Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why Angelenos Will Never Embrace The Bus, Part 2

I am angry, a very angry bus rider that was stiffed by a bus I needed to take today to get to Pasadena.
Montebello Bus Lines
I sat over 50 minutes waiting for a bus that never came. In this case it was to ride a Montebello Bus Line, line 30, that in my experience is never on time. I sat across the street from my doctors office, where I get daily radiation, needing this bus to get up to Huntington Drive, about a 45 minute walk, about a 10 minute bus ride. Yes, if I had known.... Then I connect to a Metro Bus that heads to Altadena just north of Pasadena.

The Metro Line of buses and trains are more or less on time but they are down far more than I feel they would be in Chicago, New York and even Atlanta. I can't even begin to recount my embarrassment as I called and told the person I was meeting that I couldn't get there. There was no bus. Even if it showed up late I would never have gotten the connecting bus I needed. So there it is ... why only the poor or those that have the time, use the bus.

I am convinced if the middle and upper classes used and depended on mass transit like those in New Jersey, Philadephia and New York City suburbs that here in Los Angeles you would see a change probably almost overnight. We are so married to our cars that you see long lines of cars on every freeway at rush hour with one person in them as you whiz by them on a huge Metro Link train or the small Metro lines ... the Blue Line, the Gold Line, the Red Line and the Purple Line with more to come maybe if we are lucky by the 22nd Century.

However, unlike China, that could build an 800 mile long high speed train from Beijing to Shanghai in two years, its taken more than three years for the Gold Line to go from the Sierra Madre Station in Pasadena to Arcadia, CA a distance of maybe 10 miles. As far as I know, that new extension isn't open yet. Again ... get the middle and upper classes to use them and they will not stand for this kind of behavior.

Metro built themselves a huge multi story building that looms over Union Station and all the Amtrak, Metro Link and rail service lines in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange County. Maybe its time to empty that building and force every employee in them to attempt to use what they manage and have designed. There probably would be many changes especially if you said there will be no parking anywhere around so, well, take the train or bus to work. I would suggest that every bus line in the county make the same requirement of their employees as well. Let them see what we have to put up with in an up close and personal manner. Again, if they had no place to park, there would be so many changes and done so fast that it would literally make the public's heads spin. THAT IS CHANGE!

The fares continue to go up and services are changed and dropped each and every year. It seems that the idea that people just gave up is beyond their ability to comprehend.

I like taking the Train and with an app that gets me around on buses because even when you get anywhere in LA, the cost to park your car would be the same as taking and paying for 5 or 6 of your closest friends. Yet, the bus has to arrive in a timely manner. They don't.

Much of the blame has to be with the city and country planners. Streets that are already burdened with traffic are seeing even more buildings rise. Wilshire Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd. are truly Dante's seven circles of hell. It can take an hour, AN HOUR, to go three or four miles at rush hour. I have seen people walk faster than the traffic. Its not just Los Angeles either. Many cities in their rush to get that property tax have done the same thing. The quality of life plummets. This cavalier attitude has got to change. With streets and freeways crumbling, the time has come to make big changes. Make it easy and timely to get mass transit. Maybe rather than getting even bigger, our mass transit systems may need to get smaller with more of them. Should they compete? I don't know. They rarely do. Maybe its time to completely re-think what needs to be done. We are all tired of the same pat old answers. Maybe its time to truly think it through "out of the box."

Thank you for reading my blog. This Blog discusses a wide range of design issues. While painting is important we endure design, good and bad,  each and every day in the things we do and use. They are not always to our advantage. Please check out some of the other blogs!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

WHY Angelenos Will Never Embrace The Bus

After years of driving, I had my first experience actually riding two different bus company lines today. Without wheels and wanting to go to Pasadena, CA to church, I decided to give it a try. My only other choice was to walk and later I had to do just that. It was 99ยบ out when I did.

It seems that most buses provide bus racks
There is a great Apple App called MOOVIT that gives you just about perfect step by step instructions to use public transit. Now if only the bus lines would be as conscientious. I'm just sayin'.

Metro Bus in Los Angeles
In my case the first bus I took was a Montebello Bus (MB) that conveniently posts their bus signs for bus stops; many are the same places that LA's Metro lines stop. The difference is Metro clearly marks which bus lines stop there, MB lets you guess. Beside arriving well past the posted time, I was on my phone calling about "if" the bus was actually running, when it appeared. It was the right bus number posted on my phone but their sign gave you no clue. Looking at my phone I discovered I was already running late and worried about connecting buses. To go a mere 6 miles required three different buses and two different bus lines. I chose one that seemed easy to follow but there were more choices, one including buses and getting on the Metro Gold Line - a train! To drive it would take about 15 minutes, to take the bus 1 hour and 15 or so minutes, if you were lucky. Since this was a Sunday there were fewer buses. However, you would think they would be more on time, not less. Not one of the buses I rode was anywhere near full. A few passengers had bikes and used the racks like old pros. A nice touch.

The next bus was at a strange confluence of Atlantic and Garfield just below Huntington Drive (confused? well it is when you ride the bus). You have to walk from Garfield over to Atlantic to catch a Metro Bus. At least the posted Metro sign thoughtfully assured me by posting the numbered bus I was looking for that was going north. When the bus arrived, I put in the fare and told him I needed to get off at Colorado, the main east-west drag in Pasadena. As we rode north through South Pasadena to Pasadena on a street I've driven a million times, I realized that all of my doctors were "on the way" to Colorado. Since the transportation at the home is spotty at best, its good to know.

Our stop was just north of Colorado and then I had to cross the street to catch the next bus going east. It finally dawned on me that I might be able to use my Metro Train card. I could. The driver explained to me, after I put in my fare, that it was just like getting on the train, you "tap" the card and depending, subtracts money from the card. Here I worried about having enough dollars, quarters and dimes to pay the fare. At least with your Metro card its just a tap away!

Amazingly I got there on time, a 75 minute journey including a 5 minute walk.

The Inter-Pacific Red Car
I hoped that going home was simply a reverse of my trip north but I must have hit some key wrong because my instructions suddenly disappeared. I had to enter my "current location" which showed where I was on the street asking where I wanted to go. I found out where I had to start. Its amazing really. It knew exactly where I was and showed me how to get there; if I was driving, but I wasn't, so had to rely on the best App I could find. I have about 6 different Apps on my iPhone 6 and MOOVIT is the only that gave me what I needed using public transit. I got lost on my last stop and had to walk over a mile home. It was again my fault though the MB sign was a mystery; the bus late.  Which bus stops here? I don't know if MOOVIT covers other places, the only one I care about is the Los Angeles basin, with one of the worst public transit systems in the world.

Public transportation in Los Angeles at the beginning of the 20th Century was one of the finest in the world. Long before LA was a 100 mile wide megapolis, you could go from the beach in Santa Monica to the desert in San Bernardino, a land of nearly limitless orchards, Long Beach to Mt. Low, high up in the San Gabriel Mountains. With the introduction of the automobile came freeways and freeways replaced trains until the last line to Long Beach ended around 1962. Disney's amazing film, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" chronicles the destruction of public transit that occured. Ironically when after six failed voting attempts to get Angelenos to pony up the billions required to create train lines, with finally government help, the old Long Beach, now called the Blue Line, was the first to go back online. However, it is not an easy connection. You have to get on the Red Line, then exit and get on the Blue Line to head south.

After a few days using subways in New York City and New Jersey Transit, you realize how convoluted we made riding anything Metro touches. While it's easy to blame Metro executives, the fractured city-states of Los Angeles are also partly to blame as well. Places like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Westwood fought tooth and nail to stop Metro from "polluting" their neighborhoods. Only when revenues started to fall, the public began to avoid the congestion of getting there were discussions suddenly back on the burner.

LA Surpasses NYC with worst traffic in U.S.
Several years ago I was meeting a friend at the Wiltern theatre at the meeting of Western and Wilshire Blvd. for a concert. I had to come from Rosemead Blvd. and the I-10 freeway driving to Pasadena's Sierra Madre station, taking the Gold Line to Union Station then take the Purple Line. I got there in a bit over 60 minutes. He, traveling on Wilshire Blvd. from 26th St. in Santa Monica, a mere few miles away, took more than 90 minutes. As you can see there is a crying need for public transit but, either no one wants to build it for fear no one will use it. My last stop at the time was under a huge new condo. If I worked in a place where I could avoid the streets I'd move there and probably regain my life! What is missing is a coordinated plan that allows and pays for increased public transit to avoid the freeway and street congestion we suffer from. Buses? Why buses? They use the same lanes as cars and are trapped just like cars with only more victims inside. I've seen people walk faster than the bus drives!

You might question, who rides the bus, who rides the train? Well, poor people who simply cannot afford to own a car but many others who just don't want the hassle of driving on congested freeways and paying increasing car parking lot fees. It is indeed a unique mix of the rich and poor. However, fares are not cheap. I mean they had to pay for the huge Metro Skyscraper that looms over Union Station. Projects that should take a year or two take decades. China built an 800 mile high speed train track from Beijing to Shanghai in two years. The link from the Sierra Madre Station in Pasadena needed 6 months of "testing" to go as far as Arcadia, maybe a distance of 7 - 8 miles. It took them years to even construct the line. They already had the right of way even.

Until getting on a bus or train with lines that make sense, well signed, are on time and meet the needs of the public, not the needs of the powers that be, even congested freeways are not enough to get them to switch. Like I said I knew how to get from point A to point B, just not on a bus.

Thank you for reading my blog! I urge to you please read some of the earlier postings. They all refer to how we have designed our lives.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Ubiquitous Cell Phone: The Good and Not So Good

The crowd group texting
Today, after radiation treatment, I went to the gym to do my normal routine much to the delight of my oncologist, and possibly for my own wellbeing as well. As I was about an hour later than usual for some reason I noticed that the crowd was generally in their 20's-30's and that cell phones were just about in everyones hands. I was robbed once in a gym and take nothing of value ... let alone my iPhone.

Phone used for music 
It struck me as a bit odd and annoying. In between their very short sets, they were so busy texting they had no idea that someone may have wanted to use the machine they were merrily texting on. As a culture, we have become completely addicted to our cell phones. I think that in about 20 or so years, doctors of the neck and spine and chiropractors will have jobs for the rest of their lives from necks ruined by citizens literally bent over phones.

Many patrons of gyms bring their own music even though the gym plays music often at near ear numbing loudness. Unless their headphones are better than anything I have ever used, it must be annoying to listen to two sets of music. As I observed that after lifting their weights, like the man on the right, they then take a looooong rest between sets and text away or even stopping to see what the alert brought them.

Tests have shown the dangers of phone use, especially texting. It is said that the death rate texting while driving is about the same as drinking and driving. We just can't seem to get away from them. They take up just about every free minute and some that aren't so free. More and more places are forbidding phones because they are annoying especially when you have to hear another's talking.
Just because you are riding a bike you are a risk

Why is the cell phone so dangerous? First of all, you are trying to picture in mind's eye the person you are texting or talking too. Your mind struggles to see nuances that are not visible. We become so intent that we literally have no idea of our surroundings. I remember getting rear ended once. The cops finally made the woman turn off her phone ... she was still talking. I think she was so busy chatting that she didn't see we were all stopped. When you are on the phone you do not see a thing. I can hear already, "I can multi-task." Studies have shown that we delude ourselves if we think that is true. You can do a variety of things but NOT in the same instant of time. You go from task to task and think you are multi-tasking because you don't stop. Ever been to a restaurant and seen a group of four at a table? Usually all four are busy with their phones ignoring that fact that living breathing people are right in front of them. I have even heard where they text each other ... mere inches away! We have become a society that wants contact just not with real people.

Sending a picture to Grandma
The cell phone or "smart" phone with dumb users has also become the camera of choice. It can be used for family shots as this wonderful mother and child photo shows. Its a fast way to keep family members in touch or upload instantly to Instagram or Facebook. Sometimes the uploaded pictures that seemed so clever at the time will turn out to be, ugh, unfortunate down the road. It is quite common now for employers to ask for an applicants Facebook name and they then peruse their postings. Those drunk photos at the last party do not make many selling points.

Hey, look at me!
And as we learned in the Wiener episode in New York, "selfies" are also quite popular. There are many guys at the gym, which are lined with mirrors, taking photos of themselves to post or impress someone. My gym has it posted that cameras are not allowed. I wonder if anyone has considered the cell phone. They now have cameras as good as most point and shoots and in some cases better with the advantage of getting that photo uploaded in seconds!

Even in its archaic state the first photos taken of the passenger plane making an emergency landing in the Hudson River were taken by an early iPhone. It was posted in minutes and made it to most newspapers front page. The photographer won awards for it.

Selfie's begat selfie sticks that after ruining several valuable pieces of art are now banned in most museums. Who wants a hole in a $100 million Van Gogh? Who will pay for its restoration? It became a problem that no museum wanted to deal with. The obvious choice? Ban them.

Cell phones are amazing video cameras as well. We see acts by the police recorded. The new iPhone has movie camera recording ability even with stabilizing for sharp, non jittery images. Recently a young movie director made an entire movie, and won awards for it, using his iPhone 6 Plus. Its been known for awhile now that making a digital film is much cheaper. However, the cost to equip every movie house in the country with digital projectors would cost billions. Consumers though have taken matters into their own hands and bought huge TV sets with stunning resolution and wait for the DVD, often with better sound and clarity. Your phone might be able to record baby's first steps and be seen in all its glory, maybe even bigger than real life, on your TV or Facebook, in seconds.

I can remember walking in to MacWorld as Steve Jobs was finishing his keynote speech for the first iPhone. What we saw was nothing like what people thought it would be. What is was supposed to do, well, most of the attendees, Mac Heads for sure, thought there was a bit too much cannabis being smoked over at Apple. I had Motorola's RAZR, the most advanced phone at the time and it was miserable to use. If I wanted to do or change something I would look for a 16 year old and have them do what I wanted. When I got my first iPhone its ease of use was stunning. I could do in a few short taps what all other phones could never do.

However I don't think anyone dreamed what they would become. David Pogue spoke the next day at O'Reilly's books saying the iPhone would be the definitive device of the 21st Century. Turns out he was right.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check out some of the earlier postings. They all cover in one way or another how design affects our daily lives.