Reader email

It’s time for another edition of reader email to The Source. If you would like to comment on a post or have something transit-related you need to get off your chest, please email us at

Apparently Orange County has some pretty cool transit technology that reader Simon Oh would like to see in Los Angeles:

Here in Orange County, OCTA offers the Text for Next service, which allows riders with SMS-enabled cell phones to text the bus stop number and bus route information to see when exactly the bus will arrive at their stop. Will Metro ever consider doing the same thing? I think it would be helpful if they did by installing stickers or boxes on the poles of the bus stop signs like OCTA does so that Metro can offer the same service for Los Angeles County riders.

Metro staff tells me that they are actively investigating SMS services and other mobile solutions for customers, but there’s nothing set in stone right now. The size of Metro’s system creates some substantial technical challenges when it comes to implementing such a system. Consider that Metro has 191 bus lines; 2,635 buses and 15,967 bus stops. OCTA has 80 bus lines and and 591 buses in their fleet.

There’s also a service that’s currently in beta called SoCal511 that offers all sorts of transportation information for Southern California over the phone simply by dialing 511. I gave it a try for bus schedules and unfortunately the beta status is no lie, the recording told me that next bus information is on its way but currently not available. We covered the service in more detail in an earlier post.

Los Angeles resident Eric Kramer expressed interest in learning more about the study that went into the implementation of fare gates on Metro Rail:

My request below was sent to Metro Customer Relations. I have not yet received a response. Now turning to The Source for assistance. Would it be possible to help me locate the Booz Allen Hamilton Cost-Benefit Analysis that was done a couple years back on the implementation of fare gates? Of interest to me is the break even point where dollars saved via the automation of gates would overtake the initial costs to build them.

The Source is here for you Eric. The good folks over at the Metro Library pointed us to the 131-page Booze Allen Hamilton Gating Feasability Study, available online as a PDF. Set aside a few hours and Red Bulls to read it and get back to us.

Reader Terrie Monaghan had some comments on the way Metro handled communicating the recent Gold Line incident where a tree fell on the tracks:

I am very happy this was on facebook, etc and I did receive an email at 7:02 am BUT it would have been nice to have posted it when it happened.  A lot of us take the Gold line before the event was posted at 7:00am.  The event took place at approximately 4:00 AM and event notice sent out 3 hours later….transit commuters need to know so they can make other plans other than standing on the platforms at 5:15 am or earlier and wondering what is happening.

Metro’s currently working hard at beefing up their online communications of these types of service related events so that commuters can be alerted as soon as something goes wrong. As Terrie noted, The Source, Facebook, and Twitter were updated — but a little too late to be useful for some commuters. But keep in mind that six months ago Metro offered none of these services. So sit tight, it’s only going to get better.

And to be fair, for this particular event, the traditional media outlets were notified by 5:15 a.m. and covered the disruption extensively.

Last week I wrote a post about outsiders looking to Metro for transit inspiration that got some enthusiastic feedback. Andrew Barton from Toronto wrote a blog post that I referenced in the story, and he had this to say:

I just wanted to thank Fred Camino and everyone at The Source for the glowing review of my review of Metro on Acts of Minor Treason. Spreading perspective is important, and it’s what I tried to do – to modify a phrase, if you only know your own transit system, you don’t even know your own transit system. Though, to make a slight point on the caption you chose for the photo accompanying the post – I’m not sure I would qualify it as a “light rail vehicle.” Toronto streetcars rarely operate in their own rights-of-way – most lines don’t have any trackage separate from the roadway – and even on the three lines where the rights-of-way do exist, they’re far closer to Metro Locals on rails than anything you’d find on the Blue, Green, or Gold Lines. We’re working on it, though – and I’m sure that the light rail lines the city is building will leave me somewhat disappointed, because I know what they’re planning and now I also know what they COULD have done.

Thanks Andrew, and a note about the “light rail vehicle” caption: my confusion came from the nomenclature — the vehicles are called Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (CLRV) but clearly operate as streetcars.

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