Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 44

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.

Rail2020 Conference: This is your last chance to participate at this important conference on statewide rail issues. Seats are still available! (Non-members add $25.) 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.

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on a bus.
Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is trying to lock in his legacy as the mayor who made the subway towards the sea and other vital transit projects a reality. He doesn't just want to see Measure R rail projects built in 30 years, but wants them completed in a decade. His plan would take an additional $10 billion in funding above and beyond what Measure R provides. That means being aggressive about federal funding. Metro CEO Art Leahy said that, hypothetically, it could work. The plan would also benefit from the relatively lower construction costs because of the economic downturn. While the mayor has certainly proven he is ambitious, following through on his promises is another matter entirely.

One thing the mayor has not been very ambitious about is the quality of LA's light rail vehicles. Luckily, the deal that would see AnsaldoBreda deliver 100 substandard light rail cars (after they finished the first 50, of course!) fell through hours before the deal's Friday night deadline. At the last minute, the rail car manufacturer wanted a cap on daily penalties for failing to deliver their mediocre product on schedule starting in 2013. Metro scoffed at the notion and allowed the deal's deadline to expire. The Los Angeles Times felt vindicated, since its editorial board advised against the deal in July. Now the bidding process starts over. Did someone say Siemens?

Bike rage sends this motorist to jail.
The insane cyclist-hating road rage doctor who deliberately injured two bike riders on Mandeville Canyon Road has been convicted on all of the seven counts brought against him. The charges included assault with a deadly weapon, mayhem and reckless driving. The doctor was immediately taken into custody after the verdict was read. With the good doctor finally behind bars awaiting sentencing, can cyclists and motorists share the road already?

The folks at the Little Tokyo Community Council (LTCC) are asking Metro to consider a fifth station option for the Downtown Regional Connector. LTCC representatives want an underground station below the current Little Tokyo Gold Line Station in order to minimize construction impacts in the historic neighborhood. How feasible such an option actually is remains to be seen.

The LA Bike Plan that no one likes.
The group Cyclists Initiating Change Thru Live Exchange, C.I.C.L.E., is calling the bike plan released last week by LADOT a step backward on bike lanes. The group analyzed the current plan against the old plan and found that the city has implemented only 37 of the proposed 228 miles of bike lanes presented in the old plan at a rate of about 2.84 miles per year. The new plan is worse than the old one since 78% of the planned lanes have been downgraded or are missing entirely. In a city where rail expansion is a priority, where are the bike lanes?

There is no doubt that bike lanes will be a matter of discussion at the 2010 Los Angeles Bike Summit. The focus is not only on bike transit next year, but pedestrians as well. The event's planners are soliciting ideas for speakers or topics to be discussed so head on over to the event's official web site and let them know what you think.

In Washington, another continuing resolution has punted the federal transportation bill to December 18, although the Senate may take up an official extension this week. Yet to be decided is whether Congress will allow 6 weeks or 6 months to consider U.S. Congressmember Jim Oberstar's $500 billion proposal to replace SAFETEA-LU, which expired September 30. Unfortunately, the remaining uncertainty is leading decision makers to debate the when rather than the how of this critical bill. While it's clear that we need serious federal investment in infrastructure to help boost the economy, events like the closing of the Bay Bridge last week demonstrate that repair and maintenance are essential to creating a successful national transportation program.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.
In the meantime, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer responded to requests from constituents and included increased funding for clean transportation in the Senate's draft climate bill, more than doubling the House's figure to 2.4% of the total spending over the life of the bill. This figure marks a major step forward, but it's not enough. With transportation responsible for nearly one third of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide - and close to 40% in California - we need that House figure to go even higher if we hope to truly address the causes of climate change. Write to Senator Boxer to thank her, and encourage her to defend and increase funding for clean transportation as the Senate's Environment and Public Works committee marks up the bill.

LA Observed guest blogger Dana Gabbard takes LABiz Observed blogger Marc Lacter to task for his flippant post about the "subway we'll never see." In his post, Gabbard explains how LA is finally taking transit seriously with the passage of Measure R and the emergence of even Beverly Hills residents as supporters of the Subway towards the Sea. If there's one job transit advocates in Los Angeles have, it's chipping away at old stereotypes.

According to a new study, Amtrak lost $32 per passenger in 2008. The marquee moment of the study comes at the expense of the Sunset Limited, which loses over $400 per passenger. Figures in the more appropriate metric of price-per-passenger-mile were ignored by most media. Suspiciously absent from the study is how much freeways lose per driver. And don't forget airlines.

LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina.
Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern is happy about the passage of Metro's long range plan, but has some stern words for Eastside County Supervisor Gloria Molina, even though he often agrees with her. Molina ranted at a recent Metro Board meeting about slights against the Eastside, whether real or perceived, which rubbed Alpern and others the wrong way.

In order to bolster budgets, some state governments have concocted a master plan to sell off public infrastructure to private companies. These companies would then operate the assets, assume the costs and pocket the revenues. Now that the economy has taken a nosedive, those deals are falling through. The plan to sell Chicago's Midway Airport for $2.5 billion failed because private backers could not find enough change in their couch cushions. Now state governments will have to find ways other than holding garage sales to fix their budgets.

Transit agencies have discovered Web 2.0. Metro routes are on Google, Metrolink is Twittering and now SANDAG will be on Facebook. As more and more agencies jump on the social media bandwagon, there is a question of how effective these efforts are. We'll suggest that simply posting marketing materials and other propaganda on sites like Facebook and Twitter has a narrow appeal. For two-way communication between stakeholders and transit agencies to work, the agency must be open, honest and not be afraid to admit when it's at fault. In this respect, the Metro-hosted The Source blog is off to a good start by covering controversial issues that may not cast the agency in a good light.

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.

The proposed reconfiguration of the 405/22 east interchange.
The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is giving Long Beach $1.5 million to mitigate impacts related to yet another freeway project in Orange County. The OCTA plans to close the tiny portion of the Westbound 22, depicted in the tangle of lanes to the right, which continues after the 405 and merges onto 7th street in Long Beach. Drivers will be forced to find alternate routes and traffic may spill onto surrounding streets. Construction is planned to begin in summer 2010.

Those waiting for gas prices to drop further should prepare to be disappointed. The decrease in California gasoline prices has slowed while the price of gas has increased by 10 cents on average across the country. Last week, Americans used 96 million more gallons of gas than were produced. Refineries are deliberately cutting back on production in order to raise prices and boost narrow profit margins. What a wonderful industry! Suddenly, that recent acquisition of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad by Warren Buffet and his Berkshire Hathaway investment firm doesn't look too bad.

Finally, the Fed's big plan to stop distracted driving involves a stick and a carrot. A new distracted driving bill would offer grants to states that enact laws banning the use of electronic devices behind the wheel. States that don't comply don't get grants. As states become more strapped for cash, we would expect plenty of states complying if this bill passes.

Upcoming Events: Consider attending our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Wednesday, December 2 (No meeting in November), 6:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Philippe the Original, 1001 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles. We hope to see you there!

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:
  • 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.
Metro Ad-Hoc Sustainability Committee: Wednesday, November 4, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, November 4, 4:30 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd. Beverly Hills Library, 444 N. Rexford Dr., Beverly Hills.

City of Los Angeles Bicycle Plan Update Meeting: Wednesday, November 4, 6 p.m. Ramona Hall, 4580 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles.

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

Metro Regional Connector Transit Corridor Draft EIS/R Update Meetings:
  • Thursday, November 5, 6:30 p.m., Lake Avenue Church, 393 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena.
  • Saturday, November 7, 10 a.m., Wurlitzer Building, 818 S. Broadway, Los Angeles.
  • Tuesday, November 10, 12 noon, Board Room, Los Angeles Central Library, 630 W. 5th St., Los Angeles.
  • Thursday November 12, 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. 1st St., Los Angeles.
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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