Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, June 6, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 23

Welcome to The Transit Coalition weekly newsletter! Our organization participates in meetings with key decision makers and community leaders and our goal is to keep you informed on the latest developments in the transportation scene across Southern California.

What does the future hold for the statewide infrastructure bond measures to be decided in November? According to a recent poll, the future is at least on the positive side. Participants indicated that they are warming up to the bond measures, although two of the five measures to be voted on (education and affordable housing) are getting tepid approval. If the numbers improve considerably and prove winning at the November polls, the bonds would be a boon to numerous languishing but needed transportation projects in California. Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl hopes that the bonds along with a scaled-down LAX Master Plan will help bring the Green Line closer to the airport and beyond, even though such an extension is not a priority for Metro at the moment.

With Metro still needing to find $10 million in savings on top of using reserves to cover its $110 million deficit, officials are looking towards advertising revenue. While some believe it could be a modest revenue generator for the transit agency, critics contend that the visual clutter may not be worth the boost in funds.

Advocacy groups are increasing pressure to replace school buses running on diesel fuel with cleaner-burning counterparts. Activists point out that children in San Bernardino are in greater risk of developing asthma than children elsewhere in the state. To date, only 5% of school buses in California run on compressed natural gas, while another 10% use emissions-reducing particulate traps on existing diesel buses. To the north, Bay Area transit agencies will offer round trip rides at no cost on their systems during days when smog levels are at their highest. The effort is part of the Spare the Air Days program where, in previous years, no-cost rides were given only in one direction.

If running anything on compressed natural gas still does not suit your fancy, transit advocate Alan S. Drake argues that complete electrification of U.S. railroads could reduce oil consumption by up to 10% in 12 years. Drake notes that increasing urban transit funding, purchasing electric trolley buses, encouraging bicycling and creating a "Strategic Railcar Reserve" can complement this move and reduce overall oil dependency. Fellow transit advocate Paul M. Weyrich expresses hope that the recently convened National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission will set aside partisan ideology and take a fresh approach to the transportation question at the Federal level.

Regarding airports, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced that he will resurrect a long-dormant regional airport authority to encourage growth at other airports as a means to stem increasing air traffic at LAX. Lack of consensus and weak powers vested to the authority lead to its demise, but officials hope these flaws will be undone and bring airport traffic to those that actually want it, such as Palmdale and Ontario Airports. Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe is particularly excited, as his district includes LAX and Knabe was a board member of the Southern California Regional Airport Authority before it disbanded in 2003.

Could a bullet train between Victorville and Las Vegas be in the works? According to the Victorville Daily Press, DesertXEnterprises is working with local, state and federal agencies to make this a reality. An environmental review will soon begin, and a public comment period will begin in late June. Just west of Victorville, plans to widen State Highway Route 138, notorious for its string of deadly head-on crashes, continue moving forward. Starting June 19, Caltrans will begin installing truck lanes on the portion of the route climbing the San Gabriel Mountains just west of State Highway Route 2 near Wrightwood.

One highway innovation that is being given serious consideration today is mileage-based road pricing, which is in trial mode in Portland, Oregon. Instead of paying the state gas tax, participating motorists are charged 1.2 cents for each mile they drive. Proponents see this as a way of replacing the gas tax altogether, since state and federal governments are wary of raising them according to inflation. Another benefit seen is that it may also do away with the concept of toll road facilities, since the driver is in fact paying a toll based on how much he drives.

It is of note that among other dubious distinctions greater Los Angeles has earned, a recent survey revealed that it has the worst road rage of any city in the nation. According to the survey, young drivers and those with lengthy commutes are the most likely to react to aggressive driving. Respondents largely cited inattentiveness as a factor in how drivers control their vehicles on the road, which could in turn lead to tailgating, cutting someone else off or driving too fast. Truckers share the feeling, as a separate survey indicated that California has the worst automobile drivers in the nation. (The same survey noted that Pennsylvania has the worst roads for truckers, while Texas has the best.)

As if that wasn't enough, a new sensation is sweeping the nation: Gas rage. Drivers are now taking out their frustrations on gas station clerks, with the latter reporting an increase in hostile behavior and harassment towards them. The National Association of Convenience Stores advises owners and operators to explain patrons that despite the high gas prices they charge, convenience stores are not making much profit off of them.

On the smart growth front, residents are moving in to Archstone Del Mar, the new transit-oriented development perched over the Del Mar Gold Line station. According to the Pasadena Star News, "There are 32 such villages in various stages of development along the MTA's four light-rail lines, a number that will rise considerably by the end of the decade." Residents are particularly thrilled that they don't have to use their car for much of anything now, with numerous amenities within walking distance of the complex.

For the more technically inclined, Union Pacific will soon start using unoccupied, remote-controlled locomotives to sort train cars in its Colton yard. However, some employees are concerned about safety, to the point that they are urging the City of Colton to impose safety measures before the switch. Critics of the technology contend that accident rates are higher where unoccupied locomotives are used, but proponents note that recent studies have shown these devices are no more dangerous than other methods of car sorting. UP will also introduce new pollution-controlling technology at its Roseville yard near Sacramento.

Meanwhile, Metro recently gave approval to install fiber-optic systems intended to improve security monitoring across the Metro system. Metro also selected a company to implement and manage a regional Smart Card service center. The North County Transit District seeks bids to install wireless technology along its Coaster commuter rail line. Additionally, the Federal Transit Administration launched a pilot program aimed at encouraging transit agencies to use the Internet for capital purchases.

The Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation recently launched a campaign aimed at informing citizens about the dangers of "Not-In-My-Back-Yard" thinking. To learn more, visit www.backyardweb.org.

Mariel Garza became the latest Los Angeles Daily News staff writer to give public transit a try and write about her experiences. In doing so, however, she took great strides in stocking up on household materials and dog food, so that she wouldn't have to lug such things on the bus during her transit trial. Will the test bring satisfaction and wisdom to this new transit rider? Stay tuned.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

May 23: A state bill allowing tribal groups to voluntarily join the Southern California Association of Governments passed the State Assembly by a unanimous vote of 68-0. Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) hopes that Assembly Bill 2762 will encourage increased collaboration between governments while protecting tribal sovereignty. The bill now moves to the State Senate.

May 31: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will receive a boost in anti-terror funds, even as other ports in the state will receive less in comparison to years past. Of the $92.5 million to be received for the region, $80.6 million will go to the ports, while an unidentified amount from what remains may be used to "develop a countywide initiative for regional planning and training," according to LA Deputy Mayor Maurice Suh.

Officials in Albuquerque offered a sneak preview of the New Mexico Rail Runner Express commuter rail service. Crews are testing the trains for its debut this summer. For the first three months, no fare will be charged; after that and until the end of the year, it will cost $2 to ride.

June 3: Metrolink inaugurated Saturday service on the Orange County line. Riders reacted positively to the new service, which is composed of three round trips between Los Angeles Union Station and Orange County. This will begin one of the largest expansions for the commuter rail system since its inception in 1992, as Sunday service will be introduced in July and Inland Empire-Orange County service will soon follow.

June 6: LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced that the city is cracking down on illegally parked cars during rush hour. Transit officials say they hope the cost and inconvenience of illegal parking will deter drivers from blocking streets. Violators will be fined $65 and charged $144 for towing, plus $33 a day for storage, if the vehicle is not claimed within an hour of its removal.

Upcoming Events: Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, June 7, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Bl., Van Nuys.

SCAG MagLev Task Force: Thursday, June 8, 11:00 a.m. SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, June 10, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

Foothill Gold Line Community Design Workshops:

Wednesday, June 14, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Monrovia Community Center, 119 W. Palm Av., Monrovia.

Monday, June 19, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Ayres Hall, Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, 301 N. Baldwin Av., Arcadia. Parking available.

Tuesday, June 27, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., City Hall, Outer Council Chamber, 5050 N. Irwindale Av., Irwindale.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, June 14, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, June 14 and Thursday, June 15, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, June 14, 1 p.m.

Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, June 14, 2:30 p.m.

Executive Management & Audit Committee, Thursday, June 15, 9 a.m.

Construction Committee, Thursday, June 15, 10:30 a.m.

Operations Committee, Thursday, June 15, 12 noon.

SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, June 21, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, June 22, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, June 27 - 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Philippe The Original, 1001 N. Alameda St. Los Angeles CA 90012. ( Map.) We hope to see you there!

Missed last week's newsletter? Read it here!

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Contact Us:
We welcome your thoughts and comments on our new electronic newsletter. Please write us:
Bart Reed, Executive Director
Numan Parada, Communications Director



About The Transit Coalition:
The Transit Coalition is a 501[c](3) non-profit whose goal is to increase Transit Options and Mobility in Southern California by mobilizing citizens to press for sensible public policy to grow our bus and rail network.

As a grass roots group, we depend upon your contributions to allow us to pursue our important work. Add yourself to our mailing list and please donate to help us grow.

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bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us  The Transit Coalition