Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, January 28, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 4

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.

You Had an Option, Sir: Tomorrow 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: Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed recently attended the Valley VOTE meeting to circulate petitions for the Save Local Services ballot measure campaign. The measure would force Sacramento to leave local funds alone rather than borrow them for other uses. $1.3 to $1.8 billion per year in gas taxes has been diverted to the state from local governments.

Metro may not be immune to bus or rail service cuts. The agency projects the largest budget shortfall in its history, caused by cuts in state funding and an 8% decline in ridership. The shortfall is around $250 million and will no doubt be handled with fare increases and service cuts, but Metro CEO Art Leahy said that the cuts would not be catastrophic. However, Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed says that riders will feel the pain. Also, the governor's transit funding raid is receiving a frosty reception at State Legislature hearings.

National Transportation Safety Board
The National Transportation Safety Board has blamed the engineer of Metrolink train 111 for the horrific 2008 Chatsworth train wreck that killed 25 people and injured 135. Both engineers involved in the head-on crash were found to be texting the day of the accident, a trend the NTSB says is becoming more widespread. Transportation safety officials have recommended that railroads install inward facing cameras and voice recorders in all locomotive control cabs in order to "nip this in the bud right now."

Ask and ye shall receive. After various claims that the new light rail line lacked adequate measures to keep pedestrians and drivers safe around the tracks, the Gold Line Eastside Extension will soon sport new safety measures including road reflectors, Botts' dots, painted gate doors, and improved signage in both English and Spanish. These enhancements should be installed by late February. There is no word yet on whether or not Metro will install quad crossing arms. At the February 11 Eastside Extension Review Advisory Committee, Metro officials will reveal the possible intersections where quad gates may be placed.

Remember all those ideas that were suggested to help save Metrolink service? Well, the Southern California Regional Rail Authority Staff has explained to their Board why they think most of them were dumb. According to Metrolink Staff, lower fares would not attract more riders and therefore more revenue because ridership income would decrease overall, even with more riders. Fare gates at Metrolink stations are infeasible and so are selling concessions onboard trains. Advertising inside and outside of trains would cost more money than it would bring it. The Simplified Service idea to utilize through corridor trains, rather than downtown centric hub and spoke trains to beef up ridership and to more effectively utilize crews also was denied by staff. Back to the drawing board!

A conceptual rendering of the new Big Blue Bus stops.
Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus service is getting snazzy new bus shelters. Along with the new design, the shelters will sport real-time bus information. The shelter project will cost around $7 million, with most of the money coming from federal grants. Also in the works for Big Blue Bus are price increases that could send fares to $1.25 to $1.50 per boarding. A series of meetings has been planned to discuss the fare increase and the new bus shelters.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram is calling for another high-speed rail vote. Prop 1A, they say, was deceptive and they believe that with new information such as higher fare estimates and cost escalations voters would send a new high-speed rail ballot measure down in flames. When Prop 1A was voted on there were many unknowns, and there will still be unknowns in November 2010. Perhaps it would be wise to vote again in 2012-2013 when all the specifics are known, including what the exact alignment will be, what it will cost to ride and what color the restrooms will be painted. And flash forward, as Dan Walters reviews the new television series Human Target. It is a fictional look at the high-speed rail project with a lot of crossovers to reality.

A map of the Metrolink train chartered by the Fontana speedway.
The racing oval in Fontana has decided not to charter Metrolink service for the West Coast Premiere of NASCAR in February as it had done in the past. Though not unexpected, their reasoning is odd to anyone who values transit. The president of the oval Gillian Zucker said, "With the current economic downturn, there is very little demand for service, no matter how convenient, that charges between $20 and $35 per person to ride the train. We have plenty of on-site parking that is free and hope our fans will take full advantage." What is it about parking that makes people believe that it should be free? Would NASCAR ever consider offering free or reduced fare transit to their fans? After all, maintaining all that pavement isn't without costs. If parking wasn't in such demand, the excess land could be sold to developers or rented out for other uses. Considering that drinking is every bit a part of NASCAR as racing, many fans shouldn't even be driving in the first place.

Transit advocates have responded to the proposed cuts to DASH service and the response appears to be lukewarm. Our very own Bart Reed doesn't want to see DASH slashed, but agrees that the organization could use some major changes to its operating structure. Over at MetroRiderLA, Wad has posted several ideas for restructuring DASH service in Central Los Angeles, East and Northeast Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley that are worth a look. More hearings are scheduled.

A graph of federal gas tax growth over the years.
Despite all the rabble rousing over tax hikes these days there's at least one tax that definitely should be raised, the federal gas tax. Unchanged since 1993, the 18.4 cent per gallon federal gas tax is unable to keep up with our rapidly crumbling infrastructure. Here's the kicker: Over half of the respondents in a recent poll said they believe that the gas tax is raised every year. Our current gas tax isn't even indexed to inflation. Based on this staggering data, the Infrastructurist is calling for a Gas Tax Education Initiative to raise the gas tax and reinvest in our nation's infrastructure.

Those confused about the change in New Starts funding guidelines should check out Jerret Walker's post on the issue. Though it may sound like the USDOT is doing away with cost-benefit analyses of new transit projects, the agency is actually making eligible for consideration the livability benefits of transit projects, including lower air pollution, employment growth and proximity to retail and recreational centers. Critics of the move say that "livability" is a vague term that cannot be accurately measured. The FTA has yet to hash out the details of how they intend to measure these benefits but intends to do so shortly.

While most people balk at giving up their car, those that do are in for some real savings. The average savings associated with getting rid of your car amounts to around $10,000 a year. In New York, this figure climbs to over $13,000, but is probably balanced by New York's high cost of living. Though transit cuts are making it harder and harder to imagine a car-free life, transit stimulus funding could beef up our public transportation networks, making a car-free life an option for those that want it. A transit stimulus would also help those who simply want to drive less or people that are transit dependent.

Transit Coalition eNewsletter reader and General Manager of Greater Bridgeport Transit Ron Kilcoyne recently sent us a proposal on how to stop massive service cuts. His idea is to set up a $9 billion emergency operations fund that would allow transit agencies to apply for funding in order to save transit service. Kilcoyne urges us to contact our representatives and ask for $9 billion in emergency operations support for our nation's transit systems.

A station in Stockholm, Sweden.
LA's subway stations look pretty good by American standards, but Stockholm's Metro station designs put the rest of the world to shame. Heck, they put Disney World to shame. Stockholm's stations sport intricately carved sculptures etched into the bare rock, ancient ruins that make you feel like you've stepped into the lost city of Atlantis and colorful murals. Here's a PowerPoint slideshow with a ton of pictures of the stations. Thanks to Ralph Kroy for his tip about this!

Also, George Takei recently appeared on NPR's Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me! and briefly talked about, among other things, transit in Los Angeles. He appears to have gotten off that monorail kick. Captain Sulu served on the Board of Directors for the Southern California Rapid Transit District from 1973 to 1984 and helped bring the Los Angeles subway to fruition.

The February 2010 issue of the California Rail News is out with some of the latest news about how California may have no state run Amtrak trains come July, if the governor's shell game proposal gets through. You can also Twitter with TRAC (Train Riders' Association of California) for late news updates and you can also become a Facebook Fan.

One of the main complaints of cyclists in Los Angeles is the poor relationship between cyclists and the police department. Last week, news broke that a group of bike activists have been meeting quietly with some of the top LAPD brass in an attempt to reach a working relationship. The early returns from the meetings are positive with Enci Box, Stephen Box and Alex Thompson all writing positive reviews of the early meetings.

In an attempt to shift federal funding from suburban and rural areas to more urban ones, the U.S. Conference of Mayors released a report analyzing how the federal government spends its cash. One interesting aside, the L.A. Metro Area, if it were an independent country, it would have the 19th largest economy in the world. Take that, Austria!

One doesn't have to know the statistics about the length and severity of California's drought to know that Southland residents aren't used to commuting in the rain. Thus last week saw some interesting stories about how the downpours changed the way people move from place to place.

For two years now, Building America's Future has been beating the drum for substantive investment in our nation's roads, bridges, railways and ports. Last week, this bipartisan coalition ramped up its message to Washington with a press conference pushing for a National Infrastructure Bank.

The Bank, the subject of legislation introduced by Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, would be an independent entity for selecting and financing major infrastructure projects. Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, a Democrat, plans to shepherd companion legislation, which he originally introduced in 2007 with former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican.

Transportation For America has also advocated for a National Infrastructure Bank, which is a key goal of Los Angeles advocates seeking to accelerate the implementation of projects funded by Measure R. There are three good reasons that the NIB are supported by T4.

First, a National Infrastructure Bank would choose projects based on merit, saving money by prioritizing federal funds where they're most needed and boosting the economy by targeting projects that benefit more Americans.

Second, the Bank would allow for a wider array of projects to be considered. It goes beyond paving roads and erecting bridges to include rebuilding broken classrooms, improving water treatment and storage, building high-speed rail and laying down broadband access throughout the country.

Third, the Bank would help break down the silos, so to speak, by compelling us to look at infrastructure in a broader context and bring it closer to the forefront on our list of priorities.

Finally, the passage of Measure R provides Los Angeles with a dedicated source of income to leverage towards federal funding from the Bank, which means LA would be ready to go as soon as NIB loans became available. Move LA has a great overview of the Bank.

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!

State Route 710 Tunnel Technical Study meetings:

  • 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.
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.
LOSSAN Board Meeting: Wednesday, February 24, 10:45 a.m., Santa Barbara.

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, February 25, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Riverside Transit Agency: Thursday, February 25, 2 p.m., Board of Supervisors Conference Room, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon Street, 1st floor, Riverside.

Foothill Transit Executive Board: Friday, February 26, 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 and Hearing on Proposed June 2010 Bus Service Changes: 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.

OCTA Board Meeting: Monday, February 8 and 22, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council and Hearing on Proposed June 2010 Bus Service Changes: Monday, February 8, 6 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council and Hearing on Proposed June 2010 Bus Service Changes: Wednesday, February 10, 5 p.m., 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, February 11, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey.

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, February 12, 9:30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Committees Meetings: Friday, February 12, 10 a.m., SCRRA Offices, 700 S. Flower St., 26th floor, Los Angeles.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, February 13, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

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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