Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 37

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.

Transit agencies across California continue to reel from the loss of Spillover funds. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System may raise fares and cut bus routes to make up for the $14 million lost as a result. The North County Transit District may stave off reductions by tapping into their reserve fund. Fighting back, transit agencies are suing the state to restore the Spillover funds to their rightful place. The Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District hopes the action will undo the damage incurred at the state level in August, when Spillover funds were diverted to other uses. The agency is in need of replacing its aging fleet of buses and paratransit vehicles.

Efforts to restore passenger or freight rail service between Ventura County and Santa Clarita continue. The Ventura County Transportation Commission completed a study of rail service on the Santa Paula Branch Line Rail Corridor for passenger or freight trains, or both,
that has lasted for nearly two years. Now, the Commission is collecting comments from communities along the corridor on the study, which revealed that it could cost at least $375 million to reactivate the railway. Some of them have already expressed concern about noise and crossing safety.

Metrolink will get a chance to appeal the decision on the safety of push-pull operations. Metrolink is fighting a class-action lawsuit stemming from the January 2005 accident in Glendale , killing 11. A county Superior Court judge ruled in June that a jury would have the power to decide whether or not Metrolink's "push-pull" operations make it liable for the accident. Metrolink appealed the ruling by arguing that a push-pull system is not to blame for the accident.

Meanwhile, various Metrolink improvements took shape in the past week. Orange County welcomed its newest commuter rail station in Buena Park last Tuesday. The $11 million station opened after months of delays on account of additional upgrades. Metrolink also introduced Sunday service on the Antelope Valley Line. The Placentia City Council voted to pursue grade separations at select railroad crossings within its community. Camarillo commuters will get a new overhead pedestrian crossing at its Metrolink station.

L.A. Sniper throws a jab at the politics surrounding the federal law banning subway construction under Wilshire Blvd. The columnist even goes so far as dedicating the Rapid Express 920 on Wilshire to Rep. Henry Waxman, who wrote the original law and the ongoing repeal. The U.S. House of Representatives voted for the repeal this year, but its companion bill in the U.S. Senate remains stalled.

The North County Times editorial board once again takes offense at a transportation blueprint that gives emphasis on transit and toll lanes but offers token increases on general use highway lanes. The SANDAG-prepared plan would guide transportation spending in San Diego County through 2030. As SANDAG will vote on the plan this November, a public hearing on the plan is scheduled this Friday, giving transit advocates opportunities to voice their support or concerns. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Downtown L.A. is one step closer to seeing revolutionary pedestrian improvements. Los Angeles City planners last week briefed the Community Redevelopment Agency Board of Commissioners on proposed design standards for area streets. Should the CRA adopt the duly named Street Standards and Design Guidelines for a Livable Downtown, it would reexamine street standards and require developers to create pedestrian-friendly elements in order to attain approval.

And yet Downtown L.A. is one step farther away from reopening Angels Flight. Angels Flight Railway Foundation President John Welborne announced that the funicular will not reopen in late summer as announced last January. Delays are stemming from the state Public Utilities Commission, which must approve the train and its safety features before it reopens.

Praise continues to come to Amtrak for record-setting ridership. As air travel and driving become increasingly frustrating, Americans are returning to rail in droves. Even so, lack of federal support threatens to hinder growth. For example, long-distance trains suffer from generally stagnant ridership numbers because of constrained capacity. Damaged cars that are in need of repair reduces the available fleet. Fortunately, the U.S. Senate will vote on federal funding for the upcoming fiscal year in the near future, while a reauthorization bill to allot more than $8 billion to Amtrak from 2008 to 2012 trots along.

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.

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Hymon investigated the problems stemming from trying to control LAX growth. Simply put, no other airport wants to take up the slack. Airports at Palmdale and Ontario are too far away for the majority of Southland residents. Worse yet, many flights from LAX go to the Bay Area and Vegas, and no speedy rail alternative exists to these two destinations.

If anything, other airports in the region are reining in growth. Lindbergh Field officials adopted " guiding principles" to control ground access to the San Diego airport. State Assemblymember Ted Lieu called upon the Federal Aviation Administration to cut the number of flights into LAX as a way to immediately increase safety at the runways. Los Angeles World Airports is accepting public comments on a draft growth plan for LA/Ontario International Airport through September 24.

Even with all these challenges, the Southern California Regional Airport Authority remains inert. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa revived the government body in June 2006 as a way to catalyze regionalization of air traffic. However, the group has met only three times since its resurrection. Their next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 13. In the meantime, Villaraigosa will unveil a plan in 2008 that would divert up to 42 million passengers annually to L.A./Ontario International and Palmdale airports within 25 years.

A study released last week revealed that port pollution is growing at a slower rate than anticipated, with levels of certain pollutants actually going down. Nevertheless, air pollution from oceangoing vessels increased 12 percent. Pollution from rail locomotives increased 70 percent, and pollution from trucks that serve the port increased 25 percent. On that note, research continues on the effects of these pollutants on the human body, with new and disturbing discoveries coming in every day. Pollution from the ports alone increases the likeliness of some 2 million people living around the ports to develop cancer.

However, the Clean Trucks Program, which features regulations that would reduce pollution, would increase transportation costs but save lives and reduce health care costs in and around local harbor communities, according to another study. Some believe that the new regulations will actually improve working conditions for the thousands of truckers who haul goods out of the ports. Indeed, a consortium of local leaders and truckers came together to voice their support for the Clean Trucks Program last Saturday.

In turn, environmental groups sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency for failing to regulate emissions from ships that contribute to air pollution and respiratory illnesses. Meanwhile, state Senator Alan Lowenthal pulled his bill proposing a container fee to fund environmental mitigation at the ports, but there is no doubt that it will rise again in the next legislative session starting January.

Two U.S. Senators introduced legislation that would prevent converting existing interstate highways into toll roads. This was in response to a reported Texas Department of Transportation proposal to buy back interstates from the federal government so that the freeways could be sold to foreign investors and converted into toll roads.

Congratulations! San Francisco BART celebrates its 35th anniversary of service today.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

September 6 : The California Transportation Commission voted to spend $640 million on transportation projects, including $315 million for the first phase of the Exposition light rail line. The state budget deadlock that ended in August threatened to pull money away from the project and delay Phase 2 of the Expo Line. However, the funding now in place ensures that Phase 1 will be completed in time for its opening in 2010.

September 7 : The California Air Resources Board voted on measures designed to cut statewide global warming emissions within the next 2 1/2 years. The proposals include retrofitting trucks, reducing pollution in computer manufacturing and requiring car owners to keep their tires properly inflated. Altogether, they would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2.8 million metric tons a year, out of the 174 million metric tons that must be cut by 2020.

To Close : The Bohmte town council in Germany voted to remove all traffic lights and stop signs downtown. The move aims to reduce accidents and make life easier for pedestrians by giving them equal rights-of way. Dutch traffic specialist Hans Monderman developed the "Shared Space" concept, which enjoys the support of the European Union.

Upcoming Events 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 .

SANDAG Draft 2007 Regional Transportation Plan Public Hearing: Friday, September 14, 10 a.m., SANDAG headquarters, 401 B St. #800 , San Diego . Written comments regarding the draft Plan can be e-mailed, faxed at (619) 699-1905, or mailed to the above address (Attn: Rachel Kennedy, Associate Transportation Planner) before Monday, September 17.
SCAG Goods Movement Task Force: Wednesday, September 19, 9 a.m., SCAG Offices, 818 W. Seventh St., 12th floor, Los Angeles .

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

Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, September 19, 1 p.m.

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

Ad-Hoc Congestion Pricing Committee, Wednesday, September 19, 3 p.m.

Executive Management and Audit Committee, Thursday, September 20, 9 a.m.

Construction Committee, Thursday, September 20, 10 a.m.

Operations Committee, Thursday, September 20, 11 a.m.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council : Wednesday, September 12 Thursday, September 20, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center , Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd. , Beverly Hills .

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!

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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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