Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 14

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.

Please, We Insist: The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, April 27, featuring a presentation from Bruce Shelburne, Service Development Manager of Metro Rail. Also, the April 2010 issue of Moving Southern California is now available online with new features and news. Here is a video clip of our last meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Steel Wheels in California 2010: RailPAC and NARP meeting and conference: Saturday, April 17 at the Metro Gateway Board Room. Learn the latest on passenger rail as Steven Gardner, Amtrak Vice President of Policy and Development will be joined by the Chairs of LOSSAN, Metro and Metrolink, presenters from Talgo and Alstom, an advocates' panel on high-speed rail, Bill Bronte of Caltrans and retiring NARP Chair George Chilson. Click here for registration and details.

A conceptual graphic of grade separation for California high-speed rail.

Last week we told you about Art Leahy and Will Kempton's joint letter to the California High Speed Rail Authority urging the high-speed train planners to revisit the idea of shared tracks between LA and Anaheim. At a recent LOSSAN Board meeting Leahy was less diplomatic in his comments, honing in on the high-speed rail plan's confusing assumptions with some tough love ( full audio here). Leahy specifically targeted the CHSRA's plan to run trains every 5 minutes between Los Angeles and Anaheim. With 40 minute turnaround times in Anaheim, this would require enough trackage to store 9 1,000 foot trains at a time, which is simply insane.

There is no reason to build dedicated tracks for a 110 mph service. With a shared track alternative, advanced signaling could allow Metrolink, Amtrak and high-speed trains to achieve 110 mph service between Los Angeles and Anaheim, benefiting all three systems and the thousands of commuters and day trippers that use them. A shared track alternative would offer the same level of service as a dedicated alternative, a one-seat ride between Anaheim and San Francisco at just over three hours. All this at a much more reasonable cost. Art Leahy is no NIMBY obstructionist but a dedicated transit professional who heads the most powerful transit agency in California and high- speed rail supporters should take his concerns very seriously. Liam Julian at the Hoover Institution thinks the high-speed train is a musty vision to nowhere.

A Metrolink locomotive.

The Metrolink Board of Directors voted last Friday not to completely decimate regional rail in Southern California but only wound it slightly. That means that service will continue to Oxnard and only 12 trains will be considered for elimination instead of 44. Fare increases remain on the table and will be voted on at a later date. Also announced was new Metrolink CEO John E. Fenton, who formally headed up OmniTRAX Inc., a transportation services company in Denver. Metrolink commuters may have made out like bandits compared to Caltrain riders, which may see the Bay Area service return to a rush-hour, commuter-only railroad with half of all service being cut. Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed presented the nonprofit's position on rising fares to save all the service with extensive comments in the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

A personality test. Would you take one?

When Amtrak takes over the operation of Metrolink trains in June, current railroad crews would be required to take a personality test in order to keep their jobs. Union employees have pledged not to take the tests, saying that good workers with no history of performance problems may arbitrarily lose their jobs. The personality tests are designed to reveal how an engineer might behave in the cab of a locomotive. Specifically, Metrolink is looking for "focused introverts" who are not easily distracted by text messaging or rail fans but USC personality testing expert Robert Gore says that the tests are not perfect. Richard Katz is one Board member who is standing firm on the tests, saying that under current contract language those employees that do not take a personality test run the risk of losing their jobs. The Los Angeles Times supports the tests, but cautions that the results should be analyzed in the context of each employee's record. Times letter to the editor writers were astounded that the union wants unsafe trains.

Many transit agencies are enacting service cuts or raising fares to deal with dwindling state funding and budget problems. One agency in Georgia, however, has shut down for good. The Clayton County, GA transit provider, which is the only transit link to Atlanta, permanently idled buses last Thursday, but it was not an April Fool's joke. A five-member board oversaw the bus service, and only one member voted to keep it running, citing that the loss of bus service would lower property values. A bill is circulating in the state legislature that would revive the bus service, but the earliest that could happen is August of this year. The agency's official web site now carries the message, "ALL CTRAN Services ended March 31, 2010."

For impacts to transit closer to home, check out Transit NewsWatch. Transit Coalition Community Engagement Director Nicholas Ventrone asks that Omnitrans look at nontraditional funding solutions to prevent many San Bernardino County Service cuts.

It looks like the Gold Line entering a station.

We had previously mentioned that the Gold Line Foothill Extension is ready to break ground. In March, the Metro Board officially voted to fund the rail line, which is planned to be completed by 2014. In addition, the City of Monrovia got their guarantee that the extension's rail yard will be built, which has tempered that city's concerns. The next step is to hire a contractor to front the cost of the project since public funds won't be allocated until 2020.

The San Gabriel Valley will also be getting an upgraded El Monte bus station. In a few weeks construction will start on the El Monte Transit Village, a $1 billion transit-orientated development project. The city had previously taken over the project from a development firm whose executives were arrested for fraud. Since then, the project has been scaled back significantly, meaning that residents won't be able to enjoy their promised gondola rides.

Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern has some words for Supervisor Michael Antonovich in his latest LA CityWatch article. Alpern, who supports the Gold Line Foothill Extension, doesn't understand why Antonovich continues to rail against the City of Los Angeles even after the San Gabriel Valley got its light rail line.

It looks like a Gold Line train drawn for our viewing pleasure.

Don't pay your Cheviot Hills Homeowners Association dues as the dues will be spent on wasteful litigation against light rail. That's the advice of pro-Expo Line group Neighbors Working With Neighbors. The group highlights several assertions made by Expo opponents and knocks them down one by one. No, not everybody in West Los Angeles is a NIMBY!

With most Members of Congress back in their districts for the spring recess, Capitol Hill has been rather quiet. Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman's offices have continued to work on the new energy bill, but so far no language has been made public. From the rumors we've heard, little to no money is going to a clean transportation fund. Senator Brown (OH) recently introduced a transit operating assistance bill (S. 3189). This is a counterpart to Representative Carnahan's (MO) bill (H.R. 2746), introduced last year to increase transit operations flexibility for communities throughout the nation.

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Senator Brown's bill is well-timed given the fiscal crisis that has continued to plague our transit agencies. Last year Transportation For America came out with a national map of transit cuts, documenting the crises agencies were facing. This year the map has been updated and expanded to illustrate the scope of the challenges facing our communities. But it's not done yet! This map is a living tool--if you see something that is missing or incorrect, help by filling out the form. There will be a coordinated release to both national and local media in the coming weeks, but for now, use the map as an inside tool with your partners and members to voice your opinion to local officials. It's time we act to save transit.

A stack of containers.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are showing signs of recovery. Trade is up 13% so far this year, compared with dismal numbers a year earlier. Still, dock workers are starting to find more shifts and the outlook is headed in the right direction. The ports are also seeing some success with their off-peak shipping program.

Tolls have gone up on the OCTA-owned 91 Express Lanes. Clue in the rabble-rousing of drivers who do not understand the scarcity of freeway lanes for single-occupant commuters and proceed to complain about the tolls. As always, 3+ carpools receive a 50% discount during rush hour and are toll-free all other times. Express bus riders don't pay the toll, but bus service on this corridor is lacking.

The OCTA is planning to add a carpool lane in each direction on the I-5 through San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. The $444 million project is slated to start construction sometime between 2015 and 2019.

An electric car is being charged.

The electric car is an inevitability, but will its proliferation come sooner rather than later? The EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have set guidelines that dictate cars and SUVs achieve an average fuel economy of 35.5 miles per gallon. Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang say that relying on old technology just doesn't cut it and outlines how California can become the electric car capital of the world. Electric cars, however, don't solve all the problems we face with the automobile today. A smart transportation system includes walking, cycling and transit infrastructure, as well as electric cars.

Did you know California had an automobile plant? Well, now it doesn't. The last vehicle that rolled out of the Fremont plant was a red Toyota Corolla. They managed to get it stopped in Oakland!

United Airlines is finally upgrading its planes for international fliers. Coach passengers will be able to access video on demand and first class fliers will be offered beds. First-class seating will be shrunk overall, though, with more seats being added to economy class as businesses force their employees into the cheap seats.

China has been spending billions on infrastructure improvements in order to catch up with the developed world. They may have overdone it on the airports, though. Two-thirds of the nation's airports are unprofitable and losing money. The most egregious example is in Libo, a rural county. A total of 151 passengers flew into or out of the airport in 2009. While employees are paid full-time, the airport only serves four flights weekly, a round-trip on Friday and a round-trip on Saturday. China's growing high-speed rail network, which offers cheaper tickets, is also hurting the nation's oversaturated airline infrastructure.

As if we needed another sign that Measure R and "30 in 10" are changing Los Angeles, Jarrett Walker, the author of Human Transit, posed the question of whether or not Los Angeles is a model city for transit growth. Can you imagine a national blogger asking that question on any day besides April Fool's as recently as 2007?

An interesting discussion broke out at Streetsblog, after it posed the question, "Is the W Hotel and Residential development actually Transit Oriented Development?" The author decided it doesn't meet enough of the qualifications, but some comments disagreed.

Anyone living in Glendale notice that large bunny crossing the streets as part of a pedestrian sting? While it earned rave reviews across the country, it earned less than stellar reviews from Glendale Councilman John Draynor who thought it was an attempt to confuse motorists to raise ticket revenue. Yeah Councilman, because a motorist that can't notice a six-foot bunny is certainly a sign that the driver is not bound to notice children crossing the street either.

Locally, Metro Planner James Rojas has earned high marks for taking his "interactive modeling" across the country in an effort to teach people about planning. Participants use toys. blocks, and other tools to make a mini-transportation plan for their community. Recently, Rojas took his show abroad as part of America's delegation to the United Nation Habitat organized World Urban Forum (WUF) in Brazil.

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, April 27, 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!

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, April 7, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, April 8, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey.

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

SCRRA (Metrolink) Committees Meetings: Friday, April 9, 10 a.m., SCRRA Offices, 700 S. Flower St., 26th floor, Los Angeles.

Ventura County Transportation Commission: Friday, April 9, 10 a.m., Camarillo City Hall, 601 Carmen Dr., Camarillo.

Metro Regional Connector Community Update Meetings:

  • Friday, April 9, 12 noon, Los Angeles Central Public Library, 630 W. 5th St., Los Angeles. (This meeting is tentatively scheduled to be broadcast live from the link above.)
  • Tuesday, April 13, 6:30 p.m., Lake Avenue Church, 393 N Lake Ave, Pasadena.
  • Wednesday, April 14, 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Japanese American National Museum (JANM), 369 E 1st St, Los Angeles.
  • Saturday, April 17, 11 a.m., Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S Spring St, Los Angeles.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, April 10, 1 p.m., Angelus Plaza, Rm. 422, 255 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

OCTA Board Meeting: Monday, April 12 and 26, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Monday, April 12, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

LOSSAN Technical Advisory Committee (TAC): Wednesday, April 14, 1:30 p.m., San Diego Association of Governments, 401 B Street, Suite 800, San Diego.

Metro Westside/Central Governance Council: Wednesday, April 14, 5 p.m., 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday & Thursday, April 14 & 15, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles. 

Steel Wheels in California 2010: RailPAC and NARP Meeting and Conference: Saturday, April 17, 9 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority: Wednesday, April 21. 7 p.m., Arcadia City Hall, Council Chambers 240 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia.

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, April 22, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Riverside Transit Agency: Thursday, April 22, 2 p.m., Board of Supervisors Conference Room, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon Street, 1st floor, Riverside.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, April 23, 10 a.m., San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

LOSSAN Joint Powers Board: Wednesday, April 28, 10:30 a.m., North County Transit District, 311 S. Tremont, Oceanside.

Foothill Transit Executive Board: Friday, April 30, 8 a.m., 100 S. Vincent Ave., 2nd floor, West Covina.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, May 6, 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, May 6, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

National Train Day: Saturday, May 8, 11 a.m., L.A. Union Station, 800 N. Alameda 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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