Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, February 22, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 8

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.

And the award goes to... the Transit Coalition, which hosts its monthly Dinner Meeting this Tuesday, February 23, featuring an update on high-speed rail. See Upcoming Events below for details.

A rendering of high-speed rail in California.
Senator Barbara Boxer and USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood were in town last week to discuss the stimulus and federal support for transit in Los Angeles, and Streetsblog LA has a full summary. Boxer made a commitment to the "30 in 10" plan to build all the Measure R projects within the next decade. Ray LaHood was on hand to defend the stimulus, most notably the award of over $2 billion to the California High Speed Rail project.

On the same day, Denny Zane hosted a press conference on the steps of Metro headquarters, on the future of transit in Los Angeles that included a diverse group of advocates. Bicycles, signs, and hard hats were visible among the crowd as groups including Move LA, the Bus Riders Union, the American Lung Association, and the Building and Trades Council gathered in support of bringing more federal funding for rail, buses, biking, and walking to Los Angeles.

Can L.A. build 30 years' worth of projects in 10 years?
Speakers stressed the importance of the "30 in 10" plan and securing federal dollars to complement Measure R. Though they opposed Measure R, the Bus Riders Union was present, proving that Zane is an activist that can bring other advocates together.

As federal officials met to discuss the future of the national transportation program, a broad coalition of Californians joined together to call for a bold plan of investments that will help revive California's economy, protect the environment and promote healthy communities.

The reason for the gathering: the U.S. Department of Transportation "Reauthorization Outreach Tour," convened by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Senator Barbara Boxer. Although the agenda included a session entitled "Livability and Sustainability," and advocates for bicycling, transit operations funding, and Measure R implementation were well represented and well-spoken, it was unclear whether the call for more investment in non-auto-centered transportation was heard.

Senator Boxer repeatedly referred to the transportation reauthorization as the "highway bill" and seemed astonished when a CALPIRG representative asked how the funding ratio could be changed to include 40% for transit - even after a majority of the attendees raised their hands to indicate support for increased transit funding.

It is clear that there is a long road ahead for those who support transportation reform in California, even as Boxer promised that there would be a bill passed this year. If you have not yet shared your views on transit with your Senator, send a message in support of transit right now!

Despite the Federal Dog and Pony Show, California state lawmakers are set to take a $5-billion bite out of budgets including transit capital and operations. Imagine that Metro can get Federal Funds for "30 in 10", but with the state pulling out support, the transit agency cannot operate the service. Therefore, the agency does not meet qualifications for the grants.

The in-print version of the gas tax swap bill is out and improved over what the Governor and then the Senate were originally proposing, due to some major efforts in the Assembly by Mike Eng, Mike Feuer, Bob Blumenfeld, Bill Monning and John Perez, as well as some help in the Senate from Alan Lowenthal. Regarding transit, the new bill does the following: provides a one-time shot of $400 million to transit in this budget year; shifts some existing excise tax for diesel over to sales tax, and then ensures that transit gets 75% of the diesel sales tax. That will come to $350 million and rise to about $400 million per year. The first year to collect is 2011.

A Los Angeles Times editorial urges that lawmakers should give transit what it needs, but it seems that the Governor and the legislature are moving to raid funding and soon statewide intercity trains and local transit will cease to exist as usable choices. Over in Riverside, the next round of cuts is just a few days away.

But, have no worries, as the Chief Mad Hatter, Governor Schwarzenegger has made a multibillion dollar fantasy proposal to double deck the 405 Freeway, so a few more cars that the surface streets can't handle can be shoehorned in. Before shrieks of horror erupt, consider this image from KTLA where we can almost make out what looks like light rail vehicles and the words "Track 1" and "Track 2" wedged between the elevated freeway lanes. Could this mean a rail link through the Sepulveda Pass? In addition, when is the funding coming through?

The Governor is coming up with a ton of bright ideas lately. One involves selling off the state's 708 freeway alert signs to potential advertisers. Imagine seeing colorful lap band ads interspersed between Amber Alert warnings. I hope they are in 1080p!

A sign welcomes motorists to Cheviot Hills.
After being dealt a near fatal blow when the final environmental report for Phase 2 of the Expo Line was approved, the light rail opposition in Cheviot Hills is reconstituting like a T-1000. Neighbors for Smart Rail held a meeting Sunday to discuss the next steps in their legal challenge. The group claims that homeowners in the boondocks cannot be slightly inconvenienced by a transportation technology that is commonplace in more civilized nations around the world. NFSR is rallying residents to help protect the neighborhood from... a train in a trench?

In addition, we've just discovered they are against bikes too! Metro hosted its first "bicycling roundtable" last Friday and seventy cyclists showed up to air their complaints, concerns, and yes, compliments with how Metro does bike planning. Biking in L.A. has a full report, which includes a new complaint by Cheviot Hills homeowners against the Expo Line: they don't want the bike path to disrupt their community.

One of the major dangers feared by cyclists is the hit-and-run crash where a car driver leaves the scene after mauling a cyclist with their vehicle. Last week, one such crash was caught on a security camera in Compton. You can watch the driver run down a cyclist legally crossing the street, drag the cyclist, get out of the car and check on him, then get back and drive away. The Compton Sherriff's office is still looking for leads. Uhm, how about the guy in the background on his cell phone?

However, for all the problems cyclists in L.A. do face, at least they do not have to worry about being forced into traffic by snow. Weeks after a snowstorm crippled the East Coast, bike lanes in Baltimore's inner harbor are still snowed in, even though the rest of the streets were cleared.

The LA City Council has approved using federal money to build a beach bike path north of Santa Monica. While new bike paths are usually good news, the $30 million project cost will only pay for two miles worth of bike path. The high cost is due to placing the path on an elevated structure. Some cycling advocates have called the project wasteful and say that the money could be used to paint many more miles of bike lanes across Los Angeles County.

Transportation planners in Orange County are trying to figure out how to solve the gridlock problem where the 55 freeway ends in Newport Beach. Though lanes have been added in the past, congestion has continued to rear its ugly head for the last two decades. While the OCTA will likely recommended a futile attempt to expand the freeway, may we suggest running some robust express bus service on those new lanes (i.e. not just three express buses daily, but a system that connects North and Central Orange County similar to how the Silver Streak and the Silver Line operate)? In any case, there is not enough money to start the lines.

The LAX northern runways.
The FAA wants to see a runway reconfigured at Los Angeles International Airport but opposition from local politicians and neighborhood groups is placing the project on thin ice. The FAA has asked for the two northern runways to be altered to reduce the risk of ground collisions. A study conducted by a panel of experts and NASA came to the conclusion that the marginal benefit of increased safety would not be worth the $500 million cost. There have been five fatal ground accidents at LAX in 60 years, the last happening in 1991. Still, the old guard at LAX lives on with retro policies and ideas.

L.A. and Long Beach ports are loading up on jobs that were not present 12 months ago. Export and import containers are up, thus jobs, freight traffic and maybe the economy.

Siemens has purchased 20 acres of land next to its light rail manufacturing plant in Sacramento. While the company has said it has no immediate plans for the land, some have speculated that it may mean that Siemens plans to expand its rail manufacturing in anticipation of more US rail projects. If so, let's hope that their gamble that America embraces trains pays off.

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended stronger safety standards for transit rail vehicles in the wake of high-profile accidents in Washington DC and Boston. Rail cars would also have to be more accessible to first responders and cars that do not meet the proposed safety standards would have to be removed from service. While higher safety standards are a good thing, the challenge is finding the money to pay for the upgrades. Most rail operators are not in a position to rid themselves of their aging fleets for brand new models.

The devastating and scorched-earth effect of parking on cities.
Popular Mechanics has some more information on the 3.5-mile-long freight train that rolled through Southern California a few weeks ago. Union Pacific was testing a new distributed power system that could result in placing longer freight trains as this in regular service. Nine locomotives hauled the massive consist through the region, all coordinated from the lead locomotive. There is no legal limit on freight train lengths in the United States, though single-track lines may not have sidings equipped to handle the length of these "monster trains."

Finally, we would have never equated parking to be as devastating as a bomb, but The Overhead Wire makes a compelling case.

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!

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.

LOSSAN Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Meeting: Wednesday, March 10, 1:30 p.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, March 10, 5 p.m., 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

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

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

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

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, March 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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