Last Month’s Headlines

10_16_09_alarcon.JPGCouncilman Alarcon with the Family of Judy Ramos, killed on July 28 while crossing the street.

While I was on paternity leave there were a lot of stories that I would have covered if I had been writing.   I didn’t want to let them pass without any commentary or coverage beyond a sentence in Today’s Headlines.  H

AnsaldoBreda

After half a year of debate, numerous reports from Metro’s new CEO staff begging them not to continue the contract and one of the most ethically challenged public relations campaigns I’ve ever seen; the Metro Board of Directors decided to extend their exclusive contract with Italian Rail Car manufacturer AnsaldoBreda.  You may remember that the company "promised" to build a rail car manufacturing plant in Greater Los Angeles if they got the contract, a fact that couldn’t legally be considered by the Metro Board.

However, every month that went by since the debate erupted last March brought more reasons to not trust the rail car company.  Board Members Zev Yaroslavsky, the Westside’s representative to the County Board of Supervisors, and Santa Monica Council Member Pam O’Connor were among the rail car manufacturer’s harshest critics, but that wasn’t enough to stop Mayor Villaraigosa and his allies from pushing the contract extension through.

At least Villaraigosa, who bent over backwards to keep his union supporters happy, didn’t insult our intelligence by pretending the decision was made in the best interest of Metro or its riders.  One day after they extended the contract, Villaraigosa held a press conference announcing all the new jobs coming to L.A. with the new factory.

For our full coverage of the AnsaldoBreda controversy, click here.  Note that the coverage started neutral and became more negative as time went on.

Alarcón, City Council Offer Reward for Information on Deadly Hit and Run.

Earlier this week, Councilman Richard Alarcón succeeded in getting the City Council to allocate $50,000 dollars for any information on the deadly Hit-and-Run that killed Judy Ramos on July 28.  In a city where too often there seems to be a lack of energy on finding Hit-and-Run drivers, this is an encouraging sign of elected officials and the LAPD taking this instance seriously.  What would be more encouraging would be harsher fines for Hit-and-Run Drivers.  Under current law, there are harsher fines for drunk driving than hit-and-run driving.  This encourages murderous drivers to flee the scene of the crime.

For more information on the crash and how to inform the LAPD, visit this article in the Daily News.

OCTA Wants Ideas on How to Improve Transportation

h/t to Spokker and Transit Rider OC

The Orange County Transportation Authority has an online survey to solicit feedback from residents on how to improve transportation behind the Orange Curtain.  Naturally, the majority of the questions are about freeways and capacity enhancement, but at least this time they mention buses several times.  You can take the survey here.

Mel Gibson Gets DUI Expunged

I was shocked to find out that Mel Gibson was able to get his 2006 DUI Conviction expunged from his record; but I was even more outraged to read that such an act is routine in California.  The Times reports:

As a first-time drunk-driving offender, Gibson was eligible to have the
conviction removed from his record after completing the terms of his
probation. The expunging request and procedure is routine and took
place before Judge Lawrence J. Mira during a 90-second hearing.

I guess it’s a good thing that you have to drunkenly hit people with your car twice before hurting them or else this law would make no sense.

A New Bike License Controversy Brewing in Santa Monica?

We have yet to hear a report for someone getting ticketed, but our friends the Santa Monica Police Department are at it again.  Blogger Gary Kavanaugh noted that the SMPD is flyering about the need to have your bike licensed before you can ride in Santa Monica.  Long-time readers may remember that the LAPD was taken to task for abusing a state law that allows police departments to create licensing programs to help cyclists recover stolen bicycles.  The LAPD had to back off after it came to light they were handing out illegally high fines and repeatedly running out of licenses when cyclists asked for them.

Is Santa Monica going to copy one of LAPD’s less than inspiring attempts at law enforcement?  The city has somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde reputation with cyclists.  On one hand, the city has more and better bike facilities per capita than any city in the county save Long Beach.  On the other, the SMPD are known to harass group rides to the point of comically over-policing Santa Monica Critical Mass and of course became national laughing stocks for taking a principled stand against people who exercise in public spaces.

Controversial Bike Lane Stays in Santa Clarita

Way back in August we discussed the angry reaction of some in Santa Clarita to new bike lanes on Decoro Avenue.  The City Council eventually reached a compromise after lengthy debate.  The bike lanes stayed and the road was re-striped to increase automobile capacity.  Hooray?

More TAP Problems

On the Metro Rider discussion forums, writer J Marino writes about how he was falsely accused of trying to evade TAP fares because the TAP readers were broken:

 

Fare officers started checking tickets about 7 stops in. They check
my TAP card and tell me that it hasn’t been used since June, 2009! This
is clearly not true, but I have no way to prove it. Officers march me
through the train like a criminal and escort me off the train at
Imperial station. This is in Compton. I will probably catch hell for
this, but I should mention that I am a 5’1”, 100-pound girl. And I’m
stranded, alone, in Compton. Awesome. I also hold in my hand a citation
that will cost me several hundred dollars to correct.

I bought another day pass (paper this time, no way will I trust the
TAP card again), and headed right back home. As soon as I could, I
called the number on the TAP card and spoke to a wonderful customer
service agent, Rita, who verified that I had indeed bought and used a
day pass through TAP that morning. She had me send copies of my
citation, bank statement showing the $5 deducted for the fare, and ID
to TAP customer service, stating that she would have the citation
voided. Super!

When reader Erik Griswold wrote to Cubic and Metro about the issue he was told that monthly pass holders can avoid these kinds of problems by carrying their receipt with them.  Uhm, wasn’t the point of TAP cards that Metro would move to paperless ticketing?  Now we’re supposed to carry around a paper receipt?  I think I’ll stick to day passes, thanks all the same.

It’s no wonder that Foothill Transit announced they were opting out of the TAP system.

  • Welcome back! You were sadly missed — especially by those of us who learned how hard your job is by trying to fill your shoes for a day.

  • AnsaldoBreda in my opinion makes unsafe cars. I hope that the people who get the jobs making this car take into account that their families might be taking trips on these cars and I hope if they see any funny business they alert the press. I don’t think Leahy wanted that contract to go through, some funny business obviously went down for that contract to happen.

    Browne

  • Wad

    Browne wrote:

    some funny business obviously went down for that contract to happen.

    Funny business that was out in the open. AnsaldoBreda bribed the Metro board with jobs.

    Metro took the sucker bait.

    The Transport Politic site has shown that the promises to build a factory is AnsaldoBreda’s MO.

    L.A. is not adding jobs but taking the ones the Bay Area is likely to use when the Pittsburg plant shuts down.

    We’ll keep these jobs until Breda has to promise another area to build a factory, and L.A. officials would be shocked, shocked! that AnsaldoBreda would dare bamboozle them.

  • M

    I suppose if you pay for your monthly TAP pass with a credit/debit card, that might provide sufficient proof of payment, however I don’t really trust Metro with that sort of info, so I pay with cash. I get the receipt just in case, but is is somewhat frustrating to carry another piece of paper around and truthfully, I don’t carry it all of the time. When trying to pay you are sometimes limited by the equipment. It’s not uncommon to try to pay for your pass only to find out the ticket machine isn’t accepting coins or won’t read any credit/debit cards. Some people still manage to get their hands on paper monthly passes, but I’m not sure how.

    I know I’ve said it again and again, but the equipment issues that metro has do not inspire confidence in me when it comes to something critical such as the turnstiles. I’ve had instances where I was waiting for the train and it was delayed. As a result I had to run up the stairs from the Red Line station (no cell phone service!) to call work and tell them I’d be in late. I’m not sure how I would get back down to the station if the turnstiles were in the “locked” position since I would need to TAP my card again shortly after it was originally tapped. Other times I’ve abandoned the train for the bus after there were train delays. Some of the TAP stations are flaky at times and won’t read your card even after multiple people trying. There are tv monitors at the Red Line station near my home that have been out of service for more than a couple of months now, and I reported them a while ago. Then again, I’m still bitter about the turnstiles as I ended up with smashed fruits in my tote bag, a ruined library book after it was covered with a smashed banana and yogurt and an unusable camera after a critical piece of plastic was broken off before I realized the turnstiles arms that end up behind you as you walk through were smacking my tote bag as I walked through each morning.

  • Erik G.

    If the offer of a factory in Los Angeles cannot be legally considered when voting for a contract with AnsaldoBreda, can one report the Mayor and his lackies to the FTA for prosecution?

    And here is the only response I got from TAP who are really just Cubic:

    Dear Customer,

    We are not aware how Metro is instructing their sheriffs to check for passes on the TAP card. If you have a valid pass and you obtain a citation, you may use a receipt to verify that you bought a pass. However, if you do not have that available, make sure you TAP card is registered and we will verify with the court that the card was loaded with a valid pass, should this occur to you. We thank you for your concerns and hope to provide you with assistance with any of your future TAP needs.

    Thank you,

    Regional TAP Service Center
    866-TAPTOGO (866-827-8646)
    http://www.taptogo.net/ </i)

    So effectively, Cubic/TAP has no problem using valuable Los Angeles Superior Court time to fix their ticketing system, when it is THEIR OWN EQUIPMENT THAT IS CREATING THE PROBLEM!!!

    I really hope Cubic/TAP gets a contempt of court charge and someone spends a weekend in jail.

  • David Galvan

    Re: TAP issues:
    The equipment malfunctions suck, but honestly no technology is going to be 100% reliable. If I need to get a TAP pass, I will stick the paper receipt in my wallet and forget about it until I have an issue.

    I do think there is a major problem if the system does not allow you to TAP your card twice within a 5 minute period or something. Can anyone tell me what the actual rule is here? I realize it is to prevent tapping through multiple people with a single pass. . . but the only thing that can really prevent that is stationing an MTA or sheriff near the turnstyles to look for misbehavior.

  • M

    David my point isn’t that equipment malfunctions happen with technology – I work in Quality Assurance so I am well aware of this. The point is that maybe it’s not a good idea to keep on adding MORE technologies such that you end up with an endless cycle of things that can be broken and not maintained, especially if you are then going to punish your customers when the aforementioned items break down! If they are going to add the TAP system, they should be pretty confident it will work something like 95% or more of the time, especially if they are then going to ticket the customers when the system fails. If you are going to install TV with train departure times, don’t let them fall into a state of disrepair after a relatively short period of time and meanwhile install new tvs at other stations. If you are going to announce train departure times on the mentioned tvs, make sure they actually correspond to the times the trains will arrive and depart. Making people miss trains is a sure way to annoy people and lose customers as they spend hours of their life standing on platforms (where you can’t even drink water even if you ran to the platform and it’s 100 degrees outside) over the years.