¡Unfulfilled Promises!

Waste? Fraud?? Abuse???
It started with a full page advertisement in Hoy(1). The page was titled “Las verdades sobre Expo” [The truth about Expo]. The page went on to list six “Reclamo falso” [false claim], but su Topo could argue that it should have been “Reclamos falsos” –however, you can read about the so-called “false claims” in both English and Spanish and make your own linguistic judgments by visiting http://www.buildexpo.org/. The web site makes no statement about exactly who, if anyone, is responsible for making the claims. So this could be some kind of ploy to get out the story which is most favourable to the Expo Line, which line your Mole has opposed since its’ inception.

I first looked at those behind the web site, which site is structured to create the impression that it is the work of an interested group of citizens, or people concerned with ensuring that the Expo Line is built. The web site's registered "Administrative organization" is (surprise) the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Aut (Authority is truncated to Aut due to lack of space in the registration database). The administrative contact is Mr. Joe S. [your Mole declines to provide a full name] who has an e-mail address at Metro.net.

Visiting the BuildExpo site, one can see the heading “PHASE 1 REAL FACTS” on the right side of the page, inputting a left mouse click to the “click here” hot spot produces an on-screen pdf which shows, essentially, the contents of the Hoy ad with English added. It also includes a pre-paid mailer that can be printed out and by using it, you can send a letter of support to the project. It does not include a provision to vote against the project, but I suppose that you could write that in, if you do write, su Topo asks that you not send them any naughty words.

The mailer is pre-addressed to an Overland Avenue address, not exactly in Expo Line country and definitely NOT an LACMTA address. The Mole dug deeper and found that the web site is hosted in Orlando, FL!

It seems like a lot of effort is expended in order to disassociate this gambit from the LACMTA. A Spanish language ad in a Spanish language newspaper; a web site not hosted by the LACMTA, yet registered to it – making the LACMTA the owner; web hosting in Florida; a reply mailer with an address in West Los Angeles; all attempts to disassociate this “work” from Mr. Snoble’s organization. The attempts, however bungled, to distance Metro and BuildExpo.org, smell bad, real bad!

Why not?:
Host the web site on Metro computers, of which they have many and many of which are likely operating at less than full capacity? A Datamation article says that “… servers can average between 10 percent and 25 percent of capacity.” See: http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/erp/article.php/3417611 . There is no reason to believe that the LACMTA servers are administered more efficiently than those use in a typical business organization. In fact, the opposite is likely true.

Have mail come to Metro rather than disguise the mailing address and place the comments of the potential ridership in the hands of a third party?

And Why spend money that the LACMTA doesn’t have in attempting to “sell” a project that has NEVER been justified, proven to be needed by a temporary emulative bus line nor in ANY WAY, other than gut feel, shown to be economically feasible.

Answer these real or imaginary questions with hard statistics about how the ridership counts were developed and exactly, why, we need this money-pit, er, I mean line.

The "planned" route for the Expo Line causes needless initial costs as well. The line is "planned" to parallel the Blue Line from Metro Centre at 7th and Figureoua, Pico Station and Grand Station. A rational approach would be to eliminate the costly infrastructure that may be required in the parallel tracking and launch the line from Grand Station. This means that riders would have to ride the Blue Line for a few stations and transfer at Grand to the Expo Line. This would speed construction and man that the build out could occur faster and stations, if proper planning is done could be placed in operation one at a time. The sooner this thing is done the more quickly everyone will see what a tremendous waste of resources this is.

La Taupe believes firmly in the following quote and its’ special applicability to the LACMTA, “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity”.

The Mole is not really sure whether waste, fraud and abuse is involved here, but, in this case, an investigation is in order, because it appears that those $1.25 fares we pay for each bus or single COLOR train ride are being spent to propagandize us. Worse yet, Federal, State and Local tax monies are being spent in the same manner.

So, let’s have outside auditors and the appropriate Federal and State agency forensic accountants take a look at this mess and make a determination as to whether legal charges should be filed. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Agency is long overdue for a thorough housecleaning. Once again, Su Topo calls for Snoble’s resignation, because there is the definite appearance of impropriety here.

Further, the Mole’s exhaustive search of the Internet (including Metro.net) has failed to turn up the most elemental accounting documents, pro-forma balance sheet, profit and loss statement, project accountings and on and on … ad infinitum. Vis-à-vis the LACMTA, transparency doesn’t exist. This is simply another example of facts being hidden from the public at large. Your Mole is especially interested in Mr. Snoble’s expenses, perquisites and special outside assistant costs, e.g., his own, expensive PR guy.

At the same time, su Topo asks that on 4 November, you vote AGAINST any further sales taxes being levied which involve more money accruing for disbursement according to the the current LACMTA management with their “drunken sailor” approach to financial matters.

Here are a few more items that prove that the management structure is incapable of taking care of business in an organized orderly mode.

In my posting of 2006-12-16, I described the SW corner of Sepulveda and Manchester as (to the best of my knowledge) L.A.’s dirtiest bus stop. The cleaned it up for a while, but then somebody at the Taj Mahal took a coffee break and wasn’t retrained, so it is back to being the dirtiest again, as you can see by the picture above.

I believe that there is a technical standard for the height of bus stop signs, but the one located on the NW corner of Sepulveda and Manchester is positioned to smash anyone who is taller than six feet right in the face.

Your Mole has taken his time, computer and the Gnu Gimp2 software to show the LACMTA’s “Stops and Signs Group” how to consolidate signage and reduce signage footprints and not put up things for people to run into. You can see how they actually did it by checking out my posting of 2008-07-29. Regarding my re-design, “That was Easy”! Of, course there are other ways to accomplish the same thing but I will leave the actual fixes to the fertile brains of the group.

On 2006-04-29, I provided a detailed description of the money wasting loopy 232 route around Mariposa, Nash, Grand and Sepulveda streets in El Segundo. The very same 232 line no longer has Nash as,a one-way street, barrier to removing the loop in the route as it adds to wear and tear on vehicles, tires, driver time. This one-way street “barrier ”was removed in late June 2008 –that’s right Stops and Routes guys, two months ago! :-( ). Now just about two months later, nothing has been done to rationalize the route. What should be done?

The North bound 232 should make a right turn at Grand and stop, possibly in the Oracle building white curb area, then proceed East with a stop across the street from the one made on Grand by the South bound 232, that stop, by the way, already exists. Then the route would continue East to Nash, make a left turn onto Nash from Grand and stop across the street from the Mariposa Green Line Station, likely the stop would be on Mariposa, after turning left (West) onto Mariposa. The 232 would make another stop on Continental across the street from the stop made by the Southbound 233. The route continues West and makes a right turn onto Sepulveda and continues on the old Northbound route.

It is also a good idea to add ASA (Automatic Stop Announcements) on the route and adding the transfer point announcements where appropriate, you know, just as one would expect an agency that continues to call itself “America's Best” almost a year after the “award” expired.

Now all together Stops and Routes guys: “That was easy!”. Oh, and thank you Mr. Mole, and WOW are we tired!

We can't leave our brief discussion of ASA without commenting on how the system is being patched with various amateur's voices rather than having the fixes done by professionals.

Running Empty

I finally had an opportunity to ride the new Rapid 715 Line. The driver was less than exact about stopping properly at the curb. He stopped mid-street at the LAXCBC (LAX City Bus Center) and at my destination he was at close to two (2) metres away from the curb. The bus had only two passengers aboard, you can see one of them in the front on the right hand side, in the photo above and La Taupe was behind the camera. The lack of meaningful financial and operation data means that I will have to delay a discussion of the economics of the 715 route, per mile cost, and etc.

A transportation report(2) says: “In to growing traffic congestion and passenger demands for more reliable service, many [emphasis added] transit operators are seeking to improve bus operations by investing in automatic vehicle location (AVL) technology. In addition, automatic passenger counters (APCs), which can collect passenger-activity data compatible with AVL operating data, are beginning to reach the mainstream.”(3)

Although the report was originally produced in 2003 and updated in 2006, the many cited above does not apparently apply to the LACMTA, since even though they may have ASA and by extension AVL, but NOT APC, leaving that bit of data gathering to the softest of software, the drivers.

The task of improving operations, which our LACMTA is likely to assign to route supervisors, preferring a subjective, rather than a scientific approach, with an expected poor outcome predictable.

Whether the software product, “HASTUS 5” can aid in establishing a better scheduling or not or is even a product which is/can be supported by the LACMTA, they paid for some Hastus product with the following: (i) Check number: 12399 Date: 04/30/[20]04 Check Amount: 33,453.00 002123 Payee: GIRO, INC. Code: 1197 HASTUS ROSTER MODULE $31,370.00 Code: 1198 ANNUAL FEE ADJUSTMNT $2,083.00

AND awarded a firm fixed, price contract, Contract No. PS9240-1667 to Giro, Inc. for the implementation of the HASTUS (Horaires et Assignations pour Systeme de transport Urbain et Semi-urbain) [ Schedules and Assignments for Transport system[s] Urban and Suburban, translation provided by La Taupe, making him wonder if the LACMTA really knows what it bought?] system, Version 2005, in the amount of $352,190 (ii) effective June 1, 2005. That, my friends, amounts to 281,752 full fares at $1.25 each).

Su Topo also wonders if the software has the functionality to analyze and call a halt to wasteful lines like the 715? If the software does incorporate such a capability, can the inept LACMTA actually use it?

Both (i) and (ii) above were sourced from various LACMTA Operations Committee Meeting agendda.

On board a 232 bus number 11021, the driver, a First Transit employee number 71926, admonishes a passenger “... next time signal in advance of the stop ... !”. This, in spite of the fact that there is no ASA (Automatic Stop Announcement) on board, nor did the operator announce ANY stops while I was aboard. Caveat meator!

Perhaps the First Transit contract lines were not considered part of the award although they do display the “America's Best” decal however false and parachronistic its' advertizing might be. This gives plausible deniability to the LACMTA due to the contractual relationship with First Transit.

The continuing saga of the Plaza El Segundo bus stop: Regarding the long history of the Hughes Way bus stop at Sepulveda, I have included some high points in the history of the area (points 1 and 2 below, are sourced from the internet):

Site Rezoning and the proposed Plaza El Segundo Development (“Original Project”) were approved and the EIR was certified by the City of El Segundo on February 15, 2005 ...

Since opening in late 2006, Plaza El Segundo has become one of the South Bay's primary retail locations.

Initial requests for the stops, originated in late 2007.

Yet to date, in spite of the relative mechanical simplicity of installing a bus stop, signalized "Ped Heads" (pedestrian controlled crossing lights), painted cross walks and etc., there is NO APPARENT ACTIVITY on the part of the LACMTA.

The total period spans OVER THREE YEARS, yet the LACMTA did not recognize the need in 2005 nor in 2006, and failed to plan accordingly and in spite of boastfully displaying "America's Best" on their buses, does not seem to have a current plan to serve the public in this area.
What a stone wall one faces when dealing with the LACMTA!

Some have found that they could not reproduce the Mole's problems with the Metro.net "tripped out planner". Please try this. From: Hollywood Bowl, To: Hollywood BL/Highland AV Day: Tuesday Time 10:30 pm. Click on "Plan My Trip". Click Continue on the screen which verifies the origin and destination. The system will then just hang! I believe that since other are supporting BuildExpo.org, that the highly paid IT staff at the LACMTA should be able to patch up this error, variations of which I have been reporting for years!

Because of all the details above and many other reasons, I propose a corporate song <http://filebin.ca/kbnvom > for the LACMTA and dedicate its’ first playing to Mr. Roger Snoble.

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

A program is never debugged. This IT mantra was sufficiently proved true by a New York Times article(2). The NYC MTA apparently performed insufficient system testing on its’ ticket vending machines, I wonder what the LACMTA did in the way of testing their equipment?

The Daily Breeze discusses the [4] November ballot measures(4). “Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors is trying to place a half-percent sales-tax increase requested by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on the ballot”. The total taxable sales for Los Angeles County is estimated(5), based upon 2006 levels, to be ($136.16 billion) which would return $ 680,800,000 ($680.8 million) as a result of the .005 (half of one percent tax increase). Of course, today’s economy is not that great, so the amount will probably be less. The Mole suggests (Vide Supra) a vote AGAINST providing these additional to the profligate agency. Let the LACNTA cut costs and become more efficient and effective. N.B. Efficient is doing the thing right and effective means doing the right thing.

Nothing is Free
The full cost to place the sales tax measure on the ballot(4), with Californias already carrying a tax burden which is the sixth highest in the nation, is $11.4 million(6) In terms of $1.25 basic fares, the $11,400,000 amount translates to 9,913,043 riders! Or according to the best estimate of the Metro's ridership which the Mole could dig up, "providing more than 30 million annual passenger trips"(7), one third of a full year's worth of basic fares is being BLOWN, on attempting to squeeze more dollars from the taxpayers. The FY09 budget allocated $3 million for this effort. Therefore an amendment to add $8.4 million to the FY09 budget is necessary to cover these costs. Su Topo thinks that they should try to run the agency, not separate the citizenry and their money!

Our profligate LACMTA also received $16.1 million(8), or almost 93% of a total funding package of $17.4 million allocated by the Governor's Office of Homeland Security for distribution to transit agencies in Los Angeles County. I can hardly wait to find out how Metro wastes this "ingreso no derivado del trabajo" (unearned income). Perhaps more stupid brochures like ”How to identify a suspicious Package”, will be designed and printed by the agency which confuses printing things with actually doing something (See: posting of 2008-07-29). The Big Blue Bus got just slightly more than 2.5% of the funding package.

Ear to the Rail

Better health for all of us, IF the FDA regulates cigarettes.

Cosmological corner

Steve Hawking discusses space warping, time travel and alternative histories in an understandable manner along with some nice illustrations at http://www.hawking.org.uk/pdf/warp.pdf

The Mole Rides Again, so that you can read about what nice transportation those who live in the Bay Area have

Tourists at the LAXCBC (LAX City Bus Center) that try to find a route by using the list of buses posted on the south side of the east most kiosk--which is all that is available from Mr. Snoble's organisition , are in about the same position as one who tries to tell time using the bill of materials for a watch.

Operator number 29239 on a 439 route, gave me a rough jerky ride which fact coupled with a woman who made a never-ending cell call meant that I was only able to read a few pages on the one-hour trip to Union Station.

My last long distance trip on Greyhound was several years ago. In the intervening time period I have heard about the “new Greyhound” and since MegaBus ceased service to/from Los Angeles, Greyhound was my only option for bus service to San Francisco.

I purchased my ticket well in advance and showed up at the Hollywood station several hours before the scheduled departure. Of course, the Express bus was running late and it was close to one hour after scheduled departure when the bus arrived and I joined the boarding queue. That is when the problem began, there was no attempt to enforce boarding order or even make announcements that people should form a line in boarding order. As a result of this fact and the fact that the bus had allowed people holding tickets for later departures to board at the Los Angeles station, your Mole along with three young ladies from England were left behind. Su Topo had boarding number 1, while the English women held boarding numbers 3, 4 and 5.

Then the trip from hell started in earnest – the next bus, which also arrived late, required us to wait for more than two hours. Finally on board, the bus which was supposed to be a “kind of express”, became a “kind of a local bus” as the clock moved to afternoon rush hour and the driver announced that we would have to make an unscheduled stop in San Fernando to pickup passengers whose bus had broken down.

A Latina with two young children was part of the stranded group and took the two empty seats ahead of me. It was then that we discovered that the seat back was broken and kept falling back and striking my knees. They were quiet, polite and she and her children did everything they could to avoid the unavoidable but I was destined to travel uncomfortably for over eight hours and arrive in San Francisco close to midnight.

To make matters worse on this hot day the air conditioning was operating at less than full efficiency, so no cold air emanated from the overhead outlets. Making matters worse, once it got dark, we found that neither overhead light, mine nor the passenger’s next to me, worked –in fact, the light bulbs were missing.

I was able to take some pictures in San Francisco which document a real transportation system.

The picture above shows a smooth riding and environmentally friendly bus powered by overhead electricity.

San Francisco also uses articulated buses as we do in Los Angeles.

Above, this view down Market Street toward the Ferry Building shows both types of buses in a single picture.

Ever attentive to detail, su Topo shows how things are removed in San Francisco, cut off flush with the sidewalk and filled in. Los Angeles Street Maintenance take note, it might be well for the City of El Segundo to pay attention to this photo too.

Above is a view of the old-style tracked street car. Updated, this is what is planned for the “Expo Line” in Los Angeles. It works in San Francisco because of the city’s long history in sharing the streets with “trolleys” AND because these things go where people want to go. In Los Angeles, the “Expo Line” is not supported by a needs study or much of anything else –other than it is somebody’s pet project (Vide Supra).

Always fun, albeit sparsely loaded some evenings, the higher fares for these cable cars are willingly paid by tourists.

The Bart signage tells you how long one must wait for the next train. The car count lets you know where to wait on the platform. In Los Angeles, the old signage showed only date and a few elevator outage notices while the new signage is devoted to asking us to keep the system clean and/or other “information” most passengers don’t need and keeps info we do need secret!

Another Bart sign showing accurate arrival information AND the stations are not dark and gloomy like the ones on the Red and Purple Lines.

Oh, they do show us the time as well .

When one pays the fare from "A" to, say “X”, and travels beyond “X”, these machines allow the addition of fare so that you will be able to exit the station. Your ticket must have recorded the correct fare from you point of origin to your destination in order to exit.

Transfer discount tickets are self-issued by passengers for use on “Muni” buses and trains (sorry, not on cable cars). They provide for transferring to the "Muni" at a reduced rate which is paid as you board the Muni conveyance.

Passengers insert their Bart tickets into a slot in the gate in order to exit. The machines read magnetically encoded origin data and compare the fare amount encoded for this destination, if it is correct the small gates open and allow one to exit otherwise a fare adjustment must be made. Note the lighted green arrows which shows that the gate is in operation.

System entry is also controlled, here the “bar” symbol shows that the gate is not in operation for entry, the green arrow shows entry gates. The gates allow for dual use, so one might find green arrows on the opposite side of the “bars” so that people can exit from Bart or enter Bart using the same set of gates. Flow control, usually has more entry gates in operation evenings and more exit gates in operation mornings, as people go to work or return home. This was a morning picture so that more people were likely exiting the station than entering it.

I can just see the "planners" at the LACMTA shaking their heads and exclaiming: “This is impossible!, It's giving me a headache”. The technology to do this is quite old, it was in use in Japan over twenty years ago. I just know that the LACMTA will come up with something that, like the bus fare boxes, only works “sometimes”. You read it first here. Like the Bart signage, which the LACMTA could have copied, but no, they went with basically a date/time scroll and changed to something that shows more stuff, none of it very useful. And at some installations, the Lake Street Gold Line Station comes to mind, with the new displays (See: 2007-09-15 posting) during daylight hours, the useless information is practically invisible.

This is another reason for audits and head rolling at the agency. Audits to determine who makes them and WHY such consistently BAD decisions are made, all when excellent examples with a very good track record are found just 400 miles north of us. When the culprits are identified, let the heads roll. Perhaps this would be the opportune time to say “Bye-Bye” to Roger. For a copy Speaker Fabian Nuñez letter calling for Mr. Snoble’s resignation see http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/newsline/releases/20080410ad46pr01.htm

Unfortunately, returning on Greyhound was not much fun either, a nearby passenger apparently felt that bathing was optional. Although, we did have a Greyhound security employee aboard –La Taupe felt that this was due to the recent decapitation of a Greyhound passenger in Canada.
Our arrival in Hollywood was coincident with a security problem at 7th and Metro which stopped, then single tracked trains ensuring that I would arrive home late and exhausted. Next trip? Maybe via JetBlue or Southwest, but NOT Greyhound.

Fare Box Score Box
The number of Rides will no longer be reported.

Out of Service (OOS) Fare Boxes = 5, 2008-08-19 #6414,

The Ratio of out of order fare boxes will no longer be reported. Instead, the total number of OOS fare boxes and where available, the date and bus number with the OOS Fare Box will be reported.


(1) N/A “¡Las Verdades Sobre Expo!” Hoy Los Angeles 15 De Agosto 2008:19

(2) Neuman, William “M.T.A. Vending Glitch Let Hundreds Get Free Rail Tickets Since 2001” 12 August 2008 Web: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/13/nyregion/13scam.html?_r=1&ref=nyregion&oref=slogin

(3) Furth, Peter G., Et. Al. “TCRP REPORT 113: Using Archived AVL-APC Data to Improve Transit Performance and Management”
2003 updated 2006 Web: http://www.trb.org/

(4) Anderson, Troy “Voters face measures costing billions” Daily Breeze 17 Aug. 2008:A7

(5) “Taxable sales in Los Angeles County by Type of Business, 2006” California State Board of Equalization

(6) N/A “LACMTA Board Meeting 24 July 2008 Re: Sales Tax Measure” 24 July 2008 Web: http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2008/07_July/20080724RBMItem36Rev.pdf

(7) N/A ,"Transit News" American Public Transportation Association 11 Oct. 2006 Web:

(8) N/A, "Big Blue Bus Receives Homeland Security Funds" Santa Monica Mirror 24 July 2008:7

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