Friday, January 22, 2010

Metro Doesn't Ride Itself?

A lot of effort is being made these days to convince people to take public transportation. And there are many reasons for this. The first being that the various governments we live under have spent literally tens of billions of dollars to build this stuff. And if we don't ride their creations they'll feel both foolish and deficient as planners. But there are also far grander visions at work here as well. The most prominent now being to "get people out of their cars." Cars, according to certain advocates, being pretty much the cause of almost all the world's woes these days.

And if you don't believe me, check out the palaver in an LA.Streetsblog article entitled Your Car Will Not Save The Planet:

Even if we were to devise a perfect car, one made out of recycled tires and printer paper, one that harnesses photosynthesis to not only be carbon-neutral, but actually make energy from atmospheric CO2, even if we could make a car with no direct environmental impact, it would still be an environmental and social disaster. Our waterways are contaminated by engine fluids and lubricants that run off of road surfaces. Our natural groundwater tables are falling because rainwater is unable to penetrate pavement.

Cars still allow sprawling development that eats up wild lands and spits out bland suburbia. Species' ranges in the few precious areas of wilderness that we have are disrupted by highways. We would still live in a society where we shut ourselves off from one another in our own private boxes, promoting inequality and a lack of respect for shared humanity. We would still leave our inner cities to dangle. Our streets would still be unsafe places for children to play, and we would still kill thousands every year in automobile crashes ...

Whew. Who knew that when mom took you and the kids to the supermarket in that fine old station wagon she used to drive, she was really engaging in something approaching the crime of the century. Of course, in the eyes of our more militant public transportation advocates, she was one of millions hellbent on an unwitting mission of mass destruction.

The shock troops of SB 375 need you to believe that what they are saying is right, and that you have no choice but to get out of your "private box "(I think he is talking about your house), get rid of your car, and join the huddled masses at the bus stop.

But then there is this problem. Left to their druthers, the vast majority of people would prefer the convenience and ease of private transportation. You step out of the door, get into your car, and it takes you to wherever you want to go. No long waits at a bus station, or squeezing onto trains filled with the suffering masses. Given the freedom of choice Americans are accustomed to, they'll take the car every time. And I doubt that many would even conceive of the alternative as being a serious option.

And did you know that even the employees of Metro, the grand overseers of public transportation in this part of the world, prefer to take their cars as well? According to Browne Molyneux, the editor of the spirited but somewhat snarky The Bus Bench blog, only 1.6% of all Metro employees regularly use public transportation.

First off lets all congratulate Metro with being in compliance of Rule 2202. The one thing I love about Metro is that it never disappoints me ... I knew the number of Metro employees that used their company's service was low, but I thought maybe 10% or 20%. The number of people in L.A. County who take public transit is 7%. I thought Metro would at least match or beat that. after all, 7% is an amazingly low number. I gave Metro too much credit. Out of the approximately 9200 employed by Metro in 2009, 155 of them use Metro's service: the beautiful trains and buses ... 1,540 out of 9,200 Metro employees have a TAP card.

If true, that would seem to be a problem. If you are going to claim a moral and ethical superiority to the Los Angeles car culture in the name of saving the world from such things as global warming, you should at least be able to convince the folks on the payroll to take the bus.

We've discussed SB 375 on this site many times, and as I am sure you know by now the centerpiece of its rationale for existence is public transportation. The building of Transit Oriented Development being justified by Sacramento as the one surefire way to get people out of their cars and onto public transportation. And when our SB 375 RHNA number is presented to Sierra Madre by SCAG in 2012, we will be required by state law to open our town up to a massive dose of high density development. All in the name of getting people to live near public transportation, which is supposed to cause them to abandon their cars and get on the bus or train. A pretty vast leap of faith in my opinion, and hardly reason enough to take the wrecking ball to quaint foothill villages like our own.

But if Metro can't even get its own employees to take advantage of their public transportation services, what hope is there of getting everyone else to do it?


  1. This is why it is so important to protect Sierra Madre from this insanity aka SB375!

    Make sure Don Watts, John Crawford and Pat Alcorn are seated on your council this April, Sierra Madre.

    Your town and your home and your liberty are at stake here.

  2. When government gets involved in massive centrally controlled government development schemes, bad things happen. That SB 375 was concocted with the close involvement of concerned lobbyists has only made things worse.

  3. Why is it the developers always have their finger in the transportation "pie" here? They were there from the beginning, when it was freeways (and home building) they were after, shooting down all public transportation plans for Los Angeles. And now, here they are again, flipping sides this time (but not flipping their self-serving interests).

  4. Sacramento only cares about keeping its
    clients in business. And being able to
    tear down the barriers around towns like
    Sierra Madre is important for them. The
    developers think they can make money here. This has nothing to do with global warming,
    and everything to do with money.

  5. Hey Virginia... we agree on something!!
    Excuse me while I annotate this day in my calendar ~8^)

  6. And they said it couldn't be done...

  7. Developers want to build. They don't care what, where, or the effects. Destroy, build, cash out. Now Sacramento is giving them a free pass on CEQA if it creates jobs.

  8. The Metro workers aren't rocket scientists, but they are not fools either. They know whats been on thoses bussess and what's left behind. Ever ride a Metro Bus??? Nasty stuff on those rides.

  9. Actually there is no great conspiracy. As early as 1927 Angelinos were voting down transportation bonds in favor of greater road development to service automobiles.

    By the time that Firestone Standard and GM were ripping up red car lines the corpse was already cold and the coffin nailed shut.

    The cynical truth of mass transit is that everyone desires it so that others will use it and they themselves may stay in their cars.

  10. Looks like the Gold Line has been stopped by a fallen tree. No service between Museum Station and Sierra Madre Villa right now. Metro is bringing in some buses to help the stranded. Looks like a bunch of folks will be late to their lunches in TOD Pasadena.

  11. Malthus is right, it was the auto industry that pushed LA to go suburban. And now its the environmental groups that push for the density and transit oriented development. And Pasta is partially right in that developers will go along with whatever allows them to build.

    Some builders actually require a "transfer fee" in their CC&Rs that is given to environmental groups. In exchange the groups agree to not sue in order to stop the project, and they send in "support" letters on projects. And the groups are buying in because it becomes a perpetual funding source for them.

  12. A bit more correctionJanuary 22, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    SC: While some environmental groups might be sucked into the whole SB 375 scam (The Sierra Club being the most infamous cave in), it is hardly as uniform as you seem to be asserting here. High density development is as widely recognized source for greenhouse gas pollution as the cars they're supposedly the remedy for. Some environmentalists do have some integrity left, you know.

    And none of thios addresses Pasta's point that Sacramento has been chopping the legs out from under CEQA for a while now. Getting rid of that has been a BIA dream for quite a while. And removing that from the mix in the name of "green development" is exquisitely cynical.

  13. A bit more: agreed some groups haven't been sucked in on the TOD stuff. Most of them have though because they think all of a sudden people are going to trade in their car for a bike and a bus pass... how is that working out?

    I wasn't addressing the CEQA process, which incidentally does have a great number of flaws too... I was addressing the suggestion that it was the car companies that made LA suburban, and that builders will go along with whatever fits their needs, including selling out future homeowners and their own industry policies in order to get away from some lawsuits...

  14. That really is the big leap of faith, isn't it? Build condos next to a bus station and the residents will magically give up their cars.
    More proof that some environmentalists smoke
    way more green than they actually save.

  15. *Looking around for my copy of Chinatown*

  16. @ Slight correction.

    Actually the push to go suburban predates the Automobile in Southern California. The street car lines were built by the developers in order to get the rubes out to the sticks to sell them their own lil' piece of So Cal.

    Many of these lines where eventually taken over by the Pacific Electric line.

  17. Sierra Madre wasn't all rubes. There
    were tuberculors and other seeking a
    return to health arriving from the
    east. Don't forget that. And please
    bring a hankie.

    But people have been trying to escape
    the cramped cities for ever. Which is
    why the notion of moving people back
    into them is going to be about as
    popular as cancer once people figure
    this all out.

  18. The Rubes I was referring to were midwestern transplants of a century ago.

    As for the tuberculars, east coast doctors had a racket. If the patient made it out west and was cured the doctor was a genius. If the patient died en route it was the trip that killed them. No lose situation for the prescribing physician.

  19. Now, Malthus, that *is* cynical...

    Barlow Hospital being one of the more well-known tuberculosis facilities. But they've all gone the way of the iron lung. Fortunately.

  20. So who did frame Roger Rabbit?

  21. Creative Framing, at 25 South Baldwin.

    "Where YOU'RE In The Picure!"

  22. We have agreed before, True Freedom, on a Topix thread, something which, unfortunately, has slipped my mind. Something radical, no doubt!

  23. I have lived in places where there was well designed public transportation. It was easy to catch buses/trains because they had very frequent service, so you never had to wait more than 10 or 15 minutes. The buses/trains were reasonably clean, and because the routes were so efficient, most people used them, even people who were well off enough to own their own cars. So it's possible. But it has been so screwed up here, it's just not the same thing at all. One of those totally frustrating problems that common sense could fix.

  24. not so Crazy conspiracy theoristJanuary 22, 2010 at 7:11 PM

    Seems to me that the most important point here is that an idea with good intentions - providing a safer, cleaner and cheaper way for the public to move around - has been infiltrated by leeches, ticks and tapeworms.

    As long as the construction/developer/realtor industry is co-opting it, it will not be for the public good.

  25. Still read the papersJanuary 22, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    Did anybody notice the many ads for Metro in the Sierra Madre Weekly?
    Probably in the Arcadia, Duarte, Covina, etc Weekly too.
    Lots of advertising dollars.

  26. Our little weeklies are fully owned subsidiaries of whatever it is Sacramento is pushing at the time. And it's not that they sold out that is so troubling. People do that all the time. But did they have to sell out for so little? These guys went down for crumbs.

  27. LA is a car culture. It just is. That is the way it has always been and I don't think it will change just because a bunch of poeple who think they know back up a bill called SB 375. The train is "nice" but it is not BART or the Paris, London, DC or NYC subway system. Like you said, no common sense. None.

  28. 7:11, so which parasite is which business? Are the realtors the ticks?

  29. I bet that almost anyone could come up with better routes for our local stuff.
    Like up each street then down each street.
    Like the garbage trucks have worked out.

  30. Pretty sure the developers are the tape worms.

  31. What an embarrassment to Metro that the employees don't use the service.
    What does 'corporate' have to say about that?
    Let me guess: It takes time to change habits, we're on the cutting edge of the green revolution, we are the pioneers of a new Southern California, only the brave will go out in front....and we'll be worth every penny of your tax dollars because of our great success, one day....

  32. Tod (Transit oriented Development) is not a good acronym.
    It means death in German.
    Or maybe it IS the right acronym.

  33. Which regional planning organization sounds like the people working there would be the most fun to have a beer with:
    1) ABAG
    2) SCAG
    3) SANBAG
    4) CSAC

    Take your time ...

  34. Didn't see much dirtage on this thread. Can it be if we're not talking about blowing up mailboxes or friends of theirs boycotting downtown businesses they can't handle the flow?

  35. "If you are going to claim a moral and ethical superiority to the Los Angeles car culture in the name of saving the world from such things as global warming, you should at least be able to convince the folks on the payroll to take the bus," you!!!

    Awesome. If you go to one of those Metro PR things where they give out coffee and cookies you should ask them which bus did they use to get there. We obviously know that Metro doesn't ride Metro, but it should be very entertaining. I mean I mess with Metro employees all of the time on FB. I ask them, so what bus should I take or why don't you take the bus and they get all, ummm, ummmm,'s freakin hilarious!!! If you think the Metro is crap just say it, but they can't say it, but they won't take it. Is that not comedy. Is that not the best punch line?

  36. Shenanigan ShuttleJanuary 23, 2010 at 8:00 PM

    You know what the problem is? Metro pays its employees too much money. If they didn't make as much as they do, then they wouldn't be able to afford to own a car. Then they'd have to take the bus. Problem solved!


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