Weekly Transit eNewsletter
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 37

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.

Don't Delay: 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.

A Metrolink locomotive built by Rotem.
Metrolink could have the safest rail fleet in the world, but is a lack of political will standing in the way? ( See story on page 3) Metrolink recently purchased 117 brand new Hyundai Rotem passenger cars equipped with crash energy management. The contract also offers an option to purchase 20 more Rotem cars at a total of $36 million. If not exercised by October 2010, Metrolink would be required to pay $47 million for those same cars. Now is not the time to become penny wise and pound foolish. By exercising the purchase option before October 2010 (and purchasing an additional 23 cars at $54 million, bringing the grand total to $90 million), Metrolink could avoid just over $57 million in overhaul costs on its existing fleet, making the net cost for the new cars around $32 million. When all is said and done, Metrolink would rid itself of its aging rail cars and be in possession of the safest rail car fleet in the world, with a life expectancy 30-40 years. With all of the talk about rail safety these days, Metro and OCTA (which help fund Metrolink) must find a way to fund these additional rail car purchases. In the world of rail, this is one hot deal.

Rail has finally been laid across Farmdale along the Expo Line. The milestone was celebrated on The Transit Coalition forums with construction photos and further updates. Here's what the Expo Line looked like around 1953 before it was abandoned, illustrating how far this project has come.

The proposed Wilshire and Crenshaw Purple Line station.
Last week, the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Westside Subway Extension was released, prompting the Los Angeles Times to hone in on the fact that the subway wouldn't do much for traffic, as if that were the most important factor. The Times received a few letters to the editor in response. Over at LA CityWatch, Richard Lee Abrams agreed with the LA Times and suggested that instead of subways, workers and shoppers alike should invest in some kind of virtual holodeck telecommuting technology for a future where nobody goes outside. Luckily, Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern takes a more level-headed approach. Finally, Alex Thompson, a holder of a UCLA doctorate in mathematics, really tears the Abrams piece completely apart.

The loss of state transit funds and declining sales tax revenues continue to have reverberations among transit agencies across the state. Ventura County's bus system is the latest to see proposed fare increases. For basic fares, the increases range from a quarter to $1.25. Monthly passes will jump to $50 from $40. A more interesting development is a proposal to change the age someone is considered a senior rider. This implies that as people live longer, transit systems see more riders who are eligible for heavily discounted senior fares. In this case, 62-year-olds may have to wait until their 65th birthday to get a discount. The fare increase proposal will be voted on in October.

30/10 is a promising plan to build 30 years worth of transit projects in just a decade, but there are very real obstacles despite the plan's popularity. First, 30/10 is the first of its kind, which makes it difficult to slip into our existing transportation framework. Second, it's election season, which means lawmakers are playing it safe. The Los Angeles Downtown News has more on what it would take to make 30/10 a reality.

President Obama on infrastructure spending.
Transportation infrastructure isn't just a big deal in Los Angeles, but across the nation. Last week, President Obama announced a proposal to inject $50 billion into rebuilding America's roads, rails and runways (back to the three R's). An opinion piece in the LA Times explains that the plan would help revitalize the hard-hit construction sector while repairing critical infrastructure, something that needs to be done. Christopher Leinberger of The New Republic explains how the infrastructure bank is a " triple win." The Huffington Post's Joel Epstein also chimes in on the proposed infrastructure bank.

Tony Daniels is out as Program Director of the California High Speed Rail project and Clifford Eby is in. There are rumblings in the Santa Clarita Valley over the fact that the high-speed rail line won't stop there, but will operate there. Japan is ready to loan California some money to build the high-speed rail system as long as Japanese bullet trains are used, though details about such a loan were scarce. And commuter rail operator Caltrain is asking the California High Speed Rail Authority to change their approach to constructing high-speed rail on the San Francisco Peninsula. If you have questions or feedback about the high-speed rail project, go to the information open house at Metro Headquarters at Union Station on Tuesday, September 21. Attendees may show up anytime between 4:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. but presentations will take place at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

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The Gold Line Foothill Extension's iconic "basket bridge" is now under construction. At the other end of the line, residents mull two options for extending the Gold Line east, to Washington Blvd. or on a route along the 60 freeway. In the San Gabriel Valley, another transportation project, the San Gabriel Trench, is moving forward to help alleviate congestion caused by freight trains. Montebello, one of the cities which would benefit from the Alameda Corridor East project, may end up with no grade separations due to their support of trench-only options.

Cooling towers of a nuclear power plant.
Opponents of Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would basically overturn the state's groundbreaking greenhouse gas law, held a press conference last week arguing that greenhouse gas emissions are a national security concern. Former Marine, and Secretary of State under President Reagen, George Schultz argued, "The issue of climate, the issue of economics, the issue of national security all point us in the same direction. We need to get control of our use of energy and the way we produce it, the way we use it." The out-of-state oil companies backing the proposition scoffed.

Remember last week's Professor vs. Think Tank Smackdown! over parking between Cato Institute's Randall O'Toole and UCLA Parking Guru Donald Shoup? Well, it's not over yet! Shoup responds that it sounds like the Cato Institute could use a little parking reform itself. In other parking news, free parking may be coming to an end at LA's broken meters.

Residents of LA's Northridge West Neighborhood Council recently discovered that their street had been resurfaced (typically a good thing!) and that the pre-striping plan indicated a "road diet" (again, typically a good thing!) but the folks on Wilbur Avenue were anything but pleased. The stealth manner in which the street was reduced from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction with a left turn lane and bike lanes in both directions stirred such a hornet's nest of discontent that the Mayor's office, the Council office, the cycling community and the neighborhood council all had to send in their diplomatic corps. LADOT claims that they had no time to reach out to the community, since the Wilbur Ave. Bike lanes have only been in the Bike Plan since 1996. Meanwhile, the LADOT Bikeways staff avoided the controversy by reaching out to the folks in Chattanooga at the Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference where the City of LA is presenting "Median Median Bike Paths in the USA- Can they Work?" Maybe the folks on Wilbur Ave. got off easy!

Two weeks ago we broke the news that the sharrows, shared lane markings, that were put on Westholme Avenue on the Westside had vanished. Last week, LADOT responded by revealing how the screw-up happened and promised to get the paint back on the street "as soon as possible." Fingers crossed!

Also in bike news, Valley Councilman Greig Smith introduced a City Council motion that would require neighborhood council approval before any bike projects get approved by the city. Cyclists response: Why stop with bike projects, lets make it stand for all transportation "improvements".

Park(ing) Day 2010.
This Friday is Park(ing) Day in Los Angeles, where activists and architects create temporary "parks" inside of a parking space. This year's Park(ing) Day is a little smaller than last years, but there will still be parks stretching from the Westside to Pasadena through Downtown all the way to Long Beach.

An Inland Empire mayor is looking to bring a large transit station to his city along with transit oriented development. San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris envisions a large intermodal transit center, proposed to be placed in the heart of the downtown core, would connect Omnitrans local buses with future bus rapid transit, Metrolink, and possibly high-speed rail. Infill smart growth is also envisioned. Both this terminal and the proposed ARTIC terminal are two major intermodal transit center projects that are in the works for the Southland.

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A map of Riverside and possible future services.
Want to see how the Transit Coalition envisions the future of Inland Empire mass transit? How do our visions compare to recent feasibility studies? Check out the updated Future Vision Map for the Inland Empire!

Two new Transit Coalition service projects have also been launched within A Better Inland Empire, but unlike most transit advocacy projects and campaigns that deal with interaction with the government, these two call on people like you to step up and take charge! The first involves adding existing transit stations, bus stops, trails, and footways to an open source map database called OpenStreetMap.org. With your help, our everyday maps including GPS maps will soon benefit transit riders and pedestrians, not just drivers. Check out the project page and see how transit can fit in with online maps.

The second project has been advocated for generations from several groups, but commuters like you can help the Transit Coalition fulfill its mission by simply choosing to rideshare to work! The project web page features links to IE511.org and other popular ride-matching websites. Transit riders, carpoolers, and vanpoolers know that they save big bucks and support decreased traffic congestion and better multi-modal transportation options for the Southland by sharing the ride, benefits that cannot be achieved when driving solo to work everyday. Speaking of which, Rideshare Week is right around the corner for several Southland counties!

A Union Pacific locomotive.
Come find out what federal freight policy means to the Los Angeles region, California, and the nation as a whole on October 22-23 in Carson, California! The Impact Project, a collaboration between the academic and environmental justice community, will be holding "Moving Forward Together" a conference for communities impacted by trade, ports, and goods movement. Hundreds of experts, activists, and community members will attend carrying out focus groups and workshops on topics ranging from community organizing, to health impact assessments, and, of course, freight policy in the next federal transportation bill.

Transportation for America, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports will hold a workshop on issues related to this last topic. Historically there has been no federal freight policy to guide our local, regional, and national goods movement system to be efficient, productive, and environmentally sustainable. Recent bills have been introduced to change this. The Freight Act of 2010 would establish for the very first time an agency to coordinate a long-term vision and plan, while funding projects that achieve long-term goals such as reducing air pollution, improving safety, and reducing congestion. The Clean Ports Act of 2010 would establish the authority of ports to enact aggressive clean air programs and guarantee the rights of workers. This will be a forum for discussion, engagement, and a chance to get involved in ensuring that these important pieces of legislation become law and not only protect the health of communities near ports and goods movement corridors but enhance their economic well-being and quality of life.

The California Transit Association is having their annual conference and expo in San Diego on September 14 and 15. Check out the official web site for the full details.

Find out why building a Bus Rapid Transit line in the Bay Area is more difficult than pulling teeth in Yonah Freemark's three-part series on an Oakland BRT proposal. Transportation planners say that the project would speed up bus commutes for riders on an already congested bus corridor. Businesses are afraid that bus lanes would cut off access to their shops while some transit advocates believe that improved bus service without dedicated lanes would be less costly, allowing funds to be distributed more evenly across the bus network. While the Bay Area has embraced transit over the years, many factions remain sharply divided over the best ways to improve bus and rail networks.

Downtown LA has come a long way to becoming an accessible, livable and walkable area, but there is still much land lost to flat and barren parking lots. Consider this "figure ground map" of the Pico Blue Line Station. It becomes crystal clear which land belongs to cars and which belongs to people. Could that land be used for something else entirely?

El Monte Transit Center Groundbreaking: The $45 million El Monte Transit Center will consist of a new two-level transit center with a direct connection to the I-10 El Monte Busway into Downtown Los Angeles. The project includes a regional transit store and bike station and will serve over 30,000 patrons daily who use Metro, Foothill Transit, LAX FlyAway, Greyhound, El Monte Transit and Metrolink Shuttle. The facility will use state-of-the-art energy efficient and sustainable building methods and will be built to Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards. The project is funded by the Federal Transit Administration and Local Proposition C as part of the Congestion Reduction Demonstration Program and will generate more than 350 construction-related jobs. See Upcoming Events below for address and RSVP instructions.

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!

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 (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority Special Board Meeting: Monday, September 20 and Thursday, October 7, 9 a.m., Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple, 3rd floor, Board of Supervisor's Hearing Room 381B, Los Angeles.

JUST ADDED! California High Speed Rail Authority Open House: Tuesday, September 21, presentations begin at 5:30 p.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles.

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

JUST ADDED! El Monte Transit Center Groundbreaking: Wednesday, September 22, 8:30 a.m., El Monte Transit Center, 3449 Santa Anita Ave., El Monte. RSVP to 213-922-5449 or metroevents@metro.net by this Friday, September 17, 2010.

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.

Ventura County Transportation Commission: Friday, October 1, 10 a.m., Camarillo City Hall, 601 Carmen Dr., Camarillo.

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

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.

Metro South Bay Governance Council Meeting: Friday, October 8, 9:30 a.m., Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson.

Southern California Transit Advocates: Saturday, October 9, 1 p.m.

Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council Meeting: Monday, October 11, 5 p.m., City Hall East, 11333 Valley Blvd., El Monte.

LOSSAN Technical Advisory Committee: Thursday, October 14, 11:30 a.m., Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza (adjacent to Union Station), Los Angeles.

Metro Gateway Cities Governance Council Meeting: Thursday, October 14, 2 p.m., Gas Company ERC, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey.

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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