Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 45

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.

Can You Help Us?The Transit Coalition and TRAC are looking for a few good volunteers to staff our table at LA Union Station eastern portal during the grand opening of the Metro Eastside Gold Line on Sunday, November 15, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Contact us if you want to help out.

The Eastside Gold Line Grand Opening on Sunday, November 15.
The Gold Line Eastside Extension is opening for public inspection on Sunday and it's conjuring up all sorts of emotions. Metro CEO Art Leahy is hopeful that the extension will bridge a cultural divide between East LA and the rest of the region. Advertisements depicting businessmen having lunch at an East LA restaurant have recently been posted in Red / Purple Line trains. Leahy is confident that a lunch rush hour will develop on the Eastside Extension as downtown workers head over the river for a quick bite to eat.

There is resentment over the failed attempt to build the extension underground. The Eastside Sun examines the pitfalls the Gold Line Extension has gone through and delves into its long road to completion ( Part 1 and Part 2).

No, really, the Eastside Gold Line is opening on Sunday, November 15.
There is also concern over safety. Advocates appear divided over just how safe the extension is with some claiming that fencing or a few more signs are all that's needed and others claiming that the route should have been built underground in the first place. That's why famous transit blogger and avid bicyclist Damien Newton is holding the Gold Line Eastside Safety Ride on Friday, November 13. The group will ride the entire length of the extension and report their honest, unabashed findings at the end of the day.

Metrolink is considering raising fares by 3 to 6% in January 2010 to address serious revenue shortfalls. A 15% drop in boardings from last year and dwindling freight traffic on Metrolink-owned tracks is straining already tight budgets. Switching from Connex to Amtrak crews is also proving to be more expensive than previously thought. Metrolink Chairman Keith Millhouse would like to avoid a fare increase and prefers cutting midday trains. Of course, when you start with these kinds of cuts, the service ends up being unusable to most riders and when properly polled, most prefer to pay a bit more.

A rendering of the proposed Regional Connector Little Tokyo Station.
The Little Tokyo Community Council has made formal their opposition to the two Downtown Regional Connector build alternatives and urged Metro to consider other options. The LTCC says that they support transit in Los Angeles, but feel that small businesses would not benefit from Alameda being cut off from Little Tokyo. LTCC officials are calling for the study of a 5th option, which entails an underground station at the Nikkei Center.

Be sure not to whip out your camera on the Metro Rail system or you may be unlawfully detained by the police. That's just what happened to a photographer who goes by the name of Discarted. Is it right to prevent the public from taking photos in a taxpayer-funded public subway? If we may respond to the officer in the video, why would Al Qaeda buy his photos if they could just get them off of Flickr for free?

A group of cyclists want to replicate Sunday Streets in Los Angeles, a concept that has been successful in cities like San Francisco and Bogota, Columbia. If the group is successful, certain streets would be closed to cars and open to pedestrians and cyclists on Sundays. The group met with the mayor and came away from the meeting feeling that the city was receptive to the idea. Los Angeles is no stranger to closing off streets to cars. Busy Wilshire Blvd. has been closed to cars on Earth Day in recent years and on weekdays no less. Sunday Streets for Los Angeles is an idea whose time has come.

Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern has written another article for LA CityWatch, this time about the importance of planning. Alpern also had a thing or two to say about the rant of Supervisor Gloria Molina at the last Metro Board meeting and the future of Eastside rail.

While much of the election coverage this year was focused on the races in New York and New Jersey, the Center for Transportation Excellence has pointed out that 72% of transportation measures passed this year. Two tax increases were approved in Island County, WA and Kalamazoo County, MI which suggests that even in a recession, people are willing to fund vital transportation improvements with tax increases. Anti-transit politicians and proposals were also rejected by voters in Cincinnati, Boise, and Charlotte, as well as Washington and Maine.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet has bought himself a majority ownership in Burlington Northern Santa Fe. Buffet claims that his investment is a "bet on the country," that clean, green trains will move more goods 10, 20 and 30 years from now. Shortly after the announcement the speculation began. An analyst in Washington questioned the environmental claims in Buffet's announcement because half of the tonnage BNSF hauls is coal. Over at the California High-Speed Rail Blog, HSR boosters speculate on what the deal may mean for high-speed rail. Rival Union Pacific agrees that the move is good for the freight hauling industry. In any case, Buffet's investment in BNSF will likely prove to be the railroad story of the year.

Transportation For America
A new report released yesterday by Transportation For America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership takes stock of how city streets built for speed and not safety can be deadly to pedestrians. Dangerous By Design: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (And Making Great Neighborhoods) ranks the nation's 52 largest metro areas based on a calculated Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) and reveals how investment in pedestrian infrastructure could save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of accidents each year. Southern California metro areas fall solidly within the average zone, ranking just ahead of San Jose and Sacramento, but significantly behind the Bay Area and the national leaders of Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, Boston, MA, and New York City. Visit the Dangerous By Design website to read the report, then write a letter to the editor of your local paper asking for greater investment in pedestrian safety in the next federal transportation bill!

In the nation's capitol, the recently released unemployment rate of 10% has everyone looking for job creation opportunities - including in the transportation and infrastructure sector. It's unclear at this time what the outcomes will be, but we're watching to make sure that additional transportation stimulus dollars are spent wisely. Fix it first and transit spending should be top priority to get our state and the nation on our feet again! Stay up to date on the Transportation For America blog and let your representatives know that we can create jobs and stimulate the economy through smart investments on transit, biking, and walking as well as sorely-needed highway repair.

A sticker on a car describing gas mileage.
When you are browsing cars at the local dealership each one has a sticker with an estimate of what you might be paying for gas per year. Now an advisor of the Obama Administration is suggesting that similar information be given to homebuyers. Each home would be associated with an estimate of the cost of commuting so that potential buyers could make more informed decisions about where to live.

There's not much to be opposed to here. If suburban living is so wonderful, the stickers shouldn't dissuade anybody from buying a home in the suburbs, right? After all, the free market works best when everybody has as perfect information as possible. We are confident that when a couple buying their first house in the suburbs learns that their two hour commutes will force them to spend a quarter of their income on transportation expenses they will be more than happy to go through with the deal.

Pothole fishing.
A representative of the Texas legislature has argued that no road in Texas actually pays for itself. Instead, he explains, that city dwellers have subsidized the construction of roads and utilities into the suburbs. On average, the burden of a road to the suburbs in the state of Texas is 20-30 cents per person per mile, but drivers only pay 2-3 cents per mile through gas taxes and vehicle fees. Can someone let the Amtrak bashers in on this?

Los Angeles is tied for the fourth most toxic city in America, according to Forbes. Automobile emissions play a huge part in that distinction. Another contributing factor is the geography of LA, a basin surrounded by mountains that trap pollution. Atlanta, GA took top honors with Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Cleveland rounding out the top five. Cough, hack, wheeze.

In other news, airlines are expecting less travelers for the Thanksgiving weekend, while an air stunt in Santa Monica last year is causing officials to question the prudence of civilians flying decomissioned military aircraft. Those heading to LAX can rejoice, for the I-405 carpool lanes from I-10 to Route 90 are now open. For those hoping to do the same via transit, Metro staff selected light rail along Crenshaw and through Inglewood towards LAX as the preferred option for the Crenshaw transit project.

Also, the TRAC Rail2020 Conference was a smash hit with rail advocates, as was the excursion on the rare-mileage Fillmore and Western Railroad. There was also a mixed victory as the OCTA Board voted to cut 150,000 hours of bus service, which was half of what was originally proposed.

Finally, sculptor Christopher Fennell has found a use for old school buses, turning them into bus shelters.

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 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 Regional Connector Transit Corridor Draft EIS/R Update Meetings:
  • 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.
OCTA March 2010 Bus Cuts Discussion: Thursday, November 12, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

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

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, November 5 12, 2:30 p.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, Board of Supervisors Hearing Room 381B, 500 W. Temple St., Los Angeles.

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

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board and Committee Meetings: 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. Riverside Transit Agency: Thursday, November 19, 2 p.m., Board of Supervisors Conference Room, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon Street, 1st floor, Riverside.

Gold Line Foothill Extension Phase 2A Kick-off Celebration & Station Billboard Unveiling: Saturday, November 21, 10:00 a.m., future Gold Line Foothill Extension station in Monrovia (northwest corner of Myrtle Avenue and Duarte Road), Monrovia. The event celebrates the adoption of the project into the Metro Long Range Transportation Plan. Officials estmate the project will break ground in June 2010.

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

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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