Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 1

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 Are Doomed to Success: Our monthly Transit Coalition dinner meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 26. See Upcoming Events below for details.

A possible and ultimate solution to the Farmdale question?
The Expo Line will cross Farmdale Avenue at-grade, according to the California Public Utilities Commission. This will be made possible by building a station at Farmdale near Dorsey High School. The crossing will feature pedestrian and automobile gates, queuing areas, fencing and signals. Because all trains will stop at the station to pick up and let off, passenger trains will cross Farmdale much more slowly than previously planned, hopefully placating critics of Expo's design. With the situation at Farmdale resolved, construction of the Expo Line should be able to continue much more smoothly.

185 of the 186 wrongful death and injury lawsuits against Metrolink in connection with the 2005 Glendale tragedy have been settled for a total of $39 million. The accident was caused by a man who deliberately placed his jeep on the tracks and set it on fire before a train collided with it. He was found guilty of 11 counts of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole in 2008. Some Metrolink watchers have opined that possible future fare hikes and service cuts are related to costs associated with recent Metrolink accidents such as the Glendale wreck. To put the settlement into perspective, $39 million is 23 percent of Metrolink's $169.8 million operating budget.

The Streetsie Awards 2009
Streetsblog LA has published its list of top 2009 transit stories. The awards, called Streetsies, were voted on by a panel of volunteers. Among the winners is a Los Angeles Times editorial in favor of congestion pricing, California's changes to level-of-service requirements that would decrease the practice of increasing automobile capacity at the expense of other modes of transportation, and the discontinuation of the City of LA bike licensing program.

The end of the year brought a series of "Year in Review" stories to remember 2009. A blog called " Metro Plus" looked at the year that was for Metro and its Board of Directors while MetroRiderLA has released its annual satirical predictions for the year that will be. In state news, the California High Speed Rail blog discussed the year in California High Speed Rail. Meanwhile, City Watch looked at the year in bike advocacy. There were also a slew of urban planning round-ups. Curbed wrapped up 2009 and Los Angeles urban planning and the NRDC looked at the year in smart growth.

Not every year in review is a welcome one. A Santa Monica Daily Press article slams the City Council and Expo Authority for its "heavy-handed" approach in planning for the Expo Line in Santa Monica.

Will You Ride?
The blog devoted to the Gold Line Foothill Extension has called 2009 the Year of the Gold Line. The controversial extension secured $851 million in funding and plans to break ground in June 2010, according to its backers. The blog laments, "If you're a Los Angeles County resident, it's probably safe to say you were up in arms over the thought of cities with 1/10th our county's population receiving ten times more funds from the federal government." However, the Westside is a very dense corridor stretched along Wilshire Blvd while the Foothill Extension will serve low-density suburbs.

The history of the Westside Subway is a tumultuous one, illustrated in Taylor, Kim and Gahbauer's study The Thin Red Line. Though a Purple Line Extension under Wilshire may become the most popular rail line in Los Angeles, it faced a series of setbacks due to political influence. In the 1980s a methane gas explosion occurred under a Ross store which prompted Henry Waxman to pursue a ban on using federal funds for subway tunneling through his district. Less well-known are the alternative subway alignments considered to circumvent the ban. Today the tunneling ban is a thing of the past. With Measure R, a receptive public and a shot at federal funding, the Wilshire Subway may someday become a reality.

2010 is poised to be a make or break year for faster trains in the United States. The New Year will likely see the resolution of competing plans for the future of transportation legislation in the U.S., allocation of stimulus funds for high-speed rail and shifts in attitudes toward land use, automobile dependency and transit, the kinds of things that support faster trains.

Over in the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak says it will need $700 million per year to improve and maintain train service between Boston and Washington D.C. Luckily Congress approved a five-year reauthorization plan in 2008 that allocates $2 billion a year to the Amtrak system, though it does have to be appropriated every year. Faster trains usually mean higher profits. Though Amtrak loses an average of $32 per rider on all routes, the Acela Express earns a profit of $42 per rider.

CA HSR Monster
Opposition to high-speed rail is heating up in Anaheim. At the center of the controversy is a narrow 1.5 mile segment of Metrolink-owned right of way in Anaheim that parallels a park, a historical Santa Fe Depot and a neighborhood of historic homes, though much of the ROW is commercial or industrial. Currently there are two alternatives being considered for this segment: at-grade or a deep-bore tunnel. It is rumored that the Anaheim Historical Society is drafting a letter to the CHSRA opposing the at-grade alignment. These issues will no doubt be hashed out at a community meeting about high-speed rail to take place at Anaheim City Hall on January 20 at 5 p.m.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise has also editorialized against the high-speed rail project, as the recently updated business plan is an easy target for the uninformed. The Press-Enterprise criticizes an increase in the cost of the project, from $33.6 billion to $42.6 billion.

Much of that can be explained by a change in accounting methods, from net present value to year of expenditure dollars, which the federal government requires in order to doll out HSR money. Some of the increase can also be explained by straight up cost escalations due to unforeseen circumstances or incompetence. The cost of mitigation, such as tunnels or trenches demanded by local residents, also add to the project's cost. For example, the cost increase reflects the $500 million cost of a possible deep-bore tunnel in Anaheim, though the decision to construct a tunnel has not been made yet.

Also criticized is the increase in ticket prices from $55 to $105. This reflects a change in the high-speed rail authority's fare strategy, from fares being set at half of air fares to fares being set at 83% of air fares. The pressure for high-speed rail to be profitable in California may have prompted this change.

Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern has put together a list of 10 transportation hopes for 2010. Among them are hopes that federal money will be spent on projects and not bloated bureaucracies, that projects will be discussed, designed and built in a timely fashion, and that the sorry situation in Sacramento is fixed once and for all. Alpern advocates for a Green Line to LAX.

The Port of Los Angeles
2009 was not a good year for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The ports handled 11.7 million containers, down from a high of 15.8 million in 2006. Even prior to the recession, the shipping hubs faced stiff competition from ports in Canada, Mexico and the Gulf Coast. Today, port officials are lowering rents and fees and promoting themselves in trade magazines in order to better compete. However, Asaf Ashar of the National Ports and Waterways Institute says that the golden age at the ports is long gone, due to increasing competition.

Warren Buffet invests in freight rail.
Even today, 40% of all goods that enter the U.S. in containers flow through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Much of that freight is put on trains, including those owned and operated by Burlington Northern Santa Fe. In 2009 Warren Buffet purchased the railroad for $34 billion in what he says is an "all-in wager on the economic future of the United States."

75 years ago Sunset Blvd. was converted from a dirt road to a concrete road. Now it's being repaved for the first time since. The city will be using rubberized asphalt in order to dampen the sound of tires hitting the pavement. Sidewalks will also be repaired and upgraded to be more pedestrian-friendly.

Gas prices are rising as signs emerge that the economy is improving. The average price of a gallon of gas in California is $2.93. The U.S. average was just over a dollar less than this time last year. Tensions in Ukraine, Russia and the Middle East are also fueling oil price increases.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is a lame duck. As his final term comes to a close, expect the governor to lose influence and gain a renewed sense of candor. By Friday the governor will outline his approach to California's budget crisis, which is expected to include a proposal for the state to demand that it receives more money from Washington than it sends in taxes. Additional cuts to social services and transit are also on the horizon.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
A new analysis released by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Smart Growth America, and U.S. PIRG shows that in the first ten months of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), investments in public transportation have created twice as many jobs per dollar as investments in highways. The new report shows that by mimicking funding levels for transportation set out in ARRA, the Jobs for Main Street Act (H.R. 2847), passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in December, missed an opportunity to create additional jobs where they are needed most. The Jobs for Main Street Act provides $27.1 billion for the Surface Transportation Program (STP) versus just $8.4 billion for Public Transportation, even though public transportation investments under ARRA created twice as many jobs per dollar of investment.

The Senate plans to take up its version of the jobs bill in late January or early February. The report shows that if the Senate version ensures funds are invested equally in public transportation and highways, the same level of overall investment would produce 71,415 additional job-months, equivalent to year-round employment for 5,951 more workers than from the House bill. Read the report: "What we learned from the Stimulus, and how to use what we learned to speed job creation in the 2010 jobs bill". An overview of the Jobs for Main Street Act is available on the Transportation for America blog.

Protesters Advocating for Safe Streets
The online magazine Austin on Two Wheels debunks the myth that traffic calming hurts businesses. The article takes a look at other cities that have calmed traffic and created more space for pedestrians and cyclists on commercial streets. In those cities, property values increased up to 30 percent after traffic calming was implemented. Sales also increased and vacancy rates plummeted. While business owners are initially apprehensive about traffic calming measures, and claim that the lack of easy automobile access will hurt sales, they end up convinced of the benefits of traffic calming once such measures are implemented.

Do you want to pay for the privilege of climbing to the top of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge? Thanks to the recession and the need to raise some quick cash, you just might be able to this year.

And finally, a century ago Los Angeles was planning the nation's finest highway system. Funny how that turned out, huh?

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, 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!

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.

Ventura County Transportation Commission: Friday, January 8, 10 a.m., Camarillo City Hall, 601 Carmen Dr., Camarillo.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board and 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.

Metro Independent Citizens' Advisory and Oversight Committee Meeting: Tuesday, January 12, 2:30 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro Ad-Hoc Sustainability Committee Meeting: Wednesday, January 13, 10 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

LOSSAN Technical Advisory Committee: Wednesday, January 13, 11:30 a.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, January 13, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, January 14, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey City Hall Council Chambers 11111 Brookshire Avenue, Downey.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, January 14, 2:30 1:30 p.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, Board of Supervisors Hearing Room 381B, 500 W. Temple St., Los Angeles.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, January 20, and Thursday, January 21, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.
  • Planning and Programming Committee, Wednesday, January 20, 1 p.m.
  • Finance and Budget Committee, Wednesday, January 20, 2:30 p.m.
  • Ad Hoc Congestion Pricing Committee, Wednesday, January 20, 3:30 p.m.
  • Measure R Project Delivery Committee, Thursday, January 21, 9 a.m.
  • Executive Management and Audit Committee, Thursday, January 21, 10:30 a.m.
  • Construction Committee, Thursday, January 21, 12 noon.
  • Operations Committee, Thursday, January 21, 1 p.m.

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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