Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 23

Welcome to an unusually long 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.

Write to the Governor! Two thirds of California 's Congressmembers signed a letter urging Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to fund high speed rail development at a larger amount than proposed. Meanwhile, critics openly articulate their opposition to high speed rail and aim to derail the project entirely. HSR proponents need your help by writing a letter to the governor to this address and expressing your support for the project!

Moreover, the governor continues to push for the diversion of "Spillover" funds away from transit operations. Instead, Schwarzenegger flew to Vancouver , British Columbia , to see private enterprise build and operate rail lines and extol their virtues. One letter in the Pasadena Star News condemned the governor for shortchanging transit in its hour of need, while several others in the Los Angeles Times bemoaned the lack of support towards public transit in general. However, state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency director Dale Bonner defended the governor, saying that Schwarzenegger has in fact done more for public transit than any predecessor. The proposal also could scale back rehabilitation of the aging San Diego Trolley.

Grumbling continues on the imminent fare increases on Metro bus and trains. Students at Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda signed a petition in hopes that the Metro Board would reconsider the increases. The Bus Riders Union vowed to file an injunction as a last ditch effort to stop the increases. The increases will hardly do anything about bringing more transit projects to the forefront. The increases mark another blow to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose political skills have been on the skids of late. Meanwhile, Foothill Transit also mulls an increase in pass prices, while leaving one-way cash fares alone at $1.

Increases in fuel prices are largely to blame. Some noted that the governor has ignored the issue even as a recent poll revealed that it was the number one concern among Californians. However, Santa Clarita Transit is relying on private companies that operates their buses to keep costs low. Some are also celebrating at a recent study that concluded that Californians produce less carbon dioxide emissions on a per-capita basis than residents in most other states, partly due to tough fuel and vehicle requirements.

Still, some solace can be found. The Metro FY 08 proposed budget foresees a slight increase in late night service while bringing new Rapid Bus lines into the picture. More rail cars and highway construction also figure in the proposed budget. Metro has scheduled meetings on the matter, listed in our Upcoming Events section. These small solutions, however, have not stopped people from clamoring for a subway down Wilshire Blvd., though Metro would quickly remind some that the Alternative Analysis Study underway will look at all modes and corridors in the area, including at- and above-grade options.

Traffic is now affecting our social lives to a considerable extent, according to columnist Steve Scauzillo, who until recent times enjoyed relative proximity from his home in Temple City to cultural, entertainment and sports venues in Los Angeles and Orange Counties . Also, writer Dan Bernstein shared his knowledge of the little-used trolley buses in downtown Riverside and a recent attempt to boost ridership.

However, syndicated columnist Rich Lowry would like you to believe that our supposed love affair with cars should overlook that and move away from building more mass transit. Lowry claims that car travel is more economical than other forms of travel, conveniently ignoring maintenance and hidden costs of auto use. Of course, this love affair is not good enough to save the hybrid Honda Accord from the brink of extinction.

On a sadder note, the state Appropriations Committee nixed legislation by Assemblymember Ted Lieu to create a construction authority for a Green Line extension through LAX. Metro previously revealed that the Green Line extension in question is not even under consideration.


Donate and Join The Transit Coalition : We have a tough fight, as the Mayor and some media want to kill or damage rail transit. Your financial help is needed to build opposition to these ill informed actions. Do you want to save and improve transportation in Southern California

? Would you like to keep informed on what is happening in the transportation scene? Then please donate and join The Transit Coalition. A monthly subscription to Moving Southern California comes with your membership, as well as this weekly eNewsletter. Visit our Donations page to explore other options. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

 


Ventura County commuters and traveling motorists will ride on a widened Santa Clara River bridge on the 101 Freeway in mid-August. 5 lanes were added to the original 7-lane bridge, making it the largest road project in the county. Design revisions delayed the project from its intended completion in 2006 and pushed construction costs to $85 million.

Meanwhile, Caltrans hopes it can reduce the number of traffic collisions in California through electronic devices on new cars that warn drivers of oncoming road dangers. Work commences on new carpool lanes for the 60 Freeway in San Gabriel Valley , while a widening project on the 118 Freeway in Simi Valley awaits a vote from the California Transportation Commission. The same commission will vote on improvements to the notorious State Highway Route 138 in the Antelope Valley .

The San Bernardino Associated Governments endorsed an amendment to AB 947, which would exempt projects on existing interchanges and overpasses from the environmental review process. The same group also considered studying a widening of State Highway Route 58 connecting Kern and San Bernardino Counties .

Drivers in Los Angeles could soon use credit cards to pay for on-street parking. The Los Angeles City Council voted to have the city Department of Transportation search for new parking meter technologies that not only are tamper-proof, but can also accept cards. The Council also approved studying an increase in parking rates at busy areas of the city.


Orange County Register columnist Gordon Dillow recently gave an up-yours on the "Share The Road" movement. Dillow believed that allowing bicyclists to use automobile facilities next to ostensibly faster cars would place them in grave danger. Furthermore, Dillow interviewed police officers that concluded that more than half of bicycle-car accidents are caused by cyclists themselves. His column sparked an avalanche of angry emails and phone calls. Some empathized with Dillow by revealing that the dangers of bicycling forced them to give it up altogether, while others noted that a lack of bicycle facilities and safety measures from local governments are also to blame.

Is "smart growth" a sham? Oh good, that should've snagged your attention! LA Weekly staff writer David Zahniser gave an unbecoming appraisal of the movement as applied in Los Angeles . As an example, Zahniser pointed to the Las Lomas Project, a proposed suburban community perched on the mountains near the 5 and 14 Freeway, that is being sold as "smart growth" only because it is near a Metrolink line. Particularly concerning was that many of its proponents live in the very suburban hideaways they seek to undermine. The report featured a map containing property in the City of Los Angeles within 1,500 feet of frequent transit.

Meanwhile, l.a. live near the Staples Center breaks ground with the announcement of new financial backers for the hotel portions of the project. The Sacramento Bee editorialized its support for a bill that would encourage growth plans with more compact communities in other areas of the state, similar to the "Blueprint" that guides growth in Sacramento . One columnist believes that mixed-use zoning, abolition of rent control and moving incentives could bring people closer to work and culture and summarily alleviate traffic.

So, how do you bring in goods through our ports without ruining the environment or worsening traffic congestion? Your guess is as good as anyone's: In light of booming port trade, legislators must tackle this question quickly. Indeed, opposing groups took two distinct bus tours around the Port of Los Angeles that praised its history and disclose its quandaries. Agricultural exporters are especially concerned that they cannot pay for the new tractors the ports will demand. Truck groups slammed the proposals, saying that the rules are in violation of interstate commerce laws while giving unfair advantage to drivers with cleaner tractors.

A bill reintroduced by state Senator Alan Lowenthal may provide the funds for infrastructure and air quality improvements, though some believe shippers and hence retailers will pass the costs onto the consumer, resulting in higher goods prices. Also, local Congressmembers are supporting federal legislation that would require ships using U.S. ports to reduce the sulfur content in their fuel.

Operating an airport is getting more expensive. The cost to run Los Angeles International Airport will reach $525 million in the coming fiscal year. To be sure, the airport will more than pay for itself with ticket and flight fees, building leases, concessions and other revenues that add up to more than $583 million. However, this does not include big-ticket upgrades in the pipeline.

In San Diego , Coaster will launch weekend service to Petco Park starting this month. The North County Transit District, which operates Coaster, estimates that the service would cost $53,000 and make $58,000, based on 400 passengers. Officials believe that the switching operators from Amtrak to TransitAmerica made the idea more economic. Nevertheless, the District renewed its contract with Amtrak for the Rail 2 Rail program.

Letters in the San Diego Union Tribune sparred over the merits of public transportation. A brouhaha erupted after it was reported that a tall and intrusive office building was built right in the flight path of Montgomery Field airport and that the City of San Diego did nothing to stop it. Some believed that government should hike gas taxes in the same vein as Europe , while a replying letter blasted the thought. One letter suggested that train service would relieve airports the need for more capacity while also reducing pollution resulting from air travel. Another letter expressed support for the Sprinter train between Oceanside and Escondido and dismissed notions that only contractors building it would benefit from it.

Late night bus service in the San Francisco Bay Area faces mounting obstacles. The Night Owl network provides bus service during times when BART is not available. However, increased costs and low ridership threaten suburban portions of the network. Already, Bay Area transportation agencies will scale back no-cost rides during declared "Spare the Air" days.

Meanwhile, BART plans to expand services in the San Francisco Peninsula while offering low-cost parking for those heading to San Francisco International Airport via BART. Transit officials in the area are also falling in love with Bus Rapid Transit. Oakland transportation interests listened to a spirited discourse by Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogota , Colombia , on the need to discourage auto use through street design, elimination of cheap parking and increased mass transit options.

In Sacramento , developers unveiled a revised proposal that would replace a former rail yard with transit-oriented development. Part of the revisions included axing a water canal and replacing it with pocket parks. Street blocks would be shorter to promote a safer and less daunting environment for pedestrians. A proposal to build an arena for the Sacramento Kings was shelved after taxpayers voted against using public funds to build it. Another 2,000 housing units were added, bringing the total to 12,000. The City of Sacramento is seeking public input on the project.

Also, Sacramento commuters must cross several rivers to get from one end of the town to another, causing massive backups at bridges, with no relief in sight.

In New Mexico , transit innovations come in the form of Corre Caminos Transit, a rural bus service that takes riders to disparate points across the region. Some credit its after-hours services, such as "Corre Cantinas", for a notable reduction in drunken driving arrests.

Our monthly newsletter is now available in PDF format.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

May 24 : The ramp that connected East I-80 with East I-580 reopened. Work on the ramp was completed 26 days after a gas tanker crashed underneath and burned the ramp to collapse. Particular praise went to the can-do contractor who rebuilt the ramp at the famed MacArthur Maze, where three busy Interstates meet. Some expressed concern that the Maze, built in 1936 with few alterations, hinders traffic flow as designed, though Caltrans, engineers and other experts believe otherwise.

May 29 : The Los Angeles City Council approved a DASH shuttle for the Downtown L.A. Art Walk on Thursday, June 14. The no-cost shuttle will run along Spring and Main Sts. between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., after regular DASH D line service ends at 7 p.m.

The Orange County Transportation Authority Board approved a draft plan that outlines projects for the next five years under the renewed Measure M, a half-cent sales tax. Some of the projects listed included increased quiet zones along railways. The Board also approved commissioning a $485,000 report on the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center , a proposed major transit hub in Anaheim .


May 30 : The Coachella Valley SunLine Transit Authority voted for a plan aimed to reduce the number of taxicab companies and create a newer fleet of taxi cabs, as per recommendations outlined in an independent study. Dozens of cab drivers voiced concerns about a plan that will be phased in over the next few months during the heated meeting. If the plan fails, the agency should consider a taxi franchise system that's in place in many big cities, according to analysts.

May 31 : Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed and Political Director Damien Goodmon, RailPAC President Paul Dyson, and Dennis Zane of the Subway to the Sea Coalition met with state Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi. The group briefed him on the status of local and statewide rail projects and discussed how to unlock state funds for these projects.

June 1 : Los Angeles World Airports released reports stating that the existing closeness of the two northern runways of LAX could lead to catastrophic accidents. The reports suggested moving the outer runway 340 feet north to avoid close calls and to accommodate larger airplanes safely. The report also concluded that moving the runways southward, towards the terminals, would be more expensive. Residents vowed to challenge the reports, saying that such a move would remove a flourishing business district in Westchester. (Airline pilots have since responded with calls to move the runway.)

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System launched its smoking ban at all its transit facilities. Anyone caught smoking within 25 feet of a transit facility in June will receive an oral or written warning. Beginning July 1, smokers will be fined up to $75 for their first offense, not including court costs and other fees. The ban covers all San Diego Trolley stations, park-and-ride lots and more than 3,400 bus stops in the region.


June 2 : The San Gabriel Valley Legislative Caucus met to rally support for local transportation projects. During the meeting, Gold Line Construction Authority CEO Habib Balan revealed that, with right-of-way now acquired and final environmental documents prepared, the Gold Line to Azusa could see construction in as little as a year should funds materialize. Some legislators also suggested creating legislation that would alter the composition of the Metro Board to make it more responsive to the needs of the San Gabriel Valley . The Gold Line Authority website contains a letter of thanks plus a PowerPoint presentation given at the meeting.

June 4 : The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) celebrated the 50th anniversary of its creation. The state-formed authority initially included Alameda Contra Costa, San Francisco , Marin and San Mateo Counties , though the latter two opted out in 1962 after financial constraints. BART started revenue service 15 years later, on September 11, 1972.

The San Francisco Municipal Railway announced changes in light rail service that would address operational problems stemming from the opening of the new T-Third Street line. The N-Judah line would return to the Caltrain station at 4th and King Sts., while the J-Church line would shrink back to its former end at Embarcadero station. The T-Third and K-Ingleside lines would be combined. Bus service would also be added.

The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics released figures indicating that on-time performance of airlines hit a 12-year low. "U.S. airlines managed only 72.5% of flights on time this year through April, the worst rate since the federal government began keeping track in the current format in 1995," according to the Times article.


Congratulations! The Los Angeles World Airports received its 11th Rideshare Diamond Award. Specifically, the agency that operates LAX and three other Southern California airports received an award for "Most Outstanding Overall Program. Its rideshare program includes 63 subsidized vanpools, 69 carpools, public transit incentives, bicycle facilities, commuter advocacy, marketing activities and special events to recruit and retain program participants. Participants can also take advantage of free Metro passes and trips on FlyAway buses.

Upcoming Events : Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, June 6, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center , 6262 Van Nuys Blvd. , Van Nuys.
Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority
: Thursday, June 7, 2:30 p.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, Board of Supervisors Hearing Room 381B, 500 W. Temple St. , Los Angeles .

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, June 7, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320 , Los Angeles .


Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, June 8, 9.30 a.m., Carson Community Center , 801 E. Carson St. , Carson .

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, June 9, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza , Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St. , Los Angeles .

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Monday, June 11 and 25, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St. , Orange .

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Monday, June 11, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte .

Caltrans Public Hearing on Northbound I- 405 Carpool Lane through Sepulveda Pass: Monday, June 11, 5 p.m., Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd. , Los Angeles .


Metro Westside/Central Governance Council : Wednesday, June 13, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center , Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd. , Beverly Hills .

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council : Thursday, June 14, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd. , Downey .

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, June 20 and Thursday, June 21, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles .

Metro FY 08 Proposed Budget Meeting: Wednesday, June 20, 2:30 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.


C onsider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, June 26 - 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!

Get the Print Edition of Moving Southern California, our monthly newsletter. Request a sample copy.

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.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit.