LA’s Bus Bench Blog coverage of the LA MTA’s TAP card woes

Maybe I am being unfair (I probably am), but the LA MTA does various and sundry things that are so counterproductive it makes me crazy sometimes. So on the one hand, we are stridently building building building rail every second of every minute of every day so we can say “LOOOOK! We have trains! We are a great big grown-up world city metro region like New York! WE are!! REALLY REALLY REALLY are!!” and yet they can’t seem to figure out how to implement a smartcard fare system. Is it just me, or do systems around the galaxy manage to do this without all the drama and hair-pulling that the MTA has both introduced and suffered through? I know they have a bigger problem than systems in other places with fewer buses on the road, but it’s not like they haven’t thrown money at this issue.

Am I just thinking this is an LA problem just because I’m seeing it up close? Was I hallucinating when I had one card that allowed me to go from the bus to the train to the bus and the tube and back in London? Do other regions have these problems in implementation?

My TAP card works great, but mine is handled through a yearly pass paid for via direct deposit. Andy has gotten to the point where he won’t even try to renew his on the bus–it’s too much hassle–and will only use it if he can renew it on the train. Otherwise, he goes with the cash fare.

Here are a collection of stories on the TAP card, including a sad story about Metro operators who have been accused of taking money:

The Bus Bench: One of three Metro TAP card “embezzlement” cases dropped

The Bus Bench: Tired of TAP Crap? Here is Metro’s daydream from 2007.

The Bus Bench: Punch on Duty: New TAP Card Policy Places Onus on Customer

The Bus Bench: Metro Prepares to Silently Concede Busload of TAP Card Problems

My Op-Ed on HSR’s eating everybody’s lunch in the Sac Bee

Viewpoints: High-speed rail: Don’t penalize the poor – Sacramento Opinion – Sacramento Editorial | Sacramento Bee

Nobody gets to say to me that “Oh, these are separate pots of money.” Nobody. Because these aren’t separate pots of taxpayers’ pockets, and it’s not like the state hasn’t proven completely capable of raiding transit funds when it feels like it.

Changing transit security vis-a-vis Moscow

Transit security up worldwide after Moscow subway bombing / The Christian Science Monitor –

I was trying to explain to my mother why security on subways can not be handled the same way as at airports. First of all–my God. That would be terrible. And second, look at this picture of the Moscow system:

Now that is geographic coverage. And with that many stations and 7 million passengers a day, we’re fortunate that the attacks–which were horrible enough as it was–weren’t far worse: CNN has some commentary: Why no subway is safe from terror attacks –

Teaching role models

I’ve been thinking about teaching a lot. Teaching is hard. I’m trying to remember the people in the media who always struck me as wonderful characters, people who really capture the essence of teaching, and only one stands out:

Mr. Benjamin Shorofsky from the old old old tv show, Fame, played by the late Albert Hague. Old-fashioned and endlessly devoted to the profession. He had every reason to be cynical, but he wasn’t.

2017 is too soon; an urban water crisis in Yemen?

Story from IRIN Middle East | YEMEN: Capital city faces 2017 water crunch | Middle East | Yemen | Early Warning Environment Water & Sanitation | Feature

So the city of Sanaa is a position where greater levels of urbanization and water usage have led to mining the city’s aquifer down–some wells are having to go to 1,000 meters–but all this has happened in 30 years. Shortages are already coming: during the summer months, families buy from trucks.

This is one of those situations where a plan, indeed, would be nice. This is not time for magical thinking. Come on, UNDP.

Pricing and social equity

Pricing and Social Equity: An unplugged conversation with the experts

Davidson Conference Center
Embassy Room
University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Friday, April 16, 2010
8:30 am – 4:45 pm

The issues: Pricing and user charges for things like carbon and gasoline offer an effective means to achieve short-term gains in climate policy, air quality, congestion relief, and agency budgetary ills. At the same time, pricing and user charges also can cut low-income families out of publicly provided services.

But the jury is out—or it should be—on whether underpricing public services really benefits low-income families. Some public infrastructure and services, like roads and water, have significant external costs (like pollution or overconsumpution) that can also hurt low-income communities in the long term. If we fail to “pay as we go” with infrastructure, spending on infrastructure can also displace public funding needed for other services to low-income families, such as public schools. Finally, charging low prices to every user, not just the poor, limits the revenues to public agencies so that service quality can suffer. Those in poverty may be far less able to supplement lower-quality public services with private purchases the way higher income families can.

The format: Join us on Friday, April 16, 2010, to have a conversational seminar with thought leaders and practitioners in water, energy, transportation, and affordable housing to discuss social equity and the pricing of public services. No Powerpoint presentations, no lectures—just ideas and interaction.


1. Water pricing, supply, and social equity

Moderator: Richard Little, Dirctor, Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy, University of Southern California
George Chen, Rates Manager, Department of Water and Power
Randall Crane, Professor, Urban Planning, UCLA
Charisma Acey, Assistant Profess, Urban Planning, Ohio State University
JR DeShazo, Professor, Public Policy, UCLA, and Director of the Lewis Center for

2. Development fees and affordable housing
Moderator: Chris Redfearn, Associate Professor, SPPD, University of Southern California (invited)
Jenny Schuetz, Assistant Professor, USC SPPD
Mike Keston, Real Estate Developer
Casey Dawkins, Associate Professor, School of Public and International Affairs and Director, Metropolitan Institute, Virginia Tech
(invited) A representative from the nonprofit housing community

3. Road pricing and low-income drivers
Moderator: Genevieve Giuliano, Professor, SPPD, and Director, Metrans Transportation Institute
Brian Taylor, Professor, Urban Planning and Director of the Institute for Transportation Studies, UCLA
Kenneth Small, Professor, University of California, Irvine
Stephanie Wiggins, Metropolitan Transportation Authority
(invited) A representative from Policy Link

4. Carbon and energy pricing
Moderator: TBD
Adam Rose, Professor, SPPD, USC
Dan Mazmanian, Professor, SPPD, and Director, Bedrosian Center on Governance and Public Enterprise
Matt Kahn (invited), Professor, Public Policy, UCLA School of Public Affairs,
Manuel Pastor (invited), Professor, American Studies, and Director, USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity

This event is free and open to the public but requires registration
Please register by phone or email to:

Deirdre Flanagan at (213) 740-2695, or