Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 34

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.

Buon giorno! The Transit Coalition will host its monthly Dinner Meeting tonight, Tuesday, August 24, featuring an update on the Los Angeles-Palmdale segment on the state high-speed rail project. Also, the August 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 details.

Metro Turnstyles
Anybody who is a regular Metro Rail rider is well aware of our yet-to-be-activated fare gates which just completed final installation. The $154 million turnstiles, implemented after dubious claims that they would prevent $13 million in fare evasion per year, currently function as very expensive paperweights. The holdup, according to Metro, is being caused by problems that surfaced after a rushed implementation of TAP. While Metro has gone full speed ahead on TAP, other transit agencies have been slow to adopt the smartcards. Officials responsible for TAP did not anticipate a situation in which a high percentage of riders are not equipped with TAP cards. Paper passes are incompatible with the new turnstiles. There is also the issue of what to do with thousands of Metrolink riders that transfer to Metro Rail every day using their own paper passes. It is not likely that the fare gates will be locked anytime soon and some transit advocates have suggested that the program be scrapped altogether. The truth about misleading assumptions and incomplete cost analyses that was in the report Metro jammed through the Board in early 2008 was completely recognized and the Board was warned in an analysis of the report by transit industry professional Richard Stanger. Metro issued a statement in reply to the Sunday Daily News TAP article.

We have received word that Culver CityBus service will return to the campus of West Los Angeles College on Monday, August 30, just in time for the beginning of the fall semester. We hope you don't mind if we toot our own horn, but The Transit Coalition was instrumental in pushing for the return of this service while other transit advocates sat on the sidelines. You might want to consider making a tax deductible donation to our nonprofit public charity to support our valuable work protecting the vulnerable and making Southern California better.

A Better Commute.
Tim Rutten, OpEd Columnist for the Los Angeles Times says that 30/10 is " too good to wait." The most promising aspect of 30/10 is the potential to save $4 billion by completing projects sooner rather than later with the help of federal loans. Also, by accelerating 12 crucial transit projects specified in the measure, 30/10 will create jobs at a time when they are needed the most. Support is widespread, from the U.S. Conference of Mayors to President Obama, who called 30/10 a national template for transit expansion. It's time for Congress to get on the ball and pass the legislation necessary to enable 30/10 to happen. On the other hand, the Legal Planet blog, a collaboration between Berkeley Law and UCLA Law, says that we shouldn't get too hung up on 30/10, and perhaps a 30/15 or 30/20 initiative may also prove desirable.

FLASH --> This is the last few days left to visit railLA's " LA Beyond Cars" exhibit. The closing night party is Friday at 6 p.m. It runs through Saturday, August 28 at the City National Plaza in Downtown LA. The entrance is actually at 524 S. Figueroa. So much for good pedestrian directions. The street address given is great for motorists parking under the building, but this is a good example of poor ped wayfinding in our vast metropolis. -- --> Back to 30/10.

BRU Halloween Protest.
Unsurprisingly, the Bus Riders Union, whose members are seen here riding the subway, opposes 30/10. In a reality-bending document addressed to U.S. Representative Grace Napolitano, the BRU claims that accelerating 12 Measure R transit projects would have adverse effects on the bus system. The group claims that the "MTA Board and staff sit cold and heartless and say they have a budget shortfall after asking the same low income people to pay cent more in sales taxto the MTA." What the BRU fails to mention is that when Los Angeles County voters were asked to pay a cent more for rail, bus and highway funding over the next 30 years, 67% of them said yes. From Malibu to Compton to East LA to Santa Monica, Measure R enjoyed broad support. 30/10 only helps fulfill the will of the voters that much faster, using an estimated $40 billion in sales tax revenue as collateral. A thorough response to the Bus Riders Union letter can be read in our official rebuttal sent to Congressmember Napolitano.

At the end of the day, however, the Bus Riders Union's claim that they do not intend to maintain an adversarial relation with Metro as stated in their letter, contradict their own actions. At a recent board meeting, members of the BRU were so disruptive that other speakers were denied an opportunity to make their own voices heard. Coasting on a victory won long ago, the BRU's influence continues to wane. Their amateurish public displays look less like transit advocacy and more like a Halloween party. The BRU's stated mission, to fight for better bus service, sounds good at first glance; we would be on board if not for strict adherence to a bus-only ideology (even when rail can provide superior capacity and speed at lower cost), something BRU members find out if they fail to tow the party line.

At our Transit Coalition dinner meetings, we invite transit advocates with a wide range of viewpoints, from industry professionals, transit planners, anti-rail advocates and the foamiest of the foamers. We even leave some room for personal rapid transit boosters. We don't always agree with what Metro does, but we also have the decency to speak up when we feel they are doing something right. We like to think that this attitude sets us apart from many advocates. No matter how intense the arguments get, we'll come together, shake hands and argue some more.

Help us out. Please donate!

The high-speed rail project is giving the public a chance to get a look at some alternatives for the Palmdale to Los Angeles section of the project, so consider attending one of these community open houses. The next will take place in Burbank at the Buena Vista Public Library at 6:30 p.m. on August 25. The other will be held in Santa Clarita at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex at 7 p.m. on August 26.

A town hall was hosted by Transportation for America, along with coalition partners Move San Diego, the Rails to Trails Conservancy and CALPIRG on Thursday, August 19 at San Diego State University to examine the role of the next federal transportation bill in job creation, economic development, public health and the environment. Speakers and panelists included Congressman Bob Filner, Mike McKeever the head of SACOG, Charlie Gandy the Mobility Coordinator from Long Beach, Jim Sallis, Professor of Active Living Research at SDSU and Reed Vickerman from Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. Over 100 local elected leaders, transportation advocates, and professionals attended the event to listen and voice their concerns about the next bill.

Overwhelmingly, the theme that defined the dialogue was a need for the next federal bill to focus on performance based planning linked to accountability and an increase in transit funding. Attendees repeatedly stressed that regions with long-term transportation plans emphasizing smart land-use planning with specific goals and benchmarks such as reducing vehicle miles traveled, air pollution, and combined housing and transportation costs while increasing transit trips are some of the goals and objectives that should be included as policy in the next federal bill. Doing so, while increasing the share of funds allocated to expanding transit networks, will enable states, regions, and cities to create a safe, clean, efficient, and affordable transportation system while spurring sustainable economic development.

Metro Bike Summit
LA Mayor and highest ranking cyclist, Antonio Villaraigosa hosted an LA city sponsored "Bike Summit" in the Metro Board Room this past Monday, August 16 , drawing an expectant crowd of about 300 cyclists. Most of the Summit featured concerns by cyclists, all eager to hear of the Mayor's new-found sensitivity to riders on the streets and they brought a laundry list of complaints about the city and the state of cycling. When the Mayor took the microphone, he outlined his program to make the streets safer for cyclists: implementing the bike plan, educating drivers, CicLAvia and pushing for a state law requiring all cyclists to wear helmets.

Ultimately, the impact of the Summit remains to be seen. In many ways it was a success just because so many cyclists came together, some from as far as San Pedro and Sunland, to address safety on the streets. On the other hand, the "summit" consisted of an open mic of a limited number of individuals; several groups who have supported the Mayor's transportation agenda since the beginning, such as The Transit Coalition and Sierra Club, were not given an opportunity to speak. Following the Summit, many cyclists took a " lets wait and see" approach to the Mayor's promises, while others were outraged by the focus on bike helmets. One group went so far as to state that the Mayor was declaring war. The next move is up to the Mayor but he needs to be specific about what he is going to do. Promises of long-term plans fail to inspire when there is so much he could do today to change the world. We recommend that the Mayor work with the Bicycle Advisory Committee and other stakeholder groups for summit follow-up.

Across the pond a new debate has broken out: was the Mayor's bike crash an Act of God? Meanwhile, two City Councilmen added their own bike safety ideas into the pile. Councilmember Bill Rosendahl suggested pushing for a state law requiring a three foot passing minimum for cars overtaking cyclists. Meanwhile, Councilmember Tom LaBonge wanted improvements made to city staircases.

Some good news in the San Fernando Valley for cyclists. Three new miles of bike lanes have appeared on city streets, with more coming. However, LADOT appears to have repeated some of the same sharrow design flaws from Fountain Ave. LADOT should apply the input cycling advocates have given regarding sharrow design to minimize the potential for accidents (and city liability), rather than taking the position that because the pilot study has been launched, all the current sharrow pilots have to be implemented with the same clearly flawed design.

Tomorrow, Wednesday L.A. Streetsblog celebrates with a party/fundraiser in West L.A.

The Route 66 legacy of connectivity continues to resonate in East Hollywood, bringing the community together in a street revitalization campaign initiated by the Neighborhood Council and involving Metro, City Hall, local businesses, residents and transit passengers. LA's Santa Monica Boulevard section of Route 66 had long ago fallen victim to multi-jurisdictional oversight and disconnect, all of which changed when the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council turned a crisis on the streets into an opportunity for the rebirth of Route 66.

Help us out. Please donate!

It's no doubt that Inland Empire commuters like to rideshare given the high volumes of carpools and busy commuter buses and trains. Bicycle riding is also on the rise with the boom of additional bikeways through intercity coordination. According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Press Enterprise, bicycle commuting has increased 25% from the past decade.

Don't forget that the 4th Thursday RTA Board of Directors meeting is dark in August as the same with LA County Metro. The RTA Board will meet again on September 23rd. Be sure to check out A Better Inland Empire site for links to recent Transit Coalition positions regarding the recent transit service changes within the Inland Empire.

Veterans Administration building station.
Should Purple Line trains stop at a station at the Veterans Administration building in West Los Angeles? Supporters say that a stop would be a boon for VA workers and patients while opponents of a stop say that the location isn't very pedestrian friendly. The official Metro blog recently held an informal poll about the station and found that 34.8% of respondents say that they would use a VA station. Another 38.6% say they want a station built but admit they won't use it. Finally, 26.6% suggest no station be built. Remember, these informal polls do not have any influence on where the stations are constructed. That's what the environmental studies are for.

The New York Times has taken notice of the 405 construction pains happening between the Valley and West LA. This has led Robert Poole over at the Reason Foundation to lament that there are no good alternatives to the 405. Poole writes, "We really do need more than just two routes between these two major portions of the city, and we need them sooner rather than later." We agree. How about a rail line that whisks you from the San Fernando Valley to West LA in about 6 minutes under the Santa Monica Mountains? All that digging wouldn't disturb the parking lot on the 405. We're not quite so sure Mr. Poole would like that idea, though. The funding for such a Rail Tunnel is part of Measure R and Metro is gearing up to evaluate how to best serve the 405 Parking Lot Corridor.

Interested in becoming a "density lobbyist?" Find out what you can do to become a member of the World Wide Transit Cabal at The Overhead Wire blog. The Office of Density Integration would be happy to accept your help in achieving their goal of taking over the world with affordable TOD. There might even be a free beer in it for you!

Parking in Downtown Los Angeles is about to go high-tech. 10,000 new meters will be installed that allow credit card transactions but will also accept trusty old coins. In addition to new meters, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation will experiment with a new program called ExpressPark, which will utilize pavement sensors to keep track of parked cars in real-time while signs direct drivers cruising for a parking spot to an open space. The goal is to reduce the number of drivers cruising for parking spots, reducing congestion and air pollution in the process. Parking prices will also be adjusted dynamically so that a parking space can always be found for those willing to pay. Those not willing to pay are expected to take public transportation or other alternative means. UCLA professor Donald Shoup, a major proponent of parking pricing, says that the ExpressParking test will put Los Angeles in the lead when it comes to managing curb parking.

A private bus company is picking up the slack in New York after the MTA made service cuts that left some riders hanging in Brooklyn. Before free-market boosters start celebrating, it should be known that the operator serving Brooklyn has been dinged with numerous safety violations and has $9,100 worth of outstanding violations, from worn out tires to unqualified drivers. We would applaud any private operator that is successful enough to make a profit and change the tires on their buses.

And finally, Richard Risemberg, in an OpEd piece in the Los Angeles Business Journal, suggests the admittedly radical idea of tearing down the entire 710 freeway. We're not quite sure if we entirely agree with the idea, but it sure is a bold statement to make!

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

Streetsblog Los Angeles Party / Fundraiser: Wednesday, August 25, 7 p.m., St. Andrew's Church, 11555 National Blvd., West L.A.

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.

Metro San Fernando Valley Governance Council Meeting: Wednesday, September 1, 6:30 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority: Thursday, September 2, 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, September 2, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, Los Angeles.

Metro Westside/Central Service Governance Council Meeting: Wednesday, September 8, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

LOSSAN Technical Advisory Committee: Thursday, September 9, 11:30 a.m., Metro Gateway Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, 3rd Floor, Los Angeles.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council Meeting: Thursday, September 9, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey.

Metro South Bay Governance Council Meeting: Friday, September 10, 9:30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

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

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, September 11, 1 p.m.

OCTA Board Meeting: Monday, September 13 and 27, 9 a.m., OCTA Headquarters, 600 S. Main St., Orange.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council Meeting: Monday, September 13, 5 p.m., City Hall East, Council Chambers, 11333 Valley Blvd., El Monte.

Metro Committee Meetings: Wednesday and Thursday, September 15 and 16, Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles.

LOSSAN Joint Powers Board: Wednesday, September 22, 11:30 a.m., San Luis Obispo.

Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, September 23, 9:30 a.m., Board Room, Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Riverside Transit Agency: Thursday, September 23, 2 p.m., Board of Supervisors Conference Room, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon Street, 1st floor, Riverside.

Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee: Tuesday, October 5, 7 p.m., location to be determined.

Missed last week's newsletter? Read it here!

Get the Print Edition of Moving Southern California, our monthly newsletter. Request a sample copy.

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.
Add yourself to our mailing list and please donate to help us grow.

Visit our Discussion Board for the latest dialogue on transit.