Opinion: There’s something about a bus that’s tragic
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And here I thought I was the only old-bus fetishist in Los Angele County! Reader Ben Harrison responds to my adventure at the MTA bus auction with a call to investigate the proliferation of Transit TV. As it happens, I did weigh in on Transit TV more than a year ago, with a first-person piece (gone from the L.A. Times web site but still viewable here) that got at some of Ben’s questions. My aim was more to consider Transit TV as a technical feat than to condemn it as a violation of my right to a TV-free public-vehicle commute (a right I’m not actually sure I have), but I did mention the volume problem, which in my experience doesn’t seem as bad these days. For what it’s worth, Transit TV’s surveys at the time indicated pretty broad customer support for the devices — take that with as much salt as you like, though I recall the survey was done by some respectable third party. And without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Ben Harrison:
I ride Metro buses several times a week and the latest aggravation is jabbering TV monitors. Most Metro buses now have two TV monitors, billed as entertainment and public service, but with a lot of advertising as well. Some of the time the monitors are merely on visual mode, which is not too bad, but then come the protracted periods of loud, intrusive jabbering (advertising, news, cooking shows, etc.) in English and Spanish. Most people I have talked to, including most bus drivers, find the noise irritating. For the most part the volume controls don’t work or the drivers don’t know how to adjust them. I would be interested in knowing - 1. who paid to install these monitors and who will pay to maintain/replace them? 2. how much revenue the advertising brings in and whom it benefits?
3. who pays for and decides on the programming and material presented? 4. if it is planned to put the monitors also on the tram lines and Metro-link trains? and why or why not? 5. if the answer to 4. is ‘no’, is it because it is easier to take advantage of bus riders, who are often lower-income than tram/train riders, who are not as likely to allow their ride-time to be desecrated? 6. what percentage of bus drivers find the noise of the TV monitors distracting, irritating and/or unsafe. An absurdity: buses have signs indicating that it is not permitted to smoke, eat or play radios on the bus (except with ear-phones). This is a welcome recognition of how irritating it is to be at the mercy of somebody else’s taste in music and noise. Why should Metro be exempt from its own rules? A greater absurdity: One of the ‘public service’ announcements recently aired on the monitors was about ways in which one can reduce the risk of memory loss. One of the ways proposed was to reduce background noise! At least some of the people who ride buses regularly (commuters to work, school, etc.) like to use the time for reading, preparing their work, listening to ipods, or even for quiet reflection or meditation. The audio noise is a direct attack on people’s right to travel in peace. Public transportation already entails enough aggravations - traffic delays, frequent stop-starts, crowdedness, cell-phone shouters, loud-talking passengers, next-stop-announcements, etc., without adding another, which does not only assault the ears but victimizes passengers with aggressive advertising. This gives me one more reason to prefer driving to public transport. In fact I have taken to using LADOT or the Red Line (or walking) as much as possible, to spare myself the anger and stress this noise arouses in me. I’d love it if you could follow up on these ideas with an article. There is too much here for a letter to the editor, which, in any case, I doubt would be printed because this particular issue has not been in the news. Let me know if you’re willing to run with it, or if you have any other suggestions regarding how to get it into discussion. Thanks. Ben Harrison