Sunday, January 28, 2007
About Redundant Bus Transfers
Sometimes this becomes a real hassle, as there are often no indications as to which it will be. There are no hints on the buses that tell whether the bus will go all the way or if it will be the short version. It's been common that the drivers have not alerted passengers prior them entering the bus. This leads to a repeating scenario in which people end up with an unnecessary transfer. Rather than skipping the short-route bus the first time around, they think they're on the right bus, but are then sometimes abruptly told to get off, sometimes mere blocks away from their ending point.
It's hard to figure out why some buses are capable of traveling that extra mile while others aren't. It clearly causes confusion. It really appears to be an arbitrary decision. People with wheelchairs have to get off, elderly have to get off. And sometimes when the bus is crowded and passengers have managed to grab themselves a seat, they will now have to give up those seats and compete for a seat a second time, on the same route.
There are other complications stemming from this. For example sometimes people have already paid their fare, but cannot verify it to the driver of the second bus, and this has sometimes caused disputes. That alone is a stress factor. There are no bus tickets or even receipts given for one-way fares, and the drivers on the transfer buses often cannot distinguish transferees from new passengers. This undeniably leads to distress since many riders are rather poor, and paying double fare makes a difference to them economically, as well as it does when they must argue their righteousness to a driver due to a scenario no fault of their own.
You wonder what the big deal would be to modify the line-number a little bit on those buses that travel the short route, in order to distinguish them from the regular lines. It's quite astonishing that nothing has been done to alert passengers of this in advance. Rather people are being shuffled on and off the buses like cattle, and may end up becoming late, paying a second fare, etc. How about simply making all buses go all the way. Anything would be better than keeping this inane practice in place.
Learn to read the bus destination sign (above the windshield). There are different signs for the short and long versions of every line.
Example: There are two westbound versions of Line 163 on Sherman Way. The short version says "Reseda" and the full version says "West Hills".
Drivers hate people like you who don't read the sign and then whine when they got on the wrong bus.
As for "no apparent logical reason", it has to do with there being high ridership along only a segment of a line (in the example, 163 has high ridership between Sun Valley and Reseda, but lower ridership between Sun Valley and Hollywood and between Reseda and West Hills). So the short versions are meant to add service on the high ridership segment to lessen overcrowding. Why do those end where they do? Usually because Metro has to choose a place where the City will let them use nearby streets to turn the bus around and park it for the few minutes that the driver gets a break. (You won't like hearing this, but NIMBYism results in bus zones being restricted, too.)
Rants by people who don't take the time to research first always come off as clueless ... and the appearance of clueless always guarantees that nothing will change as a result of the rant.
But yet, why do the short routed buses have to stop short? Why not simply proceed all the way, they'll cover the high density stretches anyhow, plus they'll avoid the current confusion. For example, bus no 217, the short version, stops at about Pico blvd or Washington blvd, while the default version stops at Venice blvd, that's like two main streets short!
So why not simply eliminate the short versions where they cause more harm than good, like in cases where NIMBYism has pushed them to close towards where the regular lines end?
And the bus sign is clearly not a good solution since people constantly miss it. Some people may have poor eye-sight, but often it's the simple fact that you anticipate to get somewhere, and expect the regular bus line to take you there. It's natural to expect the bus of the same line-number on the same route to go to one and not two destinations.
Also, the problems described are not "clueless". They happen for real. I'm sure many passengers hate drivers who won't let them proceed on the same line on their original fare. The drivers can blame them if they want. It's common for the MTA to blame the customer anyway.
However, if it helps you understand, Metro does not have the resources to run every bus across an entire line when the passenger loads don't support it. It costs around $100 an hour to run a bus, in case you didn't know.
I looked at the 217 schedule on the Metro website and I saw no trips ending at Pico or Washington. I did see some weekend trips that end at Wilshire, though. If those trips are what you meant, then you are stretching the truth; Wilshire and Venice are considerably farther apart than "two main streets". (And there are no weekday trips that end short; they are all on Saturday, with a few on Sunday evening.)
If passengers cannot read the sign, they can always ask the driver if the bus will go to their stop. They'd much rather answer that question then have a passenger complaining when they announce the end of the line.
You shouldn't have to take a course on "How the MTA works". You should be able to ride as seamlessly as possible, and that is the agency's, not the customer's, job to ensure.
All this talk about what the customers can do, or 'should' do is redundant, and frankly sounds like a rather cheap excuse in place to be able to blame the customer, rather than changing the system and eliminate the problem.
I could go further in stating that many passengers don't know LA well enough to decipher what destinations are short versus long. Many are visitors, others are new riders. It'd be a heck of a homework if everyone had to memorize the LA street system.
And I'm not blaming the drivers. They're not the decision makers, and some do a good job. But the practice is bad in that it always results in people catching the wrong bus. That ought to be enough to reconsider, not excuse, it.
And while at it, one way would be to simply inform riders at the bus stops, via clear signs that explain which buses will only run the short line, along with a map that outlines all major cross streets, so that everyone will know whether "Wilshire" comes before "Venice" or vice versa, which again many passengers don't know because they're new to the city, the neighbourhood, or whatever.
Quoting you here:
Well, it may be so that line 217 has changed since then, because when I used to ride it rather extensively ...
Your credibility would be greatly enhanced if you didn't rely on past experiences, passing them off as present tense, without taking the time to research before posting.
Frankly, the reserach I've done is real experience as a customer of the MTA.
"And I'm not blaming the drivers. They're not the decision makers, and some do a good job. But the practice is bad in that it always results in people catching the wrong bus. That ought to be enough to reconsider, not excuse, it.
And while at it, one way would be to simply inform riders at the bus stops, via clear signs that explain which buses will only run the short line, along with a map that outlines all major cross streets, so that everyone will know whether "Wilshire" comes before "Venice" or vice versa, which again many passengers don't know because they're new to the city, the neighbourhood, or whatever"
The blame here would be on the customer no doubt. People are always quick to complain when something doesn't go in their favor, in this case people catch the wrong bus because they simply cannot work up the simple nerve or the lack of energy to either ask a simple question when the bus arrives or rotate their eyes upward towards the top of the bus to read in bright colorful letters where the bus is going!
Also, if at any other time during your "research" look for these crucial thing as to why there are short trips on some lines. 1)If you ride a bus line from end to end, identify where the heaviest segment of riders travel to and from on the line. 2)Identify the overall activity on the line such as, number of passengers on board, the the activity of the neighborhood the line travels through, and bus stop activity.
In conclusion, it is best to prepare and provide all of your facts before you are ready to conduct a verbal discussion on things you wish to know or learn about. Thank you.
I find your mentality peculiar. It is the height of unprofessional conduct to blame the customer when a system fails. No company with any esteem of itself or regard for their customers would agree with your notion that the blame falls on the customer.
Like it was the customer's JOB to make sure that MTA runs smoothly, how inane. It is MTA's and nobody else's job, to ensure that. They've got the tools, the funds and the duty, whereas the customers do not. Simple.
If I agreed with this, I could say after having opened a shop in some field, that whenever the customers couldn't find their way to the cash register, I'd blame them for it since from my perspective it 'should' be easy to find. Gosh.
People like you sort of confirm why this blog was needed. It matches the frustrations on the streets, and when you see people defending it, it really justifies the ranting tone this blog started out with, and the perception of an underlying arrogance unfortunately seems quite accurate.
Blame the customer.... no wonder why Los Angeles PT is one of the most inadequate of major cities'. Say, you can go to Mexico City, e.g, a third world city, and find a great rail network with extensive usage and reliance on it. LA doesn't have that, and the least that could be done to compensate for it would be to establish some customer oriented courtesy! But not even that, but rather keep blaming the customer. You also blatantly ignore the fact that many people don't even know how the system works. They are new to the area, have bad eye-sight; whatever. To blame them for not knowing makes no sense. The system is far from intuitive.
Just like the Red / Purple Line, there are many routes that share the same trunk but split off to different branches.
With that said, we have many streets throughout Los Angeles that have various services. For example at Ventura / Sepulveda you can take a 750 or a 761. Many folks just see a Red Bus and get on and then get very surprised when it doesn't go where they expected.
In your case many heavy use streets have "Short-Turn" routes to supplement the basic service. Sometimes people learn from making mistakes like getting on the first bus that comes by and then finding out that it's the wrong one.
But, many routes just support say 30 minute service from end to end. Over time you find if a line is successful, many more will ride in the center section. The solution is to provide extra service in the heavily used section.
Rather than provide a second trailing bus to pick up the overflow from the standing, jammed packed first bus, it is better practice to provide that second bus between the schedule of the first bus. So, the heavily used section may have a bus passing by every 15 minutes. But the end to end 30 minute service remains.
Now all these lines have written published schedules. The buses have announcement systems to say where the bus is going. The buses have destination signs. And if you ask nicely: "Sir / Madam or ma'am, will this bus get me to Venice?" You will get a polite rely.
Now the bus is the lowest common method of travel. To ride non urban buses, trains, planes, ships and all common carriers, there are schedules and the user must provide some level of effort to figure out how to get on the right service.
To say that this responsibility somehow goes away on a local bus route is not a reasonable expectation. It's sad that there are some less than reasonable folks that can't confirm directions and make mistakes.
But to make it some other entities' fault is a problem with your critical thinking. And then to offer a solution that the entity "Metro" should spend Hundreds of Millions of Tax Dollars to provide simplicity to people that can't understand is far out from the reaches of reality.
I suggest you vet some of your ideas and theories out before the transit using public at say the http://transittalk.proboards37.com discussion board. Frankly you will get an earfull and everyone on the board is a transit user.
All you MTA defenders that deny that problems exist and blame them on the riders, why don't you fund some crash course in MTA science that people can take, so they'd be in the know?
Because without such a 'crash course', along with insufficient signage and display of information, it really does make for a largely unintuitive system.
Most residents aren't transit 'geeks'. They just want to move from point A to B, which shouldn't be unreasonable to expect to accomplish without hassle.
People already make an 'effort' when finding out which bus goes where, what the fare is, when to transfer etc. With this, they have to find out what bus-line to get on, as well as make sure they're on the right bus. And the only way to learn it is via the hard way, or through advance research.
And it's not as if all routes work the same way.
Well, regardless, the policy isn't intuitive, regardless of what the deniers may say. You can say, but I understand it, so should they, but then we're back again to those who give a rats about MTA's policies, vs those who simply want to get from one point to another. Maybe you geeks focus on the bus and MTA while riding. I bet most people focus on where they're heading to, and perhaps on more mundane things of life, and couldn't care less about MTA's inner intricacies. The fact that you have to go 'geek' in order to figure out how MTA works is quite telling. And again, most people will not. That's why the system fails several at a time. Not just one isolated incident every now and then, but several at a time, per line; daily. Okay.
And the riders that do get it right are most likely commuters or other frequent passengers who've had a chance to get a hang of how it works.
The short turn buses simply don't stand out from the regular ones.
Metro's headsigns do have "short line," but only as a P.R. code. That's a separate scroll from the destination itself.
Metro already has to program headsigns twice a year for shake-ups. Adding short line to the destination, and not as a P.R. code, would help.
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