Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 31

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.

Guten tag: The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, August 24. 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 June meeting with Art Leahy and the latest July video featuring Dennis Allen, Executive Director of LA Streetcar. See Upcoming Events below for detailsSee Upcoming Events below for details.

HSR Corridors across the country.
After a couple of quiet weeks, high-speed rail and all the controversy that goes with it is back in the news. Nationally, a writer from TIME Magazine gets the big picture right. While 220 mph rail projects sound sexy, large gains in speed and ridership can be gained by removing bottlenecks on some of our nation's most congested rail corridors. The article also stresses the importance of connecting transit at the destination, the lack of which led Florida's high-speed train planners to receive a scolding from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood many months ago. Finally, the story concludes that upgrading the nation's rail infrastructure is about giving Americans more transportation options.

Here in California, a poll commissioned by the California High Speed Rail Authority is being spun by both supporters and opponents alike. Proponents of the current high-speed rail proposal say that the poll proves that Californians support the project, while the California Majority Report claims that the poll proves exactly the opposite. Meanwhile, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters and CHSRA Deputy Executive Director Jeff Barker had a brief public spat over high-speed rail ticket costs (Barker posted a response in the comments section). CHSRA board member Quentin Kopp was also questioned on costs by KAWL News. That private investors haven't materialized yet is giving critics more ammo, but the Rail Authority says that investors will not step forward until the environmental review work is complete. Amidst the hope and the hype, Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern offers his own view. Finally, the CHSRA has announced its intentions to apply for another billion in federal funding, with commentators speculating on where the money should go.

Build 12 New Projects in 10 Years Instead of 30.
Los Angeles County's 30/10 plan is now a national story. It had to happen since 30/10 is an unprecedented plan to build 30 years worth of transit projects in just a decade by borrowing from the federal government and using Measure R sales tax receipts as collateral. The plan is being closely watched by other government leaders because, if successful, 30/10 may serve as a model for financing emerging transit systems across the country. Because Los Angeles County is putting up its own money, we are in a better position to secure federal funds than other counties, according to Martin Wachs of the Rand Corp. MoveLA has a big rally for 30/10 jobs on Friday, Aug. 13 on the South Lawn of LA City Hall at noon with the goal of putting LA back to work.

Old rail is being torn out.
The first Measure R project to enter construction is the 4-mile Orange Line Busway Extension from Woodland Hills to Chatsworth. The corridor can kindly be described as an eyesore, but the scheduled 2012 opening should transform this area into a visual delight with lush landscaping and a parallel bike path. Now, getting increased Metrolink service on a clock headway from Chatsworth to Los Angeles and Orange County has to be a key priority to complete San Fernando Valley mobility.

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Rail advocates often stress the importance of robust train schedules that include midday service. Travelers on Amtrak's Piedmont in North Carolina are learning first-hand what a couple of afternoon trains can do. Since adding two midday trains in June to the four that were already operating, ridership on the route has increased 200%. It's not surprising that when you offer more flexible options to travelers, ridership jumps. Could there be more latent demand on this route that could justify a few more trains? Are there any routes you can think of in Southern California that have the demand, but not the service?

Older rail on the Farmdale Avenue crossing.
As expected, the Expo Line grade crossing at Farmdale Ave. has been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. Supporters are hopeful that the action puts the controversy over the disputed crossing to rest once and for all. Just as expected, FixExpo has commented that any decision can be reversed with an appeal.

In our last newsletter, we told you about the ousting of bus service off the campus of West LA Community College. After numerous complaints, including an inquiry by The Transit Coalition and other local transit advocates, Betsy Regalado, Acting President of the college, has written a letter to Culver City requesting that bus service be reinstated to the campus. At the Culver City Council meeting on Monday, August 2, 2010, Vice Mayor Micheál (Mehaul) O'Leary announced that the city council discussed during closed session the termination of bus service to West Los Angeles College. O'Leary said that the council sees the need to resume service and that they will discuss with the college the arrangements for its restoration. Bart Reed, Executive Director of The Transit Coalition, thanked the city council for their consideration of the matter and Faramarz Nabavi, TTC Legislative Director noted the timeliness of this discussion, given the need to restore service prior to the start of the fall academic session at the college on August 30, 2010.

The Riverside Orange Corridor Authority will decide whether to shelve the $8.6 billion TriTunnel Express project on August 27 since its meeting was cancelled last Friday. The highway project faces the expensive price tag, lack of private investment and technical hurdles. The Transit Coalition again urges those interested in improving mobility between the Los Angeles, Orange County, and Riverside County areas to get behind and support the Metrolink Simplified Network and improved bus service as cost-effective alternatives.

The bus stops here.
The Transit Coalition Community Engagement Director Nicholas Ventrone once again had a chance to ride along a local bus route in Temecula and see what bus riders have to deal with every day: Excessively long trip times for even some of the shortest distance trips. For instance, a short 3 mile trip between a local Wal-Mart and the city library takes 50 minutes plus time waiting at the bus stop. Ventrone has been active in presenting routing and funding suggestions to RTA to streamline the existing bus lines and make them more reliable. After sharing TTC's ideas such as integrating the local service with the regional connectors to the bus riders, and even to the driver at a layover zone, most interviewees supported the idea and several wished the restructure could happen very soon (bus stop photo by Wad).

Los Angeles City Council candidate Stephen Box is calling on the mayor to support LA's bike backbone and has outlined ten steps for him to do so. Among them include a call for more bicycle parking, educational outreach and commitment to a cyclists' bill of rights. Box is running for the LA City Council in District 4. In his current CityWatch article, Box tells how the Mayor hit the ground and missed opportunities to get appropriate post-crash behavior from Antonio.

Watch transit service implode with the help of Transit News Watch's weekly newsletter. This week, read about Caltrain's upcoming service cuts caused by the elimination of state transit assistance funds, cuts at AC Transit and a report that concludes it will take $80 billion to bring the nation's transit system into a state of good repair. Fun stuff.

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A month ago, the Bay Area began its first experiment with congestion pricing and it appears to be having the expected effect based on early results. During rush hour, tolls on the Bay Bridge rose from $4 to $6 during 5-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. Since then, traffic on the bridge has decreased while BART has reported an increase in ridership, although it might also be explained by labor issues being experienced by AC Transit.

Speaking of price increases, it is more than bus and rail. Domestic airfares across the United States have increased nearly 5% in 2010 over the same period in 2009, but when adjusted for inflation the average round-trip fare is 25% lower than that same period in 1999. Of course the bonus fees that topped $7.8 billion in 2009 were not calculated, so if you don't check bags, buy snacks, change reservations or rent pillows or blankets, be assured that others are paying. Next fee: toilet use.

A busy crosswalk.
Last week's announcement that Congress will not seek to enact climate legislation makes passing an aggressive federal transportation bill that focuses investment on transportation infrastructure that reduces air and climate change pollution and reduces our dependence on oil. In the absence of climate change legislation our transportation policy becomes our de facto climate change policy.

According to every measure and metric, Americans want more and cleaner transportation options. Surveys commissioned by the National Association of Realtors found more than half of respondents want to live in a neighborhood where they can walk and access public transportation, but the number of communities that meet that standard are far lower than 50 percent. In another bipartisan poll of American voters, 75 percent said increased transit options would "help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil." A new transportation bill that expands options for safe, clean, affordable transportation would go a long ways towards achieving these goals and reducing the toxic and climate change emissions that threaten our health, environment, and economic security.

Old train depots are getting a new lease on life as preservationists restore defunct rail facilities across the nation, transforming them into museums and other community assets. Some refurbished depots, which operated during the era of segregation, feature exhibits meant to educate the public about that shameful period in America's past. Here in Southern California there remain many old depots that continue to operate as restaurants, schools and yes, even train stations.

Last week, railLA hosted its first exhibition, LA Beyond Cars, and its first panel discussion, Transformational Transportation, and both events were a great success. The buzz about railLA is growing and we need to continue producing these great events about high-speed trains and the California High-Speed Rail project. The exhibition is open to the public until Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010, so please make sure to tell everyone to come down between 10 a.m.-7 p.m. to see it. This is railLA opportunity to not only show the world what we can do, but to start the process of creating an alternative vision of our future with high-speed trains.

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, August 24, 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 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.

Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority: Thursday, August 12 Wednesday, August 25, 7 p.m., Arcadia City Hall, Council Chambers 240 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia.

Metro Measure R Project Delivery Committee: Thursday, August 26, 10 a.m., Board Room, Metro Gateway Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, 3rd Floor, Los Angeles.

Foothill Transit Executive Board: Friday, August 27, 8 a.m., 100 S. Vincent Ave., 2nd floor, West Covina.

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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