Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 29

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.

Come And Join Us: The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting this coming Tuesday, July 27, featuring a presentation from Dennis Allen, Executive Director of LA Streetcar. Also, the July 2010 issue of Moving Southern California is now available online with new features and news, as are past issues. Here is a video clip of our last meeting. See Upcoming Events below for details.

Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman.
The numbers are in and Metro Rail ridership is soaring. The number of riders who took the train in June 2010 was 7.5% higher than in June 2009. The Red Line nearly broke its own ridership record despite stabilizing gas prices and lingering unemployment. Due mostly to the Eastside Extension, the Gold Line broke its record with just over 37,000 average weekday boardings, suggesting that riders have found a use for the new extension. While ridership tends to tick upwards in the summer, these increases probably cannot be explained by seasonal effects alone. The Green and Blue Lines also showed increases over the year prior. Ridership on the bus system remains stable.

Two weeks ago, a Blue Line train struck a police cruiser in Long Beach. Early reports indicated that the operator ran a red light, injuring one police officer. Metro is now backing up those early reports with their own brief report. It's unclear at this point whether the operator will be fired. While most Blue Line accidents are caused by negligence on the part of pedestrians and drivers, this incident is one of the few in which an operator is at fault. The investigation is ongoing.

Cyclists smiled at the news that, yes, Mayor Villaraigosa knows how to ride a bicycle, which he did in an event on Friday. On Saturday, he was involved in his first bike crash. A taxi cut off the Mayor and his security detail causing the Mayor to slam on his brakes, which knocked him off his bike. The Mayor's elbow was broken and he had surgery on Sunday. The Mayor's case illustrates how difficult cyclists have it on the streets. Contrary to earlier reports, the Mayor and the cabbie did exchange information. Candidate for City Council District 4 Stephen Box issued a press release calling for efforts to make our streets safer for all road users.

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The Huffington Post's Joel Epstein is the "King of all 30/10 Supporters" and wants you to write your Congressperson and sign a petition supporting the unprecedented proposal to build 30 years worth of transit projects in just a decade. Epstein is also musing on what it would take to get Hollywood to embrace public transportation.

Move L.A.
Metro CEO Arthur T. Leahy, who is known to do radical behaviors such as riding transit in Los Angeles, was featured in a profile in the July issue of Los Angeles Magazine.

City of Riverside residents, students, and workers: Would you like better public transit? The City is in the process of surveying Metrolink and Riverside Transit Agency customers to gather information on their travel patterns. The City is interested, through a survey, on whether commuters will be likely to use additional services.

The Riverside County Transportation Commission
Speaking of better transit service for Riverside folks, The Riverside Transit Agency is still accepting comments for planned route reconfigurations for the La Sierra area through this Thursday. The Transit Coalition submitted position statements last week.

Now is the time to get on board with The Transit Coalition's Metrolink MAX and the Simplified Network. With the construction costs of the planned highway upgrades in the Inland Empire going through the roof, perhaps modest track and state-of-the-art service upgrades along the existing Metrolink corridor between LA, Orange County, Riverside, and San Bernardino combined with smart growth investments from the private sector aren't such a bad idea after all.

Riverside County Transportation Commission officials, who questioned the financial feasibility of the planned 91 Express Toll Lane extension earlier this month are now considering shelving the TriTunnel Express project, the proposed highway tunnel that would connect the Corona Dos Lagos area to Irvine via the SR-133 Toll Road under the Santa Ana Mountains.

What about the public-private partnership idea? No interest yet. Since the project is too expensive and construction expected to take a decade, no private investor is interested in investing the nearly $18 billion and not getting any return until at least 2020. What about upgrading the Ortega Highway between Lake Elsinore and San Juan Capistrano to four lanes? Earlier in the decade, OCTA found it environmentally prohibitive to transform the Ortega Highway into a four lane expressway when the agency conducted its Major Investment Study for SR-91. That leaves upgrading the existing rail and bus lines between the counties.

In the development world, downsizing, austerity and repurposing seem to be the order of the day. The Los Angeles Times reports that penthouse floors are vacant in some of the best office buildings in Los Angeles County, a sign of the troubled economic times and the gulf between asking prices and what tenants are willing to pay. Westfield, which has a huge project called The Village just south of Topanga Plaza, switched from a mixed use project with housing and retail to a downsized big box Costco after the project slowed down with the recession. A large community meeting is scheduled for July 28. Opposition to the Bundy Village and Medical Park in West L.A. has forced the developer to delay an LA City Council vote.

The twin Ports of LA and LB are continuing to show slow signs of recovery. Over the last 2 1/2 years, the mix of goods handled at the ports has fluctuated wildly. Container traffic has dropped and liquid freight and dry bulk shipments have almost held steady. The Times reports that demand at the twin port complex in June also prompted the hiring of hundreds of part-time workers. But experts warn that the upswing could weaken in the coming months.

Airport security check courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration.
The new Chief of the Transportation Security Administration is setting his sights on mass transit. Though he is sparse on details, John Pistole has said that "some terrorist groups see rail and subways as being more vulnerable because there's not the type of screening that you find in aviation." Is it too early to come to conclusions that Pistole is advocating for the impossible task of screening every rail rider through airline-style security? Pistole continued, stating that he wants to take the TSA to the "next level." Whatever that level is, what will the impact be to ridership and civil liberties? Will we see more rail fans detained for taking photos on platforms? Will you miss your train because you had to take off your shoes at a subway security checkpoint? Without more details, we simply do not know yet.

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We here at The Transit Coalition do not hate driving. Far from it! We love driving since the government gives us such a great deal on it. In fact, we now pay the lowest tax rate on gas since 1929, 46 cents for every $100 of our income. The amount of tax you pay on average for every 1,000 miles of travel is only $19. The biggest suspects that are taking a bite out of the gas tax are inflation and fuel efficient vehicles. We are driving more and paying less, which means deteriorating infrastructure. While the public is cold on gas tax hikes, organizations such as the American Trucking Associations and AAA support higher taxes on gasoline. Raising the gas tax about a dime would only pay to maintain current highway quality (i.e. no new highways). Raising the tax 25 cents would generate $305 billion for new construction. Without a higher gas tax, funding for highways will have to come from other sources.

As the price tag from the BP oil spill continues to rise now projected to be at least $37 billion for clean-up and damages U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley has released a bill titled the Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act. Much of the bill focuses on the usual strategies of progressively increasing the fuel efficiency of passenger vehicles, reducing the use of oil to heat buildings, and developing cleaner fuel technologies such as electric cars. Thankfully though, the bill also emphasizes greater investments in the transportation infrastructure that gives Americans affordable alternatives to driving.

The bill also emphasizes directing resources and funds to regions that plan for moving people, not cars, and reducing dependence on oil. This includes greater investment in buses, light rail, subways, streetcars, and bike lanes and walkable communities. It also includes investment in intercity high-speed rail and increasing the amount of freight that is moved by train as opposed to trucks. Without these investments, the reductions in oil use that come from more fuel-efficient cars will be erased as more cars drive more miles due to population growth and unabated urban sprawl. Transportation for America is supporting the Merkely bill and its investment in a 21st century transportation system.

Last week we reported a story in the Los Angeles Times about Lee Wesley Gibson, who was thought to be the oldest living Pullman porter. Gibson began with the Union Pacific in 1936 as a first-class passenger attendant. The job helped pull him and his family into the middle-class. At 100-years-old, he is one of the last Pullman porters in the country. But wait, the Times found a 105-year-old Southern California man, Ben Isaacs who fondly recalls his days as a Pullman porter. Nothing like seniority!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Blue Line
Finally, be sure to take another look at MetroRiderLA, a transit blog that is back from a long sabbatical and bursting with new content. The blog was formally headed by Fred Camino before he joined Metro. Recent highlights include commentaries on the Blue Line and the Gold Line, as well as an attempt to shed some light on why the Ninja Turtles hijacked a Blue Line train.

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, July 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 Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority: Wednesday, July 21, 7 p.m., Arcadia City Hall, Council Chambers 240 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia Construction Authority Offices, Conference Room, 406 Wast Huntington Drive, Suite 202, Monrovia. LOCATION CHANGE FOR THIS MONTH ONLY!

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

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

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

LOSSAN Joint Powers Board: Wednesday, July 28, 11:30 a.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

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

Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee: Tuesday, August 3, 7 p.m., location to be determined.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council Public Input Hearing: Wednesday, August 4, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, August 5, 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, August 5, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

OCTA Board Meeting: Monday, August 9 and 23, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council Meeting and Public Hearing: Monday, August 9, 5 p.m., 3369 Santa Anita Ave. (near El Monte bus station), El Monte.

Metro Westside/Central Service Change Public Hearing: Wednesday, August 11, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council Meeting and Public Input Hearing: Thursday, August 12, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey.

Metro South Bay Governance Council Public Input Hearing: Friday, August 13, 9:30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, August 14, 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:
Bart Reed, Executive Director
Mina Nichols, Legislative Analyst

Zach Gutierrez, Communications
Damien Newton, Editor

About The Transit Coalition:
The Transit Coalition is a non-profit public charity exempt from federal income tax under Section 501[c](3) of the Internal Revenue Service. Our 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.

As a grass roots group, we depend upon your contributions to allow us to pursue our important work.
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