After previous raids of California's transit funds were declared illegal, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is at it again. This time he is planning a complex gas tax swap that would deprive transit agencies across the state of another $1 billion, which would cause more service cuts and further fare hikes. Funds for roads and highways would continue to remain protected. Several politicians and transit advocates spoke out against the proposal. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky called the plan "wrong-headed" and "poor public policy."
One of the annual events that mark the holiday season is the Festival of Lights in Griffith Park. Now also a holiday tradition is the annual protest bike ride, the Festival of Rights. Outspoken cycling advocate Stephen Box, who is currently waging war with the DWP over the Festival, contends that the City of Los Angeles doesn't have the right to ban cyclists from public streets and protests the city's exclusion of cyclists by conducting a ride on the first "car-only" night of the festival.
Box recaps the year in bicycle advocacy over at LA City Watch. Some of the highlights include discussion of the Cyclists' Bill of Rights, the installation of ghost bikes to honor fallen cyclists, creating awareness for the safety of cyclists on the road and the conviction of road warrior Dr. Christopher Thompson, who was brought to justice after teaching two riders a lesson with his own lethal weapon, his car.
Passenger Transport has published a year in review for bus and rail line openings across the nation, including our very own Gold Line Eastside Extension. Other cities, such as Phoenix, Seattle and Dallas, opened new light rail lines as well. 2009 was also a good year for Bus Rapid Transit with new lines going into service in Reno and Houston.
Passenger Transport has also published a
legislative year in review. 2009 was a great leap forward for transit on the capital side of things. Billions were appropriated for high-speed rail, public transportation and Amtrak. Most
recently the president
signed the omnibus spending bill
that included over $1.5 million in Metrolink safety improvements and $5 million for the Perris Valley Line extension. $50 million has been allocated for the implementation of positive train control on the nation's
rails, a piece of which Metrolink will surely try to get their hands on. Going
forward into 2010,
high-speed rail is predicted to be a priority for the Obama Administration.
High-speed rail's reputation for all-weather service hit a snag Christmas week as Eurostar service ground to a halt, leaving trains filled with passengers stranded under the English Channel. While actress Claudia Schiffer was givenspecial rescue service, the remainder of passengers were kept in the dark and cold for hours. A steam train that happened to be nearby was pressed into service to rescue others on the high-speed line stranded at British stations.
With the California High-Speed Rail Business Plan released, one of America's saviors, as well as tax crusader, Jon Coupal mused that Californians are being railroaded, because ticket prices became more realistic and the cost of the project isn't hammered down. And Robert Cruickshank, who sometimes can't tell who wants to kill HSR versus those that want to see it done right, comes out with both guns blazing against Coupal.
As for rail car building, Siemen's is well positioned, as it now has over a third of the US light-rail car market with
a thriving plant in Sacramento. Now,
the firm is eyeing the high-speed market, with production expansion possible
right next door. Despite this possible capacity, there is a lot of magical
thinking by some, that
soon-to-be-shuttered auto plants
can be easily repurposed to manufacture highly technical rail car equipment.
New concept art for the Gold Line Eastside Extension features a unique crazy basket bridge. The bridge will allow the Gold Line to exit the 210 median and enter its own right of way. Four baskets adorn the four supports for the bridge. The design is not very popular with armchair architects, making this the most controversial bridge since Alaska's Bridge to Nowhere!
The City of Los Angeles' red light camera enforcement program is turning out to be more successful than ever. Revenue from the red light cameras has doubled since 2007. Currently the fine for an infraction is $446. Councilman Dennis Zine is riding the wave of popular opposition against the cameras by calling for reduction of the red light violation fines. Of course, motorists can save money by simply not running red lights.
California has settled with disability rights advocates over handicapped inaccessible sidewalks, crosswalks and park and ride facilities. The state will pay $1.1 billion to improve access to the disabled on Caltrans owned rights of way over the next 30 years.
Trucks aren't the only source of emissions being cracked down on at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The EPA has set new standards that would reduce air pollution emitted from U.S. ships by 80%. The new regulations will be in effect by 2015. There's one caveat, though, in that only 10% of the ships that enter the ports are U.S. ships.
New regulations on the air travel industry will take effect in April that prohibit airlines from keeping passengers stranded on the tarmac for more than three hours against their will. After three hours airlines must offer passengers a drink, a snack and an option to alight the plane. The fine is $27,500 per passenger if these conditions are not met. In recent years planes have been stranded on the tarmac for as much as nine hours as passengers sat in cabins with no air conditioning, food or water. Some pilots have applauded the new regulations.
BART riders now have wireless service 135 feet below the surface of the San Francisco Bay. Sprint, Verizon and others have turned on their networks in the Transbay Tube. Installation of the service was paid for by the cell phone providers.
A mom has developed a Blackberry application to keep her son and millions of other kids from acting stupid and being irresponsible while driving. Her application utilizes the GPS function in Blackberry phones to detect how fast the phone is moving. If the phone is traveling faster than 5 MPH the software prohibits all calls except to 911, thus making the phone useless while driving. It also makes the phone useless while taking transit or carpooling. Here's a better idea, get your kid a bus pass they can use their phone all they want. Why does a teenager need a Blackberry anyway?
It's the last weekly report of the year and Transit Coalition Chair Dr. Ken Alpern shares his hopes for transportation in 2010. What a ride it has been and what a trip we are all facing this coming year. And just when you'd things were done for the year, the PUC issued a proposed settlement between Expo and LAUSD that calls for another station at Farmdale Avenue, which will let delays to that segment of Phase 1 move forward!
Finally, if you were planning on putting your TAP card in a blender and expecting it still to work, you're out of luck.
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