Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 47

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.

We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers: Next Wednesday is our monthly Transit Coalition dinner meeting, featuring OCTA CEO Will Kempton. See Upcoming Events below for details.

A new configuration for the Regional Connector through Little Tokyo.
Business owners in Little Tokyo appear to be pleased with a new fully underground alignment for the Downtown Regional Connector. While the previous underground options wouldn't have been the death knell for Little Tokyo that some business owners feared, the new alignment option appears to be a good one for the dense downtown area, despite the $200 million added cost. To see what the new alignment looks like and some in-depth commentary, check out the Transit Coalition Forums. (Transit advocate Gökhan Esirgen has an even better idea for this connection.)

In recent years, Metrolink has had to cope with mechanical problems due to its aging locomotive fleet. Today, even though the commuter rail agency has gotten its hand on new locomotives, Metrolink mechanics can't seem to catch a break. Surprisingly, the new locomotives appear to be even more problematic than the older ones. Fortunately, the new locomotive fleet is still under warranty and the manufacturer, Motive Power, is required to make sure they run properly.

As riders complain about the lack of information surrounding delays that locomotive breakdowns cause, Metrolink is promising to install LCD displays at stations to help keep riders informed of any problems. In the interim, Metrolink encourages riders to follow them on Twitter, which actually works quite well.

The interior of a Metrolink car.
Cut service or raise fares? That's what the Metrolink Board of Directors will decide in December. The Los Angeles Daily News, however, believes Metrolink should hold a fare sale. The editorial claims that lower fares will entice more people to ride the trains, resulting in more occupied seats and higher overall revenue.

Whether that works or not depends on the price elasticity of demand for commuter rail service. If you believe raising fares is the right thing to do, then you probably think demand for Metrolink service is inelastic, meaning that an increase in price will not encourage many people to quit riding the train. If you agree with the Daily News, then you probably believe demand for service is elastic, meaning that a lower price will entice a large number of people to the train. Is anyone at Metrolink an economist?

Prompted by recent Metrolink problems, including the Chatsworth accident and the possibility of raising fares, the leadership capability of current CEO David Solow is being called into question by members of the Metrolink Board, most notably Michael Antonovich. Other Boardmembers expressed criticism about noncompetitive single-bidder contract awards and plunging ridership counts, but were not as outspoken. The Metrolink Board is currently performing Solow's year-end performance evaluation.

A standard bike lane sign.
Last week, before the Gold Line Eastside Extension Opening, a group of cyclists pedaled the route. While they had issues at some of the stops, overall they were big fans of the new light rail route. They also wondered about future bike lanes and routes to serve the line. Bad news: While the future routes exist on paper in the LA City Bike Plan, there is no timeline to construct them.

Maybe one group that can help get the plan from paper to the streets is Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange. The non-profit group, which had previously stuck to classes and rides to encourage and promote bike-riding, is switching gears a little and has announced an advocacy campaign for northeast Los Angeles.

Leaked documents from Goldman Sachs, the firm who purchased the rights to Chicago's meters, shows that the city got massively ripped off in the deal. Goldman Sachs is reaping windfall profits (and will be for decades) and Chicago is scrambling to make sure this doesn't happen again. Hopefully this serves as a wakeup call to the folks at City Hall who want to sell the rights to collect funds from our city's parking meters.

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board of Directors has voted 14-1 to cut 150,000 hours of bus service in Orange County. Not on the chopping block were the 405/22 project and the 91 freeway widening, both of which continue, seemingly unaffected by the economy. Nor was the OCTA's support of the lavish ARTIC high-speed rail station, or empty commuter bus routes that serve only as a vessel to bring in federal funds for freeways, up for cancellation. The only thing the OCTA Board of Directors, including Jerry "Lanes, Not Trains" Amante and John "Cut All Bus Service" Moorlach, thought to cut was bus service.

With so many bus cuts it's hard to keep track of them all. Delayed for years, its funding diverted from a defunct light rail project, the OCTA Transit Committee has voted to cancel Orange County's Bravo! rapid bus project. The new service would have been implemented on busy streets like Harbor Blvd., State College Blvd., and Westminster Ave., with stops scheduled only at major intersections and destinations. Instead, funding for the project will be diverted to synchronizing traffic signals, which won't do much for local bus service.

The OCTA Bravo! bus.
In the midst of freeway widenings and street improvements for drivers, all the while cutting bus service for transit-dependent commuters, one has to wonder how unequal the OCTA is willing to make Orange County's transportation network. Are lawsuits not far behind Monday's vote? In any case, the situation in Orange County is a stark contrast to the one in Los Angeles County. Metro's investment in bus and rail transit looks downright near utopian compared to the OCTA's vision of concrete and cars.

While the most recent vote to cut bus service is a done deal, consider joining the Transit Advocates of Orange County to help prevent future cuts in Orange County.

LA Daily News columnist Jack McGrath is suggesting that NBC Universal subsidize Red Line subway operations as part of its $3 billion development project. While it would be great if Universal saw the benefit of subsidizing subway operations, is it right to mandate that they do? After all, corporations already pay taxes that fund transportation improvements. Also, subway operations are already funded. It might be more productive if Universal funded better and more connections to the subway instead. On that note, due to the economy, there won't be any private funding for late night Red Line holiday service this season, as there was last year.

The Transit Coalition prepared a report reviewing the California high-speed rail project as planned through the Inland Empire. Particular concern was leveled at the lack of coordination between the CA HSR Authority and local jurisdictions and little foresight regarding incorporating HSR into existing and proposed local projects such as road widenings and new transit centers.

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.

A modern streetcar.
Long Beach Second District City Councilmember Suja Lowenthal has become the face of a plan to bring streetcars to Long Beach. It is envisioned as a booster to Downtown Long Beach businesses. The biggest obstacle, however, is the cost, $900 million to build all planned routes. Lowenthal says that the money would come from federal sources and that operations could be funded by fees levied on businesses who would benefit from streetcar development.

Construction to widen the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass is slated to start in December. A carpool lane will be added to the Northbound lanes and the freeway will be widened. The city will be using the construction window to expand sewer lines and add bike lanes on parallel streets. The project is planned to be finished by 2013. In the meantime, Los Angeles Times columnist Hector Tobar imagines the future of a shrinking Los Angeles where Westside workers can hop on a subway and a light rail line to eat lunch in the Eastside.

Despite the recession, air traffic is expected to be up just over 1% this Thanksgiving holiday. Ontario Airport will not be so fortunate, and is expected to see 8.8% less travelers. Airport officials ask that travelers make sure to arrive at the airport at least one and a half hours before your flight is scheduled to depart.

And now a message from our friends at Transportation For America:

"As you give thanks this Thursday, don't forget yourself! Due to the efforts of transit advocates over the past few months, the Transportation For America campaign has made steady progress towards our goal of winning a transformative federal transportation bill that will bring America's transportation system into the 21st Century. We made headlines in late summer with the release of Stranded at the Station, a report that took stock of transit service cutbacks across the nation and their impact on Americans, from weekday commuters to whole communities. Then, in October, we partnered with the American Public Health Association to educate our leaders in Washington about the connection between health and transportation.

Transportation for America.
"We also mounted a national grassroots advocacy push that resulted in a stronger climate change bill in the Senate, nearly tripling the House's funding allocation to address transportation's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. This month we put the spotlight on pedestrian safety with the release of Dangerous By Design, a report that garnered national media coverage and helped us gain a commitment from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to take up the issue of pedestrian safety in the Department of Transportation."

Transportation for America wishes to thank all who participated in their endeavors.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are conducting a review and evaluation of Southern California's transportation planning process. Part of their review is seeking public input on SCAG's transportation planning process. If you'd like to find out more, please visit the SCAG website which has additional instructions on how and where you can participate.

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!

An Assessment of Rail Safety and Transportation in L.A. County, Assembly Select Committee on Rail: Monday, November 30, 1 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles. Assemblymember Mike Davis, Chair.

Public Hearing on HOV Lanes, Senate Transportation & Housing Committee: Tuesday, December 1, 1 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles. Senator Alan Lowenthal, Chair.

Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee: Tuesday, December 1, 7 p.m., Parker Center Auditorium, 150 N. Los Angeles St., lobby, 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.

Public hearing on Budget Cuts Impacts on Transit and Finding Solutions, Assembly Transportation Committee: Friday, December 4, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles. Assemblymember Mike Eng, Chair.

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

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, December 9, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

LOSSAN Technical Advisory Committee: Wednesday, December 9, 11:30 a.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, December 10, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, December 10, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey.

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, December 11, 9:30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board and Committee Meetings: Friday, December 12, 10 a.m., San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, December 12, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

Orange County Transportation Authority Board: Monday, December 14, 9 a.m., 600 S. Main Street, Orange.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Monday, December 14, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

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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