Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 2

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.

Just Watch Me: Our monthly Transit Coalition dinner meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 26. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approves!
The proposed California State Budget will have heavy consequences for transit if approved. The governor, shown at left with his favorite vehicle he had retooled in 2006 to run on alternative fuels in an empty attempt to convince us that he's environmentally-friendly, proposes eliminating the state's gas tax and replacing it with an excise tax that lacks funding requirements for transit. The move is in direct response to a recent court ruling that declared previous raids on state transit funds illegal. This may be the death knell for already struggling transit agencies across California. With his constant hammering of public transit in California, which is cleaner and more efficient than cars, Schwarzenegger's reputation as a green governor has been revealed to be a fraud.

Voters will finally have a chance to protect and firewall those transit funds, should an initiative that is currently being circulated qualify for the November ballot. If the constitutional amendment does qualify for the ballot and passes in November, transit funding will be somewhat stabilized.

Los Angeles is among the top metropolitan areas that are losing jobs. Between November 2008 and November 2009, 194,900 jobs in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area were eliminated. By cutting transit funding, the California budget misses a crucial opportunity for recovery. The Progressive States Network argues that transit investments generate more jobs than highway investments. Also, investments in transit operations yield 72% more jobs than transit capital outlays, according to the site. Politicians, however, find it difficult to stage a press conference at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for increased bus service, preferring instead to flaunt high-profile sexy projects such as high-speed rail.

While jobs might be on the downswing, other indicators are moving up. The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles might report an upswing in imports in a report due out next week, but the trends suggest improvement. At the same time, the next milestone of the Clean Trucks Program was implemented on January 1. Trade deficits are on the increase and at the highest level in 10 months. Gas prices are also sharply up. So, we are probably going to see the era of open freeways disappear, as congestion increases.

When the big transit ridership spikes happened in Summer 2008, reporters couldn't understand why transit agencies couldn't just instantly add buses and rail cars. Metrolink has at least 10 leased NJT cars that were never used. Now, as the transit subsidies are getting cut and indicators show improvements in the economy, the operators are in the process of service cuts, and if gas forces motorists back, look out.

A Metrolink toy train.
The Metrolink Board of Directors has decided to keep commuter train fares where they are but will cut several underperforming trains on two lines. All but two round-trips between Los Angeles and Orange County will be eliminated on weekends. Service on the Inland Empire-Orange County Line will be scaled back to one round-trip per Saturday and Sunday between Riverside and Orange County. Los Angeles County officials stepped in and used surplus Metrolink fund reserves in order to avert service cuts on the Ventura County Line and others. The cuts will only stave off the budget crisis until June, when it is presumed that the fare-hikes-or-service-cuts song-and-dance will be performed all over again. The current round of cuts will go into effect in February.

For those who still need to ride weekend trains on the LOSSAN Corridor, use coupon code V611 to shave 25% off all Pacific Surfliner fares with a three-day advance reservation. This special runs until March 31.

A large swath of service is slated to be cut from LADOT's DASH bus system. On the chopping block are eight full routes with partial cuts to other routes. Fares hikes are also being proposed, moving from 25 cents to 35 cents by July 2010 and 50 cents by July 2011. Three Commuter Express Routes would also be eliminated. The public is being asked to comment on the proposed changes at the DASH web site.

The doctor who hit bicyclists in Mandeville Canyon received a five-year prison sentence and has lost his home. Meanwhile the County of LA has started a secret bike program.

Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus is planning several community meetings to receive input on various projects. To be discussed are bus stop redevelopment, fare restructuring, Tide Ride redevelopment, website redevelopment and new hybrid buses. The meetings will take place between January 20 and February 2.

Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern muses about the Green Line to LAX in his latest CityWatch piece. Alpern is calling for a possible LAX People Mover connection to be studied and funded now, and federal money may just be the answer.

According to the legislature's financial analyst, California's high-speed rail plan is flawed. Specifically, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) failed to adequately address what would happen if the trains end up being a flop and fail to attract ridership. Analysts called the high-speed rail business plan incomplete and inappropriate for a project this large. The CHSRA responded to the report by saying that all risk will be addressed in the future as the Authority negotiates contracts with private firms.

The MiniVib electronically scans for soil conditions.
Though its future is uncertain, preliminary work on the Wilshire Subway continues on. A small truck known as the MiniVib has been deployed to take electronic images of what's underground, including rock layers and bedrock elevation. The work will help determine where subway tunnels will actually be constructed in West LA.

With transit cuts making headlines across the nation and unemployment still at 10% nationally, Transportation for America is calling on the Senate to improve the Jobs for Main Street Act passed by the House of Representatives in December. 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 a new AP analysis shows that road and bridge spending hasn't impacted unemployment numbers. Transit spending, however, could keep bus drivers and train conductors at the helm, and help commuters save money that they'd otherwise be spending on gas. A report released in late 2009 by TransForm shows that the average California household could save over $5,000 per year if everyone had access to the transit choices enjoyed by people living in the most transit-friendly communities in the state. Let your Senators know that you'd like to see jobs funding directed towards transit - particularly transit operations - to save jobs and boost the economy in 2010!

Federal Transit Authority
Today is the final day to submit comments to the Federal Transit Administration regarding the Proposed Policy Statement on the Eligibility of Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements Under Federal Transit Law - that is, a proposal to allow pedestrian and bicycle projects near transit stations to be funded through FTA. The Federal Register notice specifically states: "Funding bicycle and pedestrian facilities that provide access to public transportation is an important way for FTA to foster livable communities." In their coalition comments submitted yesterday, Transportation for America strongly supported the proposed policy to consider all pedestrian improvements located within one-half mile and all bicycle improvements located within three miles of a public transportation stop or station to have a de facto physical and functional relationship to public transportation. They commended the Federal Transit Administration for acknowledging the importance of a street network that accommodates all users and the benefits that complete streets provide to transit systems. View the Federal Register notice and submit your comments today.

Internet on your car's dashboard?
The Internet is coming to the place where you need it the most: Your car's dashboard. Companies like Intel and Google are working on Internet-based devices for automobile dashboards that serve up high-definition movies, 3-D maps and web pages. Imagine reading The Transit Coalition newsletter as you go careening into a telephone pole! The future is here. Demonstrators of the new technology say that some features will be disabled when the car is in motion, but other content will still be accessible. How about disabling the entire thing when the car is in motion? Don't worry, though, car companies have our best interests at heart. Audi reminds drivers to "only use the online services when traffic conditions allow you to do so safely." Our only question is how easily blood washes off these devices.

Should traffic fines be scaled based on income? That's how they do it in Finland. MetroRiderLA explains how a Nokia executive got slapped with a $103,600 fine for doing 47 MPH in a 31 MPH zone. Traffic violations in the United States have long been criticized for being a slap on the wrist for rich folk, their paltry fines unable to deter BMW drivers from speeding down the freeway. Income-based fines might level the playing field a little.

Finally, The Transit Coalition soothsayers have released the 2010 Year in Transit. What a year it will be!

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, featuring OCTA CEO Will Kempton. We hope to see you there!

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. 1:30 p.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles SANDAG, 8th Floor Conference Room 8C, 401 B Street, Suite 800, San Diego.

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., Downey City Hall Council Chambers 11111 Brookshire Avenue, Downey.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, January 14, 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. SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, January 22, 10 a.m., San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

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

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, January 28, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Riverside Transit Agency: Thursday, January 28, 2 p.m., Board of Supervisors Conference Room, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon Street, 1st floor, Riverside.

Foothill Transit Executive Board: Friday, January 29, 10 a.m., 100 S. Vincent Ave., 2nd floor, West Covina.

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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