Snoble doing the work of four men? Well, six if you count Joe and Curley Joe♪.
The Mole reads the papers (and other things) so you don't have to
Foreign Policy has an article(1) on some side-effects of the financial crisis. They list 13. I merged their list into mine and added a 14th item: The LACMTA will, in keeping with their history, add projects that maximize cost while having little of no positive effects upon mass transit in this area.
The Washington Monthly has a piece(2) which discusses the problems caused by too many 18 wheelers on the nation’s roads. The writer, Phillip Longman, discusses the approach taken by the state of Virginia, viz., the shifting of freight from long-haul trucks to intermodal transport involving the rails. But is this an effective approach? It seems so: “… a study sponsored by the Virginia DOT finds that a cumulative investment over ten to twelve years of less than $8 billion would divert 30 percent of the growing truck traffic on I-81 to rail. That would be far more bang for the state’s buck than the $11 billion it would take to add more lanes to the highway, especially since it would bring many other public benefits, from reduced highway accidents and lower repair costs to enormous improvements in fuel efficiency and pollution reduction. Today, a single train can move as many containers as 280 trucks while using one-third as much energy—and that’s before any improvements to rail infrastructure.”(Ibidem)
If you have the slightest interest in any aspect of our country’s current dilemma, please read this article. It also addresses a number of other aspects: stimulus spending, reducing our carbon footprint and etc. Mr. Longman continues “The choice of infrastructure projects is de facto industrial policy; it’s also de facto energy, land use, housing, and environmental policy, with implications for nearly every aspect of American life going far into the future”.(Ibidem) ¡There is much to commend this fine example of writing! In su Topo’s mind we could also use the same infrastructure for passenger traffic.
See Mr. Longman’s bio at: http://www.newamerica.net/people/phillip_longman
Speaking of railroading, how has Solow been able to keep his job given his atrocious safety record? Perhaps, identifying scapegoats and firing them is the answer–one might draw that conclusion after reading this Press-Enterprise story(3). This detailed report also includes a PDF ([Adobe} Portable Data Format] file containing a copy of Solow’s [CYA, la Taupe’s term] letter firing the managers mentioned in the story. How long will the power structure allow Solow to maintain a low profile and keep his job? The way I see it, he sat on his fat asiento on the 26th floor of 700 Flower St, collected a fat salary for a decade and left us with the Metrolink safety mess we still have today.
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) Mr. Paine’s quote(4) (below) equally
applies to the many still held in Guantanamo as well as to those who legally received bonuses, for which they had contracted, with AIG.
"An avidity [eagerness] to punish is always dangerous to
It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and
to misapply even the best of laws.
He that would make his own liberty secure
must guard even his enemy from oppression;
for if he violates his duty
he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."
Two Times articles focus on the inattentiveness of the Metrolink engineer and his desire to allow young men to become train engineers for some periods of his working day. In late February(5) a pair of reporters -who I believe should handle the entire transportation beat- find that the engineer at the time of the Chatsworth crash, allowed teenagers ride in the locomotive's cab. The same article documents that the engineer “received and sent 57 text messages while on duty the day of the crash.” Then in a related piece(6) details an occasion when one of these teens controlled the throttle!
Now only god knows what else when on during Mr. Sanchez' work shifts and certainly Solow didn't, at least until the NTSB began its' investigation. Then he jumped on the band wagon and firmly planted both feet blaming contractors and firing these two. The questions for Solow are: “Why was nothing done prior to the accident? Why not even a dime was spent on safety in Los Angeles County? And further, why were no oversight mechanisms in place to ensure that engineers and others strictly obeyed ALL safety related regulations?
Rolling Stone featured an article(7) that really drills down into AIG and the issues which surround it, touching on many of the topics which dominate our news media. N.B. This is not an article for children! Although serious, it does have some naughty words and is disrespectful of the pope in an oblique way by use of the conditional tense. That said, it is also a well written piece that allows a person of average intelligence to develop an understanding of the background which led up to the current financial situation. Listen to Amy Goodman’s 25 March 2009 interview with Mr. Taibbi (Ta ib bi) on Democracy NOW. Link to the podcast via: http://media.libsyn.com/media/democracynow/dn2009-0325-1.mp3 I quote only this from this important piece: “There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS [Credit Default Swaps] and CDO [Collateralized Debt Obligations], most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a[n] historic, revolutionary change in our political system — transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.” Bravo Mr. Taibbi!
A back issue of Forbes included nice coverage(8) of “traffic signal preemption”. Remember that? It was supposed to be part of the 720 Line Rapid buses on Wilshire BL. Another example of something that was touted on Snoble’s watch yet, to the best of this Mole’s knowledge, has yet to work. In fact, many, probably most, 720 Line buses don’t even have ASA! Again, it is our neighbours to the north in Canada, specifically Calgary, that has “seamlessly integrated the technology”. I won’t quote the article extensively other than to repeat Calgary’s cost savings which accrue due to the use of signal preemption: Each transmitter-equipped bus saves 2,000 gallons of fuel and 50,000 of carbon dioxide emissions each year! American cities, viz., Bellingham, WA, Eugene, OR, Boise City, ID and Syracuse, NY all have the system installed at 90% (at the time of writing) of their intersections. I am not sure that comparable emission reductions are possible for Los Angeles since LPG fuels most of Metro’s fleet. However, there should be some fuel savings were the LACMTA to install signal-preemption hardware and software. Of course our money-pit LACMTA is known as an agency where many projects are started and few come to fruition. For anyone interested in the some of the other benefits of using signal-preemption this brief fact-packed article is a must read.
Ear to the Rail
Everyone is ahead of the U.S. vis-à-vis rail travel. Spain has only been building high speed rail since 1992 and is moving fast with its smooth, fast, profitable, modern and environmentally sound system. Listen to the NPR report here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101408073
Listen and hen think about where España will be in 2015 and how far our own clunky LACMTA will be on the “subway to the sea”.
Then relax and ride on AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) between Ciudad Real and Madrid at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDNzxVm1wuA (Part 1)and
Then see trains at the Ciudad Real Station:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuVyCetsDEk&NR=1 Oh, renfe means “Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Españoles” [National network of Spanish Railroads]
According to http://spaceweather.com/ there are currently 1035 known PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids). Take a look at the table which only lists 11 of these guys which could easily spoil your weekend plans, on the page whose link appears above. You can see that on March 2nd, 2009 DD45 came as near as 0.2 LD (Lunar Distance). This means that it was only 1/5th the distance to the moon.
It is Saturday, 28 February and I am on a street-corner waiting for a 115 bus. The schedule shows that the bus should leave Manchester and Market at 9:55, so I am in position at 9:45. The time for its arrival at Manchester and Sepulveda (10:08), comes and goes –no bus arrives! I wait longer and finally, the next bus on the schedule does arrive. It appears that none of the 10 new supervisors, who were to improve on-time performance, work in this sector.
I am at the Inglewood Transportation Center. A man cuts his nails and allows the trimmings to drop to the sidewalk, which sidewalk is strewn with dried vegetation. He is about a foot and a half from the trash can. I board a 40 Line bus, the operator, #25606, has loud music playing and he is on his cell, too.
I transfer to the Green Line. Five Chinese men share the mid-train longitudinal seats with me. They all look, well, kind of scruffy, with luggage that seems to be too stained for its age. Four disembark at the Aviation Station. The one who stays has a Whole Foods paper bag stuffed with newspapers. He holds a paper as he works a sudoku puzzle. He may well be the holder of the world's record for wearing the greatest number of mismatched colours. His hair like that of many Oriental men, is dry and badly styled.
2009-03-02 I ride the 439 to Union Station and transfer to the Gold Line. It is one of the new trains, it is NOT gold but Grey? I am in car number 713 on a cloudy cool morning around 9:15 AM –it is cold inside and I am freezing. This is Los Angeles and we need the air conditioner, right? The signs which display the station names at which we will stop are, in keeping with LACMTA policy are smallish almost inconspicuous.
As I wait for a bus on Lake St. I notice that the trash can which was so needed on the east side of the street, I am on the west side, is gone. There is a can at my location but there is lots of litter scattered around, too. It is the 98% that give the rest a bad name.
I continue my ride on a 485 Line bus.
Riding a 439 Line bus on 2009-03-03: Although apparently not reported in the subscriber copies of the Los Angeles Times, TransitTV, the purveyor of annoying advertisements to the captive public, had died. I noticed that there were no broadcasts on several early March buses, the drivers, when queried, said that they didn’t know anything.
I say good riddance and hope that the Board of Supervisors and the LACMTA Board (there is overlap) both post large signs which say “Remember TransitTV” so that they are able to overcome their desires to approve nonsense.
Anyway, on this 439 bus, number 6459, I can read –for a while, anyway. Soon the driver (number 73679) begins what turns into a series of long, fairly loud conversations with virtually everyone. Her loud clear voice covers the entire bus as we hear about “the high humidity in New Orleans”. She has a personal radio; it's on, as she talks about a book that she is recommending and the exhumation of bodies and etc., etc. My mind starts to devise a sound proof driver’s compartment, more as protection for the passengers rather than the driver, or at least something that would trigger an alarm when the driver talked too much. “... my father prepared my Cream of Wheat every morning ... butter and sugar...”, “... I had this dress of red leather and silk ...” and on and on. The ASA (Automatic Stop Announcement) says “La Cienega” in one voice and “Park entrance” in another. I still have a long ride ahead of me.
The TransitTV screen (shown above♪) is blank. How blank is it M. Taupe? It is as blank as a LACMTA transportation planner’s mind!
I have often wondered why the BRU (Bus Riders Union) didn’t use some of their under-employed lawyers to file a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request for a cost-benefit analysis, income-expense statement and ROI (Return On Investment) statement for TransitTV and/or many other documents which bear on the money wasting agency's operations. Remember when TransitTV was announced? It was going to have all kinds of benefits associated with its’ installation and use. Perhaps it funded Snoble’s $1,000,000 brochure on Measure M?, not that such a funding would make his action a better use of public funds!
I am aboard a 232 where a woman with an Australian or English accent is producing 250 words per minute[La Taupe's estimate] for her husband who replies in monosyllables.
March 15th is the day on which the system sill stop issuing paper day passes. Su Topo is writing this on March 4th as a prediction, he will write about his success as a prognosticator in the next paragraph. One of the reasons for replacing paper day passes with Tap cards is to prevent a recurrence of the flap several months ago, in which a driver and his henchman were selling paper day passes, out-of-system, so to speak.
Although I couldn’t easily find anything about the Tap card day passes on Metro.net, I did pickup a tiny flyer, number 09-11148JL, on a bus. It turns out that they will give you a Tap card for you to reuse and if you also read the footnote, as long as you ask before 11 April –this is less than a month’s duration.
What this means, and this fact likely doesn’t exist in LACMTA’s corporate memory –is that like military intelligence??. Which fact is: lots of day pass users are visitors to Los Angeles who use the Metro “system” to get around town. After 11 April these people will have to pay full fare, this may not be so bad, BUT, there is a class of user who mainly stay in the neighbourhood but occasionally groups their errands and buys a day pass in order to criss-cross the city. What will happen to them when they are denied a day pass? I don’t know and it comes as no surprise that the LACMTA probably does not either.
The LACMTA suffers from, among many other things, a lack of consistency and poecilonymic tendencies. I observe two 232 Line buses separated by some interval. The head sign of one says “LAX Terminal” (seems like it would enter LAX proper doesn't it? No, like the other one whose head sign says “LAX City Bus Center” they are both bound for the LAXCBC (LAX City Bus Center).
March 15th will be the start of riders imposing a “stress tests” the TAP reader. It brings to mind the first day, several years ago, when Foothill Transit installed new fare boxes on board all its’ buses. Then, they found out that the magnetic stripe recorded on some of the transfers and etc. produced by the old fare boxes and other machines could not be read by the new fare boxes. Read what your Mole found on Day 1, here: it seemed fairly smooth, but my sample size was small. Also, I believe that it is NOT cost effective. The media costs are greater than paper and there is certainly less flexibility. By that I mean I certainly would not use a card that stored a cash dollar balance which was then reduced as you rode. We will see what happens the first time that there is a system failure and everyone's pass is rejected or set to MINUS $9999.99. The LACMTA, an agency which has at best, a tenuous grasp of the meaning of fiduciary responsibility, must make payments of an unknown size -but likely big bucks- to the computer system operators, Cubic Transportation Systems [I believe]. To see how big, review this document:
Note also tha that Booz Allen Hamilton (http://www.boozallen.com/) is the consulting firm in the driver's seat on lots of LACMTA projects. Su Topo wonders if they were low bidder or it was a sole source deal??
Your Mole also can't help but wonder where Mr. Snoble will end up next? Ms Wendy Greuel could assign a batallion of auditors to the LACMTA and la Taupe will bet that they could recoup their salaries and a big bundle for the city in addition to leaving behind a more transparent transportation agency.
Another Saturday afternoon waiting for the 115 Line bus which was supposed to leave Inglewood at 13:28. It doesn't show. I think that the 10 supervisors hired to improve on-time service should be placed behind the wheels of buses. Finally the bus that left Inglewood at 14:28 shows up about late. My total wait was well over an hour!
I am on a 79 Line bus where the ASA says (in one voice) “Huntington and” and then in a badly patched other voice, “Centennial”.
Aboard a 115 Line bus. In a short period the ASA says (in one voice) “Manchester and” (in another voice) “Inglewood Cemetery”. Then a little later it tells us that we are at Manchester and Manchester”. Is that like a mobius intersection? I believe that they mean “Manchester BL and Manchester Drive”. This is an example of the usual “care” which goes into any and all LACMTA projects. “Care” in this context can be replaced with “sloppiness”.
It is laughable that they would spend all the money, actually an unknown amount (kept secret, like most of the dysfunctional agency’s information) and not spend a few dollars more to update the system in a manner NOT reminiscent of a third world country.
Today, 2009-03-15, is the first day of issuing TAP cards for use as “Day Passes”. The driver is having some kind of problem with an early passenger’s card. The passenger is studying a paper explaining how to use the car and seems somewhat confused. The driver seems a little unsure as well. Nothing has been said about what happens after April 11th, the day on which the TAP "Day Pass" cards will no longer be free. Sorry folks, just based upon past experience with the LACMTA, your Mole is betting against them on anything that has to do with computer systems. Oh, you want proof? Vide infra, PST vs "daylight savings time".
Seasoned public transportation users know where to eat. La Taupe is no exception, so while in Pasadena near the Centennial Park Gold Line Station, he took a lunch break at King Taco®. (www.kingtaco.com) This Pasadena location is one of 15 in Southern California, all of which have their pictures on the wall of the restaurant in a 5 X 3 array. Their motto is “¡Exquisitamente...a la Mexicana!®". I had a man-size bean and cheese burrito for $3.52 at this clean, neat and friendly location! It was GOOD!!
TransitTV is not dark on my 439 Line bus this morning. They went bankrupt, it is a Chapter 7 case, i.e., a liquidation of all assets. But there is a screen full of, mostly GPS related, data –like most things related to the LACMTA, upon closer examination you will find something wrong. I examine the screen and find that although we are in the third week of daylight savings time, the LACMTA system is still on PST. That was the first thing wrong. The second? This “debugging screen” replaced the real-time route map. That may go away for good when we find out how the bankruptcy court will allocate TransitTV's assets. Our driver today is busy. She is playing a CD, briefly answers her cell phone and is carrying on a conversation, in a loud and clear voice, with a male passenger who is seated on the right side of the bus, on the lateral seat as far forward as possible. If it's not TransitTV, the passenger cell phones, their conversations then it is the drivers. The conversation turns to her last church and religion in general. The torrent of information on the relative merits of preachers and etc. soon exceed the capacity of su Topo's brain to absorb how the Life-of-the-World church relates to its' congregation. They are discussing a complex relationship of members, pastors and churches. I find it impossible to escape this unsolicited and unwanted gush of facts. It goes on and on and on. I know that voice, yes it is operator number 73679! She is now talking about her favorite author, Myra Hollis. I have a serious case of information overload and am unable to handle the volume so I may be losing letter or entire words! Anyway she wants to pass on a copy of a book to a passenger to whom she has promised a copy.
Second opinion? Her driving is not that great. She accelerates too fast in order to close up gaps, misjudges the distance and has to break, hard. Now, in addition to a developing headache I'm getting seasick. More attention to driving an less jawboning, that's my prescription.
As the trip progresses,I consider asking the passengers to join me in a prayer to keep buses a religion free zone.
Molette and I discuss TV presenters. She knows that I like Ms Antoine on France24.com
(www.France24.com/fr/) and Palmira Pérez on KWHY-TV (http://www.canal22.tv).
She finally gets me to admit that in Los Angeles, it is KNBC's (http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/)
Ms Kim Baldonado, that I really like.
Molette responds with an almost imperceptible facial tic –or at least I thought so.
I have often felt that certain lady news readers, especially when they speak French or Spanish, sound musical to me.
Now, I freely admit that English, when spoken by Ms Baldonado,
IS musical! She has the face and the voice of an angel.
I wonder if she would be receptive to being interviewed by su Topo? The venue?, Home Girl Café! http://www.homeboy-industries.org/homegirl-cafe.php
Molette offers that that would not be the right atmospheric level. I respond that the food and service and ambiance are all are great, so Kim would like it. Anyway, it would be business, NOT a date. Now for a date ... hmmm.
Next month: A Welcome Message to Mr.Art Leahy, along with some suggestions – one longish one right now: Mr. Leahy, please freeze all changes scheduled for June 2009 AND institute a two pronged program, one to collect first hand usage statistics and comments rather than depending on the time wasting, ineffective, poorly sited and scheduled “feedback meetings”, the other: to get your “marketing department” off their FAT chairs to sell services, BEFORE cancelling or reducing service. They should form a flying team and get out to neighborhoods, libraries and etc., in order to make presentations on what service(s) is/are available and take comments. The typical passenger works and finds it impossible to attend the “feedback meetings”, others do not really understand how things linkup and in other cases they don’t linkup at all. Oh, and no private car transportation reembursement for them either. If they get paid by the LACMTA let them ride it, free, of course. Above all, start having all staff think TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM, not buses and trains. Although the Rapid buses [above as modified by su Topo♪] may look good, "Moving Fewer Faster" is not the answer! Neither is severing bus-train links (like the 439, 125 and other lines), of which still too few exist to qualify as a REAL system, ! (To be continued)
Fare Box Score Box
Bus numbers of buses with Out of Order Fare Boxes: 5170, 2009-03-01; 6444, 2009-03-13; 6370, 2009-03-15; 11017,2009-03-21;
Note: Few entries above do not necessarily mean more working fare boxes.
Numbers of Buses Defaced by WhoIs stickers: 6348; 6346; 5184+UR;
5221; 6380+UR; 6343+UR; 5100+UR; 6353; 5099; 5173+UR; 5124+UR; 5140; 6370; 5140;
UR = Ugly Residue of a former, likely whois sticker. +UR = whois sticker and the ugly residue left after
passengers partly remove the sticker.
Numbers of Buses whose Head and Tail signs disagree: 6411—42/447; 6580-111/1A; 5089-110/blank; 5172-110/M15;
(1) Drezner, Daniel W. “The Long Legs of the Crash: 13 Unexpected Consequences of the Financial Crisis”. Foreign Policy March/April 2009 http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4689 Accessed 2009-03-04
(2) Longman, Phillip. “Back on Tracks”. Washington Monthly
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2009/0901.longman.html January/February 2009, accessed 2009-03-20
(3) Begley, Dug [sic]. “Company's managers dismissed from Metrolink positions” The Press-Enterprise 5 Mar. 2009 See: http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_S_metrolink06.3f2c064.html January/February 2009, accessed 2009-03-20
(4) http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Thomas.Paine.Quote.3050 Accessed 2009-03-22
With an nod to Linux Magazine
(5) Lopez, Robert J. and Connell, Rich. “Metrolink engineer let teens ride in cab”. The Los Angeles Times. 28 Feb 2009:B1
(6) Lopez, Robert J. and Connell, Rich. “Metrolink engineer let teen take throttle”. The Los Angeles Times. 4 Mar 2009:A1
(7) Taibbi, Matt. “The Big Takeover”. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/26793903/the_big_takeover/1 Accessed: 25 Mar 2009.
(8) Bruner, John. “Greening the Traffic Lights.” Forbes (Volume 181 Number 9). 5 May 2008:p64~68. http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2008/0505/064.html Accessed 25 March 2009.
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, produces extraneous spacing and etc. I wish I had time to debug the html which is produced, 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. 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, for me, is 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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 Su Topo may change his mind on the bonuses after reading the Rolling Stone piece(8). For now, he feels that it is important to honour contracts.
 This is a favourite catch phrase of the LACMTA and one of the reasons they gave for “winning” Americas Best in 2007.