answer”. The father of the Orange Crash er, Line. Using the Times figure of 62% renters, many of whom should be prospects for affordable housing AND mass transit are now potentially being deprived of both.

The Argonaut(7) provides an interesting piece. Yet to me it was inaccurate in that the headline says “to LAX” yet the article details the fact that the extension would really be only to Parking Lot C! Then a record is set in trying to find phrases which bend away from that truth, like: “close to the airport”, “nexus to the airport” and etc. Where in cities like Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco run their lines (are you ready for this?) RIGHT into their airports, here we have to be satisfied for a decade by decade asymptotic approach. What are the qualities that transportation planners have that are so lacking in our fair city (Thanks to “Click and Clack” on NPR)? Is it?: (A) brains; (B)Drive; ( C) Creativity; (D) All of the Above.

The Argonaut(8) reports that Santa Monica College staff and students can ride any line of the Big Blue Bus at any time, free. In this case “free” means that the college will pay “ ... $1.2 million in 2008-2009 ...”. So if you had the feeling that Big Blue had a soft heart, think again. The first sign of heart hardening toward its' passengers was when they discontinued intra line transfers and started charging for each ride or forcing riders to purchase a day pass. All that new construction of the Broadway facilities must cost money. One would think that they would locate their “bus yard” in an area that had less value as commercial property. More and more, the Big Blue Bus seems to be emulating the attitude of the LACMTA perhaps it is time for a management change there too.

Ear to the Rail

Included at the end of this section is a link to an mp3 file from the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Australia. It is about our economy. It requires careful listening. Please give it, at least, a try as it should do you no harm. Just a few words to prep you. Mark Thirlwell, is the director of the International Economy Program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, Australia. This brilliant man uses a few German words: schadenfreude [SHAW-den-froy-duh], which means taking joy in the misfortunes of others; and zietgiest which means spirit of the time. His presentation entitled, “The new, new global economy”, will likely take more than one hearing in order to extract near the full meaning. He talks about CDO (Collateralised Debt Obligations), one example would be the way in which sub-prime (people with less than great credit) real estate loans were handled. These loans were sorted by strength and then “packaged “for sale in tranches (batches) the tranches named, e.g., Super Senior (best of the lot), Senior (next best), Mezzanine (next best) and then Investment (worst). The risk increases as we go down this tranche ladder while the return increases –highest risk yields the highest return. What happened was that the ability for people to make payments was overestimated so the default rate was greater than expected. These things (CDOs) are part of the group of investments called derivatives because they derive their value from something else, in this case the mortgage contracts.

He also talks about basis points –to understand a basis point , let's let $100 represent 100%, then $1 is equal to 1%. One dollar is 100 cents, each penny can be thought of as a basis point. Of course a basis point is NOT money, it is a fraction of one percent, specifically, one one hundredth of a percent. A basis point can be expressed in the form of a decimal fraction as .0001. One percent as a decimal fraction is .01, multiply .01 by .001 and the product is .0001. Ten basis point is one tenth of a percent (.001), twenty five basis point is one fourth of a percent (.0025) etc. Now when they say that the Fed (Federal Reserve Board) has reduced interest by fifty basis point we can know that they mean one half of one percent (.005). We only need the decimal fraction when a computation must be performed. As an example, if su Topo were to loan you $10 overnight (good luck on that) and charge you 75 basis points interest, he would be charging you 10 times .0075 or 7.5 cents (.075). See also, http://glossary.reuters.com/index.php/Basis_points

I talked (wrote) way more about CDOs than Mark does so don't let my writing turn you off :-) .

I simply wanted you to see what kind of convolutions people will go through to make money or hedge risk. Big irreparable damage has been done to great companies like Bear Sterns which ended up being sold at a 90%+ discount from its' stock price of just a few months ago. Big damage has also been done to our economy so, I believe, that we should make an attempt to understand the mechanism, at least to the extent that we can run away quickly if anyone proposes selling us “investments” like these. Mark has lots interesting things to say which don't require paragraphs to explain.

Cosmological corner

To see how really alone we are in the universe, take a look at this picture of the “Sunflower Galaxy”.

When galaxies collide, see:

You will have to copy the above link and paste it into your browser's URL space. The URL which I have posted but this appears to be another BlogSpot bug. There is no direct reporting to them and I don't have time to search for a fix. Better still view the ...ap080417... page then change the 17 to 20 and voila!

Our own Milky Way galaxy will one day, in several billion years, unite with Andromeda. Follow this link for more detail – http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/astronomy/galaxy_collides_020507-1.html

The Mole Rides Again, so that you don't have to, but can still read about familial sweetness§

§It is morning and big sister(10?) is reviewing little brother's(6?7??) homework. His worksheets have illustrations of toys with price tags, 9¢, 11¢ ... and etc. Next to them are illustrations of various denominations of coins. He must indicate the amount required to purchase the toy by circling coins with the proper value. She demonstrates patience, is not at all condescending and, in my opinion, love.

§Across the aisle seated on the longitudinal seats is a family of four. Mother with an infant in her arms, another big sister (8 or 9) and another little brother (5 or 6). The children speak quietly and are well mannered. The older children are returning from school. Little brother, emulating his mother, kisses the infant's head. I wish I could take a picture and show it to you here, but of course, I can't.

§Waiting with me at a bus stop are two women, one of them the mother of a little girl of perhaps 4, who has a Hello Kitty bag. They board their bus, the mother holding the girl's hand gently, no shouting to hurry up or jerking the child's arm. I have seen more than enough of that kind of behaviour on buses and other places, too. No one would question that this mother cherishes her daughter.

The woman seated directly ahead of me causes me to give up trying to read. She is on her cell with a girlfriend and is describing a date. He showed up in a T-shirt and camouflage, drinking a Coke and eating a candy bar. He didn't open any doors for me.” There was also some doubt about the ownership of “his” company. Maybe his father or another relative owned it and then again, maybe it was owned by someone not related to the family. “He wanted to go out again and I said, give me a call”.

The Oriental woman seated to my right and a row ahead is solving Sudoku which means “big waste of time”, occasionally she will take a break from this effort and start scratching or picking at the left side of her face, the exact mode and area was concealed by her hair. The she would rub her fingers together and shake her hand in order to dislodge the accumulation of her work and sent it to the bus floor.

It is April 4th and I am riding a 333 bus, number 6498. The driver, (number 29618), a rotund woman is busy on her cell phone and attempting to devote some of her time to driving. She is having a very civil discussion with her cell phone service provider about –guess what?, right! billing. It is cold outside, below 65°, yet she has the air conditioner turned on. She is not wearing a seat belt, as a result of seeing this you Mole's imagination immediately kicks in –picturing her being ejected (as happened to a male driver not so long ago) through the windshield and as she leaves turning the steering wheel sharply to the right resulting in the bus rolling over and into the path of a fuel truck which is being tailgated by a liquid nitrogen hauler. I only hope that someone captured it on film so that the next D1e Hord film can save a fortune on special effects and stunts.

I'm waiting for a 704 line bus on the north-west corner of Santa Monica Bl and Sepulveda. The frequency of service, posted on the post which also has bus stop sign, claims that a bus will show up approximately every 14 minutes. In fact, I wait about 45 minutes and no bus! Well, one “Out of Service” 704 passes us but I don't count that one. I am sure that the LACMTA does.
Finally, bus number 7101 arrives and it is PACKED. SRO!! This validates my thinking that either some buses were skipped today or were never scheduled in the first place –there is no 704 schedule in the rack so I couldn't check. I smile thinking this is how they get around my “moving fewer people faster in mostly empty buses” comment about Rapid service, just run fewer buses.

In the same period four (4) Big Blue Buses stopped here. Actually, there were only three, the fourth was right behind number our bus number 7101 and stopped at the same time.

Seated across from me, a guy peddles his hard luck story to a young woman who listens politely. He just told the driver that he only had a quarter and got a ride. Sad story –he just spent his last quarter. He traveled from Seattle to Mexico, then reached L.A. about the time his money ran out. The young lady resisted urge to hand over money through the ride. He got off at Santa Monica Bl and asked the driver for an inter-agency transfer so that he could ride to Santa Monica. I don’t think that he got one.

Driver number 73332 is a large woman. She, like other drivers whom your Mole has seen, believes that wearing her seat belt –making the assumption that she could wear it— is optional. She is using her hands free cell phone. This leaves her hands free to gesticulate, both of them at times leave the steering wheel for periods longer than I like. And she is a non-stop talker. “ ... Destiny was told not to wash the dishes ...”, “ ... Jay didn't cut the grass ... “ and on and on. When bus drivers carry on lengthy, obviously personal, high-volume cell phone conversations, as Jack McCoy would say, “... there is no expectation of privacy ...”.

Fare Box Score Box

Rides .......................................24*
Out of Order Fare Boxes .......0??
Ratio ...................................0:24

Your Mole thinks that they don't put buses with out of order fare boxes on lines that he rides?? Because, the problem has gone on for YEARS and it is impossible for them to fix it in a month, if ever.

*Includes several trips on the Big Blue Bus and Culver City MBL.

(1) MICKLEBURGH, ROD “Vancouver transit riders tasered for not paying fares” Globe and Mail (Toronto)16 Apr 2008:na

(2) KOLE, WILLIAM J. “Crackdown on cell phones on public transit ignites debate” Associated Press 17 Apr 2008:na

(3)Velasquez, Phil (AP photographer) “Late For Work” Los Angeles Times 16 Apr 2008:A10

(4) Photo-na, Caption-na “A Big Day” Los Angeles Times 14 Apr 2008:B3

(5) McGreevy, Patrick, Steve “Nuñez wants MTA chief ousted” Los Angeles Times 11 Apr 2008:B3

(6) Haefele, Mark B. “The underdeveloper” Los Angeles Times 6 Apr 2008:M1

(7) Walker, Gary “Advocates of light rail extension to LAX push to get Green Line back on track” Argonaut 10 Apr 2008:7

(8) na “Students and staff to ride free on Big Blue Bus “Any Line, Any Time” Argonaut 17 Apr. 2008:25

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