To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Monday, September 22, 2014

Medzerian: Dear MTA: I love your trains, but ...


By David Medzerian, September 18, 2014


 The 10-keyed wonder: An MTA ticket machine stands ready to do battle.

Dear Metropolitan Transportation Authority:

Before I get into anything else, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I love your trains. I take them several times a week. I can’t remember the last time I drove into Los Angeles from Long Beach. The last two times I flew from LAX, I took the train to the airport (well, almost to the airport).

But, I’m starting to think that – how I can put this nicely? – you have no idea what you are doing.

For instance:

• The fare “increase” you imposed Monday makes no sense. I understand that you need additional money – everything’s more expensive than it used to be. But if you need more money, why did you introduce free transfers on most one-way tickets?

For my trips, which usually involve two trains in each direction, I used to buy a $5 day pass (which now costs $7).

But thanks to the free transfers, now I spend only $3.50 (two $1.75 one-way trips). This week alone, I’ve spent $4.50 less than I would have under the old fares. I mean, hooray for me, but how does this help you raise much-needed money?

For folks who ride more often, the new fares also make no sense. A one-way ticket increased to $1.75 from $1.50 – a modest 16 percent hike. But day passes rose to $7 from $5 – a 40 percent jump. And monthly passes climbed to a whopping $100 from $70 – a 43 percent increase.

Folks who use the day and monthly passes are the ones who rely on your system the most. It doesn’t seem right to make them bear the brunt of the new fares, especially when occasional riders like me are paying less.

• As part of your refurbishment project, starting tomorrow, the four Blue Line stations in downtown Long Beach will close for a month. A month!

And you’re doing this five days after increasing fares? That’s rubbing salt in the wound.

Those stations had better be darned nice after they’ve been refurbished.

• The reusable TAP cards that replaced paper tickets are ridiculously confusing. If you don’t think so, stop by one of the train stations some Saturday when USC is playing a home game at the Coliseum, and watch the perplexed newbies staring blankly at the ticket machines.

“But,” you’re saying, “the TAP system is easy to use once you understand it.” Hey, quantum physics is also easy once you understand it. A transit pass system should be simple to use and easy to understand.

I was at a recent design presentation in which the speaker raved about the airport train-ticket system in Helsinki, Finland: No buttons, no screen, just a single slot that you slide your card through. I wonder what the speaker would think of your 10-keyed wonders, with buttons labeled from A to J, each having ever-changing purposes indicated on the screen (which can’t be read when the sun is shining on it).

• I’m not going to complain that the train doesn’t quite reach LAX – I know, you’re working on it. But have you ever tried taking a suitcase with you on the Green Line?

I’m not talking about a steamer trunk; I mean a nice, small carry-on that fits in the overhead bin. The turnstiles at the stations – especially Willowbrook, where the Green and Blue lines connect – seem expressly designed to do battle with luggage, the kind of thing one might normally take to an airport.

And don’t tell me that the turnstiles have to be luggage-unfriendly to prevent people from sneaking through without paying: At London’s Heathrow Airport, for instance, the turnstiles are perfectly luggage-friendly.

Well, MTA, thanks for listening. I hope maybe you can do something about these obvious issues.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a train to catch – and I have to remember how to buy a ticket.