Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 50

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.

Metro selects light rail for the Crenshaw corridor.
The Metro Board of Directors has decided that light rail will be the mode of choice for the Crenshaw Corridor. $1.7 billion in Measure R funds have been allocated to the eight and a half mile project, but this is only enough for an above ground alignment. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' motion to study an underground alignment was also approved, though an underground option would add $200 million or more to the cost of the project. The line is scheduled to be open by 2018, with construction starting in 2012 or 2013.

Also discussed at the meeting was the prospect of installing quad gates at Eastside Extension intersections. Specifically, the Board asked staff to check with its consultant to see if the environmental review that would address these impacts can be accelerated. It may or may not be possible to issue a negative declaration instead of going through with a full Environmental Impact Report. Metro would have to mitigate the impacts of installing crossing arms at the majority of intersections if they cause significant impacts to automobile traffic.

If you've got plans for New Year's Eve, find out if they are possible on Metro Rail. Metro will be offering 20-minute headways all night and into New Year's Day. Free fares will also be offered between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. on December 31. In addition, Metro will increase Gold Line service to accommodate crowds headed to the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl.

The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension
The City of Arcadia is taking a proactive approach in preparation for the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The city has raised $8 million to fund the grade separation of Santa Anita Avenue and the right-of-way. Other issues such as parking and station location are being hashed out as well. Whether you're a fan of the project or not, you have to admire the effort its backers are making.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Expo Line, which is under construction, is delayed and over budget. In response, the independent Expo Construction Authority released a memo defending itself. Some project opponents are skewing the facts, such as the costs of Phases 1 and 2 (to which transit activist Matthew Hetz provides a sharp rebuttal) and which Light Rail for Cheviot helps clarify. The Expo Authority opines that some of the cost overruns are in fact project enhancements for Phase 1. In addition, the construction of the Culver City Station structure was originally part of Phase 2, but was moved up to Phase 1.

A Metrolink ticket machine.
All that drama for nothing. The Metrolink Board of Directors has decided to defer a decision on whether to raise fares or cut service. The Board will take up the issue again in either January or February. The Transit Coalition received much coverage on the subject at laist and LA Streetsblog.

The Metrolink Board, however, did agree on one thing at its meeting last Friday: David Solow would move aside as CEO. Solow, who has been Metrolink CEO for over a decade, will be replaced by interim CEO Eric Haley before a permanent replacement is found. Solow, with awesome operational technical skills, will hold a new position dealing with the deployment of Positive Train Control. His contract runs through June 2010. Board members cited Solow's lack of leadership and visibility after the Chatsworth crash as reasons for his lateral move.

Speaking of Metrolink, the OCTA Board voted to lower its ambitions by scaling back a planned increase in commuter rail service within Orange County. Now, the plan calls for 12 instead of 32 trains (in addition to the existing 44 trains) running every 30 minutes between Laguna Niguel and Fullerton starting next summer.

Last week, LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl held his first Big Bike Meeting as Transportation Committee Chair. The big news from the meeting concerns Rosendahl calling for a change in city law that would prohibit the harassment of cyclists, and after public testimony pedestrians, by the motor driving public. However, what garnered the most commentary in the community was a bizarre statement by LADOT Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery that the city's outreach for the bike plan wasn't as good as the outreach done for Portland's plan because of L.A.'s size and racial diversity. Uhm, what?

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition released the preliminary results from the LACBC's bike counts within city limits. There's good news and bad news for cyclists in the numbers. The good news? There were definitely more cyclists on the streets than are considered in official surveys and the number of cyclists riding the wrong way was much lower than one might think based on what one hears when they talk to disgruntled drivers. The bad news? The number of female cyclists was lower than expected, just 12% of the whole, painting a gender-homogenous picture.

In streetcar news, the initiative to bring streetcars back to Los Angeles received $250,000 from the federal government for continued study. In Long Beach, LBPost blogger Brian Ulaszewski warns that a streetcar alone will not revitalize the port city, as has been discussed, but that it will require a more complete package of zoning reform and planning incentives.

Steve Hymon was previously the transportation reporter for the LA Times before he fell victim to layoffs. Now he's working for Metro's official blog The Source. Find out how the gig came about in this candid interview. Plus, contributor Kent Strumpell provides pictures of trial zebra crosswalks (photos one and two) in Westchester.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority rolled out its much-anticipated business plan, even as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger moves forward with funding for the project at the expense of immediate safety fixes, per Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed. The San Jose Mercury News reported that the updated business plan shows the project cost at $42.6 billion, compared to recent estimates of $33.6 billion in 2008 dollars. 2035 ridership is now estimated at 41 million riders, down from last year's estimate of 55 million by 2030.

Certain new details in the plan shared by the Authority about its ridership assumptions beg clarification, including the attached train boardings table, labeled " Daily Station Braidings". It shows that Anaheim substantially outranks all other stations except San Francisco, with 23,500 daily boardings. With 47 daily departures, that means precisely 500 passengers boarding per train, not 501 or 499. It appears that instead of an econometric model, HSRA is using a generic fudge factor to obtain its projections.

Work Pays America
California's ports are not ready for a potential rise in sea levels, according to a new report. The ocean is expected to rise 16 inches by 2040 and 55 inches by 2100. Many ports around the state, including the Port of Los Angeles, have reported that rising sea levels would cause massive damage to their facilities. Officials say that the issue should be tackled now so that even more expensive repair work isn't needed in the future.

The Obama Administration wants to spend an additional $50 billion on transportation infrastructure. Though the plan is sparse on details, Obama aides have said that the funds will come from unspent financial rescue money and would be used to pay for roads, bridges, transit, rail, aviation and ports. One Obama Administration official said that the plan would set aside a large amount of money for intermodal projects that attract investment from other sources as well.

Take Action! Tomorrow the House will vote on a big jobs bill that will include about $48 billion in infrastructure. There is speculation that the money will be distributed much as it was through the Recovery Act, except that there will be 3% for TE and no TIGER funding. The Senate returns in January from the holiday recess, and it is expected to take up the jobs bill. Between now and then, it is very important that key members of the Senate hear support for putting bus and rail drivers back to work. Please contact  Senators Feinstein and Boxer today and ask that a jobs bill from the Senate include funding for transit operations. 

Last week, 50 transportation, environmental, and community organizations sent a letter to our Senators in Washington to urge support of Senator Dodd's Livable Communities Act (S. 1619). The Livable Communities Act provides communities with the resources they need to plan for and create neighborhoods where walking, biking, and transit are safe and tangible mobility options; where everyone has access to parks and clean air; and where local businesses and affordable homes are nestled together in vibrant community centers. Senator Boxer needs to know that Californians support this critical bill – so please ask her to co-sponsor the Livable Communities Act. Contact Senator Boxer today!

A traffic knot.
A new study conducted by SubsidyScope, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, reveals that not only are roads and highways not self-sustaining, but the amount covered by gas taxes has been declining — leaving an increasing amount of their massive cost to be subsidized. Pew projections – using Federal Highway Administration numbers – show user fees contributing a slim majority of the revenue to the Highway Trust Fund, with the difference made up through bonds and General Fund dollars. Public transportation does, as critics often assert, operate "at a loss," but so do roadways. The researchers wrote: "In 2007, 51 percent of the nation's $193 billion set aside for highway construction and maintenance was generated through user fees — down from 10 years earlier when user fees made up 61 percent of total spending on roads. The rest came from other sources, including revenue generated by income, sales and property taxes, as well as bond issues." 40 years ago, they noted, user-fees generated 71 percent of highway revenues.

The Chicago Transit Authority has a zero tolerance policy on the use of cell phones by rail and bus operators and so far it has resulted in the dismissal of 11 employees. Union officials, however, say the mandate is overreaching. One operator was falsely accused by a supervisor of using his cell phone on the job. His monthly bill exonerated him. So far, 13 operators have been suspended without pay, with another 27 cases leading to a dead end. While it's great that transit agencies are cracking down on cell phone use while on the job, they should be careful not to turn well-meaning policies into witch hunts.

Oh, and the Metro Silver Line from Gardena to El Monte is up and running. Not a day in and already a fare amount of confusion has arisen.

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 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!

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

Foothill Transit Executive Board: Friday, December 18, 10 a.m., 100 S. Vincent Ave., 2nd floor, West Covina.

LOSSAN Technical Advisory Committee: Monday, January 4, 11:30 a.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, January 7, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, January 8, 9:30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Committees Meetings: Friday, January 8, 10 a.m., SCRRA Offices, 700 S. Flower St., Suite 2600, Los Angeles.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, January 9, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

OCTA Board Meeting: Monday, January 11 and 25, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Monday, January 11, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, January 14, 2:30 p.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, Board of Supervisors Hearing Room 381B, 500 W. Temple St., Los Angeles.

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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.

bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us * The Transit Coalition