How We Roll, Nov. 25: Thanksgiving edition

Turkeys on a train:


Winning arguments with your family: don’t fall for the traffic trap (Streetsblog LA)

Well, I guess we know what Streetsblog editor Damien Newton talks about at Thanksgiving dinner: transit versus traffic!

In this post, Damien offers some very helpful guidance for those who must defend themselves against charges that building more transit won’t fix traffic. His tips don’t include hurling a drumstick at family members (an option we refuse to take off the table, so to speak). Among them:

Concede the unwinnable points: Building a rail line won’t make traffic disappear. Nobody is arguing it will.

If all else fails, fall back on math: Just ask how worse would traffic be if those 30,000 commuters getting on the train all got into single-passenger vehicles instead.

Read the entire piece. It’s fun and helpful.

Valley Metro CEO resigns amid Republic investigation (The Arizona Republic)

News out of Phoenix that Stephen Banta, the CEO of Valley Metro — the region’s transit agency — will be resigning in January amid an investigation over his meal and travel expenses. Banta didn’t specifically cite the investigation as the reason for his sudden departure but the chairwoman of the agency’s light rail board said it’s “absolutely” about it.

The receipts found by The Republic include airfare for first-class on eight trips Banta took this year, meal reimbursements between $230 and $470 to allegedly entertain guests — though many of those guests claim they never meet with Banta — and unitemized receipts in excessive amounts for meals and alcohol. Banta’s defense:

Before submitting his resignation, Banta defended the spending, saying his attendance at international conferences allows Phoenix to be a player in the worldwide transit industry. He said he learned how to better leverage public-private partnerships. Banta also defended the expensive dinners as a cost of doing business, and he said in most cases he flew first class by exchanging his frequent-flier miles to upgrade his seat. However, Valley Metro records do not indicate such transactions occurred.

Click the article for the full description of Banta’s expenses.

Attentive readers who were following the process of choosing our new CEO in March may recall that the LAT reported, based on anonymous sources, that Banta was on the shortlist the Metro gig. Attentive readers may have also noticed that Banta was not selected by the Metro Board.

Pumpkin Pie in Miami: Thanksgiving flight patterns (N.Y. Times)

It’s Thanksgiving and that means it’s time for Vegas baby! And maybe Miami, too. That’s right, according to the Upshot blog’s analysis of Google Flights data for the Thanksgiving travel period, Americans prefer to have their awkward conversations with family members over Blackjack tables and all-you-can-eat buffets or while air-boating in the Everglades and huntin’ gators (that’s what I imagine they do in Florida anyway).

The truth, at least in the case of the Sunshine State, may be that Americans are going to where their family has moved, which is most likely where their parents have retired.


Credit: NYT.

The data of who is going where is summarized nicely in a handful of animated maps, which you’ll need to click on the article to see in action. From what I can tell, Angelenos choose Hawaii or Florida for their long-haul Thanksgiving travel plans, but with the latter, it’s nowhere near the extent northerners do. I suspect it’s because Angelenos don’t need to leave home to experience warm weather and cray cray motorists.

Upshot’s analysis of data also found that the busiest time to fly for the holiday is noon Thanksgiving Day, suggesting that travelers either take the entire week off or jam all their travel in within the four-day Thanksgiving vacation time.

Editor’s note from Steve Hymon: you can avoid awkward holiday familial conversation by traveling to your hometown any time in the month leading up to Thanksgiving, thereby providing an excuse not to travel back. You’re welcome.

Special thanks to LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas: Board Chair at a Critical Time (Move LA)

Move LA takes a look at the accomplishments and goals of Metro’s Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas, including the work he is doing in the Second District he represents. Among the projects they laud are the renovation of the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station and the Rail-to-River project along the Slauson Corridor, which just received a big federal grant.

Move LA also attributes Metro’s efforts to assist small businesses in construction project areas — an effort started largely in his district on the Crenshaw/LAX project — as a direct result of his leadership.

Amazon decides decorating subways with Nazi symbols was a bad idea (Mashable)

Earlier this week Amazon plastered New York City Subway cars with World War II-era insignia of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire to promote its fictional show, “The Man in the High Castle.” The show takes place in an alternate reality where the Germans and Japanese won WWII and divided the U.S. into two occupied zones. Naturally, a lot of the imagery and symbols from that period are seen throughout the show.

Of course, applying that imagery outside of the show setting is highly controversial — perhaps Amazon knew this — and it raised the eyebrows of a few riders and politicians:

The MTA defended its decision to run the ads, maintaining that they fell within the bounds of advertising standards that preclude ads with a “political viewpoint” unless the advertiser’s name is clearly visible. Local politicians also joined in on the uproar Monday evening. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio urged Amazon to pull the “offensive” ads, and Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat, even called for a boycott against the Seattle company.

Yesterday Amazon did in fact pull the ads. Despite the uproar over the advertisements, what I’ve seen so far of the show is pretty good and I’d recommend checking it if you have an Amazon subscription and a little time this holiday weekend. The show is a good reminder of what our nation and its veterans fought for in the 1940s and what exactly was at stake.

And with that, Happy Thanksgiving Source readers! We leave you with this N.Y. Times article giving you the green light to enjoy that Turkey Day meal with no regrets.

Recent HWRs: 

Nov. 24: California has work to do as world environmental leader, shifting money from trains to water

Nov. 23: Will the LAX people mover be up and running by 2023?

Nov. 20: how to address all the short trips county residents, more reaction to Reason Foundation’s traffic plan.

Nov. 19: the Reason Foundation’s $714-billion plan to fix traffic in Southern California.

Nov. 18: A new mobile fare app in S.F., scramble crosswalks and aerial tram (using airplane bodies) proposed between Vegas and L.A.

Joe is also on Twitter

8 replies

  1. I’m glad mr Banta was caught. A few years back I met a metro audito from our own LACMTA in, of all places, a dog park and she was telling me of all the waste she uncovered within the organization. This was before Art Leahy so I’m hoping things have changed since then but it got me thinking about what a difference a government agency Like Meteo could make if it was run as close to efficiently as possible. I’m not trying to bash metro at all; current service is a great improvement from the dreaded RTD my mother talks about. If only there was a way to make it work though…

  2. THe RTD always tried to improve service but operated under threat from the LACTC, the other agency the RTD was merged with, to form the MTA. Everytime the RTD tried to improve service which would result in higher ridership, and increase the tax subsidy the LACTC must provide, the LACTC threatened the RTD with withholding all of the RTD subsities unless the RTD cut service. The LACTC was more interested in non public transit projects.

    Waste is rappent at the MTA. If one ventures down into a section of the parking garage you would find new computers, printers, etc. all still in their boxes awaiting collection by an electronics recycler.

    • I’m not familiar with every nook and cranny of the garage (it has four levels) under/adjacent the Metro building but I’ve never seen any new or old electronic items just sitting there waiting to be recycled. Thus this note to readers: the assertion in the above comment is just that: an assertion without any proof.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Agreed Steve. False accusations are rampant within this blog. Bitter, angry people looking for a venue to vent.

    • My computer was bought in Spring 2011 and is arguably newer/better than anyone else’s computer at Metro. Please provide a picture/exact location for these awesome “new” computers located in the garage, as I am sure many employees would love to use them.

  3. Perhaps we can use the Onion headline to sell the next transit tax measure by telling voters they should support it so others can take public transportation. And please pass the gravy.

  4. Here’s a good one article to write about: how far government stupidity goes in Murica

    New York City Bans the Hoverboard

    Anyone still believe in the liberal hypocrisy that Democrat polticians are your friends?

  5. IMO, Metro not using TAP to its fullest potential is a waste in itself.

    We’ve poured millions into this technology in the premise that it’s going to be a game changer as seen in other cities around the world that have utilized this technology but we’re not even using half of what it can be done with this technology, like enhanced online capabilities like auto reloads, balance transfers, viewing trip history, expanding uses to purchase goods and services, analyzing transit usage patterns, distance based fares, and fare caps in lieu of passes.