Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 36

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, Tuesday, September 28, featuring an update from Angie M. Starr, Director of Communications on the Metrolink system rebranding. Also, the September and August 2010 issues of Moving Southern California are now available online with new features and news, as are past issues. Here is a review of our August meeting, 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.

The Metro Westside Subway draft document is released.
Two big environmental reports have been released. The first is the draft environmental report for the Westside Subway Extension, affectionately known as the "Subway towards the Sea." Curbed LA has a list of highlights, including news that a ride from Union Station to Westwood would take 25 minutes when the subway is operational. There are still some decisions to be made in regard to the subway's routing and station placement, such as whether or not to build a station at Crenshaw, where to put the LA Cienega Station, where to put the Westwood/UCLA Station and whether or not a VA Hospital Station should be built. Those wishing to learn more and provide public comment may do so at any of the late September meetings.

Despite all of the mobility benefits that the subway will offer to residents, workers and students that live, work and study along Wilshire Blvd, the Los Angeles Times decided to go with an it-won't-do-much-for-traffic angle, missing the point entirely. A more positive spin on the development can be read from Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern.

The Metro Regional Connector draft document is also released.
Next is the Downtown Regional Connector draft environmental report, a vital project that would connect three light rail lines and eliminate transfers for many riders. The fully underground option is the preferred alignment as it would reduce impacts to the Little Tokyo neighborhood. The $1.24 billion project may begin construction as early as 2012 or 2013 if all goes as planned. Most of that cost will be picked up by Measure R, helped by state and federal funds. It's important to remember that the Downtown Regional Connector doesn't just offer a new pair of tracks, but will also increase ridership on the Blue, Gold and Expo Lines. The Gold Line, for example, would see a 10% increase in riders for the Chinatown to Pasadena section, and a nearly 20% increase on the Little Tokyo to East LA section. Riders who currently transfer to get further into downtown may save 10-20 minutes on their commute when the Regional Connector is built.

President Obama announced a plan to create a national infrastructure bank for road, rail and air projects during a speech on Labor Day. Politico spells out the implications for high-speed rail. For the first time, funding for faster trains would be rolled into the surface transportation bill. The plan includes a vision to rebuild 150,000 miles of roads, 4,000 miles of rail and 150 miles of runway. Bus systems were also mentioned. We hope to see more details about the plan in the coming weeks.

The Metrolink Antelope Valley Line.
Did you ride the Metrolink Antelope Valley Line on Labor Day? The special service is an experiment to see whether holiday train service is needed. While we wait for the Labor Day ridership figures, we can analyze the ridership numbers for the special July 5 holiday service. The four trains operated on July 5 pulled in an average of 275 riders per train. Regular weekend service averages about 196 riders per train, while weekday service attracts 229 riders per train. The two inbound holiday trains were the most popular, suggesting that passengers were coming back from visiting family in Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster. If the Labor Day service is as successful, we may see more holiday service in the future. Cross your fingers! Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are next....

The City of Palo Alto has passed a resolution stating that they have No Confidence in the California High-Speed Rail plan. The city council cites out of control costs and negative impacts to communities, two criticisms that sometimes conflict with each other. While the city attacks rising costs, they also state that the project should only be built as a tunnel or trench, which would increase costs even further. The resolution carries an implication that Palo Alto wishes to see the project canceled altogether. Further north in Atherton, the City has unanimously agreed to send a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration and members of Congress urging them to stop federal funding for the project.

As of September 6, Santa Monica's Tide Ride service, operated by Big Blue Bus, has been eliminated. The service was part of the Mini Blue neighborhood service. Big Blue Bus routes 1 and 2 will continue to serve many of the destinations served by the Tide Ride route.

Help us out. Please donate!

When the Congressional Recess ends in about a week, our federal lawmakers will have a chance to pass a bill that will commit a total of over $4 billion dollars to planning and carrying out projects that will make our communities more walkable, bikeable, and more inviting, prosperous places to live. It's called the Livable Communities Act and while the rest of the transportation related bills flying around in the Beltway Bubble aren't likely to pass outside of a comprehensive federal transportation bill, this one is primed to move forward and put people to work planning and building the multi-modal communities of tomorrow!

But as with everything in DC our lawmakers need to hear from us to make this bill a reality. Our Senators Boxer and Feinstein can build momentum for the Livable Communities Act of 2010 (S. 1619) by agreeing to sign up as cosponsors and support the bill. What can you do? If you're an organization send out our T4 action alert asking your list-members to call these two Senate offices, or as an individual you can also take action and call. Contact Ryan Wiggins, T4 organizer, for the action alert and contact information for the Senators.

Nothing says excitement like a faceoff between academics over transportation issues. When Cato Institute Fellow Randall O'Toole, who masquerades as a libertarian when not arguing that governments should be doing more to support the private automobile, tried to use UCLA Professor and Parking Rock Star Donald Shoup as a straw man, he learned that hell hath no fury like an academic scorned. Shoup's response to O'Toole brought another response from O'Toole. Exciting times!

Coincidentally, at the same time Shoup and O'Toole were facing off over the Internet, a gathering of the Southern California Association of Governments delegates was mulling how to set targets for Greenhouse Gas reduction through Smart Growth planning as required by SB 375. Eventually, SCAG is pretending that it reached a compromise with targets that are literally half of those in Northern California urban districts. Here's a hint for SCAG pols, when a "compromise" has the sprawl lobby celebrating and public health advocates seething, you've messed up.

Santa Monica mulls a bike path paralleling the Expo Line.
Moving west, the issue of a bike path on city-owned property being leased to a private developer was a hot issue in Santa Monica. The Agensys Corporation, a biotech company fighting cancer, is renting land near the future Bergamot Station. According to city documents, the area would be the perfect place for a bike path to provide some real connectivity, but Agensys balked. It seems as though the city is going to blink, but it also appears Agensys will be investing six figures into improving the area around their compound for cyclists and pedestrians.

Nicholas Ventrone, the Transit Coalition's Community Engagement Director had the opportunity to conduct a field study last Friday during the morning high school run of one of Riverside Transit Agency's buses in Temecula. Ventrone noted that such runs timed with high school bell schedules are vital assets for transit agencies as such runs can fill a bus with high school students. This might be some food for thought for agencies looking for some extra revenue.

Common sense usually reminds people that it's highly risky to break the law when there are cameras around, and that's the lesson for an RTA bus driver who was caught on tape and sent to jail in a road rage incident on the SR-91 Freeway. The bus's cameras caught the bus driver chasing a motorist until the car got off the freeway and reported the incident to RTA. Fortunately, the bus was out of service at the time. This is a sad and unusual story because RTA is represented by a team of well trained and friendly drivers, both RTA employees and contracted drivers. Let's hope that this is the first and last time that something like this occurs in the Inland Empire.

Help us out. Please donate!

On the light side, the Transit Coalition's Carfree Connections Campaign got some good news back in June...(it's often a good thing to find treasure buried well within the World Wide Web). The Western Riverside Council of Governments, through the support of Compass Blueprint, put together a Bus Rapid Transit feasibility study. The study found that expanded express bus service along two automobile-dominated freeway corridors (I-15 and I-215 south of SR-91) were both desirable and feasible.

The study also recommended additional BRT between Perris and Moreno Valley and a separate all day express line between Downtown Riverside and Moreno Valley. Currently, RTA is working to bring BRT between Corona, Riverside and Moreno Valley using technology similar to Metro Rapid. The agency also recommended back in 2007, from a separate study, to upgrade express bus service along the SR-91 corridor. All of these bus upgrades promise to bring a quick and speedy alternative to slow local bus rides for long distance trips outside of rush hour. The unanswered question remains: Who's going to pay for all of this?

Expo art.
Recently LA Times Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne reviewed the Samitaur Tower by Eric Owen Moss in Culver City. The tower will overlook the upcoming Expo (Aqua) Light Rail Line which is due to complete construction in 2011.

Speaking of travel, free wireless Internet is the most desired amenity. Perhaps that is why Metrolink CEO John E. Fenton is pushing forward to add such service to the region's trains. In a J.D. Power survey, it was found that free Wi-Fi was most important to guests of every price range. However, luxury hotels are most likely to charge and at the Ritz-Carlton chain, the Wi-Fi access fee is the top complaint among guests.

Some now only don't like to pay even for travel. A New York man has spent 30 years commandeering trains and buses and driving around. No word if he has taken out any planes.

The Alameda Corridor.
The Alameda Corridor Trench is hitting some hard times. The $2.4 billion megaproject was originally supposed to pay for itself, and it did for a while. Now, lower container traffic at the ports is making it difficult for the Alameda Trench to pay off its debt through user fees. Some fear that the trench could become a financial burden on the very ports it was built for.

To close, an Irish cat that boarded a commuter train has been reunited with her owner via Twitter. The cat, named Lilou was issued her very own rail pass smart card. No word about frequent travel miles.

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, September 28, 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 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 Westside/Central Service Governance Council Meeting: Tuesday, September 14, 5 p.m., La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room, 325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills.

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

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority Special Board Meeting: Monday, September 20, 9 a.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple, 3rd floor, Board of Supervisor's Hearing Room 381B, Los Angeles.

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

Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority: Wednesday, September 22, 7 p.m., Arcadia City Hall, Council Chambers 240 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia.

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.

Westside Neighborhood Council Meetings on Expo Line Phase 2: 6 p.m., Westside Pavilion, Room A near the Food Court, 3rd Floor, Los Angeles.

  • Thursday, September 23: This meeting will feature representatives from the Expo Line Authority.
  • Thursday, October 4: This meeting will feature representatives from Neighbors for Smart Rail.
Foothill Transit Executive Board: Friday, September 24, 8 a.m., 100 S. Vincent Ave., 2nd floor, West Covina.

SCRRA (Metrolink) Board Workshop: Friday, September 24 and Saturday, September 25, 8:30 a.m., Hyatt Westlake Plaza, 880 S. Westlake Blvd., Westlake Village.

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

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

Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Transportation Committee: Thursday, October 7, 7:30 p.m. Angeles Chapter Office, 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 320, 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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