Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 28

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.

Action Alert: Metro Board Director and LA City Councilmember Bernard Parks will introduce a motion (Item 16) at the Metro Executive Management and Audit Committee on Thursday, July 20, to officially designate Exposition Light Rail as the "Expo Line" (as opposed to naming it by color like other Metro Rail lines) and indicate it on maps by the color rose. The Committee will also review a separate motion (Item 15) to designate color names for rail lines and busways. See Upcoming Events below for details. If you like to let the MTA Board know your opinion on this, there is time to write.

Even with six U.S. Congressmembers from California heading major committees in Washington, the state continues to receive less than what it sends, according to an op-ed published by the Daily Breeze. The state receives just 86 cents for every dollar sent to Washington. Even Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who campaigned with the promise that the state received its fair share, has proven weak against the fiscal realities. Schwarzenegger hopes to rally up his Congressional delegation and gain back these funds.

With Metro now expanding advertising opportunities on its buses, trains and facilities, the agency stands to gain much-needed funds for operations. However, Los Angeles Daily News columnist Mariel Garza fears that such would inhibit personal privacy for passengers and bombard them with more " corporate graffiti". (Her unfortunate experiences on the bus reported earlier elicited several responses from readers.) A smarter move to increase revenue while maintaining strong fare box recovery may be found farther north. Seattle transit officials revealed plans to raise bus fares gradually, by 75 cents over ten years.

Metro is also moving forward with a study to determine whether a rail link between the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys parallel to the Ventura Freeway is feasible. RailPAC President Paul Dyson believes such a link would be too costly, since there is no readily available right of way.

A peculiar level of ugliness has emerged in an Orange County Supervisor race. Candidate Cathryn DeYoung mailed fliers informing residents that a new and costly tunnel between Irvine and Corona would aggravate traffic problems. The tunnel proposal currently enjoys popular support in both Orange and Riverside Counties according to various polls, although the issue is a hot one mostly in Orange County and the Sierra Club strongly opposes the tunnel. A more effective transportation solution between the two counties would be expanded rail services, akin to what transportation planners in Charleston, South Carolina, concluded for a stretch of the I-26 in their part of the world.

Meanwhile, the San Bernardino Association of Governments approved receipt of a grant to expand its freeway service patrol, which aids stranded motorists and help clear up roadway incidents that cause traffic on freeways. Commuters express their frustration at the 71 Freeway, which is seen as a quick shortcut but is hampered by its numerous forms as a freeway, expressway and grade-level highway. Also, the state is moving forward with a study to see whether it is possible to reopen a section of State Highway Route 39, which has been closed for nearly 30 years due to unrelenting mudslides. To the west, Pasadena merchants were angered with a recent reduction in parking time and an increase in public parking rates.

Hybrids continue to dazzle people's minds during a time of high gas prices. As a sign of their demand after years of stagnant sales, Californians often pay more than the retail price for these vehicles. The Burbank City Council will soon vote on becoming a "Plug-In Partner" that would encourage building charging facilities for hybrid-electric vehicles.

Metro Investment Report featured an interview with Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Director Donald Wolfe, which discusses the many responsibilities and challenges of one of the largest public works agencies in the nation. Though the interview largely focused on storm drainage issues, Wolfe noted that unincorporated areas of the county stand to gain as much as $194 million should voters approve the state infrastructure bonds in November.

Another column from Public CIO contends that continued integration of information technology across all jurisdrictions and between different modes of transport will prove beneficial for transportation in the United States.

Meanwhile, Grist magazine interviewed anti-sprawl activist Anthony Flint (actually, he prefers "pro-growth") regarding his recent book, This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America. Flint recaps the government policies and cheap energy that encouraged sprawl in the mid-20th Century, as well as the ironic "false bargain" Americans today are getting for living in sprawl in the form of social detachment, weightier energy costs and longer commutes. The latter is exemplified by a recently developed "sport" called " extreme commuting", where parents must drive lengthy distances between affordable housing with good schools and job-rich cities.

Building on this "smart growth" momentum, LA City Beat reported on attempts by residents to gain power to choose the developments they want in their neighborhoods. Activists often point to the city as the culprit, since, they believe, it skirts its own ordinances to pass major developments, favors either low-density housing or expensive condos that do not suit the needs of Angelenos, and has a sketchy planning policy in general. Visionaries also share what they see as the future of development in Los Angeles, which could very well focus on pedestrian-oriented destinations and communities.

Regarding air travel, the J.D. Power and Associates survey reported here last week also revealed that, while LAX received some of the lowest marks for passenger satisfaction, Las Vegas McCarren International Airport received the highest. In light of this, LAX officials believe that a recently launched, multi-million-dollar renovation program will make the airport a ‘destination in its own right' instead of a mere means to a destination.

One much-sought improvement is bringing the Green Line to the airport, which LAX director Lydia Kennard dismissed as costly and not worthwhile, since the recently launched FlyAway from Union Station carries more airport travelers at a smaller cost, whereas the existing Green Line and connecting shuttle is used mostly by airport employees. LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl believes quite differently.

An op-ed by former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis stated that construction of a high-speed rail system in California would reduce the need for costly and controversial airport expansion schemes, though he was disheartened that a vote on the bonds that would finance it will be pushed to 2008. This may be of special note to Long Beach City Councilmember Tonia Reyes Uranga, who is working to rescind approval by the City Council of an EIR for an improved Long Beach Airport terminal.

Meanwhile, airports and airlines across the globe continue to expand. Panama-based Copa Airlines has grown thanks to a strong hub at Panama City-Tocuben International Airport that gives passengers an alternative to hard-to-get transit visas for U.S. hubs. U.S.-based airlines are also eyeing destinations in Mexico in a whole new way.

At the local seaports, one only needs to see the empty containers sitting at storage lots to see that the U.S. is not doing well in covering the trade deficit. Residents in Wilmington have grown increasingly annoyed at the sight of these containers, saying that they bring blight, weeds and earthquake dangers to their neighborhoods… not to mention rats. Meanwhile, the International Maritime Organization is considering revamping its emissions standards for cargo vessels.

For your information: On Tuesday, June 20, Metrolink released a presentation on the Electronic Passenger Information System (EPIS). The presentation addressed the inadequacies of the current platform addressing system at most Metrolink stations, which uses limited messages and cannot respond to rapidly changing railway conditions. Metrolink is moving forward to replace the system with a flexible yet fully integrated EPIS, which would be able to process information from different sources into a single server, which in turn distributes it to the Internet, a paging system for cell phone users, and on new widescreen LCD displays at stations. Also, a presentation on the Sealed Corridors Program is now available.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

July 6: Omnitrans unveiled 25 new vans with wheelchair lifts as part of its Access program. The Access program, launched by Omnitrans in 1993, serves 43,000 passengers with disabilities each year.

July 10: Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed met with Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and staff regarding transportation issues related to LAX, which the councilmember represents. Among the topics discussed were extending the Green Line 2 miles around the airport to Lincoln and Sepulveda, a further extension to Lincoln and Jefferson, and an eventual extension to Santa Monica and the Expo Line; bus lanes on Lincoln and Wilshire Blvds., and bringing regional rail to the airport via the Harbor Subdivision Right-Of-Way. The meeting also dealt with the imposed Maglev proposal for the Westside from the Southern California Association of Governments.

The Caltrans District 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee established the post of Bicycle Coordinator, outlining its duties and responsibilities, as well as reaffirmed the responsibilities of the existing BAC. Among those in attendance were Kent Strumpell and Michelle Mowery of the City of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed, and Caltrans District 7 Director Doug Failing.

The Los Angeles Times reported on the woeful state of roads in California, while listing some of the state's major bottlenecks. The article reported that lack of funds at all levels of government is the most serious obstacle to improve roads in the state.

Upcoming Events: Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, July 12, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

SCAG MagLev Task Force: Thursday, July 13, 11:00 a.m. SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, July 13, 2 p.m., The Gas Company, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey.

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, July 14, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, July 19 and Thursday, July 20, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

·  Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, July 19, 1 p.m.

·  Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, July 19, 2:30 p.m.

·  Executive Management & Audit Committee, Thursday, July 20, 9 a.m. ( Item 15--Approve color designations for several rail lines and busways.)

·  Construction Committee, Thursday, July 20, 10:30 a.m.

·  Operations Committee, Thursday, July 20, 12 noon.

Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, July 25 - 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!

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, July 27, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, July 28, 10 a.m. San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

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.

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bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us • The Transit Coalition