Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 38

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.

Don't Forget: Next Tuesday is our Transit Coalition monthly meeting, where we will announce an exciting new campaign that aims to improve public transportation throughout Southern California. (You can get a sneak peek of our campaign on the California Rail News, page 4, courtesy of Train Riders' Association of California.) Mike McGinley, retired Metrolink director of engineering and construction, will discuss this major improvement with attendees. See Upcoming Events below for details.

So, once again, Los Angeles and Orange Counties have the worst traffic congestion in the nation, according to a recent report by the Texas Transportation Institute. However, Ventura and the Inland Empire are rapidly catching up, with congestion growing at a faster rate. The report is available online.

Columnist Steve Hymon once again tackles the question of the "Subway to the Sea". This time, he learned of a novel way to fund the project: Tax increments. In essence, taxes from property along Wilshire would be directed to a fund that would provide money for a subway. Such taxes would increase with the sale of property, which triggers a tax increase on the property. (Hymon also took a look at L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge and his recent worldwide travels.)

Right now, it is all good times for Metrolink southeast of Los Angeles . Santa Fe Springs will launch the design phase of its efforts to create a "quiet zone" in Southeast Los Angeles County . Railroad crews worked on installing additional track in Santa Ana , which required cancellation of Metrolink and Amtrak services over the weekend. A letter to the editor clarified that Metrolink ridership is not merely made up of affluent commuters.

Do you like change? Some change can actually be good for you, according to this Whittier Daily News editorial, which summarily asks SoCal residents so accustomed to suburban growth patterns to embrace "smart growth" principles. Indeed, even though the region is known for its culture of single-family homes, Los Angeles was in fact a quiet pioneer of dense living and smart growth. Mixed-use developments were more abundant and even promoted through public policy, though on a smaller and more individual scale than today.

With high speed rail in California treading along, some environmentalists are concerned that it might solve current concerns by creating entirely new ones. In the Stockton area, one route would run through ecologically sensitive wetlands, home of various endangered species. HSR could also spurt growth in Central Valley cities, which would consume farmland and open space. Proponents claim that growth will remain within existing cities. Meanwhile, a public hearing on the Bay Area to Central Valley portion of HSR will be held at the State Capitol. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Both the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News took on the issue of walkability in the City of Angels . The Times article dealt with proposed policies that would make the city more friendly and safe to pedestrians. The city Urban Design Studio presented a " walkability checklist" that would assess what works and what doesn't work when it comes to the pedestrian experience. On the other hand, the Daily News expressed concern that no less than 1,000 San Fernando Valley pedestrians have been hit by vehicles since 2006, with 30 killed since 2002. However, improvements are slow to come, as city staff is thinly stretched and street designs often encourage speedier car travel.

A brouhaha brewed over the week when an exposť compared the conditions of the Chandler bike path that runs through the Cities of Los Angeles and Burbank. The bike path bas built over former rail tracks and connects the North Hollywood Metro station with central Burbank . While the Burbank portion features well-kept greenery and dog cleanup stations, the Los Angeles portion, which has yet to open, is overgrown with weeds and graffiti. The Daily News invoked the writing spirit of famed poet Robert Frost in its editorial decrying the situation.

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.

With the Sunset Junction southeast of Hollywood becoming more "bourgeois", parking becomes increasingly scarce. Thus, merchants are asking L.A. city officials to add parking meters on major streets in the neighborhood. However, some long-time residents are interpreting the move as another step towards gentrification, while others fear it would make the area less "hip". Of note, most dwellings in the area were built in the early part of the century with only one garage, and the long defunct Red Cars on Sunset and Santa Monica Blvds. provided adequate public transportation for their needs.

Despite a tight timeline and a tighter race for state money, the San Bernardino Associated Governments voted to delay ranking their high priority projects. The Orange County Transportation Authority is grappling with delays on Garden Grove Freeway improvements. Letters to the editor gave ideas on how to unclog carpool lanes.

Further south, SANDAG continues to receive comments on its Regional Transportation Plan, of which the public is invited to participate. Two Del Mar residents are on a mad dash to stop a double tracking project under their community that, under the Plan, would be built no earlier than 2021. Also, learn about its Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee, which was the subject of an article in the North County Times.

The Los Angeles Times takes a look of its own at the financial challenges of the Las Vegas Monorail. Despite modest ridership gains last year, revenue growth remains anemic, to the point where the bonds that funded its construction are likely to default in the near future. Stations on the monorail are distant and hard to reach from the casino floors, and the $5 fare is a major turn-off. Some tourists actually find it cheaper to call a cab and faster to walk between stations. Despite these problems, the monorail operator seeks an extension to McCarran Airport , which promises a boost in patrons.

Commuters are just itching to use a tunnel connecting Orange and Riverside Counties , even though it is nowhere near the construction phase. However, the proposal faces many challenges. Tunneling under the mountains will be a daunting feat of engineering. Researchers are currently collecting rock samples and water table data along the proposed corridor. It has already been recommended that, due to financial constraints, the tunnel should be built as a toll road. Apathy from local politicos is also a problem.

At the State Capitol, labor unions successfully killed a bill that would have required construction firms to retrofit their vehicles so as to reduce diesel pollution. Labor feared that the requisite would increase construction costs and eliminate jobs. Political analysts interpreted a move as a creeping rift between unions and environmentalists, both of which traditionally have been supporting of the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that would prohibit teenagers from using cell phones while driving.

With the march of time comes many innovations to make transportation better. For example, Burbank will repave several streets with asphalt made of recycled rubber tires. However, software glitches will delay testing of the TransLink "smart card" on Bay Area rail services. Worse yet, the LADOT received condemnation for shutting down operations of a pedicab because it did not apply for certain clearances.

Nationally, Congress is closer to approving a massive transportation bill. The long-sought Second Avenue Subway in New York City will be among the many projects to be funded. Sadly, funds for the High Desert Corridor, which would connect the Antelope and Victor Valleys , did not make the cut. Also, with Amtrak ridership and fuel efficiency growing, the current six-year reauthorization bill chugs along but lacks the financial push for high speed rail, a concept sorely lagging in the United States .

Speaking of which, Alex Kummant celebrated his first year as Amtrak president with a special letter.

John Wayne Airport in Orange County is becoming a victim of its own success. Passenger numbers are increasing, and its gates are some of the busiest in the nation. However, growth is extremely limited, largely because efforts to expand it have been quashed by residents in nearby cities. County residents also voted 5 years ago to turn the former El Toro Marine base into a park instead of another airport. For the moment, a third terminal now under construction should address some of the growth.

Considerably related, Los Angeles Supervisor Mike Antonovich gave his support to LA/Palmdale Regional Airport in a letter to the editor. Antonovich expressed that transportation improvements, including additional rail service from Los Angeles , would make the airport a more enticing alternative to LAX. However, an Antelope Valley Press editorial noted that officials from Los Angeles are more interested in expanding LAX, despite agreements promising not to do so, than developing Palmdale Airport . Regardless, LAX will move forward with a $7.5 million landscaping project near the 105 Freeway.

Here is a list of other recent developments:

September 10 : The California Public Employees' Retirement System board of trustees voted to invest up to $1.5 billion over the next year in building critical infrastructure statewide. Under the pilot program, CalPERS will create a new investment category where funds would be spent on transportation, energy and other government projects. Funds would be bundled in a mix of other investments, with the intent of getting a return on investments at a rate of at least 8% a year.

The Kimley-Horn Integrated Transportation System made its public debut at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Traffic Management Center in Alhambra . With this technology, controllers can immediately tweak the timing of traffic signals to clear traffic. 51 intersections in the South Bay will be controlled in such a fashion, with the expectation that the county Board of Supervisors will vote for its expansion to all of the county.

September 12 : A study released by The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation revealed that overseas flights at LAX added 363,700 jobs and $82.1 billion to the Southern California economy last year. However, the report concluded that other airports are competing for such flights, leaving LAX in the cold. In order to stay competitive, the group called for major upgrades of the airport, of which some in fact are already underway. (Somewhat related, Denver overtook LAX as the nation's fourth busiest airport.)

September 14 : The Ventura County Transportation Commission hired David Kettle as its new executive director. Kettle is currently the director of freeway construction for the San Bernardino Associated Governments, but will take his new position on October 16. The Commission also considered launching a vanpool program for farm workers.

To Close
: The Transit Coalition would like to congratulate all those who participated in the 33rd annual Metro Bus Roadeo, where skilled drivers from across the region compete by driving their buses through obstacle courses. Among the participants included Miriam "Mimi" Pereira, who hails from North Hollywood and has driven buses for Metro and its predecessor agencies for 23 years.

Upcoming Events: 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 . ( Supplemental agendas.)

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, 10 a.m.

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

Operations Committee , Thursday, September 20, 12 noon.

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!

California High Speed Rail Authority
Board: Wednesday, September 26, 9 a.m., State Capitol, Room 112, Sacramento . A public hearing on the draft environmental document for the Bay Area to Central Valley portion of HSR will follow.

Metro Citizens Advisory Council: Wednesday, September 26, 6:30 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles .

TRAC California Rail 2020 Conference: November 2 thru 4, various locations in
Old Town San Diego. Early registration is $55 for TRAC members, with $20 surcharge for non-members.

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.