Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 15

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.

No, Really: 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, as is the December 2009 issue. 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.

Volunteers Needed: National Train Day is Saturday, May 8 and Transit Coalition will have a booth along with Coast Starlight Communities and TRAC (Train Riders Association of California). We need volunteers to help us in assisting visitors to fill out our campaign postcards and to greet those visiting our booth. Write us to volunteer.

The urban core is growing according to the EPA.
The urban core has been growing over the past five years, according to a new EPA study. Building permits in the central city and not-so-far-flung suburbs have increased in places like New York City, Portland and Chicago, suggesting that not everybody is fleeing our large cities. Even Los Angeles has seen an uptick in redevelopment efforts. Signs of growing cities may make drivers cringe, but such news may bode well for bus and rail transit, which does best in relatively dense environments. Of course, sprawl is still happening as the majority of new residential units are in the suburbs. Still, there is evidence that not everybody is dreaming of white picket fences out there. Someone is actually moving into those downtown lofts! Wired also offers some commentary on the study.

The fallout from Art Leahy's explosive critique of the California High Speed Rail Authority continues to smolder. Leahy's criticism prompted the Authority to vote 6-1 (with Quentin Kopp giving the only dissenting vote) to reconsider a shared-track alternative between Los Angeles and Anaheim. Fullerton Councilman Shawn Nelson wants the state to slow down on high speed rail. Wired takes a different view and states that the biggest obstacle to high-speed rail is misinformation. Clearly, the battle lines have been drawn, with dedicated track supporters making the case that sharing tracks with existing trains, including freight trains, will result in delays and devastating crashes, while shared track advocates claim that dedicated tracks for 110-125 mph high-speed train service is wasteful and unneeded.

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There is a compromise called the expanded shared track alternative as outlined in the LA to Anaheim Alternatives Analysis report. Freight trains would be allocated three dedicated tracks and Metrolink, Amtrak and high-speed passenger trains would be given two. It would be less costly than the dedicated alternative, but offer the flexibility high-speed trains need to thrive by taking relatively slow, lumbering freight trains out of the equation.

Surely this map has something to do with high-speed rail.
The California High Speed Rail Authority has issued a response to criticism generated by its most recent business plan. When asked why Anaheim appears to be a more popular station compared to Los Angeles Union Station, the CHSRA responds that Anaheim has a larger catchment area that is not shared with other stations. The Anaheim station site has relatively good freeway access, making it attractive to those who would park and ride. On the other hand, few are willing to drive to downtown LA and LAUS does not have room for parking expansion. More questions on ridership projections, revenue guarantees and funding expectations are responded to as well.

Another week, another study of some transit corridor approved. This time it is for a North-South busway on Van Nuys Blvd, improved bus service and a rail line in the San Fernando Valley. Bus riders in the valley often complain of long waits for buses and service that ends too early, a sign of the difficulties in providing suburban transit. New routes, better service and improved connections may entice enough people out of their cars to beef up demand for higher levels of service in the region.

Metro will be showing off its underground option at a series of meetings for the Downtown Regional Connector light rail project. The downtown light rail link would fill in a glaring hole in the Metro system, offering a one-seat ride between Pasadena and Long Beach, and Santa Monica and East Los Angeles. The next meetings are at the Japanese American National Museum on April 14 at 6:30 p.m. and at the Los Angeles Theatre Center on April 17 at 11 a.m.

Last week, Bicycling Magazine, the same magazine that paid tribute to the LA D.I.Y. Bike Culture and once declared L.A. the next biketopia, ranked the top fifty bike cities in America. Not surprisingly, Los Angeles did not rank.

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One of the reasons LA always seems behind the curve on bicycling is a criminal justice system that does not protect cyclists. That stereotype will be put to the test with another high-profile bike crash case. In this case, the victim of the hit-and-run, known locally as "Roadblock" is tremendously popular within the local bicycling community. The defendant, Glenn Gritzner is politically connected. The trial started on Tuesday, and will be heavily watched locally.

Meanwhile, cyclists are working to change the political culture with the creation of Political Action Committees that can endorse political candidates. Whether these groups can create an organization quickly enough to influence the spring primaries remains highly doubtful.

A Big Blue Bus.
Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus is next in line for potential fare hikes. The City Council will vote on whether or not to raise the base fare from 75 cents to a $1.25 or $1.50 on April 27. If the vote passes, the new fares will go into effect in August.

South Orange County was hit hard by the recent service cuts enacted by the OCTA. While we like to think of the area as wealthy suburbs, there are plenty of workers, seniors and disabled riders who rely on the bus for personal mobility. The good news is that some of that service may be coming back in the form of community shuttles. The City of Dana Point is considering implementing a shuttle bus route in an attempt to temper traffic and pollution in the area. A rubber-tired trolley would also connect San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point in collaboration between the three cities. In an era where transit agencies are cutting service left and right, it is nice to see cities looking at beefing up local routes.

The 405 Freeway approaching the 55.
Most of Orange County, however, still has highways on the brain. The California Transportation Commission has handed off $357 million to Orange County as part of Proposition 1B and 116 bond sales. While $11.5 million will go to Metrolink service enhancements, the vast majority will be allocated to freeway projects. Interestingly enough, more money will be spent on parking structures for Metrolink than on the Metrolink service itself!

The much-anticipated Kerry-Graham-Lieberman (KGL) clean energy/climate bill is about to be released---probably on Earth Day (April 22) but maybe sooner. This is a major event for the reform community, including livability advocates, since the bill will most likely propose a tax on transportation fuels based on the carbon content of the fuels. There are many issues of concern to various interest groups.

The environmental community, for example, will insist that transportation-related carbon emissions be subject to any cap on total carbon emissions, hence the cap is meaningless. No problem there--the environmental community is also a leader in transportation reform.

The dust-up will probably cover the uses to which the resulting revenues will be allocated. Two letters sent to the KGL leaders were on this point: the first, signed by 26 organizations representing beneficiaries of the present transportation program (not only the highways construction industry but also bike and safe routes to school advocates as well), insisting that all such revenues be placed in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for use on presently funded transportation programs.

The second letter, signed by 43 national transportation reform groups including Transportation For America, wants the funds spent only on transportation projects that reduce carbon emissions and oil consumption, whether the revenues are placed in the HTF or not. Some of these uses, such as support for green transportation technology, would not be funded from the HTF, since those funds would support private sector technology development.

It will be interesting to see if these two groups of interested transportation parties can work out their differences, especially since Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is insisting that all revenues from any carbon tax be rebated to consumers or dedicated to deficit reduction.

The interior of an Amtrak train.
In spite of widespread unemployment and flat gas prices, Amtrak is on course to break ridership records for fiscal year 2010 (which started in October). Every Amtrak rail line saw more passengers last month than a year prior. Amtrak is using the news to justify a funding request to replace its aging fleet. The Acela Express saw a 13% increase, which may be attributable to an improving economy.

The recent Moscow subway bombing has prompted security officials in the United States to propose expensive defense measures of questionable worth (but then again, what else is new). A security expert told them to save their money in a New York Daily News op-ed. Instead, he suggests investing in good old-fashioned investigation and intelligence. He cites the foiled "liquid bombing" plots in 2006 as evidence that intelligence works better than pie-in-the-sky security measures. For transit riders, humiliating security checks or semi-automatic weapons may send many users back to their cars.

The blog Rail for the Valley thinks it's stupid for Vancouver's SkyTrain transit system to install a $171 million fare gate system that costs $15 million a year to operate in order to prevent $4.38 million in fare evasion. Sound familiar?

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 Regional Connector Community Update Meetings:

  • 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.
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.

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

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.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council: Wednesday, May 5, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

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.

Ventura County Transportation Commission: Friday, May 7, 10 a.m., Camarillo City Hall, 601 Carmen Dr., Camarillo.

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

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council: Monday, May 10, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council: Thursday, May 13, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey.

Metro South Bay Governance Council: Friday, May 14, 9:30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board and Committees Meetings: Friday, May 14, 10 a.m., San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, May 15, 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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