Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 48

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.

And gentlemen in England now a-bed, Shall think themselves accursed they were not here: This Wednesday is our monthly Transit Coalition dinner meeting, featuring OCTA CEO Will Kempton, who will speak about efforts to upgrade and maximize the LOSSAN Corridor between LA, San Diego and San Luis Obispo, the Orange County Metrolink Service Expansion Program and high-speed rail. This is a meeting where you get to hear things first. See Upcoming Events below for details.

The California Highway Patrol.
Thirty people were killed in automobile accidents in California this past Thanksgiving weekend, an increase over the previous year according to the CHP. DUI arrests stayed at the same level as last year at about 1,300. The deadliest crash occurred in Novato, where a driver ran through a red light, striking a minivan and killing four family members in the process. Since the accident the federal government has mandated that Positive Car Control be installed in every vehicle by 2012. Marin County officials are also working toward putting that dangerous intersection underground. These statistics only apply to roads under the supervision of the CHP and do not include local roads.

Reports of holiday weekend automobile death tolls might encourage us to ask whether or not we fear the right things. Many people are afraid to get into airplanes. Our insecurity about terrorism prompts our police force to detain photographers in the subway for merely taking pictures. The town of Tiburon in the Bay Area is proposing to install security cameras on every road leading into the city in order to deter crime. We fear many things, yet the vast majority of people do not fear driving despite the fact that since 1980, 380,000 people, both inside and outside the car, have been killed in automobile accidents.

A bike lane begins here.
Instead, roads and highways are widened, which encourages higher speeds and heavier traffic loads, while pedestrian, transit and cycling infrastructure is neglected. Are our priorities out of whack? In any case, highway travel is up across the nation as the economy slowly recovers and more families are opting to drive instead of fly.

Bike activists in Los Angeles have long been frustrated by the LADOT's claims that there is a price to being visionary on bike issues. One example is that of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, who were sued over their Bike Plan. However, there is good news from up north: A judge is on his way to lifting an injunction on bike projects in San Francisco and is allowing the agency to begin laying more paint for bike projects as we speak.

Closer to home, there is good news and bad news on the Bike Plan front. The good news? The city has extended the time for public comment into January. The bad news is that CICLE examined the city's claims that they will build 125 miles of new bike lanes in the plan and discovered that they are off by, oh, about 97 miles.

Meanwhile LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has heard complaints from cyclists about their treatment on the streets. In response he has created a working group to examine bike related issues and their relationship with the LAPD. The head of the working group, Lt. Andre Dawson, will be out of town for much of December, so look for more news in January.

Gas prices are going down.
Gas prices are slowly declining, but the average price of a gallon of gasoline in LA County is still about 75 cents higher than a year prior. AAA blames the higher than usual gas prices on a weak dollar that is encouraging traders to invest in commodities such as oil. It will be interesting to see what will happen if gas prices go up again next summer, after many transit agencies cut service. Imagine $5 per gallon gasoline with fewer transit alternatives.

Clean Truck provisions at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach may end the livelihoods of independent truckers. Starting January 1, the ports will bar entry of all trucks made before 1994 and trucks built between 1994 and 2003 that have not been retrofitted. Independent truckers, some who now live in their rigs, have found it difficult to comply with the new standards, saying they are too costly. Is there a way to make the ports greener without causing truckers to lose their shirts?

You Are Invited: To kickstart December, Transportation For America is holding an online debate, Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation with the author of the book by the same title, William S. Lind (Director of the Center for Public Transportation at the Free Congress Foundation), as well as Sam Staley (Director of Urban and Land-use Policy at the Reason Foundation), John Robert Smith (President and CEO of Reconnecting America), and Bill Millar (President of the American Public Transportation Association). The debate will take place on December 7th, at 12 noon PST, so register now and share the link with your colleagues. This could be a great chance to have a listening party for T4A partners and allies in your community.

Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern has some thoughts about the Expo Line and the controversies surrounding its design and construction. Alpern argues that the Expo Line should connect neighborhoods instead of destroy them. The confrontational approach, he explains, is counterproductive for all parties involved. A second opinion in response to Alpern's assertions asks all parties involved to build it right or don't build it at all. (You can see pictures of construction progress at our discussion board.)

West Covina wants a high-speed rail station and they want it built at the mall. Let's hope that Councilwoman Shelly Sanderson was misquoted because she seems to think that people will use a high-speed train to visit a mall to "have a cup or coffee" or "get gas." Huh? Among California politicians there seems to be some confusion over what high-speed rail is and does. It's one thing to want a station but you have to want it for the right reasons.

C-SPAN's Washington Journal recently interviewed Joseph Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak. During the 30-minute Q&A session Boardman talks about incremental approaches to high-speed rail, operating subsidies and also takes questions from phone callers. In defense of Amtrak subsidies Boardman mentions that long-distance train service should be supported the same way that rural electrification and rural highways have historically been supported in the United States.

A bus stop in a free fare zone.
The idea that transit systems should be free to use has been around for a while, but it has never gained much traction. The web site intransition has an overview of the concept. However, it misses the paradox of free fares to encourage drivers to use the bus, since mass transit is partially funded by gas taxes. If you lure drivers out of their cars with the prospect of free fares, then you're going to be faced with a decreasing pool of tax revenue in which to fund the service, not to mention the 20-30% that fares previously covered. It would be far more productive to raise fares in order to fund the kind of services that riders constantly demand but have no plan to pay for other than to keep fares artificially low.

For those concerned about the ongoing efforts to restructure DASH routes in Los Angeles, MetroRiderLA provides some proposals of their own.

Finally, have you ever felt like you were being watched on the subway? That's because you are.

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 other TTC meetings in December), 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. at Philippe the Original, 1001 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles, featuring OCTA CEO Will Kempton. We hope to see you there!

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.
  • Tuesday, December 8, 1 p.m., Sacramento Regional Transit District Board Room, 1400 29th Street, Sacramento.
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 11, 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.

Riverside Transit Agency Board: Thursday, December 17, 2 p.m., Board of Supervisors Conference Room, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St., 1st Floor, Riverside.

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.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit.