Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 6

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.

Now that everyone in New Zealand has been thanked, I'd like to thank everyone on Long Island. Our monthly Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting is on Tuesday, February 23, featuring an update on high-speed rail. See Upcoming Events below for details.

A conceptual graphic of the Expo Line, complete with bike path, near Cheviot Hills.
After hours of passionate pleas from supporters and opponents alike, the Expo Authority Board voted to approve the final environmental impact report for Phase 2 of the Expo Line, making this rendering much closer to reality. The majority of the meeting opposition comments were concerned with the way the Expo Line would traverse the boondocks of Cheviot Hills on the way to Santa Monica. Speakers from Neighbors for Smart Rail asked the Expo Board to put the line underground to eliminate noise, traffic and safety impacts despite the fact that an above-ground right of way has existed for well over a century, err 134 years.

On traffic, Zev Yaroslavsky explained that an at-grade crossing has less of an impact on traffic flow than a typical traffic signal. On noise, one speaker explained that Expo Line trains will be relatively quiet electric vehicles, not the massive steam trains of yesteryear.

What the Expo right-of-way near Cheviot Hills currently looks like.
On safety, well, any rational thinking person cannot escape the hypocrisy of denouncing at-grade light rail after having experienced the chaos of Los Angeles' many roads and highways that cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders all have to deal with on a daily basis.

However, at the end of the day more than two thirds of Los Angeles County voters approved Measure R, the half-cent sales tax that promises to fund, among other things, more light rail. Among those who approved the tax hike were West Los Angeles residents, including those who live in Cheviot Hills. Expo is going all the way to Santa Monica, and it's going the right way. Lawsuits are expected from the opponents within the next few weeks.

Looks like some of us are taking long trips regularly.
A major potential problem is brewing for the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The issue lies with unpublished changes made to the high-speed train ridership model possibly by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The specific change is one that deals with how ridership reacts to a change in train frequency. Intuitively, we know that service headways are negatively correlated to ridership since riders generally do not like waiting for trains.

The more time between trains, the less people use them. But how strong is that correlation? According to the allegations, Cambridge determined that the correlation coefficient was -0.003, but it was stealthily changed to -0.179, which means that higher headways would impact ridership 60 times as much. Another issue is the aspect of relative attractiveness of air versus HSR. Because the Altamont Pass alternative would split service between San Jose and San Francisco, the unpublished change in the coefficient penalized Altamont more and made Pacheco look better.

These charges are not being levied by NIMBY homeowners or HSR "deniers," but a woman with four years of graduate study in econometrics, which is a combination of economic theory and statistical analysis. Speculation is rampant and there are more questions than answers. Now the burden is possibly on the MTC to justify their unpublished changes to these allegations. The localities and environmental groups that sued the Authority are filing a motion to reopen the case, so some construction deadlines could be endangered.

At the last meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, the LAPD made a presentation breaking down their recorded bicycle crash data from 2008. Their stats show that nearly one quarter of all crashes were hit and runs, but cyclists are complaining that the number is low. After all, unless there are broken bones, the LAPD is unlikely to visit a crash site, even if the aggressor flees the scene leaving a dazed cyclist, or pedestrian, bleeding on the ground.

In other cycling news, cycling advocacy is finally getting a backbone, literally. The Bike Working Group illustrates a citywide Backbone Bikeway Network that would allow cyclists good cross-town access. Its backers say that at $8,000 per bikeway mile to stripe, bringing the concept into reality would cost relatively little. SoapBoxLA imagines what it would be like if the plan were taken seriously.

A parking meter.
Los Angeles moved forward with their plan to privatize some of their publicly owned parking. Unlike the privatization plan in Chicago, L.A. is only planning to privatize parking garages, not city meters. LA expects to clear nearly $200 million to give up most of the control and most of the profits from the garages for the next fifty years. Some experts are wondering who in the world will take that deal. One ponders why LA City could not adopt techniques like dynamic pricing and nearby on-street restrictions near city owned lots and self-perform for a decent return to the taxpayers instead of contract steering.

In legal news, Swedish-born rapper and record producer David Jassy was found guilty of second degree murder for beating, running over, and killing pedestrian John Osnes. Proving that even dangerous criminals have friends, some of Jassy's friends have taken to the Internet to defend him. The LA City Council is working on stricter legislation to penalize motorist road rage.

Last week, President Obama released his budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which contains more than $1 billion in programs and grants that will help create and support livable, sustainable communities and neighborhoods across the country. DOT will also get an additional $1 billion in high-speed rail funding, in addition to $2.5 billion in the current year's budget, and $8 billion in grants from the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act awarded last week. All told, the Administration could be spending more than $11.5 billion to lay the groundwork for a national high-speed rail system over the course of just a few short years.

"Investing in our transportation system and high-speed rail travel are smart bets for the future. Not only will we create jobs in the short and long term, but we will be building the kind of infrastructure that can connect the people in our metro areas, giving them more options for travel, and creating opportunity and long-term economic success from coast to coast," said Geoff Anderson, co-chair of the Transportation For America campaign.

California projects in the budget proposal include: San Francisco, Central Subway LRT (New Starts) $20 million; East Bay BRT (Small Starts) $15 million; Riverside, Perris Valley Line (Small Starts) $23 million; San Bernardino, E Street Corridor (San Bernardino Express) BRT (Small Starts) $43 million; and San Francisco, Van Ness Avenue BRT (Small Starts) $15 million.

I heart transit! Do you?
Additionally, the Senate is expected to consider its own Jobs Bill this week and citizens across the state are sending a Valentine's Day message to Senator Boxer to let her know that transit could use a little love. In the last stimulus bill, transit spending created twice as many jobs as highway spending, so investing in transit with flexibility for operations could really give California's economy a much-needed boost. Send a message to Senator Boxer right now!

Last Friday a forum was held at Chapman University to discuss the transit funding crisis sweeping the state. Steven Chan, Orange County's only transit blogger, wrapped up the event and concluded that while transit staff gets it, politicians don't. The use of social networking by transit agencies was also heralded at the forum, but what good is social networking when there are no buses left to "tweet" about?

A bird's eye view of our ports.
Good news has finally come to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and more imports may follow. The National Retail Federation is forecasting that as the economy recovers, imports may increase by 28% in the first half of 2010 over previous years. The new forecast flies in the face of previous forecasts that projected dismal results in the first six months of 2010, but leading shipping indicators, such as the number of ships idled for lack of work, are improving.

The Los Angeles Times is okay with traffic citations, but warns that raising fines too high will encourage more lawless behavior in order to avoid those fines. The potential is certainly there to encourage the run in hit and run for a driver who is already in dire financial straits. However, may we suggest transit as a money-saving measure instead? There are a lot less rules to break on the bus.

The 710 freeway connector tunnel is moving closer to reality and may advance to completion if stakeholders don't speak up, according to Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian. $780 million in Measure R funding is earmarked for the project. The project's opposition claims that local streets will still be congested after the tunnel is built. The final draft of a technical study is promised this spring to answer questions on how the extension will affect traffic and pollution. The freeway tunnel proposal would eventually need the support of seven of the 13 Metro Board members to move forward. Some members are taking a wait and see approach currently.

Amtrak is currently in the market for new rail cars and locomotives, but they'll only be window shopping until they find $11 billion to pay for it all over the next 10 years. That's how much it would cost to replace Amtrak's aging rail fleet. That's 25 brand new Acela trainsets, 334 locomotives and 1,200 railcars. That could also be a lot of jobs. Hint, hint.

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, February 23, 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!

State Route 710 Tunnel Technical Study meetings:

  • 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.
Metro Westside/Central Governance Council will hold a Hearing on Proposed June 2010 Bus Service Changes: Wednesday, February 10, 5 p.m., 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills. Regular meeting cancelled.

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.

Metro Service Sector Governance Council Quarterly Meeting and Conference: Tuesday, February 16, 3 p.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles.

Metro Committee Meetings: Thursday, February 18, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles. OCTA Board Meeting: Monday, February 22, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

LADOT Public Hearings on Service Cuts and Fare Increases:

  • Tuesday, February 23, 3 p.m., Caltrans Building, Community Center Conference Room, 100 South Main St., Los Angeles.
  • Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 5 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center, Room 1B, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.
  • Thursday, February 25, 5 p.m., Cabrillo Marina Community Center, Community Room, 224 Whalers Walk, San Pedro.
  • Wednesday, March 3, 5 p.m., Ramona Hall Community Center, Community Room, 4580 North Figueroa St., Los Angeles.
(You may also address your concerns by internet at ladotlbl.tmdinc.net, by a phone message at 213-455-0880, or by mail to Philip M. Aker, Hearing Officer, LADOT, 201 North Los Angeles St., #18-B, Los Angeles, CA 90012.)

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.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, February 26, 10 a.m., San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

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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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