Tagged: newspapers

COTA and self-aggrandizement

Sometimes complaining isn’t only fun, it actually could get a little attention. I read a column by a man who had been on a COTA citizens’ advisory committee, who was disillusioned by the closing of the committee, and also by his view of COTA’s apparent perception of itself as an agency that provides useful transportation only to the poor and the disabled, ignoring hundreds of thousands of average people.

So I wrote a letter to the editor in response, and today the Dispatch printed it, at the top of the page, next to a cute little picture of a bus I think they drew just for me! They did only a tiny bit of editing. For my out-of-town readers, here is the edited version:

I couldn’t agree more with Michael Meckler’s recent Forum column in The Dispatch about the failure of the Central Ohio Transit Authority to see the full potential of its service.

In 2000, COTA announced its new Commuter Check program, which let employees receive part of their pay as tax-free transit vouchers. It’s a great deal for employees, employers and COTA. But in four years, COTA has not managed to bring the program to Nationwide, where I work Downtown with 7,000 other employees.

Nationwide, Downtown’s largest employer, told me it was too expensive to participate. COTA should be stepping up and covering some of the cost if that’s what it takes to attract this kind of ridership, but you don’t see this kind of initiative on the part of COTA.

Recently, Nationwide announced it would move 480 suburban employees Downtown. COTA should be at the suburban location every day, forcing bus schedules into the hands of anyone who walks by. This is a golden chance for them to easily target hundreds of new commuters, many of whom will have no idea where to park. The agency should be getting them on board from the very start, and offer anybody moving Downtown free rides for a month.

But COTA doesn’t seem to care about attracting new riders.

  • Most buses seem to carry schedules for a route other than the one you’re on, or no schedules at all.
  • Its Web site, even after a much-trumpeted redesign, is still awkward and hard to use.  Try following its advice and typing “Broad and High” into the trip planner. You’ll get a list of 44 different choices; Broad and High is 11th on the list. And they finally added maps of all routes only recently.
  • They ripped out the maps from all of the Downtown bus stops years ago and replaced them with useless, broken digital displays.

I know that some people, against all odds, do take the initiative to track down maps and schedules, find their bus stop and become regular riders. But it’s too rare. More often, I hear stories like Meckler’s, that he tried to stick with it for years but finally gave up.

COTA is like a cult in reverse: Nobody can come in and everybody leaves.

Labor Day weekend

First off, it really looks like the economy is picking up, despite the apparent firings of two of my friends. (Who knew.) How do I know? The newspapers are getting thicker again. Last year, I could carry around three, four days worth of papers in my little purse. I’d buy this skinny-ass little Times and think, “That’s all?” Back in 1999, 2000, man, the Times was so thick you couldn’t always fold it up! Well, these days, it’s getting to be heavier and harder to cram into the bag. I even ran across a copy of Wired (again, who knew?) and it had some decent heft to it also. So, I perceive this as a good sign for the economy (but bad for my back and shoulders).

I went to the OSU-Washington game last night. And oh my God, for the first time ever, I actually understand how the game works! My lovely friend Marc explained all about the downs and the ten-yard deal and even a couple of crazy topics like “safeties.” I felt so empowered. Why couldn’t anyone ever get this across before? I think my incomprehension of football was the last thing standing between me and becoming a man. Is there some kind of sports bar mitzvah I can hold for myself to commemorate the occasion? Everybody over to my place for buffalo wings.

Finally, if you happen to be reading this in the next couple of days, go over to COSI (T9: BORG) for the Supernova3 installation. It’s by Hiro Yamagata, of course, and it’s amazing. It was half like some crystal meth nightmare and half just really dangerous-seeming. (Rotating sharp pieces of glass, mirrors, hanging from the ceiling everywhere, while the lighting rapidly shifts and disorients you.) Yeah, don’t miss it.

The Dispatch takes a dive

I just opened my Monday paper and found this weird card tucked inside. Like the entire rest of the paper (thank you very much, carrier), the card was all curled up beyond smoothing. It was blank, but it included a strange, grainy note, printed in a mysterious font. The note reads, “I would like … to welcome you to my world.”

Shaken, and checking for white powder, I continued reading. Looks like my building is blessed with its third carrier in three months. Oh, God, I thought. I’ve become used to finding my paper right outside my door in the hallway… or on a table… or under a bench… or right on High Street. Once it was in High Street. Now, you would think, having been a subscriber to the Dispatch for seven years, and having longstanding family ties besides, that they would take note and put a good carrier on my route. But I guess they’re too busy shrinking the pages. I’m distressed to learn I’ll have to train a new one all over again.

“Please look for your Sunday aids to now come Saturday night.” Yeah, that’s when I was expecting to get aids.

This was discouraging: “Please keep in mind that there will be mornings that I’m running late. To inquire about your paper on those days, please call me 1st. Calls to the Dispatch will count against me, as well ass my manager.” When I read this, I was sneakily pleased to see that maybe all those calls to the Dispatch got the last carrier fired, which is why we have this new one. Then I was peeved: already, my carrier is planning to be late? And then it went on to say, “By doing so, you should even receive your paper more promptly.” Is that a threat? Don’t tell on me or you’ll never get your paper? For this I pay $41.60 a quarter?!

What are things coming to? Time was, the local paper boy or girl was an enterprising youngster with an undiagnosed sleeping disorder. This person lives nine miles away, as the pre-addressed tip envelope indicates. How will we ever build the bond that ensures I get the paper and that might persuade me to grudgingly part with a decent tip? I’ll keep my readers informed. But keep in mind there will be mornings when this column is late.

The New Dispatch

Well, I just got my copy of the Sunday Dispatch, and it includes a six-page section on the changes we can all expect tomorrow in the Monday paper.

I was initially upset that the paper is being redesigned (are you surprised?), but it doesn’t look that bad. Other than the fact that the paper is getting two inches narrower, the changes should be OK. The Dispatch is so urban cool, because they suggested that it would be easier to manage during a morning bus commute — despite the fact that only about 12,000 people do that on a regular basis. Thank you, Dispatch!

Finally, I should like to use this space to settle an argument that has been raging for some time, and I’d like to do it by saying, “I win.” :) To explain, many people have said that a newspaper has no “cover,” only a “front page.” The first page of each section is also just called a “front page,” these people say. Well, if you’ll look throughout Section I today, you’ll note that the Dispatch calls it a “cover” again and again, thusly siding with me. Please don’t question my news-reading abilities.