The work of three men? Well, four if you count Shemp.

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

Portfolio, in a brief article(1) discusses the possibility of constructing a maglev (magnetic levitation) train, partly financed by Disney, between Anaheim and Las Vegas. The total cost of an environmental impact report (EIR) will be $45 million or $162.910 per mile for the 268 mile route. Contrast that with the cost of the EIR for the red line extension, the so called “subway to the sea” which I reported on earlier (2009-01-31). Here, given a 12.5 mile route and a total cost of $17.2 million, the per mile cost of the EIR is $1,376,000 or eight (8) times the cost of the Las Vegas plan. Wow, someone is getting rich on this! Especially when one considers that the EIR was already done once. So the prudent man or woman would expect that the cost to refresh the existing report would be a lot less!!

The Atlantic (on-line)(2) discusses a light rail project in Charlotte, NC which is being favorably received by those who have seen it.

There is an excellent article in the January/February 2009 issue of Mother Jones. From the lengthy piece I quote a single paragraph about studential costs. “Profiteering off students is not just an obscenity; it ultimately weakens the economy. The abuses at Sallie Mae and other student lenders deserve exposure via congressional hearings. Then perhaps lawmakers will find the spine to make the rules fairer. Indenturing the brightest young minds in an information society is the equivalent of eating your seed corn in an agrarian one. In the long run, you're doomed.”

Patrick Smith writes the “Ask the pilot” column for salon.com. In a recent edition(4), speaking about airlines, but equally applicable to other forms of transportation, he says: We fail at aesthetics, we fail at amenities, and we fail at the relatively simple task of moving people efficiently from A to B”.

The Times, never critical of one of their advertisers, the LACMTA, carries a piece(5) out of which the facts can be “teased”. Here is a quote from Richard Thorpe chief executive of construction for the bad idea which the LACMTA calls the “Expo Line”. “We’re supposed to open in another year, and until today we didn’t know what we were building.” The approval in the headline resulted from a four to one vote by the Public Utilities Commission. Commissioner Timothy Simon, who cast the lone dissenting vote, wanted a detailed safety plan from the Expo Line officials, for the route crossing at Foshay Learning Center (3751 South Harvard Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90018). There is an appeals process and su Topo can only hope that this waste of taxpayer monies will be brought to a halt and the dug up portions filled in.

Too, the state of the economy could bring this transportation plan by politicians to a screeching halt.

Your Mole has always thought that a true proof of concept would take the form of rapid buses, running on the planned route and only stopping at the points where stations are planned, and that such a proof was not only necessary, but logical to the point of irrefutability.

Although the Expo Line if far from being finished the Argonaut dreams(6) about an extra station for Santa Monica in Phase Two of this gormless plan.

The web site at: http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/transportation.html begins with “Transportation is the backbone of smart growth. The structure of the transportation network is the skeleton which supports smart growth or sprawling development. Learn about the problem, and potential solutions, below …”. I eventually linked to an article by Henry Cisneros(7), the former HUD Director, which I found interesting.

Ear to the Rail

Here is a fun video about a 460 Line bus from YouTube, along with a running commentary. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFjIGRXnuF0

Which commentary demonstrates that contacting the LACMTA is NOT the way to go. Nice job, AyeCarrumba, for documenting this waste of fuel and impact on our atmosphere! N.B. This video is over a year old, BUT, su Topo has recently seen other drivers running in idle for long periods. All contrary to the LACMTA's "Rule 2-15"!

Cosmological Corner

With an estimated 100 BILLION Earth-like planets in our galaxy, we are definitely NOT alone. See this BBC report at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7891132.stm

The Mole Rides Again so that you don't have to wonder why you must wait for an hour when the schedule says otherwise

It is Sunday, 22 February and I am on a street-corner waiting for an 111 bus. The schedule (after six page downs) http://www.metro.net/riding_metro/bus_overview/images/111.pdf , shows that the bus should leave Florence and Crenshaw at 7:10 A. M.

I am positioned at my stop –which is after the Florence and Crenshaw time point— well before that time. I wait and wait. Finally, at past 8:00 AM a bus, which I suspect is the bus that leaves Florence and Crenshaw at 7:50, shows up.

As I wait I think about what an exceedingly poor job the LACMTA does in the area of scheduling. Some time ago I wrote about their “solution” to the problem, viz., hiring TEN more supervisors (2008-11-29).

Your Mole takes the position that they should work smarter, not harder. One example would be to use the data which are available on actual travel times from the expensive and under utilized on-board GPS hardware/software can provide.

A review of the literature finds that such applications have already been piloted, some as long ago as six years

Now, reading about such systems is more difficult than reading fiction by Steven King, therefore Snoble will have trouble finding anyone in his organization who can understand it, much less implement it. But not to worry, su Topo suggests just a simple statistical system to begin with. Let’s start out by taking a look at a “normal” distribution as shown here http://www.tsatkin.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/normal-distribution.jpg

The line at zero on the bottom (the x axis) is the mean (average) median (middle value) and mode (the most common value). Now let’s assume that we are gathering data about the TIME it takes to get to a given bus stop from the beginning of the route. For example using the 111 schedule, we can see that, on Sunday, after leaving Norwalk at 6:16 AM the bus is scheduled to be at Florence and Crenshaw at 7:10 A.M. or 54 minutes after leaving Norwalk. Let’s then assume that each Sunday for 10 weeks we record the time in minutes required for this bus to travel from Norwalk to F&C with the following results: 57, 59, 58, 54, 54, 66, 63, 60, 54, and 61 minutes. Sum these times for a total of 586, divide that by 10 and we have 58.6 minutes, which is the mean (average) time it take a bus to make the run from Norwalk to F&C. Immediately we see that, on average, the 111 is 4.6 minutes behind schedule when it arrives at F&C.

The 58.6 is at the zero point on the normal distribution. We will only be concerned with time on the right side of zero because a bus, as a matter of policy, can only be late or on-time. If it is early it will wait at the bus stop until it is back in sync i.e., on-time.

When we calculate the standard deviation(1) for these data (4.06065), let’s call it 4 minutes for the purpose of simplicity. Now, we will be able to provide values for the 1, 2 and 3 points on the X axis. At the 1 point we can write 62.6, at 2 we will write 66.6 and at the 3 position (unlabeled on the right half of the distribution and just to the right of the 2, 70.6. What these X axis points mean is that 84% of all trips will be completed within 4 minutes of the mean value, 62.6 minutes or less. Ninety seven percent of bus runs will arrive at F&C within 66.6 minutes or less and finally 99.8 % of bus trips would arrive at F&C within 70.6 minutes or less.

The data collection and analysis could and should be and can be automated and used to benefit the rider by providing schedules that more accurately represent real world conditions. Further these schedules could and should include something like σ = 4.0 which tells us that one standard deviation, that’s the Greek letter sigma as shown, is 4 minutes. The standard deviation tells us how the data are dispersed from the mean (average). A large number says the data points are relatively far from the mean and a small one, the 4 minutes in my hypothetical case, say that the data points are not so far from the mean. Knowing the standard deviation, we can predict that 99.8% of the time our bus will arrive within the time shown (if the time shown is an average value) plus 12 minutes (three standard deviations). For purposes of this discussion I am ignoring values to the left of the mean –mainly to avoid the problem of “early arrival”(9) which is not permitted by LACMTA policy.

The question for the LACMTA: Why is your Mole performing these calculations and not LACMTA staff?

I am at the LAX City Bus Center thinking about things that the LACMTA does right. That didn’t take long so I review the situation at the center. It seems cleaner that ususal and I soon see that there is a woman hard at work on the task, not the usual Vor with his hummingbird like approach to cleaning.

As I see a blind man attempting to navigate this poorly designed area, I come to understand that the ill conceived placement of the scheduling pylons serve as an impediment to the sighted as well. See the photo below♪

My bus is late so I turn to an analysis of why lots of stuff doesn’t work on buses: the automatic announcement on door open seems to fail 95% (a guesstimate) of the time. Then too, tail signs, the light matrix located on the rear, usually left side, of the bus seems to be complexly broken on third of the time, incorrect one third of the time and operating as designed one third of the time or, as your Mole likes to say, not yet broken.

Take a look at the picture below that is the back of a line 42 bus which is showing 115 as a tail sign.

Another bus, #6580, with a 117 head sign is showing line 216 on its’ tail sign.

The June 2009 schedule shake-up: even less service for more money. Time constrains along with insufficient knowledge about the affects of schedule changes in areas other the “Metro Westside” and “Metro South Bay” service sectors prevents me, but not you, from being critical of these changes. I will take on the two specific sectors here, first, Metro Westside. The 220 line is to die. This death started several years ago when the LACMTA ended service between the LAX City Bus Center and Culver City via Marina del Rey. This was a nice ride near the coast and could have been a money maker if the LACMTA had the slightest interest in servicing its’ public. It was supposed to be “replaced” by the Culver City Line 7, which only runs between Culver City and the Marina, BUT never on Sunday. So people who need the bus to work at Airport South, airline caterers, Fedex, and Playa del Rey South were just out of luck!

The 704 line which really “Moves Fewer Faster” will have some kind of terminal built at Sepulveda and Santa Monica BLs rather than giving us daytime service, on the 4 Line, to Santa Monica. This is a complete waste of money and should be given the silver bad idea award.

The 920 line will have "service levels adjusted". This is definitely a line that should die today. La Taupe has seen the 920s running non-stop between Santa Monica and Westwood with only a handful of passengers on board, numerous times.

The South Bay Sector: The 111 line will have a shortline shuttle on weekdays??? See what I have to say about the always late and often missing in action buses above.

The 124, 125 and 126 Lines are slated to die subject to “identification of another provider for either a segment of the line or the entire route”(8). The way I read this if they can find another bus company to run over a block or so (a segment) of the route the LACMTA can bail! This, in part at least, is the implementation of the idea that the beach cities don’t need bus service. Nothing better demonstrates the LACMTA’s poverty of ideas vis-à-vis providing neighbourhood and especially rail (Green Line) linkage.

The 439 is slowly being killed, several years ago service to the Beach Cities South area was abandoned, then much service, except for rush hours, to the Green Line Aviation Station was severed, now it looks like the line will shrink further and become mostly a Union Station to West Los Angeles Transportation Center service.

The 444 will end too! It will be “replaced” by the new 910 line which likely move a lot fewer people somewhat faster.

The 711, which offered weekend service, will have that portion excised. The line 111 is offered as an alternative – the line 111 already offers what amounts to infrequent weekend service about which I comment above. In fact, I don't believe that the two line have much in common, route wise.

Oh, they must think that the lightly loaded, expensive to run 715 Rapid service is Great, because nothing is said about it. Take it from someone who knows the system, the old 315 service was better for riders!

According to a bilingual sign on most buses, paper day passes will no longer be issued after March 15, 2009. The sign also tells us to see http://www.metro.net/ for details, of course the metro home page tells us nothing about it. Oh, it did remind us to attend meetings between February 4th and 12th, both dates long past when I checked the site on February 25th! Here is an excellent example of some of my main complaints about the LACMTA: (i) poor maintenance (they did not remove the meeting announcement) (ii) equally poor communication skills (they did not give us an exact link to the information on their web site) and (iii) the wasted money on printing nice signs with incomplete information.

About the notice for meetings which are now history (vide supra) the sharp(er) minds at the LACMTA might apply some of the simple statistics which I have described herein in order to find out what anyone whose I.Q. is equal to his body temperature, would instinctively know, viz., that 88.5% of the Metro ridership CANNOT attend a meeting that starts at 5 P.M. on a weekday!

La Taupe has finally got around to solving the problem of not deploying trash bags on buses. All that is needed is a bungee cord or Velcro strap around the fare box, so that the trash bags can be attached to which ever securing method the dysfunctional LACMTA chooses. If they start work today we can expect trash bags on most buses within eighteen (18) months. See the photo below and see how quickly you can find a locus and mode of attachment. What ever time you take the LACMTA will take a lot longer!!

Here is a schedule for the 626 Line (LAXCBC <-> Green Line Aviation Station): http://www.metro.net/riding_metro/bus_overview/images/626.pdf **
The schedule has a heading called, inexplicably, “Clockwise”. It is not truly a shuttle service because every other run starts from Aviation Station rather than at the LAXCBC –another mystery from the LACMTA. Which agency’s motto regarding scheduling should be: “We always think about the people who we serve, unless we can find something else to think about”. N. B. There are no schedules posted at the LAXCBC, the schedule DOES NOT LIST the bus bay for departure, either and the “shuttle”, in my experience, seems to fly through the LAXCBC at about 40MPH.

There is also a 625 “shuttle” that serves World Way West (which su Topo often calls Airport South). That route completely ignores the LAXCBC and originates at the Green Line Aviation Station. So in order to travel to World Way West, one needs to go to Aviation Station first. Someone arriving at the LAXCBC aboard say, the 715 (“Moving Fewer somewhat Faster”) would first transfer to some bus to go to the Green Line Aviation Station then ride the 625 –measurably lengthening the trip and headed relatively far away from the destination before returning to it. Three transfers in about a mile radius. What would one call such a plan? May I suggest “unsophisticated”? Although the airport is basically a 24 X 7 operation, neither of these “shuttles” offers weekend service.

Goodnight Solow, no matter which undisclosed location is your present 10-20!

** This may or may not “link”, this is yet another example of the LACMTA and their impossible to use web site being a barrier for riders. Plan B: Set your browser’s URL area to http://www.metro.net/ , then click on “Rider’s Guide”, then click on “Timetables” and select the appropriate timetable.

Fare Box Score Box

Bus numbers of buses with Out of Order Fare Boxes: 6348 2009-02-15;

Numbers of Buses Defaced by WhoIs stickers: 6348; 6346; 5184+UR;

5221; 6380+UR; 6343+UR;

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

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


(1) Samelera, Paul. “Disney’s Magnetic Attraction”. Portfolio October 2009

(2) Dellinger. Matt. “Road Worriers”. Atlantic Magazine

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200901/new-urbanists January/February 2009, accessed 2009-02-23

(3) Johnston, David Cay. Fiscal Therapy”

http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2009/01/fiscal-therapy.html January/February 2009, accessed 2009-02-23

(4) Smith, Patrick. “How to build the perfect airline terminal? Here are 15 steps in the right direction”. http://www.salon.com/tech/col/smith/2009/02/13/askthepilot309/index.html Feb. 13, 2009. Accessed 2009-02-23

(5) Hymon, Steve. “Expo Line OKd [sic] next to schools”. The Los Angeles Times. 21 Feb 2009:B3

(6) Walker. Gary. “Santa Monica to get an additional station in Expo Phase Two”. The Argonaut. 12 Feb 2009.

(7) Cisneros, Henry. “A Fence Can’t Stop the Future”. http://www.urbanhabitat.org/node/3002 (Original Source-Newsweek) 17 Jan 2009. Accessed: 24 Feb 2009.

(8) N/A. “Proposed Changes to Metro Bus Service.” LACMTA Publication 09-1050BD. Date – N/A

(9) La Taupe will leave it to the reader to explore this subject in greater depth and offers a link to the R Language so that you can download the software, perform statistical calculations and plot graphs, like the normal distribution. See: http://www.cran.r-project.org/

Su Topo’s Disclaimer and Apologia
I try to write an easy-on-the-eyes page using text input. Blogger.com, however, has other ideas and will often not stay with a single font type or point size. I wish I had time to debug the html which they produce, it is NOT the straight text which I pasted into the form, but I don’t. Therefore, I apologize on behalf of Blogger.com for the changes which they make, of which I do not approve, extraneous spacing and etc. Sometimes, what I see, thankfully you don’t, is 24 point type –it is giant and other times they swallow my text, although it still seems to be there. In fairness to them, things seem better although this is partly because I do understand which of their “features” do the most damage to me and consequently do not use them. Communicating these problems to them is, for me, something like having teeth extracted without the benefit of anesthetic, actually it is less fun than that. By their design, there is no simple e-mailing them with "please look at my posting of 2009-02-28, it is weird!". I am hoping that one of their developers will some day read this, copy my code and improve their text to html engine. Until then, lo siento.

Mole’s Copyright Statement
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