Vae Viator11

Phantom Buses♪
Equal Taxation Yields Unequal Provision of Service.
Your Mole stood on a corner of Manchester and waited for a 115 Line bus, and waited and waited.  After an hour when at least four buses were expected to pass this stop only one showed up and it was FULL.  Please note that the missed buses have been underlined in the schedule above.  When the driver was asked why the other buses didn’t show up, he replied they must have broken down or words to that effect.

So what is wrong here?  Does the LACMTA have such a poor maintenance group that in this instance 75% of the buses were out of service?  Or, as su Topo believes, are buses taken out of service from areas where people who don’t habitually complain to cover areas where the residents can and do complain.

I would think the buck would initially stop at the desk of the Division 5 manager, whose purview includes the 115 line.

Included above is a section of the Metro 115 Line schedule which is estimated to be less than a singe digit fraction of the entire schedule and included here under the “fair use” doctrine.  The missing in action buses are denoted by the underlining of the time they were expected to arrive at Manchester and Sepulveda, because la Taupe’s stop was NOT a time point.

Unlike certain others with an interest in buses, this Mole has a broader view of Los Angeles transportation and doesn’t expect a bus every five minutes.  Neither does your Mole expect buses to be on time, he does expect them to arrive, usually, within two σ (standard deviations) from the arithmetic mean of the arrival time.

I don’t want those employees of the LACMTA who are readers to break down in tears, so I won’t go through a calculation.  I did take a very simple subset of this task and made the determination that the resultant value for σ =  0.15762672804615, which is overkill for us in terms of accuracy.  After rounding to two decimal digits, viz., 0.15 that our bus using the Mole’s parameters, could be up to 1.8 minutes late. [0.15 * 6 * 2 = 1.8, N.B. 0.1 hour is equal to six minutes and the 2 gives us two standard deviations].  
This is a contrived, not a real world example, one point eight minutes late, as a percentage of a route that is scheduled to take, say 82, minutes is 2%, which is easily what one could call on-time performance. Again, this is simply a sample, used for discussion purposes.  From a technical standpoint, this Mole feels that it would be accurate for each of the three no-show buses described above to be assigned the arrival time of the next bus that did arrive so that, although no-shows,  they could be "counted" accurately as late.

The main, if not the only point here is measurement, goal setting and planned improvement.  That is not to say that drivers who are unsuited for this type of work, ones who are ALWAYS late and/or never fit into the statistical pattern could not be identified or replaced.  The job of driver, if taken seriously, is difficult and always subject to time pressure.  Undertaking a program to improve schedules should make it slightly easier.

BUT the LACMTA has everything they need to compute these values: they have GPS so they know when the bus is at the end of its route; the have GPS which has time available so they know the total running time and they can easily construct a table of scheduled times.  See last month’s posting for a sample probability of on time arrival that should be part of every schedule. 

You can’t fix what you can’t measure.  So, to start off the LACMTA should use the money they spend on glossy brochures and replace the marketing department with a statistician.  Measuring performance will provide goals.  Remember, please, that su Topo doesn’t expect perfectly on-time buses.  He does expect to be able expect how late they will be.  Over time, a more accurate schedule could be developed and made dependent upon time of day with the routes taking, perhaps, longer during rush hour.  On time doesn’t mean it will always take X minutes for the route, it means that the schedule times can be met with a greater degree of predictability.  

In other words, the LACMTA could perform better than they are presently –a lot better!

I would not exchange my leisure hours for all the wealth in the world.
Comte de Mirabeau (1749-03-09~1791-04-02)

The Mole reads the papers and other things, obviating your need to do so.

Mirabeau, a noted figure during the early years of the French Revolution, was prescient.  Here is a quote that can apply equally today, 220 years after he first spoke the words, in translation (Schama) below.

“… the people have been promised more than they can be promised; they have been given hopes that it will be impossible to realize; they have been allowed to shake off a yoke which it will be impossible to restore and even if there should be fine retrenchments and economies … the expenses of the new regime will actually be heavier than the old, and in the last analysis the people will judge the revolution by this fact alone –does it take more or less money?  Are they better off?  Do they have more work?  And is that work better paid?” 

In an amNY.com piece (Juva), entitled “90 percent of MTA [that’s NYC dear readers] inspectors lied on reports” which could have well been titled “MTA Inspectors Give the Rest a Bad name”; New York City’s MTA shows what corruption really means.

The NYT describes a television program about Peter Cooper (Bellafante).  He founded Cooper University, “… a tuition-free training ground for architects, artists and engineers.”   He also was involved in the first trans-Atlantic cable laying and invented what became Jell-O.  I hope to see this PBS program on rebroadcast, IF my cable provider will change out KCET for KOCE.

The New York City firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro has won a competition for the Broad Museum to be built in the Disney Hall area.   The design is a little “crinkly” for this Mole’s taste, but still un ciento orders of magnitude better than the nearby Gehry monstrosity.  See: http://www.archdaily.com/101909/design-unveiled-for-the-broad-museum-by-diller-scofidio-renfro/ 

The LACMTA would rather have meetings then do about anything else.
In yet another expensive brochure (Metro[1]), a cheaper method would be to use Transit TV, trys to advise the few who will read it and the even fewer who can attend, about the Final EIS/EIR, talk about jargon, what they wanted to say (but perhaps do not know themselves?) is Environmental Impact Study / Environmental Impact Report and etc.  I should attend one the meetings. I need the sleep.

More money flushed away with the January 2011 Metro Monthly (Metro [1]).  Su Topo will only comment on two things.  On page, oops they don’t number pages, a cost-cutting measure?  Anyway in informing us that 1800COMMUTE has been replaced by 323.GO.METRO. First, I called the 800 number which rang a few times, then died. Then I tried the 323 number which answered in English and gave me a chance to change to Español then rang for about a minute with no answer.  Metro service is always what I expect it to be.  The brochure is wrong about “… calling the number form most areas of LA County will not result in a toll charge to the caller.”  Apparently, the LACMTA doesn’t know about pre-paid cell service, much used by Metro passengers and which ALWAYS results in a charge.

Absolutely Perfect

Well, su Topo thinks so anyway; this music, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 - second movement, is beautiful accompaniment for some quiet, thoughtful time.  And one could not find a finer group of musicians to interpret it than the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra, Enrique Batiz Conducting with the superb piano of Jorge Luis Prats.

Please spend some time listening to it, courtesy of our friends at Grooveshark.  http://listen.grooveshark.com/s/Piano+Concerto+No+2+2nd+Movement/3hL236 (Please click Play All to start the music.)

Ear to the Rail
In the same classical music vein, we can listen to Alondra de la Perra, the maestra of the Philharmonic of the Americas, being interviewed on WNYC’s Soundcheck program last spring.
A large black hole which weighs as much as 6.8 billion of our sun has been identified.  For details please follow the link below.

The Mole Rides Again, so that you need not watch those engaged in extremely unpleasant behaviour.  (Times are expressed in the 24 hour system.) 

2011-01-02 @ about 9:40, aboard the Blue Line to Los Angeles:  This train is crowded, but not like the Yamanote-Sen trains which I used to ride in Tokyo.  I think about the plans for high-speed rail construction in Northern California.  The train to nowhere, lo siento, that’s a rude thing to say, actually it will cover 65 miles between Madera to Corcoran.  These two San Joaquin Valley cities which I last visited, well, … never.  And I intend to next visit, well, uh, not very soon.  I think I have found a source for LACMTA planning employees for that agency.  One would think that logic demands that the line would start in San Francisco and cover most of the distance, or really, the whole 75 miles.  Both these cities could generate traffic.  But no, these guys operated under a different system of logic, perhaps, it is the “If we build it they will come” premise. 

The difference between America and Japan, Europe or even NYC and Chicago, is that they didn’t tear down and throw away their passenger rail systems in the 1950s.  They continued to improve them and extend them.  While we develop an economy which was based on automobiles and fostered a “car culture”, from which people refuse to be extricated in order to use public rail transportation.  One only need read the Vanderbilt biography (Styles) to understand that the Commodore, and others, built transportation systems where people wanted to go.

I have worked temporarily in Chicago where most of the commuter lines which tie the suburbs to the city are heavy rail.  The construction costs, I believe are not significantly greater than the costs for light rail.  Though the rolling stock will be more expensive, it offers greater capacity.  It may make some sense to follow the left-over passenger right-of-ways and build upon those, but again, the assumption would be people will still want to go (and return from) where people wanted to go in the past.  That kind of thinking motivates Caltrain in San Francisco, the aforementioned Chicago Metra and the Boston suburban system as well.

2011-01-03:  I transfer to the Blue Line at Imperial Station.  At the final stairway a deputy holds her cell phone, assuming it has the fare validation feature, I place my card under it.   It turns out that she is texting and her cell lacks this feature, so she just checks that I have a card.  It looks like the fare validation feature doesn’t work or doesn’t work as “planned” by the LACMTA or they would have this available to all deputies in the field.  After all, looking at a card simply verifies that a person has a car, not that it is valid or even, if the card is a day pass, that it is current.  Not surprising, is it, that the LACMTA was romanced into buying technology that they lacked the skill or will to implement.  Someone is laughing all the way to the bank.

On the Blue Line to Long Beach:  Sharing the car with me is a guy who is broadcasting his cell phone job search.
When I return, a couple with a yapping dog shares the car for a mercifully short time.  Twin sisters, young mothers have their children with them.  Each has a daughter, one about 8 years old and the other about 4.  Both mothers spoke softly with their daughters and each other – one read to her daughter while the other reviewed a school assignment.  These ladies give meaning to the word nurturing.

2011-01-09: Your Mole waits for a for a 125 Line bus.  The wait should be about 10 minutes but as looking toward Rosecrans a bus can be seen missing the turn.  Now the wait will be one hour!

2011-01-10 approximately 8:00 @ LAXCBC: A woman rants on her cell phone.  Here sentences are difficult to parse.  The Metro “cleaner” with the nice company supplied car, uses his “trash picker” to inefficiently handle each piece of trash and transfer this garbage bit by bit to his wheeled trash can.  When he finds something eatable he tosses it on the sidewalk as a treat for the birds which flock to him.  In effect, he is dirtying instead of cleaning.

I ride a 117 Line bus, the driver sings; I wish he’d be quiet. The LACMTA has found another way to make money: affixing an advertising poster, which is about 3 feet by 18 inches, to the ceiling.

I transfer to a 232 Line bus.  The “MVT” driver calls out stops professionally, if with linguistic precision; “Maryposa” she says.
Mariposa (Ma-ri-po-sa) Station: The concept of traffic flow is yet another aspect of their function which the LACMTA fails to comprehend.  I am faced with downward flows on both sides of the staircase which gives one the idea of how the spawning salmon feels. I head against the flow, slowed just enough to miss my train by about ten steps.  Needed: some signs which designate the desired flow, e.g., “use right stairs for down” or “Down on right” and perhaps, “No, your other right”.  Wait until you see the problems which the LACMTA cannot imagine, after the TAP cards are finally in use.

2011-01-14: I am on an early Gold Line train.  I talk to a visitor from China, a professor, from Shanghai.  We discuss the fact that the Chinese currently hold the lead in the supercomputing race.  They took the lead from IBM, and not infrequently the leadership moves around the world. Please see: http://www.top500.org/

My meeting in Pasadena ended just before noon.  This gave me time to stop at the King Taco located a few blocks from the Memorial Park Station. I order their bean and cheese burrito which includes onions and has a nice flavor of cilantro.

2011-01-17: I ride a northbound bus, #11032, on the 232 Line, block 003.  The driver seems to be a nice lady but she has her radio set at an eardrum splitting level.  This forces us to listen to all the MV Company’s all the traffic between dispatchers and operators.

At a stop near the LAXCBC, she enters into a lengthy discussion about possible routes and options while I wonder what this wait will cost me in terms of another wait once we arrive at the City Bus Center.

2011-01-21 @ LAXCBC 15:25:  I am aboard a bus where a passenger is screaming into his cell phone; he is attempting to find out the maker of a jacket his friend was wearing the last time they met.

2011-01-24: I am northbound on a 232 Line bus.  The man across the aisle is an aggressive nose picker.  He alternates between his left and right nostril and occasionally pauses to inspect his “take”.  His seat mate is using his thumb as a toothpick substitute, trying to dislodge something from between his teeth, no doubt.  Three men in the back of the bus are loudly discussing the best place to find a bed for the night.

At the LAXCBC: A skateboarder propels himself to the trash container enclosure, partially conceals himself behind it and relieves himself.  L.A. mass transit  and its milieu are not for the squeamish.  

This kind of event along with the multiple incursions of unauthorized vehicular traffic into the LAXCBC underscores the need for formal security patrols.  Improved signage should almost totally eliminate the unauthorized traffic.  Your Mole recommends  black and yellow striping at both the entry and exit driveways, along with the wording "Severe Tire Damage".  The weak "pole" signage should also be improved with improved visibility, adding bright colours would help, and the added specification of the dollar amount of the fine for entry, may save the lives of pedestrians, bus riders as well as passengers in automobiles which would otherwise make unauthorized entry.   For an example of highly visible street markings. please see this.  If this is not an LACMTA responsibility, it should take the lead in organising the other bus companies to petition the responsible agency to correct these deficiencies.  Of course, as la Taupe has mentioned many times improved security by frequent patrols is extremely desirable.  Su Topo intends to present his comments in an amicus curiae brief to the appropriate court, when someone is inevitably injured because of inattention to the presently existing situation.

I watch as another MVT driver, number 77542, punches transfers just outside his bus door and allows the chad to fall to the pavement.

I am on a 125 Line bus, #11006, at about 15:00 being driven by driver #70875 who is carrying on a lengthy conversation with a passenger who blocks the aisle at the front of the bus.  This forces people to squeeze past him, as they discuss options for discount movie tickets which the driver offers to buy for the passenger, who may also work for MV Transportation.

Red Line: The on-board PA announcements are (mostly) prerecorded and about 100% better than they used to be.  This makes at about the 30% level of what a good PA system should be, i.e., at about the level of a third-tier fast-food restaurant system.

Dedicated to the Dulcinea of my dreams
‘At this moment they heard a shout, and recognised it as coming from Sancho Panza, who, not finding them where he had left them, was calling aloud to them. They went to meet him, and in answer to their inquiries about Don Quixote, he told them how he had found him stripped to his shirt, lank, yellow, half dead with hunger, and sighing for his lady Dulcinea; and although he had told him that she commanded him to quit that place and come to El Toboso, where she was expecting him, he had answered that he was determined not to appear in the presence of her beauty until he had done deeds to make him worthy of her favour; and if this went on, Sancho said, he ran the risk of not becoming an emperor as in duty bound, or even an archbishop, which was the least he could be; for which reason they ought to consider what was to be done to get him away from there. The licentiate in reply told him not to be uneasy, for they would fetch him away in spite of himself. He then told Cardenio and Dorothea what they had proposed to do to cure Don Quixote, or at any rate take him home; upon which Dorothea said that she could play the distressed damsel better than the barber; especially as she had there the dress in which to do it to the life, and that they might trust to her acting the part in every particular requisite for carrying out their scheme, for she had read a great many books of chivalry, and knew exactly the style in which afflicted damsels begged boons of knights-errant.

"In that case," said the curate, "there is nothing more required than to set about it at once, for beyond a doubt fortune is declaring itself in our favour, since it has so unexpectedly begun to open a door for your relief, and smoothed the way for us to our object."’

Miguel De Cervantes (1547-1616) Don Quixote (1605), excerpted from Chapter XXIX

Fare Box Score Box and related Lists of Shame
I.D. Numbers of buses with Out of Order Fare Boxes: 6348;  
Note: No or few entries above do not necessarily mean all fare boxes are in operation. 
I.D.Numbers of Distracted Drivers:  None included here, but observations of a minor nature may be included in the main posting;
Codes: (i) Extended conversation(s) with passenger(s) or (ii) cell phone call(s).  Frequently, details can be found in the text above, (ii*) cell phone call(s) which are aggravated by some other action, (iii) Self-distracted.  Codes (ii*) and (iii)  will ALWAYS be explained in the posting.
I.D. Numbers of Buses Defaced by WhoIs stickers:  0
~UR or +UR = (+UR) whois sticker and the ugly residue left after passengers partly remove the sticker. (~UR) = Only the ugly residue left after passengers almost completely remove the sticker. +L = an old (legacy) sticker black letters on a plain white background –these are the original form of defacement.
* Another reason for displaying the operator's ID on the internal display and the headsign.

ID numbers of Buses whose Head and Tail signs disagree: 6377 111/blank; 6395 2-2/blank; 6380 111/40; 5143 40/207;
Format is Bus number followed by Headsign number/Tailsign number.

La Taupe's Abréviations
ADADO = Automatic Destination Announcement (on) Door Opening. This feature is installed on many buses and operates on extremely few.  Another “money down the toilet” LACMTA investment.  La Taupe that this is intended for the visually impaired because people who can see can read the “head signs”.
ASAS = Automatic Stop Announcement System the GPS (Global Positioning System) driven mechanism for generating audio for the upcoming stops. N.B. Because of the low power (read weak) processors used in the on-board stops may be too close to identify stops separately.  This is known as a granularity problem.  Then too, if the driver operates the bus at speed above the speed limit you will find the system “back announcing” stops which you have already passed.  I find that this will NOT keep some drivers from complaining “that you didn’t signal (ring) in time.  They don’t understand their relationship to the system and how, by driving faster than the GPS computer, they can bias it. 
BBB = Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus
CC or CCMBL = Culver City (Municipal) Bus (Lines)
CCTC = Culver City Transportation Center this is the place formerly known as FHMTC = the Fox Hills Mall Transportation Center (Sepulveda & Slauson)
FFE = Full Fare Equivalent (presently $1.50)
LAXCBC = the LAX City Bus Center.
Rapid Transit = does not compete for right of way, that is, it will not run at grade unless it has EXCLUSIVE DEDICATED USE of the right of way).
TT = Torrance Transit.
T1 = the normal type of driver/staff.
T2 = is the non-stop talker type of driver/staff, on the phone or to passengers,
T3 = the uncommunicative type of driver/staff, sometimes surly.
WLATC = the West Los Angeles Transportation Center (Fairfax & Apple)
Su Topo’s Disclaimer and apologia
Your Mole always attempts 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 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.  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 say, posting of 2009-06-28, 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
All photographs and original written materials are copyrighted © 2007~2009 by LAmetroMole.  Clicking a photo will often* present you with an enlargement. *This feature is dependent upon the Internet browser which you use and possibly other factors.

This site contains or provides links to copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, sustainable development, environmental, community and worker health, public disclosure, corporate accountability, and etc. We have often included relatively brief quotes from articles and etc., sometimes in addition to a simple link, because we have found that links frequently go "bad" or change over time. We believe this constitutes a "fair use" of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without fee or payment of any kind to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes and to those who access the site via any and all other channels. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Music or other recorded material on this site, or referred to by this site are copyrighted by their respective artists and are made available here for evaluation purposes only. Please support the artists you like by buying their commercial CDs, MP3s and downloads.

Your Mole’s Conflict of Interest Statement
This  is to certify that I, the blogger who is known as the LAmetroMole, with respect to this blog, except as described below, am not now nor at any time during the past year have been, nor it my current intention to ever be:
1) A participant, directly or indirectly, in any arrangement, agreement, investment, or other activity with any vendor, supplier, or other party doing business with any of the entities about which I have written, which has resulted or could result in personal benefit to me.
2) A recipient, directly or indirectly, of any salary payments or loans or gifts of any kind or any free service or discounts or other fees from or on behalf of any person or organization engaged in any transaction with any of the entities about which I have written. 
Any exceptions to 1 or 2 above are stated below with a full description of the transactions and of the interest, whether direct or indirect, which I have (or have had during the past year) in the persons or organizations having transactions with any of the entities about which I have written.
There are no exceptions.
Date: 2009-06-24                  S/ LametroMole                  

Works Cited
Bellafante, Ginia. “Television (Arts & Leisure Section)”. New York Times.  28 Dec. 2010:2AR. Print.
Juva, Theresa. “90 percent of MTA inspectors lied on reports”.  www.amny.com. 07~09 Jan. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2011.
Schama, Simon. Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. New York: Knopf, 1989. Print.
Stiles, T. J.The First Tycoon : The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. New York: Knopf, 2009. Print.
Metro[1]. “January 2011 Community  Update Meetings”. LACMTA 11-073OBD ©2010 LACMTA.
Metro[2]. “Metro Monthly”. LACMTA 11-068OTR ©LACMTA 2011. 

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