Subscribe to this blog

Google
Web This Blog

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

 

MTA Won an Award? Next Joke?

Apparently Metro in Los Angeles has been named something like the most "outstanding" public transportation agency in the nation. Wa ha ha hah! Sure, according to whose standards?

By what measurements on earth has MTA in Los Angeles been named something that high?
This is almost as peculiar as MTA's policies and services; it simply doesn't make any sense. You ask 5 out of ten riders and I could bet they would lambast MTA for poor services (without being smug), and if not that, far from naming it the best public transportation agency in the nation. It almost hurts to read about it. What about S.F, NYC, Chicago and other cities' transit agencies? How dare anyone even suggest that L.A has the best one? If anything L.A has the worst one. Hopefully that will change in the future, but as of now, it probably is with respect to amount of people served.

I'd suggest that rather than bragging and showing off, how about putting the money where the mouths are? For example, how about fixing overcrowding, un-timeliness, asynchronous connections, un-clarities, ambiguities, and all the other things that plague MTA, BEFORE start bragging about how great you are?

Is this just another sign of how out of touch they are? Apparently the MTA can't realize when an extra bus is needed. We've talked about it before, how they fail to insure the subway connections work in symmetry. Such no-brainers that sort of make the basis for good public transit services. Yet they fail to clear those basic things before going on to brag about award winning. I couldn't joke about something that rang hollower. MTA's services sucks, ok? There are still many occasions when the bus is too packed, after a crowd of 30-40 has already waited for it for 40 minutes. That alone is a disqualifier.


Award? Best transit system in the nation? That's not even a joke. It's a lie.

Comments:
Among SF, NY, and Chicago, this year LA is the only agency to have opened an extremely successful 14 mile busway, and be constructing an additional 20% in rails. And it has been introducing Rapid lines at a steady pace (other agencies do not have such lines with signal synchronization). And LA has been adding all these new services while still maintaining the lowest fare price amongst those cities.

APTA gives it's award based on what the agency is doing to make improvements in the present. And you've got to be impressed with what they've been able to do with the rail lines--they didn't exist 15 years ago, but in less than 5 years time (2010), there will be more rail than in Boston, which has had a subway line since 1897!
 
Metro has many faults, too many to list here, but comparing the agency now to comparable periods in the past, the turnaround has been spectacular. The transit system, that seemed to wander like a zombie through the 1970s and 1980s, and did its worst to disgrace the county in the 1990s, is finally getting a lot of things right.

The old Southern California Rapid Transit District, which was formed originally to become a regional rail and bus company similar to BART in the Bay Area, ended up existing for much of its tenure without rail. The Blue Line and first segment of the Red Line opened near the final years of the RTD, which could not yet appreciate the resulting ridership gains.

The RTD also had the dubious distinction of losing ridership faster than population growth, and this was when the county was growing very fast. Much of the hits came from the other counties splitting away in the 1970s. That’s right, apart from the munis, the RTD was the only game in town. There was no Orange County Transit District (now Transit Authority), Omnitrans or Riverside Transit Agency. The rest, though, came from riders voting with their feet and abandoning the lousy service.

The 1980s saw the first major breakup of services within the county. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation picked up the downtown Mini-Ride services and some peak-hour routes, both of which grew to be DASH and Commuter Express. Also, County Supervisor Peter Schabarum did something more drastic in much of his district. He nabbed several RTD routes to create what is now Foothill Transit. The Foothill Transit zone created an unprecedented concept in transit, and is often incorrectly labeled as a “private” transit agency. Foothill is actually a “vapor entity,” where it only has fixed assets (buses and divisions) but zero employees. Every aspect of service is provided by contractors.

This was the period when Nick Patsaouras was in charge. His name is familiar mainly because of the bus plaza at Union Station being named after him, and that he was a one-time candidate for mayor of Los Angeles. Apart from that, he was not known for any initiatives that helped fix a moribund transit network.

The 1990s, though, seemed to indicate that it was only a matter of time before transit just faded away, but the agency was determined to go out kamikaze-style. A seemingly innocuous piece of legislation that took effect in 1993 opened the gates of hell in L.A. County. The state legislature merged operating agencies with transportation commissions in Santa Clara, Los Angeles and Orange Counties, creating transportation authorities.

The San Jose and Orange County mergers went off comparatively smooth, but few people knew of the acrimony that existed between the RTD and the county Transportation Commission. The partisans of both sides waged very ugly turf wars, and people began to pay attention. A lot of knowledgeable staff members ended up leaving, resulting in LACTC people trying to figure out how to operate service while RTD people grasping the mind-numbing aspects of transportation policy-making, especially since highways, bicycles and development were now involved.

Things avalanched from there. We saw the MTA move from Skid Row to a palatial tower in Union Station, still derided to this day as the Taj Mahal. Subway construction was so horribly managed that it was swallowing up all resources. The bus system was an afterthought, and the best MTA came up with was to get out of operations altogether and cobble together bus routes operated by munis and with the authority comping them.

The “rock bottom” year for MTA was 1994. The first strike since the 1970s occurred, the move to the Taj Mahal was completed, a failed General Motors organizer won the hearts and minds of long-suffering passengers with plans to improve bus service and Kill Whitey, but the end had arrived in the spring of that year. Just one year after the agency was formed, ominous announcements were placed in buses and trains that the MTA was in such financial straits that it was eliminating all night and weekend service, as well as all limited, express and special-event service. Had this actually have been approved, MTA might as well have concurrently drafted up plans for dissolution and liquidation.

MTA would see one of many bailouts, mainly relating to out-of-control Red Line construction cost overruns. That tense 1994 summer did not mark the point of turnaround. MTA was dropping every ball it was given. There was the quest to find a clean-burning fuel that resulted in many bus breakdowns. MTA made matters worse by blaming the breakdowns on the manufacturer, and burning the bridges of then the largest fleet supplier for the agency and the country. There was the rail car order that arrived over 5 years late. There was MTA getting into the bus research and development business, yielding a prototype that could never run. There was the time many rail projects were eliminated.

And, of course, the consent decree. As soon as it was signed, it looked like the biggest story of triumph since David beating Goliath. The reality reads more like “Frankenstein.” The consent decree gave the opportunity for riders and the bureaucracy to work together, but the organization didn’t care so much about improving service as instigating a revolution of the downtrodden proletariat.

In 1998 the voters gave MTA a swift kick in the nads with the passage of Proposition A, otherwise known as Zev’s Law. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, hoping to mount a campaign for L.A. mayor, initially wanted to repeal the county sales taxes to transit, hoping that this would starve the beast. He relented after pressure from surrounding cities who would have lost funding for their bus systems. Instead, it was focused to stopping subway construction, prohibiting local sales taxes to expand subway construction. The measure passed easily, not getting less than 66% of votes in any precinct. The MTA got whacked again, but the troubles were far from over.

MTA had seen its share of turnstile managers, from Franklin White to Joe Drew to Linda Bohlinger, who were consumed by the agency’s many troubles. For a while, the pursuit of a new agency head was fruitless, until Mayor Richard Riordan called in Julian Burke, a turnaround specialist for distressed corporations. During his tenure, MTA seemed to be screwing up less, but it was also an emphasis of completely disregarding major plans for the future.

All rail extensions were put on a holding pattern, but state legislators helped revive mothballed projects, including the Gold Line and the Orange Line busway.

The consent decree had also brought more buses to L.A., with little effectiveness, but planners beefed up the limited-stop and Rapid services to complement the grid.

Also, the turf wars have subsided considerably, and the many functions Metro carries out are getting more attention.

Overall, Metro is performing far better now than it has in a long time. Snoble came in on the reputation of making Dallas Area Rapid Transit from a moderate-size bus system to a multi-modal network that has impressed the otherwise restive Texans leery of transit and big gubmint.

Snoble also brought in a team of managers to help run the system better, including John Catoe of Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus and OCTA as the Norm Chow to his Pete Carroll, so to speak. He also brought in Gerald Francis as a rail manager and Jack Gabig of Montebello Bus Lines as a manager of the new service sectors.

Relations have improved between MTA and other governmental agencies, and MTA and municipal operators are working closely now despite years of animosity. It was under his tenure that bus riders were able to get a bus pass good on the county’s important bus systems. The age of the bus fleet is younger, and bus and rail projects are slowly but surely expanding.

In this light, Roger Snoble has done a commendable job and Metro is better off for having him.

The LA Metro Mole disagrees, saying “Mr. Snoble, has demonstrated, publicly, his lack of fitness and lack of leadership for his position,” with a list of several faults.

And with perception being so important, he loses a great deal of credibility in the eyes of the public by taking an automobile allowance as a package deal. Looks bad, but not unfit to work. Stop and think for a second if he was forced to ride public transit, as the public seems to demand. And this accomplishes what exactly? With his $300,000-plus salary and housing allowance, in all likelihood he’ll live in one of those nice lofts in downtown L.A. and take the Red Line to the Taj Mahal. He’s riding, but a service that is both high-frequency and almost 100% reliable is the exception, not the rule, and that’s not an accurate picture of the system.

Then again, he may ride a bus and see what the service really looks like. And then what? Even as CEO, he is still a bureaucrat and cannot unilaterally demand any change he wishes. Not only that, but he will see the system through the eyes of a professional, not a bus rider. His first duty is to ensure the operation of the organization, not to please the rider. He could get on a bus that runs every half hour, and if it’s empty, he’ll demand that the service be cut to hourly or eliminated as an efficiency measure, just based on that one ride.

Does this make him cruel, callous or incompetent? No, because he is a product of a system that rewards results-getters and frowns upon compassion as a character flaw. Metro may be a monopoly that does not have to worry about making a profit, but the pressures and impulses are exactly the same for managers of a government entity or a Fortune 500 company. The playing fields are different, but the rules of the game are the same.

Whether Roger Snoble is a less-than-remarkable water-cooler dictator or a sharp tactician who was responsible for all of Metro’s recent good fortunes, the system has been running better now under his five-year tenure than it has in decades.

Keep up the great work.
 
Yes, it is impressive. As far as certain details go, there's been some real additions made by MTA in Los Angeles.

It's just that "award" implies "overall" greatness, and sounds misleading. Had they not flashed it all over the place, maybe.
 
Wad you mention, "frowns upon compassion as a character flaw".


Those who hold that view, should be deprived of compassion from others when they need it. When they suffer a heart attack nobody should feel sorry for them. It's just astonishing that people can hold that view and justify it.


Moreover what are results? They mean that painting a bus in a new finish is a greater result than satisfying customers?


Also, that the rules for Fortune 500 are the same as for the MTA depends, doesn't it? You wouldn't compare for instance a company like Ebay to a public transportation agency? Of course the rules are different for a public service company and an exclusively for profit company. They're misled if they don't get the difference. And the riders have to pay for it.
 
Metro-la wrote:

Those who hold that view, should be deprived of compassion from others when they need it. When they suffer a heart attack nobody should feel sorry for them. It's just astonishing that people can hold that view and justify it.

This is reality, especially more so because of the "cult of the executive." Look at what happened to the L.A. Times publisher. He told his higher-ups that if they force the paper to fire more people, the quality would suffer even more. He refused to cooperate. And look what he got.

In a profit culture, the shareholders don't care what the executives do as long as the company appears to grow. If the executives behave like Genghis Khan, the shareholders won't give a damn.

In a public-sector environment, an executive-level department head has to make sure that the agency doesn't perform bad enough that it affects the elected board's approval rates. The difference is that the department head has to demonstrate competence to a disengaged board that doesn't know what it controls. Therefore, the department head has to also manage the perception that the agency is running well.

Moreover what are results? They mean that painting a bus in a new finish is a greater result than satisfying customers?

I'm in agreement with you about the paint jobs. That was a marketing plan, in main part pursued by the board to make the Los Angeles County bus system look like Curitiba, Brazil's. They are so obsessed about Brazil that the bus colors deliberately mimic the same types of buses in Curitiba!

This is a waste of money and an operational nightmare. For one thing, it took Metro 5 years to paint the two-stripe scheme into the single orange stripe. Paint jobs are expensive, labor intensive and put a bus out of service for days. The new paint scheme was ordered soon after, and it will take another five years.

Operationally, it is stupid because it confines buses to one service sector. Metro saved money by interlining several routes on a paddle, sometimes involving a local bus running on an express line. And, you now have the problem of too many red Rapid buses. Rather than repainting them back to orange, Metro has to run them on non-Rapid express routes and limited-stop routes.

That wasn't done as a replacement for customer satisfaction.

By the way, everything that Metro does wrong (late buses, rude drivers, missed runs, etc.) is not unique to our own bad agency. Every system around the country is afflicted by these problems. A lot of these problems are beyond the agency's control. How the agencies respond to problems it can control depend on the organizational culture, the money on hand to fix problems and the relationship between management and the front-line workers.

Also, that the rules for Fortune 500 are the same as for the MTA depends, doesn't it? You wouldn't compare for instance a company like Ebay to a public transportation agency? Of course the rules are different for a public service company and an exclusively for profit company. They're misled if they don't get the difference. And the riders have to pay for it.

The objectives are different. Ebay has to make a profit. Metro doesn't. There's this fantasy that if Metro lost its monopoly and that if bus companies were private and had to compete, service would be a lot better for us riders.

Problem is, you can't have private, for-profit services when there's no profit to be had in the first place. You can't have all the service you have now at current fares and make money. Many public agencies were taken over from private agencies who tried to make money on transit but couldn't. Private carriers were either land developers, like Henry Huntington here, or utilities companies that provided transit service as a franchise to the cities. And, in L.A.'s case, munis like Culver City, Santa Monica and Torrance were created as government companies to compete with the private Red and Yellow Car systems.

The airlines are going through a period right now that transit companies went through 50 years ago. Many legacy carriers are in dire financial straits, mainly because of airline deregulation. The carriers are paying for years of pursuing market share, and have had labor contracts that could have endured before the '80s but are bogging down the companies. Also, smaller carriers made inroads by flying in smaller cities and foregoing the hub-and-spoke model (hmm...). Consolidations are only delaying the inevitable, and the investor-side of the market will pressure the Southwests and JetBlues to pick up the legacy carrier's services, but that can't be done without also assuming the debts and obligations of those carriers. This will ultimately affect them. Re-regulation would be the only way to save air traffic. Air traffic would now be a Greyhound bus with wings.

The other problem is the culture of management itself. The training of managers is now left up to educational institutions, rather than selecting employees from the bottom up. The old days you used to have executives who could tell you about the days they had to start in the mailroom and find themselves in their 50s or 60s in the boardroom.

Metro has one instance of this. The South Bay service sector manager was a bus driver, then supervisor, then division manager. Even Orange County's CEO, Arthur Leahy, started as a bus driver early in his career, and he's the son of a transit manager.

Not anymore. Now that anybody can go into management simply by studying it in school, they work from a one-size-fits-all curriculum that treats all industries the same. So, the managerial approach is the same for public and private entities.
 
hm, interesting read.

But I have to say I don't agree with the problems of L.A's transit being as widespread in others, because I've used other transit agencies.

I've never seen a place where those issues form a pattern.
If ignoring busdrivers showed up on occassion, then, big of a deal. But it's a pattern where you don't forget one instance before the next occurs.

Obviously you can blame it on this or on that, but at the end, it has to stop because it causes rifts, psychological rifts in people. MTA comes across like the big brother to transit dependent people. It's extremely offensive when they ignore people or otherwise disrespect them.
Normally that shouldn't happen anywhere, and if it happens, you put an end to it.

It clearly appears the MTA doesn't put enough pressure on their drivers in terms of repsecting the customers. And, gee, 'respect', not talking of lifting their hat off for every passenger, but to simply Do Their Job, Which They Get Paid For.


I've heard of the LA Times publisher that was fired for standing up. That's basically rape. To put profit over journalistic quality amounts to rape. News already sucks, then the few that retain some journalistic integrity are going to fade because some punks in Chicago are too uptight? Their greedy aspirations are disposable, of course, yet somehow take priority over journalistc quality. Talk about a swapping of two inverse qualities.

Almost as unfair as the MTA issues.


Anyway my point is this. If you look at how MTA customers are treated in the bad instances, were you a good leader you would change it, immediately.
If they can train a driver to operate a bus, they can surely train them to open the door for customers.
This is a pattern in L.A. A pattern. It's to the point where people simply shake their heads when a bus drives by that was meant to stop. There's also no logical explanation for this. To find that rude people would be difficult even if you tried, yet MTA seems to be swamp of them.

But I know it's an L.A subculture. LAPD and DWP have also had issues with demeanor internally or outwards. But common, public transportation isn't a place for power abuse, I mean, not even conducive to it. There are no guns, no batons, just people who want to move from one point to another. Yet it happens all the time. What the hell is wrong.
 
Metro-la wrote:

But I have to say I don't agree with the problems of L.A's transit being as widespread in others, because I've used other transit agencies.

I have also ridden many other transit agencies, and did research on the organizations through news articles, local advocacy organizations, what's online, etc.

The problems Metro has are common to all transit agencies. A lot of factors cannot be managed, like traffic congestion. What is in the agency's control, such as adequate maintenance funding and available management, all depends on the money available and civic involvement. These vary.

Like, how would you compare Metro to Detroit's two transit agencies?

I've never seen a place where those issues form a pattern.
If ignoring busdrivers showed up on occassion, then, big of a deal. But it's a pattern where you don't forget one instance before the next occurs.


Every rider in every city feels the same way you do. Believe it or not, many places in the country wish they could have Metro's resources or service.

MTA comes across like the big brother to transit dependent people. It's extremely offensive when they ignore people or otherwise disrespect them.
Normally that shouldn't happen anywhere, and if it happens, you put an end to it.


Many riders feel this way but don't want to do anything to change a miserable ride, and they want to be miserable about it. But at least Metro makes an effort at passenger dialogue.

It clearly appears the MTA doesn't put enough pressure on their drivers in terms of repsecting the customers. And, gee, 'respect', not talking of lifting their hat off for every passenger, but to simply Do Their Job, Which They Get Paid For.

The bus drivers' job, first and foremost, is to drive the bus. They are expected to provide customer service on top of it, but they are after all, still human, and when thousands of people curse at them and hate their guts, it affects them. Worse, drivers are extra cautious because some passengers are spoiling for a provocation and want to hurt or kill them.

Riders need to know they can't change a driver's demeanor, only their own. If riders hate drivers, they shouldn't talk to them or start arguments with them. That resolves nothing. If riders stop asking questions they can get from the web or 1-800-COMMUTE, this speeds up boardings overall. And the less drivers get dumped on, the better their morale and the better customer service they provide to riders.

If they can train a driver to operate a bus, they can surely train them to open the door for customers.

It's a knob near the driver's left hand. Turn it 45 degrees to open one door, 90 degrees to open both doors. Trainees pick that up in about 2 seconds.

Now, here is an operational rule:

A driver is only obligated to pick up passengers waiting at the bus stop, and are not obligated to pick up passengers running for the bus once the doors are closed. Drivers that do, do so out of courtesy. Drivers that don't have not done anything wrong.

However, if a driver blows past your stop because five passengers are standing in the front and the bus looks like a crush load, then you complain. The driver did not use good judgment, and this goes on his or her record.

When you complain, give as much details as possible. This betters your case. And you should report everything you see, as complaints are a public record.

Here's what you should provide when you complain:
*Badge number (the number on the driver's shirt sleeve). This is not required if you do not board the bus.
*Bus number. This is always required. This is the four-digit number of the coach (five for contract lines and three for rail lines), not the line it was on.
*Line number. This is always required as well. If explanation is still needed, this is the big number on the green or orange screen above the windshield that tells what street the bus works.
*Time of incident. Always required.
*Place of incident. What bus stop did you see the incident, and what direction was the bus traveling?
*Division number. This is optional and almost never used by most riders, but greatly speeds up reporting if it is available. The division is the garage the bus operates out of. This is either found in the corner of the windshield near the door, and Metro has plastered the numbers also above the rearmost passenger window and on the back either near the bus number or the center left. The divisions are GC-1, GC-2, SGV-3, SB-5, WSC-6/10, WSC-7, SFV-8, SGV-9, SFV-15 and SB-18. Division 6 is a part-time garage in Venice (soon to be Culver City) and is administered by Division 10.

The more information you give Metro, the better it can respond to it. And, whenever you see something wrong, do not hesitate to report it.


This is a pattern in L.A. A pattern. It's to the point where people simply shake their heads when a bus drives by that was meant to stop. There's also no logical explanation for this. To find that rude people would be difficult even if you tried, yet MTA seems to be swamp of them.
 
Ok, ok, I appreciate your taking the time to encourage complaints and the process of doing so.
I always had this feeling that the MTA don't take complaints seriously, since you see the same patterns of neglect repeated for year after year, and only until after threats of lawsuits do they seem to add buses, for instance.


But I digress, and say, No, transit agencies are Not the same everywhere.

While you may certainly find rude drivers everywhere. In L.A they appear to be part of a systemic malaise, in that they are so prevalent.
It's also not enough that people have the same complaints in other cities, but there are other indicators to look at as well. for example reputation. MTA in Los Angeles has earned an aweful reputation over the years. Despite the recent improvements, reputations come from somewhere.

NYC, Boston, Chicago, S.F do not have that aweful reptuation on their transit agencies. S.F's for example is described as excellent in some guide books.


I'm also not interested in technicalities of behavior, but in effects of behavior. Yoy may say the driver has a right this and that, but that sounds like excuses to me. The fact that you can be a jerk, legally, doesn't mean it's ok to be one.


Also, a bus drivers job includes opening the door for customers. Driving a route with an empty bus doesn't serve any meaningful purpose.


I agree with you that people don't complain. Many times people have maddened me in that they let bad behavior get away with. But more often, it's the flabbergasted faces of for example elderly riders who've been ignored, that's ticked me off.

There's a reason, other than rude customers. By the way, it's a myth that bus riders are dangerous. Not anymore dangerous than other forms of L.A customers. Exceptions exist, but it's not the rule. Most transit riders are regular people. If a bus operator can't meet the exceptions with grace, he should consider another job rather than taking it out on the innocent.
 
Also. Los Angeles being one of the most automobile dependent cities in the world, it appears tantamount that its public transportation system is adequate AND courteus, since people depend on it. It's mean to give people extra hardship if they don't have another option. Public transportation is crucial to the Los Angeles area. It should be treated that way too. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense.

I think this talk about drivers not having to do this or that, is meaningless. At any other company, if you behaved rudely, you'd get fired. This way of thinking justifies apathy toward good customer care. It's not the way to raise the bar.
 
I always had this feeling that the MTA don't take complaints seriously, since you see the same patterns of neglect repeated for year after year, and only until after threats of lawsuits do they seem to add buses, for instance.

Metro, like any other business, does care about complaints, believe it or not. When there is enough information, it can act on rider information.

But there's another side to the story. As I said, I outlined what is necessary for an effective, actionable complaint. One problem is that riders end up never complaining. The other problem is that when riders do complain, the information they give Metro is too vague and the complaint cannot be pursued further. This is why I said, have bus number, line number, time, direction of travel, location and badge number and bus division number. The last two are optional, though.

The other thing to do is make an effort to know who does what at Metro. If you go to a sector governance council, people like division managers attend as well. If you build a rapport, you could get a business card and take your complaints directly to the manager, who can do the paperwork and take the complaints.

And this is not a special privilege bestowed upon a trusted few. If you are committed to not allowing crap to happen, get to know the people who can clean up the mess.

Yoy may say the driver has a right this and that, but that sounds like excuses to me. The fact that you can be a jerk, legally, doesn't mean it's ok to be one.

Drivers have both rights and responsibilities. Fundamentally, though, they are looking out for No. 1, and that is to make sure they have a job at the end of the day. Like the thing about closing doors on passengers. Drivers can open a door once again to pick up passengers, but that's a case of courtesy trumping a regulation. The regulation was put there by risk management because it doesn't want to be liable for a passenger getting run over trying to catch a bus. If a driver still stops, it's not treated as serious, as say, allowing standees in the front doorway when the bus is in motion. The driver is doing a courtesy to allow a few more people to ride the bus, but he or she will be found to be putting the rider in danger and courtesy does not work as a defense.

NYC, Boston, Chicago, S.F do not have that aweful reptuation on their transit agencies. S.F's for example is described as excellent in some guide books.

I don't want to have to keep returning to this and playing who's better than whom, but the people making this argument only call these agencies excellent because they have extensive rail systems. In terms of nuts and bolts issues, the Straphangers Campaign, T Riders Union and Rescue Muni would gladly point out the problems they see with their respective agencies. The East Coast agencies, though, remark how West Coast advocacy groups like Rescue Muni and Socata are able to have audiences directly with agency bureaucrats. New York and Boston are more insular, and the organizations have to rely more on politicians to slap the bureaucrats upside the head to get anything done.

But again, I don't want to go back and forth about miserable experiences. I don't disagree with many of your experiences, but I don't agree that you should wallow or let problems continue because you perceive them as unsolvable or you just need the material for your site.

At any other company, if you behaved rudely, you'd get fired. This way of thinking justifies apathy toward good customer care. It's not the way to raise the bar.

You're not going to like this, but drivers have both civil service and collective bargaining appeals procedures. They don't get fired so easily. Oh, it's possible, but it takes quite a few write-ups before that happens. Also, rudeness complaints are more subjective and harder to prove than incidents of rule-breaking or unsafe driving.

And here's some helpful advice for making a rudeness complaint:
1. Never tell the driver you will complain. This buys time for the driver to come up with a good defense to challenge the complaint.
2. It's better to file a complaint when you see rudeness between a driver and another person, and not when you are involved. Rudeness complaints are less reliable from the affected passengers since they tend to exaggerate the grievance in hopes of getting action taken. (Doing this often gets the complaint dismissed.)
3. Again, the more specifics you provide, the better action Metro takes on your complaint.

What happens then? The complaints are investigated and filed in a driver's record. Chronic complaints lead to dismissal. Serious problems, though, lead to punishments like benchings, suspensions or "purgatory," where the driver is kicked out of the division and works in a problem division (typically 5).
 
It doesn't matter if drivers are fired easily or not. The point was more like why MTA allows bad demeanors to be so prevalent.


As for this blog's purpose. It's to vent, as well as to express. There are not many visitors to this blog and so the responsibility isn't that huge.


Regarding the comparison between various transit agencies. There are simply enough of problems within L.A's MTA to begin to glorify it or equal it with more adequate ones. A justification is the last thing that's needed. Maybe that's not what you intend to, but combined, references to quality standards add up.


Regarding drivers closing the doors on passengers. Well, if it was only that, but otherwise the buses came on time, with adeqate frequency, and weren't packed full every other minute, sure it wouldn't be so noticable.


Also the MTA doesn't make the complaining process easy. The mere fact that you have to sit and explain it to me shows that it's not an easy thing for passengers to do. I had no clue about the process before this blog. The MTA don't exactly advertise the means of complaints, and therefore subsequently don't show a true commitment to improvement.

Many cab and trucking companies place phonenumbers on their vehicles that people can call if there are any problems with the driver. While MTA isn't a cab or a trucking company, there are disparities in attitudes and what's conveyed in terms of how customers are taken into consideration and how high or low they're placed on the priority list.
 
Metro-la wrote:
It doesn't matter if drivers are fired easily or not. The point was more like why MTA allows bad demeanors to be so prevalent.

Metro doesn't allow it so much as it is not able to act on it. Large transit systems are too busy to actively manage. And active management, such as same-day complaint resolution, is often done on systems of 250 or fewer buses and 1 or 2 yards.

Second, complaints have to be thorough to even work. Many, if not most, complaints go unfounded because riders did not give enough information to follow up on who did what where and when. If you complain on a frequent bus run, telling the customer service representative that you've seen bad service on Wilshire Boulevard (which has nearly 100 buses every weekday) and expect Metro to do the detective work, the agency cannot act.

As for this blog's purpose. It's to vent, as well as to express. There are not many visitors to this blog and so the responsibility isn't that huge.

Here's some advice to help you as a writer. Your blog is in the unfortunate position of justifying its existence, and since you only seek to vent, you're in danger of working a schtick that gets old fast. If your readers find more interesting information in the comments section than your original posts, you might as well pack it in.

You are venting the frustrations of a rider, but you sound like one of an anonymous mass of hundreds of thousands, and your access to a computer and HTML knowledge is not enough of an advantage over other transportation blogs.

Moreover, your rants are not changing Metro service for the better. Metro employees can read this but won't act upon what they read here. Then again, readers wonder if you want service to get better or if you deliberately want to let things slide so you have content to produce. This goes back to justifying your existence.

As a writer, ask yourself:
1. Who is my audience?
2. What would make my audience want to read me, and what sets me apart from other sites?
3. Where is my readership? Look at where your readers are coming from.
4. Why should I write? Do my harangues make a difference, or should I use my resources for something else?

Regarding the comparison between various transit agencies. There are simply enough of problems within L.A's MTA to begin to glorify it or equal it with more adequate ones. A justification is the last thing that's needed. Maybe that's not what you intend to, but combined, references to quality standards add up.

Well, you did say that Metro was the worst transit agency in the world. Let's look at this logically. "Worst" implies you are making a comparison of three or more separate objects. When statistics comes into play, you have to figure that there are about 50,000 different transporation carriers in the world, which can be further broken down into subclasses (geography, fleet size, ridership, etc). To get a representative sample, you would need to size up enough subclasses and enough agencies to make an accurate assessment.

And even still, you need to weigh it against organizational capability and funds available. Otherwise, you're in the position of saying that even the South African jitneys (controlled by gangs) are better than Metro.

Regarding drivers closing the doors on passengers. Well, if it was only that, but otherwise the buses came on time, with adeqate frequency, and weren't packed full every other minute, sure it wouldn't be so noticable.

And everything you mentioned here is a different issue. On-time performance is supervisory, adequate frequency is planning and crowding is scheduling. They all play some part into what actually gets a bus running.

Also the MTA doesn't make the complaining process easy. The mere fact that you have to sit and explain it to me shows that it's not an easy thing for passengers to do.
Metro doesn't make the complaining process difficult, either. The problems started when everything had to be cross-referenced on paper, where a complaint would take a couple of weeks before it even got to the division. Even with the databases available, it still takes adequate information to investigate a problem.

Remember, Metro operates 2,000 buses and 300 trains spread across a dozen different divisions, with an operator ratio of 2 2/3. This means Metro has to know the whereabouts of about 6,700 men and women who drive buses or trains.

I had to learn all of this stuff myself, and I was glad I found people to educate me on the process. I'm here to pass on this knowledge to you and your readers, to do your part in fixing the problems you see. You can wish for something better, but for right now you work with what's here.

I had no clue about the process before this blog. The MTA don't exactly advertise the means of complaints, and therefore subsequently don't show a true commitment to improvement.

Would you really want to read through every procedure of both Metro and the unions on the complaint and appeals process? I've condensed hundreds of pages of this into a comment.
 
Wad,

Don't worry about my blogging. I set up this blog simply because I'd had enough, and knew that others had as well.

As for website traffic, ha ha, if I really cared about traffic I'd be much more careful about the tone and other choices. But on the other hand, also, what would be the point of just another neutral sounding blog on a subject shared by a thousands? I say what I say because that's what I want to say, not to draw traffic, although I would have hoped that others who identified with the same frustrations would have liked to pay a visit, and but a few have, but that's okay.


This blog wasn't meant to be a fact base. It was meant to voice; read the "about me".



Now the next thing. Sure, MTA has thousands of employees to look after, and this and that. But don't you think that many other companies do also? You wouldn't think that this is something with their mentality, at all? You mean that MTA is like an angel who's deprived of its fair share of budget and bears no responsibility for lousy driver's behaviors, at all? That's funny, because when a company usually experiences problems, it's typical for the CEO to bear the blame. Some on this blog have even blamed the riders. That's like blaming the customer. See how things are getting awkward here? There is no serious company on earth that "blames the customer". That just reeks with amateur.


Regarding complaints. No, the MTA does not make the process easy. There are even no time-tables, have you noticed? People have no clues about the bus schedule, you telling me they know about how to complain. I'm saying that people are fed up.

I've stated that Metro is [probably] the worst transit agency in the "industrialized" world.

And note, it's not my call to improve MTA. I sure have spoken out on many occassions, but I do not consider myself a genuine activist with a set political or otherwise goal in mind. I came here to vent out about issues that appeared to go undetected time and time again. At times, it almost appeared that MTA wanted to pick a fight by provocation. I mean some of the things they don't do, and do, are stupid. Not merely incompetent.
It's so bad that this blog exists, okay. I claim that issues within the L.A public transit are severe.

There was nothing which prevented me from blogging about an array of other pressing issues. MTA was that compelling. Okay. MTA is a pleasure killer. Read another visitor's comment. They kill you if don't drive.


You appear to be saying that Metro is doing the best it can, and that we should only complain when a problem happens. The problems happen all the time. You'd get sick complaining all the time. Hence the blogging.


Thanks for your input and tips.
 
This is the last I am going to speak on this.

From this thread alone, readers can divine that you have defined yourself a schtick, you won't provide any useful information for your readers, and you seem more interested in throwing fits.

A blog should be informative or entertaining. The trouble is, there are more informative sites elsewhere, and a cranky bus rider who wants to be taken seriously is difficult, if not outright impossible, to make entertaining.

And why write a blog just to hear yourself think out loud?

Best of luck, man. I've got a bus to catch.
 
The very point of a blog is personal expression, whether hard facts or not are provided. That's what sets them apart from websites. Accept it.

And I do provide information. Annecdotal information.


Also, good luck with the bus. Better bring your lunch box and some walkman, lest you're gonna get bored from waiting.
 
Also, Wad, excuse my appearance as being "cranky". When I come to this blog, it's typically when I'm in a certain mood, so don't get me wrong.
Your input is appreciated. You've been very generous.
 
There are even no time-tables, have you noticed?

There are timetables. Lots and lots of them. I see them on buses, I see them in libraries, I see them in the massive schedule rack at Union Station.

I also see passengers who take a timetable, look at it once, then throw it away (in a trash can, if we're lucky ... more often in the street or on the sidewalk). This is another case of bad passenger behavior; if you need the timetable, why don't you keep it for use next time?

BTW, every timetable is also available online at:

http://www.metro.net/riding_metro/riders_guide/planning_trip.htm

This is the same link as the one marked "Timetables" on the front page of the Metro website.

"There are no timetables." What a crock of s**t that statement was.
 
Ok, Transit advocate. You do Not speak for customers. You speak for the MTA. Have you noticed what this blog is about?

Time tables exists. Sure, at every bus stop, good you're telling me. We've had this discussion in the past. There ARE NO timetables at Metro bus stops. You even argued that it wasn't feasible to achieve then!
A brochure doesn't amount to time table, nor does an online database systems that you have to switch on a computer to access. What I'm talk of are tangible timetables that are there without people having to "find" them. Have you never been to a city where time tables exists across the city's bustops? No wonder you so readily advocate for the MTA. You must be ignorant. It's sad if that's the best you can imagine.
 
Post a Comment



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?