Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 49
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.
Action Alert: Write your concerns about possible Metrolink fare increases or service cuts to email@example.com. You can also fax them to the attention of Metrolink Fares at (213) 452-0452. All comments must be submitted and received no later than the time of the public hearing scheduled for Friday, December 11, 10 a.m. A sample letter from The Transit Coalition is now available.
With less than 72 hours until the Metrolink Board of Directors votes on whether to raise fares or cut train runs, the debate over which outcome is less painful is ramping up. Those who support service cuts say they are fed up with fare hikes. Those who support a fare increase, such as The Transit Coalition, say that service cuts will rip apart the possible trip combinations riders can make, making the service less useful. Neither option is ideal, especially in a recession, but after years of neglecting transit that is the situation we find ourselves in.
Three things don't mix--drivers, rain and Los Angeles. A huge winter storm brought heavy rain on Monday and is expected to continue throughout the week. Between 11 a.m. and 1p.m. on Monday, a Transit Coalition staffer counted over 45 traffic accidents on LA, OC, Riverside and San Bernardino freeways on Google Maps. The CHP has reported that during the Monday morning commute they responded to more than three times as many calls as usual. The culprit, according to CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos, is drivers who are going too fast for the wet conditions. There are alternatives. If the 14 through the Antelope Valley is icy and slippery, there's always Metrolink... for now.
Councilmember Bill Rosendahl is making good on his promise to cyclists to keep a focus on bike and complete streets issues by holding a hearing only on bicycling issues. However, some members of the community are less than thrilled, not with the Councilman but with an agenda that is similar to previous ones because LADOT is still studying many of the same projects they were studying last year at this time.
However, the news isn't as dire for two-wheeled commuters in all parts of the county. In Hermosa Beach, sharrows were painted on the street informing commuters that bikes have full use of the lane. LADOT has been studying a pilot program for sharrows since at least early 2008. Maybe that's why some rogue cyclists have started painting them on the streets themselves.
Court-watchers waiting for news on the sentencing of Dr. Christopher Thompson, the Mandeville Canyon Road Rage Doctor, are going to have to wait a little longer. Because his jail was on lockdown on account of a swine flu outbreak, the doctor and his attorneys weren't able to meet before the originally scheduled sentencing.
Over at TransitRiderOC, the only blogger who exclusively covers Orange County transit news is upset over the Anaheim Fixed-Guideway Project. The 3.1 mile monorail project is slated to be funded by $500 million in local money while bus service in Orange County goes down the drain. What is more important, serving the regional transit needs of North Orange County or building an expensive and proprietary fixed-guideway system that provides service to an underperforming outdoor mall? After all, four out of five dogs prefer practical transportation solutions over expensive monorails.
Metro is combining several express bus routes and calling it the Silver Line, set to start operating on Sunday, December 13. The new route will operate from the Artesia Transit Center to the El Monte Transit Center via the Harbor Transitway, downtown streets and the El Monte Busway. A boarding will cost you $2.45 instead of the usual $1.25. Next Sunday will also bring an assortment of Metro service changes, including a new line, 902, designed to relieve congestion on the Orange Line.
All options aren't being explored on the Expo Line Phase 2, according to Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern, and that will cause design of the line to be disputed in court. In contrast, Metro came up with a more locally preferred alternative for the Downtown Regional Connector that may placate Little Tokyo residents, an action that will likely avoid a lawsuit. Can the same be done for Expo?
The Los Angeles Times Expo story covers how delays brought on by neighborhood activists and the Dept. of Water and Power have put the Line behind about a year and cause it to open in phases. Here are some of the latest construction update photos. The Phase 2 EIR is due out in the next week or so.
Los Angeles Downtown News has an interview with Metro CEO Arthur T. Leahy. During the Q&A portion of the interview, Leahy talks about the Downtown Regional Connector, Measure R and his time behind the wheel of a bus. Especially interesting was reading about Leahy's effort to force, I mean invite, other Metro executives to see what it's like to be a bus driver. Now if Leahy would only support Bruin Football, the Subway Towards the Sea would probably get to Westwood much sooner!
Pasadena has traffic problems but many of the city's ideas to deal with them are either unpopular, infeasible or even illegal. For example, Pasadena officials would like to implement a congestion pricing program but state law doesn't allow individual cities to do that. Despite Pasadena's efforts to foster a more walkable city, today more Pasadena residents are commuting solo than before and travel times on city streets has increased. Local bus use has also decreased.
Don't say we aren't fair. It appears that the 118 freeway-widening project is coming in on time and under budget. Due to a poor economy, Caltrans is saving $8 million on bids for the second phase of the project. The first phase of the project, completed in April, also came in under budget. Now public officials are thinking of ways to spend the $8 million as fast as possible. May we suggest some commuter bus service to operate on those brand new lanes?
The transportation soap opera in Congress just threw us a plot twist. Representative James Oberstar says that he would support a six-month extension of the current transportation bill but with a caveat. Though Oberstar was hoping to push through a new $500 billion six-year bill by October, he is willing to support an extension if lawmakers and the White House use those six months to plan for a new transportation bill. SAFETEA-LU, the current transportation bill, is set to expire mid-month.
Interest in America's plan for high-speed rail is increasing among train builders. 32 companies have committed to expanding operations into the U.S. if they are chosen to build high-speed trains for America. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood predicts that if the effort to build HSR in America is not tied to job recovery then it's not going to succeed. Not only would American high-speed rail help provide the kind of recovery politicians promise, but result in long-lasting, useful infrastructure. Build trains, not lanes! The Transport Politic, however, fears that the proposed transportation stimulus programs only preserve the status quo.
Speaking of high-speed, the State Authority met last Thursday and decertified the EIR on the Bay Area / Central Valley segment of the line. The action rescinded Pacheco Pass as the preferred route. High-speed rail officials say the problems should be patched up in a few short months.
On the eve of the White House jobs summit, James L. Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit sent President Barack Obama a letter arguing for increased transportation funding. The two called for funding "ready-to-go" projects on the order of $48 billion for highways and $15 billion for public transportation. Transportation For America Campaign Director James Corliss issued the following statement in response:
"We applaud the chairmen for pointing out that the rehabilitation of our over-taxed highway and transit systems is as imperative as it is effective at putting people to work on a timely basis. Among infrastructure-related investments, such ‘state-of-good-repair' projects will create more jobs, faster than other investments. However, we are deeply concerned that a two-year continuation will once again provide an excuse for some members of Congress to defer this country's desperate need to create a new, long-term plan for investing in the infrastructure we need to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving, global economy. Any short-term jobs package for transportation should be limited to no more than one year, providing a strong boost to the American economy in 2010, while making sure this Congress finishes its work on a longer-term transformational transportation authorization bill that can bring our nation's transportation policy and programs into the 21st Century."
In Florida, the SunRail project is back along with high-speed rail and a financial rescue for Tri-Rail. Local state road warriors have blocked these proposals several times in the State Senate, but the governor hopes the need for jobs will close the deal.
To close, the European Union has recently put into effect new passenger rail regulations that protects the rights of passengers to timely, reliable service. A passenger is now entitled to a full refund or a ticket for another day if a train is delayed by more than 60 minutes and they do not wish to continue or start their journey. This wouldn't fly in the United States, where intercity trains are frequently delayed by hours.
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 Tuesday, January 26 (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. We hope to see you there!
LOSSAN Technical Advisory Committee: Wednesday, December 9, 11:30 a.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.
Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, December 9, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.
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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Bart Reed, Executive Director
Mina Nichols, Legislative Analyst
Zach Gutierrez, Communications
Damien Newton, Editor
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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