Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, October 26, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 43

Welcome to  The Transit Coalition weekly newsletter! Our organization participates in meetings with key decision makers and community leaders. Our goal is to keep you informed on the latest developments in the transportation scene across Southern California.

That's right! Binford Tools is proud to present... our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting this Tuesday, featuring Metro Rail General Manager Mike Cannell. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Rail2020 Conference: Don't miss out on this excellent opportunity to stay appraised on statewide passenger rail matters. The event will be held November 6-8 at the Crowne Plaza, 450 E. Harbor Blvd. in Ventura. Seats are still available at $89 if you purchase before October 30. (Non-members add $25.) This includes continental breakfast and luncheon.You can also purchase a separate excursion on the rare-mileage Santa Paula Branch of the Fillmore and Western Railroad at the special rate of $99.

A morsel of what could be.
They did it! They finally did it! The Metro Board has passed the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), a blueprint of how Metro will spend all that Measure R money and more over the next 30 years. The Westside Subway Extension and the Downtown Regional Connector are the top priorities for funding and will be included in a request for federal New Starts money. The plan is to get federal funding for the subway extension and the downtown light rail link, which have relatively higher ridership projections, while smaller projects are funded with local money.

The Gold Line Foothill Extension got a boost from the sophisticated leadership of Mark Ridley-Thomas with his amendment to the LRTP. Metro has agreed to pay for the cost of running trains between Pasadena and Azusa once the route is completed. The Board also directed staff to figure out how to obtain funds to build the second phase of the 24-mile extension, but did not fully commit to funding the extension.

Several op-ed pieces fall on different sides of the issue. Three House reps believe that other projects would suffer because of the focus on the downtown connector and the subway extension. The Los Angeles Times editorialized that widening the request for federal funds would actually kill the subway extension and the connector. The Transport Politic took a broader view of the issue and summarized the conflict rather nicely. So-called LA Biz Observed columnist/writer Mark Lacter, who favors congestion and gridlock, is dubious that even a mile of Subway towards the Sea could ever, possibly happen. Next, he'll be denying that LA even has rail transit. Yikes.

A taste of what could have been.
With all this talk about plans decades into the future, it may be interesting to look back on what future plans were like decades in the past. The Metro Transportation Library has released several LA County transportation visions, some which date back all the way to the 1920s. If we had started back then, perhaps this future would be closer to reality. But this was during the early days of the auto and oil lobby, who worked hard to guarantee that the privately owned street rail companies couldn't raise their prices, so the Yellow and Red Car Lines couldn't borrow for capital improvements and pay back bond holders.

Last week we mentioned a story in which Curbed LA staffers almost got hit by a train while surveying the yet-to-be-opened Gold Line Eastside Extension (GLEE). It turns out the driver ran a red light; hopefully they will receive a ticket in the mail soon. Delirious drivers aside, the extension will be receiving $4.5 million to install additional safety measures on the new line. At least the Curbed LA staffers aren't as dumb as an LAist writer who insisted that Blue Line trains leave their tracks and hit motorists.

On the other hand, Supervisor Gloria Molina went on a wide ranging rant about the opening of the GLEE. She expressed her frustration on the lack of an opening date and said that the President was scheduled to be in LA for an unannounced grand opening on Sunday, November 15. However, various recently released materials from Metro stated that the rail line would in fact open on Saturday, November 14, a date LA Councilmember José Huizar publicly questioned a week earlier. To settle the matter once and for all, Metro  announced a public opening date of November 15, with free rides to boot.

The AnsaldoBreda rail car contract isn't signed yet. The deal is supposed to be inked by Friday, October 30. At the Board meeting, Boardmembers accepted the  changes recommended by the Metro CEO on Thursday, October 22.

Rider Relief Transportation Program: If you live in Los Angeles County and use TAP on Metro buses and trains, you could be eligible for subsidy coupons, depending on income level. Please visit Metro's Rider Relief page for more information and learn how to apply.

Work has begun on the Metrolink Expansion Project, a series of improvements to commuter rail service in Orange County funded by Measure M and Proposition 116. The project includes the construction of a turnback facility for trains at Fullerton Station and improvements to 52 grade crossings. This will allow cities along the route to apply for Quiet Zone status in order to reduce the noise from horn blasts. When completed in 2011, these improvements will allow Metrolink to accommodate increased service levels between Fullerton and Laguna Niguel. No, the new service is not planned to go to Los Angeles at this time, as the previous Metro CEO refused to fund such an upgrade.

The Orange County Transportation Authority is still marching forward with its Bus Service Removal Program slashing up to another 30% of service. A public hearing was jammed to overflow, as the public was told about another 300,000 hours that could be cut on top of the 233,000 hours previously deleted. It is interesting that OCTA could use bus funds for road projects, but won't reverse use of those funds to save the bus service until the state starts paying back the funds that Arnold illegally diverted. Some have been wondering where those yellow shirt folks are hiding with all the horrible service cutting in the OC. Do they only protect LA City bus riders? In any case, other opportunities to voice your concerns are listed in Upcoming Events below.

Amtrak and Metrolink: Together Again.
Connex subsidiary Veolia Transportation probably won't be running the new trains. Metrolink has struck a tentative deal with Amtrak to provide new train crews. Amtrak would receive $28 million if the Board votes to go ahead with the contract. Amtrak is no stranger to commuter rail. They had previously operated Metrolink trains from 1992 to 2005. (Now that we're on the subject of Amtrak, the national passenger railroad launched their revamped website.)

Metrolink has also installed automatic train stop (ATS) technology at 49 new locations along the system. ATS, in use on American railroads since the 1920s, requires that the engineer of a train that passes the device press a button within eight seconds or the train comes to a halt. The Los Angeles Daily News gushes about this sophisticated technology. Installing more ATS at more locations is simply an interim move until Positive Train Control technology is implemented, whenever that will be. Those interested in safety should be aware that the governor has been slashing grant applications that would fund PTC, grade separations and double tracking.

In another attempt to make commuter rail in Southern California safer, Metrolink has installed inward-facing cameras in all of its locomotives and cab cars. This has the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen fuming. Cab cameras, the union claims, violates employees' expectation of privacy while on the job. Unfortunately, with the realization that a minority of engineers around the country have texted while on the job and even invited rail fans for ride-alongs, privacy will have to take a backseat to safety and accountability. BLET lobbyists have been conning Senators Boxer and Feinstein with their disregard for safety. Gee, didn't two airline pilots turn off their radio and overshoot an airport by 150 miles? There is no body of research proving that two engineers or pilots are safer than one, but don't let truth get in the way of the BLET.

Streetsblog LA has an update on what cycling advocates are calling the Road Rage Doctor Trial. Christopher T. Thompson is accused of deliberately causing two cyclists to collide into his vehicle by cutting them off and slamming on his brakes in an incident that happened in Mandeville Canyon. The trial is still in progress.

DASH real-time updates.
DASH bus riders may now track buses live. The LA Department of Transportation is testing a new real-time bus information system accessible by browsers and cell phones. The system is currently in beta so there may be bugs. Live bus tracking is a feature on other bus systems such as the Chicago Transit Authority.

Attention LADOT Transit Users: LADOT has begun an analysis of all of its transit services to respond to the significant budget shortfall facing its transit services program, with focus on underperforming routes with low ridership and services duplicated by other agencies. LADOT is slated to reduce or eliminate service to where it may not be needed. Riders are encouraged to submit their suggestions through this special website or by mail to: LADOT, 201 N. Los Angeles Street, Space #18B, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Steve Hymon, former ace transportation writer and bottleneck blogger for the Los Angeles Times, has landed on his feet in the most unlikely place, Metro itself. He joins longtime transit blogger Fred Camino at The Source, the official Metro blog. So far the blog has not shied away from news that reflects poorly on the transit agency, such as the poor implementation of TAP. As long as the posts are truthful, the official Metro blog may become a valuable resource.

A map of the proposed truck expressway.
Caltrans is proposing to build a truck expressway to get big rigs into and out of the ports more efficiently, reducing congestion and emissions. Nearby residents in Wilmington aren't buying it. They say that the project will exacerbate already severe health issues that occur in households that live near the port. A lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court challenging the plan. One resident demanded that all cargo be moved by electric or natural gas vehicles. Whatever the outcome is, the ports need upgrades to stay competitive or risk losing business to other ports. How green and therefore more expensive those improvements have to be will likely be hammered out in the courts.

Congressmember Laura Richardson, Senator Alan Lowenthal, along with Port Executive Directors Geraldine Knatz and Richard Steinke took US DOT Deputy Secretary John D. Porcari on a water born field study to see the bridge and other vital infrastructure improvements needed for safety and capacity upgrades.

In national news, the authors of the Senate climate bill agreed to include a higher, guaranteed level of funding for clean transportation options, such as public transportation, affordable neighborhoods around transit stops, vanpooling and streets safe for walking and biking. Transportation 4 America wants to thank those who advocated for this increase and asks for all to pass on the thanks to their senators. There's still a long road ahead for the climate bill and your senators need to know you will support their efforts to continue fighting for more money for clean transportation!

Passenger traffic at LAX saw a slight 1% increase this month. Hey, that's better than nothing. Does the increase represent a bottoming out of the decline in air traffic? Time will tell. In the meantime, airline passengers will have to pay more to park starting November 19th. The price of a space in the economy lots has been raised $2 per day.

To close, another American journalist rides high speed rail in a foreign land, another glowing review of high speed rail....

Donate to The Transit Coalition!Donate and Join! 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. Please include The Transit Coalition in your will, trust or estate. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Upcoming Events: Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, October 27, 6:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Philippe the Original, 1001 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles.( Map) Mike Cannell, Metro Rail General Manager, will speak. We hope to see you there!

City of Los Angeles Bicycle Plan Update Meetings:
  • Monday, October 26, 5 p.m., Marvin Braude-San Fernando Constituent Services Center, Conference Room 1B, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys.
  • Wednesday, October 28, 5 p.m., Felicia Mahood Multi Purpose Center, 11338 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
  • NEW DATE ADDED! Wednesday, November 4, 6 p.m. Ramona Hall, 4580 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles.
Metro Westside Subway Extension Station Area Information Meetings, an opportunity to discuss station locations and entrances, easy connections to and from the stations, and other issues. All meetings begin at 6 p.m. and each will discuss specific stations listed next to the date:
  • Monday, October 26 (Wilshire at Crenshaw, La Brea & Fairfax), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) – Terrace Room, 5th Floor, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.
  • Tuesday, November 3 (Hollywood/Highland, Santa Monica Boulevard at La Brea, Fairfax & San Vicente, and Beverly Center), Pacific Design Center, Conference Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood.
  • Wednesday, November 4 (Wilshire at La Cienega & Beverly), Beverly Hills City Hall, Municipal Gallery, 455 N. Rexford Dr., Beverly Hills.
  • Thursday, November 5 (Century City, Westwood/UCLA & Westwood/VA Hospital), Veterans Administration, Wadsworth Theatre, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.
OCTA Bus System Funding Solutions Meeting: NEW DATE ADDED! Wednesday, October 28 and Monday, November 9, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

LOSSAN Technical Advisory Committee: Wednesday, October 28, 11:30 a.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee: Tuesday, November 3, 100 S. Main St., 9th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, November 4, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, November 4, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, November 5, 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, November 5, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Ventura County Transportation Commission: Friday, November 6, 10 a.m., Camarillo City Hall, 601 Carmen Dr., Camarillo.

TRAC Rail2020 Conference: November 6-8, Crowne Plaza, 450 E. Harbor Blvd., Ventura.

OCTA Board Meeting: Monday, November 9 and 23, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Monday, November 9, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, November 12, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey.

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, November 13, 9:30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, November 13, 10 a.m., San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, November 14, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension Public Grand Opening: Sunday, November 15, all day at various locations: At Union Station, on 1st Street in Boyle Heights and 3rd Street in East Los Angeles.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, November 18, and Thursday, November 19, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, 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

Mina Nichols, Legislative Analyst

Zach Gutierrez, Communications
Damien Newton, Editor LA Streetsblog

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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