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April 4, 2004 - April 10, 2004 Archives

April 4, 2004


No time again- ultra-busy weekend in advance of a ridiculously busy week, including more travel. So I gotta be abrupt here. Just wanted to note that I get pissed off when I see countless lazy reporters (the Boston Globe's the latest) crediting Howard Stern for helping Christie Whitman win the gubernatorial race in New Jersey a decade ago. That's bull. He didn't "endorse" her until late, and her upset win had nothing to do with him. It did, however have a lot to do with radio, particularly New Jersey 101.5, which was the station at which the tax revolt and Dump Florio campaigns started (on John and Ken's show, in 1990). I would know that, because I was there. Howard's big thing with Christie was to ask for a rest stop named after him in exchange for his endorsement. All 101.5 did was have her as a guest host, have her on frequently as a guest during the campaign, and beat the drum to throw tax-crazed Florio out of office for years. That somehow never gets mentioned in the papers- it's like it never happened.

But it did.

No, I'm not bitter. Much.


April 5, 2004


On the way up to Dodger Stadium today, I took care to look at the busway. It's a series of special lanes and stations built alongside and in the median of the Harbor Freeway, and it cost about $25 million to build. As the L.A. Times noted this weekend, nobody uses it:

    Most of the eight stations are 30 feet from freeway traffic, with the rush of nearby cars creating a head-splitting roar. Plumes of vehicle exhaust choke the lungs and sting the eyes. Because there are usually few riders and rarely any police in sight, the stations appear isolated and dangerous. Vagrants find them a good place to camp out.

Oh, did I say $25 million? That was just for the stations. Throw the special bus and carpool lanes and the elevated don't-get-caught-near-them-in-an-earthquake elevated carpool/bus lanes south of downtown and it's a $500 million pricetag.

    Caltrans promised the bus and freeway stations would relieve congestion with as many as 74,000 boardings a day — the equivalent of about 37,000 round-trip riders.

    But eight years after the stations opened, the buses tally about 3,000 boardings a day, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. By contrast, dozens of bus corridors in Los Angeles register more than 10,000 boardings each. A single MTA bus route on Wilshire Boulevard has nearly 50,000 boardings a day.

If there's one thing guaranteed to be inaccurate, it's a government estimate of mass transit ridership. We've had billions of tax dollars spent on this thing and our subway system and light rail lines, and the things are largely empty. One line, the Green Line from El Segundo to Downey, was projected as a huge success, yet when they built it, nobody seemed to notice that it travels a route few commuters use, and, as a result, it's empty. They also managed to build it near, but not quite at, LAX. That's right- it comes within a couple of miles of LAX, but veers south and misses it, making it useless as a route between downtown and the airport- it just takes too long and it involves too many changes from train to train to bus. Nobody figured that out in advance. Mass myopia. Amazing.

    "You don't want to be here for more than five minutes," said Antonio Rodriguez as he waited alone at the Carson Street station. "Anything more and your head hurts…. A lot of times, I am the only one here."

    The Carson Street station has an average of 20 people a day boarding northbound MTA buses, statistics from the transit agency show; three people a day get on southbound buses.

$25 million for the stations, $500 million for the project. Three southbound riders a day. THREE.

    Like other officials at the MTA, which operates most bus service on the transitway, De la Loza was quick to pass blame. "That was a Caltrans project," he said. The statewide transportation agency designed and built the transitway with little coordination with the MTA and its predecessor, the Southern California Rapid Transit District.

    Doug Failing, the Los Angeles-area regional director for Caltrans, said his agency did not control bus planning and operation on the transitway. In defense of his agency, Failing said there aren't enough buses on the transitway and few convenient bus connections.

    Asked to grade the transitway's bus lanes, given that ridership is less than 5% of the total promised by Caltrans, Failing said: "I can't answer that."

The man's name is Failing. Perfect.

So we have a busway nobody uses. We have a subway nobody uses, in an earthquake zone, no less. We have an elevated rail line that goes from nowhere to nowhere. And we paid for all of it. We're still paying. We'll always pay.

It's eerie, actually- the stations are only a couple of years old yet they look abandoned. From the highway, you can't tell if they're open or not. From the side streets, you can't tell if they're open, either. You CAN tell that you don't want to be caught there at night, or during the day, either. In the middle of a busy ten lane highway, no one can hear you scream.



Here's another George Will moment:

For all its faults, for all the bumbling management and sullen players and roids and whatever else, a beautiful spring day, a sellout crowd, a Dodger Dog and saying hello and welcome back to Vin Scully, Nancy Bea at the organ with a basket of flowers on top... yeah, it was a good day.


April 6, 2004


The in-flight movie was "Lost in Translation," and I'd seen it, so I figured I'd just watch the DVDs I'd brought to play on my computer, but the people seated next to me kept having to get past me to go to the bathroom and I got tired of the shuffle, so I put the "Manos: the Hands of Fate" DVD away and watched "Lost" again. It was an edited version, naturally- no opening shot of Scarlett Johansen's panty-clad butt- but it was good this time, too.

The movie captures something that I go through every time I travel- there's a sensation you experience when you show up in a strange city, a disconnect borne of unfamiliarity, unfamiliar buildings, unfamiliar roads, unfamiliar ads and groceries and radio stations and vegetation. At home, you feel somewhat in control; on the road, the surroundings control you. When Bill Murray gazes out the window at the neon and bustle of Tokyo, and when Scarlett Johansen stares out her hotel window in broad daylight, staring at a sea of skyscrapers and streets, that's the feeling I get from behind the wheel of the rented Mustang, lagged from a cross-country flight, three hours behind, hungry and disoriented. And even when, as is the case today, I'm someplace that I know well- home away from home, really- I'm still not in my own car and still not in my own bed and still not, well, home.


April 7, 2004


If there's any sign of the sorry state of radio right now, consider this- even the pirate stations suck. In South Florida, there are a lot of pirates on the air, most of them Haitian or hip-hop, and I kinda like listening to them, especially the ones with commercials- they're brazenly operating right under the nose of the FCC and nobody is stopping them. But they're boring, just someone playing endless music, nothing especially creative about them.

And then there's the matter of the semi-piratic. This morning on my run, looking for something interesting now that the dial in the area is sans Stern, and hoping to pull in (as I sometimes do) his Fort Myers affiliate on 96.1, I hit 96.1 and heard this:

"Ramble On," "Hurts So Good," "Listen To the Music," "Magic Carpet Ride," "You Shook Me All Night Long," "I Won't Back Down," "More Than A Feeling"...

...on a pirate station.

OK, it's a semi-pirate. Lynn University has a station, and it's running very low power as "Knight Radio." But for a moment I thought that maybe Clear Channel or Infinity had gotten tired of deballing the legal commercial stations and had turned to programming the pirates. After all, this was the same playlist as countless classic rock stations.

I'm guessing that they're operating what they think is a legal Part 15 station, but I think the thing is carrying for about a mile or so beyond campus, which is too far for that. And it's interfering with my ability to pull in the distant Stern signal from Fort Myers while I'm running along Patch Reef Trail. And, most importantly, it's being used to play Led Zeppelin and Tom Petty. So, somebody please call the FCC- it has to go.

Or, at least, make it Haitian. With commercials. Anything but John "Cougar" Mellencamp.


April 8, 2004


...and some days, you just don't want to write about anything.

Or, more correctly, you can't.

So you punt. You try to write about Condi's hearing, but you couldn't really even focus on it while it was on. You try to write about the insane drivers of south Palm Beach County, but you know it's a cliche. You try to write about the joys of zipping around Florida in a rented Mustang, the top down and the sun beaming onto your face, but you spent the time zipping to doctors' offices and government offices and supermarkets, so that's not all that romantic. You try to come up with a cogent comment about ESPN's Yankee trial or those Japanese hostages in Iraq or anything else, and it's not there. Your head's not there.

And you write a paragraph about the stuff you didn't write, then you look at the computer screen, think "that'll have to do tonight," and you stop.


About April 2004

This page contains all entries posted to PMSimon.com in April 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 28, 2004 - April 3, 2004 is the previous archive.

April 11, 2004 - April 17, 2004 is the next archive.

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