Friday, April 4, 2014


Today was the first day of "Jam The Phone Lines".  It must be working, because the Metro people are already annoyed, and I only rode three buses today.  (I don't know how many other people are calling, though.  Maybe it wasn't just my calls.)

To get decent public transportation, there is really no other avenue open to us.  Metro is really about making St. Louis more attractive to businessmen, owning and maintaining real estate, and funneling government funds into business development for individual businessmen.

I am still looking into this, but as of right now it appears that:

We cannot elect new officials to change it, because the politicians do not have any real say in the matter.  And unless a really wealthy developer wants to come in and do for us what Joe Edwards and Washington University has done in the Loop, we cannot get enough property votes.

We also cannot elect anyone or appeal to any agency to change the federal monies that Metro receives-- and even if we did, we cannot control how they spend it.

In fact, even if Metro executives were truly on the side of their most frequent customers, THEY don't appear to have enough power to change things.

It's really only individuals with wealth that have any power, and they are shaping the city with their needs in mind.

We are going to have to be really annoying to change things.

I had two people put me into call waiting system and never come back.  The "Customer Analyst", Brandy, got very annoyed with me and called me "ridiculous" and didn't understand why I was asking so many questions that she did not think was relevant.  (The questions were: how many buses are in operation on a regular weekday-- not bus lines, actual vehicles.  Also how many bus drivers work on regular day-- not paratransit, just regular buses.  How much do bus drivers make and when was their last increase in pay?)

My calls to Metro's Chief of System Planning and Development, Jessica Mefford-Miller, are instantly deposited to voice mail, and I suspect future emails to her will be answered less and less quickly as the days wear on, and my unending list of questions about how their agency operates continues.

Also, even though I have all the bus schedules, and the internet, I now call them to verify my trip plans.  And ask any one of my unending questions. 

Yes, I am annoying and ridiculous.  I feel sorry for the analysts and the customer service people.  The more successful we are, the busier they will be.  They will need to find out things about the agency they work for, as they answer out questions.  Knowledge is power.

And the more successful we are, the more the internal organization of Metro will have to change.

People don't like change, especially at their jobs.

So, fellow rider, I know you want to be a nice person.  You might even know what it is like to work in a call center (that is, awful).

Remember, your intention is not to just complain or question-- it is TO CHANGE METRO.

To those people that are content to accept whatever is offered them, that do not believe change is possible, that just want what is easiest, who are comfortable where they are, you are going to seem annoying and ridiculous.

Most people think it is ridiculous to try to change the way things are.

Tonight's vigil in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded me of how ridiculous it was in the 1960's for a black man to think he could march down the middle of the street and demand his rights.  How annoying he was to the authorities and others, who kept telling him there was nothing he could do to change things.

Getting better bus service is not the same as civil rights, but the process for change is the same. It makes the world a better place.  It keeps fascism and tyranny in check. It empowers people that feel powerless. 

If we are too busy trying to be nice, or worrying about being ridiculous or annoying, we are never going to change anything.

We live in this world and our worth should not be dependent on our bank accounts.  Public transportation is a necessity for a lot of people.  We should be able to shape it to our needs.

Calling every time you ride, asking for what you want, communicating your needs, and asking questions about how Metro operates is not wrong.  It is not illegal. If they think a question like "how many buses do you have in operation every day" is challenging, they are going to have a real problem when I find someone to audit their books and look for the money they say they don't have for bathrooms, for subsidized passes for low-income and unemployed, for more Metrolink service, and etc.

They are really going to be annoyed when people start showing up at the East West Gateway Council of Governments meetings and asking questions about their one-sided development of the trains and Greenways.  Or when journalists begin looking into the structure of public transit companies nationwide.

And they will be really annoyed when the carefully laid, thirty year plan, for developing "business" and "attracting entrepreuners" suddenly becomes about mapping a transit system that serves the people that ride it. And being accountable to us, as well as the wealthy businessmen of St. Louis.  

Be nice.  Be calm.  Speak slowly.  

But keep calling. 

A lot.

Feel free to print and distribute the leaflet:

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