Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 36

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.

The recently approved state budget threatens to bring Southern California transit improvements to a screeching halt. L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky denounced the loss as " classic bait-and-switch". One editorial shared sentiment with Metro CEO Roger Snoble in that transportation has been " hoodwinked". A Sacramento Bee editorial spreads the blame onto environmental groups, which stayed largely dormant on the issue. And how did it get this bad? One writer blames it solely on political appeasement to the driving public by slashing the state Vehicle Licensing Fee during previous and current administrations. Columnist Erica Etelson reasons this would further accelerate oil consumption and leave the national economy vulnerable to collapse.

With the state budget now behind them, legislators are working to get various bills passed. The state Assembly Appropriations Committee voted for SB 974, which would impose a $60 fee on containers to pay for environmental mitigation at the ports. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is withholding support of the bill because the fees would not fund replacement of two deteriorating bridges at Terminal Island . Should Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger veto the bill, the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles may impose their own fee, which could clean up the ports and replace the bridges, according to a Long Beach Press Telegram editorial. Also, a bill that would ban teen use of cell phones while driving moves forward in the Assembly.

Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles are betting their future on the Eastside Gold Line, which should open in summer 2009. In this New York Times article, residents react positively to the future service, which would connect them to other parts of the city without the hassles of bus travel. Some also believe the new line will spur private development that would augment an economically growing area.

Meanwhile, cities along the Foothill Gold Line are gearing up with development projects of their own, in anticipation of the light rail line. Already, $2.1 billion has been spent on development, with a projected $36 billion along the way once the line is opened. In one example, Claremont officials are working to rejuvenate their depot while improving bicycle access.

One major transit improvement that will be coming sooner than later is 30-minute Metrolink service in Orange County , also scheduled for 2009. However, riders can taste the future on the Orange County line, which spurred an 8% increase in riders when weekend service launched last year. The county will also spend $60 million to upgrade grade crossings along Metrolink lines and, in essence, create a countywide "quiet zone".

Thousand Oaks is the latest city to join Google Transit by offering bus information online. City officials hope that the new convenience will entice local citizenry to learn about alternative transportation and become new passengers. Also, Orange County Transportation Authority celebrated 35 years of service by offering 35-cent fares on its buses last Friday. The LBPost.com blog featured discussion on the merits of a streetcar for Long Beach in a September 4 post by Brian Ulaszewski.

With regard to pedestrian improvements, Whittier residents are sneaking onto the new Greenway Trail, even as paving and landscaping remains incomplete.

Please Help!
If you have not done so yet, we invite you to donate and join The Transit Coalition. A monthly subscription to Moving Southern California comes with your membership. Visit our new and improved Donations page to explore other options. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation approved spending $6 million on Westside traffic improvements. However, Pacific Palisades will not get a penny's worth of improvements. The community specific plan does not call for collecting fees that would be used to bring improvements, unlike common practice elsewhere in the Westside.

Steven Leigh Morris of LA Weekly took a curt look at attempts to alter parking requirements in Los Angeles . Morris dismissed the current planning climate in Downtown as an "Orwellian" attempt to lure drivers out of their cars and onto public transportation. Currently, a commercial or industrial project may receive an exemption from city parking requirements if they show that there are viable alternatives. L.A. city planner Thomas Rothmann proposes extending said exemptions to residential projects. Morris suggests that such proposal would not work in transit-poor Los Angeles , which lacks subways and other substantial alternatives.

In contrast, scholar William Fulton diffused notions that Los Angeles was "Manhattanizing" into an incredibly dense metropolis. If anything, his op-ed suggests we are " Pasadena-izing" by building 5- to 6-story developments clustered at transit stations.

With the bridge collapse in Minneapolis still fresh in the minds of policymakers, the Sacramento Bee published an editorial calling for increased spending on highway infrastructure. The editorial noted efforts by Rep. Jim Oberstar, chair of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to increase the federal gas tax and set aside the proceeds to a trust fund that would fund repairs.

Gross polluters beware: The South Coast Air Quality Management District is testing technology that can detect pollutants while cars idle at off-ramps. A camera would photograph the license plates so that a notice can be sent to offenders. Fortunately, the AQMD will offer rebates from $500 to $2,000 for repairs or trade-ins for cleaner models, should one choose to participate. In another sign of the times, drivers are getting a boost in gas money by placing advertisements on their cars.

Meanwhile, residents are clamoring for better landscaping and dust reduction along the 710 Freeway. A SANBAG committee wants an ongoing environmental study for a U.S. 395 bypass to stop, fearing that no money will be around to actually build it. A major upgrade of the 215 Freeway through San Bernardino kicks off with reconstruction of the Fifth Street (State Highway Route 66) bridge.

Columnist Steve Hymon walks through a landmine of issues involved with a proposed widening of the northern runways of LAX. The Whittier Daily News denounced the efforts as a sneaky way to increase capacity at LAX. The editorial also called for shifting flights to other airports, instead of charging a toll for cars entering LAX, as a means to reduce traffic.

Meanwhile, Bob Hope Airport handed the City of Burbank a proposal to build two new buildings that would address security and congestion. Down south, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority raised a proverbial white flag by turning their efforts towards upgrading Lindbergh Field instead of building a new airport elsewhere.

In our human interest section, we turn to Norm Orfall, who owns a railcar known as the " Tioga Pass ". The 79-foot-long car was built in 1959 for use by the Canadian National Railway and features two bedrooms, a lounge area and a dining area. Orfall pays Amtrak $2.10 per mile to haul the car behind its trains and uses it to transport curious riders. Learn more by visiting www.ridemytrain.com.

Also, writer Salvador Hernandez takes a sentimental journey through the California Highway Patrol Transportation Management Center in Irvine .

A PDF version of our monthly print newsletter is now available.

Exclusive! Amtrak plans to bring superior service to the fabled Coast Starlight. Get a sneak peak at upgrades Amtrak will complete by summer 2008. Thanks to Ed Von Nordeck for relaying this information.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

August 28 : The Burbank City Council unanimously approved a resolution that called for the creation of a quiet zone around a perilous railroad crossing. $700,000 will be spent over a year to improve the Buena Vista grade crossing next to the 5 Freeway. The crossing is already slated for grade separation within the next few years.

August 31 : Drivers union members rejected the latest contract offer from Omnitrans, which could trigger a strike within the next few weeks. Representatives of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1704, which represents the agency's 445 bus drivers, promised it would give enough notice to allow the public to prepare. Omnitrans officials said it would meet with union representatives at least once more. Omnitrans had its last strike in 1980, which lasted three days.

Attention : New Metrolink schedules took effect today. Improvements include new Sunday and increased Saturday service on the Antelope Valley Line, additional weekend service on the Orange County line, and the introduction of the Buena Park station. Also, there will be track work in Orange County that will adversely affect Amtrak and Metrolink trains from September 14 to 16. Please consult their websites to learn which trains will be affected.

Upcoming Events : Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, September 5, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center , 6262 Van Nuys Blvd. , Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority : Thursday, September 6, 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, September 6, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320 , Los Angeles .

Orange County Transportation Authority Board Meeting: Monday, September 10 and 24, 9 a.m., Board Hearing Room, 600 Main St. , Orange .

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Monday, September 10
, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte .

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

SCAG MagLev Task Force: Thursday, September 13, 10:00 a.m. SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St. , 12th floor, Los Angeles . CANCELLED.

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

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

SCRRA (Metrolink) Committee Meetings: Friday, September 14 , 10 a.m., SCRRA Offices, 700 S. Flower St. , 26th floor, Los Angeles .

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, September 15, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza , Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St. , Los Angeles .

SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, September 19, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles .

C onsider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, September 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!
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.