Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 46

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.

Just Announced: OCTA CEO and former head of Caltrans Will Kempton will speak at our Transit Coalition dinner meeting on Wednesday, December 2. (No meeting in November.)

The Eastside Gold Line is now boarding.
The Gold Line Eastside Extension has officially opened after five years of planning and heated debate. Union Station was packed to the gills on opening day Sunday, with the line to ride winding its way into the parking lot. Now that the Gold Line is officially carrying passengers between downtown and East LA, it seems like everyone has something to say about the new light rail route. Some are calling it a uniting force for Los Angeles and others are calling it a let down.

The Los Angeles Times editorialized in favor of the extension, calling Gloria Molina's comments during the last Metro Board meeting on the route's safety surprising. Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne believes that the opening of the eight new stations is "among the most significant civic milestones the city has reached in several years." Los Angeles Downtown News thinks it's a " great project."

The excitement at the LA Eastside blog was tempered by concerns over safety (great opening day photos here, by the way). An LA Weekly blogger took the Gold Line Extension's opening as an opportunity to take a potshot at the mayor and the Westside Subway Extension.

Now that the celebration is over, it's time for the Gold Line to get to work. Monday marked the first day of revenue service. Metro staff members were at some stations to hand out coffee, free passes and pins.

No, really, the Eastside Gold Line is open.
Whatever happens next, you can be sure that the new route's performance will be closely monitored by officials, pundits and advocates in the weeks and months to come. Day one service wasn't even over yet before the extension's ridership estimates began to be scrutinized (2,100 daily boardings per route mile is relatively good, by the way). Luckily, a software upgrade might enable some speed increases, such as on the frustratingly slow 101 flyover. One thing is for sure, the debate over what is, what should have been and what's coming next for the Gold Line Eastside Extension is definitely not over.

Metro Rail cars are being manufactured.
Now that the AnsaldoBreda light rail car contract has fallen through, it's time for Metro to start all over on their bid for 100 new rail cars. Companies such as Siemens and Bombardier have expressed interest. Metro officials are hoping to get a better deal on rail cars that weigh what the manufacturer said they would weigh and are delivered on time.

The Metrolink Board of Directors was too timid to vote for a fare increase last Friday, deferring the decision until December. Instead, the Board has directed Metrolink staff to look at cost-cutting options, including decreasing service and delaying new projects. LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich suggested Metrolink take advantage of a $5 million surplus in Metro's commuter rail improvement account.

On Friday truckers protested a new rule going into effect January 1st at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that would ban trucks manufactured before 1994 (and those manufactured between 1994 and 2003 that have not been retrofitted) from entering the ports. To express their disgust, a cavalcade of truckers snarled downtown traffic. Independent truckers that formed part of the protest demanded that they get the same help trucking companies receive in order to modernize fleets. A spokesperson for the mayor suggested that the truckers join a trucking company as set out in the requirements of the Clean Truck Program provision, but protestors blasted the requirement as a scam to get truckers to unionize.

The re-opening of Angels Flight, that little funicular railway in Downtown LA, has been mired in government bureaucracy for the past few years. The CPUC will review the historic railway's safety and system security plans on November 20th and are expected to sign off on those plans, moving Angels Flight one step closer to opening once again.

A rendering of the upcoming El Monte TOD project.
The City of El Monte is taking the El Monte Transit Village project off the hands of Titan Development, a company plagued with allegations of fraud. City officials want to turn the dilapidated bus station into a transit village featuring residential units and retail space. The project is being planned to move forward in phases, and will change depending on economic conditions. So, at least for now, it appears that the bus still has an opportunity to prove it can support transit orientated development like rail does.

Bicycle advocate Stephen Box has a connundrum for you: How does 10 percent of $181 million equate to less than $11 million? The former number is local return funds from Measure R alotted to the City of Los Angeles, while the latter is what LADOT wants to allot for bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Box exposes the sneaky accounting methods LADOT used to make the number appear less than what it should be.

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.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood
As a follow-up to last week's Dangerous By Design report on pedestrian safety, Transportation for America met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood yesterday and delivered over 4,000 signatures from the T4A petition demanding that safer streets must be a priority. Secretary LaHood pledged that the DOT Safety Council will take up the issue of pedestrian safety and work with advocacy groups to make America's streets safer for everyone who uses them. "The right of way doesn't just belong to cars -- it belongs to pedestrians and bicyclists as well," said Secretary LaHood. Because the Department of Transportation holds the purse strings, we are one step closer to ensuring that every road project facilitates safe travel for everyone — including vulnerable pedestrians.

The Sacramento Bee ran the most recent article about the report, citing two T4 partners in Northern California. In Southern California, the Orange County Register, Long Beach Press-Telegram, and several San Diego TV stations covered the report. Keep the pressure on by writing a letter to the editor of your local paper urging Congress to enact a national Complete Streets policy that will improve safety for all Americans on our streets - whether we're driving, bus-riding, biking, or walking. In Florida, outcry over the state's miserable pedestrian safety record has already resulted in the approval of a Complete Streets policy in Lee County. Californians deserve no less. Write a letter to the editor or contact your member of Congress today.

As the plan for California's high-speed rail network moves forward, some stakeholders are getting angry. The alignment has the potential to interfere with several other projects, including the LA River restoration. It also doesn't help that the governor submitted the high-speed rail project to the federal government for a piece of the $8 billion set aside for HSR at the expense of improving existing rail services. (A  flier on the matter is available.) Clearly, more outreach by the California High-Speed Rail Authority needs to be done.

The Washington DC Metro.
The Obama administration has proposed that the Feds take away oversight of the nation's subway and light rail networks and enforce safety regulations themselves. The details are sparse, but the move is being spurred by what is believed to be the ineffective enforcement of urban rail networks by state agencies.

San Diego's Metropolitan Transit Service (MTS) is considering cutting Sunday bus routes. The MTS has experienced similar declines in revenue and ridership figures that transit agencies around the country are currently facing. Now the agency is faced with the prospect of cutting nearly half of all Sunday bus service. The MTS is unwilling to raise fares since they have already been raised three times in the last year and a half.

Government officials in the Netherlands have approved a bill that would tax drivers based on when and where they drive, instead of levying ownership and sales taxes on car owners. A GPS unit in each vehicle would collect information on how many miles were driven and a bill would be sent to the car owner. It's a move designed to curb emissions and congestion but it's not Dutch law yet. Parliament has to approve the bill as well.

And if you're coming to Santa Barbara any time soon, we recommend you visit Car-Free Santa Barbara to learn how you can enjoy this wonderful town without an automobile.

Departures: Carolyn Flowers will leave her position as chief operating officer of Metro. Flowers recently accepted an offer to be CEO of Charlotte Area Transit System in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Transit Coalition wishes her the best in her new endeavours.

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, featuring OCTA CEO Will Kempton. We hope to see you there!

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. The Board plans to vote on the proposed March 2010 cuts at this meeting, so please come and make your voice heard!

Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee: Tuesday, December 1, 100 S. Main St., 9th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, December 2, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, December 3, 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, December 3, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Ventura County Transportation Commission: Friday, December 4, 10 a.m., Camarillo City Hall, 601 Carmen Dr., Camarillo.

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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