Too little progress on transit
Speaking out as an advocate on issues of public transportation has made me a magnet for the mobility problems of other elderly people that I have welcomed.
However, two months ago I fell and became instantly old, making my own mobility problems more urgent, and facing actual redundancy since the majority of elderly still have their cars while the low income passengers are too busy earning a living to realize that they could be an effective constituency.
In reviewing last year’s minutes and this year’s agenda for Inyo Social Service Transportation Advisory Council’s workshop and hearing on unmet transportation needs, I found that there has been little progress on most of the issues. There is still a lack of bilingual bus schedules for bus stops and handouts as they have in Mammoth Lakes, while we have the same separate schedules cranked out on a photocopier, apparently good enough in spite of the historical finding years ago that “separate is not equal.”
Equally disappointing is ESTA’s failure to return to the route system as recommended by the first three-year performance audit. When questioned last month, an administration spokesperson estimated that the change would be done by February. Other sources report that it is proceeding in Mammoth Lakes but we have seen no action for Bishop. Instead, there has been great publicity about the grants to improve the administrative system, but little concern for the drivers who still are required to undergo long commutes to Mammoth Lakes and struggle on weekends with two drivers for the whole Bishop area while doing their own dispatching since they were given the alternative of one driver and a dispatcher. We are grateful for their devotion to the community.
The Public Utilities Commission issued a tantalizing press release on Feb 7 involving three start up companies in San Francisco who took the initiative to fill a gap in transit needs. It allows me to end this letter of resignation on a cheerful note. It involves Lyft, Sidecar and Uber that use black limos dispatched by the very latest electronic gadgets. One is thriving on donations rather than set fees.
Lyft catches attention with pink carstaches (“facial hair” for truck and cars available to carstache.com.) It is good news that authorities are willing to consider rule changes to include these up starts! It seems obvious that tasking the Eastern Sierra Transit to cover all the public transit needs of two such diverse counties is a tall order, and it is unique in California. In Bishop we could consider partnering with taxis and off duty school buses, already successful in several communities in our large state.
“Snow Pack” it in …
I am writing about the Alaska Airlines Snow Pack, which was heavily advertised late last year as discount airline tickets available between LAX and Mammoth Lakes. My boyfriend John and I were both quite excited about his being able to fly to Mammoth many weekends this winter and to enjoy all that Mammoth has to offer, and we bought each other a 10-flight snow pack for $570 for Christmas.
However, between Christmas and late February, he still hasn’t been able to fly to Mammoth for even one weekend using these flights, despite trying nearly every weekend. Each time he or I tried to reserve a flight, we were informed that none were available. However, the operators were happy to “upgrade” his flight from $65/flight to as much as $230 per flight, and of course we would have to pay the difference. Was this the true purpose of this “Snow Pack” promotion: to lure customers in with inexpensive, but unavailable, flights and then try to get them to pay full price?
After over two and a half months, we at least were able to get a refund on the useless and nonexistent Snow Pack flights. Perhaps the true purpose of the Snow Pack flights was to finagle customers to make an interest free loan for several months? However, I have heard that no refunds are available if a customer has somehow managed to book even one flight, even if the remaining nine Snow Pack flights are always unavailable.
In one of my unsuccessful attempts to book a Snow Pack flight, the booking representative told me that the promotion was intended to lure midweek visitors and skiers to Mammoth. If so, these flights should have been marketed as only available midweek. Is the marketing department still unaware that many skiers and other visitors have full time jobs and family commitments during the week?
For the first time in many years, John won’t visit Mammoth even one weekend this winter. However, we will take our Snow Pack refund and use it for weekend recreational opportunities elsewhere – Death Valley, Catalina, Mexico, and the Channel Islands are always fun destinations. Perhaps this is one reason why there are always empty seats, and why on some flights most of the seats are empty, on the flights to and from Los Angeles.
Melissa A. Swan
The following letter was addressed to the Mono County Board of Supervisors but submitted for wider publication to The Sheet.
MMSA land swap “Bucked” up
Dear Honorable Supervisors:
I want to go on record as being adamantly opposed to the Mono County Board of Supervisors offering any support to MMSA in an effort to legitimize the proposed [Main Lodge] land swap. Any support offered by the Board cannot be based on one more empty promise from Mr. Rusty Gregory, mouthpiece of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and Starwood Capital Group. If indeed, MMSA/Starwood desires the support of the Board and the citizens of Mono County they must be fair, honest, and commit to an agreement in writing.
The land swap as championed by former [redistricted] area U.S. Congressional Representative Buck McKeon, was solely for the economic benefit of MMSA/Starwood, the same entity that spent the last 5-7 years raping the June Lake community and June Mountain. This vary land swap resulted from potential shady contributions to an elected official. It ultimately led to a neutered Congressmna and contributed to putting him under investigation of the Congressional ethics committee.
To be fair to the people of the United States, any future land swap agreement must be an equal value land exchange. Having title to the land at the base of MMSA would have a dramatic impact on the company balance sheet, open the doors to financial markets, increase the value of MMSA/Starwood and increase the ultimate sales price when sold.
Any support offered by our Board should be in a written contract, negotiating the following:
The benefit to and impact on MMSA/Starwood is a valuable consideration and a component of the exchange, no unequal enrichment.
All properties involved must have an independent appraisal to determine true value. It is my understanding that a fair value exchange does not require special legislation.
Suggest MMSA/Starwood donate June Mountain to a community-based non-profit. MMSA and Rusty would have no interest in the new ski area. There might be a way to get a nice tax write off by doing so to a nonprofit. Try to make the issue become a component of the equal value land exchange in return for our support and your endorsement.
No unjust enrichment for a huge, out- of-state entity. It’s just business. We just need to practice good business morals, methods and principals.
One last thought to each Supervisor: If it is not an equal value exchange, I have to wonder, are we getting BUCKed again? So many ways to interpret those 5 simple words.