Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 3

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.

Next Tuesday will be our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting, featuring Expo Line Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Action Alert: A group called Californians to Protect Local Taxpayers and Vital Services is rallying to put a proposition on the November 2010 ballot that protects local taxes from state raids. The measure would have implications for transit funding, including preventing the state from taking gasoline tax revenue levied by local governments originally intended for road and transit projects. A signature-gathering effort funded by the League of California Cities is currently underway and many local advocacy groups are helping in the effort.

A Metrolink train approaches a signal.
The Federal Railroad Administration has released its rules and regulations for the installation and maintenance of Positive Train Control. The new rules will govern the massive effort to equip the nation's railroads with devices that would be able to stop trains automatically if they fail to heed red signals or are detected to be on a collision course. PTC is expected to cost about $5.5 billion to install and $820 million a year to maintain. The NTSB first recommended PTC to be installed on the country's rails 30 years ago. Better late than never, eh?

The Southern California Transit Forum is happening on Friday, February 5. The event promises to be a who's who of Southern California transit. OCTA CEO Will Kempton, Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, Metro CEO Art Leahy and many more are scheduled to speak about issues related to transit funding and will also be signing autographs (and blank checks?). The bulk of the event will be taking place in Orange at Chapman University's Folino Theater. There is also an optional luncheon that costs $15 to attend. The event is within walking distance of the Orange Metrolink Station. Most of the attendees, however, are probably more interested in the parking situation.

The Green LA Coalition will also be hosting a Sustainability Roundtable at Metro Headquarters on Wednesday January 20. Several Metro executives, an LADOT engineer and a representative from the City of Los Angeles will be on hand to speak about the state of climate planning in the region. Also to be discussed are strategies to encourage bus and rail ridership through service enhancements.

California High-Speed Rail Authority Executive Director Mehdi Morshed.
At 72 years old, California High-Speed Rail Authority Executive Director Mehdi Morshed is ready to call it quits. In his resignation letter Morshed says he has no doubts that the project will move forward and that California will have the first true high-speed rail network in the United States. The CHSRA is searching for a new CEO, someone who preferably has experience with rail projects. They have until March, when Morshed officially retires.

The San Diego Union Tribune does not appear to be thrilled with the performance of Morshed or CHSRA. In a recent editorial, the newspaper calls for Prop 1A to be repealed and the project to be put to rest. The editorial was spurred by the recent release of the project's updated business plan, which outlined ridership estimates and a possible fare structure. Also in dispute is whether or not a public entity will have to pay the difference between projected and realized revenues to a private investor, despite the fact that Prop 1A forbids a public operating subsidy.

The January 11 Assembly Transportation Committee hearing on the High-Speed Rail 2009 Business Plan, originally expected to be a love-in led by Assembly Member Cathleen Galgiani, turned into a surprisingly incisive session. A critical report by the Legislative Analyst ridiculed the plan by directly quoting it. The Analyst provided the following examples of the plan's inadequacy:

The Business Plan says that the risk of ridership failure would be "mitigated by policies that continue to draw people to reside in California and encourage high-speed rail as an alternative mode of transportation."
To avoid risk of failure to obtain credit from investors, the Authority's strategy is "to clearly communicate the project and obtain up-to-date feedback."
To mitigate risk that financial markets stop lending, the Authority "has to continually monitor the market and develop strong back-up strategies such as project segmentation."
To avoid risk that agencies don't provide funds, HSRA would assess "how each government funding source affects the build-out of each segment."

The Gold Line is helping to foster a newfound interest in the Eastside of Los Angeles. A tour group took advantage of the new light rail link to check out the Eastside's nativity scenes, known as nacimientos. James Rojas is an urban planner born in Boyle Heights who believes that the light rail line removed a barrier to the Eastside and will spur interest and development in the area. This would not be good news for the anti-gentrification camp on the Eastside whose passionate advocates fear that scores of new residents would change the character of Eastside neighborhoods and push poor residents out.

A 3.5-mile monster train.
A 3.5 mile monster train rolled through Southern California last weekend. Based on reports generated by this Union Pacific test run, the massive train represents the coming of the end of the world as predicted by the Mayan calendar. Prompted by safety concerns, U.S. Representative Grace Napolitano has vowed to slay the monster and return peace to her district. You can see a video of the monster train on YouTube.

Cyclist Ed Magos was hit riding his bicycle downtown on January 8, when a Porsche Cayene slammed into him and after the motorist shouted out the window, sped away. The driver eventually turned herself in, but the crash has become the newest cause for cyclists following the sentencing of Dr. Christopher Thompson. CityWatch details all the investigative errors made by the LAPD, including releasing an incomplete press release to select media outlets, without approval, then losing their copy of the release.

Speaking of CityWatch and Streetsblog, both outlets noticed a strange fact for people clicking through the city's " Online Budget Challenge," a game where people can make cuts and choose to increase revenue to simulate the city's budget mess. It turns out the only way the game allows you to balance the budget is by privatizing all or some of the city's street parking or city-owned garages.

Of course, another point of contention for cyclists is police officers who don't know the details of the state Streets & Highways Code. Of interest this week is a column by a CHP officer chastising cyclists for cycling in crosswalks. The only problem is that in cities where cyclists are allowed on the sidewalk, they are allowed in crosswalks as state law considers crosswalks an extension of the sidewalk.

Vancouver greenhouse gases are the lowest in any North American city.
Vancouver is quickly becoming the epitome of urban renewal. Freeways have been shunned. Parks have been opened. Streets have been redesigned for cyclists and pedestrians. Its carbon emissions per capita are the lowest of any North American big city. The Los Angeles Times chronicles these developments in a lengthy article detailing the successes and failures of Vancouver's approach to urban development. Move over Portland: Progressive bloggers have a new city to fawn over.

The Wall Street Journal has picked up on the hardships transit riders are facing across the nation as agencies cut service and raise fares. The cost of riding transit rose much faster than overall inflation and ridership dropped in 2009 from 2008 levels. Despite service cuts and fare hikes, budget shortfalls remain. In San Francisco a $20 to $25 million shortfall persists despite cuts and layoffs. More often than not those who are hurt by transit cuts and fare hikes the most are those already on the fringe of society.

Tougher national standards for smog levels would prevent 1,700 to 5,100 premature deaths in the United States, according to the EPA. Bringing down the allowable ground-level ozone concentration from 75 parts per billion to under 70 might cost around $90 billion, but save $100 billion in costs incurred by premature deaths, illness and lost time from work. In Los Angeles alone 6,500 people per year die prematurely due to air pollution. Today, no urban city in California has an ozone concentration of 80 parts per billion or under.

Washington Metro General Manager John Catoe has resigned from his post. He stated that his resignation would allow the transit agency to move forward after half a year of "incessant publicity." Safety lapses at Washington Metro under Catoe's tenure have led to the federal takeover of safety regulation of the country's light rail and subway networks.

The new L.A. Live hotels near completion.
With the completion of the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton tower, the last piece of L.A. Live is finally in place. The occasion was dedicated with a massive light show performed on the East side of the building, which cost about $100,000. A charity gala held by City of Hope was also part of the event.

Wi-fi service is coming to Amtrak's Acela Express trains in March and other routes in the future. The new service will allow train riders who just can't be without the Internet for more than two hours at a time to browse the web between Boston and Washington D.C. Wi-fi will initially be free but Amtrak may charge a fee in the future as airlines do.

We Just Had to Mention This: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced last week that federal transit officials would begin considering expanded criteria as they select which transit projects to fund, bringing a new focus on improving livability and sustainability. For several years, transit project applications were unfairly burdened by the previous administration's cost-effectiveness measurement, which left out such benefits as energy efficiency, economic development and reduced emissions. "Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it," he said.

Of course, the one problem that this will not fix is the very high demand for a limited supply of New Starts funding. Even under the old narrow rules for winning approval, only a small percentage of the many applicants were receiving limited funding, and even then, the federal government was only matching about half of local funds, compared with at least 80 percent for road projects.

Still, this change is keeping in line with the positive reforms contained in Representative Jim Oberstar's draft reauthorization bill released back in the summer. Oberstar responded with a statement praising the development.

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. Guest speaker: Rick Thorpe, Expo Line Construction Authority CEO. We hope to see you there!

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday, January 20, and Thursday, January 21, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

State Route 710 Tunnel Technical Study meetings:

  • Wednesday, January 20, 6 p.m., Wilson Middle School, 1221 Monterey Road, Glendale;
  • Tuesday, January 26, 6 p.m., San Marino Center, 1800 Huntington Drive, San Marino;
  • Tuesday, February 2, 6 p.m., Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church, 2241 N Eastern Ave., Los Angeles;
  • Wednesday, February 10, 6 p.m., Jefferson Middle School, 1372 E. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel;
  • Wednesday, February 17, 6 p.m., Ramona Hall, 4580 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles;
  • Wednesday, February 24, 6 p.m., El Monte Community Center, 3130 N. Tyler Ave., El Monte.
SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, January 22, 10 a.m., San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

2010 Transportation Forum, Saturday, January 23, 9:00 a.m., San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership Offices, 4900 Rivergrade Road, Suite A310, Irwindale.

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

LOSSAN Board Meeting: Wednesday, January 27, 11:30 a.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Expo Line Downtown and Mid-Corridor Areas Project Status Update Open House:

  • Wednesday, January 27, 6:30 p.m., Holman United Methodist Church, White Hall Room, 3320 W. Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles.
  • Thursday, February 4, 2:00 p.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, Board of Supervisors' Hearing Room 318B, 500 West Temple St., Los Angeles.
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.

Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee: Tuesday, February 2, 100 S. Main St., 9th floor, Los Angeles.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, February 3, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, February 4, 2:30 p.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, Board of Supervisors Hearing Room 381B, 500 W. Temple St., Los Angeles.

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, February 4, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Ventura County Transportation Commission: Friday, February 5, 10 a.m., Camarillo City Hall, 601 Carmen Dr., Camarillo.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Monday, February 8, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

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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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