Truthiness in Gotham train announcements, art of transit, Yosemite traffic; How We Roll, August 14

Art of Transit

Cool 360 view of the Expo/Crenshaw Station for the Crenshaw/LAX Line. The pic was taken last month.


Art of Transit 2: Don’t you get any ideas, L.A.-area based brewers! 🙂 

Art of Transit #3: Really fun CicLAvia yesterday in San Pedro and Wilmington. More pics here. Great way for everyone to discover corners of our region they may not ever see. 

New York MTA tries a new tack during delays: tell the truth (NYT)

The summer of hell — i.e. subway delays due to maintenance issues — continues in Gotham. But train operators are being told to tell it like it is, even if it means announcing that someone jumped in front of a train. A couple of examples of what riders are hearing:

How do you think we’re doing, readers and L.A. Metro riders? It’s definitely something we’ve been working on. Comment away and if you’re unhappy, please suggest how we could do better rather than just go for the baseball bat! TY!

Leaving town at rush hour? Here’s how far you’re likely to get from America’s largest cities. (Washington Post)

For the few people who didn’t know that that driving in rush hour traffic sucks. If leaving L.A., you’ll be lucky to make it to the county line within an hour whereas in smaller cities the time it leaves matters very little. Well, okay. Glad to know that now.

Speeding plays an even larger role in traffic deaths than we thought, feds say (Governing) 

Embed from Getty Images

This is scary: researchers have been underestimating the role speeding plays in deaths — even though any non-researcher person is smart enough to connect the dots.

A new study from NTSB is forthcoming and begs for more police crackdowns on speeding. Good luck with that in the L.A. area, where IMHO enforcement of traffic laws is a lost art. By which I mean no one bothers.

Yosemite struggles to find answers to traffic woes (LAT)

Traffic Jam at Yosemite

In the age of Internet-driven tourism, visitation has jumped to north of five million a year with the majority of those people trying to cram into the Yosemite Valley. Hours-long traffic jams have resulted, which isn’t a very nice way to treat what is supposed to be a national treasure.

The sad thing is there is an obvious answer that has been shot down in the past: a shuttle bus. In Zion National Park, for example, everyone has to park outside Zion Canyon and take a shuttle in. Same at Denali. Same at Red’s Meadow (except for those camping). It works fine and is a minimal hassle — and makes those parks a far nicer place.

That will take the kind of political guts that have thus far been lacking.

Things to listen to whilst transiting: I’ve been strongly enjoying “The Turnaround,” Jesse Thorn’s podcast in which the accomplished interviewer interviews other interviewers about their interviewing techniques. If you’re interested in or consume journalism and/or broadcasting, these are informative and funny. Highly recommend!

13 replies

  1. I think one simple thing Metro can do to improve rider communication is to use the LED (non-TV) signs at Metro rail stops to show when the next train is arriving for each platform. Right now, those signs only ever show the current time and some (likely) unrelated announcement regarding future service. Considering the spotty-at-best reliability of the TVs and that the LED signs are generally visible from all parts of the platforms, it would greatly improve quality of service to riders to have them show the estimated time for the next train.

    Otherwise, I think Metro is doing a pretty good job at explaining delays. I was, however, on a red line train the other weekend that stopped before arriving at Union Station for a few minutes with no explanation. There was a disgruntled drunk patron that even went so far as to force open the doors while stopped in the tunnel, further delaying us. I think the incident may have been avoided had the operator come on the speakers as soon as we stopped to explain the delay.

  2. There once was a world famous scenic railroad from Merced to El Portal–the gateway to Yosemite. It was called naturally enough the Yosemite Valley Railroad. It took locals, tourists, freight and express parcels to the park entrance where changes were made to tally-ho’s and motor stages for Valley destinations. Most of the right-of-way still exists and can be easily seen across the Merced River from the main highway. Some times, In fact, the traffic has been re-routed over the rail right-of-way when the highway was obstructed. Trains ran until about 1946. For years the National Park Service has studied the idea of constructing a large parking lot next to Highway 99 and running typical Swiss-built electric trains to the Valley, but nothing has come of it. Why? Money, leadership and maybe a desire to make the Valley such an issue to visit that tourists will turn to other parks instead. The point I am making is that there is an answer to the traffic congestion in Yosemite, if only there was a will equal to its mountains.

    • I agree, a wonderful example of being green for national parks and dealing with traffic is done in two countries extraordinarily well, Japan and Switzerland. They have transit that goes to points in parks with a strict timetable, they also run trains all season.

      Yosemite could have a modified version of that where they have parking in the close cities and just run trains from there to all points in the park.

      Of course the initial cost is expensive, but the reward is a healthier park and healthier tourists because it encourages more walking and interacting with other park tourists.

  3. Who do we yell at to implement shuttle buses at Yosemite? I’ve been saying that for years as well. Zion works almost flawlessly with buses and reduces the visual blight introduced by parking lots. The Ahwahnee would look a lot better without the 3 acre parking lot on the north side. Tunnel View is basically ruined by the chaos of traffic.

    Also, I’d love to hear LA Metro give descriptive explanations. Today along the Expo line they were very descriptive about a failed train at 7th / Metro Center. It was irritating as expected, but nothing is worse than being stuck in an idle train with no explanation.

  4. If you tell passengers that their train has been delayed by a suicide, this may encourage others to think about using a train for this purpose. Not a good idea. In the UK, the preferred wording is ‘Emergency services attending an incident’ – absolutely true, but less graphic.
    I’m also scratchy about ‘signal failure’ or ‘track failure’ – especially since the latter is often short for ‘track circuit failure’. Any of these can give the impression that rail is unsafe: in fact, it’s designed to fail safe so it IS safe! Again, any of these can be a broken wire or a dirty electrical contact. How do you explain these? ‘Minor fault causing equipment to fail safe’?

  5. Yes, please. Tell us what’s going on when a train is delayed. Metrolink does a great job communicating with passengers via Twitter and always responds directly when I ask what’s going on.

  6. Part of the problem with Yosemite is that there are no good places for a central parking lot without going WAY out of the Valley. And by that point, your “shuttle” is going to be a 40-mile route, and you’ll have to run separate shuttles for each of the three Valley entry points. And there are a lot more overnight accommodations in the Valley (campsites and hotels and stuff in between) that there’ll need to be exemptions for than there are in Zion.

    I’m not saying it can’t be done, it’s just a much more daunting task than it was in Zion.

  7. When I visit Yosemite, I take the train to Merced, and YARTS from there to El Portal, and stay at the Yosemite View (which has its own bus stop), just outside the gate, commuting into the park on YARTS. Once there, it’s nothing but Yosemite’s own internal shuttle and tour bus system, and shoeleather.

    Why would anybody choose to drive into Yosemite, when it’s so much easier to leave those treacherous roads to one of YARTS’s professional drivers?

    And as to New York Subway motormen giving the complete and unvarnished truth about causes of delays, I wouldn’t mind a little of that around here.

  8. Posting times of outgoing trains on both sides of the platform. For example, if you enter the west stairs on Bundy, the screen only shows you the times for SM bound trains. You need to walk all the way to the east end of the platform to get LA train information.

    Clearer exit signage at 7th/Metro indicating Figueroa, Flower or Hope would be helpful for infrequent riders. These riders would also be helped by clearer signs about transfers at Union Station.

  9. Two things about communication on the train:

    1) Make sure that the intercom systems are functional and clear. I know it can be hard to hear over the sound of the train, especially on the subway, but the transmission cannot be hindered by noise, static, hissing, etc.

    2) I think each train operator should take a simple public speaking workshop. It’s not that they say the wrong thing or that their accent is too thick, it’s that some of them don’t enunciate or articulate well enough. If I as a native English speaker have difficulty interpreting the announcement, woe to the Spanish speaker or foreign tourist. Just speak slowly and clearly so you can get the message across.

    I’m a patient person and I expect delays and problems to arise. But I also expect a simple explanation as to why we’re delayed and approximately when we will resume travel. People just want to be informed. Communication is key in any relationship.

  10. Train announcements are an art perfected by British Rail in years past. A typical announcement would be thus: “Your attention please, this is the 13.16 Manchester Pullman service to London. We are currently 2.5 mins. late. The British Railways Board and the crew of this train apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. Thank you for travelling with British Rail.” Just what one would expect from the country that invented both the railway and the English language.

  11. It is bad enough that most train and bus operators just drive the bus or train and do not say anything. I have been on buses that break down and trains with mechanical issues and you hear nothing from the operators and the passengers are left to wonder what is going on. Most of your operators need lessons in customer service ad how to properly communicate with the passengers. You also need to check the intercoms on the trains to make sure they work and are loud enough to hear the operator on that rare occasion when they mumble something. They should be told to speak slowly and clearly and say it twice since you cant hear them over the noise from the train and passengers.