Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 7


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.

I'd Like to Thank... The Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, February 23, featuring an update on high-speed rail. See Upcoming Events below for details.

A projection of future air fares.
Last week allegations were levied at the California High Speed Rail Authority that ridership estimates were altered to favor the Pacheco Pass route alternative over the Altamont Pass alternative. Their defense? It was actually a typo, according to the rail authority. The coefficient in question should have read 0.0179, not 0.179. Regardless, the change still favored Pacheco over Altamont and was made without public disclosure. In a letter to the editor, transportation economist Bob Huddy calls the typo defense an obvious lie. In any case, the Authority still has to answer for their numbers and why the change was made without professional review in the first place if anyone is to be convinced that ridership estimates, as shown in this graph are to be believed.

While the latest controversy presents a good opportunity to question the California high-speed rail project on several fronts, the usual screeds against the project and high-speed rail in general are being repeated by pundits. Los Angeles Business Journal Editor Charles Crumpley claims, among other things, that he will not board a high-speed train if it is not treated with the same kind of Security Theater that air travelers enjoy. He fails to realize that the train will be on a track which makes it difficult to be used as a weapon and trains do not travel internationally.

Furthermore, no high-speed rail line operates with the kind of rigorous security that airlines do and are generally safe from the evil doers. Even the Eurostar's security is a walk in the park compared to what airline passengers are put through. Despite rampant airport security, attacks continue to occur and must be stopped by the passengers themselves.

A rendering of high-speed rail in California.
Although there are specific concerns with the current high-speed train planners, high-speed rail in California is a good idea that needs some accountability to get it back on the right path. The challenge is addressing current controversies while not killing the chance to build high-speed rail in California for decades to come.

Though they may not have to worry if the latest high-speed rail drama kills the project completely, the City of Burlingame has assembled an action plan to help give itself a stronger voice when it comes to high-speed rail planning on the Bay Area Peninsula. The mayor of the city, Cathy Baylock, wants the line underground since an elevated option may negatively impact the city. For an idea of what high-speed rail on the Bay Area Peninsula might look like, check out this YouTube video.

Apparently they still hang bike thieves in Wyoming.
Bicycle thefts rose 29% last year and the issue is gaining some mainstream attention. Some bike owners are resorting to vigilante justice, such as stripping caught thieves to their boxers and making them walk home pantless. Poor bike facilities contribute to the problem. Bicycle racks are often out of sight and poorly designed, making them prime targets for thieves.

Cyclists are still buzzing about the release of the Backbone Bikeway Network by the Bicycling Working Group over the last two weeks. The group released a series of maps outlining the routes that cyclists have to take to get around town, and demanded that the streets receive better treatment when it comes to planning, maintenance, and enforcement. Advocates were nearly unanimous in praising the BBN, but the LADOT has not embraced the maps or plan.

The $100 million Broadway streetcar project has applied for $25 million in federal funding. If the funding is granted, it will come from an "urban circulator" grant program dolled out by the Federal Transit Administration. Also, the non-profit tasked with building the streetcar line will be starting an awareness campaign that hopes to build support for the project among residents.

What does it take to build light rail?
A Pasadena Star News editorial explains what it takes to build a light rail line to the middle of the SGV. Was it the economic study? The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. estimates that the first phase of the Foothill Extension would create 7,000 new jobs and stimulate the economy to the tune of $1 billion. Was it new leadership? Art Leahy replaced former Metro CEO Roger Snoble and has been receptive to the Foothill Extension. Or perhaps it was the threat of holding hostage more viable rail projects such as the Wilshire Subway and the Downtown Connector if the San Gabriel Valley didn't get its way. You've got to hand it the SGV. They know how to play ball. Hard Ball.

Groundbreaking on the Foothill Extension is expected to begin in June. Currently, the Authority is waiting for all the proposals for the iconic freeway structure to arrive. They are due in March with the contracts being awarded in May. The contract for Phase 2A will be awarded in September. The firms that are awarded the contracts will also be financing the construction.

Phase 2 of the Expo Line is moving forward and is generating some buzz. While he supports the choice of ground-level trains for Santa Monica, City Councilman Kevin McKeown feels that the city was blindsided by the choice of 1800 Stewart St. for the Expo Line maintenance yard. He explains that a quasi-industrial facility showed up out of nowhere in the environmental review documents. He did not, however, suggest a more appropriate site for the maintenance facility. Also, some residents in Cheviot Hills are also considering filing a lawsuit over the route decision. This is a lesson to all of the kids out there. When you don't get your way in a democratic process, sue.

A sketch of light rail on Crenshaw Blvd.
Now that light rail is coming to West LA, Ken Alpern explains how to best approach the impending impacts of the rail line in his latest LA CityWatch article, for better or for worse. While it is the right of the opposition to file lawsuits against the chosen route, Alpern reminds us that even though there is huge support for the project, an at-grade option is probably better than an elevated option and an at-grade crossing is nothing more than an extra traffic signal. The Expo Line is not the end of the world, he explains, and will provide a viable alternative to the congested I-10. Even on weekends, the 10 to Santa Monica is nearly unusable. Expo Line riders will be put within walking distance of the beach and the pier in Santa Monica by 2015.

Despite the massive blizzard on the East Coast last week, the Senate is pushing forward on an $85 billion jobs bill. However, the draft being circulated has not a single dollar to address the crisis in transit funding, which threatens severe cuts to essential service and the loss of thousands of jobs. But a recent analysis of the previous economic stimulus package shows us that investments in public transportation have produced twice the jobs of highway projects. A package of investments developed by Transportation for America has been projected to support nearly half a million jobs.

If we are serious about creating and saving jobs, our senators need to insist on investing more in public transportation. Transit operating assistance - the emergency dollars that make sure America's bus drivers, rail operators, and station agents can get paid - keep all Americans moving. Tell your Senators: Public transportation investments create jobs!

And, you can tell Senator Boxer in person in Los Angeles this Friday, February 19, when the US Department of Transportation holds their third " Outreach Meeting" on the federal transportation bill at LA Metro headquarters. Although the hearing is limited by invitation, members of the public are invited to join in a rally and press conference from 8:00-9:30 a.m. as participants arrive and register. This is an important opportunity to show support for the transit advocates who will be inside, and to show decision-makers and the media how important transportation is to the people of California. Write for details.

Like Coke versus Pepsi and PC versus Mac, the battle between bus rapid transit (BRT) and light rail is not likely to be settled soon. The allure of BRT lies in its initial startup costs, which is far less expensive than rail. However, BRT lines tend to have higher operating costs, especially on corridors that should have been light rail in the first place. For example, the Orange Line sometimes gets three busloads of riders from every Red Line train. That's three operators that need to be hired, trained and compensated when one light rail operator could do the job just fine. The other two operators could be deployed where bus service is needed elsewhere. In any case, the BRT versus light rail debate continues on Planetizen.

William Binder, who ran Philippe the Original for over 30 years, has died. Originally located on Aliso St., construction of the 101 freeway forced the restaurant to move to its present location on Alameda St. and Binder helped to smooth the transition. Since taking over, Binder kept the menu true to the original and changes were made only after he retired. Philippe's has been a meeting place for The Transit Coalition for many years and has always treated us well.

Flight delays across the board.
Your last flight may have been on time, but that doesn't mean you got there any faster. Airlines have taken a cue from Amtrak and have started to pad schedules to deal with the almost routine delays that characterize air travel these days. A one-hour flight from Phoenix to Vegas is now scheduled to take one hour and 20 minutes instead of an hour. What if there were alternative, viable rail links to help relieve the already stressed airlines? Then we wouldn't have to pad train or airline schedules. Imagine getting to your destination on time without any of those tricks. What a concept!

Michael Miles has been named the new Caltrans District 7 Director. The district, comprised of Ventura and LA Counties, is currently involved in $1 billion worth of transportation projects that are being funded from a variety of sources. Previously, Miles has held roles including District 7 Division Chief of Maintenance, Chief of Planning, District Permits Engineer and Project Manager in District 8.

The rotting, decaying bridge in Long Beach that carries 15% of the nation's cargo that moves by sea needs to be replaced, according to Port of Long Beach officials. The situation is so bad that the structural sufficiency rating of the bridge is 43 out of 100, and has to wear "diapers" to catch concrete that breaks off of the bridge due to heavy use. Also, newer ships are nearly unable to fit underneath the bridge, often requiring precision and optimal conditions to traverse under it. Local residents are not having any of that, and oppose the construction of a new bridge due to traffic and environmental concerns.

The latest issue of our print newsletter Moving Southern California is out. For those in the know, we don't pirate content from this electronic weekly. We actually write fresh material.

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 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 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.

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

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, March 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, March 4, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

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

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

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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