Friday, July 24, 2009

CityWatchLA - MTA Communication Off the Tracks

CityWatch, July 24, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 59

This past Sunday, a man leading a group of cyclists north on the Metro Gold Line (Highland Park to South Pasadena) encountered a Rail Operator who yelled at the group "Two bikes per car only!" and threatened to kick the cyclists off the train until cooler heads prevailed and the reality of an empty train on a Sunday morning allowed common sense to take over.

The cyclists continued on their journey and the Rail Operator went back to being confused about the anticipated implementation of the controversial "Bikes-on-Rail" policy which would limit cyclists to two per rail car.

The proposed policy went to the Metro's Operations Committee last week but Supervisor Mike Antonovich was prepared with a counter- proposal that directed the Metro staff to consider the legal implications of bikes, strollers, and luggage and directed them to prepare a report that should result in a "Stuff-on-Rails" policy.

In spite of the fact that the proposed "Bikes-on-Rail" policy didn't clear the Metro Operations Committee, it appears that the Metro staff were excited enough about the opportunity to limit access to cyclists that they began free-lance implementation, complete with the obligatory yelling that comes with a commitment to safety.

With this new commitment, one can only wonder if Rail Conductors will also be yelling at women with strollers, travelers with luggage, and recyclers with shopping carts or if it's just cyclists who will be targeted as the source of congestion on the Metro Rail.

In spite of the failure of the proposed "Bikes-on-Rail" policy to pass GO, the marketing element appears to already be implemented … including signage indicating that bicycles, strollers and luggage are to share a specific area in the corner of each rail car is already appearing. Apparently, positive thinking runs freely in the Rail Division of the Metro, making up for the fact that common sense has run dry.

This process seems to indicate that decisions were made, actions were taken, messages were communicated and the Metro team was ready to go, all in advance of Metro Board approval and all completely unencumbered by that pesky public participation element … the one that simply asks the Metro to actually consider the humans who depend on a robust Transportation System in order to conduct their business and get home to their families at night.

It would seem that one of the simplest partnerships would be between the Metro and those passengers who want the Metro to be safe and effective. One would think that in a county of 10 million people, the Metro might be able to find one or two passengers who might have some useful insight into safety and efficiency and who might be willing to participate in the development of programs and policies that move the Metro toward becoming a robust Transportation System that supports all modes of travel.

Even more specific to this situation, one would think that the Metro would have involved the cycling community in the development of a "Bikes-on-Rail" policy but such was not the case.

All of which should change as a result of Operations Committee Chair Rita Robinson's direction to Metro staff that the cycling community be involved in the future development of the "Stuff-on-Rail" policy.

Apparently there are cyclists who have actually traveled to other cities and even other countries and it didn't take long for the cycling community to advance solutions from around the world, including the popular "Bike-Car" that has the seats removed and allows those with bikes to efficiently travel without compromising capacity.

With so many enviable Transportation Systems around the world, perhaps the best way to prevent the Metro Rail staff from taking their proposed step backwards would be to send them on a vacation, require them to travel, to visit other cities and to experience transit solutions that will allow them to return to LA full of commitment to a robust Transportation System that sets a world-class standard for safety and efficiency and equality.

They might also want to checkout some communications systems. Might help get all of Metro on the same page.

(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at ◘


Anonymous said...

When I'm riding my bike and someone steps out in front of me without looking, I often respond by saying "Don't look up — you might see something you don't want to."

Maybe Metro is taking that advice to heart — don't ask for input, because they might tell you something you don't want to hear.

ubrayj02 said...

Thanks for covering what happened on the bike ride we hosted this past weekend. I was pretty shocked when I heard about the verbal abuse thrown at my brother and the ride we lead - we thought we were earning brownie points for introducing so many people to transit early on Sunday morning! I guess the conductor thought different that day.