Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Monday, July 26, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 30

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.

A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed for All: The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting tomorrow 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.

20 Years of Metro Rail.
As the 20th anniversary of the Blue Line rolls by, the Los Angeles Times traces the history of the route from its Pacific Electric days to its revival. The celebration is not without buzz kills who decry the region's investment in rail transit. USC professor James Moore and transit consultant Tom Rubin claim that the investment in the Metro Rail system lowered total transit ridership and has done nothing to relieve congestion. With all of the factors that affect transit ridership, both endogenous and exogenous, the conviction they place in their positions is astounding.

Moore and Rubin are quick to make a connection between rail investment and lower transit ridership, but appear to ignore exogenous factors such as rising incomes, which usually precipitate automobile ownership (check out developing nations that are seeing auto ownership rates soar as incomes rise). The availability of easy credit made financing a relatively inexpensive Honda Accord a simple affair even for a family mired in poverty. That congestion has increased is no secret to Angelenos, but what would congestion in rail corridors be like if the rail system did not exist? Previously, Caltrans explained that traffic growth on the 101 was the lowest among the region's freeways. The 101 also happens to parallel the heavily used Red Line subway. Could there be a connection?

Inflation-Adjusted Price of Gasoline.
However, the most egregious error Rubin and Moore make is that they fail to account for the fact that between the 1980s and the mid-1990s, the inflation-adjusted price of gas actually decreased, reaching a historic low in the mid-90s. In 1981, the price paid at the pump was about $1.35 a gallon on average, which would equate to $3.24 in 2010 dollars. By 1996, the inflation-adjusted price of gas on average was just under $1.50 per gallon, which coincides with Metro's ridership low of 375 million in that same year. In 2008, however, real gas prices returned to 1981 levels, which coincide with the boost in transit ridership that same year. Since then, gas prices have subsided but Metro Rail ridership has not, maintaining near-record figures. As the reality of cheap gasoline rears its ugly head, we may see the Metro Rail system become even more important in the coming decades. In retrospect, the investment in rail was not one for the present, but for the future.

The Transit Coalition doesn't pretend to know all the answers, but the claims made by Moore and Rubin miss vital information. Furthermore, nothing is said about improvements rail offers in reliability, speed, frequency, capacity and quality of the ride itself, such as smoother acceleration and a less bumpy journey. While we love bus service, it is difficult to imagine how doubling the amount of highly-subsidized, relatively unattractive buses is more cost-effective than rail investment. The bus and the train each have a place in LA County and we hope that both modes are exploited for maximum benefit.

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The CPUC is expected to rule in favor of a new Farmdale station for the Expo Line.
The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to finally approve the most disputed Expo Line crossing at their hearing on Thursday. The final outcome will consist of a near-side split-platform station at Farmdale. Trains will not be allowed to exceed 15 mph until the cab of the car has cleared the intersection. The station will also be equipped with pedestrian gates, quad gates, flashers and bells. During the hours of 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 4 p.m., Expo Line ambassadors will be on location to direct pedestrian traffic and report unsafe behavior. We hope this puts to rest the issue of the Farmdale crossing and that the future station is well-used by students, faculty and the community alike.

By the way, construction of Phase 1 is well underway and you can view the latest construction photos on The Transit Coalition forums. We can't wait to see the contractor get started on the Farmdale Station. If you can't wait to ride Phase 2 before it opens sometime in 2015, take a ride with this excellent video of the current Expo Line right-of-way.

West LA College officials, as part of an effort to counter noise complaints from neighbors, decided to end transit service directly onto campus. This has ramifications for disabled bus riders who wish to maintain mobility and independence around the campus. The action was taken without public input. Here is a college official's response to a bus rider's inquiry about the changes. It appears that the college kowtowed to a gaggle of homeowners without giving an opportunity for the public to comment on a decision that impacts a vital public transportation service. The Transit Coalition has recommended to the Los Angeles Community College District that bus service immediately be restored to the campus. We'll update you on this story as it develops.

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on a bike.
All eyes remained on the Mayor following his bicycle crash after a cabbie cut him off while riding on Venice Boulevard. Villaraigosa admitted that he hadn't ridden in a couple of years, and let the cab driver who caused the crash off the hook declaring, " it was unsafe, but it wasn't illegal." Not sure how merging without using a signal or yielding to vehicles with the right of way isn't illegal...

Following the Mayor's bicycle mishap, the cycling community was both encouraged to hear the Mayor say "Bikes Belong" and then discouraged when he said "It wasn't the careless motorist's fault." Meeting with the Mayor's office to follow up on the missed opportunity to move forward, Stephen Box submitted a list of 10 things that the Mayor can do immediately to make Los Angeles an even better place to ride a bike.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition sent the mayor a get-well-soon card with some suggestions on how to improve bike safety in the city.

The Los Angeles City Bike Plan.
Also, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition sent the mayor a get well soon card with some suggestions on how to improve bike safety in the city.

The City of Los Angeles hosted a pair of online seminars on the Draft Bike Plan. In the run-up to the meeting, two veteran bike advocates weighed in. Both Bike Oven founder Josef Bray-Ali and Bike Coalition Founder Joe Linton describe the plan as better than previous drafts, but still in need of some work.

Los Angeles' 30/10 plan is being debated over at the National Journal, a blog in which experts and insiders discuss transportation-related issues. "Should the feds front the money for transportation projects?" asks the Journal. King of all 30/10 Supporters Joel Epstein offers up a response near the bottom of the page.

In his latest LA CityWatch article, Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern tackles the Bundy Village project and parking at the future Westwood/Exposition Expo Line station. In another article, Alpern takes a look at what's happening in the United States from a Canadian point of view.

In the Inland Empire, the Riverside Transit Agency Board of Directors approved the reconfiguration of the bus routes in the La Sierra area of the City of Riverside while adopting suggestions made by The Transit Coalition. The changes take effect on September 12. Don't forget that all RTA public committee and board meetings in August are dark.

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Riverside Transit Agency
RTA's Transportation NOW has a new local chapter, hoping to bring about multi modal transportation options to the now car-dependent Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Wildomar and Canyon Lake areas. It has grown to more than 20 members, including public officials. TNOW has been an advocate and enthusiastic supporter of public transportation in Riverside County.

Whatever the problems may be, several Southland cities have been the targets of bad news lately, but that's not stopping residents and city staff from working hard to maintain community, rebuild their economies from this recession, and sustain quality of life.

In light of the recent riff raff brought up on the local news, cities are working tirelessly to shake off the negative press. The City of Moreno Valley has been proactive in bringing justice to the family of a 17-year-old homicide victim while working hard to prevent a repeat of such a horrendous crime against life. This city is also working to transform its blighted corridors into safe, livable communities. The City of Hemet's redevelopment efforts with its historic downtown promises to make its region safer and more transit friendly, while the City of Bell's recently developed Camp Little Bear Park continues to offer a positive and entertaining environment for its children.

For the first time a bill has been introduced to create a national freight program. To this point there has been no national freight program or specific national policy. The only federal transportation money that states can spend to improve throughput or operations at ports, intermodal facilities and freight corridors across the country is highway money. That's it.

Schuyler Heim Bridge in Terminal Island.
Therefore, if a port is congested or wants to expand, there's no available federal money to spend directly on rail or any other mode. The only choices are highways or more highways. When a state or port does spend to improve operations, there is no accountability to make sure they're actually reducing port/freight congestion, moving freight faster, or putting any percentage of it on railroads vs. highways.

Under this program states would be able to use money for rail facilities, intelligent freight management systems, and port improvement projects that would achieve the following: Reduce delays of goods and commodities entering into and out of intermodal connectors that serve international points of entry on an annual basis; increase travel time reliability on major freight corridors that connect major population centers with freight generators and international gateways on an annual basis; reduce by 10 percent the number of freight transportation-related fatalities by 2015; reduce national freight transportation-related carbon dioxide levels by 40 percent by 2030; and reduce freight transportation-related air, water, and noise pollution and impacts on ecosystems and communities on an annual basis.

Transportation for America supports this bill as a step to create an integrated, safe, and clean freight transportation network that will reduce the public health costs of air pollution and help to ensure that, as trade continues to grow and become a larger part of our economy, there are more options besides putting it on the increasing numbers of trucks that contribute so much to congestion and wear and tear on our highways and roads.

This Thursday, July 29, railLA will open an exhibit called " LA Beyond Cars" that showcases a vision of Los Angeles that is less reliant on automobiles. The exhibit will be held at the City National Bank Plaza at 525 S. Flower St. in Downtown Los Angeles through August 28. On July 30, railLA will be hosting a panel discussion called " Transformational Transportation: Los Angeles on a High-Speed Recovery Track." Panelists will include Richard Katz, Ed Reyes among others. The cost is $95 for general admission and $25 for students. AIA and APA members pay $50.

Finally, the Alameda Corridor is a 20 mile long trenched railroad that allows freight trains a quick, grade-separated journey to the ports. Currently under construction is the sequel, the Alameda Corridor East project, which is a collection of trenches, grade separations and other improvements that reduce the impact of mile-long freight trains rumbling through the San Gabriel Valley. The ACE newsletter keeps you up to date on all the latest developments, including the San Gabriel Trench and the Nogales grade separation project.

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!

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., Hollywood Neighborhood City Hall, Community Room, 6501 Fountain Ave., Hollywood.

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 Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority: Wednesday, August 12, 7 p.m., Arcadia City Hall, Council Chambers 240 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia.

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.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Meeting: Friday, August 27, 10 a.m., San Bernardino Conference Room, SCAG Building, 12th Floor, 818 W. Seventh 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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